Kayla performing her solo “Arabian Waltz” at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals
Offstage, 9-year-old Kayla Mak is like any other 4th-grader. She’s a happy kid who likes math and watching TV. (Her favorite show is “So You Think You Can Dance,” of course.) But get her onstage and you’ll see a whole different Kayla—a girl who’s anything but ordinary.
At the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation’s fall show, Bright Lights Shining Stars, in NYC, Kayla performed in a large group number with her studio, Westchester Dance Academy. Though the senior dancers kicked off the ballet routine, it wasn’t until Kayla bourréed out from the wings that the crowd went wild. Kayla was the smallest dancer out there, but it wasn’t just her size and extra-large smile that commanded attention—she wowed the audience because she more than kept up with girls twice her age. Kayla nailed her pirouettes with ease and showed off massive leaps, crazy flexibility and stunning penchées.
Kayla has trained at WDA in Mount Kisco, NY, since she started dancing at age 4. “My mom was a dancer, and she said, ‘You’re dancing all over this house, let’s get you into a studio,’ ” Kayla says. Soon, she was enrolled in her first ballet class. “I love using ballet to express my feelings,” she says. Kayla also studies lyrical and jazz, and started competing when she was 5. In addition to solos—her “Arabian Waltz” contemporary ballet solo earned her the National Mini Female Outstanding Dancer title at NYCDA and the Young Dancer of the Year title at American Dance Awards this past summer—Kayla performs in group routines, which she says are “fun because I get picked up a lot, but it’s a little scary dancing with the older girls.” If she’s intimidated, it doesn’t show: Kayla performs with the utmost confidence. This year her training will go beyond WDA as she tours with NYCDA, assisting and taking classes.
What’s next for Kayla? “I want to be a professional dancer,” she says. “Any kind of dancer.” A simple answer from an exceptional young girl.
Most-played on her iPod: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Favorite food: “My mom’s spaghetti with meatballs”
If she were a superhero, her superpower would be: Flying. “I’d get to see the world. The first place I’d go is Japan. My cousins live there.”
Favorite movie: Step Up Revolution. “One of my teachers from JUMP was in it—Misha Gabriel!”
Three words that describe her: “Smart, flexible, kind”
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.
The coolest place she's ever performed:
I'd have to say the Super Bowl. The field was so cool, and Katy Perry was right there. And there were so many eyes—definitely the most eyes I've ever performed for!
Something she's constantly working on:
My feet. I'm flat-footed, so I'm always hearing, 'Point your toes!' And I'm like, 'I am!'
My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
For a long time, I was the strongest dancer at my studio. But this year there's a new girl in my class who's very talented, and my teacher's attention has definitely shifted to her. I'm trying not to feel jealous or discouraged, but it seems like my whole dance world has changed. Help!
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win. Dance Magazine caught up with her to find out how she's balancing all of her dance projects.
Marzia Memoli may be the Martha Graham Dance Company's newest dancer, but her classical lines and easy grace are already turning heads. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Memoli started studying at age 16 at the Academy of Teatro Carcano in Milan. Later, she attended the Rudra Béjart School in Lausanne, Switzerland, before heading to NYC in 2016 to join MGDC. This month, she'll perform The Rite of Spring in the Martha Graham Studio Series in NYC, and tour with the company in Florida. Read on for the dirt.