Dance News

Kym Johnson's Take on DWTS Season 14 (and The Urkel)

It’s "Dancing with the Stars" day! Season 14 premieres tonight, and—with some studly stars and our favorite ballroom ladies and gents fighting for that Mirror Ball Trophy—it’s definitely going to be a good one. To start off the season right, DS got the inside scoop from "DWTS" pro Kym Johnson about her expectations for partner Jaleel White and who she thinks is her biggest competition:

Dance Spirit: How has Jaleel’s dancing been in rehearsals? Is it different than you expected?

Kym Johnson: I really didn’t know what to expect from him, but it’s going really well. There are things that we still have to work on, like his frame, but he’s definitely got rhythm. Now we’re at the point where we’re just ready to dance for an audience.

DS: Were you a fan of Jaleel’s character, Steve Urkel, on "Family Matters"?

KJ: "Family Matters" was very popular in Australia, but I actually didn’t watch it.  I felt a bit bad about that when I met him. Obviously, I knew the character of Steve Urkel, since he made that very famous. But he’ll play more of a smooth character when he’s on the dance floor.

DS: We won’t see any of Urkel’s signature moves?

KJ: I don't think so. Jaleel says he doesn’t think the judges are ready for The Urkel.

DS: So what’s your strategy for this season?

KJ: I think the best way to approach this competition is to enjoy it as much as possible, and just take it week by week. The first show is always really fun. That’s when we’ll see what the other couples are bringing to the dance floor, and we’ll figure out where we stand in the competition and what we can work on. Hopefully we’ll connect with people.

DS: Who do you think will be your biggest competition?

KJ: I have to say it’s going to be a really strong dance season. I think William [Levy] and Cheryl [Burke], plus Donald Driver and Peta [Murgatroyd], are really good. Plus, I saw Katherine Jenkins rehearse the other day, and she’s beautiful, so she’s going to be a tough one. It seems like everyone is big competition right now. There are going to be some amazing performances.

We can't wait! And if you’re like Kym, and "Family Matters" wasn’t a part of your regular TGIF lineup, here’s a little insight to why this team will most likely kill it on the dance floor. I give you The Urkel:

Dancer to Dancer

Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.

But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.

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Win It
Courtesy CAA

You read that right, people—Dance Spirit's giving away two tickets to the "SYTYCD" tour in the city of your choice, complete with an exclusive meet & greet with select cast members! Read on for the complete prize listing and official rules.

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Tiler Peck and Chase Finlay in Swan Lake (photo by Paul Kolnik)

For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.

Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.

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Low on dancewear inspiration? Return to the classics in bold black and elegant white.

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Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!

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Dance News

Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.

If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.

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Dance News
Via Facebook

Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.

But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.

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Dancer to Dancer
Gianluca Russo (via Instagram)

Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.

There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.

Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.

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