Larsen performing her solo at Showstopper American Dance Championships (David Hofmann)
You’ve probably seen the dance-centric Microsoft Surface commercial directed by Jon M. Chu—it stars a handful of our favorite dance celebs. But it’s a little schoolgirl with red pigtails who really stands out among the talented bunch: Larsen Thompson. Watching Larsen perform, it’s clear she has all the polish, pizzazz and presence of a professional hip-hop dancer who’s been in the game for years. But once she speaks, her soft, youthful voice reminds you she’s just 12 years old. “When I’m older, I want to dance with Britney Spears or Rihanna,” says the ambitious up-and-comer.
That day may not be as far off as she thinks. To date, she’s already danced and acted in commercials for Walmart, Target, Nintendo and McDonald’s. She’s also danced backup on “The X Factor” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” (Larsen was in the dance studio segment with tWitch, Sophia Grace and Rosie!) “I started dancing when I was 4,” Larsen says. “I would do handstands and these little grooves. My mom thought I would like dance. I’ve loved dancing ever since.”
Today, Larsen spends 20 to 30 hours a week taking dance classes. She trains at various studios around L.A. (including Millennium Dance Complex, International Dance Academy of Hollywood and Academy of Dance Westlake Village), often commuting more than an hour from her home in Newbury Park, CA. “I’ll be at the studio until 11 pm sometimes, so it can be hard,” she says. “I take classes on the weekend, but Fridays are mostly free, so that’s when I hang out with my friends. They’re always looking at me like I’m crazy because I do all of this.”
“All of this” on a typical day might also include meeting with her agent at Clear Talent Group or wearing a stuffed Luigi costume for a Nintendo commercial. For Larsen, getting noticed at auditions means turning on her hard-hitting dance moves, fiery personality and acrobatic prowess. “I usually throw in a trick or two and do some flips,” says Larsen, whose mom was a gymnastics coach and whose aunt is Olympic gold medalist Julianne McNamara.
Though it’s tempting for Larsen to do only hip-hop all the time, she’s dedicated to continuing ballet training in order to better her technique. “Sometimes ballet gets boring, but I know skipping even one day could bring my level down,” she says. “And if I ever had to go a week without dancing? I couldn’t live like that. Whenever I go to dance class and I’ve had a bad day, it just goes away because I move through it all. Dancing is my life.”
Birthday: November 19, 2000
Most-played on her iPod: Beyoncé
Strangest thing in her dance bag: Stinky shoes
Dance idol: Mollee Gray, from “So You Think You Can Dance”
Dream dance role: Elite Protégé for The PULSE On Tour
Three words that describe her: “Perfectionist, funny, fashionista”
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
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.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.