Canadian Dance Company performs a memorable routine at Showstopper's East Coast Finals. (Photo Courtesy Canadian Dance Company)
Think fouettés are the key to a judge’s heart? Think again. While judges love strong technique, tricks aren’t what they remember in the long run. Instead, creativity, performance quality and moving storylines reign supreme. Here, seven competition judges dish on what made some routines more memorable than others.
Robert Bianca, Showstopper
I still talk about a number performed by 10 guys from Canadian Dance Company about three years ago. The dance was to Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home,” and it was about men returning from war. The dancers entered the stage slowly, as if they were shell-shocked by what they’d been through, and it built from there in terms of intensity, emotion and physicality. It was a technical piece, but it never felt like they were doing tricks. We were blown away by the artistry.
Christian Vincent, L.A. DanceMagic
In 2005, I saw a number called “Tricky” in Baton Rouge. The jazz dance wasn’t like the routines that typically dominate that category. The dancers wore black netted costumes with their hair slicked back. They were technically strong and as they danced you saw that they each had a mature performance quality. I have an affinity for dancers with an edge, who have the ability to go from strong movement to light movement easily—they had that. Dancers are most powerful when they have a strong focus and can connect with an audience.
Stephanie Landwehr, MOVE Productions
One of my favorite routines is a hip-hop number I saw last year in California. The dance was performed by five or six teenage dancers from Dancing Images in Moreno Valley, CA, and I remember it because it was more like a dance concert piece than a competition routine. The movement was clean and the dancers performed well as a group. Cleanliness is so important because it allows the judges to see the story more easily.
Dancers from Dancing Images in Moreno Valley, CA, perform a hip-hop number at MOVE Productions' Nationals (Photo Courtesy MOVE)
Rolann Owens, Headliners
A dancer named Nikki Mele, from Danceology in Toronto, did a dance called “I Speak Six Languages” this year and it was a true musical theater piece. She didn’t do all the jumps and turns you see in so many numbers and she had a lot of personality. Musical theater dancers can’t just be dancers dancing a role, they need to be actors dancing a role.
Mark Goodman, Hollywood Vibe
I remember a tap routine called “Too Darn Hot” that I saw seven or eight years ago. There were at least 40 dancers in it, and the staging was unbelievable. Best of all, every kid was committed to the style of the piece. These dancers totally captured, understood and embraced the 1940s movie style of dance. Remember, your choreographer will tell you what to dance, but the music will tell you how to dance it.
Sarah Jo Fazio, Dance Olympus
I loved a piece called “Mother,” danced by two teenage girls. The story was about a mother and a daughter over a stretch of time. It was done so the dancer playing the daughter behaved like she was a little girl, while the other dancer acted like a mother. By the end the mother was old and dying and the daughter was taking care of the mother. There were no tricks, just movement. I was in tears by the end.
Katy Spreadbury, JUMP
One number stands out in my mind: “Hit Me With a Hot Note,” choreographed by Ray Leeper. It was a great jazz dance rooted in musical theater. The dancers appeared to be having an active experience onstage instead of just doing what they’d done in rehearsal. When you’re watching a performance and it feels like something is happening for the first time, it evokes a genuine emotional reaction.
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.
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.
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.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
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!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.