Lauren Grant

Lauren Grant in Mark Morris' Mozart Dances. Photo by Stephanie Berger.

She may be small, but Mark Morris Dance Group’s Lauren Grant has a stage presence that’s larger than life. Whether gliding fluidly through Morris’ Mozart Dances or hamming it up as the spunky Marie in The Hard Nut (Morris’ tongue-in-cheek take on The Nutcracker), she commands attention with every inch of her 4' 11" frame. Grant began her dance training when she was 3, eventually studying ballet with Irena Makkai and Inesse Alexandrov and attending summer programs at Boston Ballet and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. After earning her BFA from Tisch, she joined MMDG in 1996 and has since appeared in more than 40 of Morris’ works. Today Grant is also on faculty at the company’s school (and married to fellow dancer David Leventhal). Catch her performing this month with MMDG at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  —Margaret Fuhrer

 

Dear Lauren,

Grant's college audition photo at age 17. Photo courtesy of Lauren Grant.

From the age of 3 your love of dance has been exceptional. You’ve developed the confidence to follow your dream even though so many dismissed your potential because of your unconventional body type. In actuality, your petite stature will serve you well in many of the roles you’ll dance.

As you continue to train, stay open-minded. Remain receptive to the information various teachers offer you. It’s easy to hold on tightly to habits you learned throughout childhood. Adapt, change and grow with enthusiasm.

Never assume you are done learning. As a 15-year veteran with the Mark Morris Dance Group I still spend every day working to better my technique and artistry. When you are ready, explore the texture, quality and musicality of dance. Advance beyond focusing on the look of the steps and play with the dynamics of the entire phrase of movement.

Remember, as a dancer, your job is to communicate with your audience. You chose this field because you’re comfortable speaking through your body. Be eloquent!

Dancing in a company is a social experience. As you strive for personal excellence, don’t neglect the importance of learning how to dance with others. And always interact with patience, generosity and kindness.

The career ahead will be worth every bead of sweat, shed tear and sore muscle. Toi, toi, toi!

With my best wishes,

Lauren Grant

P.S. A mere bowl of Raisin Bran won’t fuel you through that last attitude promenade of the Rose Adagio (which you’ll perform when you’re 16). Eat better!

Photo by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Taja Riley

Taja Riley's bold, full-out presence and unique ability to mix hard-hitting hip hop with smooth, sensual choreography paved the way for her success in the commercial industry. She's danced with music icons like Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Ne-Yo, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Pitbull, and Bruno Mars, and has assisted with choreography for Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour, Demi Lovato's Skyscraper tour, and Beyoncé's Mrs. Carter tour. She also appeared in Beyoncé's groundbreaking visual album Lemonade. Raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Riley grew up training at Denise Wall's Dance Energy. Currently, she's on faculty at New York City Dance Alliance, where you can catch her touring the convention circuit. —Courtney Bowers

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New York City Ballet in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (via @nycballet on Twitter)

We all suffer from Nutcracker fatigue sometimes. After a zillion performances, it's hard not to. But there's nothing to restore your little-kid sense of Nutcracker wonder like a look at the sheer scale of a world-class Nut.

New York City Ballet's iconic production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker opens on Friday, and for the past week, the company has been Tweeting out some seriously eye-popping #NutcrackerNumbers. The stats cover everything from the number of jingle bells used on each Candy Cane costume (that'd be 144) to the watts of light used in the show's grand finale (ONE. MILLION. WATTS.).

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Oh hey there, Hallmark Channel! The producer of all those sweet, homey movies best watched in your PJs with your mom has a super dance-y film on its holiday lineup this season: A Nutcracker Christmas. And the casting is—to use a very Hallmark-y pun—perfectly on pointe.

A Nutcracker Christmas tells the story of a talented professional dancer, Lilly, whose supportive sister dies just as Lilly is about to perform the role of Clara in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet. (Nit-picky fact-checking: In New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, she's known as Marie and danced by a child, but OK.) Lilly's boyfriend and dance partner, Mark, keeps her from performing in the show, which makes Lilly declare she'll never dance again. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Lilly's niece, Sadie, is about to dance Clara in a different company's Nutcracker—a company run by, of all people, Mark. And tons of drama ensues.

Yes, it's a whole lot of plot to wrap your head around. But the real story here is that Sadie is played by none other than the phenomenal Sophia Lucia, and the ever-dashing Sascha Radetsky is also involved in the project. (Radetsky's exact role is unclear from the press material, but he seems like a pretty natural fit for Mark, no?) The odds seem good that we'll get the gift of some very high-quality dancing. Merry Christmas to us!

Sophia Lucia showing off those banana feet (via @sophialucia5678)

You can catch A Nutcracker Christmas on December 10 at 8 pm. Get your slippers and hot cocoa ready.

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