Stacey Tookey Writes a Letter to Her Teenage Self
To say that three-time-Emmy-nominated choreographer and dancer Stacey Tookey is in demand is an understatement. One glance at her resumé says it all: She's worked with artists like Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Bublé; performed with R.A.W. (Mia Michaels' dance company), Parsons Dance Project, and Ballet British Columbia; choreographed viral music videos like Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" and Ingrid Michaelson's recent "Celebrate"; presented full-length works for Los Angeles Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet; and formed her own contemporary company, STILL MOTION. She's currently marking her 10th season choreographing for and judging on "So You Think You Can Dance," which is where she racked up those Emmy noms.
An Alberta, Canada, native, Tookey started dancing at her mother's studio at the age of 3. As a teen, she traveled all over as a competition dancer, then studied with Ballet British Columbia in Vancouver before relocating to NYC.
These days, she's the inspiring teacher everyone wants to learn from. Tookey is a beloved fixture on the comp circuit (she's on faculty at Nuvo Dance Competition), and has taught all over the world. Last year, she also founded Camp Protegé, a week-long dance mentorship intensive in Canada.
Read on for her advice to her younger self!
Stacey Tookey as a young dancer. (Courtesy Tookey)
I hope you're ready for an incredible journey. It'll have unexpected highs and dark lows, but it'll also be filled with so much passion, inspiration, and dedication. Your path will not be a straight one to the top—it'll be a meandering, always-changing labyrinth, driven by curiosity. Enjoy every moment. Don't be in such a hurry. The universe will present opportunities when you're ready. Maybe a little "growing time" is all you need to give you the confidence to make your dreams come true.
With your non-stop work ethic and love for what you do, you're accumulating more life skills than you know, and all of this will help you later on. Don't let obstacles define you. Let them empower and challenge you. These roadblocks will actually show you who you are as an artist and a human. You'll get through them and will appreciate and cherish what they've taught you. Trust your gut. You have very good intuition and need to listen to your dreams and desires. You can have them all!
Don't wait for someone else to notice you. Make your voice heard through your vulnerability, authenticity, and availability in the classroom or rehearsal space. Love the body you were given, because it can do amazing things. And please take care of it. Give yourself rest when you need it. You won't fall behind, I promise.
Stop comparing yourself to others. You are a unique artist with your own set of gifts. Let competition drive you, not diminish you. The stage is very big, and there's space for everyone. You'll realize this one day. Go give your Mom a HUGE hug and a big THANK YOU for being your dedicated teacher and training you with such expertise and care. Tell both of your parents how grateful you are for their constant love and support. Your dreams will come true with the help of their undying belief in you.
Deep down you know that dancing is what makes you feel the most alive. It fills you and drives you and gives you wings to fly. You're absolutely right—now fly!
I'm so proud of you.
P.S. Try not to worry too much about being Canadian. You'll get your work visa and, eventually, your green card. :)
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
The Olympics are always full of inspiring Cinderella stories, where athletes no one had heard of mere months ago end up blowing all expectations out of the water, and maybe even nabbing a medal in the bargain. But we've recently caught wind of a different kind of Cinderella story—and it's one we really, really hope shows up in the Closing Ceremonies of the PyeongChang Olympics, airing tonight on NBC starting at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific time.
Being a dancer comes with the task of having to entertain the same questions over and over again from those outside the dance world. Of course, we love having our friends and family take an interest in our passion—but if someone asks ONE MORE TIME whether or not we've met Travis Wall, we might just go crazy.
Here are 10 questions that dancers hate getting asked.
Contemporary phenom Christina Ricucci has super-flexible hips, which means she can stretch her legs to unbelievable heights. But when she noticed herself making contorted positions in class, Ricucci realized she was approaching her extensions all wrong. "I went back to the basics in class, squaring my hips and using my turnout," Ricucci says. "I learned to create proper positions, rather than whacked-out versions of them."
Some dancers are so wonky they have a hard time supporting their high legs, while others struggle with limited flexibility. But no matter your facility, you can find a balance of stretch and strength to achieve your fullest range of extension. It's not about how high (or not) your legs can go: It's the quality of the movement, and how you get those legs up, that counts.
Last month, we asked why there wasn't a Best Choreography category at the Oscars—and discovered that many of you agreed with us: Choreographers should definitely be acknowledged for their work on the super-dancy movies we can't get enough of.
Now, we're taking matters into our own (jazz) hands.
We've decided to create a Dance Spirit award for the best cinematic choreography of 2017. With your input, we've narrowed the field to four choreographers whose moves lit up some of the best movies of the year. Check out our nominations for best choreography below—and vote for the choreographer you think deserves the honor. We'll announce the winner on Friday, March 2.
Once upon a time (until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded, to be exact), figure skaters had to compete to music without words. Before this rule change, a skater faced an automatic point deduction if the music even hinted at vocals. Understandably, there were *a lot* of Olympic programs skated to classical music, and you'd tend to hear the same music selections over and over and over.
There are plenty of current Olympic figure skaters who'd make beautiful dancers (first among them Adam Rippon, whose gorgeously choreographed long program won the internet, if not the gold). But today, as we wait for the women's figure skating competition to crown its new champions, we wanted to throw it back to one of the most beautifully balletic skaters of all time: Sasha Cohen.
The high-flying leaps of grand allegro are meant to be incredibly exciting. But at the end of an intense ballet class, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to give them the attention they deserve. Want to pump up your big jumps? Follow these 10 vital tips from Jennifer Hart, curriculum director and instructor at Ballet Austin.