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. :)
It's time to get your pirouette on! From September 5th to September 30th, we're hosting a contest to find out who's the best turner of them all.
Put together your most impressive turning combo. Post a video online. Share your turns with us and thousands of other dancers around the world. And if our editors think you're the top turner, you'll win a fabulous prize.
All of 18-year-old Kaylin Maggard's dreams—from scoring the title of National Senior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals to winning the 2017 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search—are coming true. And to anyone who knows the gorgeous contemporary dancer, that's no surprise.
From the moment the Dance Spirit staff met Kaylin, it was obvious her humility and talent would take her far. Not only did she go full-out during the photo shoot and class at Broadway Dance Center, but she was always cheering on, laughing with, and supporting her fellow CMS contestants Haley Hartsfield and Michelle Quiner. During the voting period, the social media world was abuzz with praise for her work ethic, positive attitude, and generosity.
Since her CMS trip to NYC, Kaylin's moved from her hometown of Columbia, MO, to the Big Apple for her freshman year at Juilliard, and is busy getting acquainted with the city. As for the future? She's taking it one opportunity at a time, but something tells us we'll be seeing this contemporary queen reach new heights every year.
New York City principal Lauren Lovette has become an icon thanks to her emotional maturity and exceptional musicality. The 26-year-old quickly rose through the ranks after joining the company as an apprentice in 2009, reaching principal status in 2015. A Thousand Oaks, CA, native, Lovette started studying ballet seriously at age 11, at the Cary Ballet Conservatory in Cary, NC. After attending two summer courses at the School of American Ballet, she enrolled as a full-time student in 2006. Last year, she made her choreographic debut with For Clara, her first piece for NYCB. Catch her latest work this month during the company's fall season. —Courtney Bowers
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I know I'm not getting good enough dance training from any of my local studios. But I'm not sure I'm ready to move away to study at a big-name school, either. How do you know when you're ready to leave home to pursue your passion?
Instagram star Kylie Shea has built a following of nearly 170,000 with her playful workout videos, which combine traditional fitness activities, like jumping rope or running on the treadmill, with pointe shoes and sassy choreography. Shea's effortless cool-girl-next-door vibe and solid ballet technique make her vids totally irresistible.
Now Shea's using her platform to address the body image issues that tend to plague dancers. In a poignant video, she sheds her clothes and tugs at her skin. The caption explains her relationship with her body and the pressure she feels to maintain a certain aesthetic as a dancer.
Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."
That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.
Think about it: How often do you see a ballet pas de deux for two women? Almost never, right? Sometimes, choreographers will forgo the traditional danseur-ballerina pas to make a duet for two guys, since they can lift and partner each other easily. But a dance for two ballerinas is a rare thing.
That's part of what makes "Duet," a new video by director Andrew Margetson featuring Royal Ballet beauties Yasmin Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell, so compelling.