Desmond Richardson defies human limitations with his dynamic power and captivates audiences with his artistic expression. Richardson's extraordinary natural talent was first recognized when, as a student at the Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, he received a merit scholarship from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. In 1987, he began his professional career with the Ailey Company, where he was a principal for seven years. Richardson went on to perform with companies like American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Ballet Frankfurt in Germany. And he's more than a ballet phenomenon: He showed his triple-threat skills in the movie musicals Chicago and Across the Universe, and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor for his work in the Broadway hit Fosse. As if that weren't enough, in 1994 he co-founded Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Today, he continues to perform with Complexions and serves as the company's co-artistic director. —Ashley Rivers
Hey you! Yes you, the young perfectionist! You need to stop sweating the small stuff. Stay positive, because negativity is distracting; ultimately, it will knock you off course. Quit worrying that you're not at the same level as the others and start living in the moment.
Study the basics well, because you will need them if you want to truly speak through movement. Continue to dream of one day gracing the great stages of the world. Follow your passion—you'll find that it will fuel you.
You don't know it yet, but your hard work, your commitment to excellence and your
respect for your art will allow you to soar. So let go and open up to the infinite possibilities the universe has in store for you!
Your Big Self
Top photo by JP Sevillano; bottom photo of Richardson (center front) with teacher Maria Youskevitch (center back) and fellow Ailey School students in a 1980s brochure courtesy The Ailey School Archives
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.