When Elizabeth Parkinson was 11 years old, she saw a production of Bob Fosse’s musical Dancin’—and immediately knew that she wanted to dance. Though she didn’t start training seriously in ballet until age 13, she was a natural. After honing her skills at a local studio in her hometown of Tampa, FL, Parkinson joined the Joffrey II ballet company when she was 17. She moved to the main troupe in 1984 and was one of its leading dancers for eight years. But Parkinson was itching to explore the musical theater world. She left the Joffrey and freelanced for a few years before moving on to Broadway, where she scored parts including a featured role in 1999’s Fosse and Brenda in Twyla Tharp’s 2002 jukebox musical Movin’ Out (for which she won an Astaire Award). Today, Parkinson is busy teaching at the FineLine Theatre Arts school in New Milford, CT, which she co-owns with her husband (and fellow Fosse and Movin’ Out cast member), Scott Wise. —Margaret Fuhrer
Parkinson sewing an early pair of pointe shoes
Stop worrying about the things that don’t matter! In fact, don’t worry at all—it’s a waste of energy and time.
You started dancing a little late, so you always feel like you’re playing catch-up with other dancers. You often look at yourself and don’t like what you see: no muscle definition, too skinny, too fat, too this, too that. But you know that you want to dance, and that there isn’t anything else in the world that will satisfy you in the same way. So let go of this negative stuff. Ultimately, it just holds you back.
Instead, focus on the wonderful things about yourself! There is room for everybody to succeed in this world. Have you thought about small dance companies? Broadway? Open your eyes and look outside the box.
Finally, try to have a more diverse life outside of dance. You are training to be an artist who expresses life through her body. So let that body experience life!
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.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!
Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.
If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.
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.