Life After Competition
In the not-so-distant past, competition dancers had to make a difficult choice once they entered the professional world: either begin an unstable gig-to-gig commercial career in L.A., or, if they wanted the benefits of company life, ramp up their classical training and audition for ballet troupes. But today, there’s a new option that offers the best of both worlds: Innovative companies that embrace comp kids’ unique and eye-popping talents are springing up everywhere.
So what can you expect from these groups? A company director might hire you after seeing you dance in her class or watching a video you post online. You’ll probably be doing a lot of the contemporary and jazz choreography and “tricks” that you learned on the convention circuit. (Being able to tumble and/or spin on your head is usually a plus.) And chances are you’ll be dancing for or alongside a “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer or former contestant, since many of these artists are the cream of the comp world crop.
Here are eight of the companies leading the way in this professional dance phenomenon.
Founded in 2004 by Justin Giles
What began as an outlet for dancers in Dallas, TX, to perform during the competition off-season has evolved into a striking professional company. (SoulEscape recently moved to a new home in L.A.) In addition to performances all over the country, the troupe also hosts an annual summer intensive.
Home base: L.A.
Notable member: Kathryn McCormick
How to join: Auditions are usually held each summer in L.A., Dallas and NYC.
“It is SoulEscape’s mission to provide work for dancers, eye-opening and inspiring performances for our audiences and a positive, healthy learning environment for students.” —Justin Giles
Founded in 2004 by Erica Sobol and Chris Hale â€¨in NYC; “reimagined” in 2007 by Sobol in L.A.
Quirky. Passionate. Wildly diverse. These four words describe the members of collidEdance, which embraces hip-hop, jazz, ballet and break dancers, as well as writers and designers who create the company’s unique costumes, postcards and programs. Together, their mission is to deliver performances that “tell a story and reach out to touch every audience,” says founder Erica Sobol.
Home base: L.A.
Notable member: Nick Lanzisera
How to join: Erica primarily chooses dancers from the classes she teaches at EDGE Performing Arts Center in L.A.
“Our style has been described as unique, strange, musical, human, interpretive, funny, sexy and alive!” —Erica Sobol
Odyssey Dance Theatre
Founded in 1994 by Derryl Yeager
Versatility is key at ODT. Each company member performs a variety of styles, from ballet to tap to hip hop—so it’s no wonder that it has become home to several “SYTYCD” Top 20 contestants. The company has more than 50 performances every year, including an annual European tour.
Home base: Salt Lake City, UT
Notable members: Brandon Bryant, Natalie Reid
How to join: Annual auditions are held in Salt Lake City, NYC and L.A.
“The ODT dancers easily transition through different styles of dance, and you’ll see almost every style in every production.” —Derryl Yeager
Mather Dance Company
Founded in 2010 by Shannon Mather
This dynamic new group features some of the most prominent commercial dancers in the biz, and it has a companion pre-professional company for promising students. “It’s my goal to take dance training to the next level and not just limit ourselves to the competition stage,” says founder Shannon Mather.
Home base: Yorba Linda, CA
Notable members: Paula Van Oppen, Kherington Payne, Mollee Gray
How to join: Auditions are held in August in Yorba Linda, CA. Video submissions are also accepted.
“In the commercial industry, dancers don’t get to do the kind of performing they did in their competition studios—the duets or the crazy leaps. In this company, they can put on productions that show off those skills, while also working as commercial dancers.” —Shannon Mather
Bad Boys of Dance and Pretty Girls of Dance
Founded in 2007 (Bad Boys) and 2008 (Pretty Girls) by husband-and-wife team Rasta Thomas and Adrienne Canterna
Six Bad Boys and one Pretty Girl performing stunning feats onstage: That’s the recipe for ROCK the Ballet, the show that made the Bad Boys of Dance famous, which has toured almost constantly since its creation. The company is also about to premiere a tap show in Europe, and there’s a new production for the Pretty Girls in the works.
Home base: Baltimore, MD
Notable members: Jakob Karr, Robbie Nicholson, Jaimie Goodwin
How to join: Video submissions are accepted. The company doesn’t hold auditions.
“We have dancers from the competition, concert, college and ballet worlds. It’s incredible to see that diversity onstage. Plus, they’re all cute.” —Adrienne Canterna
DeMa Dance Company
Founded in 2009 by sisters Despina and Matina Simegiatos
This Brooklyn-based company incorporates commercial and modern dance, but it has ballet at its core. DeMa brings in guest choreographers like Tyce Diorio, Sonya Tayeh and Billy Bell, who also performs with DeMa as a guest artist.
Home base: Brooklyn, NY
Notable members: Billy Bell
How to join: Open auditions are held regularly in Brooklyn.
“We wanted to create a company that combined modern with commercial dance and therefore could claim a wider audience.” —Despina Simegiatos
Lunge Dance Collective
Founded in 2010 by Billy Bell
For this new dance ensemble, location isn’t an issue. LDC’s dancers live across the United States and Canada and come together for short, intense rehearsal periods before shows. According to founder (and “SYTYCD” alum) Billy Bell, what makes this “collective” different from a typical company is that it operates like an agency, bringing together groups of dancers for each project based on their availability.
Home base: NYC
Notable members: Jason Glover, Kirsten Wicklund, Adé Chiké Torbert, Ryan Ramirez
How to join: Video submissions are accepted, and LDC plans to hold live auditions in the future.
“LDC strives to be a springboard for dancers hoping to transition into the company world of dance.” —Billy Bell
Founded in 2007 by Sonya Tayeh
We all know Sonya Tayeh as a star “SYTYCD” choreographer, but when she first moved to L.A. four years ago, she didn’t even know how to get an agent—so she just called some dancers she knew and put on a show. Soon the explosive group was invited to perform in other venues, and Tayeh Dance was born. (Tayeh got an agent, too.) Tayeh is looking forward to expanding the company’s performances to NYC and beyond.
Home base: L.A.
Notable members: Melody Lacayanga, Will Loftis
How to join: Tayeh invites dancers that she meets through classes, conventions and performances.
“For me, it was never just about creating choreography. It’s about helping dancers evolve and making them strong, aggressive, intelligent movers.” —Sonya Tayeh
What's better than a good dance joke? They're corny, they're punny, and they're exactly what you need to get you through long Nutcracker days. These 10 jokes are guaranteed to put a smile on your face—no matter how much your feet are hurting.
Some might say Charlize Glass' fame kicked off with a single three-letter word. In 2014, Beyoncé shared a video of the then–12-year-old dancer performing to "Yoncé" on Instagram, along with a simple caption: "WOW!"
But by that point, the hip-hop mini had already performed at the MTV Video Music Awards and on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and won first runner-up with her crew, 8 Flavahz, on "America's Best Dance Crew." And her Queen Bey Insta shout-out wasn't even the pinnacle of her tween career: She earned a spot on The PULSE On Tour as an Elite Protégé for the 2014–2015 season, and performed with Missy Elliott at the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show in 2015.
These days, the 16-year-old spends her time touring the country as Brian Friedman's assistant at Radix Dance Convention and blowing up YouTube and Instagram with her class-video cameos. And while the Char Char we fell in love with was a hip-hop cutie pie, the more mature artist we see today is sure to rock the dance world for years to come.
You're obsessed with class videos. We're obsessed with class videos. The passion, energy, and talent showcased in these clips, which give us an insider-y peek at the commercial dance world's hottest classes, are totally irresistible.
But at what point does the phenomenon go from being a good thing to a bad thing for dancers and the dance world? Is the focus on filming distracting from the work dancers are supposed to be doing in class? Are overproduced videos presenting a dangerously misleading picture of the dance world? Is the pressure to be a class video star becoming too much for dancers to handle? These are some of the questions A-list dancer and choreographer Ian Eastwood—no stranger to the class video himself—has been asking on Twitter. And they've sparked a lively, important debate.
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!
"So you Think You Can Dance" Season 14 finalists Lex Ishimoto and Taylor Sieve shocked fans at home (at least the ones who hadn't thoroughly scoured their respective Instagrams) during Episode 14, when choreographer Mia Michaels asked if either of them had ever experienced "the kind of love that takes your breath away." They confessed that, yup, they had—with each other. The two met at The Dance Awards in the summer of 2016, where they were each named Senior Best Dancer, and went on to tour with the convention as assistants. Before long—and long before their "SYTYCD" journey—they became a couple.
Take a look at Dance Spirit's exclusive interview where they dish on everything from their favorite dates to the dance moves that give them all the feels.
There's a surprising twist to Regina Willoughby's last season with Columbia City Ballet: It's also her 18-year-old daughter Melina's first season with the company. Regina, 40, will retire from the stage in March, just as her daughter starts her own career as a trainee. But for this one season, they're sharing the stage together.
Yes, we all know dancers are strong. But sometimes it takes a truly epic workout video to remind us JUST HOW INSANELY STRONG they actually are.
Behold, National Ballet of Canada principal Svetlana Lunkina's oh-so-casual pre-class exercise:
Dance Spirit is beyond excited to announce the first round of 2017 Future Star winners! Every year, DS partners with competitions to recognize dancers with exceptional presence and ability. The second round of winners will be featured in our January issue, so stay tuned!