The first thing you’ll notice when you see 9-year-old Luke Spring is that the pint-sized tap dancer loves to smile. He grins from ear to ear in a way that’s completely infectious. In fact, Luke says if he were a superhero, he’d want his superpower to be “making people laugh.”
The second reason you won’t be able to take your eyes off Luke: He’s a really, really good dancer, and not just for his age, but for any age. Last May, Luke opened the show at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards in NYC, and his furiously fast tapping brought the crowd to its feet. The solo he performed? An all-improv, a capella number. “I was nervous,” Luke says of the Astaire Awards. “There were a lot of people in the audience. But I just went out and made it all up. I was proud of myself, and I was excited people stood up for me.”
It’s no surprise Luke’s got rhythm—he comes from a dance family. Luke has two sisters: One is a dance major at George Mason University and the other performs with the professional contemporary company marInspired. It wasn’t just his siblings who inspired a 4-year-old Luke to put on a pair of Capezios, though. “When I watched the movie Happy Feet, I thought it was really cool,” he says. “So after I saw it, I found some tap shoes in the lost and found at the studio and started tapping. I didn’t know I would be good at it.”
Luke started taking tap classes at Studio Bleu Dance Center in Ashburn, VA, soon afterward, and a year later he added jazz, hip hop, lyrical, contemporary and ballet to his repertoire. He also began competing in solos and group routines, as well as a tap trio with his sisters. He performs up to 14 routines at each competition he attends and is in the studio six days a week. His signature tap step is over-the-tops. “They come naturally to me,” he says. But it’s when there’s no set choreography that Luke truly shines: He’s an improv pro. “I learned a lot of steps from my teachers, and then I put them all together to make new beats and noises,” he says. “I can make easy steps into harder steps by adding more sounds.”
Luke hasn’t even hit double digits and already he’s performed on “So You Think You Can Dance” (alongside executive producer Nigel Lythgoe) and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” While he’s got plenty of time to think about the future, Luke already knows what he’s after: “I want to perform on Broadway and TV and in movies, and I want to teach.” For someone who was born to entertain, these goals seem well within reach.
Luke performing with Nigel Lythgoe on "So You Think You Can Dance" (Frank Micelotta/FOX)
Birthday: April 10, 2003
Most-played song on his iPod: “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson
Favorite actors: Jim Carrey and Steve Martin. “They’re both really funny.”
Must-see TV show: “Happy Days.” “I like The Fonz.”
Favorite dancers of all time: Jason Samuels Smith, Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Chloé and Maud Arnold
Favorite food: Hamburgers. “I put ketchup, pickles, lettuce, tomato and cheese on them.”
Something people don’t know about him: “I like football, basketball, playing the drums, drawing and designing tap shoes.”
First thing he does in the morning: Eats breakfast. “I like pancakes.”
Three words that describe him: “Funny, fun, happy”
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.
Daphne Lee is a queen, and not just in the "OMG Girl Boss Alert" sense of the word. She's an actual queen—a beauty queen. Crowned Miss Black USA in August, she's been doing double duty as she continues to dance with the Memphis based dance company, Collage Dance Collective. Lee's new title has given her the means to encourage other black girls and boys to pursue their dreams, while also pursuing dreams of her own. The scholarship money awarded with the pageant title will assist her as she earns a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Hollins University.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
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!