Madeleine dancing a variation from
Coppélia, Act 1 (I. Siggul/Visual Arts Masters)
With perfectly arched feet and a petite frame, 14-year-old Madeleine Gardella looks like a jewelry box ballerina. She stands just 4 feet 11 inches tall, but exudes the confidence and maturity of a seasoned professional. Her port de bras is unmannered; her musical phrasing is both crisp and lilting. “Most people think ballet is exacting,” says Madeleine. “But there’s so much artistry. I’m enjoying that part of it.”
Her love of dance started in preschool, when a friend asked her to join a tap/jazz/ballet class. “It snowballed from there,” Madeleine says. She studied at The Dance Academy, a competition studio in Holland, PA, until she decided—at 12 years old—to focus on ballet. “Not that jazz and contemporary weren’t exciting,” she says. “It’s just that ballet was the most fun for me.”
Madeleine had previously tried The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia for a summer (“I loved ballet even more after that!”) and later stayed for the year-round program. By age 13 she was dancing full-time and getting her education online via the 21st Century Cyber Charter School. Unlike many of her friends who board at The Rock, Madeleine lives with her family outside the city. Her mom drives her to classes every day.
Though she spends most of her time in Philly, Madeleine has starred as Clara in NYC’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular. She also recently worked on the Broadway workshop of Little Dancer (alongside New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck!) with Susan Stroman after attending a casting call in NYC. She learned the entire show in 10 days—all the lines, music and choreography—and did a studio performance for investors.
As for the future, Madeleine is open to everything. She’s preparing for the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC (after winning first place in the Junior Age Division, Classical Dance Category in Philadelphia) and listening to Broadway tunes on Pandora internet radio. “Don’t be afraid to try new things,” she advises DS readers. “Push the boundaries a little and explore.”
Birthday: November 5, 1998
Favorite food: Indian
Who would play you in a movie? Audrey Hepburn
Dream dance roles: Kitri from Don Quixote or Swanilda from Coppélia
Favorite dancers of all time: Maria Kochetkova, Alina Cojocaru and Natalia Osipova
Strangest things in your dance bag: “I have these weird hair clips that look like little jellyfish. They don’t even hold my hair, but I like to keep them in there.”
Favorite dance movie: First Position
Dance BFF: Juliet Doherty (“We did Radio City together in NYC”)
Dance crush: Marcelo Gomes
Three words that describe you: “Petite, smart, comical”
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.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.