Make 'Em Laugh

Modern dance is notoriously solemn, even grim. The stereotypically intense "modern face" doesn't crack easily into a smile. That's why it was refreshing to see, this weekend, two modern choreographers so at ease--and so successful--with humor.

Israeli dancemaker Ohad Naharin can do serious; there were many haunting moments in his Max, performed by Batsheva Dance Company on Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Yet he also knows how to use silliness to his advantage. Max's score is composed entirely of recordings of Naharin's own voice, and at one point he makes a low, pulsating noise that sounds strikingly like the wah-wah of a hard rock bass guitar. Although the dancers have just completed a series of intensely dance-y steps, it seems totally natural for them to pause, extend the the thumbs and pinkies of their left hands, and headbang along with the beat. The audience giggled, and I imagine that Naharin was laughing right along with us.

In sinister works like Last Look and Cloven Kingdom, Paul Taylor seems to thoroughly enjoy exploring the darker side of the human mind. Taylor's newest work, Beloved Renegade, which I saw this Saturday at New York City Center, was slightly gentler than those pieces--wistfully melancholy rather than perverse and bleak. Inspired by the poems of Walt Whitman, Beloved Renegade tells the story of a man (Whitman himself?) who journies through war towards death. One of the things that keeps that journey from devolving into hopelessness is a sweetly funny episode in which the dancers behave like children at recess--playing leapfrog, plugging their noses ("You stink!"), giving each other noogies. The scene not only demonstrates Taylor's incredible range as a dramatic artist, but also lets the audience relax for a moment. It's OK to laugh a little bit, Taylor seems to be saying, even though you'll be crying by the time the curtain falls. (On Saturday, we did laugh--and many of us cried, too.)

Dancer to Dancer

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.

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Win It
Courtesy CAA

You read that right, people—Dance Spirit's giving away two tickets to the "SYTYCD" tour in the city of your choice, complete with an exclusive meet & greet with select cast members! Read on for the complete prize listing and official rules.

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Via Facebook

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.

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Gianluca Russo (via Instagram)

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.

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Okay, so it's also Friday the 13th. (Eek! Be sure not to let any black cats cross your path on the way to the studio!)

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Dancer to Dancer

If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.

All photos by Joe Toreno.

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Dancer to Dancer

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?

Megan

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Dance News

What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.

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