Melanie LaPatin

Dancing a foxtrot with "SYTYCD" Season 6 winner Russell Ferguson. (Kelsey McNeal/FOX)

Her signature red hair is a tip-off: Melanie LaPatin is one fiery-hot ballroom queen. Though she didn’t begin to dance competitively until age 19, the native New Yorker quickly developed a successful partnership with ballroom dancer Tony Meredith. During their competitive career, which lasted nearly two decades, the dynamic duo racked up more than 100 championship ballroom titles. After retiring from competition in 1999, LaPatin and Meredith opened Dance Times Square Studio in NYC, where they still teach regularly. LaPatin has also choreographed for film, coached a host of movie stars and made pieces for “So You Think You Can Dance” and “So You Think You Can Dance Canada.” She recently starred in the film Leading Ladies. —Margaret Fuhrer

LaPatin as a teenager (courtesy LaPatin)

Hey, Melanie! Read these words very carefully:

I know you think no one could possibly understand your thoughts or feel your confusion. But you are not alone. So many people feel exactly as you do. Please stop here and re-read this paragraph. Then read it again.

It’s OK to not be “OK.” You are a unique and loveable person. It’s OK to trust others, too. Feelings are just feelings—they are not who you are. I repeat: Feelings are just feelings—they are not who you are.

Even though no one is there to be your guide, you are a strong and passionate individual. You are just as capable as others. Someone is going to do all the things you dream about; it might as well be you. You have the ability, power, intuition and honesty to make positive things happen. You are a good person and deserve good things.

Stop for a moment and take a deep breath, in and out, slowly. Be aware of where you

are and what sounds you may hear. Right now, Melanie: Stop reading this second, close your eyes and take a few breaths. Do not allow any thoughts to enter your mind—gently let them move on. Please practice this.

One day, your purpose in life will hit you like lightning and there will be no stopping you. You are where you need to be. Struggle and experience build character. I support you,

I care about your needs, I love you and I am here for you.

“Those who dance are thought mad by those who can’t hear the music.”

The dance floor will set you free,

Melanie LaPatin

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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Dancer to Dancer

For more on choosing whether to compete or not, click here.

I started dance classes at a young age. By the time I was 3, I was training at The Dance Club, and I grew up there. I started with the basics—ballet and jazz—and eventually added tap, tumbling, contemporary, and hip hop.

Early on, I did compete. I remember my first time: I did a trio at a small local competition, and it got first place. The trophy was as tall as I was, and I loved it. I attended conventions as a mini, and had the opportunity to take classes from Travis Wall, Sonya Tayeh, Andy Pellick, and Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh. There was so much variety—I was in awe.

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Dancer to Dancer

For more on choosing whether to compete or not, click here.

My mom was a dancer growing up, and she went on to become a dance teacher, so I've really grown up in the studio. I started classes when I was 2, and by the time I was 9, I was training at The Dance Club and knew I wanted to dedicate all my time to dance.

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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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Dance News

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.

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Dancer to Dancer

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.

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Dance News
(From left) Nia Sioux, Kendall Vertes, Chloe Lukasiak, and Kalani Hilliker (via @chloelukasiak)

Hey, "Dance Moms" die-hards: Are you obsessed with The Irreplaceables? Well, four members of the elite team—Kalani Hilliker, Chloe Lukasiak, Nia Sioux, and Kendall Vertes—are coming soon to a city near you.

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Dancer to Dancer
Tiler Peck and Chase Finlay in Swan Lake (photo by Paul Kolnik)

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.

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