Melanie Moore Writes a Letter to Her Teenage Self
Contemporary Dancer Melanie Moore has come a long way since being named America's Favorite Dancer on Season 8 of "So You Think You Can Dance," where she became known for her captivating presence and elegant, fluid moves. In recent years, the 25-year-old has been blowing up Broadway: She originated the role of Peter Pan in Finding Neverland and starred in the most recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof as Chava. Moore started dancing at age 3 at Centre Stage School of Dance in her hometown of Marietta, GA, and later switched to Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, where she fell in love with contemporary dance. She attended Fordham University for a year before leaving to compete on "SYTYCD" in 2011. These days, you can catch her in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! —Courtney Bowers
First off: Don't freak out! It's just you at 25. And, yes, you're still performing! So take a breath and know that you really can do it.
Now: Take a moment to appreciate where you are in life at this moment. This is going to be a time you remember so fondly. You're in the perfect place to grow as a human and an artist. You're safe and surrounded by people who love you, so push yourself to be your best and to get outside your comfort zone at the studio. Really appreciate the love you have for those people and for dance—it will last forever. Nowhere will be as safe as that studio. Make as many mistakes as possible, and take as much class as you can.
Follow what your gut tells you, and try to let go of the things not meant for you. You have so many plans, but life has others that you can't even imagine. Try not to get too attached to what you think your future and career will look like. (Spoiler alert: It doesn't look the way you think it will now, but you won't be disappointed.)
Lastly, and most importantly, don't lose sight of what makes you special. You may not be right for some things or for some companies that you desperately want to be a part of, and that's OK! Ultimately, the things that make you different and special will lead you down another path, and you'll find your home.
Moore as a young dancer (courtesy Moore)
Stay open. Stay grateful. Keep growing. You're in for one crazy ride.
Love and luck,
P.S. Keep up those voice lessons—it'll save you some time later!
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!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
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.