My Favorite Performance

Wendy Whelan (by Henry Leutwyler)

Wendy Whelan

Principal Dancer, New York City Ballet

“One of my most memorable performances took place at the Palais Garnier in Paris in 2008, alongside dancers of the Paris Opéra Ballet. I danced the ballerina role in the second movement of George Balanchine’s Symphony in C. It took a lot of mental preparation for me to get ready for that moment—dancing this monumental role at probably the most famous opera house in the world, where Symphony in C actually had its premiere in 1947.

On a more personal note, my childhood ballet teacher was a dancer with POB. She was the first person who believed in me. She told me I had the potential to make something of myself as a dancer. I proudly danced that performance of Symphony in C in her honor. I still have my pointe shoes from that night. It’s the only pair of shoes I’ve ever saved from a performance.”

(Courtesy LINES ballet)

Meredith Webster

Alonzo King LINES Ballet

“One performance that remains clear in my memory was in Vaison-la-Romaine, in the Provence region of France. LINES danced there at an ancient open-air amphitheater. We were performing a collaboration with some of the Shaolin monks, and the feeling of being onstage with them, with ancient columns and worn bricks surrounding me and constellations in sight whenever I looked up, was overwhelmingly beautiful.”

(L to R) Jennifer Di Noia, Afra Hines, Nathan Peck

Afra Hines

Ghost: The Musical on Broadway

“My most memorable performance was my Broadway debut in Wicked in 2006. Growing up I was primarily a dancer—I didn’t sing or act. So doing Wicked on Broadway opened a whole new world to me. Now I’m in my third Broadway show, and I love it.”

Megan Branch (courtesy Celebrity Dance Competitions)

Megan Branch

Commercial Dancer

“Last summer, I competed for the last time at West Coast Dance Explosion Nationals with my studio, Dance Connection 2. I improvised my solo, and it placed in the top three. It was a little nerve-racking knowing I would be on my own the next year pursuing my dance career, but it felt really good to take the stage that last time and give it my all.”

Kenny Wormald (far right) with Timberlake (second from left) and dancers

Kenny Wormald

Commercial Dancer

“When I was performing on tour with Justin Timberlake, we did a show in Boston, MA, at the TD Banknorth Garden. I’m from Boston, and just a few years prior to the performance, I’d been back home in my living room trying to learn JT’s choreography. To return to my hometown performing with my favorite artist in the world was amazing. It taught me that anything is possible!”

Alicia Graf_Mack (by Andrew Eccles)

Alicia Graf Mack

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

“I performed Memoria this last New York season—it’s a piece choreographed by Alvin Ailey that I have loved since I was young. Memoria takes its lead dancer on a journey: She hears calls to go to heaven and ascends to another world. Groups of dancers move around her for much of the piece, so it feels like you’re dancing in a swirl of light. It was my first season back after not dancing for three years because of a knee injury and arthritis, so the plot of transcendence was close to my heart.”

 

Jacalyn Tatro (Michele Welsh/Inspirations Photography)

Jacalyn Tatro

Student, Inspire School of Dance in Naperville, IL

“Last year, I performed a dance called ‘The Lost Soldier’ at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals. Because it was on the Fourth of July, I felt a deep connection to what soldiers go through. I think all of us were able to move people in the audience even more than we usually do at competitions.”

 

Melinda Sullivan (center) (by Richard Termine)

Melinda Sullivan

Tap Dancer

“This past October, I performed with the New York Song & Dance Company at the Career Transition for Dancers Gala in NYC. I was featured as a vocalist and tap dancer in a number called ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin.’ I looked into the wings during the performance and saw Chita Rivera sitting there, smiling at us. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m singing and dancing for one of the world’s greatest song and dance women!’ After the show I had the chance to meet Chita. We had an exchange I’ll never forget. She was just like, ‘Do your thing, girl!’ ”

 

Hefa (left) and his brothers on the "DWTS" set

Hefa Tuita

Commercial/Ballroom Dancer

“Recently, my brothers and I performed a piece that I choreographed on “Dancing with the Stars.” To share that moment on the stage with my brothers—to be on TV in front of thousands of people with the people I love most—was so beautiful to me. The energy was kind of spiritual; it almost brought tears to my eyes.”

Photo by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Taja Riley

Taja Riley's bold, full-out presence and unique ability to mix hard-hitting hip hop with smooth, sensual choreography paved the way for her success in the commercial industry. She's danced with music icons like Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Ne-Yo, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Pitbull, and Bruno Mars, and has assisted with choreography for Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour, Demi Lovato's Skyscraper tour, and Beyoncé's Mrs. Carter tour. She also appeared in Beyoncé's groundbreaking visual album Lemonade. Raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Riley grew up training at Denise Wall's Dance Energy. Currently, she's on faculty at New York City Dance Alliance, where you can catch her touring the convention circuit. —Courtney Bowers

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New York City Ballet in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (via @nycballet on Twitter)

We all suffer from Nutcracker fatigue sometimes. After a zillion performances, it's hard not to. But there's nothing to restore your little-kid sense of Nutcracker wonder like a look at the sheer scale of a world-class Nut.

New York City Ballet's iconic production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker opens on Friday, and for the past week, the company has been Tweeting out some seriously eye-popping #NutcrackerNumbers. The stats cover everything from the number of jingle bells used on each Candy Cane costume (that'd be 144) to the watts of light used in the show's grand finale (ONE. MILLION. WATTS.).

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Oh hey there, Hallmark Channel! The producer of all those sweet, homey movies best watched in your PJs with your mom has a super dance-y film on its holiday lineup this season: A Nutcracker Christmas. And the casting is—to use a very Hallmark-y pun—perfectly on pointe.

A Nutcracker Christmas tells the story of a talented professional dancer, Lilly, whose supportive sister dies just as Lilly is about to perform the role of Clara in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet. (Nit-picky fact-checking: In New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, she's known as Marie and danced by a child, but OK.) Lilly's boyfriend and dance partner, Mark, keeps her from performing in the show, which makes Lilly declare she'll never dance again. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Lilly's niece, Sadie, is about to dance Clara in a different company's Nutcracker—a company run by, of all people, Mark. And tons of drama ensues.

Yes, it's a whole lot of plot to wrap your head around. But the real story here is that Sadie is played by none other than the phenomenal Sophia Lucia, and the ever-dashing Sascha Radetsky is also involved in the project. (Radetsky's exact role is unclear from the press material, but he seems like a pretty natural fit for Mark, no?) The odds seem good that we'll get the gift of some very high-quality dancing. Merry Christmas to us!

Sophia Lucia showing off those banana feet (via @sophialucia5678)

You can catch A Nutcracker Christmas on December 10 at 8 pm. Get your slippers and hot cocoa ready.

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