MY "So You Think You Can Dance" All-Stars
Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance" kicks off on Thursday (8 pm on FOX, make sure you tune in!). As we all know by now, this season is going to be different from the previous six in that there is a Top 10, not a Top 20, and each dancer will be paired with a former "SYTYCD" contestant. The 12 "All-Stars," as the show is referring to them, include tWitch, Comfort, Anya, Courtney, Lauren, Neil, Allison, Mark, Pasha, Kathryn, Ade and Dominic. A stellar lineup! But not exactly the group I would've put together. So, in honor of the show's return, here's who MY all-stars would be:
Heidi Groskreutz (Season 2): I'll admit it, I couldn't stand Heidi when she was on the show. That season, I was rooting for Allison and Natalie to make it to the finale. I didn't think Heidi was all that special in Mia Michaels' famed "bench routine" with Travis Wall, and it weirded me out every time she danced with her cousin Benji Schwimmer. But now I look back and can't help but think "Dang! That ballroom girl had it going on!" She's quick, clean and poised and was always a fantastic partner. She'd be an excellent ballroom expert on the show.
Lacey Schwimmer (Season 3): No surprise that my second pick for an all-star would be Lacey Schwimmer—Heidi's cousin! Her training is similar in that she grew up dominating the ballroom competition floor. But Lacey has that extra little something that Heidi doesn't have, which is a standout personality. Lacey was my favorite Season 3 lady because she always did something exciting (Remember her Samba with Danny Tidwell? Talk about a WOW factor!) and she always did it well. Any newcomer would be lucky to quickstep alongside this ballroom beauty.
Sara Von Gillern (Season 3): Sara was the best b-girl this show has ever seen. Bring her back, "SYTYCD!" And while I loved watching her solos when she would headspin her way into our hearts, the best thing about Sara was that she was almost better when she was out of her element. Her disco routine (That hot pink dress was to die for.) with Neil Haskell (choreographed by Doriana Sanchez, of course) is still one of my all-time favorite "SYTYCD" routines.
Jaimie Goodwin (Season 3): Season 3 was seriously stacked with awesome lady dancers. Jaimie Goodwin was that year's contemporary queen. With her super-strong legs, lovely lines and always-believable onstage emotion, she became one to beat early on. People still talk about her performance in Wade Robson's "Hummingbird" routine.
Chelsie Hightower (Season 4): Who's cuter than Chelsie? Although she's a pro on "Dancing with the Stars" now, I'd love to see her return to the "SYTYCD" stage. Chelsie was always fun to watch and she has the best personality. (DS featured her on the cover last year for a reason!)
Janette Manrara (Season 5): So many of my female picks are ballroom dancers! And with her fiery personality, super technique and slammin' body, Janette fits right in with the rest of them.
*Note: Although I think he is still one of the most talented people to ever grace the "SYTYCD" stage, I'm leaving Travis Wall off this list. I adore his dancing, but I'm really into his choreography right now. So while I'm not making him one of my all-stars, it's implied that he's on my all-star choreographer list.
Neil Haskell (Season 3): Neil is a triple threat and that definitely worked to his advantage when he was on "SYTYCD." He had already performed in Twyla Tharp's The Times They Are A Changin' on Broadway. Impressive! His technique was great and he had a fantastic personality—and every time he showed off with a sky-high back layout flip, my heart melted for him. Plus, he was the first guy I got to interview when I started working for Dance Spirit, so he's got a special place in my heart. (I asked him about his first kiss!)
Pasha Kovalev (Season 3): As a male ballroom dancer, it's understood that you're often in the background making your female partner look good. Pasha was great at this—he always made his partners look good, whether or not they needed his help—but he never faded into the background. Pasha was so strong in every area. It became apparent that he was a force to be reckoned with when he nailed Shane Sparks' "Transformers" routine. Even next to Lauren Gottlieb, a hip-hop rockstar, he kept up and dominated the dance floor.
Stephen "tWitch" Boss (Season 4): tWitch is my all-time favorite "SYTYCD" contestant. He has the total package: talent, personality, star quality, a fantastic sense of humor—I could go on for days. I still cannot believe he didn't win that season. I called in and voted for him—why didn't the rest of America?!
Mark Kanemura (Season 4): Helloooooo, the "Garden" routine? Need I go on. Oh yeah, and he's a Lady Gaga dancer now. Can Mark be any cooler? I think not. I'm so glad he's an all-star and can't wait to see what he brings back to the show now that he's spent a year on tour with the raddest performer around.
Will Wingfield (Season 4): Will is my second all-time favorite "SYTYCD" contestant. When he performed Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson's pas de deux choreography with Katee Shean, my heart melted. And when the top five Season 4 guys were onstage dancing Nigel Lythgoe's "Five Guys Named Moe" routine, my eyes stayed glued to Will. He has so much charisma. Not to mention the fact that he's gorgeous... The only reason I'm semi-OK with Will not being an All-Star this season is because he's having a ton of success away from reality TV: He's currently starring as Graffiti Pete in Broadway's In the Heights. (Love Will? We've got him in the upcoming July/August issue of DS, so stay tuned.)
Jakob Karr (Season 6): When I first saw Jakob Karr dance at New York City Dance Alliance's Nationals in 2008, I knew he was going to be a star. I think everyone did! His training is incredible and his flexibility seems unbelievable. But what I love most about Jakob is his modesty. Does he not realize how good he is?! Jakob is so grounded and humble and I'm thrilled that he's headed on tour with the Bad Boys of Dance. Plus, he's documenting the entire experience for DS, which you'll get to read about in the fall. Pretty cool, right? Anyway, I'm one of those people who watches "SYTYCD" religiously but only picks up the phone to vote sometimes (bad, I know). I definitely picked up the phone for Jakob though.
And there's my list of All-Stars! It was tough narrowing the list down to 12, but these are my choices and I'm sticking to them. For today at least... Remember to tune in to "So You Think You Can Dance" May 27 on FOX and bookmark dancespirit.com/ online. We'll be recapping every episode!
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.