My Top 5 Moments From The New York City Dance Alliance Gala
To most of my friends, summer means days on the beach applying sunscreen and reading magazines.
To me, summer brings long nights in chilly convention ballrooms, taking frantic notes about this year's up-and-coming, OMG-we-have-to-feature-them dancers.
And I wouldn't have it any other way: Nationals season is my favorite time of the dance year.
One of the highlights for me is always the night of the New York City Dance Alliance senior gala. All these dancers have flown in to NYC to audition for scholarships, take classes with a killer faculty and, if all goes really well, take home some top prizes (Outstanding Dancer titles and Critic's Choice are the most coveted).
Last night, Rachel, Margaret and I got all dressed up to attend a long-but-awesome evening with Joe Lanteri and incredible dancers. Here are five of what I have deemed the night's most memorable moments:
1. Sitting in the audience and actually witnessing lives changing onstage. NYCDA is big in the whole "dancers, you should go to college" movement, which we fully support. (Just wait for our September issue, which is dedicated to higher ed.) Lanteri and his team awarded $1.7 million in college scholarships last night to schools including Point Park University, Marymount Manhattan College, Dean College and more. The most amazing presentation was when Lanteri presented Montana Michniak (who, by the way, is stunning) with a full scholarship to the University of the Arts. Her family and teacher (I assume) were seated right behind Rachel and me, and they jumped to their feet, applauding and crying. Their kid just got her college education paid for. Lives = changed. (Sorry I didn't do that, Mom.)
2. Seeing the dancers we've featured kicking major butt. Remember in April when we did that story on "Who's Who on the Comp Scene?" Well, many of those dancers were at NYCDA last night — and they all rocked. Kali Grinder was part of a group routine up for senior Critic's Choice and she handed over her 2011 National title. Hannah Seiden dazzled in her group routine, and Victoria McWilliams (one of my long-time favorites) won 2nd Runner-Up Senior Outstanding Dancer. Christina Ricucci took 2nd Runner-Up Teen Outstanding Dancer, and Jordan Pelliteri won the Teen OD title. On the men's side, Vinson Fraley represented, nabbing the 2nd Runner-Up Male OD spot.
3. Spotting a dancer in a crowd of 112 Teen Outstanding Dancer hopefuls and shouting, "OMG she's beautiful" — and then realizing it was our own Cover Model Search finalist Megan Skalla! Megan totally stuck out during the Teen OD opening number (with hard-hitting, fun choreography by Joey Dowling), not just for her exquisite beauty, but also for her movement quality. Then, in the pack of Senior OD's, we saw another CMS finalist: Alyssa Ness! Alyssa was in the Top 8 for the seniors, and Megan took home the 1st Runner-Up teen title. We're so proud!
4. The Newsies opening number. I cannot get sick of this show. I've seen it, I have the soundtrack, and I've spent hours (uh, seriously) staring at the photos from our July/August cover shoot with the Newsies boys. They are just so dang talented, and kicking off the night with a performance of "Seize the Day" gave me goosebumps that lasted the entire night (also the ballroom was kind of cold).
5. The people-watching, of course! Everywhere I looked I saw one of my favorite dance celebs. Joey Dowling was there in sky-high heels (of course), May/June cover girl Taja Riley made her full-time faculty debut, and Jakob Karr was just a few seats down. Kaitlynn Edgar looked dynamite in a strapless chambray jumpsuit (probably the only person I know who can pull that off) and Tony Testa looked dynamite in...actually, who cares what he was wearing? He's Tony Testa. And I love him.
If I could pick sixth and seventh outstanding moments from the gala, they would be Colton Krouse's solo performance (in a toga!) that won him the Teen OD title, and Ivan Kalinin's "I'm sad my year as a National winner is over so I'm going to dance for you now" performance. Keep an eye out for these two dudes: They're going places. Like, onto DS covers, perhaps...
Oh, and an eighth moment! Alexia Meyer's National Outstanding Dancer victory performance. She may be tiny, but that girl can attack. I'm thrilled she won.
Congratulations to all of last night's performers. You inspire us. (Now go celebrate on the beach like everyone else!)
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.
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.
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.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!
Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.
If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.