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!)
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
P!nk, known for her high-flying, acrobatic awards show sets, has literally raised the bar for pop stars everywhere. For her performance at last night's American Music Awards, P!nk decided to break out some flips and tricks ON THE SIDE OF A BUILDING. WHILE FLAWLESSLY SINGING HER FACE OFF. You know, just casually, like you do when you're a full-on goddess.
When you think of a dancer, a double leg amputee may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But Eric Graise, who's one of the stars of the upcoming "Step Up: High Water" YouTube Red series, hopes to change that. Graise, whose legs were amputated as a child due to missing fibula bones, will play a character named King in the new dance series, set to debut early next year.
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.).
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.
Consistent turns are a must for aspiring professional dancers, but pretty much everyone struggles with pirouettes at some point. Luckily, since we're all beholden to the same rules of physics, there are concrete steps every dancer can take to reach his or her top turning potential. “Three is the new two when it comes to pirouettes, but the secret to turning is technique, not magic," says Bojan Spassoff, president and director of The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.
Falling out of your doubles? Aspiring to go revolution for revolution with your class's star turner? No matter where you lie on the turning spectrum, our 360-degree guide to pirouettes will help you improve.
One of the most beautiful things social media has brought us is the ability to feel like we're up close and personal behind-the-scenes with all our favorite dancers. And one of our favorite stars to Insta-stalk are actually two casts of 36 scintillatingly synchronized precision dancers. I'm talking, of course, about my mild obsession with the legendary Radio City Rockettes.
Have we mentioned lately how much we love dance dads? Especially ones who show up to their daughter's ballet class sporting a tutu, like Thanh Tran.
You've seen it a million times: A glamorous, toned dancer posts a perfectly styled shot of her colorful smoothie bowl. The caption gushes about how great you'll feel if you eat "clean"—but what does that actually mean? DS asked registered dietitian/nutritionist Rachel Fine and holistic health coach (and founder of The Whole Dancer) Jess Spinner for all of the dirt.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org a chance to be featured!
I'm being bullied by one of the girls at my studio, and it's awful. I've talked to my dance teacher and confronted the bully directly, but it hasn't made a difference. What should I do?