Who caught the Tony Awards yesterday? It was an interesting night at the Beacon Theater, with lots of surprises when it came to the winners, for sure. But I'd like to begin this recap by establishing that Neil Patrick Harris is a national treasure. If he could host everything, ever—maybe with an occasional cameo by Hugh Jackman—the world would be a happier place.
Let's run down the highlights of the show, shall we? To simplify this a bit, I've decided to rate Tony 2012's top moments by jazz hands, from one (meh) to five (YES!).
1. The Book of Mormon introduction. OK, the idea of starting out with the BofM cast members ringing famous Broadway stars' doorbells was cute. But this show had its big moment last year, and the number itself lacked...something. (Maybe the hundreds of obscenities that pepper the rest of the production's songs?)
Rating: Two jazz hands
2. Neil Patrick Harris's opener. "What if life were more like theater?" NPH asks, and thus begins a cute musical number that pays tribute to beloved theater traditions while also poking gentle fun at them. It would basically have been impossible to top last year's insane opening number, but the "preventermission" and the Annie cameo brought it pretty close.
Rating: Four jazz hands
3. Movie-musical hybrids. "The Towering Inferno No Nannette. The Exorcister Act. Field of Dreamgirls. My Left Footloose. (Think of the dance numbers!)" Cute.
Rating: Two jazz hands
4. The Newsies performance. Yes, yes, yes!! Love all these boys. Way to wake up the audience with Christopher Gattelli's high-octane moves. (And Newsies fans: Stay tuned for July/August issue!)
Rating: Four jazz hands
5. Christopher Gattelli winning for Best Choreography—during a commercial break. So well-deserved. But really? Hiding the presentation away during the commercials? Choreographers are people too, Tonys!
Rating: Five jazz hands (the award); zero jazz hands (the timing)
6. NPH's Spiderman stunt. "Any concerns I had about this Spiderman rig failing have been overshadowed by the searing pain in my junk." [Cut to Andrew Garfield.]
Rating: Three jazz hands
7. The Lion King guy sitting in the audience in full costume. I'm sorry, what??
Rating: Zero jazz hands
8. The Porgy and Bess performance. Oh, man, I could listen to Audra McDonald sing "Summertime" all day. Which is why I was a little bummed that they performed a confusing medley of songs instead of just letting her do her thing. Though it's also a treat to see Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier up there, so...
Rating: Three jazz hands
(Side note: McDonald's engaged to Will Swenson?? Where have I been??)
9. The Tony-Award winning composer medley. NPH sings a (pretty awesome) song mash-up commemorating all of the composers who've won for best score...and the whole thing is an introduction for Sheryl Crow? I'm a little confused (though I did laugh out loud at "Hello 12, hello 13, hello—where is love?").
Rating: Two jazz hands
10. The Once performance. "Gold" is a beautiful song, but I was hoping they'd do "Falling Slowly," which is just gorgeous. Also, it would've been nice to hear Cristin Milioti sing a bit.
Rating: Three jazz hands
11. Hugh Jackman's surprise face. Jackman knew he was getting a special Tony Award last night—but he didn't know that his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, would be presenting it. That is real surprise right there, and it is adorable.
Rating: Three jazz hands
12. "I just got terrible news: The cast of Hairspray has been taken over by pirates...of Penzance." Nerdy theater jokes! Yay!
Rating: Two jazz hands
13. The Leap of Faith performance. I'm sad this show closed before I got a chance to see it, because the cast's performance was unexpectedly amazing. That is some serious choreography!
Rating: Four jazz hands
14. The closing recap. The best. And the ending was perfect. Just watch and appreciate all that is Neil Patrick Harris.
Rating: Five very enthusiastic jazz hands
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Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Noelani Pantastico is famous for her passionate stage presence and strong, powerful technique. Originally from Oahu, HI, Pantastico trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and frequently attended summer courses at PNB. In 1997, she joined PNB as an apprentice, and was promoted to principal in 2004. Four years later, she joined Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo as a soloist—but, in 2015, Pantastico headed back home to PNB, and she's danced there ever since. Catch her in the company's June program, which features George Balanchine's La Source, Jerome Robbins' Opus 19 and Alexei Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Read on for her letter!
You'll soon enter a career that will shape the course of your existence. Pay attention and enjoy every moment, because it goes very quickly. Life in the dance world is beautiful, although there will be times when deep reflection is necessary, and when roadblocks will make you rethink your career path. This is normal, and it's OK. Here's some advice that will help you get through.
Don't complain, and ignore idle gossip. Negativity will do nothing for you. It's wasted energy. Your mental state is connected to your physical being and immune system—being mindful can help you stay healthy. You won't want to believe this, but the sooner you do, the sooner you'll get better and won't be dealing with so many ailments. When you're dealing with pain, injury or even a common cold, consider whether you're also going through an emotional problem or change. This is total body care.
Don't try to control the course of things. Everything that happens is meant to happen. There's a lesson in every moment. Just listen, observe and work hard. This will give you intelligence and power, and ultimately the ability to handle anything the world throws at you.
Lastly, give the best you can every day. Don't waste a minute. Remember: Life responds to you and to what you put out there. It's not about what happens to you, but about what you make of it. Be meticulous with your steps. Care for every motion. Your love and gratitude will vibrate beyond you.
I love you very much,
Photo by Angela SterlingPantastico in Jean-Christophe Maillot's "Roméo et Juliette"
"When a biology major asked if I was illiterate because I studied dance, I realized just how much of a joke my field of study is to some people."
That's how Camryn Eakes, a junior dance major, opens her incredibly powerful open letter asking fellow Chapman University students to (as the title puts it) "Recognize the complexities of the dance major." It's a frustration that's way too familiar to just about every dancer: We've all had this beloved art form of ours questioned, ridiculed, trivialized or worse.
Eakes' passionate writing speaks to so many of the misconceptions that drive dancers CRAZY, along with the huge demands our art form puts on us:
"Dance requires us to be willing, to expose our rawest self to any set of eyes. Every day, I must be willing to relive both the euphoric and depressing memories I house in the deepest depths of me. That's my job; that's our job. We are storytellers, protesters, advocators, thinkers, entertainers, actors and innovators. Studio time is our lab, our calculator, our pen and paper. It is not enough just to physically show up to class. Our growth and talent is a full-time investment inside and out of class and that's just part of being an artist. We cannot destroy our bodies with alcohol and all-nighters. Our bodies are our tools and something we can't purchase over and over again when it breaks. The professional artist lifespan is only so long as our health will last, that we cannot afford nor want to lose any time we have enjoying and delving deeper into what we cannot live without."
You can read the complete version of Camyrn's letter on The Panther's website. And check out this video of Camryn dancing—she's obviously a gorgeous mover and a beautiful writer.
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 for a chance to be featured!
I have super-archy feet, which is great—sometimes. But they're hard to control because they're so flexible. How can I make them stronger and easier to work with? I have a hard time even standing properly in pointe shoes.
While I'm sure many of your fellow dancers envy you, having beautiful feet can be tough! The first thing to do is to make sure you have the right pointe shoe. You need a good, strong shank to support that arch, but not a rock-hard shoe that'll keep your feet from getting stronger. Go to your local dance store and try everything. Having the right shoe can do wonders!
Establish a daily Thera-Band routine. Your super-flexible feet will need a really high-resistance band—I'd suggest either a black, gray or blue band. Do lots of simple push-through-the-feet exercises to build stability in your ankles and metatarsals.
Once you're in your pointe shoes, add extra relevés, élevés and balances to your pre-class warm-up to improve your strength. Even doing simple tendu and dégagé exercises in your pointe shoes, focusing on pushing through your metatarsals, will help your feet and ankles learn to stabilize the rest of your body. It's all about repetition and time!
Using a Thera-Band every day is super important.Photo by Nathan Sayers
I've loved dance for as long as I can remember, and I want to pursue it professionally. But lately, I haven't felt
the same joy when I dance. I'm always sad at the studio, and I'm not even sure why. I miss the old me. What should I do?
Many dancers go through a "burnout" period, either in their training or once they become professionals. Think back to why you started dancing in the first place. Was it the music? The freedom of the movement? Reconnecting with those initial feelings can help you find your joy again.
We dancers also tend to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection, and that can mess with your head. Scary as it sounds, try taking a few days, or even a week, away from dance. (Pick a time when not a lot is going on at the studio, so you won't be missing any performances or other important opportunities.) Odds are, just putting a little space—mentally and physically—between you and the dance world for a while will allow you to come back to class newly energized and excited.
However, if that time away leads you to realize that you no longer want to dance, that's OK too! It doesn't make you a failure. It just means your passions and goals have changed. And if that's the case, it's better to realize it now than 10 years down the road.
I just got a big part in my school's musical. There's a lot of dancing, which I'm not worried about at all—but I also have to sing and speak. I'm not used to using my voice onstage! What can I do to get comfortable?
The first time I had to speak and sing onstage, I was terrified. Thankfully, I had some great coaching. I'll pass along the wisdom I received!
Dancers are taught to lift up through their bodies. But if you lift up while singing, you'll run out of air. Instead, during singing and speaking passages, focus on staying grounded. Let your body relax and your weight drop into the floor—foreign as that might feel.
Be sure to actively enunciate every lyric or line of dialogue, too. In normal speech, eliding your words, so they slur together a bit, is OK. But onstage, it's not—the audience has to hear everything clearly to be able to understand you. You might feel silly hitting every "t" and "d" hard, but it's important!
Finally, focus on projecting your voice, just as you project your dancing up and out. The people in the back row have to hear you as well as see you! Well-supported breathing, using your diaphragm, will help your voice carry to the far reaches of the theater
Remember when getting a selfie/making a dance video in the Rain Room was the coolest of cool-kid things to do? Now there's a fabulous new place to create Instagram magic: The Attention Room, an immersive exhibit in L.A. promoting Charlie Puth's newest single, "Attention." It's basically a big black box filled with crazy LED projections that make you look like you're suspended in a disco queen's re-imagining of deep space.
Naturally, genius filmmaker/ultimate cool kid Tim Milgram just made a dance video there. And he casually brought Jade Chynoweth, Sean Lew, Jake Kodish and Jason Glover (to name just a few) along for the ride.
It's super trippy, and just plain super:
Angelenos, you can see The Attention Room for yourselves at 8017 Melrose Avenue, now through April 30.
When über-talented duo Chelsie Hill and Josh Killacky dropped their collab video a few weeks back, we were blown away—and so was Ellen DeGeneres. Naturally, DeGeneres (who's not-so-secretly the biggest dance fan ever) invited them to perform "Ellen" and the result was absolutely incredible.
Hill and Killacky have top-notch chemistry, their musicality is #onpoint and the choreo is so beyond perfect. We can't stop watching—see for yourselves:
If you follow ballet darling Juliet Doherty on Instagram—which you probably do—you already know that the two-time Youth America Grand Prix gold medalist is a self-proclaimed "plant-powered ballerina." Doherty has followed a vegan diet for four years now, and though she never forces her lifestyle on her followers or IRL friends, she does love sharing her daily eats and the plant-based meals and snacks that help her perform at her best. Curious as to what that entails? Here's a day in the life of Juliet's meat-and-dairy-free diet.
I always start my day with a big glass of water.
Today, I squeezed the juice of half a lemon in because I have a lemon tree in the yard and a surplus of them to use! I love adding lemon not only for the flavor, but also because they are alkalizing to the body and help restore a balanced pH, they add extra vitamin C to your diet to fight against colds and the flu, and they increase peristalsis, which helps eliminate waste from the body, and cuts down on that bloated feeling.
Then it's oatmeal for breakfast.
Rolled oats are a go-to breakfast food of mine. They're filling, and the complex carbohydrates along with the protein from the oats gives me sustained energy. Plus they're quick and easy to cook!
Here are all the ingredients I used for my breakfast:
- 1⁄2 cup rolled oats
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
I add ground flaxseed for some good omega-3 essential fats. Even Gandhi once said, "Wherever flaxseed becomes a regular food item among the people, there will be better health." I try to incorporate a bit of flaxseed into my food each day either in oats, a smoothie or even salad. The blueberries and banana each have their benefits: antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, the list goes on and on. I always have different fruits with my breakfast, and they make the oats taste sweeter. Natural maple syrup contains trace minerals like zinc, but I really just added it because it's sooo delicious. This all keeps me fueled through three hours of rehearsal in the morning.
Next up: a quick snack before technique class.
I had an apple and 16 oz. of coconut water with a scoop of chocolate plant protein. Fruit is such a great option for fast energy because your body digests it quickly. I love coconut water, which replenishes the electrolytes lost while sweating. Sometimes I add a bit of plant protein powder if I feel like I want more protein that day. The protein powder I use is a blend of proteins sourced from peas, brown rice, and hemp. Nutrient dense and yummy!
After class, it's time for lunch.
I got lunch from a smoothie bar. I love smoothies because you can pack a lot of nutrition in and you won't feel stuffed while you're dancing. Here's what was in my green smoothie:
- 1 large banana
- 1 cup mango
- 1 cup kale
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 tbsp coconut butter
- 16 oz coconut water
Then it's time for a two-hour pas de deux class, followed by dinner.
Finally, time to go home and have dinner! I kept it quick and simple tonight by making a salad and popping a sweet potato in the oven. My salad was super high-protein and took less than five mins to put together. Here's what I ate:
- 1 large handful of arugula
- 1⁄2 head of romaine heart lettuce
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 cups of garbanzo beans
- 1⁄4 cup raw sprouted pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbsp fig balsamic dressing
- 1 large baked sweet potato
Everyone knows how important it is to get your greens each day. Maybe I'm weird, but I love salads and enjoy the taste of fresh raw veggies. Beans and lentils are so good for you, so I aim to have at least a cup a day. By using two cups of garbanzo beans in my salad I added 30 grams of protein! I topped my salad with some raw sprouted pumpkin seeds. Studies have shown that sprouting seeds boosts their nutritional value and makes them easier to digest. Today I opted for a dressing without oil, but other times when I have fewer fats throughout the day I like to add a little olive oil to my salad.
I'm not afraid of fats!
Natural plant fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds are necessary for the mind and body to function properly. Especially as highly active people, we need fats to recover and repair.
An extra active day requires a stretch and a late-night snack.
If I have time, I like to stretch at night. I feel that helps me sleep better, because my muscles are more relaxed, and I wake up less sore. Tonight I stretched for 30 minutes. A little later in the night, I had a cereal craving. It's important to listen to my body when it's telling me it needs more nourishment! I ate one cup of Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal with a cup of organic soy milk. Kashi cereals are my favorite; they're minimally processed compared to most cereals, and they have very few ingredients, which is always better when it comes to eating packaged foods. I make sure my milk is organic and non-GMO.
Why did I go vegan?
When I ate animal products, I used to have chronic stomachaches. I was always so bloated and uncomfortable. Since eliminating meat and dairy from my diet, I don't get the stomachaches, I feel lighter, and I'm more energized. That's a great feeling to have when you spend the whole day in a leotard, and need to be dancing intensely. I rarely get sick, and have never had a dance-related injury. And I've found it's not hard to nourish my body and thrive as a plant-based athlete.
Here's my advice for going animal-free.
Eat mindfully! Choose foods that will best support your training, performances and recovery. Fueling my body properly is something I consider essential to feeling and performing my best!
I don't know about you guys, but I'm still #shook. Like, beyond shook. I mean, remember when this season's "DWTS" cast was announced? Remember when we basically called it that our former cover girl (and "Glee" superstar and Beyoncé backup dancer) Heather Morris was gonna win it all? Yeah, that's not happening—Morris and her partner, Maks Chmerkovskiy, were sent home last night. So while that news sinks in, let's talk about the amazing dancing that happened (because there was lots of it, despite the crazy elimination). On to the dancing and the stars!
Team Girl Group vs. Team Boy Bands
I'm a sucker for lots of things, but specifically coordinated outfits, giant neon signs that say "Ladies Night" and the iconic TLC masterpiece, "No Scrubs." Seeing as the Team Girl Group dance had all of those things, it's getting a big shoutout. Team Boy Bands gets one, too, because they were equally as amazing, and it's not their fault they had #NoScrubs to dance to.
Normani and Val's Salsa
To say this dance was a highlight is an understatement—Normani can bring the heat. She and Val were living their best life out there. Her dancing skills are amazing to begin with, but her performance skills are literally beyond. The duo easily executed some super-tricky partnering and flips for a score of 38/40.
Heather and Maks' Rumba
If you look up "Perfect Rumba," chances are the example would be this video. Maks Chmerkovskiy is the definition of an attentive and trustworthy partner. Seriously, this dance was incredible. Every moment was picture-perfect, every flick of the wrist and développé was precisely timed, and every step was fused with musicality. Naturally, the judges felt the same way and gave the pair a well-deserved 40/40.
But apparently, perfect scores mean nothing and everything is a lie: Heather Morris and Maks Chmerkovskiy, aka The Couple That the Entire World Thought Would Win, were eliminated. It's a whooooole new ball game in the ballroom, so be sure to catch next week's recap—it's bound to be a very interesting episode after this shake-up.