Dancer to Dancer

Sami Gayle

(Photo by Victoria Stevens)

You may know Sami Gayle as Nicky Reagan-Boyle on CBS’s cop drama “Blue Bloods.” But this high-profile actress is a comp kid at heart. Sami was already a regular at New York City Dance Alliance when she landed the role of Baby June in the off-Broadway production of Gypsy at 11 years old. She was later featured in Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical and reprised her Baby June role when Gypsy came to Broadway. Then she set her sights on the big screen. Now 18, her credits include Detachment, Stolen and The Congress. Catch her this month as Mia Rinaldi in the highly anticipated teen movie, Vampire Academy—and read on for The Dirt.  —RZ

What performer would you drop everything to go see? Hugh Jackman

If you could work with any performer, past or present, who would it be? Audrey Hepburn

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure? Eating the food I bake!

Who would play you in a movie? Me!

Who’s your dance crush? Mikhail Baryshnikov

What are your pet peeves? Grammatical errors!

What’s your dream role? Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Dance-wise, do you have any bad habits? Mr. Willy Burmann has a list too long to include.

What’s the strangest thing in your dance bag? A rhinestoned, fantastic key chain a fellow dancer gave to me when I was auditioning for Gypsy

Do you have any pre-performance habits? I meditate for a few minutes before performing.

What’s your most embarrassing onstage or on camera moment? My wig fell off during a performance of Gypsy.

What’s your advice for DS readers? Follow your dreams but never underestimate the power of an education.

Dance News
Photo by Jayme Thornton

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.

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Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

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Dancer to Dancer

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!

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Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

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.

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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.

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Dancer to Dancer
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)

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.

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Blankenbuehler (far left) with the rest of the "Hamilton" creative team scontent-iad3-1.cdninstagram.com

So book your tickets to Tulsa already, people!

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Your Body
Amanda LaCount showing off her skills (screenshot via YouTube)

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.

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Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

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Watch This
Tavaris Jones dancing with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Scream Team hip-hop crew

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.

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