(by Peter Ross/Paladin)
In Five Dances, which opens nationwide this fall, 18-year-old Chip (played by Ryan Steele) moves to NYC with nothing but a sleeping bag and a love for dance. Cast in his first professional dance job, Chip struggles to find himself—and, ultimately, find love. This heart-wrenching tale, full of incredible dancing, will transfix you. (Though be warned: It deals with content that may be too mature for young viewers.) Steele’s performance is both intense and quirky—it’s hard to believe this is his first foray into film. He’s been captivating audiences onstage for years, first as an aspiring ballet dancer, and then in featured roles on Broadway. (He even graced our July/August 2012 cover while in Newsies.) Now a star of both stage and screen, Ryan chatted with DS about the making of Five Dances.
Dance Spirit: You started working on Five Dances more than a year ago. Can you tell us about the filming process?
Ryan Steele: The first things the cast learned were the five dances that are in the movie. We had three days of rehearsal with choreographer Jonah Bokaer, for 12 hours each day. Then we had a week or so break before filming. We filmed for only two weeks total—it was really quick.
DS: What was the hardest part of making the movie?
RS: The schedule. As a dancer, I’m used to rehearsing for weeks or even months before performing. But we would look at some scenes for the first time at 2 am and then film them at 8 the next morning. We also shot out of order, so I’d do a happy scene and then for the next scene on the schedule, I’d have to cry. That was a challenge.
DS: Your character, Chip, has a hard time as he enters the world of professional dance. Could you relate to his experience?
RS: Definitely. I think it’s realistic. My character is new to NYC and doesn’t really know what he’s getting himself into. That was my experience when I was 18 and first moving to the city. But Chip is very serious, and I’m a generally happy person. Having to do most of the scenes without cracking a smile was tough.
DS: What makes Five Dances different from other dance movies?
RS: During our initial rehearsals, director Alan Brown really paid attention to the way us dancers interacted in the studio—the relationships we formed and the things we said and did, down to putting on deodorant while talking to each other. Dancers have a level of comfort with each other that other people don’t. Five Dances does a great job of diving into the world of dance and staying true to it.
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.
Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.
But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.
Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.
There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.
Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.