Simone in Yearning (photo courtesy Hall of Fame Dance Challenge)
Simone Cameresi’s solo, Yearning, begins with only spoken word as the soundtrack. At Hall of Fame Dance Challenge Nationals last summer, she created music with her body instead—hitting accents where there were none and seamlessly moving from one phrase to the next, unfazed by the lack of clear tempo. By the time the lilting melody kicked in, the then-14-year-old beauty had already transfixed the audience. With her calm control, extensions to die for and riveting stage presence, it was clear Simone had the facility and dedication to make it big.
The daughter of a former Navy man, Simone was born in Italy but came to the U.S. with her family at age 2. She started ballet classes at 4 at a small Arizona studio, and at 6 moved to California, where she expanded her horizons, taking jazz, tap, lyrical and hip-hop classes at Murrieta Dance Project. It wasn’t long before she was ready to compete. “I was just 7, and it was a little scary,” she says of her first competition. “But having all my friends with me made it fun.” She was hooked, and has been dominating the competition scene ever since. “I like having that time onstage to show the audience what I’ve been working so hard on,” she says.
And work hard she does. Now at Mather Dance Company in Placentia, CA, the 15-year-old supplements her training with ballet classes at Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy and Southland Ballet Academy. She attends countless competitions and conventions, and she’s been awarded full-tour scholarships to NUVO, JUMP and West Coast Dance Explosion for the past two years. But the ninth-grader is surprisingly well-rounded, balancing dance and school—“People may not realize it, but I’m a big nerd”—while still making time to hang out with friends. How does she do it? “I’ve learned to manage my busy schedule. I have a plan, and I stick to it,” she says.
Simone’s careful planning is already paying off. In the past year, she auditioned for and signed with Clear Talent Group and was chosen as one of 16 semifinalists for The Music Center’s Spotlight Awards, an annual scholarship for high schoolers. She’s also been accepted to the Joffrey Ballet School’s Year Round Trainee Program and is planning to attend as many conventions as possible this summer. What’s her plan for the future? Simple: “To keep dancing.”
Most-played song on her iPod: “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran
Favorite dancer of all time: Desmond Richardson
Favorite choreographer: Travis Wall
Favorite food: Seafood. “I love sushi.”
Favorite subject in school: English
Favorite book: “I have a lot. But right now, one of my favorites is The Hunger Games.”
Favorite movie: The Notebook
Must-see TV show: “Bunheads”
Three words that describe her dancing: “Graceful, emotional, technical”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.