The surface you dance on can play a crucial role in how well you move. Whether the floor is uneven, sticky or slippery, it can significantly influence your performance by causing injuries or forcing you to modify choreography. When I was in 7th grade, my friends and I learned this lesson the hard way while performing a hybrid tap and jazz routine to The Jackson 5’s “Rockin’ Robin.” The number worked great in the studio, but as soon as we hit the stage, tappers started sliding and falling. One even sprained her ankle! The stage was more slippery than the studio floor and it caught us by surprise.
Dancers across the spectrum encounter similar surface-related challenges all the time—especially when they’re forced to perform under unusual conditions. A few DS readers recently shared their craziest dance floor moments. Here are our favorites:
A few summers ago I danced at an outdoor community event with my studio in Greencastle, PA. Our teacher had told us to wear sneakers because she assumed we’d be dancing on concrete. But there was an acro mat available when we arrived, so we decided to dance on that instead. My partner and I decided to wear socks for our lyrical duet so that we would be able to perform all of the movements full out. We felt fine that afternoon, but the next morning we both woke up with blisters all over our feet. It had been 80 or 90 degrees outside on the afternoon of our performance and the sun had heated up the mat to the point that it burned our feet!—Whitney Fetterhof, a senior dance major at George Washington University
When It Rains, It Pours
I was a dancer in a rock musical called [ital: Falco] in Vienna, Austria, in 2002. During dress rehearsal the director decided there should be a rain scene, so the crew rigged the stage to rain on us while we were dancing. The first time we came running out to try the scene, the entire cast went sliding and we all fell over! We tried to do turns but our feet kept slipping. The choreographer, Teddy Wilcox, decided we should all wear army boots for traction, but of course we couldn’t do pirouettes in them. We couldn’t do leaps either—a few dancers pulled their backs trying to do jetés in the heavy boots. The original choreography for that scene was amazing, but most of it had to be cut to accommodate the rain. —Tom Richardson, dancer and choreographer
The Brigham Young University Cougarettes have danced at the annual Las Vegas Bowl pep rally for the past five years. Three years ago, the girls had to perform on an ice rink that had simply been covered by cardboard, which moved as the girls danced. They performed about five times throughout the evening and every time they stepped off the area, they told me how lucky they were not to have broken their necks! To compensate for the poor surface, the girls couldn’t do any turns or tricks. They had to avoid a lot of our technical jazz moves and stick to our pom choreography. —Jodi Maxfield, Spirit Coordinator and Cougarette Dance Team Artistic Director, Brigham Young University
Mixing It Up On Cement
I used to belong to a modern and jazz troupe that was once asked to perform at a local shopping mall. We were asked to do a couple of numbers and repeat them every half hour throughout the day. Our performance space was an empty store with bare cement floors. There wasn’t an elevated stage, so I ended up developing tendonitis after a full day of leaping and jumping on the unforgiving surface. —Annie-Danielle Grenier, Montreal, Canada
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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.