We are so excited to introduce this year's three Cover Model Search finalists: Hannah Bettes, Alyssa Ness and Megan Skalla!
All three girls are fabulous and we had a blast with them during their time in NYC this April. You can read all about the three talented dancers in the July/August issue of DS (it should be in your mailbox any day now!), and then click here to check out the official CMS site.
Look at photos of the finalists, watch their solo videos and get a behind-the-scenes peek at their trip to NYC.
Then comes the hard part: Pick your favorite dancer!
Are you in love with Alyssa's extra-long extensions? Totally digging Megan's spunky personality and archy feet? Or maybe you've got a thing for Hannah, who makes beautiful ballet look easy.
We know it's tough, but take a look around, and then decide who you want to see on the October cover of Dance Spirit. You only get to vote once, so make it count!
(L to R) Broadway performer Charlotte D'Amboise, 2013 Ambassador For The Arts Catherine Zeta-Jones and NYCDA Founder/Executive Director Joe Lanteri
At Dance Spirit, we love comp kids, we love college dancers, we love Broadway performers, and we especially love when all of these people come together for one exciting performance. That’s exactly what happened last night at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation’s gala event, “Bright Lights Shining Stars.” This year’s performance celebrated 2013 Ambassador For The Arts Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who was looking radiant in head-to-toe sequins. But the real stars of the night were the dancers, who came from far and wide to pay tribute to CZJ.
The opening number featured one of our September 2013 cover girls, Marymount Manhattan dancer Zoey Anderson, who took the stage opposite our July/August cover guy Jakob Karr. What a great match! And later, I was so proud to spot 2012 Cover Model Search finalist Alyssa Ness and CMS winner Megan Skalla looking stunning on stage, both of whom have won generous college scholarships from NYCDA this year.
Then came the Broadway tributes, each one representing a chapter from CZJ’s career. There was “Go Into Your Dance” from 42nd Street with Mara Davi of “Smash,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from Rock of Ages featuring Mamma Mia’s Felicia Finley, and “All That Jazz” from Chicago starring Charlotte D’Amboise of Pippin.
One of the best moments of the night featured another Broadway star, tiny tapper Luke Spring, who comes back to the Great White Way this December in A Christmas Story. The 10-year-old cutie stole the show with an improvised tap solo. The crowd went absolutely wild and gave him a standing ovation.
This year, the Foundation has already awarded $3.4 million towards talented teens' college educations—including a $10,000 scholarship sponsored by our sister magazine Dance Magazine (that went to stunning dancer Sasha Alvarez). And last night, NYCDA handed out even more college scholarships, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. I have to admit, I got a little choked up seeing the excitement on these dancers’ faces.
All in all, it was a fabulous night to celebrate the past accomplishments of one dancer-turned-celebrity—and the futures of a whole bunch of talented kids.
On Saturday evening, Dance Spirit editor-in-chief Alison Feller and I attended one of our favorite summer dance events: The New York City Dance Alliance closing-night gala. It's always jam-packed with dance celebs (Oh hey, Jakob Karr!) and is never lacking for awe-inspiring talent.
Here are a few highlights from the night:
- The Rockettes opened the show with an instrumental version of Shine (one of my favorite numbers from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular!). They wore gorgeous silver dresses that had the NYC skyline across the bust—I was in love. And the crowd went nuts when they showed off their perfect kickline.
- The NYCDA Foundation and multiple colleges and universities from across the country awarded high school juniors and seniors 3.4 million dollars in college scholarships. That's right, folks—3.4 MILLION! Lives were changed.
- Kolton Krouse, the 2012 National Teen Male Outstanding Dancer, and Alexia Meyer, the 2012 National Senior Female Outstanding Dancer, danced two of the best solos (their farewells) I've ever seen. I'm not kidding—as soon as they finished the entire audience jumped to its feet in applause. I can't wait to see what they do next.
- Three of the Top 5 senior female dancers were former/present DS Cover Model Search finalists! Last year's CMS winner Megan Skalla was fourth runner-up, 2013 CMS finalist Madi Hicks was third runner-up and 2012 CMS finalist Alyssa Ness was crowned the 2013 National Female Outstanding Dancer! We couldn't have been more proud of all three.
Here are the big winners from the night:
Teen Female Outstanding Dancer: Jayci Kalb
Teen Male Outstanding Dancer: Jake Tribus
Senior Female Outstanding Dancer: Alyssa Ness
Senior Male Outstanding Dancer: Alex Soulliere
Teen Critics' Choice: Wings from The Dance Club in Orem, UT
Senior Critics' Choice: From the East from The Dance Club in Orem, UT and Solitude from Inspire Dance Company in Las Vegas, NV (For the first time in 19 years, there was an exact tie!)
“You’ll never dance again.” Those four small, terrifying words would change Alyssa Ness forever. She was 14 and dominating the competition scene, placing in the Top 10 at every Nationals she attended, even winning the mini and teen titles at West Coast Dance Explosion. But suddenly, she found herself with two torn ligaments in her ankle. She knew it was bad, but never dancing again? That was unfathomable. Luckily, a second doctor had a less ominous diagnosis: She’d need surgery, tons of physical therapy and a year without dance.
Now 17, Alyssa says that year away from the studio and the stage altered her outlook on dance. “Being out for so long made me appreciate dancing so much more,” Alyssa says. “Before my injury, I was caught up with winning titles and being the best, but now I dance because I truly love it.” And when you see her onstage, that’s more than apparent. With impeccable musicality and Gumby-like limbs—plus a drive and focus well beyond her years—Alyssa has all the ingredients for success.
Born and raised in Ramsey, MN, Alyssa began taking classes at Northland School of Dance when she was just 2 years old. “They were the only school that took dancers that young,” she says. But NSOD turned out to be—and is still—a great home for her. She started with tap and ballet, adding jazz, lyrical and ballroom classes later on. She credits NSOD studio owners Corrie Rolf Dunn and Teresa Rolf as her dance mentors: “They know me better than I know myself,” she says. In addition to taking classes at NSOD, Alyssa commutes more than an hour each way to high school at the prestigious Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists.
Now, whether she’s taking class or tearing up the stage, Alyssa makes one thing clear: You will watch her. The hours spent honing her technique have clearly paid off. Her ability to highlight even the smallest nuances of the music guarantee you won’t take your eyes off her.
So what’s next for this captivating performer? While she plans to audition for the dance programs at The Juilliard School and Marymount Manhattan College in NYC, her injury and recovery process have inspired her to pursue a degree in physical therapy. But no matter what, Alyssa will keep dancing. “I love that I can inspire myself and others through dance,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful thing.”
Birthday: March 19, 1995
Most-played on her iPod: “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyoncé
Something people don’t know about her: “I have a chin phobia. I don’t like when people touch my chin or their own chin. One time my ballet teacher adjusted my chin and
I flailed my arms, almost hitting her in the face.”
Favorite foods: Red velvet cake and cookies-and-cream ice cream
Dance crush: Travis Wall
Three words that describe her dancing: “Genuine, technical, captivating”
Favorite dance movies: Burlesque and Center Stage
Favorite actor: Jim Carrey
Favorite dancer of all time: Commercial and contemporary dancer Chaz Buzan
James Kinney, musical theater instructor at Broadway Dance Center: “She attacks choreography from such a pure place in her body and understands
it immediately. Alyssa is ferocious in her movement.”
Teresa Rolf, Alyssa’s teacher at Northland School of Dance: “Alyssa is a dance teacher’s dream. People describe Alyssa as talented, hard-working, exquisite, humble and an excellent role model. I appreciate her dedication and the wonderful example she sets for the younger students. She takes nothing for granted and proves over and over again that you can be a brilliant dancer and remain humble. Alyssa is not only a good dancer, she’s a good person.”
Megan, Alyssa and Hannah (Photo by Nathan Sayers)
Each year, the Dance Spirit editors spend hours watching the videos dancers have uploaded in the Cover Model Search competition on dancemedia.com. And while that’s always entertaining—you superstars have some great technique and stellar stage presence!—what we really look forward to is the week when the three editor-selected finalists travel to NYC to take classes at Broadway Dance Center, pose for a DS photographer, catch a Broadway show and show off their solos.
So when Hannah Bettes, Megan Skalla and Alyssa Ness arrived in Manhattan, we couldn’t wait to get to know them better. Naturally we’d done our research beforehand: We knew Hannah was the ballerina, Megan was the sweet one from Utah and Alyssa was the alluring blonde. We knew they collectively had some of the pointiest feet and longest, bendiest legs we’d ever seen, and we knew they were all talented, hard-working and oh-so-dedicated to dance. What we didn’t realize was just how much these three would shine in class, light up in front of the camera and go full-out when performing. Let’s just say we were pleasantly surprised. This year’s finalists are going places, starting—for one of them—with the October cover of Dance Spirit.
Now the decision is in your hands—and we’re glad, because if we had our way all three would be on the cover together. Read about Megan, Alyssa and Hannah, and then go to dancespirit.com//cms to watch their solos and to see even more photos. Pick your favorite (good luck!) and cast your vote beginning June 15.
Vote for your favorite finalist at dancespirit.com/cms!