Dance News

To quote my grandma: Goodness gracious, the members of Shaping Sound are busy busy bees! It feels like we just saw the company give an amazing performance in NYC as part of a super-intense tour—and now it's about to begin yet another tour cycle.

Shaping Sound's (from left) Teddy Forance, Kyle Robinson, Nick Lazzarini and Travis Wall (photo by Joe Toreno for Dance Spirit)

What can we expect from this latest round of Shaping Sound? Well, as co-founder Travis Wall told us a few weeks back, the production will have "the same outline as our first...but it will be an overall cleaner and better show," with two new numbers and a lot of small-but-important improvements. Obviously, TWall will be performing, as will fellow co-founders Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson. A lot of our other favorite SS dancers are also back, including Jaimie Goodwin, Chantel Aguirre, Chelsea Thedinga and Channing Cooke. And there are some exciting new additions to the company, too—notably "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10 champ Amy Yakima (YAY!).

Um, how stunning does Jaimie Goodwin look in the company's latest campaign image? (via shapingsoundco.com)

The tour will hit 20 cities across the U.S. between October 11 and February 15. Is your city one of them? Click here to find out—then take a look at the high-drama preview video:

Dance News

Travis Wall
(photo by Joe Toreno for Dance Spirit)

It seems like Travis Wall can do no wrong. From absolutely killing it on "So You Think You Can Dance" almost every single week to getting nominated for an(other) Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography—his fourth—Wall is having one heck of a year. There's only one downside: The Emmy Award presentation for choreographers won't be broadcast live on TV à la last year. Instead, they'll be presented at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards this weekend—not on TV, not in the limelight.

I believe I speak for us all when I address the Emmy producers: BOOOOO.

But Wall is taking it all in stride, continuing to wow us on "So You Think" and gearing up for a second national tour with Shaping Sound. We talked with Wall before the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

Are you pleased with the pieces that make up your Emmy nomination this year ("Hanging by a Thread," "Wicked Game" and "Medicine")?

I am! The "SYTYCD" producers submit choreographers for nomination, but they give us the chance to weigh in on the pieces they select to represent our body of work. So if I win, I win for all three routines. My favorite is definitely Wicked Games, which I choreographed for Amy Yakima. But I'm just so honored to be nominated again. I try not to think about it too much—it's so crazy.

Amy Yakima and Travis Wall in Wall's Wicked Games
(photo Adam Rose/FOX)

What's next for you?

Right after "SYTYCD" finishes, Shaping Sound starts rehearsals for its next tour, which starts in October. We'll be stopping in more than 20 cities. I'm really excited for Shaping Sound to hit my hometown in Virginia so my family and everyone at my dance studio can see what I've created.

Is it a new show? 

It has the same outline as our first production, but it will be an overall cleaner and better show. There are two new numbers, and lots of things throughout have evolved. We definitely want to keep it fresh. The cast is also changing—we held an audition earlier this week to fill a couple of male parts.

Shaping Sound Dance Company in That's Where I'll Be Waiting
(photo by Charley Gallay, courtesy Shaping Sound)

What qualities do you look for in a dancer?

I love dancers who are unique. I look for someone who I believe can stand onstage alone and hold an audience's attention. I also like hiring people we already know. When we're on tour, we live, eat and breathe with one another. So we have to be able to get along. And of course, I'm always excited to see amazing technique and focus.

What are your goals beyond the tour?

I just always want to stay passionate about what I do. I work hard and put so much of myself into my work, so I hope to continue doing that. I have to stay focused. And I know that if I continue pushing myself, and stay on the same path, I'll achieve my biggest dreams ever.

Dance News

It's that time of year again: As our beloved drama series wrap up their seasons, the summer TV lineup is just getting started. And that means the return of two of our favorite competition shows—"So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Got Talent." Eeeee!

It all begins with the Season 9 premiere of "AGT," tomorrow night at 8pm/7c on NBC. Sure, it isn't technically a dance show. But lately, they've been featuring a lot of really great dancers (like our January cover girl, Sophia Lucia!). And last year, a dancer—Kenichi Ebina—won the whole darn thing. Sure, he was the first dancer in eight seasons to win, but we're hoping that now other great dancers will be inspired to give it a go—fingers crossed!

Here's the "AGT" trailer:

Next, of course, is the long awaited premiere of "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 11, which will air Wednesday at 8/7c on FOX. We are SO very excited. Gosh, we're still getting over how much we loved shooting season 10 winners Amy and Fik-Shun for our December 2013 cover! (We'll never get over them<3)

We just can't wait to see the talent on this year's show (maybe some of you guys!). And we'll be following the show, episode by episode, so be on the look out for our recaps.

Here's the "SYTYCD" trailer:

Now mark your calendars, set your DVRs, and get ready for a fantastic week (and an awesome summer). Happy Memorial Day!

Amy Yakima and Du-Shaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall (by Joe Toreno)

On “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 10, Amy Yakima and Du-Shaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall had no shortage of magical moments. There was their first routine as partners: an emotional Sonya Tayeh contemporary piece that earned them a standing ovation from the judges. There were the fun numbers—Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo’s hip-hop bellhop routine and Tyce Diorio’s quirky hobo jazz piece—that showcased Amy and Fik-Shun’s endearing personalities. And there was their elegant Viennese waltz, a celebration of all they’d accomplished together.

Once in the Top 10, these two powerhouses proved they were every bit as good apart as they were together, with numbers like Amy’s stunning contemporary duet with Travis Wall and Fik-Shun’s too-cool-for-school hip-hop routine with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss. So was it any surprise that they ultimately took home the “America’s Favorite Dancer” titles?

Not according to judge Mary Murphy. “Amy and Fik-Shun solidified themselves early on as formidable competitors,” she says. “They just kept giving great performances. Together, and with other partners, they were tremendous.”

Despite being from very different dance worlds, Fik-Shun and Amy had a clear connection with each other—and with viewers. Read on to learn more about where they came from, what their “SYTYCD” experience was like and where they hope to go next.

Amy Yakima (by Joe Toreno)

Amy's Journey

Amy started training at Noretta Dunworth School of Dance in Dearborn, MI, at age 3, studying ballet, tap and jazz. As time went on, she added contemporary, hip hop, gymnastics and more to her roster of styles. “I discovered that dance is how I like to communicate,” Amy says. “It became my passion. I was at the studio every day, and I loved it.”

Longtime teacher Loni Lane Padesky remembers Amy having something special from the very beginning. “She sparkled onstage,” Padesky says. That performance quality, combined with steadily improving technique, helped Amy find success at competitions including West Coast Dance Explosion and L.A. DanceMagic, where she started winning titles as early as age 9. Stellar stage presence also helped 9-year-old Amy land the role of Clara in the Detroit production of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Amy performed as Clara in Detroit for three years, and at 12 she danced the same part in the NYC production.

Middle school and high school brought more competition titles, including Miss West Coast at WCDE and 2nd runner-up Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals. But she was never in it for the trophies. “I remember dancing onstage more than what awards I was given,” she explains. “For me, it was always about being able to touch someone’s heart with my performance.”

The summer before her senior year, Amy won a scholarship to Marymount Manhattan College through NYCDA. She spent her freshman year in NYC, and then realized she wanted to take a different path. “I’m the person I am today because of Marymount,” she says. “I needed that year of training to see where I wanted to go with dance. I decided I wanted to start auditioning and working.”

She moved home to Michigan and took a position as an assistant on WCDE’s convention tour, traveling to a different city each weekend. “Assisting taught me about work ethic in an actual job setting—being ready for rehearsal, being on time, acting professionally,” she says. During her year with WCDE, the “SYTYCD” audition tour passed through Detroit. Amy auditioned on a whim—and the rest is history.

Du-Shaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall (by Joe Toreno)

Fik-Shun's Journey

When it comes to dance training, Fik-Shun’s experience couldn’t be more different from Amy’s. “I got my start watching YouTube!” he says. Growing up in Kansas, and later Las Vegas, Fik-Shun was always dancing on his own—and searching online for dance videos.

“I would watch other street dancers do their thing and figure out how I could mimic them. I would try to get into their heads, to see how they came up with different moves and combinations, waves and pops and hits,” he explains. “I would find someone who did something well and see if I could throw a little of that into my style.”

Fik-Shun’s two years of basic dance training—mostly jazz, as well as some improvisation and a little ballet—came courtesy of Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, a magnet high school where he spent his junior and senior years. “I was in all lower-level dance classes,” he says. “If people knew my name, it was only because of hip hop.”

Even more influential to his dance life was meeting someone who would become his inspiration, his rival and his friend: Deytral “Kidd Stylez” Eaviance Fletcher. “The first time I saw him dance, I thought it was crazy that we were the same age and he was so much better than me!” Fik-Shun says. “We met in high school, and we battled a lot. He pushed me to train and grow.” The duo went on to become street performers together on the Las Vegas Strip.

At 16, Fik-Shun got a taste of the television stardom that was in his future, thanks to two appearances on Paula Abdul’s show “Live to Dance.” At his initial audition, Fik-Shun won rave reviews from the judges. Unfortunately, he was eliminated in the semifinals. “That experience was really cool,” he says. “Seeing Paula again as a guest judge on ‘SYTYCD’ three years later, it felt like everything had worked out the way it was supposed to—especially since I only auditioned for ‘SYTYCD’ because I missed the deadline for ‘America’s Got Talent!’ ”

Side by Side on “SYTYCD”

Amy had been a fan of “SYTYCD” for years. Fik-Shun had seen YouTube videos of standout audition solos, but had never watched a full episode. Amy soared through Vegas Week. Fik-Shun remembers Vegas Week as “the scariest part” of the audition process. But once the live shows started, this seemingly odd couple turned out to be the perfect pair.

“Our chemistry started naturally because we’re both hard workers,” Amy says. “Through the weeks, we learned how to communicate with each other. I figured out how to explain technical things so Fik-Shun could understand. And he has the best musical ear I’ve ever known. I’m a counter, but he taught me to live in the music.”

Fik-Shun and Amy in their Tabitha and Napoleon "After Party" hip-hop number (by Adam Rose/Fox)

“I was nervous to work with Amy—I didn’t want to hold her back,” Fik-Shun says. “But we worked well together. When we butted heads, it was because we’re both strong-minded and we wanted things to be good. We really did bond, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”

Both dancers tackled the show’s challenges with an all-or-nothing gusto that propelled them toward the finale. “Amy annihilated everything,” Murphy says. “It’s rare to find a dancer who isn’t just competent, but extraordinary at every style.” Of Fik-Shun, guest judge and All-Star tWitch says, “He has a special ability to make people feel good when he dances, whether it’s his own style or somebody else’s. He has so much potential.”

Amy and Fik-Shun (by Joe Toreno)

Two Bright Futures

Amy and Fik-Shun both view their “SYTYCD” experiences as the ultimate jumping-off points. “I don’t want to close any doors,” Amy says. “I want to tour with an artist, do a music video, perform with a company and eventually have my own company. I want to check everything dance-related off my bucket list.”

Fik-Shun is setting the bar just as high. “I want to be on the big screen as much as possible,” he says. “I also want to tour and see dance in different parts of the world. When you set big goals, you can be surprised by the journey along the way. I’m looking forward to pushing myself further.”

Amy Yakima (by Joe Toreno)

Fast Facts: Amy

Birthday: November 8, 1993

Favorite foods: Nutella and pineapple

Favorite movie: She’s the Man. ”I can quote the whole thing.”

Favorite TV shows: “I’m obsessed with crime shows like ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ even though I’m scared of blood!”

What she’s listening to: “I love classic songs. I did my last solo on ‘SYTYCD’ to ‘Unchained Melody’ because I’d been listening to it on repeat.”

If she weren’t a dancer, she’d be: An FBI agent

Dance inspiration: Allison Holker

Favorite “SYTYCD” routines: “Wicked Game,” with Travis Wall; “Elsa,” by Sonya Tayeh, with Fik-Shun; “Say Something,” by Stacey Tookey, with Robert Roldan

Advice for DS readers: “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. There will be competition for parts and at auditions, but you have to stay true to yourself. Always try to be better than you were before.”

 

 

Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall (by Joe Toreno)

Fast Facts: Fik-Shun

Birthday: September 2, 1994

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite TV show: “I was addicted to ‘Jersey Shore’! If I missed an episode, I was really upset. I also love watching anime.”

What he’s listening to: “Lots of Michael Jackson.”

If he weren’t a dancer, he’d be: “A couch potato!”

How he became Fik-Shun: “In high school, my friend Marcus saw me dance and said it looked unreal, so he named me Fik-Shun. It just stuck.”

Favorite “SYTYCD” routines: “Hello Good Morning,” by Luther Brown, with tWitch; “Elsa,” by Sonya Tayeh, with Amy; “After Party,” by Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, with Amy

Advice for DS readers: “Go for your dreams, no matter how unattainable they seem. Give 100 percent and don’t let anything stop you. And be yourself throughout your journey. People will notice you for being you.”

Dance News

With some of my favorite people after seeing one of my favorite shows! (On opening night, they make it "snow" outside Radio City Music Hall. How's that for magical?) I'm the one in the red coat, flanked by my friends Lauren and Scott on the left, and my boyfriend, Brian (hiding his broken arm in a cast inside his sweatshirt), on the right.

Living in NYC, lots of things get old really fast: car horns, ambulance sirens, crowded subways, car horns, unavailable taxis during rush hour, pollution, car horns... But the one thing that never ever ever ceases to amaze me is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring The Rockettes.

If you've never seen this classic show, here are five reasons to catch it this year, either at NYC's iconic Radio City Music Hall, or in one of the show's tour cities:

1. The Rockettes! Duh. These women aren't just beautiful and talented: They're perfect. I've never seen formations as impeccably spot-on as the ones in "The Parade of Wooden Soldiers," and the reindeer costumes in "Sleigh Ride" make me wish for my own pair of light-up antlers. Plus, the Rockettes can do much more than eye-high kicking. In "The Twelve Days of Christmas," they tap up a storm, and in "Snow," which is new this year (though, sadly, it replaces "Shine," which is my forever-favorite Rockette number), the Rockettes show off a little contemporary style.

While the dozens of women onstage may somehow manage to look exactly alike, it's fun trying to spot familiar faces in the line. This year, I saw former comp kid (and DS model!) Kali Grinder and "Dance212" veteran (and another former DS model!) Jenny Laroche.

2. The "other" dancers. Fun fact: The Rockettes aren't the only dancers in the show. There are more dancers in the show who do more traditional, jazz-based dancing throughout the 90-minute program. ("So You Think You Can Dance" alum Matt Dorame and New York City Dance Alliance demonstrator Chase Madigan are among the NYC group this year.)

3. The Claras! The fourth scene of the Spectacular is "The Nutcracker," and it just might be my favorite part. It's a twist on the classic Nutcracker's "Land of Sweets," with dancers in giant bear suits playing the parts of the sweets. Leading the group of bear-dancers is Clara, a real-life, talented little girl who bounds around the stage on pointe with a grin on her face that seems to stretch from stage right to left.

Past Claras have included "SYTYCD" Season 10 winner and current DS cover girl Amy Yakima, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancer Catherine Hurlin, up-and-comer Madeleine Gardella and my all-time favorite ballet dancer, Juliet Doherty. (Click here to meet a whole group of former Claras—all of them came from the comp world!)

4. The camels!!! The second-to-last scene of the show is "The Living Nativity." Surprisingly, this is one of my favorite parts of the show (though, apparently, all parts of the show seem to be my favorite at this point). There's no dancing during this scene, and it's based on the story of the first Christmas. So it doesn't really sound like something I'd be into—and then four camels walk across the stage. Real camels. There are sheep, too, but it's the camels that get me every time. Camels, sharing a stage with Rockettes. I mean...where else can you see that?

Balcony seats for the win! (You get to see all the formations that way.)

5. The sheer joy it brings. There is something for everyone in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, whether you're young, young at heart, old, old at heart, a boy, a girl, a dancer, a hater, a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a non-believer, a ballerina, a tapper, a tourist or a longtime New Yorker. Basically, The Rockettes = world peace.

So you promise to go see the show? Great! Here's where to buy your tickets.

Dance News

Making it to the Top 20 of "So You Think You Can Dance" is really, really hard, so most will never know what it's like to hang out with America's Favorite Dancers. One of the perks of working at Dance Spirit is that we get to do just that every year! That's because, the morning after the finale, the "SYTYCD" winners spend a day shooting their DS cover with us in L.A. And it's always a ridiculously fun-filled day.

Season 10's Amy Yakima and Fik-Shun made this year's shoot—complete with sky-high jumps and out-of-this world isolations—one of our favorites. See them climb all over each other (and a hanging bubble chair) in this behind-the-scenes video:

Dance News

I can't say I was surprised when Amy Yakima and Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall were announced as the winners of "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10. I mean...duh, right?

Amy was my favorite lady since the beginning. In fact, she's been one of my favorites since long before she made it to the "SYTYCD" stage. I remember watching her compete at New York City Dance Alliance a few years back and thinking she was so cool, so strong, so different—so Sonya Tayeh-esque.

And Fik-Shun—that boy's smile makes me melt. He was a standout at auditions and continued to shine throughout the competition, proving he has more than just charisma and charm: He has talent, too!

So yeah, I can't say I was shocked by the announcement during the show's September finale. But I can say I was thrilled!

As part of Fik-Shun and Amy's "SYTYCD" prize package, the duo appears on the December cover of Dance Spirit. DS art director Josephine Daño and I flew to L.A. on Finale Day and were on set for the cover shoot nice and early the next morning. Poor Amy and Fik-Shun had barely slept, but they showed up to the shoot. And I don't just mean they showed up—they showed up.

Fik-Shun freestyled for us while photographer Joe Toreno clicked away, and then Amy, clad in a ruby-red bedazzled bra top and shorts, showed us just how high she can leap and jump.

After four hours, we declared the day a wrap—and now, hot off the presses...

Introducing... Dance Spirit's December issue!

If you're a subscriber, go run and check the mailbox: We bet there's something shiny in there waiting for you!

In the meantime, click here to read Amy and Fik-Shun's cover story—and here to check out a gallery of some of our favorite pics from the shoot!

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