Dance News

The Dance Camera West Film Festival kicks off tonight in L.A., celebrating and promoting dance in film. The festival runs through June 13, though the majority of events take place this weekend. Super-cool highlights? Performances by L.A.'s BODYTRAFFIC and L.A. Contemporary Dance Company; a YouTube panel discussion with Tony Testa, Vincent Paterson, Jon Chu and Ian Eastwood; and screenings of films that feature artists like Storyboard P, Daniel Cloud CamposSergei Polunin, Daniel Ezralow and Pandit Chitresh Das and Jason Samuels Smith. To say the least, it's going to be awesome. (Get the full schedule here.)

This year's festival also marked the inaugural CalArts@Dance Camera West Emerging Artists Competition. Sponsored by Dance Camera West and the dance and film divisions of California Institute of the Arts, the competition welcomed films from high school and college dancers. Four winners were announced earlier this week: Ohio State University's Daniel Diller was named first runner-up for his film Up. Side. Down. exploring skateboarding movements; second runner-up Amber Schmiesing from Elon University presented Concert in D Minor, a film inspired by Mozart's life; and Palo Alto High School student Kristen Carey received special recognition for Inside My Mind, a work that dives deep into the world of Irish dancing. Juilliard dancer Nobel Lakaev took home first place and a cash prize for his film Behind Closed Doors.

The winners' work will be screened June 8 at REDCAT, in Downtown L.A. Can't make it? Watch a few excerpts from Nobel's Behind Closed Doors below. (FYI: The video goes dark for a little over a minute at 1:30...but it picks back up. Enjoy!)

Dance News

Are you itching to come to NYC? If you've never been, or you live too far to visit on a whim, you may be in luck. NYC's tourism site, NewYork.com, is holding a Broadway sweepstakes that could bring you and a guest to The Great White Way for an exciting weekend. If you win the Ultimate Broadway Fan Showdown, you'll receive round-trip airfare, car service, a hotel room, a steak dinner and best of all: two tickets to the Tony Awards dress rehearsal.

You have to be at least 18 to enter, so you may need to talk to your parents for help. Once you've got that covered, entering is pretty simple. Post a photo to Instagram or Twitter that proves you're the ultimate fan. In the caption, finish the sentence "I'm Broadway’s biggest fan because…" and include the hashtag: #BringMeToBroadway. Then, fill out this form.

The deadline to enter is April 30, and if you need photo inspiration, here's a link to other entries. (From what I've seen, Dance Spirit readers could have a win in the bag.) To choose a winner, the editors of NewYork.com will select 30 finalists, then the public will vote online for their favorite from Monday, May 5 to Friday, May 16. The image with the most votes will win.

While you're at it, don't forget about Dance Spirit's photo contests—our Photo of the Day, as well as our new Instagram contest, #readergram.

Good luck!

Dance News

Here's a riddle for you: What do Elton John, Kanye West, Skrillex, Frank Ocean, Wiz Khalifa and you have in common?

Oh, you know...just the opportunity to perform in front of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND people at this year's Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. But we'll get to that in a second.

First, a little background info: Bonnaroo, which roughly translates to "a really good time," is a four-day music festival extravaganza, featuring live performances by musicians of all genres. Each June since the festival's founding in 2002, music lovers have flocked to Manchester, TN, to get their jam fest on.

Being a music and arts festival, Bonnaroo also features artists of different mediums–comedy, visual arts, gourmet food (yum!) and cinema. And this year, they're finally including the best art of all: dance! (We're not biased or anything...)

This is where you come in. Bonnaroo is holding a contest to find the "funkiest dancer." They're looking for someone (age 18+) who's unique, original, raw and...well...funky.

The winner gets round-trip tickets to the festival (which runs June 12–15), hotel accommodations, VIP treatment, delicious free food, a $250 shopping spree and...drum roll, please...the opportunity to perform LIVE on Bonnaroo's main stage in front of ALL OF THE PEOPLE. Pretty sweet deal.

Think you have what it takes to be Bonnaroo's Funkiest Dancer? Here's how to enter:

  1. Go to the contest's website.
  2. Select a track from the "Official Funky Playlist."
  3. Polish your funky moves.
  4. Click "Get Started" to fill in your info.
  5. Follow the Skype messaging instructions to submit your video.

The deadline for submissions is April 1. The Top 10 will be announced on April 15, and voting for the winner goes live on May 1.

Good luck!

Dance News

It's official: one of our favorite quirky dance films comes to Blu-Ray tomorrow!

This movie may be called Strictly Ballroom, but it involves much, much more: elaborate costumes and makeup, romance and, of course, a ton of incredible dancing.

The 1992 Australian classic, directed by Baz Luhrmann (who brought us Moulin Rouge), tells the tale of rebellious dancer Seth Hastings, who loses his partner just before the prestigious Pan Pacific Grand Prix Championship. Rushing to find a replacement, he’s thrown together with the clumsy-yet-passionate Fran, with whom he shares a dream of performing original steps. In defiance of all the competition's guidelines, the unlikely duo face criticism and doubt from nearly everyone they encounter. No spoilers here; You'll have to watch to see what happens! All drama and obstacles aside, the pair’s talent and dedication make this spectacle the classic it has become.

The best part? We're giving away 5 copies of this fun flick! Click here to enter.

Dance News

You might not like what she has to say, but Abby Lee Miller will critique your dancing.

“Ever wanted to dance for the ALDC? Well, now’s your chance!”

When I received an email with that in the subject line (I guess the secret’s out that I signed up for the Abby Lee Dance Company mailing list), I figured there had to be a catch. Nope! If you’ve wondered what Abby Lee Miller would have to say about your dancing, there actually is a way to find out.

“ALDC’s Dance Off” is an online competition open to anyone. All you have to do is submit a video of yourself dancing, and you get a guaranteed critique from the ALDC staff. That's already pretty awesome, but entering also puts you in the running to win an even more coveted prize—the chance to dance with the one and only ALDC for a week!

Once every six months, an entrant from each category (12 & under and 13 & over) will be selected to attend the ALDC “Booty Camp” summer program in August. The prize includes airfare and 3 nights in a hotel for the winner and one guest. Your entry must be a solo performance between 1 and 4 minutes long. Judging will be comprised of 80% judges’ score and 20% public vote, so upload ASAP! Scores will be broken down by technique (50 points), musicality (20 points), performance (10 points) and costume/overall appeal (10 points). We all know Abby Lee is a tough critic, so brace yourselves. And save those tears for your pillow!

Check out aldcdanceoff.com for more information and to upload your video. Good luck!

Dance News

Have you ever been handed a dance costume for a competition or recital and thought, “I could've designed something better than this!” Revolution Dancewear’s “Design Your Dream” competition asked dancers to do just that. And, out of 47 submissions, 13-year-old Rachael Bonato's fiery, Hunger Games-inspired creation won the grand prize!

Rachael and two other finalists, Morgan and Jamal, were treated to an all-expense paid trip to Chicago where they collaborated with the Revolution Dancewear design team to create sketches of their dream costumes. Then, Revolution Dancewear’s Facebook fans voted—and Rachael’s lyrical design came out on top.

Her red and yellow costume will be featured in the company’s 2014 Costume Collection. Plus, Revolution Dancewear will outfit Rachael’s entire dance class at Oregon Coast Dance Center in Tillamook, OR, in her winning design. Wouldn’t you love to see the Hunger Games-themed dance they come up with to go with the costume? Congrats Rachael!

Check out this video of the three finalists’ trip to Chicago:

Tap

A cutting contest at the 2010 L.A. Tap Festival. Photo by Samantha Scipio.

Alaman Diadhiou entered his first cutting contest—an improv-based competition in which individual dancers must face off and perform on the spot to a set tempo while trying to impress a panel of judges and avoid getting cut—at the D.C. Tap Festival in 2009. Just 8 years old at the time, Alaman was one of the youngest participants. “My heart was racing,” Alaman says. “I only knew the rules: Stay in time and don’t get cut. The pressure was on.”

After three rounds of battle in which he matched his opponents beat for beat, trading steps on the fly, Alaman won the title in his age group. He’s continued that streak every year since. “It’s not about how fancy your steps are—it’s about your rhythm, creativity and timing,” Alaman says. “The contests push you to practice more and become a better dancer, and they’re fun because you get to have a ‘conversation’ with someone new, even if they don’t speak the same language as you.”

Cutting contests are the main events at many tap festivals worldwide, but you don’t have to be a master tapper to get in on the action. “I’d encourage all dancers to participate in a cutting contest, no matter their skill level, because it pushes them outside their comfort zone so they can reach their maximum potential,” says internationally renowned tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith. Intrigued? Here’s what you need to know about how cutting contests work, along with advice from veterans.

The Nitty-Gritty

Cutting contest participants are divided up by age. Each contest is officiated by a host who decides which pairs of dancers within a category will compete. At the beginning of each round, the host establishes the number of bars that the dancers will dance and sets the tempo. Then, two dancers trade improvised sequences. If both dancers lose time or exceed the number of bars set, they are each cut. If both survive the round, the judges select a winner based on originality, creativity and commitment to maintaining a steady groove (being “in the pocket”).

As the rounds progress, the host typically asks the dancers for fewer bars. Eventually the final two remaining dancers face off to win the category.

How to Prepare

Because you never know who your opponents will be, or at what tempo you’ll be dancing, it might seem impossible to prepare for a cutting contest. But honing your musicality and improvisation skills and expanding your tap vocabulary can help you get ready to face any opponent.

Play It By Ear: “Listening to music is the best way to prepare for a cutting contest, “ says Ayan Imai-Hall, 17, a member of Sean Fielder’s Boston Tap Company.

“Listen to jazz standards like ‘A Train’ and ‘Blue Bossa,’ and musicians like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis,” says Anissa Lee, a two-time L.A. Tap Fest champion and member of Sarah Reich’s company, Tap Con Sabor. “Pay attention to how they fill the space within their music, and practice doing the same with your tap sounds.”

Get Back to Basics: Lee says it’s essential to drill your basic tap steps, like shuffles, flaps and paddles, as well as more complicated steps, like wings and pullbacks.  “Strive for consistency and clarity,” she says.

Work on Your Timing: “Use a metronome to help you learn how to stay in time,” Alaman says. “It will train your mind and body to keep the beat.”

Improve Your Improv: “Play around with what you already know,” Lee says. “If you have a step that you really like and want to use, make sure you can transition into it smoothly.”

Expand Your Horizons: “Go to tap festivals and jams, and take classes with as many different teachers as you can,” Alaman says. “You will be exposed to a variety of different styles, and you can pick up other peoples’ steps.”

Above all, “When you’re dancing with another tapper, make sure you listen,” Imai-Hall says. “You want to converse with that dancer rather than just compete.” Lee adds: “It’s so easy to get caught up in what you’re doing instead of taking time to benefit from the conversations. Enjoy the memories you’re creating.”

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