The path to dance success isn’t always a straight line. We asked three pros to reflect on their careers—including the disappointments, unexpected opportunities and inspiring moments of perseverance.

Daniel “Cloud” Campos

Currently a commercial performer, choreographer and director

(Photo by Joe Toreno)

Performing at Universal Studios Florida

Campos began breaking at a very young age, but he didn’t join a crew until he moved to Tampa, FL, at age 12. “I went to a roller rink, and there they were—the Skill Methodz! I was so impressed,” he says. “We started going to competitions and traveling around the world, making a name for ourselves.” Eventually the Skill Methodz landed

a job at Universal Studios Florida in a show called Street Breaks.

Touring with Madonna

On a visit to NYC, Campos heard about a Madonna tour audition. “I didn’t have an agent, but I crashed the audition anyway,” he says. He pushed through the choreography portion—an experience he’d never had—to get to the freestyle section of the audition. “I knew if they could see my breaking, I’d have a good chance of making it.” He did make it, and ended up working on two of Madonna’s tours.

The Commercial Life

After his Madonna audition, Campos got an agent in L.A. and started building his resumé. He landed gigs with a variety of directors and performers, including Jon M. Chu, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Campos quickly discovered just how intense the commercial dance world could be. “The audition process is intimidating when people have expectations of you,” he says.

Discovering His Passion for Directing

While dancing in music videos and films, Campos realized he had his own ideas about how to capture movement on camera. He shot his first short dance film, The Paperboy, while

he was working at Universal Studios, and posted it on YouTube. “It ended up getting a lot of attention,” he says. “I know I can’t dance forever, and I realized this was another creative path to take.”

Up Next

Campos’ newest dance short, Today’s the Day, is about facing your fears and walking into the unknown. “I enjoy telling stories with my body,” he says. “I want to bring back the golden days of dance films.” He’s looking forward to more dance-inspired directing projects.

 

Drew Jacoby

Currently a member of Nederlands Dans Theater (and a new mom!)

(Photo by Marty Sohl)

Dancing with LINES Ballet

After graduating from the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Jacoby immediately accepted a job with the contemporary company Alonzo King LINES Ballet, in San Francisco. “I had hoped to join PNB, but they didn’t want to take the risk of hiring me because I was so tall,” says the 5' 11" dancer. “LINES was a different path than I had imagined.”

Auditions Galore

Though she enjoyed working with LINES, Jacoby still dreamed of a super-classical ballet job. She continued to attend auditions while working with the company. “I met so many people through auditions,” Jacoby says. “In the end, the conventional ballet path didn’t work out for me. But those endless auditions were very enriching. I figured out there’s more than one way to make it in the ballet world.”

Freelancing in NYC

After a few years with LINES, Jacoby decided to strike out on her own in NYC. “I created a DVD and website, got a commercial agent, started auditioning for movies and Broadway shows and took classes at Steps on Broadway every day,” she says. “I landed a gig with choreographer Lar Lubovitch, and from there, it just snowballed.”

Jacoby & Pronk

One of Jacoby’s freelance jobs was touring with Complexions Contemporary Ballet as a guest artist, and that’s where she met dancer Rubinald Pronk. They began to perform together as Jacoby & Pronk, building a name for themselves by collaborating with choreographers such as Christopher Wheeldon and performing at festivals like Jacob’s Pillow.

Joining Nederlands Dans Theater

While Jacoby was collaborating with Pronk, Paul Lightfoot and Sol Léon, then resident choreographers with Nederlands Dance Theater, brought up the idea of Jacoby joining NDT. But at that point, “I was still excited by making my own path,” Jacoby says. Two years later, after Lightfoot was made artistic director of NDT, he offered Jacoby a contract—and she was ready to accept it. “One of the reasons I stopped freelancing was fatigue,” Jacoby explains. “We were performing four pieces a night, I was doing all of the administrative work and we were traveling nine months of the year. I was trying to get funding, which was way over my head. So I was ready for company life again.”

Up Next

Jacoby has now danced with NDT for three seasons. She’s able to maintain her professional connections by teaching, producing galas and performing at festivals. These days, she’s enjoying spending time with her new baby.

 

Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie

Currently a teacher at Broadway Dance Center and founder of Ephrat Asherie Dance

(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Discovering Her Passion

Asherie began studying ballet at age 10 and Graham-based modern dance at 14. She loved hip-hop music, but “it was the ’90s, so hip-hop classes weren’t available at most dance studios,” she says. She went on to study at Barnard College, majoring in Italian. Halfway through her degree, she saw Rennie  Harris’ groundbreaking hip-hop work, Rome and Jewels, which gave her a new perspective on dance. “It completely blew me away,” she says.

Adventures in Italy

Asherie was studying abroad in Italy when opportunity struck. “I was looking for an apartment, and I accidentally walked into a b-boy gym,” she says. “It just fell into my lap!” She started breaking, and found that it gave her the voice she’d been looking for. “I didn’t have to look in the mirror at my body—it was freeing to just be connected to the music and the movement.”

Underground Mentoring

Back in NYC, Asherie discovered the city’s underground breaking scene. “You had to

prove yourself there,” she says. “The guys always thought I was someone’s girlfriend or a groupie.” One dancer in particular, Richard Santiago (aka Break Easy), took her under his wing. “He would teach me mini classes, spin records, show old breaking footage and share newspaper clippings,” Asherie says. “It was such a nurturing approach to my education.”

Committing to Dance

Life after college was challenging. Asherie waited tables, worked as an Italian tutor, wrote grants and danced at night. “I landed a breaking gig, and called in to work well in advance to get someone to cover my waitressing shift,” she remembers. “But my boss ignored the request, and I was fired.” It was a crucial moment: Asherie had also just landed her first jobs teaching dance, at Peridance Capezio Center and Broadway Dance Center. “I decided it was time to commit myself entirely to my practice, and I got an agent.”

Forming Her Own Company

Asherie began to develop as a choreographer as well as a dancer, and eventually founded Ephrat Asherie Dance. The group earned residencies at New York Live Arts and Jacob’s Pillow, which allowed Asherie to further explore her creative voice. She also kept up a busy teaching schedule. “When I’m fulfilled in my choreography, that makes me a better teacher,” she says.

Bessie Nominations

After Asherie curated a show at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side of NYC, she was commissioned to do a full-evening work for the venue. The result, A Single Ride, was nominated for two Bessie awards—one of NYC’s highest dance honors.

Up Next

Asherie recently finished a residency on Governors Island through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She’s also an MFA candidate at the University of Wisconsin—a low-residency program that allows her to continue making work in NYC. This spring, she’ll be touring with Get on the Good Foot, a dance tribute to James Brown.

 

 

Who else wants to live inside the mind of Daniel "Cloud" Campos? Because it must be a magical place.

When he's not busy filming pretty much every dance-y commercial on television, Cloud—who appears to be equal parts Fred Astaire and Wes Anderson—is usually producing some charmingly offbeat video project of his own. A dance-party fantasy set to terrible hold music? Sure! A mini-musical about life at a talent agency, co-starring Danny DeVito? Yup, he did that too!

Cloud's latest creation, "Shiny," is a collaboration with director and screenwriter Spencer Susser. The short film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, doesn't feature any dancers, per se. Instead, it uses stop-motion animation to bring clothes to vibrant (and, naturally, dance-y) life. There's a madcap plotline that involves a hero in a snazzy suit, a damsel in distress, a lot of cartoonish puking and one very shiny diamond—but don't worry about that too much. Just enjoy the crazy, weird, wonderful joyride:

Want more Dance Spirit?

We've all been there: calling a bank, or maybe a doctor's office, only to be placed on hold for forevvvvverrr. But as Daniel Cloud Campos' latest video shows us (continuing today's cute-guys-who-are-also-amazing-at-dancing streak), the wait can also be an opportunity to get down.

Campos is something of a whiz when it comes to filmmaking. It seems like just yesterday that we were just gushing over Today's the Day, his musical-theater office drama starring Danny DeVito. And while that starpower certainly made for impressive end-credits, Campos' newest short, I'll Hold, features pretty much just himself—and it's divine.

The video opens with Campos placing an order for delivery. He's put on hold, the music begins—and the rest is history. Even a couple neighbors can't help but get swept up in the beat.

Thank you, Cloud, for not ordering your grub online.

Have you guys ever found a new dancer you love and had one of those where-have-you-been-all-my-life moments? Well, if you're like me and that dancer is Daniel "Cloud" Campos (which you should be because...have you seen this guy?!), you're a little late to the game. Cloud has been around for a while—appearing in Step Up 3D and some of our favorite commercials, directing music videos, touring with Madonna and dancing on the web series "League of Extraordinary Dancers"—but he hasn't always been in a featured role.

Fortunately for all of us, Cloud's latest project, Today's the Day, puts him front and center. It's a mini-musical featuring Cloud as an intern at a talent agency, trying to build up enough courage to ask his boss to represent him as the talent. His awesome moves remind me of my other favorite hip hopper with old-school grace, Harry Shum Jr.

Cloud's character goes through the same self-doubt that confronts all of us dancers, so if you need a little extra courage just remember: "Whether it goes my way, I just gotta ask anyway."

P.S. Can mini-musicals be a thing now?

 

Instagram is basically a dance-lover's paradise. Dancers are all about visuals, so a photo-sharing app is our idea of a playground. And that means a lot of big dance names (and organizations) are alllll over Instagram, giving us little peeks at their glamorous, artsy worlds.

Looking for inspiration? Well, first, give us a follow (@dancespiritmagazine)! And then check out our list of 10 other dance-tagrammers who won't disappoint.

@thejaquelknight (JaQuel Knight)

If you're a diehard fan of Beyoncé (and her dancers!), follow choreographer JaQuel Knight for insider-y photos from Queen Bey's rehearsals and performances.

@RoyalOperaHouse (London's Royal Opera House)

A smorgasbord of beautiful images from The Royal Ballet and Royal Opera. (These are the Caterpillar's shoes from Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland!)

@travisova (Travis Wall)

A star in his own right, he also works with pretty much every amazing dancer you can think of—and his feed is full of them.

@miamicityballet (Miami City Ballet)

They let their dancers do the Instagramming, which makes for an interesting, ever-changing feed.

@thrurosecoloredlenses (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jamar Roberts)

Unexpected perspectives on all things dance (and non-dance).

@allisonholker (Allison Holker)

A mix of pretty dance shots and the cutest family photos you've ever seen (because hello, her family is tWitch and her adorable munchkin of a daughter).

@gallimdance (Gallim Dance)

No brunch photos here. The innovative company's feed is all beautiful dancing, all the time.

@real_world_ballerina

The funniest bunhead 'grammer out there. Real World Ballerina speaks the truth!

@cloudskmz (Daniel "Cloud" Campos)

Our favorite commercial goofball's quirky sense of humor translates well to Instagram.

@janieclaire (New York City Ballet principal Janie Taylor)

Janie Taylor lives in a bizarre, wonderful world. We want to go to there.

If you've ever wondered what it's like to work at Dance Spirit, the new Microsoft Surface Pro commercial gives you a bit of an inside glimpse.

OK, no. It doesn't. That's not us in the commercial.

But the spot—which was directed by hot shot Jon M. Chu, choreographed by Jamal Sims and Christopher Scott and aired for the first time during the Grammys—does feature plenty of our favorite people, including Daniel "Cloud" Campos (the man of my dreams)...

...and the newly-engaged tWitch and Allison Holker. In fact, see that table everyone's dancing on throughout the "executive meeting?" Well, rumor has it that when filming wrapped, tWitch got up on that table to bust a freestyle move, and then grabbed Allison to join him.

And then—boom!—tWitch dropped to one knee, said a bunch of romantical things, gave Allison a diamond and asked her to marry him. Oh, and her family was there to surprise her, including her so cute daughter, Weslie.

But yeah, other than all those details, this commercial is basically just a day in the life at DS...Enjoy!

Want more? Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the commercial:

If you're like me, you use commercial breaks during your favorite TV shows to run to the kitchen to refill your bowl of ice cream.

Or, you know, do some sit-ups.

Whichever you prefer...

It takes a lot for a commercial to get me to stay put on the couch—so I'm giving a huge thumbs up and a giant, standing-up-from-my-couch-cushions high five to Jon M. Chu, who directed the killer new Microsoft commercial.

You'll see plenty of familiar faces in the commercial, including Alex Wong and Kayla Radomski.

Plus, the star of this minute-long spot is Daniel "Cloud" Campos, one of my favorite dancers!

As is to be expected from director extraordinaire Chu, the Microsoft ad is very movement-heavy. The dancers are seen twirling, spinning, swapping and playing with their Microsoft Surface computers.

I want to watch this commercial over and over again.

And then, sure, maybe I'll check out the Microsoft Surface.

Good dancing = I'm sold!

Watch the commercial here:

Daniel "Cloud" Campos

Where you’ve seen him: In LXD webisodes; as Kid Darkness in Step Up 3D; dancing on Madonna’s Re-Invention and Confessions tours; as a featured dancer in Shakira’s “Did It Again” music video.

Why he’s hot: Cloud brings a whimsical, elegant touch to his b-boying—think a modern-day Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, both of whom Cloud credits as major influences on his dance style.

What he’s doing now: Cloud is branching out by creating and directing his own short dance films. Check out “Welcome Home” online and fall in love with his charismatic character.

Why the nickname? “Growing up, I loved looking at clouds,” Cloud says. “I get lost in them—the way they move across the sky, constantly changing forms, shifting and creating pictures. Clouds take me to another place. I think that’s a great goal to have as a dancer, to be able to take someone away with your movement.”

Scotty Nguyen

Where you’ve seen him: Working as the associate director and choreographer for A. R. Rahman’s Jai Ho world tour; dancing on the Spice Girls’ Reunion world tour; as a featured dancer in The Wedding Singer and iPod commercials.

Why you need to know his name: Scotty landed his first dance job at the young age of 13—and it was a big one: dancing with Michael Jackson. He’s trained in hip hop, krumping, popping, b-boying and martial arts, and he recently choreographed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus shows!

What he’s doing now: Scotty and his girlfriend, Tracy Shibata, directed and performed in “There Goes My Baby,” a short dance film that uses visual trickery for a mind-bending dance experience. He’s also launching his own line of dance-inspired footwear this summer called New Street Order.

Khasan Brailsford

Where you’ve seen him: On tour with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Keyshia Cole and Paulina Rubio; dancing at awards shows and in music videos with Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Queen Latifah and Kelly Rowland; as assistant choreographer for Beyoncé’s “Video Phone” music video featuring Lady Gaga.

Why you need to know his name: Khasan, a former competition dancer at Dance Precisions in Placentia, CA, trained on scholarship at EDGE Performing Arts Center. His dancing oozes maturity and sophistication with a sexy edge.

What he’s doing now: Dancing on Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite tour.

Galen Hooks

Where you’ve seen her: Pretty much everywhere! Choreographing and dancing with The LXD; dancing in Step Up 3D; as a choreographer and dancer for 17 Again; as associate co-choreographer for the Broadway revival of Dreamgirls; dancing backup for Janet Jackson and Ne-Yo; choreographing for Usher and The Jonas Brothers.

Why you need to know her name: Galen is conquering the industry—which she’s been a part of since she was 7, when she performed with a dance group that was named “Star Search” junior champion. She’s worked with more than 40 major artists, but she’s also a brainy babe: Galen attended Penn State University while simultaneously touring with Snoop Dogg. She graduated with a BA in law and society!

What she’s doing now: Choreographing Volkswagen and Skechers commercials, working on a dance-inspired photo and video project with photographer Carlos Serrao and working with AFTRA and Dancers’ Alliance (an organization created by dancers to standardize non-union work) to help unionize music videos and tours.

Rich and Tone Talauega

Where you’ve seen them: There’s a chance you haven’t seen them—they’re behind the scenes, working as two of Hollywood’s most in-demand choreographers.

Why you need to know their names: Together, these brothers have choreographed more than 150 commercials, music videos, films, live tours and performances. Their long resumé includes projects for Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Usher, the Backstreet Boys, the Black Eyed Peas and Britney Spears. If you book commercial jobs, it’s likely you’ll be working with these powerhouses.

What they’re doing now: Rich and Tone continue to stay busy: Earlier this year they choreographed a dance-centric commercial campaign for Old Navy and worked on the Super Bowl Best Buy commercial featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber. They’ve choreographed Chris Brown’s recent performances and music videos and they’re on board to create several numbers for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson tribute tour. This summer, the brothers will be in Europe working on the 3-D feature film Street Dance 2.

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