If you've gotten your copy of our September issue, then you've definitely seen Kenneth Edwards' beautiful photo essay following Juilliard student (and 2013 CMS finalist!) Madi Hicks for a day. Hicks is a stunning dancer and Edwards an equally stunning photographer, so we here at Dance Spirit had a really (really) hard time picking our favorite images to print in the magazine. Which is why, as a special Saturday treat, we've compiled our favorite outtakes from the shoot. Take a look and prepare to be mesmerized by Hicks' elegant presence and Edwards' on-point photographic eye.

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Madi Hicks (photo by Kenneth Brewster Edwards)

Spend one day observing the dance program at The Juilliard School, and it’s obvious how hard the dancers have worked to get there. But even in a studio filled with insane talent, 20-year-old Madi Hicks stands out. A former title-winning comp kid (and 2013 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search finalist!), this junior dances 24/7, and packs as many dance composition classes into her schedule as possible. “I love, love, love to choreograph,” she says. “I really want to have my own company some day.” In the meantime, she’s soaking up all that her elite school and NYC have to offer. So what’s it like to attend one of the most prestigious conservatories in the nation? We followed Hicks for a day last spring to find out.

“The teachers really care about our futures and invest in us,” says Hicks. “I get so much one-on-one help because the Juilliard dance program is so small. I wouldn’t get that in a larger program.”

Hicks in the Caf (photo by Kenneth Brewster Edwards)

Madi’s Typical Tuesday Schedule

•    8–8:30: Wake up, get ready for the day

•    8:30–8:45: Breakfast, walk to class

•    9–10:15: 19th-Century Art class

•    10:40–12:05: Ballet II class

•    12:15–1:40: Classical Partnering class

•    1:40–2:30: Lunch

•    3:30–8:00: Rehearsals

•    Evening: Dinner and downtime

“I set my alarm for 8 am and get to Caf, the cafeteria, for breakfast by 8:30, before my 9 am academic class.” Her usual morning fuel? “An egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich on a croissant with O.J. and coffee.”

Hicks’ commute to her first class is a short stroll on the Rose Walk, the elevated pathway that runs between the Juilliard facilities and the Residence Hall the students share with kids from School of American Ballet. “We get along well with the SAB kids. We’re really close with some of them.”

Catching up on some homework (photo by Kenneth Brewster Edwards)

During a short break, Hicks snacks on a banana (“I’m addicted”) and preps for her 10:40 am ballet class.

Once a week, Hicks takes morning ballet with all 24 students in her class year. Twice a week, ballet is split into men’s class and pointe for ladies, and on the remaining two days—like today—students from different years are mixed into various levels. Placement in these classes is based on previous training and which teacher the faculty thinks students will benefit most from. “If someone really needs to work on their hip alignment, they put them with a teacher like Alexandra Wells, who’s really good with that,” Hicks says. “I have Jeff Edwards on Mondays and Tuesdays. I love him. He really focuses on everyone. Though the class gets hard toward the end, I don’t feel overwhelmed because he paces it well.”

The faculty believes that no two tracks are the same, like no two people are the same,” Hicks says. “Everyone’s an individual.” Though Hicks plans to lead her own troupe some day, she hopes to have a performing career first. Her interests fall between ballet and modern: “The contemporary route seems right for me—something along the lines of Nederlands Dans Theater,” she says.

Hicks in Jeff Edwards' ballet class (photo by Kenneth Brewster Edwards)

Following ballet, Hicks would normally take another dance class, like classical partnering or Graham technique. But today, she heads to a doctor’s appointment downtown to take care of a chronic foot injury. “I’ve had several sprains and my heel bone structurally doesn’t sit right, which has caused damage to my tendons,” she says. “It’s been a persistent problem for years, but the faculty is super-good about accommodating injuries.” Juilliard also has physical therapists on staff.

For lunch, Hicks heads back to the Caf for her usual meal: a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, SunChips and another banana. Though most of Hicks’ “homework” is rehearsing in the studio, she sometimes uses her lunch break to squeeze in an occasional essay assignment. Juilliard has plenty of quiet nooks with huge windows and comfy chairs to cozy up in. Unsurprisingly, Hicks is equally at home on the floor.

From 3:30–4:30, Hicks rehearses a jazz number with classmate Paige Borowski for an upcoming student workshop. “I was originally choreographing a solo on Paige—it was going to be super-dark, about fears and phobias. But then I found the song ‘Shipwrecked,’ by To Be Forgotten, and the second I heard it, I knew it was no longer going to be a serious solo.” Hicks is one of six students chosen for the competitive “Choreographers and Composers” class next year.

With Paige Borowski rehearsing their jazz number for an upcoming student workshop (photo by Kenneth Brewster Edwards)

Composition Class 101

All 24 freshman dance students are required to take Dance Composition I. In sophomore year, the number of spots for Dance Composition II is halved to 12, with students being accepted upon faculty recommendation. From this group, the faculty selects only six students, based on their previous work and Comp II projects, for “Choreographers and Composers.” In this junior-year class, also known as ChoreoComp, dance majors collaborate with students from the music department to create original work.

Madi and Paige are BFFs! They even went to the Bahamas together for spring break. Some impromptu improvisation on the beach trip helped inspire the workshop piece.

(photo by Kenneth Brewster Edwards)

Student Performance Opps 101

Performing opportunities abound at Juilliard. In the fall, there’s the New Dances series, in which guest choreographers come in to create work on the students; in the spring, the faculty and/or guest repetiteurs stage repertory, like Cunningham or Graham works, for the Juilliard Dances Repertory series. The ChoreoComp show happens in the fall, and Senior Production rounds out the spring performance schedule. Additionally, there are two student composition workshops per semester. These are informal, mostly for the experience, but can be used by aspiring ChoreoComp students as a selection process. Hicks has created a piece for every single workshop so far.

Dance majors don’t get a lot of downtime. Hicks’ hectic schedule keeps her in the Lincoln Center neighborhood most days, but on the rare evening she isn’t rehearsing, she likes to get out and about in the city. “I’ve been all over Central Park,” she says, and the High Line in Chelsea is another favorite strolling ground. She also sees dance shows with discounted tickets offered to Juilliard students: “Everything from Broadway to Martha Graham to American Ballet Theatre. It’s hard since I’m so busy, but I try to go as much as possible. I’m seeing the Martha Graham Dance Company next week.” Hicks’ most frequent excursion? “Pizza. I’m obsessed.”

It's finally time! You can vote right now for your favorite 2013 Cover Model Search finalist. Who do you want to see on the cover of our October issue?

I'm actually not jealous of you guys, because we've got an amazing lineup this year. Our last girls standing—Madi Hicks, Hayden Hopkins, and Alexa Luke—are all lovely, phenomenally talented ladies. They're also all blessed with some of the most fantabulous feet we've ever seen.

No, but seriously—not a biscuit in sight! (L to R: Madi Hicks, Hayden Hopkins and Alexa Luke. Photos by Nathan Sayers.)

You can read each girl's bio and watch their solo videos here, here and here. But you can also see the terrific three strut their stuff together in this behind-the-scenes video from the days they spent in NYC with Dance Spirit. (Warning: May cause cute overload and/or extreme talent envy.)

It's finally here—voting for the 2013 Cover Model Search contest is officially open!

The 2013 Cover Model Search finalists! (L to R) Madi Hicks, Hayden Hopkins and Alexa Luke (cr. Nathan Sayers)

In April, our three finalists—Madi Hicks, Hayden Hopkins and Alexa Luke—traveled to NYC for a jam-packed trip, and we kicked things off with a night out on Broadway. The girls loved Newsies and even got to hang out with the cast backstage after the show. Next up, Madi, Hayden and Alexa showed off their best moves for photographer Nathan Sayers at their photo shoot—and as you can see, they did not disappoint! Finally, we headed to Broadway Dance Center where they totally rocked in Greg Zane's ballet class and Slam's contemporary class. Read more about their trip to NYC here.

We picked three amazing dancers, but now it's up to you to decide who will grace the cover of our October issue. Click here to read about Madi, Hayden and Alexa, see their photos and watch their solo videos. Voting runs through July 15—spread the word!

 

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a Cover Model Search finalist—stellar technique, an awesome personality and an obsession with Dance Spirit—enter today! It’s super easy.

All you have to do is go to dancemedia.com and upload your best solo video in the Cover Model Search contest. Just click here.

At the end of each month—and yes, you can enter every single month!—there’s an Editors’ Choice and Viewers’ Choice winner. From there, we narrow down our finalists at the end of the year.

Madi Hicks (by Nathan Sayers)

Onstage, Madi Hicks is a live wire, crackling and sparking with energy. But there’s more to this 17-year-old’s dancing than electricity. Her contemporary solos are rooted in a solid technical base, so they’re polished as well as high-wattage. And as you watch Madi dance, you can almost see her sharp mind at work, as busy as her long limbs.

Madi’s just as smart offstage, too. Now a rising senior at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, she’s a comp kid who’s shaped the course of her training thoughtfully, moving from studio to studio as her needs changed. “A lot of people think ‘studio hoppers’ are bad—they assume they’re not loyal students,” Madi says. “But once I feel my limit at a dance studio, once I feel like I’ve soaked up all the training I can, I know it’s time for me to move on. Studying at different studios has made me who I am as a dancer, because I’ve taken different things from each place.”

Since starting dance at age 2 1/2—“I was always dancing around the house and breaking things, so my mom said, ‘Hmm, maybe we should put you in a class’ ”—Madi has trained at studios including Dallas Power House of Dance in Dallas, TX, and Academy of Dance Arts in Allen, TX. She’s currently studying at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, where she’s found a mentor in teacher Jessica Hendricks. That’s in addition to the dancing she does with Booker T.’s performing company. “My biggest challenge right now is that I need to calm down!” Madi says. “I always want to do absolutely everything.”

In addition to the numerous awards she’s racked up on the comp scene—including

being named New York City Dance Alliance National Teen Female Outstanding Dancer in 2011—Madi was a YoungArts winner in 2012. She says the time she spent at YoungArts Week in Miami, FL, this January was life-changing. “The teachers there taught me that nobody’s dancing is perfect,” she says. “In the comp and convention world, you see one or two beautiful dancers and say, ‘I have to be just like them.’ But at YoungArts I learned to be more confident in who I am.”

Madi Hicks (by Nathan Sayers)

Madi hopes to go to college in NYC after finishing high school. “I feel like I still have a lot to learn,” she says. “College is a big stepping stone. It helps you grow up.” And after that? Maybe a spot with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet or Complexions Contemporary Ballet, her dream companies. Or maybe gigs as a choreographer—Madi created the solo that earned her that YoungArts title, and is interested in making more work. “I’m just trying to stay open to everything,” she says.

 

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT MADI

Jessica Hendricks, Madi’s teacher at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center: “Madi is great at being a soloist, but also good at interacting with others and making them feel welcome and comfortable. She’s the type of dancer who strives for perfection during class and rehearsal, never waiting until the performance to test herself.”

Greg Zane, ballet teacher at Broadway Dance Center: “She’s very strong throughout her center with very nice feet. She has the complete package of a dancer and really feels the music. She uses her technique with the music to create movement. She’s very beautiful.”

FAST FACTS

Birthday: March 14, 1996

Dance idol: Andy Pellick

Dance crush: Teddy Forance

3 words that describe her personality: “Outgoing, happy, generous”

3 words that describe her dancing: “Technical, flowy, expressive”

Madi Hicks (by Nathan Sayers)

Actress who would play her in a movie: “Emma Stone, maybe? She seems cool.”

Secret talent: “I really love photography. Once I start dancing professionally, I kind of want to be a photographer on the side.”

Favorite dance movie: Flashdance

If she could be a superhero, her power would be: Reading minds

Best advice she’s ever received: “My teacher, Jessica Hendricks, taught me never to be comfortable in my dancing. I like this quote: It is only when we realize ‘ordinary’ is an insult that we become as extraordinary as we can be. The moment you think you’re getting good—that’s when you stop improving.”

 

MAD FOR MADI? Click here to vote.

 

Back to Cover Model Search Intro

Read about Hayden Hopkins

Read about Alexa Luke

The Finalists: (L to R) Madi Hicks, Hayden Hopkins and Alexa Luke (by Nathan Sayers)

Each year the Dance Spirit editors discover that narrowing down the Cover Model Search competition to a few finalists is a nearly impossible task. We love watching the hundreds of videos we receive, but we hate having to choose just three dancers to come to NYC for a chance to land on a DS cover. And yet this year, three standouts made our jobs a little bit easier.

Meet Madi Hicks, Hayden Hopkins and Alexa Luke: your 2013 CMS finalists! The solos they submitted for the contest showed off their mature stage presence, solid technique and some of the most beautiful feet we’ve ever seen. (Seriously. Those feet!) We’ve narrowed the field—now the ultimate tough call, picking the next DS cover girl, is up to you!

Read all about Madi, Hayden and Alexa (click on their names for their stories), and then go to dancespirit.com//cms to watch their solos and see more photos of the girls showing off at their NYC shoot. Pick your favorite and cast your vote before July 15

Competition

Madi Hicks demonstrates onstage during a convention class. (ProPix)

You’ve seen it before: That girl standing front and center in the convention ballroom, who seems to pick up the choreography without even thinking about it. She executes each combination perfectly the first time the music plays. The faculty members know her by name. How can this be? Well, it’s her fourth city with the convention this season.

Traveling to multiple cities to attend the same convention is an increasingly popular trend. But why? And is it beneficial? We talked to some of the industry’s leading competition and convention veterans to learn more.

Go For the Right Reasons 

Before deciding to attend the same convention in several cities, ask yourself what your motive is. Are you chasing a specific scholarship in hopes of winning a top title at Nationals? If so, you may want to rethink your approach. Lauren Adams, a long-time convention teacher and faculty member at the new convention 24 Seven, doesn’t feel traveling to multiple conventions will help you win a national title. “If it takes you five tries in different cities to win the regional title, you’re probably not going to win at Nationals,” Adams says. “If I see a dancer in a couple of cities, I may be more likely to call her up onstage, but what I see in front of me that specific weekend is what I’m focused on.” Christy Wolverton, owner of Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, agrees: “If a dancer doesn’t win the title the first two times, she probably isn’t ready for it. There’s something missing, and she needs to figure out what it is by getting back in the studio and getting to work.”

In 2011, Madi Hicks won New York City Dance Alliance’s National Teen Outstanding Dancer title having only attended one regional NYCDA convention in her hometown of Dallas, TX. “I really wanted to make the Top 10 at Nationals, but I didn’t have the time or money to travel to other cities,” Madi says. “I worked my butt off all year in the studio and was shocked when I won, because I knew that other girls had been to several cities.” After winning, Madi spent the following regional season touring with the convention across the country. While she admits to seeing the same dancers in many of the cities she assisted, she says a lot of the dancers do it for reasons beyond winning scholarships. “Dancers care about their art and improving themselves,” Madi says. “If you’re going to every city, you need to do your best to grow—and not be worried about getting pulled up onstage or winning scholarships.”

Dancers show off their moves at The PULSE On Tour.

Opportunities Await 

It’s true that there are a lot of benefits to attending various cities in one season—beyond scholarships and titles. “You’ll have more opportunities to make connections and establish relationships with artists early on,” Adams says. “Conventions are a great pool for faculty to pull from when they need dancers.”

Adams also feels they’re a great place to be inspired. “Each weekend you can dance with and learn from a different group of talented people,” she says. Adds Madi: “The dancers are so different in each city—they inspire me and make me grow. If I see someone who’s especially amazing in jazz or ballet, I want to take what they have and use it to become better.”

According to Adams, traveling to multiple cities is a great way for dancers to prepare for the professional dance world, even if they’re learning the same combination in every city. “Each weekend dancers are exposed to a lot of material,” Adams says. “Sometimes we’re quick to want new combos instead of investigating and working through the material we’re given. But in a professional setting, you’re often working with the same choreography for months.”

Consider the Consequences 

Ida Saki won NYCDA’s National Outstanding Dancer title in 2009 after attending just one regional competition. (ProPix)

While Gil Stroming, owner of Break the Floor Productions (the parent company of JUMP, NUVO and The Dance Awards), agrees that traveling to several cities will help teachers get to know you better, he feels the time spent in your studio back home is crucial. “I don’t encourage dancers to come to more than two cities each season,” he says. “I’m a firm believer that good, consistent training at your studio is more important than convention hopping.” He’s seen many dancers leave their studios—or spend less time there—because they feel conventions are better training. “In my experience, the dancers who leave the studio that made them great tend to end up worse off,” Stroming says. Wolverton, too, warns of the effect this trend can have on your overall training. “Dancers need to take class from as many people as possible, and conventions are inspirational in that way,” she says. “But you still need a home studio you can come back to for your everyday training—especially ballet classes during the week.”

If a heavy travel schedule is something you’re considering, you also need to sit down with your parents and decide if it’s a financially smart decision. Convention registration fees alone run up to $250, and that doesn’t include competition fees, hotel costs, transportation or food. Wolverton feels the money could be better distributed. “Go to a good summer program, or travel to L.A. or NYC to take classes,” she says.

It’s also important to take into account the emotional and physical stress traveling and dancing all weekend, every weekend, can put on your body. “You have to realize how exhausting it can get,” says Madi, who attends Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts during the week. “When I first started touring with NYCDA, I thought I wanted to go to every city, but if you’re in school and dancing at a studio, it can be tough.” It’s been a give-and-take situation for Madi. Because she was away from home most weekends, she was unable to dance in some of her school’s showcases and didn’t get to perform in The Nutcracker with her studio this year. But she says it’s been worth it and plans to continue to frequent the convention scene in the coming season. “I want to be in my school’s repertoire company, and I would like to compete,” she says. “But my main focus will be going to multiple conventions—a lot of NYCDA cities, NUVO, JUMP and other conventions. I want to take from new teachers.”

In the end, the decision to attend multiple cities with a single convention is one only you and your family can make. Conventions are a great opportunity to train with working professionals, but you have to choose the kind of role you want them to play in your training.

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