It's #BeyDay (Beyoncé, y'all!) and we're celebrating here at Dance Spirit.
You know Chloé Arnold, Her Holiness of tap, has worked with Beyoncé before, right? Maybe it's because they both have the "é" in their names. (BRB, renaming myself Alisoné, and perhaps I can get the hookup, too.)
The video—which has everyone here at the DS office dying to put on our tap shoes right this very second—also features former Dance Spirit cover girls Melinda Sullivan and Maud Arnold as part of the Syncopated Ladies. This isn't the first time this girl group has taken on a pop hit and made it sound even better.
I think we can officially state this for whatever record someone is keeping: Tap has never been hotter.
P.S. Who run the world? Girls. But, duh.
From meditation to Pilates to Drake playlists, no two preshow rituals include exactly the same ingredients. But just like bakers following a recipe, most dancers follow a very specific—and very important—routine before every performance. We asked six pros to share what they do precurtain to make sure they’re at their best onstage. —Jenny Ouellette
Rausch, with Jonathan Porretta in Balanchine's Prodigal Son (Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB)
Lesley Rausch, Principal, Pacific Northwest Ballet
“After signing in and changing into ballet clothes, I spend about an hour doing my hair and makeup and taping all 10 of my toes. I take my time, usually listening to the Bruno Mars or Beatles channels on Pandora. If I need to get really pumped up, I’ll listen to the Missy Elliott channel.
Before I warm up, I set up my paper towels, pointe shoes and clear Band-Aids in my dressing room. I usually wear a different pair of pointe shoes for each act of a full-length, or for various pieces if it’s a mixed bill. I use the clear Band-Aids to keep my ribbons tucked in: the part that would cover a wound goes behind the knot, and the clear sides wrap around to keep everything in place.
That leaves about an hour to warm up, put my hairpiece in and costume on and run through any problematic steps. Even at this point in my career, performing still comes with some nervous energy, so I try not to add any extra anxieties. I don’t like to be rushed.”
Rafailedes in William Forsythe's Quintett (photo by Laurent Phillipe, courtesy LADP)
Rachelle Rafailedes, Dancer, L.A. Dance Project
“Other company members like to joke about my ‘oven’: Before a show, I wear sweatpants and a hoodie zipped up all the way with the hood on. I put my headphones in and listen to a Drake playlist on shuffle.
The ‘oven’ happens because I like feeling almost completely insulated for my 90-minute warm-up. It begins with floor exercises I learned from choreographer Kyle Abraham—rolling around the floor, push-ups and psoas stretches. Then I do core exercises I learned from physical therapists, and then I transition into a series that The Juilliard School anatomy teacher Irene Dowd taught called ‘trunk stabilizations.’ Next, I move on to some Franklin Method work on my feet, getting them loose so they’re not so crunchy. Finally, I do a quick, simple barre—unless I’m feeling great, in which case I skip the barre and move right to center, where I do what I call a ‘greatest hits’ of modern dance. It includes some Cunningham upper body sequences, Taylor back exercises and some Limón swings.
L.A. Dance Project does a wide variety of repertory—some require me to drop my weight, other pieces need more ballet. So I’ve compiled a routine that covers all of those bases.”
Rafailedes in her 'oven' (photo by Morgan Lugo, courtesy LADP)
Ebony Williams, Dancer, Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour
“My process now is so different than it was when I worked in concert dance. I was in a company, and we did a group ballet warm-up before the show. Now, I have to do things on my own and go with the flow of the day, because it’s always a little bit different.
Williams stretching before a show (courtesy Williams)
Dancers are often required to be at the venue about five hours before the show. Once I find the dressing room (they’re in different places in each city), I lay out all my makeup and lotions on the vanity, then head to catering for some food. I like eating protein and a salad, something that will give me plenty of energy for later.
Back in the dressing room, I stretch my hamstrings, do a mix of yoga and Pilates and make sure my back is warm. As it gets closer to performance time, I apply my makeup and get into costume, and head to catering one last time to grab a banana—I keep a piece of fruit in the quick-change area so I can have a bite in between songs if I’m low on energy or feel a cramp coming on.
Right before we go on, we do a group prayer. And then I absolutely have to do the first 32 counts of ‘Formation’ three times in a row. Otherwise, I feel like I might mess up, which cannot happen at the beginning of the show. I’m the first person onstage on my side, so I have to be strong. If I know I have the choreography in my head, then I’m cool. It feels like I’m right at home.”
Rebello in Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements (photo by Daniel Azoulay, courtesy MCB)
Kleber Rebello, Principal, Miami City Ballet
“A few days before the performance, I start drinking green smoothies every day. I use pineapple, turmeric, ginger, coconut water, cayenne pepper and kale and put a bit of everything in a blender. One blender-full makes a huge jar, so I have two cups in the morning and drink the rest at the theater.
I like getting to the theater about two hours before a show. After an hour-long warm-up, which includes barre work, Pilates, planks and push-ups, I get in costume and do my makeup before heading back to the stage to meditate.
The stage is such a sacred place, and I take into consideration all the energy that’s been there before me, and all the dancers who’ve performed there. Right before ‘places,’ I lie on the floor, put my forehead and hands on the floor and sort of bless the stage. Then, for good luck, I knock on the floor three times and give it a little kiss.”
(photo by Jeremy Jackson, courtesy Sullivan)
Melinda Sullivan, Freelance tap dancer
“If I’m performing at night, I tend to warm up more vigorously during the day by teaching or taking class. Then I do a slower warm-up right before the show—like a tune-up. I do some Pilates, especially the Hundreds, and stretch my calves. And no matter where I perform, I always bring a foam roller with me. It’s crucial for us tap dancers to roll out our IT bands.
I listen to music while I warm up and apply makeup—Stevie Wonder is my go-to. Right before I put my costume on, I try to pee. I always think I have to go to the bathroom as I’m about to go onstage, but it’s just butterflies.
I’ve gotten more nervous about performances as I’ve aged, so I try to keep moving as much as I can to keep my mind focused. I always review the beginning of the choreography, especially the opening phrase. Muscle memory tends to take control from there.”
Petinaud, center, in costume (courtesy Disney Theatrical Group)
Khori Petinaud, Ensemble, Aladdin
“Each day I head to Broadway Dance Center and take the theater dance class from about 4 to 6 pm. From there, I walk to the theater, or take a Citi Bike if I’m running behind schedule.
In the girls’ dressing room, we play a ’90s music playlist on Spotify while getting our hair and makeup ready. At five minutes to curtain, about six of us meet for a group prayer, which is often led by James Monroe Iglehart, who plays Genie, or Clifton Davis, who plays the Sultan. We pray for everyone’s safety in the show, sending that energy not only to the cast but also to the crew and everyone in the audience. We remind ourselves to be grateful that we are working, and that we’re in a show that’s been open so long. It’s such a blessing.”
Pretty much anything Chloé Arnold and her Syncopated Ladies get their hands/taps on is bound to be fantastic. But the crew seems to have a special affinity for Beyoncé—as confirmed back in the day by Queen B herself (remember the Share Heard 'Round the World?), and as confirmed once again yesterday by the group's latest video, "Formation."
The Ladies' take on Beyoncé's internet-melting hit doesn't involve much in the way of fancy production values. That's not the point. Instead, we get two delicious minutes of unflinchingly bold, ingeniously musical tap choreography that just dares us to look away. It's the perfect showcase for the unique voices of the dancers—Chloé and Maud Arnold, Anissa Lee, Assata Madison, Orialis Ashley, Melinda Sullivan and Melissa Tannus—who are, as ever, brilliant.
The best part? At the end of the video, we see clips of women from studios around the world performing the same routine. It's the Syncopated Ladies' way of wishing us all a happy Women's History Month, and it's exactly what we all need for #MotivationMonday.
Hello all you lovely, creative people! Are you possibly the world's next choreographic genius? Do you want $15,000 to produce your very own show? Of course you are—we've seen how much talent y'all have!—and of course you do. Which makes us especially happy to announce that the 2016 Capezio A.C.E. Awards competition is now accepting submissions.
Here's last year's winner, Kirsten Russell, receiving her prize. YOU WANT TO BE THIS HAPPY! (photo by Joe Toreno)
A little background: Each year, the A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards invites 15 gifted dancemakers to present their best work at the Dance Teacher Summit. Three winners from that group, chosen by reps from Capezio and Dance Teacher magazine, receive funds to produce a full-length show, with $15,000 being the top prize. And in case you're wondering just how legit the A.C.E. Awards are, please note that past winners include Travis Wall, Peter Chu, Al Blackstone, Melinda Sullivan and Talia Favia. BOOM.
Anyway, entering the contest is easy: Just upload your best choreography video to dancemedia.com anytime between now and May 2. 15 semifinalists will get to present their choreo at the NYC Dance Teacher Summit, which will be held July 29–31; winners will be announced there. Questions? You can find all the rules and regulations (plus more delicious details about the prizes) here.
If you count yourself among the "Mad Men"-obsessed, this is probably an emotional week for you. On the one hand, you're stoked for Sunday's series finale, and you've already started planning your 1960s-inspired menu for the big event. (Ambrosia salad and shrimp cocktail, anyone?) But parting is such sweet sorrow, and you might not be ready to say "goodbye."
"Game of Thrones" fans need not feel such nostalgia; as long as George R.R. Martin keeps writing those books (which, albeit, is not a certitude...), there will be plenty more Sunday night suspense for them. (Disclaimer: Said fans should definitely be 17+!) But considering the fact that almost all the good characters have bit the dust, it's not all smiles and giggles for "Thrones" fans either.
So how do you console the melancholy TV viewers of America? Give 'em what they love: music, tap dance and PUPPIES! Syncopated Lady (and 2012 Capezio A.C.E. Award-winner) Melinda Sullivan teamed up with jazz chamber ensemble Rozalia, fellow percussionist Aaron Serfaty and her dog Wobbles to create a "Mad Men"/ "Game of Thrones" mashup, "Mad Game."
Notice how I said, "fellow percussionist"? That's because this video really emphasizes the role of tapper-as-musician. Sullivan dons a head set, just like the rest of the performers, and the video doesn't only focus on her or her feet. It also focuses on Serfaty's hands, on pianist Nikos Syropoulos' fingers and on the bows of the cellists and violinist. That means that it's often just the crystal clear sounds of Sullivan's taps, accenting the appropriately epic combo of iconic theme songs, that let us know she's still there, tappin' away. Check it out!
Winner Melinda Sullivan (third from left) at the 2012 Capezio A.C.E. Awards (photo by Matthew Murphy)
We've been getting super pumped up about this year's Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards for the past several months: We've been reminiscing about past winners—like Travis Wall, Melinda Sullivan, and Peter Chu—and encouraging you to put your stuff out there.
Well guess what guys, the deadline for submissions is May 28...just 20 days away! But never fear: That's still plenty of time because the submission process is so darn easy. Here's all you've gotta do:
- Select one video of your choreography (no longer than five minutes and featuring at least five dancers, ages 16+).
- Click here to register for dancemedia.com (if you haven't already).
- Go to the submission page here, and then click "Enter Contest."
- Upload your video!
Pretty easy, huh? Now here's the fun part: Fifteen finalists (selected by Capezio and Dance Teacher reps) will travel to NYC and present their work at the A.C.E. Awards during the Dance Teacher Summit this summer. The competition is August 2, when a distinguished panel of judges will pick the winners of three fantabulous awards:
- The Capezio A.C.E. Award (the big'un): $15,000 production budget toward your very own show in NYC (!!!)
- First Runner Up: $5,000 production budget
- Second Runner Up: $3,000 production budget
Quick! What are you waiting for! Submit your choreo now, and you can get in on all of this fun:
And who knows, maybe next year at this time we'll be reminiscing about you. Good luck!
Here at DS, we're huge fans of Chloé Arnold's Syncopated Ladies. We've been in love with them ever since they gave Rihanna's "Where Have You Been" a tap-tastic makeover back in 2012. I mean, talk about girl power: Arnold and her ladies (including her sister Maud and Melinda Sullivan—both former DS cover models) bring the strength AND the sexy every time they perform.
Their recent tribute to Beyoncé (set to "End of Time") was certainly no exception. Yep, that day we learned some basic math: Beyoncé + The Syncopated Ladies = pure magic. Queen Bey agreed, and she posted this on her Facebook wall on January 9:
To thank Beyoncé for the shout out, the Syncopated Ladies got to work on another tap tribute, this one set to "Flawless." They released the video earlier this month, and we may or may not have stopped watching it since...
Syncopated Ladies, you truly are flawless.
Melinda Sullivan (third from left) and crew at the 2012 A.C.E. Awards. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
It's not too hard for us to pick out up-and-coming dancers when every competition we attend is sure to have several standouts. Emerging choreographers, on the other hand, are relatively difficult to find, because creating high-quality work is expensive and logistically tricky.
That's why we love the Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographing Excellence) Awards. Each year, the competition brings a bunch of talented choreographers to NYC to present their best works. And the prizes? Oh, just multiple thousands of dollars to go toward shows in the Big Apple. NBD.
This year's A.C.E. Awards competition will be held August 6 at the midtown Hilton in NYC. But August 5-8, the top three choreographers from last years' awards will be putting on their own shows just a few blocks away, at the Ailey Citigroup Theater.
2012 grand prize winner Melinda Sullivan will present her work on August 5 and 6, and first runner-up Dana Foglia and second runner-up Bree Hafen will share a program on August 7 and 8. Sullivan's piece, Gone: A Sound & Theatre Project, tells a story through tap, sanding and contemporary choreography; Foglia's I Am...We Are showcases her signature sexy, hard-hitting style; and Hafen's Positive Space "explore[s] the themes of humanity, home and healing through movement."
Intrigued? Click here to find out more and get tickets.