DS traveled all over the country to see you shine at Nationals. check out the winners of the 2009 Dance Spirit Future Star Award. Congrats, winners!

Emily Deahl

Age: 17

The Southern Strutt, Irmo, SC

Starpower, Orlando, FL

 

 

 

Meghan DeGraff

Age: 18

The World of Dance, Albany, NY

StarQuest, Virginia Beach, VA

 

 

Madeleine Gardella

Age: 10

The Dance Academy, Holland, PA

Headliners, Asbury Park, NJ

 

 

Maddie Schroeder

Age: 15

Spotlight Productions, Eagan, MN

StarQuest, St. Paul, MN

 

 

Alexis Campbell

Age: 14

Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts, Cape Coral, FL

Starpower’s Power Pak, Orlando, FL

 

 

Raegan Polson

Age: 18

Starz Studio of Performing Arts, Oak Grove, MO

Spotlight Dance Cup, Branson, MO

 

Taylor Grimm

Age: 15

Seton Hill University Dance Academy, Greensburg, PA

Starpower’s Power Pak, Myrtle Beach, SC

 

 

Amanda Vercamen

Age: 17

Shooting Stars School of Performing Arts, Clermont, FL

Starpower, Orlando, FL

 

 

Rachel Childers

Age: 15

Encore Performance Company, Birmingham, AL

DANCEAMERICA, NYC

 

Gregory Fiorina

Age:15

Michelle’s Dance X-Plosion, Castro Valley, CA

Starbound, Lake Tahoe, NV

 

 

Abby Lindevig

Age: 18

Helmer Dance Studio, Beldenville, WI

International Dance Challenge, Orlando, FL

 

 

Hannah McKaughan

Age: 13

Just Dancin’, Rock Hill, SC

Dance Machine Productions, Wilkesboro, NC

 

 

Jessica Lester

Age: 18

Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy, Fremont, CA

Starpower, Las Vegas, NV

 

 

Becca Housebrecht

Age: 17

Spotlight Studio of Dance, Millersville, MD

American Dance Awards, Hollywood Beach, FL

 

Brittany Duskin

Age: 18

Priscilla and Dana’s School of Dance, Kansas City, MO

Starpower, Branson, MO

 

Taylor Lowe

Age: 17

The Dance Establishment, Ogden, UT

LA DanceMagic, Anaheim, CA

 

 

Cassandra Ventura

Age: 13

Talent Factory, Chino, CA

Starpower, Las Vegas, NV

 

 

Ashley Seidel

Age: 18

Not Your Ordinary Dancers, Middletown, NJ

Starbound, Atlantic City, NJ

 

 

Kristina Vensko

Age: 15

Dancensations Dance Center, Alexandria, VA

Starpower, Ocean City, MD

 

 

Katie Parks

Age: 15

Step Ahead

Dance Company, Jacksonville, NC

Marvonna, Myrtle Beach, SC

 

 

Nicole Miceli

Age: 18

Center for Dance, Westmont, IL

International Dance Challenge, Boston, MA

 

 

Kelly Brigham

Age: 26

Pat Snow’s Dance Academy,East Bridgewater, MA

Step Up 2 Dance, Manchester, NH

 

 

 

Kasey O’Leary

Age: 14

Stagelite Centre of Performing Arts, Pequannock, NJ

Starbound, Orlando, FL

 

 

Amanda Densmore

Age: 17

Sheena’s Dance Academy, Frisco, TX

Starbound, San Antonio, TX

 

 

Jamie Stack

Age: 16

Dance Express, Mesa, AZ

Encore, Lake Tahoe, NV

 

 

Chelsea Reichert

Age: 17

Dance Gallery, Lawrence, KS

StarQuest, Minneapolis, MN

All Photos courtesy of winners

Holy sequins and aerials, Batman: New York City Dance Alliance knows how to put on a GALA. (Or two!)

NYCDA just finished up its week-long NYC Nationals with a pair of stupendous gala nights, celebrating the Mini, Junior, Teen and Senior Outstanding Dancers. And I'm still kind of recovering from the onslaught of talent.

First of all, let's congratulate the National Outstanding Dancer winners, shall we?

National Mini Outstanding Dancers

Madison Brown

Brady Farrar

National Junior Outstanding Dancers

Jasmine Cruz

Parker Garrison

National Teen Outstanding Dancers

Nina Bartell

Harrison Knostman

National Senior Outstanding Dancers

Sarah Pippin

Jake Tribus

The wonderful Teen and Senior National ODs (via NYCDA)

Notice any familiar names in there? I bet you do—because a lot of these amazing artists are old Dance Spirit friends! We're so excited that Jasmine (who pulled off 32 fouettés on pointe in a group number—more on that later) is back as Junior OD after her reign as Mini a few years back, and we're thrilled to see Brady add a NYCDA title to his already impressive resumé. Huge congrats also go to Sarah and Jake, the heroes of our web series The Road to Nationals! Those besties are going to have sooooo much fun on the road with NYCDA this year. I'd say their new titles are the perfect excuse to (re–)binge-watch R2N, which follows their 2014 NYCDA journey.

Sarah was also a 2014 Cover Model Search finalist! NBD. (photo by Erin Baiano)

As fun as it is to see talented individuals honored, my favorite part of NYCDA Nationals is the Critics' Choice competition, which highlights outstanding group numbers. Those proceedings are all the more exciting because DS sponsors the Mini and Junior Critics' Choice winners, and our friends at Dance Magazine sponsor the Teen and Senior champs.

I'm glad that we just hand out the trophies, though, and don't have to judge the darn thing, because the field is consistently stellar. And this year was no exception. Tempe Dance Academy earned National Senior CC with "I'm So Sorry," in which 2014 National Senior OD Kolton Krouse got pummeled by a group of glamorous ladies. (Don't cry for Kolton, though: He's going to Juilliard next year!) Westlake School for the Performing Arts repped #teamballet and earned the Teen CC award with its beautifully classical "Paquita"—featuring Jasmine's fantabulous fouettés, which were sprinkled with doubles and finished with a triple, naturally. (I'd like to remind everyone that she's 12. TWELVE.) The ladies of Westchester Dance Academy also showed off beautiful classical technique in "When the Last Angel Falls," which won Mini CC. And the crowd favorite of the year (the decade? the century?), Performance Edge 2's "Hello"—which put a pitch-perfect tap spin on the hilarious opening song from The Book of Mormon—took home the Junior CC award.

Look at those legs! (via NYCDA)

I'd also like to give a shoutout to Jordan Pelliteri, the 2014 National Senior OD, who relinquished her title last night with one final solo—a smoldering little number complete with her signature jaw-dropping, is-she-maybe-a-contortionist extensions. Jordan is also one of this year's Cover Model Search finalists (love, love, LOVE that the National Senior OD title was passed from one CMS finalist to another), so if you want to see her pretty face on our October cover, go vote for her now!

It's always wonderful to feel the warm NYCDA family love at the closing galas. And nothing embodied the organization's spirit of support and friendship better than this year's oh-so-happy Senior Outstanding Dancer number, choreographed by the great Suzi Taylor. So I'll close with an excerpt from that. See you next season, NYCDA!

Our Senior Outstanding Dancers are SO BEAUTIFUL! We LOVE each and every one of you!!! ❤️❤️❤️ #nycdainspires #nycdnationals2015

Posted by New York City Dance Alliance on Monday, July 6, 2015

Canadian Dance Company (photo courtesy Break the Floor Productions)

A few years ago, Canadian dancers and schools started making big waves at competitions and conventions across the U.S. Fast-forward to the 2014 Dance Awards Nationals in NYC: Roughly one-third of the Best Dancer finalists were from Canadian studios, and about half of the highest-scoring group routines came from Canada. The Studio of the Year winner? Elite Danceworx—also from Canada.

The dedicated dancers and teachers north of our border are becoming a major force on the U.S. comp circuit. Here are just a few of the studios and dancers to watch for at your next regional or national event.

 

Joanne Chapman School of Dance

Location: Brampton, Ontario

Number of students: 600

Why we’re obsessed: This studio is practically unbeatable when it comes to tight, ultra-clean group routines. Joanne Chapman was the first-ever Studio of the Year winner at The Dance Awards (in 2011), and repeatedly takes home top titles in all styles at competitions, including Hall of Fame Dance Challenge. The studio’s dancers are well rounded and versatile, transitioning easily from a precision-based tap routine to lyrical pieces. Keep an eye on Advanced Company dancers, including Brianna Moretti, Kyanna Palmer, Victoria DeBartolo, Sabrina Sinopoli and Bailey Woodwark—and 10-year-old Jezzaya Slack.

Noteworthy alums: Blake McGrath (L.A.-based commercial dancer and former Dance Spirit cover star); commercial dancer Amanda Cleghorn

Shelley's Dance Company (photo by GTFX Photography, courtesy Shelley's Dance Company)

Shelley’s Dance Company

Location: Edmonton, Alberta

Number of students: 250

Why we’re obsessed: Shelley’s Dance Company competes on a big scale, but the studio atmosphere is completely family-oriented. Studio owner Shelley Tookey says her priority is making sure her dancers are practicing good sportsmanship, teamwork and technique—that they’re training for their futures, not just a competition performance. This past season, the studio’s Advanced Large Group Open line routine, Lil’ Red, took home first overall almost every time it hit the stage, winning big at Dance Power and Standing Ovation Dance Festival events. Be sure to watch out for senior Kyra Van Veen—she’s on the rise.

Noteworthy alums: Still Motion director and “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Stacey Tookey

BOLD Dance Company

Location: Mississauga, Ontario

Why we’re obsessed: The dancers at BOLD get the best of both worlds: awesome regular teachers and choreographers who consistently win top honors for their work, plus guest choreographers—like Tokyo, Blake McGrath and Rodrigo Basurto—who teach master classes and set pieces for the company. The routines BOLD performs are super-stylized (think: lots of jutting hips, extra-low lunges and angular shapes), and their focus remains on the quality of movement—never the tricks. Keep an eye out for Taylor McLennan, Emilie Richer, Sofia Tramonte, Amanda Bruce, Julianna Macedo, Emily Melo, Krista Mantiega and Justine Sanker, all standout soloists.

Noteworthy alum: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Candace Jarvis

Elite Danceworx

Location: Markham, Ontario

Number of students: 325

Why we’re obsessed: Elite Danceworx is just so good. The studio’s routines are clean, its dancers are trained in Vaganova technique, and its performers avoid forced, over-the-top facial expressions. Led by Dawn Rappitt, the studio also boasts a major roster of boys who are going places, including Julian Elia (the Teen Male Best Dancer at this year’s Dance Awards in NYC), Ty Forhan (who’s already performed in the Toronto production of Billy Elliot) and Findlay McConnell (who won Junior Male Best Dancer at The Dance Awards this year).

Noteworthy alums: Shaping Sound Dance Company’s Joey Arrigo; Melanie Mah, who’s appeared on “The X Factor”

Canadian Dance Company

Location: Oakville, Ontario

Number of students: 800

Why we’re obsessed: CDC kids are well-rounded across the board, and they don’t shy away from tap at competitions—a rarity these days. When it comes to training, CDC sticks to the oh-so-important basics, requiring students to spend hours each week honing their technique in a regimented program. The family-run studio, led by Allain and Dawn Lupien, turns out dancers with top-notch facility and excellent ballet technique. There’s also a big “we are family” mindset at CDC, which translates to kind students with great attitudes. Our eyes are on senior dancers Isaac Lupien and Devon Brown, teen Jessy Lipke, and minis Emily Roman and Isabella Baldino.

Noteworthy alums: Lar Lubovitch Dance Company’s Attila Joey Csiki; Noah Long, a former second soloist and current guest artist with The National Ballet of Canada

Canadian Dance Unit

Location: Bolton, Ontario

Number of students: 500

Why we’re obsessed: Formerly named JCSOD, Canadian Dance Unit’s motto is “Tomorrow’s dreams begin today,” and studio directors Frank and Melissa Giorgio do everything they can to make that a reality for their dancers. Ballet training

is paramount here; dancers follow the demanding Royal Academy of Dance

syllabus. The Giorgios also stress the importance of self-confidence, musicality and total body awareness, and the studio regularly invites guest choreographers—like Marty Kudelka, Chaz Buzan, Nick Lazzarini and Shannon Mather—to create competition routines. Canadian Dance Unit was named Studio of the Year at the 2013 Dance Awards, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off of Nationals title winner Julian Lombardi—one of CDU’s many promising dancers.

Noteworthy dancers: Current student Victoria Baldesarra, who plays Michelle on the Canadian TV show “The Next Step”

Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal’s Céline Cassone and Marcio Vinicius Paulino Silveira in Zero In On (photo by Leda & St. Jacques, courtesy BJM)

Company Life in Canada

Dreaming of a contract with a fierce contemporary dance company? The dance world just across the northern border is thriving, well-funded and—unlike the scene in Europe—mostly English-speaking. Stacey Tookey and Laurieann Gibson both hail from Canada, and American powerhouses Peter Chu and Cindy Salgado have found huge success dancing for Canadian companies. Want to follow in their footsteps? Here are a few top contemporary companies to consider.

Kidd Pivot: Although choreographer Crystal Pite formed her company more than a decade ago, she and her dancers have exploded on the dance scene recently. Pite has made a name for herself choreographing for U.S. companies, including Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Kidd Pivot’s modern and contemporary works are athletic, experimental and hugely entertaining.

Ballet BC: Calling all contemporary ballerinas! This company in Vancouver, British Columbia, regularly brings in fresh choreographers like Jorma Elo and Aszure Barton, and also performs classics by William Forsythe and George Balanchine. Ballet BC tours throughout the year, in addition to doing tons of community outreach.

Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (BJM): BJM’s repertoire—which includes work by choreographers like Benjamin Millepied and Barak Marshall—is chic, sleek and effortlessly cool. Think joining a company means giving up your unique personality? Not in this group, where company members’ strengths and quirks are praised and highlighted. BJM’s artistic director, Louis Robitaille, even describes the company as a “research laboratory.”

RUBBERBANDance Group: This Montreal-based modern company was formed in 2002 by Victor Quijada. It may be small—there are only two permanent members—but it performs in a big way. RUBBERBANDance is known for presenting pieces enhanced by multimedia (like film projections and special lighting designs). Quijada’s choreography seamlessly blends ballet, hip hop and modern dance.

I have some especially happy "happy Friday" news for you all: Dance Spirit is about to launch a reality web series! "The Road to Nationals," which premieres October 14, follows four fantastic dancers from CC & Co. Dance Complex as they prepare to attend Nationals at two world-class competitions—New York City Dance Alliance and The PULSE.

Most of you know from experience just how intense—and exciting—that process can be. But the competitive dance world hasn't always been fairly treated by reality shows, which tend to create lots of weird false drama. We all understand that the real thing is dramatic enough—which is why we wanted to set the record straight with a series of our own, showing the pressures and amazingness of that world as it truly is.

We're guessing many of you guys are already familiar with CC & Co., too, since the Raleigh, NC-based school has trained tons of comp champions. "The Road to Nationals" follows four of the school's most talented dancers: Alexa Robertson, Tori Kent, Jake Tribus and Sarah Pippin (one of this year's Cover Model Search finalists!). You'll watch Alexa and Tori tear through The PULSE's classes; Jake get emotional as he gives up his Teen Male Outstanding Dancer title at NYCDA; and Sarah take the stage to compete for NYCDA's Senior Female Outstanding Dancer.

Jake and Sarah rehearsing one of their NYCDA duets in The Road to Nationals. These guys do not mess around.

The whole series—we're talking every episode—will drop on October 14th at dancespirit.com//dspresents. Mark your calendars, and in the meantime, take a look at these two teaser videos!

Dance Spirit's January cover girl, Sophia Lucia, on the red carpet before the Dance Awards in NYC (photo via @sophialucia5678)

Chock full of utterly amazing dance talent, silly jokes and wild choreography, the 2014 Dance Awards closed out its NYC event last night at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The three-and-a-half-hour celebration really had it all—from spectacular Mini performances to archival footage of a young, tap dancing Gil Stroming to awards for seemingly every category known to dancerkind. The Dance Spirit editors certainly had a blast. Here are my top five highlights of the evening:

1. The Mini and Junior Male Best Dancers. Mini Brady Farrar from Stars Dance Studio stole my heart with his solo "You." And later in the evening, Junior winner Findlay McConnell from Elite Danceworx (the big winner of the night!) brought the house down with his performance of "Dance with Me." Seriously, you need to watch these guys, stat.

Here's Brady:

And here's Findlay (the picture is a little blurry, but just know his facial expressions are perfect):

2. DanceMakers of Atlanta's "Take Me Out." This routine was fierce at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals a week ago, and it was even fiercer onstage last night. These teens aren't only amazing performers, but each dancer also brings something of herself to the choreography—all while maintaining perfect synchronicity with her peers. Moreover, these girls are versatile, going from style to style with ease. Case in point? Senior Brianne Sellars won the title of Best Dancer for her contemporary solo "Movement"—a total departure from the hard-hitting moves in "Take Me Out." Here's Brianne in "Movement," which also earned a 1st runner up title for Senior Female Outstanding dancer at NYCDA Nationals:

3. Dance Town's "Ballroom Girls." These Minis can sure move those hips! I can hear Mary Murphy screaming in the distance as she hands out Hot Tamale Train tickets. Watch these little firecrackers go:

4. Sophia Lucia's "All This to Say." Dance Spirit's January cover girl—who was crowned Junior Female Best Dancer—did not disappoint last night. With extensions, emotions and moves like these (choreographed by none other than Stacey Tookey), it's pretty easy to see why she's insta-famous. One thing we can all take away from this rising star's stellar performance? Wearing two shoes—or none at all!—can help mask a serious case of one-sidedness, unlike the one-shoe approach in this clip:

5. The Kenny Wormald as Kevin Bacon Ren McCormick–inspired opening number. Gosh darn it, I just love a good Footloose throwback. And what's better than one Footloose number? Two! Mandy Moore and Nick Lazzarini's crowd-pumping choreography for both the opening and closing routines left the night on such a high note. Take a look at the Footloose footage from the 2014 Dance Awards in Las Vegas. It will surely motivate you to tackle the rest of your day.

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