Attention, ladies and gentlemen: We've officially hit Nationals season! And that means it's time to dig through those closets to find the perfect clothes to get you noticed during convention classes. The task can feel totally overwhelming—but we're here to help. Follow our guidelines, and you'll be rocking the dance floor with Travis Wall and making Stacey Tookey yell "GORGEOUS!" in no time.
Nationals season is just around the corner, and we're getting SUPER pumped. Although it's truly one of the greatest times of the year for dancers, Nationals are also insane, tbh. Between running from convention classes to onstage performances to award shows, and trying to squeeze in a bite to eat or stay hydrated, it can be constant chaos. Which is why it's so important to find a lipstick that actually sticks—comp queens don't need anything else to stress over. And because we are not here for smudges or reapplying every hour, or ending up with a dry, cracked pout in every selfie, we rounded up the top picks that'll stand up to all things Nationals.
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!
The Southern Strutt, Irmo, SC
Starpower, Orlando, FL
The World of Dance, Albany, NY
StarQuest, Virginia Beach, VA
The Dance Academy, Holland, PA
Headliners, Asbury Park, NJ
Spotlight Productions, Eagan, MN
StarQuest, St. Paul, MN
Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts, Cape Coral, FL
Starpower’s Power Pak, Orlando, FL
Starz Studio of Performing Arts, Oak Grove, MO
Spotlight Dance Cup, Branson, MO
Seton Hill University Dance Academy, Greensburg, PA
Starpower’s Power Pak, Myrtle Beach, SC
Shooting Stars School of Performing Arts, Clermont, FL
Starpower, Orlando, FL
Encore Performance Company, Birmingham, AL
Michelle’s Dance X-Plosion, Castro Valley, CA
Starbound, Lake Tahoe, NV
Helmer Dance Studio, Beldenville, WI
International Dance Challenge, Orlando, FL
Just Dancin’, Rock Hill, SC
Dance Machine Productions, Wilkesboro, NC
Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy, Fremont, CA
Starpower, Las Vegas, NV
Spotlight Studio of Dance, Millersville, MD
American Dance Awards, Hollywood Beach, FL
Priscilla and Dana’s School of Dance, Kansas City, MO
Starpower, Branson, MO
The Dance Establishment, Ogden, UT
LA DanceMagic, Anaheim, CA
Talent Factory, Chino, CA
Starpower, Las Vegas, NV
Not Your Ordinary Dancers, Middletown, NJ
Starbound, Atlantic City, NJ
Dancensations Dance Center, Alexandria, VA
Starpower, Ocean City, MD
Dance Company, Jacksonville, NC
Marvonna, Myrtle Beach, SC
Center for Dance, Westmont, IL
International Dance Challenge, Boston, MA
Pat Snow’s Dance Academy,East Bridgewater, MA
Step Up 2 Dance, Manchester, NH
Stagelite Centre of Performing Arts, Pequannock, NJ
Starbound, Orlando, FL
Sheena’s Dance Academy, Frisco, TX
Starbound, San Antonio, TX
Dance Express, Mesa, AZ
Encore, Lake Tahoe, NV
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
National Junior Outstanding Dancers
National Teen Outstanding Dancers
National Senior Outstanding Dancers
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!
Comp kids, you never cease to amaze us. Summer after summer, you come to Nationals rocking fresh looks, innovative choreography and solid technique. And 2014 didn’t disappoint: This year brought us new trends—from fashion to footwork—that we’d love to see stick around (and some we’d like to see disappear).
(Clockwise from left: DGS Photos, Courtesy Adrenaline; (2) Evolve Photography, Courtesy New York City Dance Alliance; Take2 Productions, Courtesy Showstopper; Platoon, Courtesy The Pulse On Tour; Courtesy Tremaine; Platoon, Courtesy The Pulse On Tour; Evolve Photography, Courtesy NYCDA)
Here are a few of our favorite things.
Werk: Group ballroom numbers. Who says you need an equal number of guys and girls to ride the Hot Tamale Train?
Womp: Excessive violence onstage. Please, no more mimed strangling, gunshots or screams.
This year, we saw a departure from gank-tastic, sassy fem-hop. In its place? Female hip-hoppers who were unafraid to get down and hit hard. Ladies, you introduced us to a whole new kind of fierce.
(Clockwise from left: (2) Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe; Courtesy Break the Floor Productions; Platoon, Courtesy The Pulse On Tour; Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe; (2) Courtesy Break the Floor Productions)
The pouf bun was the hairstyle of the season, with bumped-up bangs adding a touch of sophistication to the classic ballet bun.
(Clockwise from left: DGS Photos, Courtesy Adrenaline; (2) Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe)
Werk: ‘90s and early 2000s #Throwbacks—Michael Jackson is never out of style.
Womp: Overused songs. If you hear it Every time you turn on the radio, chances are the judges are already sick of it (and so is the audience!).
Impossibly long hamstrings and seemingly spineless torsos are always a “do.” You all contorted your bodies into some seriously impressive (even shocking!) shapes.
(Clockwise from left: Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe; Evolve Photography, Courtesy West Coast Dance Explosion; DGS Photos, Courtesy Adrenaline; Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe; Evolve Photography, Courtesy NYCDA; Dancesnaps (DRC Video Productions), Courtesy Dance Olympus/DanceAmerica)
Playing it safe is overrated! You threw yourselves across the stage, unafraid to be upside down, sideways or completely off balance.
(Clockwise from top: Evolve Photography, Courtesy NYCDA; DGS Photos, Courtesy Adrenaline; Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe; Evolve Photograhy, Courtesy NYCDA; Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe)
Werk: Polished ballet technique. We love comp queens who can work it in a pair of pointe shoes.
Womp: Wearing only one shoe---on your turning foot. (Don’t tell us you’re one-sided!)
We were blown away by this year’s rhythm geniuses. Not only was your footwork on point—you also mastered the art of a polished yet relaxed upper body.
(Clockwise from left: DGS Photos, Courtesy Adrenaline; Evolve Photography, Courtesy NYCDA; Evolve Photography, Courtesy West Coast Dance Explosion; Courtesy Break the Floor Productions)
We loved the throwback to 1920s men’s fashion—slim-cut suits, bow ties, vests and fedoras looked suave on the ladies as well as the gents.
(Clockwise from left: John Pinette/Performance Photography, Courtesy American Dance Awards; Dancesnaps (DRC Video Productions), Courtesy Dance Olympus/DanceAmerica; (2) Platoon, Courtesy The Pulse On Tour)
Werk: Leotards with daring mesh cutouts---a tasteful update on the standard bra top and booty shorts.
Womp: Crotch Shots---If you’re going to wear a high-cut leotard with no tights, be careful where you tilt.
The Center-Split Hold
This move—where you hold a center split inches off the floor—is the perfect blend of flexibility and strength. Plus, it’s an innovative solution to that age-old conundrum: How do I get off the floor creatively?
(From top: Evolve Photography, Courtesy NYCDA; Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe; Evolve Photography, Courtesy NYCDA)
Variations on a Theme
Sure, identical costumes help keep things clean and consistent, but there’s something even more appealing about group costumes that aren’t totally uniform.
(Clockwise from left: John Pinette/Performance Photography, Courtesy American Dance Awards; DGS Photos, Courtesy Adrenaline; Evolve Photography, Courtesy NYCDA; (2) Platoon, Courtesy The Pulse On Tour; Propix, Courtesy Hollywood Vibe; Platoon, Courtesy The Pulse On Tour; Courtesy Break the Floor Productions)
Werk: Unique prop concepts that actually enhance the piece. (Snaps for no arbitrary props!)
Womp: Props that take more than 30 seconds to set up. Your dads are adorable, but the judges don’t want to watch them assemble giant props---they want to see you dance.
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
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!