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It's no secret that ballet in pop culture has sparked its fair share of controversy. Which is why this video from Refinery29, featuring ABT's Isabella Boylston, is not only a super-fun watch, but a breath of fresh air.

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Dancer to Dancer
Erin Carpenter as a Knicks City Dancer (David Saffran, courtesy Erin Carpenter)

The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.

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Dancer to Dancer

This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. First up: Isabella Torres from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts in Baltimore, MD, who competed at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals for the first time this year. (All photos courtesy Shannon Torres.)

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Dancer to Dancer

The Big Apple is dancer heaven, with more to do and see than anyone could possibly exhaust. Want to make the most of your visit? Take the personality quiz below to get an itinerary tailor-made for your dancer needs.

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Headed to The Big Apple? The endless number of studios, shops, shows and restaurants can seem overwhelming. Let Dance Spirit and a few NYC dance insiders be your guides.

Clockwise from top left: Alex Lopez/NYC & Company, Clayton Cotterell/NYC & Company, Alex Lopez/NYC & Company, Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company, Marley White/NYC & Company, Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company

 

(Photo by Peter Hurley, courtesy Paloma Garcia-Lee)

Paloma Garcia-Lee: Broadway dancer Garcia-Lee has performed in Phantom of the Opera and Nice Work If You Can Get It. She says: “Follow your workouts with sweaty Yin yoga classes at Modo Yoga NYC. Some of the instructors are also dancers, so you might end up taking with someone you’ll see onstage.”

 

 

 

(Photo by Paul B Goode, courtesy Kaitlyn Gilliland)

Kaitlyn Gilliland: A former New York City Ballet corps member, Gilliland dances with Ballet Next. Her food picks: “Kefi is a great Greek restaurant on the Upper West Side, and Good Enough to Eat is a brunch favorite.”

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy Paul Taylor Dance Company)

Laura Halzack: Halzack is a member of Paul Taylor DanceCompany. Her cure for a sweet tooth: “You have to go to Doughnut Plant near the Taylor Studios at least once. I could eat one of their doughnuts every day—they have unique flavors.”

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo by Mathieu Young/FOX, courtesy Alex Wong)

Alex Wong: A “So You Think You Can Dance” All-Star, Wong is a former Newsies dancer. His training tip: “Broadway Dance Center has an ever-changing list of guest teachers. It’s a great way to take class from working choreographers who aren’t always in town.

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a ballet dancer? Start your uptown adventure here.

You wake up in the morning craving…

…something hearty. Head to one of NYC’s top bagel joints, ABSOLUTE BAGELS (Broadway, btwn W 107th and W 108th Sts)…something light and nutritious. Grab a cold-pressed juice and a yogurt parfait from JUICE PRESS (W 82nd St, btwn Columbus Ave and Central Park West).

(Logo courtesy Steps on Broadway)

You’re ready for your first class of the day. You head…

…right to the barre. “Take advanced ballet with Wilhelm Burmann or Nancy Bielski at STEPS ON BROADWAY,” Gilliland says (W 74th St and Broadway)…to Pilates first. Take a mat class at UPTOWN PILATES (W 72nd St, btwn Amsterdam and Columbus Aves). Now I’m ready for ballet...Take Kathryn Sullivan’s class at STEPS ON BROADWAY. She stresses proper placement and quick footwork.

 

How’s the weather today?

The sun is shining. Catch some rays in RIVERSIDE PARK on Manhattan’s West Side (Along Riverside Dr, from W 72nd to W 158th Sts). It’s raining. Head to PINKY’S SALON, Gilliland’s favorite spot for a manicure (Columbus Ave, btwn W 74th and W 75th Sts). Hot! But it’s perfect in the shade. Walk to CENTRAL PARK. Stroll through John Lennon’s memorial, Strawberry Fields, for a break from NYC’s hustle and bustle (Near W 72nd St and Central Park West).

Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo by Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company)

Is that your stomach grumbling?

Let’s stay in the neighborhood. “ ’WICHCRAFT, across from the David H. Koch Theater, serves indulgent sandwiches and tasty cookies,” Gilliland says (W 62nd St and Broadway). I want to explore the East Side. Grab a falafel from a street vendor and have lunch on the stairs of THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART—then head inside to see some of the exhibits (5th Ave and E 82nd St).

 

When it comes to afternoon adventures, you prefer to…

…stay outdoors. Walk to the BOAT BASIN CAFE and enjoy a lemonade while looking

out over the Hudson River (W 79th St, in Riverside Park)…find the nearest museum. Visit the Hayden Planetarium at the AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (Central Park West and W 79th St)…get sweaty! Sign up for a “Figure 4 Barre” conditioning class at PURE YOGA, where many of the instructors are former dancers (E 86th St, btwn 2nd and 3rd Aves).

Let’s stop for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Indulge my sweet tooth! Stop by TREAT HOUSE and grab some gourmet crispy treats (Amsterdam Ave, btwn W 81st and W 82nd Sts). I’m thirsty. Sip an iced tea at CAFE LALO (W 83rd St, btwn Broadway and Amsterdam Aves).

Ready for an early dinner before a show?

I want lots of options. Head to ZABAR’S CAFE for some tasty deli specialties (Broadway and W 81st St). I’m on a tight budget. Grab a $1 hot dog (or two!) at GRAY’S PAPAYA (Broadway and W 72 St).

On clear summer nights, enjoy a free LINCOLN CENTER OUT OF DOORS show with music and dance from around the globe (Columbus Ave at W 63rd St).

 

Do you dream of Broadway? Start your midtown tour here.

What’s your preferred morning meal?

I’m a full-breakfast kind of girl. Try a savory breakfast pie from PIE FACE (Broadway and W 53rd St). Something small and to-go. Order a croissant from GREGORYS COFFEE—one of Garcia-Lee’s favorite spots for a morning fix (W 44th St and 6th Ave).

Whether I’ll be tapping, strutting or popping…

…I need a soothing warm-up. Wake up your senses in a Gyrotonic session at CIRCULAR POWER INC (7th Ave, btwn W 54th and W 55th Sts)…my day starts with an intense workout. Sweat, tone and feel the burn in a dance-inspired PHYSIQUE 57 class (W 57th St, btwn 5th and 6th Aves)…nothing gets me centered like a ballet class. Take Deborah Wingert’s class at MANHATTAN MOVEMENT & ARTS CENTER. “I always take ballet at MMAC,” Wong says. “The studios are beautiful” (W 60th St, btwn Amsterdam and 11th Aves).

Now I’m warm!

(Logo courtesy Broadway Dance Center)

I want to really let go. Learn a detailed contemporary jazz combo in Slam’s mid-morning class at BROADWAY DANCE CENTER (W 45th St, btwn 8th and 9th Aves). I want a technical challenge. Take Sue Samuels’ Broadway jazz class at BROADWAY DANCE CENTER.

 

 

 

Famished?

Yes! Let’s get lunch. “GREEN SYMPHONY is my favorite quick stop,” says Garcia-Lee. Try a veggie wrap or a kale salad (W 43rd St, btwn 7th and 8th Aves). I could go for a small snack. Head to the signature NYC grocery store DEAN & DELUCA (W 56th St, btwn 6th and 7th Aves).

Time for some sightseeing. 

Let’s stay outside. Tour the CENTRAL PARK ZOO and visit the two super-cute snow leopard cubs (E 64th St and 5th Ave). Let’s go to a museum. Soak in the bizarre and the beautiful at THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (W 53rd St, btwn 5th and 6th Aves).

What’s on your afternoon agenda? 

I can’t leave NYC without doing a little window shopping. Stroll down 5TH AVE for the best displays in town (5th Ave, btwn E 59th and E 42nd Sts). I’m ready for some fun cardio. While THE AILEY SCHOOL is known as a mecca for modern dance, its ZUMBA FITNESS classes are some of the most popular in NYC (W 55th St and 9th Ave). I want to get cheap Broadway tickets. Head to the TKTS BOOTH in Times Square. Garcia-Lee’s advice: “Get in line early!” (Broadway and 47th St).

I’m starving! Before a night on the town, I want…

…a trendy dinner. “Get the Adobe Salad from EATERY,” says Garcia-Lee. “It’s my favorite salad in Hell’s Kitchen” (W 53rd and 9th Ave)…a classic pastrami sandwich. Go to CARNEGIE DELI for sandwiches big enough to split with a friend (W 55th St and 7th Ave).

New York City Center (photo by Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects)

Head to THE GREAT WHITE WAY. Check out our “Broadway Show Guide” to see what’s playing. See what musicals may be Broadway-bound at “Encores! Off-Center” at NEW YORK CITY CENTER (W 55th St, btwn 6th and 7th Aves).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a downtown diva? Modern or contemporary dancers, start here.

I always start the day with…

…fruits and veggies. Try a PB Açai Bowl and a green juice from JUICE GENERATION (Prince and Crosby Sts, in the Equinox Gym)…a protein-filled punch. Head to DAVID’S BAGELS for one of the city’s best egg-and-cheese sandwiches (1st Ave, btwn E 15th and E 16th Sts).

Let’s get moving!

A modern class starts my day on a positive note. Take class from Paul Taylor Dance Company members at THE TAYLOR SCHOOL (Grand St, btwn Jackson and Lewis Sts). I’m craving a full-body workout. Hop into a conditioning session with Rachel Piskin at CHAISEFITNESS (E 23rd St, btwn Madison and Park Aves). I want to sweat before dance class. Try a spin class at SOULCYCLE (SoHo location: Crosby St, btwn Spring and Broome Sts).

(Logo courtesy Gibney Dance)

Now I’m ready for class. 

I want to explore a postmodern style. See who’s leading a contemporary workshop at the new downtown GIBNEY DANCE CENTER (Broadway and Chambers St).

 

(Photo courtesy Peridance Capezio Center)

I want something classic. Get a lesson in Limón Technique at THE PERIDANCE CAPEZIO CENTER (E 13th St, btwn 3rd and 4th Aves).

Time for lunch!

Let’s get a burger. Head to SHAKE SHACK—and try a custard, too. “My favorite is the Urban Lumber-Shack,” says Wong. “It’s vanilla custard with Belgian waffles, bananas, bacon and peanut brittle” (Madison Square Park, E 23rd St and Madison Ave). I love PB & Js. Try a crazy concoction from PEANUT BUTTER & CO., like The Heat Is On Sandwich: spicy peanut butter with grilled chicken and pineapple jam (Sullivan St, btwn Bleecker and W 3rd Sts).

Let’s get lunch outside.

I want to head downtown. Take the subway to the newly renovated SOUTH STREET SEAPORT (Pier 17, at Fulton and Front Sts). I want something fresh. Taste locally sourced produce and baked goods as you stroll through the UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET (E 14th St and Broadway). OK, but let’s go for a ride first. Pedal a CitiBike across the BROOKLYN BRIDGE and get a pizza from GRIMALDI’S (Front

and Old Fulton Sts).

Next, I’d like to...

…take a moment to reflect. Visit the new WORLD TRADE CENTER and The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (Albany and Greenwich Sts)… see the sights. You can take the free ferry to Staten Island and enjoy incredible views of THE STATUE OF LIBERTY (Hop the 1 train to South Ferry station).

For an afternoon break, I want to…

Washington Square Park (photo by LittleNY/Thinkstock)

…hang out with friends. Listen to street musicians in WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK (5th Ave, btwn W 4th St and Waverly Pl)…get something sweet. Visit the home of the original cronut—a croissant and doughnut hybrid—DOMINIQUE ANSEL BAKERY (Spring St, btwn Sullivan and Thompson Sts).

Before a show, I want…

…something hearty. “THE MEATBALL SHOP is fun, and not crazy-expensive,” says Halzack. “I love the traditional Bolognese Ball” (Greenwich Ave, btwn W 11th and Perry Sts)…dessert for dinner! “CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR in the East Village has the best desserts in the world,” says Wong. “And the owners are big dance supporters” (E 10th St, btwn 1st and 2nd Aves).

See companies including Pilobolus and RIOULT Dance NY this summer at THE JOYCE THEATER (8th Ave, btwn W 18th and W 19th Sts). For the latest postmodern and contemporary work, head to DANSPACE PROJECT (E 10th St and 2nd Ave).

 

 

Dance News

Today's guest post comes from Francesca Harvey, a student who came to NYC recently with Live! Starring...You!—a pop-culture media organization that trains teen reporters to cover people in the spotlight—for National Entrepreneurship Week.

Tony Dovolani and brothers Maksim and Val Chmerkovskiy have been famous in the ballroom world for a long time. It’s only in recent years that the trio—and several other ballroom champions—have become Hollywood celebrities.

That's what appearing on "Dancing with the Stars" will do for you.

For Tony, Maks and Val, their "DWTS" fame has also drawn attention to their business. With three other business partners, they own four Dance With Me studios: one in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and others in Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Now, they want to expand the studio across the country.

After all, there seems to be a need.

“One of the things we run into as we travel across the country is everybody is asking us for lessons,” Tony told me during a recent interview at the SoHo studio.

Francesca with Tony, Maks and Val. Not a bad place to be! (Photo by Tim O'Shei)

The guys have developed a teaching system that blends their individual approaches and styles. They instruct their own teachers in that system so all their students are learning the same way.

“Now, all of our teachers believe in the same system,” Tony said. “They’re taught by us. If you walk into our studio, you’re getting a combination of Tony, Maks and Val.”

Our interview also included a dance lesson with Val! We thought it was pretty cool that we got to dance with him one week before he was paired with "Shake It Up" star Zendaya Coleman for the next season of "DWTS." (Tony is paired with Wynonna Judd, while Maks isn't participating in the next season.)

Learning how to groove with Val! (Photo by Tim O'Shei)

If you want to find out how we fared, click here to read our story and watch the video on the Live! Starring … You! site.

But ask Tony, and he’ll tell you they can turn anyone into a dancer!

“We’ve developed a system where there's not one person we can’t teach,” he said. “If you can walk, we can teach you how to dance.”

Francesca Harvey is the student editor of LiveStarringYou.com and a junior at Mount St. Mary Academy in Buffalo, NY.

Dancer to Dancer
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Sean Aaron Carman and Michael Jackson Jr. (courtesy NYC Dance Project)

Every NYC Dance Project image feels like a glimpse into something greater: a dance that's happening behind a curtain, in a private moment. Take, for example, one of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal dancer Céline Cassone's photos, a commanding shot of her on pointe in passé, her fiery red hair flung upward over her face. Or, the image of Misty Copeland that perfectly portrays both her incredible strength and her ineffable grace. NYC Dance Project's photographers have taken powerful photos of dozens of famous subjects. But what inspires their iconic images? And how do you capture such stunning shots?

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Robyn Williams (Dirty Sugar Photography, courtesy Williams)

Ah, New York—the center of all things dance, and the place young professionals flock to in hopes of starting a career. Want to join in on the Empire State of Mind, but not sure how? We asked three rookie dancers, who all moved to the city recently, for their advice about everything from finding an apartment to getting around town. See how they've learned to navigate life in the Big Apple, so you can make your own transition as seamless as possible.

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