Dancer to Dancer
Al Blackstone teaching class at JUMP (courtesy Break the Floor Productions)

Convention classes are inevitably packed. To have the best possible experience while surrounded by hundreds of fellow convention-goers, put some thought into where you choose to stand in the room.

Start with a goal: "What people seek from class absolutely informs where they stand," says Dana Wilson, hip-hop teacher for New York City Dance Alliance. Hoping to win a scholarship or award? Trying a new style? Want to meet new people? These factors impact where you'll have the best class, so figure out your intentions before you enter the room.

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Universal Event Photography, courtesy Star Dance Alliance

Stop us if we sound like a broken record (but don't, because you guys totally deserve it): 2017 was seriously the best year yet for Nationals. From minis to seniors, solos to production numbers, you comp kids proved once again that you've got all of the technique, presence, and fierceness. Until next summer—when you'll undoubtedly make our collective jaws drop yet again—here are the top 10 hottest trends we spotted at Nationals 2017.

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Dancer to Dancer
Léa Fleytoux in ABT Studio Company class (photo by Kyle Froman)

For an aspiring ballerina, there's no more exciting place to be than the ABT Studio Company, the pre-professional arm of American Ballet Theatre. The NYC-based troupe of 16- to 20-year-old dancers trains hard and performs harder, putting on multiple shows over the course of each season. We followed ensemble member Léa Fleytoux, a gifted 18-year-old from Paris, France, on a performance day to get an inside look at what it's like to live the Studio Company life.

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Dancer to Dancer

When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.

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Dancer to Dancer

New York City principal Lauren Lovette has become an icon thanks to her emotional maturity and exceptional musicality. The 26-year-old quickly rose through the ranks after joining the company as an apprentice in 2009, reaching principal status in 2015. A Thousand Oaks, CA, native, Lovette started studying ballet seriously at age 11, at the Cary Ballet Conservatory in Cary, NC. After attending two summer courses at the School of American Ballet, she enrolled as a full-time student in 2006. Last year, she made her choreographic debut with For Clara, her first piece for NYCB. Catch her latest work this month during the company's fall season. —Courtney Bowers

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Dancer to Dancer

Considering a dance degree to build on your competition experiences? DS caught up with comp-circuit stars who chose higher ed to learn the advantages of transitioning from comp kid to college kid.

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Dancer to Dancer

Contemporary Dancer Melanie Moore has come a long way since being named America's Favorite Dancer on Season 8 of "So You Think You Can Dance," where she became known for her captivating presence and elegant, fluid moves. In recent years, the 25-year-old has been blowing up Broadway: She originated the role of Peter Pan in Finding Neverland and starred in the most recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof as Chava. Moore started dancing at age 3 at Centre Stage School of Dance in her hometown of Marietta, GA, and later switched to Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, where she fell in love with contemporary dance. She attended Fordham University for a year before leaving to compete on "SYTYCD" in 2011. These days, you can catch her in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! —Courtney Bowers

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