(Photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Rachael McLaren moves with a ballet dancer’s refined footwork, a musical theater vet’s theatricality and a modern dancer’s unmistakable groundedness. After training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, McLaren performed in the Toronto cast of Mamma Mia! for two years before landing a spot in Ailey II in 2006. Two years later, she joined the main company, where she continues to perform featured roles in a wide variety of work by choreographers such as Wayne McGregor, Bill T. Jones and Jirˇí Kylián. This December, McLaren will make her New York debut as the lead in Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature during AAADT’s winter season in NYC. —Jenny Dalzell

 

Dearest Rachael,

Right now, you’re finding every opportunity you can to dance. It’s not just a hobby for you—you’re completely in love with it, and dance makes you feel like your strongest, most radiant self. Know that in sharing your passion, you’ll inspire enthusiasm and joy in others. This is what you were born to do. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Confidence is what you’ll need for your journey—and what a journey it will be!

Your adventures will lead you to work with many talented dancers, choreographers and artists, and you’ll get the chance to travel the world doing what you love. Be a sponge and learn from the inspiring people you meet. Don’t be afraid to be curious. There’ll be times when you’re thrown out of your comfort zone, but don’t shrink. Relish the challenge. Keep your heart open and your mind focused; you’ll be forever grateful for the gift of learning something new every day. Keeping a journal will help spark creativity, and it’ll help you get

to know yourself. In time, journaling will become beneficial for your sense of well-being.

(Photo courtesy Rachael McLaren)

Your body is your chosen instrument; treat it with love and tenderness. Go ahead and throw perfectionism and comparison out the window—they only lead to self-doubt and endless frustration. As you work hard to fine-tune your technique, be patient and work with your body. Always remember that your spirit is unique and your story is your own. You’ll find a beautiful sense of freedom in your artistry when you embrace your most authentic self.

I’m so proud of you for knowing your worth and trusting your gut! Don’t ever stop.

All my love,

Rachael

In honor of Dance Spirit’s 15th birthday, we decided to check in with a few of our favorite past cover stars. They wrote to us about how being on the cover changed their careers. Memories!

Brian Friedman,

October 2003

“When I was asked to be on the cover, I was thrilled. I felt like I’d finally made it. Looking back, it was only the beginning of my choreography career, and so much has happened since. My work has evolved in a beautiful way, and that cover so many years ago gave me the confidence to chase my destiny. Thank you, Dance Spirit, for believing in me and my dreams!”

 

April Giangeruso,

October 2006 and March 2011

“Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would be on the cover of a magazine. When I learned I had won the first Cover Model Search contest—and that so many people had supported me—I got a huge confidence boost. Six years later, I feel blessed to be dancing for my dream company, American Ballet Theatre, where I’m surrounded by inspiration.”

 

Tiler Peck,

March 2005

Dance Spirit was the first cover I’d ever been on, so it opened many doors for me. It made me a recognizable face and name, and gave me the confidence to continue reaching for my dance goals. It humbles me to think I share the cover of this special magazine with so many other inspirational and talented artists.”

Jason Samuels Smith,

May/June 2004

“It was extremely humbling and gratifying appearing on the cover—it was my first appearance in any major publication. I felt as if not only I, but tap dance as a genre, had won a victory in the fight for visibility and acknowledgement.”

 

Misha Gabriel,

May/June 2007

“I grew up reading Dance Spirit, so it was an honor to be recognized by my community and by such a strong voice in the dance world. Thanks, DS!”

Jeanine Mason,

November 2009

“I remember first appearing in DS in a tiny photo from Nationals—it was the most exciting moment of my life! Then, seeing my “So You Think You Can Dance” cover was the realization of my dream to be a role model and to inspire others as I have been inspired. Being a part of DS has been one of the greatest honors of my life. The magazine will always be an integral part of my journey.”

 

Sascha Radetsky,

December 2004

“I’m grateful to have appeared on the cover of Dance Spirit. The magazine is relevant, influential and, most of all, a lot of fun. Congratulations to the DS staff on reaching this milestone!”

Meredith Miles,

July/August 2010

“Being on the cover gave me exposure to a large group of people I might not have reached otherwise. The media attention I received helped document an exciting time in my career.”

 

 

Keenan Kampa,

March 2012

“Being on the cover was such an honor. It afforded me the opportunity to reach a huge dance readership beyond the ballet world. The amount of support and encouragement I’ve received has been overwhelming. I’m leaving for Russia with a support system I never imagined.”

Haylee Roderick,

April 2011

“Being able to reach out to younger dancers, to inspire or guide them, is very rewarding. DS does an incredible job staying current with what’s going on in the dance world—and it has the sweetest staff there is. [Editor’s note: We’re blushing!] Being a cover girl is an honor I will always remember and be proud of.”

 

Savannah Wise,

July/August 2011

“My dancer friends from when I was young couldn’t believe it. ‘You’re on the cover of what?!’ was a pretty common response. When you’re a performer, your work is primarily onstage. Since most of my family lives far away, it’s really cool when I get to share what I’m doing with them from miles away. That cover is framed in my living room.”

Rasta Thomas,

June 2000 and September 2007

Dance Spirit reaches a younger generation of dancers as well as seasoned professionals, so being on the cover twice was exciting because that’s what my show, Rock the Ballet, is all about. My wife, Adrienne [Canterna] (a DS cover girl in November 1998), and the Bad Boys of Dance are dedicated to sharing our love for dance around the world, and that’s exactly what DS does. Keep doing what you’re doing, DS—you’re the best!”

 

Rachael McLaren,

February 2008

“I was over the moon when I learned I’d been selected for the cover! It gave me the boost I needed to believe in myself. It also helped me realize how much support I had from family, teachers and friends who were proud of my achievements.”

Andrea Parson,

February 2011

“My experience on the cover taught me that you don’t have to be a perfect dancer to be on the cover of a magazine. You just have to be honest and happy with who you are and how you move.”

 

 

Dave Scott,

February 2004

“My cover came at a high point of my career. I was working in TV and film, and DS helped my fans get to know me. It boosted the popularity of my classes by putting a face to my accomplishments, and it showed that I can goof off like the best of ’em!”

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