Question: When does Sophia Lucia have time to sleep? Everyone's favorite comp-star-turned-bunhead seems to be diving headfirst into a new project every week. We absolutely #bowdown to everything she does, and her latest project is no exception. Behold: "Unscathed," a new dance series on Sophia's YouTube channel.
In 2012, the internet exploded over a YouTube clip featuring then–10-year-old Sophia Lucia executing 54 turns in tap shoes. Dance fans fell hard for the record breaker, who quickly rose to comp-world stardom. Fast-forward to 2016, when Sophia gave her Instagram followers déjà vu with 10 perfectly executed pirouettes—in pointe shoes. The comp queen had transformed into a budding ballerina. Sophia isn't the first competition star to find her way to ballet, trading in a fast-paced life of commercial training and competing for days of quiet discipline at the barre. A growing group of talented comp kids are turning to ballet as their next big challenge.
Oh hey there, Hallmark Channel! The producer of all those sweet, homey movies best watched in your PJs with your mom has a super dance-y film on its holiday lineup this season: A Nutcracker Christmas. And the casting is—to use a very Hallmark-y pun—perfectly on pointe.
A Nutcracker Christmas tells the story of a talented professional dancer, Lilly, whose supportive sister dies just as Lilly is about to perform the role of Clara in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet. (Nit-picky fact-checking: In New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, she's known as Marie and danced by a child, but OK.) Lilly's boyfriend and dance partner, Mark, keeps her from performing in the show, which makes Lilly declare she'll never dance again. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Lilly's niece, Sadie, is about to dance Clara in a different company's Nutcracker—a company run by, of all people, Mark. And tons of drama ensues.
Yes, it's a whole lot of plot to wrap your head around. But the real story here is that Sadie is played by none other than the phenomenal Sophia Lucia, and the ever-dashing Sascha Radetsky is also involved in the project. (Radetsky's exact role is unclear from the press material, but he seems like a pretty natural fit for Mark, no?) The odds seem good that we'll get the gift of some very high-quality dancing. Merry Christmas to us!
Sophia Lucia showing off those banana feet (via @sophialucia5678)
You can catch A Nutcracker Christmas on December 10 at 8 pm. Get your slippers and hot cocoa ready.
We've all had that amazing pirouette dream.
You know the one I'm talking about: The one where you go into a turn, realize you're perfectly, absolutely, unshakably on-balance, and just. keep. spotting.
5 turns. 6 turns. 7. 8. 9. TEN.
But there are a select few superhumans who live that dream every day. And Sophia Lucia is one of them.
Yes, we already knew she could pull out dozens of turns in tap shoes. These days, however, her pirouettes on pointe are just as insanely impressive.
Instagram don't lie:
Want this to be your reality? Click here for turning tips from Sophia and other experts in the field.
(Fun fact: In the clip above, Sophia is rehearsing one of the "Odalisque" variations from Le Corsaire. There's gorgeous video out there of another dream pirouetter, American Ballet Theatre's Gillian Murphy, doing the same solo as a baby ballerina. If you want to sustain your turning high, you should watch it immediately—main pirouette sequence starts 24 seconds in:)
Hi! How are you? Busy, I bet! Har har. (Ho ho?)
Look, I know I'm late—it's Christmas Eve, and I'm sure you're dealing with all kinds of #reindeerprobz—but I thought I'd reach out to you anyway. Because I'm not just some girl who'll be happy with a Kylie Lip Kit and Adele tour tickets. (Actually, if you can get me either of those things, you are an actual MAGICIAN and I will worship you forever. But I digress.)
No, Santa: I'm a dancer. And that means I have special gift needs. Needs that I want to make sure don't go undocumented.
And so here, in no particular order, are the things I really, actually, genuinely want for Christmas. Take notes.
2) Gisele Bethea's feet. Gimme.
3) The Fraternal Twins' swagger in general, and facial expressions in particular.
4) Yanis Marshall's everything. Just...everything.
5) Speaking of everything: all the things from Maria Kochetkova's t-shirt line.
6) Tickets to Hamilton sometime before next summer. Again, you'll need to work some magic here, but I believe, Santa. I BELIEVE.
7) My very own pointe shoe Christmas tree. (And, on a related note, several air fresheners.)
WANT. (screenshot via YouTube)
9) For the following people to make cameos in Center Stage: Dance Camp:
- Zoe Saldana
- Ilya Kulik
- Susan May Pratt
- Julie Kent
- The girl who said "Did you see how on I was?"
- That old salsa club lady
- Warren Carlyle—specifically, Warren Carlyle doing this
- Channing Tatum (a little series crossover never hurt nobody)
- AMANDA SCHULL, OBVIOUSLY. WHERE IS AMANDA SCHULL???
10) To live inside the Bieber "Sorry" video. Forever.
Got it? K thanks Santa! Safe sleighing! Tell Dancer and Prancer I say hi!
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.
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.
Imagine posting on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and getting thousands of “likes” and dozens of comments—in minutes. For Sophia Lucia, Hayden Hopkins, Mia Diaz and Ashi Ross, that’s what using social media is like every day. These four dancers have become internet sensations, thanks to their exceptional technique, winning personalities and eagerness to interact with their fans online. But is being “internet famous” really all it’s cracked up to be? Dance Spirit spoke to Sophia, Hayden, Mia and Ashi to get the scoop.
Mia (David Hofmann)
The biggest benefit to online fame is definitely visibility. Having a devoted fan base and lots of easily accessible photos and videos online can lead to an array of opportunities, including professional jobs.
“People can Google my name and learn all about me,” says 12-year-old Mia, a Miami native who trains at Stars Dance Studio. At press time, Mia had more than 312,200 followers on Instagram, 29,900 followers on Twitter and 6,400 Facebook fans. “I’ve gotten job opportunities when people found me online and emailed to see if I was available—film and TV auditions, assisting jobs with choreographers, appearances at charity events.”
Similarly, 11-year-old Sophia got the opportunity to perform on “So You Think You Can Dance Ukraine” after being spotted on YouTube. An alum of “Dance Moms” who trains primarily at San Diego Dance Centre, Sophia also uses her social media following—more than 433,800 Instagram followers, 54,800 Twitter followers and 58,900 Facebook fans—as a platform to promote her touring appearances and her California Kisses clothing line.
Ashi (Primal Studios)
For 14-year-old Ashi, an Australian who has appeared in professional productions of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, on the TV show “Dance Academy” and as a backup dancer on “Australia’s Got Talent,” social media fame has led to photo shoot opportunities, a Details Dancewear Australia sponsorship and an offer to attend International Ballet of Houston on scholarship next summer. Ashi currently has more than 148,600 followers on Instagram, 2,300 followers on Twitter and 6,100 Facebook fans.
Social media is also a great place to network with fellow dancers. Sixteen-year-old Hayden learned the power of her network firsthand when she won Dance Spirit’s annual Cover Model Search in 2013 after using social media to get the word out about the competition. But beyond her CMS win and the other perks from her online fame—including dancewear sponsorships and teaching and travel opportunities—Hayden genuinely enjoys using social media as a social outlet. “I love that social media has allowed me to meet so many other dancers,” says Hayden, who has more than 99,600 Instagram followers, 8,600 Twitter followers and 11,900 Facebook fans. “People will come up to me at conventions and introduce themselves, which is really cool.”
If the upside to putting yourself out there online is increased visibility, the downside is…increased visibility. Sharing pictures, videos and thoughts with thousands of people inevitably leads to a few negative responses. “People can be cruel,” Hayden acknowledges. “They’ll write things they’d never say to my face—comments about my body, about my costumes and about me.” How does she deal? “I try not to let it mean anything. Those people don’t actually know me.”
Sophia and Maddie Ziegler of "Dance Moms"
“Kids can hide behind a computer screen and bully others, and it makes me sad,” Sophia says. “When people do that on my photos, it hurts, and it makes my family hurt, too. I tell myself, Haters are gonna hate, and you have to deal with it—but I also want to prevent more bullying from happening.” To do her part, Sophia has started using her social media accounts to speak out against cyber-bullying.
“When you’re in the public eye, you have to have a thick skin,” Mia says. “If there are rude comments on my pages, I delete them. I’d rather focus on the positive than on the negative.” Ashi agrees: “Sometimes people are mean and critical, but if I see a bad comment, I just delete it. If someone continuously writes rude things, I block him or her. What keeps me inspired and motivated is that I have so many followers who are supportive.”
Mia and her mom
The Bottom Line
It may be fun to be an internet celebrity, but it also takes work. Hayden, Sophia, Ashi and Mia all share new photos, videos and written posts at least once a day, every day. They do their social media postings themselves, or with a little help from their moms—especially Sophia and Mia, who, because they’re under 13, are required by the social networks to have parent-supervised accounts.
They have to consider what fans want to see and be thoughtful about how much of their private lives they share. “Some pictures don’t make the cut to go online,” Mia says. “You have to be careful about what you post because you don’t know who’s out there looking at it.” Sophia is vigilant about not sharing pictures with bad technique—“If my foot isn’t pointed, someone will comment on it,” she says—while Hayden tries not to post pictures where she looks too thin, also to avoid negative feedback.
Sophia and her duo partner, Gino
What gets the most “likes”? Dance pictures and videos are at the top of the list, but fans also want to see life outside the studio. “I share a lot of things going on in my life,” Sophia says. “Pictures of my family, my dogs, me hanging out with my friends—I’m a normal girl, and people like to see that.”
Interacting with fans is a big part of the job. Mia, Sophia, Hayden and Ashi take the time to reply to comments and share fan-made videos and images with the rest of their followers. They run contests, too. “I’ve done contests on Instagram to give away California Kisses outfits and autographed pictures,” Sophia says. “For my birthday, we asked fans to make an edit of me, and I picked my favorite to win a prize.” And, of course, there are the face-to-face interactions, from meeting followers casually at dance conventions (or while out shopping, which has happened to Ashi) to running workshops, appearing at events and video-chatting with fans.
Ashi and her dad
In the end, Sophia, Hayden, Mia and Ashi aren’t on social media to be famous—they’re on it because they enjoy it. “I love seeing other dancers’ pictures and sharing my own,” Hayden says.
Sophia agrees: “It’s fun to interact with my fans and my friends online, and it’s great to have a way both to give back—like trying to stop cyber-bullying—and to inspire other dancers to go for what they want in life,” she says. Mia also sees social media as a way to reach out: “I want to be known as a positive role model,” she says.
“I never thought I’d get as many followers as I have now,” Ashi says. “I’m really grateful for everyone who follows me.”
FROM SELFIE TO SUPERSTAR
No one starts out with 100,000 social media followers—and very few people make it that far. So how did these four dancers become online sensations? While dedicated posting and quality content are important, it also takes a little luck to stand out from the crowd.
“I started my Instagram when I was 14,” Hayden says. “At the time, I already had dance videos on YouTube and had maxed out my friends on Facebook, so Instagram was another way for people to follow me.” She did a lot of in-person networking at conventions that year, meeting as many other dancers as she could. “I won a couple Nationals and started putting dance pictures online. I gained followers pretty quickly!”
Ashi’s turning point came when she reached 10,000 followers. That was when Instagram started featuring her on its “Popular” page, putting her in front of even more avid dance fans. Her numbers went through the roof, bringing her to almost 140,000 followers for her year-old account.
TV helped launch Sophia into the internet stratosphere. “I was so happy to hit 10,000 followers in October 2012,” she says. “Then I did ‘Dance Moms,’ and my numbers just blew up.” More media appearances—including a performance on “Dancing with the Stars” in May 2013 following her Guinness World Record–breaking 55 pirouettes in March 2013—helped her online popularity continue to grow.
When Mia launched her Instagram account, she was already very popular on YouTube. After she won first overall Junior lyrical solo at Hall of Fame’s Boca Raton regionals in 2011, the competition posted a video of her winning routine, “Ave Maria,” on its site. The same video was shared on YouTube, where it became wildly successful and led to more videos and more fans. Joining Instagram was a natural next step, and it only took Mia a year to get to 100,000 followers.
Build your own online community by posting with some of social media’s most popular “theme day” hashtags:
Share songs you love with your followers.
Post a photo of yourself rocking your best side tilt! (Just be sure to wear a tasteful outfit with this wide-legged pose.)
Ballerinas unite to share gorgeous tutu pictures on this theme day—so add yours.
#WayBackWednesday, #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday
For these days, pull out pictures from an old recital or the first time you wore pointe shoes.
For bookworms, here’s when you can tell your friends and fans about the best dance book (or Dance Spirit article!) you read recently.
...gooey cinnamon buns for breakfast, a giant mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top and a roaring fire in the fireplace.
OK, and a few other things. We'll get to those in a sec.
First: Merry Christmas, everyone, from all of the Dance Spirit editors!
It's arguably the most festive day of the year, and if you're a Christmas celebrator, we hope you're in the midst of a very merry day. (Pajamas mandatory all day long. Deal? Deal.)
But you don't have to celebrate Christmas in order to make a lengthy wish list, right? Here's what the Dance Spirit editors are dying for this year...
Sophia's shoes are from Steve Madden. Get 'em while you still can! (Photo by Erin Baiano)
"Sparkly wedge high-tops, like the ones Sophia Lucia is wearing on our January cover. As a fellow shorty, I understand her need for a little extra height—even when it's a sneaker day." —Rachel Zar, managing editor
"I want another live musical on TV! How about Singin' in the Rain? Ryan Steele in the Gene Kelly role? Cloud Campos in Donald O'Connor's part? Somebody get Rob Ashford on this, stat!" —Margaret Fuhrer, associate editor
"I want to go to a taping of 'So You Think You Can Dance' during Season 11 so I can scream 'judges' in a Cat Deeley-esque British accent. That, and a pair of harem pants so I can feel like less of a bunhead in hip-hop class." —Maggie McNamara, assistant editor
"In a perfect world, stores would play Nutcracker music all year long—and the rest of the world would love it as much as I would." —Meggie Hermanson, fashion editor
Simi! Let's be twinsies. (Photo by Erin Baiano)
As always, I've got quite the list of my own going: I want Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring something—anything—to Broadway ASAP. I want to go shopping with Simrin Player. I want to put an end to "Dance Moms" and in its place create a TV show about all the great things that happen in the competitive dance world. I want Juliet Doherty to take home the top prize at the Prix de Lausanne. I want Nick Lazzarini to be the next President of the United States. I want newlyweds tWitch and Allison Holker to have, like, millions of little dancer babies. And I want to grow just one more inch so I can be tall enough to audition for the Radio City Rockettes.
Get busy, Santa—you've got some serious work to do for us this year.