“When I came here, I was like, ‘Have I ever danced before?’ There was so much to learn, I felt like I didn’t know anything.” —Zoey Anderson, junior, Marymount Manhattan College (Photo by Erin Baiano)

My first Friday night at New York University, two second-year dance majors had some of us freshmen follow them through SoHo to a tiny triangular street corner. There was nothing there but a one-story building that looked ready for a demolition crew. I didn’t know where we were or why. Then Savion Glover climbed onto the roof. He began tapping like a crazy man angry at his shoes—and my new classmates and I completely geeked out. Savion was jamming on a rooftop! For free! Just blocks from our school! Living in NYC was going to be awesome.

Some of the best college dance departments are located smack in the middle of the Big Apple, and for good reason. “If you want to immerse yourself in the center of the field, where the newest ideas about dance are being formed, where the best artists are practicing, where you can see a different show every night, NYC is the place to be,” says James Martin, an associate arts professor in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts dance department. But going to college for dance in NYC is kind of like the Disneyland version of being a professional dancer in the big city: It’s a larger-than-life experience and a much less risky option than arriving on 42nd Street with nothing but your resumé and dance shoes.

Not Your Normal Campus 

The first clues that NYC dance departments are unusual are the faces around the studio. These schools pluck the best of the best right out of the Big Apple dance scene: Allegra Kent teaches at Columbia University’s Barnard College; Joe Lanteri is on faculty at The Juilliard School; and the dancers in the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program take class from a whole host of A-list instructors at The Ailey School. (Some students even have Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company members as their mentors, which means you might find Alicia Graf Mack hanging around the dorms!)

Yes, colleges everywhere bring in high-profile adjuncts and guest artists. But NYC schools can do it more often because those people live just a few subway stops away. “Last year, Larry Keigwin, Chase Brock, Pascal Rioult and Pam Tanowitz set work on us,” says Marymount Manhattan College junior Zoey Anderson. “These are big-time choreographers you want to know. We get to learn their movement and make a real connection with them.” Some schools, including NYU, invite entire NYC-based companies for weeklong teaching residencies. Students meet not just the director but also the dancers, and start to build a network of industry professionals. “Seeing what these companies go through on a daily basis better prepares students for professional life,” says Martin. “They know what’s going to be expected of them.”

And NYC’s resources don’t end there. Choreography and dance-writing courses might integrate local dance performances into the syllabus; dance-history classes can take students to museums or the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Through Juilliard’s Educational Outreach programs, junior Corey John Snide has honed his performing and teaching skills in public schools. “It’s not like I’m in a campus in the middle of nowhere,” he says. “Juilliard is my gateway to NYC.”

“I see as many performances as I can afford to. I’ve learned so much about what I like—and don’t like—and where I might want to dance in the future.” —Corey John Snide, junior, The Juilliard School (Photo by Erin Baiano)

Make Your Own Curriculum

In NYC, one of the best parts of going to school is leaving school. You can head to Broadway Dance Center to take the hip-hop classes your program doesn’t offer, or load up on ballet at Steps on Broadway. (Just try not to gawk when you end up next to Wendy Whelan at the barre.) “I’ve been able to keep up my ballroom dancing and to take classes with people like David Parsons so I can learn his style before it’s time to audition,” says Zoey. Some classes can even take the place of an audition: After taking choreographer Marinda Davis’ class at Peridance Capezio Center in 2011, Zoey performed with Davis in showcases around the city.

In addition to dancing, you can build your practical skill sets—and get an insider’s peek behind the scenes. NYC college students’ resumés might boast internships with The PULSE On Tour, American Ballet Theatre and Dance Spirit!

Intro to the Concrete Jungle

Moving to NYC can be overwhelming, even for people who love bright lights and bustling streets. But dancers who start off their big-city experiences in college have the support of a smaller community while they find their footing. “I’m so grateful to have a structured schedule set up for me, rather than just randomly picking up a class here and there,” says Zoey. A college dance department helps guide dancers so they know where to find rehearsal space, how to set up auditions and what resources are available.

Being a student also hooks you up with all-important student deals. “Our teachers always have extra free tickets to see Ailey,” says Ailey/Fordham sophomore Courtney Celeste Spears. “We also got to see Armitage Gone! Dance—and because it was through school, we met the choreographer, Karole Armitage.” College classes may force you to see shows you wouldn’t attend on your own—and possibly discover a company or new style you love.

The biggest perk for many dance majors is the chance to attend auditions while they’re still in school, rather than waiting until after graduation. Fordham students, for example, are allowed to use professional experiences as credit toward their degrees starting junior year. And Juilliard even helps dancers network so they can be invited to auditions. Corey made it to the final round for Newsies last year, but decided to focus on school instead.

The kinds of auditions students go for might change over the course of their four years. “Being here has opened my eyes to possibilities that I didn’t know about,” says Courtney. She’s not alone: The early exposure to NYC’s dance scene often leaves students with entirely different goals than the ones they arrived with as freshmen. “Growing up, it was always just, ‘I want to be famous,’ ” says Corey. “But I’ve realized I love teaching, and I want to use dance to help impoverished kids. College has given me options for how I can make a living and feel fulfilled artistically. I’m not just trying to kick my leg up to my face anymore.”

“I wanted to be in the middle of everything—see it all and be in it all—and surround myself with dancers who are just as driven as I am.” —Courtney Celeste Spears, sophomore, Ailey/Fordham BFA Program (Photo by Erin Baiano)

Is NYC Right for You? 

Despite the unique advantages of dancing in NYC, going to college there means sacrificing many of the typical cornerstones of campus life. If you’re looking for grassy quads, a big Greek culture or major sports teams to root for, NYC schools will be a disappointment.

And not every teenager is ready for the pressure or intense pace of day-to-day life in Manhattan. “Some students get overwhelmed and withdraw, and it’s something that wouldn’t have happened if they were in a different environment,” says NYU Tisch School of the Arts associate professor James Martin. “If you need more time to find your confidence—and many artists do—New York can be hard.”

It can also be distracting. Between the shopping, the nightlife and the entertainment, fun times are always just around the corner. Dancers have to resist the temptation to blow off classes or rehearsals for that party or film premiere.

For Courtney Celeste Spears, a sophomore in the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program who came from a small town outside Baltimore, the hardest part was not letting the amount of competition in NYC intimidate her. “It’s easy to look at it and think, ‘The odds are not in my favor,’ ” she says. Or you can take the approach that she’s learned over the past year: “I use the competitiveness to help drive me more than I ever knew was possible.”

The Stats

Ailey/Fordham BFA Program

Degree offered: BFA in dance

Number of applicants: 422 in 2013

Number accepted: 55 admitted and 29 enrolled in 2013

Focus: Core classes include ballet, Horton and Graham-based modern.

Location: Lincoln Center and Ailey’s Hell’s Kitchen headquarters

Training ground: Six current members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came through the BFA program.

Notable alumni: Courtney Henry of Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Jacqueline Burnett of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Victoria Andrea Guajardo of MOMIX

 

Barnard College, Columbia University

Degrees offered: BA, minor or concentration in dance

Number of applicants: There is no separate dance department application or audition. 5,606 students applied to Barnard’s incoming class.

Number in department: 36 majors and 12 minors

Focus: Emphasizes the intellectual and cultural exploration of

dance in a liberal arts setting

Location: Morningside Heights

Sister theater: The department partners with Bill T. Jones’ New York Live Arts

Notable alumni: Michael Novak of Paul Taylor Dance Company, Jamie Scott of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, Anna Schon of Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group

 

The Juilliard School

Degrees offered: BFA, diploma in dance

Number of applicants: 550–600

Number accepted: 24 (12 men, 12 women) per year

Focus: Aims to produce contemporary dancers by training them equally in ballet and modern

Location: Lincoln Center

Subsidized summer travel: The summer grants program offers funding for student-driven outreach programs—anywhere from Cleveland to Kenya.

Notable alumni: Billy Bell of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Spenser Theberge of Nederlands Dans Theater 1, Frances Chiaverini of Morphoses

 

Marymount Manhattan College

Degrees offered: BFA or BA in dance

Number of applicants: 400 on average

Number accepted: 160 admitted; 75 enroll on average

Focus: Because the school emphasizes versatility, daily offerings include ballet, modern and jazz classes, plus tap, pointe or improv twice a week.

Location: Upper East Side

Scholarship help: More than 85 percent of MMC students receive some form of financial assistance.

Notable alumni: Jacob Michael Warren of Pilobolus’ Shadowland, Abby Silva Gavezzoli of Parsons Dance

 

Pace University

Degree offered: BFA in commercial dance

Number of applicants: 207 in 2013

Number accepted: 57 admitted and 39 enrolled in 2013

Focus: Prepares dancers for professional work onstage, in television and in commercials

Location: Financial District

Showtime: Students have the opportunity to perform in over 50 departmental productions per year.

Notable alumni: Former Miss Teen USA Logan West; Miss Southern NY Madison Embrey; Megan Peterson of the Rockettes tour

 

Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

Degrees offered: BFA or MFA in dance

Number of applicants: 400–550 BFA candidates

Number accepted: 30

Focus: Trains students for careers in contemporary and classical dance

Location: Greenwich Village

In and out: The program is designed so undergrads can graduate in three years.

Notable alumni: Ian Robinson of Batsheva Dance Company, Christina Dooling of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Jenn Freeman of Tayeh Dance

You know what I love?

Smart dancers.

Do you know how you can become a smart[er] dancer?

Go to college!

I love dancers who make the decision to continue their education after high school. I know it's not for everyone—some dancers want to get their professional careers kicked off right away, and hey, any ambition is good ambition, right?

But it's the ones who choose to pursue a bachelor's (or master's!) degree—while still dancing!—that really impress me.

Dance Spirit's September Issue! Cover photo by Erin Baiano.

And with that, I proudly present to you...Dance Spirit's September issue! It's our annual Higher Ed Issue, and you should've received it in your mailbox by now. (If not, go snag it at your local Barnes & Noble. I'll wait.)

On the cover, meet three current college students who are making the grade in NYC: Corey John Snide, Courtney Celeste Spears and Zoey Anderson. All three grew up on the competition circuit, and now they're getting a glimpse of all life has to offer in the classroom, in the dorms, on the college stage and beyond. Corey's studying at The Juilliard School (impressive, I know), Courtney's enrolled in the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, and Zoey is a dance major at Marymount Manhattan College (all the way from her hometown in Utah!).

We are so proud of them and are thrilled to have their smarty-pants faces beaming on the cover. Click here to read their cover story, "University of NYC."

Also in this issue: 

  • Must-know details about six standout NYC college programs
  • "Am I Ready for College?" I don't know. But in this story, we break down five common challenges university-bound dancers face, and we'll help ease any fears you may have about heading to the dorms.
  • Emily Bernet, a sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, shares all the gritty details about her first year as a dance major at SMU. (She got bit by a poisonous spider, but don't worry about that. It's not a common college thing. Promise.)
  • Dance Spirit's annual Higher Ed Guide, with all the info you need on 145 top-notch college dance programs.

Go check it out and then let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter!

Study hard, dance hard, play hard and have the best school year ever!

What do you get when you combine two Presidential Scholars in the Arts, the Juilliard Dance Class of 2015 and all of NYC?

Unsurprisingly, something pretty amazing.

More specifically, a dance film directed by Presidential Scholars Tyler Rabinowitz, now a student at NYU's film school, and Blake Krapels, himself a member of Juilliard's 2015 dance crew. It features the Juilliard dancers moving in, on and around some of the city's most iconic places.

The film won't be completed until October, but judging by this trailer, it's going to be gorgeous. It reads as a love letter to NYC as much as to the awesome dancers. Take a look:

Kyle Robinson (bottom row, left) and Brandon Cournay (top row, fourth from right) with their Juilliard class

Brandon Cournay and Kyle Robinson are pretty similar. They both grew up in small towns, moved to NYC to attend The Juilliard School, received their BFAs in Dance in 2009 and went on to have majorly successful dance careers. They also both learned early on that being a male dancer comes with a lot of stereotypes. 

Brandon is gay. Kyle is straight. Even though that difference hasn’t changed the way they dance, it’s affected their lives as dancers. Their stories don’t represent every gay or straight male dancer, but they’re real. And Brandon and Kyle agreed to share them with DS.

"I'm Gay" —Brandon Cournay

Brandon for KEIGWIN + COMPANY (Matt Murphy)

As soon as I bought my first pair of Capezio jazz sneakers, I was hooked on dance. I was 10 years old, and I’d wear my dance shoes to school instead of tennis shoes. Yes, I was kind of a weird kid, but I’d found something to look forward to every day.

School was terrible for me. I was constantly being pushed into lockers, and kids would call me “gay” just because I was a dancer. I felt very alone. But I never tried to defend myself, and I didn’t tell anyone about the bullying—not even my parents. I was called gay so frequently I started to wonder, “Am I gay?” when I was still too young to comprehend what that actually meant. I didn’t know anyone in small-town Walled Lake, MI, who was gay and could have told me it was OK.

Every day at four o’clock, I found solace in dance class. I was lucky to go to a studio with a lot of boys. It was unspoken, but we knew we were all going through the same thing at school, and that bonded us.

For the last three years of high school, I had a girlfriend. It’s hard to explain: Looking back, I knew at that point that I was gay. But at the time, I didn’t realize it. I was too afraid and embarrassed to acknowledge it, even to myself.

My girlfriend and I were still dating when I started college at The Juilliard School in NYC. Suddenly, I was meeting people my age and older who were openly gay and totally cool with it. But I was confused through my whole freshman year. I was constantly worried I wasn’t acting straight enough. I was going crazy thinking, What do I do? What is this feeling?

Brandon, with his sister, in his first dance costume

I had a breakthrough when I went back to Michigan the summer after my freshman year. I was acting like a different person back home than I was at school, and I finally understood why. I realized and accepted who I was—a gay man. I felt like a new person, starting over at the age of 19. In a way, it was terrifying.

I never officially came out to my family or friends. There was no big announcement—I just stopped hiding it. When I talked about it with my mom, she just said, “I love you. You’re amazing.” To this day, I still haven’t come out to my extended family. I feel like I don’t have to. I know they know, but I don’t want it to define their perception of me.

After college, I stayed in NYC to audition for roles in both commercial and concert dance. I performed in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and did some gigs with Mark Morris. Then Larry Keigwin—who’d choreographed Runaway on my class during my senior year—emailed to say his company was doing Runaway again and he needed extra dancers. I took the job, and the next season I officially joined KEIGWIN + COMPANY. Larry’s work expands what it means to be a male dancer. For example, Mattress Suite features a love triangle between three men. This company feels like home. These dancers are my family.

As a whole, the dance community in NYC is an open one. But that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the stereotypes that come with being a gay male dancer. There’s this idea that we’re all promiscuous and flamboyant. Sure, some men act like that, but not all of them.

Brandon with his parents at his Juilliard graduation

When I go back home to Michigan, I’m still self-conscious about how I dress and act. I don’t wear skinny jeans to the mall. I’d rather put on a sweatshirt and “mom jeans” to avoid being called names. In August, I ran into someone from high school in my hometown. I said, “How are you?” and he said, “What’s up, homo?” That still hurts.

Luckily, experiences like that are rare these days. One of my closest friends, who’s straight, just visited me for my birthday, and I’m going to another friend’s wedding next week—my first gay wedding. My sister recently started a serious relationship, which sparked a conversation between my mom and me. She asked, “Why don’t you ever talk to me about your relationships?” I was like, “I didn’t think you wanted to know!” She surprised me. When I meet the right person, I’ll bring him home to meet my parents.

Overall, I don’t think being gay has affected me professionally in a negative way or a positive way. Gay or straight, we’re all just dancers.

"I'm Straight" —Kyle Robinson

Kyle Robinson (Tyler Golden/Oxygen Media)

I loved acting as a kid, especially musical theater, so when I was 10 my mom suggested I join my sister at the dance studio. My dad would’ve liked me to stick to baseball and football. But as soon as I took my first dance class, sports became secondary. It took about a year before my dad really started to understand and accept my dancing. By the time I stopped playing sports altogether to focus on dance, my parents had become my biggest fans.

When anyone gave me a hard time at school for being a dancer, I had ways of dealing with it. If someone called me names like “gay” or “fairy,” I’d say, “Is it gay that I’m hanging out with lots of hot girls after school?” That would shut them up.

I had my first girlfriend at 14—a dancer at my studio. But I’d never really given my sexuality much thought. My hometown, Duxbury, MA, was conservative. Things like that just weren’t discussed.

It wasn’t until starting college at The Juilliard School that I really thought about what it meant to be gay or straight. I felt surrounded by gay men. I think I was one of two straight men in my class and one of five in the division. I suddenly had friends who were questioning their sexualities or coming out for the first time.

Kyle (third from left) with his family

It felt like there was a big gay party I wasn’t invited to. I even wondered, “Am I gay because I dance? Or because I can admit that that’s a good-looking guy?” It didn’t take long to realize that, while I loved my male friends, I wasn’t interested in them in a romantic way. At first, I was uncomfortable changing in front of gay guys in the dressing room. But once I got to know the people I was dancing with, there was so much mutual respect that it wasn’t a problem. They knew I was straight, and we wouldn’t make a big deal out of each other’s sexualities.

I realized how far I’d come when some friends from home visited me in NYC. I brought them to a party with all my dancer friends. In the elevator, I warned them, “No matter what, don’t say anything like ‘homo’ or ‘fairy’ at this party.” We stepped off the elevator, and the first person we saw was one of my gay friends—this tall, gorgeous black man—wearing a tiara and running toward me screaming, “Kyyyle!” My friends from home were in shock. But I loved how out and free people were at Juilliard. I’m glad they didn’t feel the need to conceal it or feel guilty about it.

Still, I found myself hanging out with actors rather than dancers at school. There were more straight guys in that major, and we’d watch sports and meet girls together. I don’t think I realized exactly what I was doing, but there were definitely times I went out of my way to “prove” I was straight. The side effect was that I was a little promiscuous with the ladies.

Kyle (second from left) at the L.A. premiere of West Side Story

Since graduation, I’ve danced with Aszure & Artists and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, traveled with the first national tour of West Side Story and starred on the reality show “All the Right Moves” with Shaping Sound. I’ve seen how quickly people judge professional  dancers. I’m told all the time I look more like a hockey player that a dancer, which I think stops people from automatically assuming I’m gay. Still, after I tell people what I do for a living, they’ll ask, “So are you gay or straight?” Nowadays it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

While filming “ATRM,” we had two straight guys (Teddy Forance and me) and two gay guys (Travis Wall and Nick Lazzarini) living in one house, and the producers had us talk about sexuality to no end. I’m pretty matter-of-fact about it, but I have to admit, discussing it constantly made me a little uncomfortable—mostly because it really wasn’t an issue for us. I loved living with those boys. Yes, Nick liked to get a little frisky with me; he’s definitely grabbed my butt once or twice. But a firm punch to the arm usually dissuades him from doing it again. I know he’s doing it in a playful way. And frankly, I find it flattering that he spends so much time throwing admiration my way.

My advice for any boy who loves to dance, regardless of whether he’s gay or straight, is to follow his passion. And definitely don’t let other people rain on your parade.

Remember that feeling you used to get on Christmas morning, as you ran downstairs to see what presents were waiting for you under the tree? That's how I felt walking into the Juilliard Dances Repertory concert last night. The annual showcase gives Juilliard's stable of dancers a chance to tackle well-known contemporary works. And every year, new faces have big breakout moments. Hence the Christmas-tree feeling: What phenomenal young dancers will surprise us this time around?

This year's lineup includes works by Jose Limón (The Waldstein Sonata), Nacho Duato (Gnawa) and Ohad Naharin (Secus). Three very big names—and three very different styles. It was wonderful to see Maddie Swenson, one of last year's Cover Model Search finalists, come into her own in Gnawa, and to discover the delightfully odd Kyle Scheurich (who reminds me of recent Juilliard alum Billy Barry—right down to his topknot) in Secus. But I left thinking less about individual dancers and more about the remarkable range all these young artists have. To be able to transform themselves into celestial innocents in the Limón, sensual mystics in the Duato and alien flashers (!) in the Naharin—how extraordinary is that?

Last night, DS assistant/fashion editor Michael Anne Bailey and I got all decked out —I wore jeans, actually, but she was decked out and looked super cute — to attend the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Destiny Rising show at The Joyce Theater in NYC.

In honor of NYCDAF's first anniversary, last night's show boasted a star-studded roundup of choreographers and performers, many of whom are New York City Dance Alliance faculty and alumni (including New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild and Houston Ballet's Melissa Hough and Garrett Smith).

The people watching in the audience was, as with any NYCDA event, spectacular. But the real action happened onstage, and Michael and I are here to recap all the fun for you...

Alison: ‪OK, so last night we went to the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Destiny Rising show at The Joyce. How would you describe the night in one word?

Michael: ‪Progress. The foundation is really taking groundbreaking steps that will help young dancers get the training and education they need to be successful — not just in their 20s, but for the rest of their lives.‬

Alison: Totally. One of my favorite parts of the night was actually the video they played recapping some of the amazing scholarship opportunities NYCDAF has presented to dancers since its inception.‬

Michael: ‪I loved that, too! I actually got emotional watching it — I know the scholarships will change lives. We talk about the importance of formal education in DS all the time, but to hear Susan Jaffe speak‬ about how a lack of education initially held her back after an extremely successful dance career, really brought the issue home.

Alison: Yes! I love that she admitted that. And we got to hear from Corey Snide, who was the first-ever Astaire Award scholarship recipient. He's a freshman at The Juilliard School now, and he's flourishing there, thanks to NYCDAF.

Michael: ‪Let's talk about the dancing. Did you have a favorite number?

Alison: Catherine Hurlin!‬ I have always loved watching Catherine, and last night she performed a variation from Flames of Paris. She was just so sweet and easy to watch. That girl is a star, and I'm so glad she's getting awesome training at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.

Michael: ‪She was my husband's favorite! He kept talking about her performance all the way home

Alison: Here's the thing:‬ There were a ton of contemporary numbers last night. Lots of instrumental music. When Catherine came out in her bright-white tutu and flashed that giant smile of hers, it was just fun. It was a nice change of pace.

Michael: ‪I couldn't agree more. I was blown away by Melissa Hough and Garrett Smith from Houston Ballet. And when I realized that Garrett had choreographed the piece, I couldn't believe it! Her technique, passion, and dedication to the piece were unmatched.

Alison: I absolutely agree. Melissa Hough is another one of my favorites — all of my favorite dancers right now are ballet dancers who grew up on the comp scene. Go figure.‬

Michael: And it's so fun to see a ballerina in bare feet every once in awhile. Melissa Hough is so versatile, which I definitely think comes from growing up on the comp scene.‬

Alison: Camille A. Brown's piece was fantastic, too. She's hilarious, and even my boyfriend got into her solo.

Michael: I loved loved loved Camille A. Brown's piece. I had never seen her perform and was absolutely wowed. She draws you in like a true entertainer.

Alison: ‪What was particularly amazing about her performance was that we couldn't see her face the entire time, but she was still so expressive. Her hat was down over her eyes, but she didn't need to connect with the audience visually. Her movement spoke volumes. She's a really unique performer.

Michael: ‪I've never seen anything like it. And I would die to see it again!‬

Alison: ‪So can we talk about how incredible our former Cover Model Search finalists were last night? Two of my favorite performers of the night: Ida Saki and Zoey Anderson. Those girls are insane.

Michael: ‪YES!!! It's so fun to see how much they've grown since attending Tisch (Ida) and Marymount Manhattan (Zoey). Zoey danced in a number with probably 30 other girls and I only watched her. Zoey has always been an outstanding performer, but now her movement quality and technique are becoming more and more flawless.

Alison: ‪Zoey is gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. And Marymount is working for her. She's grown a ton since we saw her for the CMS. I didn't love the number Ida was in, sadly — it just wasn't my style, and I wanted the show to kick off with something a little more upbeat — but the choreography really played to Ida's strengths.‬

Michael: ‪I agree. I'm a bit bored with most of the contemporary pieces I'm seeing lately. Everything is starting to look the same: the music, the choreography, the performance quality.‬

Alison: ‪Absolutely. Dear choreographers: We get it. We see what you're doing. We're ready for large group jazz numbers now! Love, DS

Michael: ‪Ha ha, just something new and innovative, please! I'm ready to be wowed again, and I know these choreographers are talented enough to do it! That said, I left last night with an even greater respect for the NYCDAF, Joe Lanteri and the dance community in general — young dancers are in good hands!‬

Alison: ‪Yes, at each event Joe's passion for the arts truly comes through. He knows each NYCDA kid by name, and that blows my mind. He knows which studio they're from, what the name of their solo is and where they're thinking about going to college. He's so invested in their futures, and as an audience member, it's a total pleasure to witness.

Michael: ‪I couldn't agree more. What a wonderful night it was.‬

Alison: ‪Have I mentioned I have a huge dance crush on Joe Lanteri? No? It's clear though, right?‬

Michael: ‪Ha ha, yes, Alison, we know. But I'm pretty sure it's a general Dance Spirit crush.

Alison: ‪On that note, thank you, Joe, for a wonderful night, and thank you Michael for being a great show-seeing partner.‬

Spreading the Love

This past summer, The Juilliard School provided summer grants to its students and alumni to travel to Arusha, Tanzania; San Francisco; Manila City, Philippines; and São Paulo, Brazil; to work with underprivileged children who are unable to afford schooling or intensive lessons in the arts. The volunteers visited homeless shelters and youth centers, where they offered children tutorials in contemporary dance, music, vocation, improvisation and storytelling.

SYTYCD”’s Nigel Visits NYC Students

On a rare break from his busy schedule as Executive Producer of “So You Think You Can Dance,” Nigel Lythgoe recently popped into NYC to meet with students from two of the city’s top dance schools. He was in town promoting his new Dizzy Feet Foundation, an organization geared toward providing training scholarships to promising young dancers, which he recently co-founded with “Dancing With The Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba and actress Katie Holmes.

At the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, Lythgoe was treated with a demonstration by Tony Award-winner David Alvarez Billy Elliot and some of his classmates. He also observed ABT’s ongoing Teacher Training Intensive and sat down with [ital: DS] editor in chief Kate Lydon for a Q&A session about the Dizzy Feet Foundation. (For more on the Dizzy Feet Foundation, be sure to check out the November issue of DS!)

Lythgoe also visited The Ailey School for a presentation by seven dancers from Ailey II, the school’s second company. The students performed selections choreographed by Ailey II Associate Artistic Director Troy Powell and were later introduced to Lythgoe.

[Visit dancemedia.com to view video from Nigel’s visit to ABT & The Ailey School!]—Colleen Bohen

Don’t Stop Believin’

This year at the 30th Annual Leggz Ltd. Dance Show, 17-year-old Danny Quadrino was awarded the Danny Ruvolo Memorial Dance Scholarship Award. Quadrino says this victory was sweet, yet unexpected.

So how did Quadrino prepare himself for this moment? He credits his success to his first jazz class at the age of 7, which eventually lead him to take an array of styles, like theater jazz and hip hop. “Dancing at Disney, the Orange Bowl and in Nutcracker, as well as at other charitable events, helped me not only establish myself as a dancer, but also as a better performer,” Quadrino says.

The road to your dreams may be a difficult one, but Quadrino says that if you believe in yourself, you’ll make it. “ If you love it, then keep dancing and never let anyone or anything get in your way,” he says. “If you find that someone is trying to bring you down, don’t get defeated; use that person as a way to work harder and prove them wrong. Never, ever give up.”

Catch the high school senior in Broadway’s revival of Bye Bye Birdie, which opens this month.

A Whole New World

Congratulations to Lonnie Weeks, who received the silver medal in the Junior Division at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition in Helsinki, Finland, this past summer.

Weeks competed against dancers from 24 other countries. “Going to Finland was such an eye opener,” he says. “I got a feel for other countries’ styles, and it helped me figure out my talent level compared to theirs.”

Though Lonnie is only 18 years old, his career has already taken off. Before joining his current company, Texas Ballet Theater, he was awarded a full scholarship to the Faubourg School of Ballet and the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago. In 2005, he was given another full ride to attend the Texas Ballet School’s Fort Worth Academy. Just a year later, he became the youngest male to advance to full company member! “At TBT, I’m able to really showcase my artistry and I love that,” Weeks says. “I think a lot of companies these days are too focused on technique. Dance comes straight from the heart, and you need to use that in every performance.” Weeks feels at home at TBT, which is why he plans on sticking around for a while. “I still have a lot to learn, and TBT is the best place to do it,” he says. “You never want to think you’re the best—you always want to keep improving.”

Meaghan Hinkis of ABT II, 18, won a bronze in the girl’s Junior Division at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition this year. You may recognize her because she appeared in [ital: DS]’ March 2008 issue as one of our “10 Up & Coming Talents To Watch.” Guess we aren’t the [ital: only] ones with our eyes on this young superstar!

Give a Little, Get a Little

When you donate your time by volunteering at your dance studio or after-school dance classes for youth, it can definitely pay off. If your volunteer efforts have been continuously recognized by your studio directors or teachers, mention The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards to them. The competition is a great way for middle and high school students to benefit from their extra effort and impact.

The first round narrows the competition down to 102 State Honorees, two students from each state. Those chosen receive $1,000 and a trip to Washington, DC! From that group, 10 are chosen to be National Honorees and win an additional $5,000 and grants for a nonprofit organization of their choice. Apply by October 31 at prudential.com/spirit.

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