Hayden Hopkins (by Nathan Sayers)

Each year, the Dance Spirit editors go on and on about how difficult it is narrowing a field of hundreds down to just three finalists in the annual Cover Model Search. And that’s true—it’s a lofty task that we’re perhaps a bit too passionate about. There are heated discussions, voting sessions and emotional email exchanges weighing the pros and cons of every entrant.

This year, though, there was no debate over one CMS contestant: Hayden Hopkins. When we watched her video, we all knew this girl was coming to NYC as a finalist. And when we turned the voting over to you to pick a winner, you clearly agreed she was worthy of the top spot. Earning more than half the total votes, here she is, gracing the cover of this issue as your latest CMS winner.

After squealing in excitement when she found out she’d won the contest, Hayden filled us in on what she’s been up to since we saw her in April.

Dance Spirit: How did it feel to find out you’d won the Cover Model Search?

Hayden Hopkins: I was walking into a ballet class at Pacific Northwest Ballet School when I saw that Alison Feller, the editor in chief of Dance Spirit, had called me—and I knew she was calling to tell me the results. I tried to concentrate on what seemed like the longest class ever. Then, immediately afterward, I ran to a quiet corner and called her back. When she told me she was calling to congratulate me on becoming the 2013 Cover Model Search winner, I felt total excitement and a sense of relief. I wanted to leap around Seattle Center! It’s a memory I will keep with me forever.

DS: How did you get so many votes?

HH: I really took advantage of social media. I posted on my Twitter and Instagram, asking people to help spread the word, and I started a “voteforhayden” Instagram account that gained a good following. I also wrote a more personal open letter on my Facebook page explaining how much it would mean to win. I worked with a T-shirt business and had “#voteforhayden” tank tops made. I had picture cards printed with the Dance Spirit voting website on them, and I handed them out to dancers I met at Nationals in Las Vegas. Any time I met someone new or took a picture with someone, I asked them to vote. I really just put myself out there and tried to be honest and sincere.


Hayden Hopkins (by Nathan Sayers)

DS: What have you been up to since we last heard from you?

HH: I was a part of the Dancers Against Cancer campaign and performed in a piece choreographed by Mark Meismer at the KARtv Dance Awards and Benefit Show. I celebrated my 16th birthday in July, and I’m excited to start driving lessons when I can find the time. I worked with Emily Shock and Nicki Loud on some solo choreography and choreographed a solo for myself. I also attended West Coast Dance Explosion Nationals, where I won first place for teen solos and danced for the last time as the 2012 National Teen Elite Dancer—a title I was so proud to have. I competed at Starpower Finals in Las Vegas and won first place senior solo. Plus, I was able to choreograph a dance solo for my 9-year-old sister, who’s a rhythmic gymnast. She placed in the Top 3 at West Coast Dance Explosion Nationals! I think that was one of

the best moments for me, seeing her happy and feeling good about how she did.

DS: How have you grown as a dancer since the CMS trip?

HH: It was my first time in NYC. For so long I’ve thought that’s where I should be when I’m older—and the city was even better than I expected! Being able to go backstage at a Broadway show and take classes at Broadway Dance Center really opened my eyes. There’s so much about dance I need to learn and there are so many directions I could take my career. Now I’m really thinking about my future and trying to surround myself with good people. I’m focusing on what works for me instead of following a path that will give me instant recognition. I’ve always been told there’s no time limit on my talent and I shouldn’t be in a rush to grow up. I’m finally starting to see what that means. After the CMS trip my dreams are a little closer to reality.

DS: What’s your advice for future CMS hopefuls?

HH: Send in your best video—one that shows not just great technique but also an honest performance. You don’t have to be with a power studio or have your solo done by a well-known choreographer. Send in something you’re proud of and want to share with others. If you don’t get picked the first time, don’t get discouraged—keep posting videos!

DS: What’s next for you?

Hayden Hopkins (by Nathan Sayers)

HH: I’m working with Tilt Dancewear on some new designs for their upcoming line, and I was approached by a convention about joining their staff as an apprentice choreographer and traveling with them for the 2013–14 season. I also have plans to assist a few choreographers, and hope to learn more about what I do and don’t want to do in the future. I’ll be doing online school again this year so I can travel more, and I’m looking into programs that offer college scholarships. I hope to attend New York University after high school.

I know I want to dance in the future, but I also want to expose myself to other art forms. I love fashion and creative people. I want to see the world and I hope dance will allow me to do that. But right now, my focus is making the right choices for myself while still making connections in the dance world.

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported me during this journey. Every vote and bit of encouragement has helped me achieve this goal, and for that I am so grateful. I hope other dancers in situations like mine were able to read my story and realize they don't have to give up on their dreams of dancing.

The Cover Model Search experience has been unforgettable, and I'm happy to have shared it with the other finalists, Alexa Luke and Madi Hicks.

To my family, thank you for the continued love—especially my mom, who sacrifices so much to allow me to dance. Thank you to my dance teacher, Kirsten, for the support over the years. And a huge thank you to the Dance Spirit editors, photographer Nathan Sayers and make-up artist Tonya Noland, all of whom made the trip so special for me. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to share my passion for dance.



Dance News

SYTYCD Trip Winner Our winner, Kathryn Thies (left), and her friend Samantha Simmons on the red carpet before the "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10 finale. (courtesy Kathryn Thies)

Thousands of you entered our sweepstakes to win an all-expenses paid trip to the "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10 finale. And while we wish we could've sent you all, we had to choose just one winner and randomly selected Kathryn Thies. (Lucky girl!)

We caught up with Kathryn to hear all about her trip of a lifetime.

Dance Spirit: What was your reaction when you learned you'd won a trip to the finale?

Kathryn Thies: Disbelief. And then super excitement. It still didn't feel real a week later. I don't think it actually really hit me until the day before the trip.

DS: Who did you bring as your guest?

KT: I brought my friend Samantha, who I've been friends with since high school. Her place used to be the midway point on a long drive I made on a regular basis. I always used to stop for the night and we usually ended up watching "SYTYCD." I was super excited to share the trip with her!

DS: What was your favorite part of the trip?

KT: I felt so lucky and spoiled this trip! I tried a lot of awesome new food, learned a lot and laughed a lot.


DS: What was the most unexpected part of the trip?

KT: We got to sit front row at the finale!

Reserved parking for Nappytabs!

DS: Do you have a favorite memory from the night?

KT: There was such a talented group of dancers this season. Seeing them perform in person was even cooler than watching them on TV.  At the end, seeing Allison and tWitch together made my heart melt! And seeing the choreographers pride in the dancers after the taping stopped was awesome, too.

DS: What was it like watching the show live vs. on TV?

KT: We were front row, so you could see every little detail and every movement. Somehow, it's just all more exciting in person! I also got a thumbs up from my favorite dancer (I went a little fan-girl and shouted his name as he left stage, so he turned and gave me a thumbs up).

Kathryn visiting Ginger Rogers star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.




DS: After watching the live performances, which dancer is your favorite?

KT: Aaron and Jasmine have been my favorites from the very beginning. I think all four finalists were awesome in different ways, but Jasmine's grace blows me away and Aaron's ability to master all of the genres made them my favorites.

Dance News

Amy and Fik-Shun!

Your winners! (Adam Rose/FOX)

Congratulations to Amy Yakima and Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall, winners of "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10. Not only will they each take home $100,000, but they'll spend today with Dance Spirit editor in chief Alison Feller and art director Josephine Daño at a photo shoot for our December cover.

The finale was packed with the best performances of the season. Here are some of the winners' standout routines from last night:

Amy and Travis

Fik-Shun and tWitch

And finally, Amy and Fik-Shun!

We couldn't be happier for these two outstanding dancers. And we can't sign off without mentioning Jasmine and Aaron—they, too, were phenomenal and we can't wait to see them (and the rest of the Top 10!) on tour this fall.

Now it's your turn! What did you think of the finale? Did the right dancers win? Tell us in the comments below!

Dance News

We want to wish a big congratulations to The Joffrey Ballet!

Remember when we told you about the Goldstar National Nutcracker Award? Well, America has spoken, and the Joffrey's production has been named the best Nutcracker in the nation—for second straight year! Take a look at the photos below—it's obvious why.

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Which Nut was your favorite this year? Tell us in the comments below!


Dance News

Have you ever been handed a dance costume for a competition or recital and thought, “I could've designed something better than this!” Revolution Dancewear’s “Design Your Dream” competition asked dancers to do just that. And, out of 47 submissions, 13-year-old Rachael Bonato's fiery, Hunger Games-inspired creation won the grand prize!

Rachael and two other finalists, Morgan and Jamal, were treated to an all-expense paid trip to Chicago where they collaborated with the Revolution Dancewear design team to create sketches of their dream costumes. Then, Revolution Dancewear’s Facebook fans voted—and Rachael’s lyrical design came out on top.

Her red and yellow costume will be featured in the company’s 2014 Costume Collection. Plus, Revolution Dancewear will outfit Rachael’s entire dance class at Oregon Coast Dance Center in Tillamook, OR, in her winning design. Wouldn’t you love to see the Hunger Games-themed dance they come up with to go with the costume? Congrats Rachael!

Check out this video of the three finalists’ trip to Chicago:

by Nathan Sayers

When Megan Skalla traveled to NYC as a Cover Model Search finalist back in April, the DS editors were blown away by her stellar dancing and sweet, sincere personality—and clearly, you were, too. After more than 10,000 total votes (a CMS record!) and a race so close it came down to the final nail-biting minutes, Megan stood out from the pack and took home the title.

When Megan left us, she was getting ready to head to prom and was still unsure about her summer plans. Since then, this 16-year-old has been tearing up the competition scene. She placed in the top three senior solos at The Event Nationals in Las Vegas and then headed to New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in NYC. Her solo was breathtaking, accentuating all her best qualities: long legs, pristine technique and an emotional stage presence that demands attention. The NYCDA judges were impressed and awarded her first runner-up Teen Outstanding Dancer.

Megan’s ability to transfix an audience will surely earn her plenty more wins in her final two years of high school, but we know she’s got the talent and drive to make it far beyond the competition scene and into a successful career. We caught up with Megan to get her take on all the latest events in her life.


Dance Spirit: How did it feel to win first runner-up at NYCDA? 

Megan Skalla: It was surreal. When it came down to Jordan [Pelliteri] and

me, I thought it could go either way, and I would have been happy either way. When they called my name for first runner-up, I was so excited, but at the same time, it was hard knowing that I came so close to winning. There were a lot of mixed emotions, but overall, it was a really good feeling.


Ready for the prom

DS: How have you grown as a dancer since the CMS trip? 

MS: I feel like I’ve gotten stronger and gained more confidence. Nationals made me realize that I’m a good dancer and I can accomplish things. This year I want to try even harder so I can go even further at NYCDA.


DS: What was it like to be a CMS finalist? 

MS: There are really no words to describe it. It’s been such a cool experience, and it was so fun to be able to meet Hannah [Bettes] and Alyssa [Ness]. It’s been amazing to get my name out there and to reach such a huge audience.


DS: How did your school friends react when you told them you’d made it to the final round of competition? 

MS: They were like, “Oh, well you’re going to win.” But that was just because they’re not dancers—they didn’t understand how good Hannah and Alyssa are!


DS: You got so many votes! How’d you get the word out? 

Being interviewed on a local news show

MS: It was mostly through Facebook and trying to get other people to post it to Facebook, too. Jakob Karr even posted about me! I was like, “Holy cow, Jakob Karr knows who I am?!” Also, the press person from my studio, The Dance Club, got me an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, so there was an article in the newspaper about the competition. Then, our local news channel did a morning show clip on me.


DS: What was it like being interviewed on TV? 

MS: I wasn’t sure what to do because I’d never done a live interview before. I never knew where to look. But it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I thought they’d be asking me all these hard questions, but they didn’t.


DS: What’s your advice for future CMS hopefuls? 

MS: Just be yourself. Send the best video you have, but know that there are many girls who enter, so if you don’t get it, try again next year. If you do become a finalist, don’t be scared or timid when you go to NYC for the photo shoot and the classes. There’s nothing to lose. Go for it, and give it your all.

Performing at New York City Dance Alliance (ProPix/courtesy NYCDA)


I am so honored and thrilled to be chosen as the Dance Spirit Cover Model Search winner! This whole experience has been wonderful.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me. I am so grateful for your support and love. Also, thank you to Alyssa and Hannah. You are both beautiful inside and out, and I'm so glad I got to meet you in NYC. You made this experience inspirational and unforgettable. And many thanks to the Dance Spirit editors and staff. You're the best! Most of all, I want to thank my family for all you have done to support me in achieving my hopes and dreams. 

This has been a once in a lifetime experience, and I'm so happy I could share my love for dance with the DS readers. Thanks again, an good luck to the future CMS finalists!

Love always,



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