(photo by Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, courtesy Elizabeth Gay)
Avery Gay’s chameleonlike abilities have earned her comp-world celebrity. In a testament to her versatility, she won the 2015 Hope Award—a prize reserved for the best classical and contemporary dancer in the pre-competitive age bracket—at the Youth America Grand Prix Las Vegas semifinals. Then she won it again at the 2016 Austin, TX semifinals.
Considering her strong work ethic and love of performing, it’s no surprise the 12-year-old didn’t stop there: She also scooped up the bronze medal in her age bracket at the 2015 YAGP NYC finals, was named The Dance Awards 2015 Mini Division Best Dancer in Las Vegas and is a member of the 2016 Beat Squad at DancerPalooza in L.A.
Avery logs 30 to 35 hours per week at Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, AZ, honing her classical technique. To accommodate her intense schedule, she attends public school in the morning before hitting the studio. This summer, Avery will have the opportunity to perform at the Gala de Danza in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, alongside other top pre-professionals and international stars.
“I love to act onstage. I always come up with a story, even in a contemporary piece.”
Birthday: May 25, 2004
Favorite musical group: The Beach Boys
Favorite dancers: Gisele Bethea and Maria Kochetkova
Hidden talent: “I’m obsessed with organizing things.”
Favorite food: Pickles
Stress reliever: A hot bath with Epsom salts
Dream role: “Odile in Swan Lake. I love her attitude and drama.”
Her dancing in three words: “Technical, powerful and dramatic”
Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Hard work always pays off.”
Kenedy Kallas is the complete package. Drool-worthy feet? Check. Effortless extension? Check. Work ethic and humility? Check and check. Naturally, the 15-year-old dancer’s list of career accomplishments is sparkling. In 2015 alone, Kallas was 1st runner-up in the Teen Female division at The Dance Awards in NYC, and performed at the “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” gala at the Youth America Grand Prix.
(Photos by Taylor Brandt, courtesy Brandt)
Name: Kenedy Kallas
Birthday: April 20, 2000
Hometown: Draper, UT
Studio: Ballet West Academy
Favorite dancer: Sylvie Guillem
Favorite food: Mashed potatoes
Favorite TV show: “New Girl”
Dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and Jiří Kylián's Overgrown Path
Three words that describe her dancing: “Technical, emotional and free”
Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Continue working as hard as you can, because it really does pay off.”
The moment 11-year-old Jezzaeyah “Jezzy” Slack takes the stage, she’s in complete control. She has the musicality, maturity and movement quality of dancers twice her age, her facial expressions are wonderfully genuine and she’s got legs for days. Judges have definitely noticed: She snagged the Mini Best Dancer title at the 2015 Dance Awards in July, after placing in the Top 11 in 2014. When Jezzy’s not busy traveling to competitions, you can find her at home in Canada, perfecting her already-stellar technique at the Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.
At Hall of Fame Dance Challenge (Photo by Hall of Fame Productions, courtesy Dana Chapman-Carroll)
"When I won Mini Best Dancer at The Dance Awards, I was so happy I cried! After it was all over and I had a chance to think about it, I realized how hard work really does pay off."
Birthday: March 19, 2004
Hometown: Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Studio: Joanne Chapman School of Dance
Nicknames: Jezzy or Jay-Z
Favorite meal: Quinoa and fish with steamed vegetables
Dancer she’d love to work with: “Misty Copeland!”
Dream job: Professional dancer, cardiologist or surgeon
Pre-performance ritual: “I do a special handshake with my friends, visualize my routine and pray.”
On a scale of one to Beyoncé, 13-year-old Charlize Glass is pretty darn Beyoncé. Watching Charlize dance is like flipping through a series of perfect snapshots—each isolation of her body is that precise and finessed. And in 2014, a video of the young hip-hopper performing a Jose Hollywood routine to “Yoncé” got an Instagram shout-out from Queen Bey herself. That’s just the cherry on top of Charlize’s already impressive list of accomplishments, which includes performing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” winning first runner-up on “America’s Best Dance Crew” with 8 Flavahz Crew and dancing in music videos for Willow Smith, Ciara and Justin Bieber. Most recently, Charlize has been traveling the country with The PULSE on Tour as a 2014–2015 Elite Protégé.
"It would be a dream come true to dance with Beyoncé. She’s had such an impact on my career so far."
(Photo by Rick Clark Photography, courtesy the Glasses)
Birthday: November 27, 2001
Dance studios: The Rage Complex, Academy of Dance Westlake Village, Soul Motion and Movement Lifestyle
Secret talent: “I like to speak in cat language to my four cats.”
If she weren’t a dancer, she’d be… a track and field sprinter.
Dance mentor: Marcelo Pacleb, the creator of 8 Flavahz Crew
Favorite meal: chicken, broccoli and rice with apple pie and cookie dough
Dream job: “I want to choreograph for major artists—or at conventions like The PULSE!”
When NBC aired The Sound of Music Live!, viewers fell in love with the 12-year-old triple threat playing Brigitta von Trapp: Sophia Anne Caruso. This talented young actress already has a stacked resumé of theater credits, television appearances and commercials—including a national Campbell’s soup commercial and a guest appearance on NBC’s “Smash” as a young Norma Jean. But Sophia’s success comes from a lot of hard work: She trains daily at Broadway Dance Center in NYC, in addition to her voice and acting lessons.
photo, Maria May
Birthday: July 11, 2001
Hometown: Spokane, WA
Favorite actor: Tom Hanks. “His performance in Captain Phillips really inspired me, and I’d love to work with him one day.”
Favorite dancer of all time: Savion Glover
Favorite dance classes: Justin Boccitto’s tap and theater classes at Broadway Dance Center in NYC
Favorite food: “I basically live on Jamba Juice, but I love it when my dad makes Italian food, like homemade spaghetti sauce.”
Go-to stress relievers: “Yoga and painting my nails”
Dream role on Broadway: Cassie in A Chorus Line
"I’m always glad when I push myself to take that one extra class. I’ve found that if I go in with a positive attitude, no matter how tired I am, I end up having fun and learning a lot."
Madison Penney's pristine technique and natural stage presence have earned her a place at the top of the ballet competition world. She began her ballet training at age 8, at Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, AZ, and quickly racked up a list of accomplishments as jaw-dropping as her extreme extensions. In the last two years alone, the 12-year-old scooped up the 2015 Gold Medal at the World Ballet Competition and the 2016 Youth America Grand Prix Hope Award, and was the co-recipient of the 2016 American Dance Competition | International Ballet Competition Grand Prix.
“I don't have a favorite part of ballet class because it's always challenging me in different ways. But I do love that hard work pays off." —Madison Penney
Birthday: April 16, 2004
Hometown: Mesa, AZ
Studio: Master Ballet Academy
Coaches/teachers: Slawomir and Irena Wózniak
Favorite dancer: Svetlana Zakharova
Favorite foods: Pepperoni pizza and Caesar salad
Go-to stress reliever: Hot bath with bath bombs
Dream company: Bolshoi Ballet
Dream role: Kitri, in Don Quixote
Her dancing in three words: Strong, precise, passionate
Non-dance hobby: “I love to decorate!"
Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Stay humble and believe in yourself."
Two years ago, at age 15, tap dancer Emma Wylie took a chance and moved to NYC by herself. Now 17, she's seen that risk pay off: She's an understudy for Dorrance Dance, headed by tap pioneer Michelle Dorrance, and is mentored by two more tap world luminaries, Derick K. Grant and RONxII (pronounced “Ron Ron"). The three of them founded their own tap company, 151 RED, in 2015.
But Emma's resumé isn't confined to concert dance. You may have a chance to see her on the big screen, dancing in the film Breaking Brooklyn, which was choreographed by Jared Grimes and is currently in production.
"I recently found an old journal describing every detail of my first tap class and how amazing it was. I've studied lots of different forms of dance and art, but tap is the only thing that truly feels like home." —Emma Wylie
Birthday: August 31, 1999
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Studios: Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, Exile Professional Gym
Favorite dancer: Warren Craft
Hidden talent: “I can kind of ride a unicycle."
Favorite food: “Chocolate cake! Especially the kind with nine layers."
Favorite step: “I don't have a favorite. For me, a dope rhythm is more exciting."
Three words that describe her dancing: “Soft, elegant and precise"
Proudest accomplishment: “Being featured in Dance Spirit! I grew up reading the You Should Know page and never thought I'd be considered."
Non-dance hobbies: “I'm such an old lady. I love to bake and read. I also like exploring other art forms, like drawing and ceramics."
Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Take care of your body! Dancers push themselves way too hard and can get injured or burned out. Take occasional days of rest."
Though he says his favorite style is hip hop—and he can definitely hit hard when he needs to—Lior Melnikov's onstage charisma brings to mind old-school entertainers like Fred Astaire. Thanks to that singular performance quality, 12-year-old Melnikov has been popping up more and more frequently in the commercial world: He made it to the Top 20 on “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation," and was named a 2016/2017 PULSE Elite Protégé. His Nickelodeon credits include “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn" and “LSB (Lip Sync Battle)."
Birthday: December 29, 2003
Hometown: Houston, TX
Studio: Dancezone in Houston, TX
Song he's listening to right now: “Wicked," by Future
Favorite food: “My mom's home cooking."
Hidden talent: “I speak three languages!"
Performer he's dying to work with: Jason Derulo
Three words that describe his dancing: “Passionate, entertaining and dedicated"
Nondance hobbies: Playing basketball and video games
Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Never give up on your dreams and always stay humble."