"SYTYCD" Was Just the Beginning for Tate McRae
She's something of a celebrity now. But on the convention floor, Tate McRae never lets the flash of cameras distract her from the choreographer's instruction, from exploring each movement with intention and integrity. While the 13-year-old comp queen—and ballet dancer, and singer-songwriter, and actor, and model—welcomes the recognition and opportunities that have come her way since earning second runner-up on "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" last year, she doesn't let fame go to her head. "I try never to lose sight of how dance makes me feel," she says. "Ultimately, it's passion and hard work that make each new opportunity so rewarding."
America's Favorite Canadian
Tate not only braved the "SYT" stage as a preteen—she was also competing for the America's Favorite Dancer title as a non-American. She hails from Calgary, Canada, and while her hometown friends and family could follow her journey on television, they couldn't vote, which makes Tate's third-place finish all the more impressive.
But "SYT" was so much more than a competition for Tate. "It helped me break out of my shell," she says. "It taught me not to be such a perfectionist." Tate carried that fearlessness beyond the show, and now approaches each class with newfound confidence. Stacey Tookey, who first met Tate at a convention three years before "SYTYCD," noticed the transformation. "She really treated the show as a challenge to dig into a new level of performance artistry," Tookey says.
Photo by Erin Baiano
Perhaps Tate's greatest takeaway from the show was her inseparable bond with her All-Star mentor, Kathryn McCormick. McCormick remembers realizing she needed to work with Tate on the last day of auditions. "Tate told me her goal was to be humble and kind, and to make people feel something," she says. "I was completely captivated by her in that moment, and felt we needed to be in each other's lives for reasons way beyond the show."
Knowing that Tate was already an exceptional technician, McCormick set out to help her realize the potency of her voice. "I wanted to reveal to Tate how powerful and perfect her soul is," she says. Magic happened when the pair teamed up with choreographer Travis Wall to learn She Used to Be Mine. Telling the story of a mom who leaves her daughter, the piece challenged Tate to tap into emotions she'd never personally experienced. "There was a moment when I had to scream at the top of my lungs, and we practiced it over and over," Tate says. "Travis kept shouting 'Give me more!' and 'What are you feeling?' and when I finally put myself in that position, we all started bawling. It was a beautiful mess!"
Photos by Erin Baiano
The Weekly Grind
"SYT" may have been a whirlwind experience for Tate, but the dancer's current day-to-day life is crazy in its own right. As a student in The School of Alberta Ballet's professional training division, she spends every morning polishing her technique with four hours of ballet class. "Tate is a very detailed worker," says Alberta Ballet's Ashley McNeil. "From a young age, she's been able to pick up small nuances quickly, and to repeat each movement with integrity and thought." Following ballet class, she has a quick lunch break before an afternoon of academics. Then, through Alberta Ballet's partnership with YYC Dance Project—a competition team led by Tate's mom, Tanja Rosner—Tate spends her evenings training in contemporary, tap, hip hop and jazz.
Weekends are reserved for conventions and competitions, both commercial and ballet. Tate hits an impressive circuit: The Dance Awards, JUMP, NUVO, Radix, 24/7, Tookey's Camp Protégé and Youth America Grand Prix. "I've won Mini and Junior Best Dancer at The Dance Awards, and silver as a soloist and bronze in pas de deux at YAGP, so there's a whole new pressure to impress," she says.
Photo by Erin Baiano
To Broadway and Beyond
Tate has welcomed new professional dance opportunities since graduating from the "SYT" stage. Her relationship with McCormick has opened many doors, including a trip to perform and assist at the Victorian Dance Festival in Melbourne, Australia. And she secured a spot in this spring's prestigious Gala de Danza in Cabo, Mexico, where she'll perform with professional dancers from all over the world.
With the help of a new manager, Tate has also been exploring acting opportunities, which means getting to know the L.A. audition scene. In fact, she's now a quintuple threat: She devotes additional time to singing and songwriting, and to modeling for Miss Behave Girls and as a Capezio Athlete.
As for the future, Tate's keeping her options open. She can imagine herself joining a contemporary company, like Shaping Sound, or auditioning for Broadway, TV shows, or movies. "I keep my grades up, and try to excel at everything I do," she says. "That way, I'll be prepared for whatever path opens up to me."
"Tate is on the fast track to fame, but she manages to stay so grounded through it all," Tookey says. "Notoriety is one thing, but the ability to leave behind a trail of kindness and authenticity—that's what makes Tate a beautiful dancer and human being."
Photo by Erin Baiano
Favorite day of the week: Friday. "It usually means I get to travel."
Favorite movies: Nerve, The Maze Runner series, The Hunger Games. "I like action-packed movies that keep me on the edge of my seat."
Dream gig: Performing with Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift
Favorite Instagram filter: "It depends on the lighting, but probably Mayfair at, like, 50 percent."
Favorite ballet exercises: Adagio and pirouettes
Spirit animal: A unicorn
Dream role on Broadway: "It used to be Matilda from Matilda: The Musical, but I'm way too tall for that now!"
Favorite book: The Gone series
Favorite dance shoes: Bare feet. "Pointe shoes are beautiful, but they hurt!"
Favorite dance companies: Shaping Sound, Still Motion and Nederlands Dans Theater
Mentor Most Likely To....
What do you ask the dancer who's worked with everybody? Tate offers an insider's look at some of the dance world's most brilliant minds.
Goofiest mentor: Jason Parsons. "He's so hilarious, you don't even know!"
Mentor most likely to be a philosopher in disguise: Lara VanBelleghen, YYC Dance Project's technique specialist. "She always comes up with the craziest descriptions in technique class, but they work! She's a genius."
Sweetest mentor: "It's a tie between Kathryn McCormick and Stacey Tookey."
Mentors most likely to push her outside of her comfort zone: "Travis Wall and my mom always seem to get something extra out of me."
A version of this story appeared in the April 2016 issue of Dance Spirit.
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane charms audiences with her bright energy and crisp technique. The San Francisco, CA, native first started dancing at age 4 at a local community center, and at age 7 started training in Memphis, TN, at the Classical Ballet Memphis. Her family later moved to Rochester, NY, where she continued studying at the Draper Center for Dance Education. In 2002, she was a YoungArts Foundation winner in dance, allowing her to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2003, was made a soloist in 2007, and was promoted to principal last fall. Recently, she originated the role of Princess Praline in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Catch her later this spring during ABT's Metropolitan Opera season. —Courtney Bowers
You and I both know that dancing is the best thing since chocolate chip cookies! But its always nice when dance gets the recognition it deserves from non–dance-world peeps. That's why we did our own happy dance when we saw Shape magazine's article on how dancing can actually make you a better athlete.
When Ruby Castro became a Top 10 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 13, she was a fresh, feisty new face to most at-home viewers. But in the dance world—particularly on the ballroom circuit—Ruby was already a household name. Miami-based Ruby grew up as a belle of the ballroom: Her parents, Manny and Lory Castro, are veritable superstars of the scene. They're the owners of Dance Town, an ultra-competitive studio in Doral, FL, and raised Ruby to follow in their furiously fast footsteps. Before she graced the "SYT" stage, Ruby had already been named a U.S. Junior Champion in Latin Ballroom, and competed on "America's Got Talent"—twice!
So, we know she's talented, we know she's versatile, we know she's stunning, and we know she can dance. But here's what you may not know about Ruby.
You know that thing when you're onstage at a competition and you catch your teacher unconsciously marking through every step of the choreography in the wings, just willing you and the rest of the group to dance perfectly?
Yeah—that happens in ice dancing, too. Case in point: the scene at the Olympic rink yesterday, as Canadian ice-dancing legends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated their way to their third Olympic gold.
Obviously, their performance was all kinds of epic. But the off-ice "performance" given by their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, was EVERYTHING.
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I want to dance in a ballet company, but I'm insecure about my body. I'm not skinny, and I don't think I ever will be, because that's just not the way I'm built. Please be honest with me: If I don't have the traditional ballet body, do I have a future in professional ballet?