The Commercial "It" Girls
No matter where you turn these days—magazines, TV, even the Academy Awards—you’re likely to spot one of these three dancers: Heather Morris, Lauren Gottlieb or Taja Riley. All three are former comp kids turned commercial queens, and they’re heating up the industry. Heather is a dancer-turned-actress with girl-next-door charm, and thanks to her role on “Glee,” she’s in high demand in Hollywood. Lauren is a familiar face: Since appearing on “So You Think You Can Dance,” she’s booked jobs with everyone from Mariah Carey to Cirque du Soleil. And then there’s Taja: Though she’s just 18, she’s already a hot commodity on the commercial scene.
So what’s their secret? They’ve all got star quality. “They were all ‘that girl’ at the dance competition, who was winning all of the awards,” says Brian Friedman, who has known all three girls since they were young. “You couldn’t keep your eyes off them. They had the performance quality on top of the technical ability.”
This month, catch all three girls on “Glee”: Heather returns as Brittany, the dim-witted (and hilarious) cheerleader; Lauren will be front and center as a dancer with rival singing group Vocal Adrenaline; and Taja will suit up as a Cheerios cheerleader. Read on to meet these three dance dynamos.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
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 love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.