"There's No Reason for Dancers to Fear Singing"
I cannot carry a tune. Like, not even a little bit. Sometimes at night I like to blast a little Celine Dion ("It's All Coming Back To Me Now" is in heavy rotation on my iPod these days) and fully rock out while my boyfriend cringes and tries to convince me that I "sound really, really good."
I know he's lying.
I've always wanted to have a pretty little angelic voice, but I'm tone-deaf and, frankly, I'm just too loud to be able to alter my pitches. I'm more of a lyric-yeller than a singer.
But you should strive to be a better-rounded starlet than I am. If you've ever dreamed of taking your dance skills onto a Broadway—or regional—stage, you're going to have to be able to convince a casting director that you can, in fact, hold the correct key during "What I Did For Love."
For most people, singing isn't something that comes naturally. It's something you have to study and work at and oh hey, we can help with that! (Rest assured that "we" does not mean me—it means someone with actual vocal talent.)
JoAnn Hunter has performed in 12 Broadway shows, including Chicago, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Damn Yankees and Miss Saigon. She dances, sings and choreographs, and has trained with vocal coach Liz Caplan, who she says "completely shaped my voice to be Broadway-worthy." Hunter gave us a few choice bits of wisdom to share with you...
- "Growing up, I was asked to sing at my dance recitals, so I thought I could sing. It wasn't until I started taking voice lessons that I realized I had no idea there was a technique in singing just like there is in dance."
- "The key to singing is breathing. Dancers have a tendency to breathe from their chests and keep their rib cages up. That's incorrect for singing. Singing taught me to use my diaphragm, which gave me more stamina—I was able to get more air in my system and breathe slowly."
- "The vocal cords are muscles you have to warm-up. Once they're warm, you can manipulate them, just like you do with your body in dance."
- "There's no reason for dancers to fear singing. You just need to get out of your head. Get out of your own way first."
And Hunter's best piece of advice: "You can be the best dancer ever, but if you want to be in a Broadway show you have to hone your vocal talent. There are 16–20 dancers onstage during a show, and everybody has to contribute on that stage both physically and vocally. Learn how to act a song."
So remember how I said we can help you be a really good singer, just like JoAnn Hunter? Well, she trained with Liz Caplan and we've got Super Smart Liz ready to teach you, too—from the comfort of your own living room (or shower, which is where I prefer to do most of my singing). Click here to buy the Singing for Dancers app.
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.
Daphne Lee is a queen, and not just in the "OMG Girl Boss Alert" sense of the word. She's an actual queen—a beauty queen. Crowned Miss Black USA in August, she's been doing double duty as she continues to dance with the Memphis based dance company, Collage Dance Collective. Lee's new title has given her the means to encourage other black girls and boys to pursue their dreams, while also pursuing dreams of her own. The scholarship money awarded with the pageant title will assist her as she earns a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Hollins University.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!