True Life: I Was On "Dance Moms"
On set with all the ALDC kids! (Photo by Nate Powers)
Last night’s “Dance Moms” episode featured a very special guest: Dance Spirit! So instead of our usual recaps, I’m going to give you a rundown of five things you didn’t see on TV—but I did.
1. You know those moments when the kids and moms are speaking directly to the camera about what’s happening? That’s called an “On the Fly” or “OTF.” And though it may appear that they’re done against a wall of brightly colored costumes, they’re not. They’re actually filmed outside the studio on the grass. And they really are done on the fly! Cast members get almost no warning before they’re called away to share their thoughts.
2. Those plot twists are planned—but not everyone is in on them. When Jill came for a “surprise” visit to our photo shoot? The only one who was shocked was Melissa. Jill and Kendall were waiting outside the house for more than an hour before entering, hanging out with the crew. The producers had cooked up the whole thing. And yes, even I knew it was coming.
3. The kids are generally nowhere near the mama drama. And that’s a good thing. Maddie told me that as soon as the fury begins, one of the moms will whisk the children out of the room. And remember that scene in last night’s episode where Abby calls Jill down to yell about Kendall? It seems like Kendall is right there, hearing it all, but really Gianna had moved Kendall and Maddie into a corner to run the choreography—and stay far away from the mayhem. Of course, they’ll see it later on TV… but it’s the thought that counts.
4. This show has really good editors. After all, they have to cut a full week of footage into one hour. They can also make it look like you're reacting to anything that's said in whatever way they want. How do I feel about that?
5. Beyond all the fancy camera work and editing, some of it actually is real. I saw real emotion, real hard work and real smiles from all the kids on set. And we really were there to capture a day in the life of Maddie for our November issue. “Why just Maddie?” you ask? It seems a lot of the dance moms had the same question. We chose Maddie because we see some serious potential in her. If she stays in class (which she promises me she's doing), she has the skills and the commitment to make it in the dance world when her time on “Dance Moms” is a distant memory.
Want more behind-the-scenes details from the show? Maddie spills it all in our November issue. Get excited!
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.