True Life: I Was on "So You Think You Can Dance"
Jazz cutie Alexia Meyer wasn’t new to competing when she auditioned for “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 12. In fact, Alexia—who trained at The Dance Club in Orem, UT—practically grew up on the comp and convention circuit; in 2012, she toured with New York City Dance Alliance as the Senior Female Outstanding Dancer. This summer, America watched (and voted!) as Alexia dominated Vegas callbacks and became a Top 14 Team Stage finalist on “SYTYCD.” But what’s it like being part of the show when the cameras aren’t rolling? Dance Spirit asked Alexia to let us in on all the “SYT” secrets.
Monday, July 13 (Week 1)
We made it to sunny L.A.! The Top 20 flew out last week and settled in at the apartment complex where we’re all staying. Since today was show day, our call time was 5:15 am. As soon as we arrived on set, we got into hair and makeup. The whole hair and makeup team is amazing, but Dean Banowetz is one of my favorite stylists. In addition to being incredibly talented, he’s hilarious—his personality is as big as his beard! Every time he finishes my hair, we part by dramatically saying “XOXO.”
(courtesy Alexia Meyer)
This week, I was in the Top 20 opening number by Christopher Scott, a Broadway routine with Team Stage by Warren Carlyle and a jazz trio by Brian Friedman. I’d never danced in a pair of heels as high as the ones Brian put us in. It was hard, but I kept thinking about how this was going to be the first time America would see me dance—I wanted to do my absolute best.
In the end, performing on the “SYTYCD” stage for the first time was a moment I’ll never forget. And afterward, when I saw how proud Brian was of our trio, I felt like I could take on anything thrown my way.
Friday, July 17 (Week 2)
My body was really feeling it this week thanks to rehearsals for the Team Stage group routine, which was choreographed by Travis Wall and set to “Stabat Mater” by Woodkid. I loved the piece, but I was really nervous for my big basket-toss in the middle of it. Being thrown in the air is exhilarating—and terrifying. I was supposed to try to relax my body mid-throw, but how can anyone relax when they’re 15 feet in the air? In one rehearsal, I was launched in the wrong direction and gave Jim Nowakowski a bloody nose! Luckily, we nailed it during the show itself.
Meyer and the rest of the "SYT" posse (courtesy Alexia Meyer)
Wednesday, July 22 (Week 3)
This week I was cast in a contemporary trio with JaJa Vankova and Derek Piquette, choreographed by Stacey Tookey. We started learning the piece today, and our rehearsal was filmed. Having a camera in the room has been an adjustment for me. It feels like my every move is being watched! At first, I got really nervous whenever I made a mistake while the camera was rolling. But Allison Holker, whom I admire so much, told me to just be my goofy self, which is great advice. Eventually I learned to focus on having fun with the incredible choreographers and dancers I was working with, camera or no camera.
Saturday, August 1 (Week 4)
This week, Neptune and I learned a piece by Dave Scott. I loved the crazy characters he created for us! But it wasn’t an easy routine. Neptune and I spent a lot of our free time—which means after 9 pm at night—practicing on our own. Back at the apartment complex, there’s a big hallway in front of my room that the dancers and I have dubbed the Rehearsal Hall. You can always find at least one group in the Rehearsal Hall!
This week, we also started working on Travis’ “ghost light” routine for Team Stage. We had wardrobe fittings, too—and oh my goodness, the ghost light costumes were so cool. Marina Toybina, our costume designer, is insanely creative. Whenever we go into the fitting room, she’s playing Spanish music. She says it’s the only thing that calms her down during all the craziness.
Sunday, August 9
The weeks have flown by! Sundays are “dry block” days, where we work out all the blocking onstage. But when we aren’t blocking, we have time to bond with one another. It’s been really fun to hang out and goof around. I especially love it when we get to practice standing next to Cat Deeley, as if we’re listening to the judge’s critiques. Cat always keeps things entertaining with her witty comments. She really is as kind as she seems on TV!
Team Stage rocking Sonya Tayeh's powerful group number (Photo by Adam Rose, courtesy FOX)
But we bond during serious moments, too. Today we finished practicing Sonya Tayeh’s intense group routine, and by the end of the rehearsal, we were all in tears. It was such a powerful moment.
Monday, August 10 (Week 5)
Tonight marked my final “SYT” performance as a contestant, but I’m so grateful that Sonya’s group piece was my last before being eliminated. Working with her has been such an enlightening process. I also can’t believe that after all these years of watching the show, I got to perform on it. I can’t wait for the adventures ahead. I know this is only the beginning!
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.