We received a record number of applications to our 2008 Cover Model Search, and narrowing them down to just three finalists was excruciating! Since the talent field was so strong this year, we decided to spotlight 12 more amazing dancers who captivated us with their technique, originality and passion. —Kathryn Holmes
Hometown: Corpus Christi, TX
We weren’t shocked to see Arielle flying across the stage on an early episode of “SYTYCD” in May—we remembered her from her CMS application. But even though she has awesome extension and strong partnering skills, she only decided to try out for the show two days before the auditions! She impressed the judges, and landed a ticket to Vegas! Though she’s a hip-hop girl at heart, Arielle auditioned for DS with a contemporary pas de deux to “Apologize” by OneRepublic.
Hometown: Union City, CA
Every dancer gets to a point where she wants to walk out of the studio and never come back, and for Alyssa that happened a year ago. She’d been dancing for 10 years and was ready to give up. But last summer she found a new teacher and a new technique—lyrical—which helped her fall in love all over again. Her submission piece, a breezy solo to “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, was a joy to perform, judging by the smile that kept peeking out mid-movement!
Jenna Lee Branner
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Not many 17-year-olds can say that they’ve written a book, performed community service and put on a charity dance concert, but Jenna has done it all. She teamed up with her mother, Toni, an exercise physiologist, to write The Care and Feeding of a Dancer. Last year, Jenna also volunteered with the Allegro Foundation, which works with disabled kids to help them learn social skills through movement, and organized “A Chance to Dance,” a concert that gave its proceeds to the foundation. Jenna’s intensely emotional performance style is no surprise when you look at her resumé. Her concern about the world shows in her dancing!
Hometown: Houston, TX
If Donald O’Connor had been a breakdancer, he and Reyie might be BFFs. The cheeky message at the end of Reyie’s video (“Why dance for six minutes when I can dance for eight?”) made it clear that a sense of humor is central to his dancing, and we couldn’t help but laugh watching him. After his eight-minute dance-a-thon, he was handed a mop to clean his sweat off the floor. Reyie’s down-to-earth style came about by accident: An acting class he wanted to take in high school was full, so he was put into a dance class that focused on hip hop and breakdancing. He hasn’t stopped since!
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
The best way to describe Kirsten is “fierce.” Her video showed powerful technique coupled with a classic ballet look. She moves with a quiet determination and covers the stage like Spider-Man in pointe shoes. In both pieces she sent to DS, Kirsten executed each step without the tiniest hint of a wobble. After four years of training at the Goh Ballet Academy in Vancouver, Kirsten will join the Washington Studio Ballet this month.
Hometown: Walled Lake, MI
Ryan’s explosive contemporary ballet piece, The Race, was full of high jumps, effortless turns and poised tilts that were more than enough to impress us. He’s versatile, too: He’s even danced at a Detroit Pistons halftime show. But he’s most interested in ballet, an obsession that blossomed after two summers at Juilliard. Ryan has also acted as a tour assistant for West Coast Dance Explosion, where he got a chance to see how conventions are run from the inside, and he won a silver medal in jazz dance at NFAA’s youngARTS 2008 in Miami.
Hometown: Los Altos, CA
Karen performs far beyond her 5'1" frame. Her style, for which she won best choreographer at the Olympiad of the Arts, fuses some of the tricks of hip hop with the flowing emotion of contemporary. After sending in her CMS application, Karen was hired to dance on Nickelodeon’s “Dance on Sunset.” She will be attending UCLA in the fall to major in business and economics, but don’t worry: Karen says she’ll continue to get down in college.
Hometown: North Richland Hills, TX
Most dancers who compete have faced jittery nerves. However, Meredith showed us that nerves aren’t a problem for her. She’s a fearless turner and doesn’t even flinch when her choreography calls for her to fall on her knees out of a huge jump. She also stood out because included in her CMS application was a letter filled with advice for younger dancers. We loved her suggestions: Take chances, don’t be afraid of losing and keep going no matter what. The best part, though, is that she follows her own advice: Meredith says she’ll keep on dancing, win or lose.
Hometown: Garland, TX
When we found out that Taylor had a cochlear implant and couldn’t always hear her music, we were shocked! Looking at her video application, we’d never have been able to tell. Her movements were deeply connected to the music and she was never out of sync with the other dancers. Taylor doesn’t like to tell judges about her deafness—she doesn’t want to be judged any differently. And there’s no reason to dwell on it: Her skill more than stands on its own.
Hometown: Missoula, MT
Ashley was super close to being our Dreamgirl when she sent us a jazzy piece to the song “One Night Only.” The number showed off her ballet-based technique with an intrinsic funkiness and attitude. Although she grew up in a small town in Montana, her studio has helped her dance her way to more exotic locations: Ashley has trained, competed and performed in China, Italy, Chicago and NYC. Her globe-trotting dedication to dance definitely left us wanting to see more.
Hometown: Morgan Hill, CA
We were impressed with Ryan’s submission based on her dancing alone, but when we found out she improvised the entire thing and managed to make it clean, clear and crisp, we were close to falling off our chairs. Choreography has always come naturally to Ryan. Not only has she won top honors at several competitions, she also set choreography on three seniors from her studio who used her work to audition for colleges! After having a dance career, she wants to (yay!) become a choreographer.