Kate’s Note

Not too long ago I was walking around the reservoir in Central Park when I spotted film star and NYC resident Kevin Bacon out for a run with his dog. (Bacon starred in the original Footloose movie, now being remade with Chace Crawford in his part!) Over the years, I’ve glimpsed handfuls of celebrities going about their daily business in the Big Apple. (I even saw First Lady Michelle Obama at American Ballet Theatre’s gala last May.)


But what fascinates me the most about NYC is the people I don’t recognize. I know I walk by people who are amazing every day. I even often dream of freezing the street to ask everyone where they’re going and what they are doing. It seems to me that, especially in the dance world, everyone is here for a purpose. You don’t just “hang out” in NYC. (It’s too expensive.) You have to be working, striving, creating! It’s that energy and life that gives NYC its exciting edge.


So when Lauren Levinson, DS’ associate/fashion editor, ran into my office and suggested that for this year’s NYC guide we go to the source of the city’s dance cool—its residents—I said, “Yes!” In “18 Bites of the Big Apple” (p. 59) we asked dance pros and students (from the ever awesome, Brooklyn-based Mark Morris to hot ballet newcomer Beatriz Stix-Brunell) to speak about their most beloved NYC classes, company performances, festivals and hangouts!


The Great White Way and its Broadway dance scene are at the heart of NYC. So for our seven-page fashion feature, “In the Spotlight” (p. 42), we photographed seven emerging Broadway stars in looks inspired by their shows.


And we even got to bring three up-and-coming teens to NYC (well, one is studying at Juilliard already) to be photographed for our 2009 Cover Model Search Contest sponsored by Discount Dance Supply! Turn to p. 69 to find out who our finalists are. Then log on to to vote for your favorite! One lucky winner will grace the cover of our October issue.


My husband’s favorite thing about NYC is that it belongs to everyone—those who were born here, those who have moved here, those who visit here and those who have not been here yet. This issue is our love letter to one of the greatest cities in the world and to the people who make it that way!

Keep striving!

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Kate’s Note

Last July, at the star-studded New York City Dance Alliance closing night gala, Ida Saki calmly stepped out onto the stage. As a finalist in the running for the 2009 Senior Outstanding Dancer title, the long-legged Iranian-American beauty got to perform her contemporary solo one last time for the judges.


Dancing to the title song from Schindler’s List, Ida threw all caution aside physically—hurling herself to the floor, flinging and twisting her limbs in sky-high attitudes and skewed arabesques—and mentally, as well. She seemed to wring emotion out of her body with every gesture, leaving it all behind on the dance floor. Her interpretation was genuine and heart felt. When her performance was over, the crowd, as if on cue, jumped to its feet. That night, Ida won the hearts of the judges and her audience, and the Senior Outstanding Dancer title.


It’s undeniable. There’s just something about Ida Saki. The Dance Spirit editors saw it immediately when Ida arrived in NYC as one of the three finalists for the 2009 Dance Spirit Cover Model Search Contest sponsored by Discount Dance Supply. And you, the readers, recognized it too, and voted her as our winner! (To learn more about Ida’s win and our two amazing runners-up, Kamille Upshaw and Nicole Knudson, turn to p. 70.)


So what exactly does Ida have that’s so special? Stage presence is hard to define, but when you see it, it’s mesmerizing. Some say it’s a certain vitality, a life force (ahem, Martha Graham), a fearlessness or the ability to translate music into movement. No matter what, when you’ve got it, you’ve got the power to inspire and move audiences. In “Possessing Presence,” p. 86, DS takes a closer look at what it means to have and develop stage presence.


Two other performers who bring thousands of people to their feet each night are Misty Copeland (American Ballet Theatre’s superstar soloist) and Scarlett Strallen (currently on Broadway as Mary Poppins). In “You Asked—Misty Answered,” p. 92, Misty dishes about everything from getting a late start in ballet to her favorite places to eat in NYC. And in “A Spoonful of Scarlett,” p. 100, we learn how ballet student Scarlett transformed herself into a triple threat.


Speaking of triple threats: Years ago, I interviewed Bebe Neuwirth, one of the most amazing triple threats. She said it was actually easiest for her to dance, sing and act all at the same time because every part of her body and mind had to be engaged. For those of you who want to follow in Scarlett’s and Bebe’s footsteps, turn to “Tips for a Triple Threat” on p. 104 to learn how to master three skills at once.


Finally, the DS editors ventured all over the U.S. last summer for our Nationals coverage. Don’t miss “Trend Watch 2009,” p. 74, to see what trends we spotted and if you landed in our pages!


So without further ado…our October issue!







Last August, Nigel Lythgoe came to NYC on behalf of his new Dizzy Feet Foundation. The “So You Think You Can Dance” Executive Producer visited American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre to watch demonstrations and speak with students. I was lucky enough to sit with him as he spoke at ABT about Dizzy Feet. Here we are below! (Turn to School Buzz, p. 112, for more on this!) Also during this visit, Mr. Lythgoe and I decided that the winner of “STYYCD” Season 6 will get a cover of Dance Spirit as part of the “America’s Favorite Dancer” prize! So please watch and vote for your favorites during the show’s first-ever fall season. And stay tuned for the November issue which will feature “SYTYCD” Season 5 winner Jeanine Mason (talk about stage presence!) on the cover!

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Kate’s Note

What do Michele Wiles, Blake McGrath, Rasta Thomas and Julianne Hough have in common? They’ve all strutted their stuff on the competition stage! And this past summer at Nationals, from California to NYC, Dance Spirit editors caught the performances of a future generation of dance stars. Not only did we see some great talent, we also gathered insight from top judges, coaches and teachers so that we could pack this issue with tips.


In “What the Dance Stars Wore” (p. 104), we divulge the 37 hottest trends in choreography, costuming, music, accessories and team spirit that defined this year’s Nationals competitions. Look closely at our photos to see if we snapped you or your friends!


Think “comp kids” aren’t versatile? Think again. In “A New Day” (p. 120), writer Kathryn Holmes catches up with four former comp kids to find out what their careers are like now. They range from dance-team member to professional ballet dancer.


But if your ultimate dream has nothing to do with gold medals and everything to do with Brian Friedman plucking you from a huge convention crowd, leading him to cast you in his next big project (hey, it happened to Tony Testa, p. 138!), then look no further than “Over Here!” Writer Kristin Lewis reveals the nine things every driven dancer should know before walking into their next convention master class. For real!


Plus, we’ve got our comprehensive 2009 Competition and Convention guide. With over 175 entries, you can start making next year’s plans now! Want to know who’s teaching where, what competition categories each company offers or if scholarships are given? Turn to page 162 and start reading!


A few of my other issue faves: In “The New Wade Robson Project,” this very charismatic and unbelievably talented—have you seen him teach at The Pulse? MOG!—choreographer opens up to DS editor Lauren Levinson about his latest work in Cirque du Soleil’s CRISS ANGEL Believe (p. 132). As always, he doesn’t disappoint. And Pennsylvania Ballet principal Julie Diana talks to five rising ballet stars to find out about the moments that separated them from the pack in “Big Breaks” (p. 126).


So kick off your dancin’ shoes, find a comfy spot on the couch and dig in! And please, don’t forget to give us a shout and let us know what you think! Write to me directly at or log onto and click “Talk to Us.” We’re dying to hear what you have to say!

TTFN (ta ta for now),

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Kate’s Note

When I was 16 and studying ballet in NYC, I was one of about 12 dancers cast in a TV commercial with music producer Quincy Jones. It was the perfect job: I got to fly to L.A., work with the celebrated choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett and dance on a soundstage—and I was paid, too! I even sat across from Patrick Dempsey in the airport as I waited for my connecting flight home. It was a storybook experience.


But the reality of working consistently in the City of Angels and earning a living as a full-time commercial dancer can be very different. You may land a featured spot in a movie, print ad, music video or tour, but when it’s over, you’re auditioning again.


For those who are up for the challenge, the rewards can be great. They’re being cast by the best choreographers in the business and strutting their stuff alongside the biggest personalities in Hollywood, and they’re often traveling the world, too.


This issue of Dance Spirit celebrates L.A.! First, in Tim O’Shei’s “Kickin’ It With KayCee” (p. 78) KayCee Stroh talks about landing her spot in High School Musical 3. She also opens up about what it’s like being a size 12 in a size 00 Hollywood. Then hear about her oh-so-famous cast mates and their dancing abilities in “Caps Off to High School Musical 3” (p. 82). In “Livin’ La Vida L.A.” (p. 88) Sarah Christine Smith writes about her first year in Hollywood. It wasn’t easy, but she’s since performed with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Carrie Underwood. And in “My L.A. Day” (p. 94), glean advice from pro Sandra Colton. Her biggest tip for dancers who want to break out of the background? Acting classes.Plus, Sascha Radetsky writes a letter to his teenage self (p. 46). Remember when Sascha crossed over to Hollywood to play Charlie Sims in Center Stage? Now he’s a principal dancer with the Dutch National Ballet.


On page 64, plunge into “Calendar Girls,” DS’ annual costume preview. This year, style editor Lauren Levinson has packed our pages with charming looks for every month of the year.


Last but not least, November is election month, which means that those of us who are 18 and older get to grand jeté to the polls to cast our votes for President! In “Dancing to the Polls” (p. 104) DS contributing editor Kristin Lewis talks to a handful of pros to find out how politics impacts their lives. Plus, think performance pieces can’t be political? Not true! Some of the most compelling works in dance history were made in response to politics. DS’ list is just a taster menu, so if you don’t see your favorite there, please let us know. If we get enough responses, we’ll keep a running list on our website.


So begin prepping your resumé for that dream L.A. gig, keep practicing your tendues and for goodness’ sake, on November 4th, VOTE!

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Kate’s Note

When I was 3 years old, my first dance teacher, Susan Tripaldi, began teaching me tap. Her daughter Shannon, our pal Nanette and I would hang on to her kitchen chairs, practicing shuffles and simple tap rhythms. Later, while studying with Joan Robinson Borchers at the California Academy of Performing Arts in Rheem Valley, I learned more complicated time steps and rhythms, performed Broadway-style tap dances onstage each year and began fantasizing about starring on Broadway one day. Even during my ballet career, my tap training continued to stand me in good stead. It not only sharpened my musicality, but it gave me a leg up in my ability to master rhythms—both in ballet choreography and the many character roles I danced.


 To this day, tapping makes me happy—I do it while I wait for things like elevators (if no one is looking). Just this morning, when I was walking out the door to come to work, my 4-year-old son started crying. To lift his spirits, I began tapping everything in my repertoire. He loved it and within minutes he’d totally forgotten he was sad.


Dominique Kelley makes me forget my troubles. Our amazing cover guy originally caught our attention because he had an inspiring and unusual story (p. 56). He’s a hard-hitting tapper, now living in L.A. and breaking into the commercial scene. Although few (if any) Hollywood auditions ask specifically for world-class hoofers, Dominique finds a way to show ’em what he’s got; he even sneaks tap into hip-hop auditions. But he’s also incredibly versatile. He can pull off every style, including ballet and jazz.


Then on page 44, catch a glimpse of six vibrant (and leggy) beauties from the ultimate Broadway tap team, the Radio City Rockettes. In “A Rainbow of Rockettes,” read about their exciting Christmas Spectacular news and see them modeling jewel-toned dancewear must-haves.


Next, if the short winter days are making you feel like you may never get your holiday-gift buying done, fret no more! We’ve done some shopping for you. Turn to page 52 to see the 48 adorable items that will knock your pals’ tap shoes off. And while you’re shopping for them, pick up a little something for yourself, too! Perhaps the jeweled headband by Costume Gallery—the perfect accessory for ringing in the New Year.


Speaking of 2009, can you believe it’s almost here? We at DS are not ready to say goodbye to 2008! We saw so much great dance this year, it was almost impossible to choose just “20 Monumental Moments” (p. 60). So I think our list should be just the beginning. E-mail me your favorite 2008 performances—anything from your friend’s award-winning competition solo to Criss Angel Believe—and I’ll start a readers’ choice list on our website.


So as you jeté between performances of this season’s The Nutcracker, holiday shopping and hanging decorations with your family, be sure to take a little time out to curl up on the couch with your December DS. And if the craziness of the holiday season ever has you feeling a little blue, remember to tap yourself a happy tune. A little soft shoe will do wonders for the soul.
Happy tapping and happy holidays!

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Kate’s Note

It’s halftime. The beat of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” energizes the stadium. Eighty thousand amped-up football fans look on in anticipation as 16 beautiful, incredibly fit dance team members take over center field. They strut into formation with hair flying, and bound into their routine—nailing fouetté turns, split leaps and layouts. It’s the 50th game of the season, but you’d never know it. These girls are polished,charismatic and precise.


While for some, performing to huge crowds on a well-known team like the Cleveland Cavalier Girls is the ultimate dream, for others dancing on a team is the perfect springboard to signing with an agent and launching a broader commercial career.


This month’s Dance Spirit cover girl Keltie Colleen (see “Yes She Can,” p. 46) has been a member of both the Knicks City Dancers and the NJ Nets Dancers. “Dance teams teach you how to be a professional right away,” Keltie told Brianne Carlon, DS managing editor. “When you go into an audition, think about being camera-ready. Your hair should look like it’s ready for a shampoo commercial!”


Anastasia Miller, Keltie’s agent, adds, “The dancers we represent from the Nets and the Knicks always show up looking stunning at commercial auditions. Their etiquette is professional. The full package is ready to go.”


To sharpen your look, check out the DS fashion feature “Bold and Gold” (p. 38), in which four gorgeous dancers from this year’s NJ Nets Dancers model hot new performance looks. Plus, find out how you can dance with their team! Then, for all of the natural-born leaders out there, “Leader of the Pack” (p. 50) gives you an in-depth look at the job of team captain.


If you’re not a dance team girl, don’t fret. DS has lots in store for you this month, too, like the dos and don’ts of stretching and the stage-name game.
So sit back, relax and dig in.

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Kate’s Note

When I was a young girl, I used to say a short prayer every night before I went to bed. “Dear Lord,” I would think, with my eyes closed and my hands clasped tightly on my stomach,“please help me to become a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet.” (Later in life, I started wishing for a spot in American Ballet Theatre, as well). Then I would add, “Oh, yeah, and please keep me, my mother, father, sister and brother healthy, too.”


While I’m sure that my singular focus played a large part in my landing a corps position with both companies, I sometimes wonder if in the long run it hindered me. As a teenager, I had become so taken with the prestige of the two companies and the possibility of dancing alongside my idols that I never asked myself whether the high-pressure atmosphere was right for my development as a dancer.  


As we point out in “The Company Quandary” by Kristin Lewis (p. 50), there aren’t just four ballet companies in the country. And while smaller companies may not be in the largest cities and may have shorter contracts, working with them can be equally—and sometimes even more—fulfilling.


Whether a big or small company will be their destination, the artistry is evident in our cover girl Emily Kadow (“The Natural,” p. 46); the five up-and-coming students from American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School featured on our fashion pages (“Prepped to Perfection,” p. 38);  and all of the other young dancers—including Jessi Trauth (“Becoming Sally Bowles,” p. 28) and Garrett Smith (“You Should Know,” p. 72)—in this issue.


We at Dance Spirit think all have the potential to live
out their dreams, whatever they may be, as do you! So reach beyond what you think is within your grasp, and don’t be afraid to let go of one dream to follow a new one. A long and fulfilling dance career is always a work in progress.


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Kate’s Note

Many years ago, I attended an open call for a Broadway show. As part of union requirements all shows on the Great White Way must have calls every six months, whether they need  dancers or not. There were hundreds of young women decked out in great outfits, perfect makeup and quaffed hair. They were completely jazzed about getting their 15 minutes to show the casting directors why they should be hired. Dressed very classically in all black, ballet shoes and very little make up, I stood out for all the wrong reasons. I had hoped that directors would look at my resumé (which was not bad), but they never did. I was cut before I could blink.


The good news? I took so much away from the experience! Most importantly, I learned that at a Broadway or commercial audition, you’ve got about 30 seconds to show the people who matter most not only what you can do, but the essence of who you are. They’ve got to see your spark—fast!


Case in point: Danielle Polanco, this month’s cover girl. Danielle is a prolific commercial dancer with a versatile dance background, and in March she’ll make her Broadway debut as Consuela in West Side Story (see “Who’s That Girl” by Abigail Rasminsky, p. 48).She doesn’t have the classical background many of the other lead dancers in the show have, but she is bold! Choreographer Joey McKneely noticed her zesty personality immediately, and she was hired after only two auditions!


This issue of Dance Spirit is packed with audition advice—from a short Up Front interview with “So You Think You Can Dance” judge Mary Murphy (p. 24) to choreographer Julia Adam’s “Letter to My Teenage Self” (in which she talks about what she looks for in a dancer, p. 28) to “Impress and Be Your Best,” our 10 must-read audition tips (p.66). On page 46, check out our first-ever audition makeover! Then, read through our fabulous Auditions Guide (p. 68) to get the 411 on more than 100 auditions you can attend!


Also, don’t miss our fashion coverage on page 38 featuring the Pretty Girls of Dance (counterpart to the Bad Boys of Dance).


Enjoy! And remember: Enter your next audition with confidence about who you are and what you have to offer. Train hard beforehand so that once you’re there, you can fully concentrate on the choreography, proper audition etiquette and your performance.


Good luck!

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Kate’s Note

It’s hot. You’re in class for the first time with a teacher you’ve read about in Dance Spirit, but never had the chance to study with until now. You’re surrounded by other dancers who are all super-talented—some of them you’ve even heard of before or seen on the competition circuit. You clear your head, come down to earth and begin the first combination. Your muscles engage and your body lengthens. You already feel like you’re improving! It’s July and you’ve made it into your dream intensive. What could be better? At this moment, relaxing by the pool seems so overrated.


Although it may be freezing outside now, in mid-January, this is the time you need to start thinking about your summer plans. Whether you want to spend six intense weeks in San Francisco bettering your ballet technique, or you’d rather refine your Fosse in a week-long musical-theater intensive in Albuquerque, NM, you’ll find the program that’s right for you in our annual Summer Study Guide (p. 90). There are more than 210 different programs to sift through!


Too overwhelmed by the choices? Can’t figure out exactly what kind of workshop would be best for you this time? Whatever your dilemma, turn to page 74 and read “Picking Your Perfect Program” by Abigail Rasminsky. Once you decide where you’re going, let me know why you selected the intensive you did and I’ll publish some of your responses in an upcoming issue!


At DS, we love to spot talent early. We like to celebrate young, up-and-coming dancers by putting them in our pages. Chelsie Hightower is no exception. (Turn to page 56 to read her amazing story, written by Jen Jones. And log on to to watch the behind-the-scenes video we made at our cover shoot.)


OK, we didn’t exactly find Chelsie first. (Thank you Nigel, Mary, Mia, Shane, Dan, Tabitha, Napoleon, Tyce and the rest of the “So You Think You Can Dance” crew!) But we did single her out early for her unbelievable stage presence. Each time she came on screen I thought, “This girl’s a star!”


We also like to spot dance trends. Although ballroom has been around since the early 18th century, it’s so hot right now, we just had to delve in and take a closer look at the genre. If you’ve never tried it, we’re sure you’ll want to after reading “Ballroom Blitz” by Ariel White (p. 60). Aside from being great fun, ballroom dance teaches poise, elegance and presentation, and there’s no better way to learn to dance with a partner.


Plus, we’ve got our amazing photo fashion spread that pairs beautiful dancers with fabulous clothes and (I cannot tell a lie) makes me want to head out of the office to go shopping!

Happy New Year DS readers!!!!
May 2009 bring you happiness, health and a wealth of great dance opportunities!



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