What it Takes to be an On-Air Commentator for a Dance TV Show
While you’ve been watching Kelly, Ruben and Fantasia battle it out on “American Idol,” Australians have had their TVs set to “Strictly Dancing,” a contest between dancing couples instead of singers—but with a catch. Three weeks before the competition, the couples are told which six styles of dance they will perform. In addition to forms such as lambada, salsa, paso doble, tango, jazz, funk, hip hop, samba and rumba, international ballroom coaches and judges have created hybrids such as cocktail samba (a combination of street Latin styles and ballroom) devised to even out the playing field when ballroom couples are paired against street-Latin specialists.
On The Job
Being an on-air commentator can be fast-paced and exciting. “Each show has six rounds featuring six different dance styles,” Angela Gilltrap explains. “Each round consists of four competing couples, a commentary team that explains the action and a host who keeps everything flowing.”
As a singer, dancer, actor and musician who hit the professional scene at 16, Gilltrap knows all about the business, which makes for credible commentary, although she misses the interaction with the audience that only performing can provide. “When I’m working in television, holed up in a little studio, I rarely get to judge the audience’s reaction,” she admits.
In Her Free Time
At just 25, Angela hasn’t entirely given up center stage yet, though she admits that her gig as a commentator keeps her pretty busy. When she can, Gilltrap finds the time to perform and choreograph; to teach jazz, musical theater, tap and funk; to work as a photographer and to write for magazines. She also recently finished a behind-the-scenes book about “Strictly Dancing.”
Getting The Gig
The company producing “Strictly Dancing” initially approached Gilltrap’s agent about finding someone for the job, but she still had to go through an interview process and do a number of screen tests before landing the job. Afterwards, “I did a lot of on-the-job training in terms of voice-over technique and tone, plus I had to read up on the dance styles I wasn’t familiar with,” Gilltrap explains. “You need to be on the ball all the time, remembering that two million people are listening to what you are saying, so it’s important to think before you speak.”
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.
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.
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!
There are zillions of things to think about when choosing a summer program, but here's one you might not have considered: using an intensive as an opportunity to focus on a new style. Maybe you're a tap dancer who's ready to see where else your rhythm and quick feet can serve you, or a contemporary dancer curious about the more traditional roots of your genre. A summer program can be the perfect place to broaden your horizons, giving you the opportunity to make technical and artistic changes that stick throughout the year.
Happy birthday, George Balanchine! The great choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet would have been 114 years old today. Balanchine revolutionized ballet, especially American ballet—and he also had quite a way with words. To celebrate Mr. B's birthday, we rounded up some of our favorite iconic Balanchine quotes.
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.
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.