Photo by Joe Toreno

Visit Autumn Miller's Instagram feed and you'll find a video of the 18-year-old practicing fouettés. "You'll never be able to do it until you try," the caption reads.

At first it looks ordinary enough. (How many fouetté videos are there online?). But once you watch it, you'll understand why Autumn has more than a million followers. The turns are flawless, showcasing phenomenal technique—extension, coordination, lift, all of it. And if you keep scrolling, you'll find snippets of her working her butt off in class, equally at home in contemporary and hip hop, attacking each combination with the kind of fearlessness and confidence one rarely sees in a teenager.

That full-bodied devotion to her craft—what one of her mentors calls her "soul-bleeding dance"—makes Autumn a rare breed: an Instagram dance sensation more focused on her art than her follower count.

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Web Exclusive Cover Story
Dean College dancers performing "Bitter Suite" by student choreographer Jenna Mae Mixner ('19). (Scott May, Courtesy Dean College)

Imagine: It's your first year in a dance company and the artistic director is staging a new work. She works through a few phrases of choreography and then turns to you, asking you to come up with something of your own. Are you ready?

In many of today's most exciting companies, the choreographer/muse relationship is being disrupted in favor of collaboration. Many dancers also find that their own dancing improves after they have tried their hand at creating new work. "Choreographers want to work with performers who aren't afraid to take risks, make bold decisions, and contribute something that will ultimately make the work stronger," says Dean College professor of dance studies, Stephen Ursprung.

Make sure your dance degree is going to work for you in the real world. At Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts, The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance is preparing their BFA and BA dancers for the changing professional world that awaits them with a special focus on dance composition. Whether you are in school with an ambition to be a professional dancer, a choreographer, or both, look for opportunities to deep dive into the process of creating dance.

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Sponsored by Dean College
Jordan Matter, Courtesy BLOCH

When it comes to dancewear, BLOCH has long been a brand dancers trust—but you've probably never seen them quite like this before. For their new back-to-school campaign, debuting exclusively here on Dance Spirit, the brand teamed up with photographer Jordan Matter, known for his adventurous, playful shoots that push dancers out of their comfort zones.

They knew he'd be able to capture the energy, fun, and excitement of back-to-school season. It was also a dream collaboration for Matter. "I travel to London a lot, and I've used the outside of their store as a location because all the designs are so beautiful," he says. "Even before I ever worked with them I was starting to utilize their products in my photos. And I know they have a great reputation."

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Via YouTube

Well, it's official: Former Fifth Harmony member Normani has ARRIVED, as made clear by the new video for her bop of a single, "Motivation."

Channeling the choreo (and swag) of a bevy of 2000s-era pop stars, the vid gets absolutely everything right. It opens with a young Normani watching BET's "106 and Park," and quickly segues to a fantasy sequence in which the grown-up singer pays dance-filled tribute to the iconic music videos of her childhood.

That Normani is a talented dancer is far from news, but her moves in this video are next-level stuff. She does very real justice to choreography inspired by Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," J. Lo's "I'm Real," and Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time," to name just a few.

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Dance Videos
Hip-hop teacher Gev Manoukian talking with dancers at West Coast Dance Explosion (courtesy Manoukian)

Whether it's your very first dance convention or you're a seasoned weekend warrior, you're undoubtedly hoping to catch the eyes of your favorite teachers, and dreaming of getting pulled onstage to demonstrate a combo. With hundreds of other talented dancers in the room, however, it's easy to feel (and actually get) lost in the crowd. We asked three veteran teachers on the convention circuit for tips on how to best grab their attention.

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How To
Courtesy Amy Palmer

Congratulations to the July Cover Model Search Editors' Choice video winner, Amy Palmer! Check out her solo below, and enter the Cover Model Search here.

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Cover Model Search
Photo by Wilson Greaton, courtesy Easton Payne

Twenty-two-year-old dancer and choreographer Easton Payne is an artist's artist: His movement is profoundly empathic, wholly original, and endlessly creative. That unique voice was honed through training at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education and Dance Town in Doral, FL. Payne now choreographs for studios across the country, though you're probably most familiar with his work for Molly Long's Project 21. Read on to find out how he keeps making movement that's like nothing we've seen before. —Helen Rolfe

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Choreography
Steven Loch with fellow soloist Leah Merchant in William Forsythe's New Suite (Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)

Recently, there's been a noticeable push for more education and support surrounding mental illness. And while every industry can benefit from this shift, it's especially overdue in the dance world. "We need to get rid of the stigma," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "The fact is, when you have an ankle injury, you go to a doctor; when you have anxiety, you should go to a therapist."

Kaslow emphasizes that most disorders are treatable and episodic, and if dancers get a proper diagnosis and therapy, they'll feel better—which in turn will improve their dancing. "There is no question that physical performance is linked to mental health," Kaslow says. "If your mental health is not in shape, you're at an increased risk for injury and won't perform optimally."

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Mind
Nisian Hughes, Courtesy Kimberly Giannelli PR

ABT besties Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside have a dream: To get the most dancers ever to go on pointe at the same time.

The pair, who go by the joint nickname "The Cindies," have teamed up with the morning talk show "Live with Kelly and Ryan" to try to dance into the record books on live TV. They're inviting anyone who can dance on pointe to join them outside the "Live" studio in New York City on Tuesday, September 10.

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Dance News
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our Dear Katie series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!


Dear Katie,

I'm a 14-year-old dancer, and my biggest dream is to become a professional. I have pretty good technique (though I'm still a work in progress, of course). My issue is my weight. I'm not overweight at all—in the regular world, I'm quite slim—but I'm bigger than the other dancers in my class. Should I work on losing weight if I want to become a professional? Or do you think I can find a company that will take me as I am?

Elizabeth

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Dear Katie
The Season 16 Top 10 in Mandy Moore's oh-so-joyful routine (Eddy Chen/FOX)

We did it! We made it to the live competition shows!

The "we" in question, of course, being the viewers and voters at home, the four hardworking judges, and—yay!—the Season 16 Top 10. Last night, the top five guys and the top five women took to the "So You Think You Can Dance" live stage for the first time, performing for viewer votes. Which is no small feat, as evidenced by the past 15 seasons.

And to kick off the live shows, we had a little something new! Gone are the days of the top dancers strutting onstage to perform a solo eight-count before coming together as a group for that sassy step-ball-change walk downstage and that final "here we are!" pose as Cat Deeley bellows, "Welcome! To So You Think You Can Dance!" Nope: Season 16 is all about that tech. The 10 finalists started onstage, performing those aforementioned eight-counts accompanied by crazy laser beams that were seemingly passed from one dancer to the next. Then the dancers united to perform a joyful routine to "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman, choreographed by Mandy Moore. It was totally lovely and happy.

As for the rest of the episode: Each member of the Top 10 performed once with a partner and again as part of a mini group. Up for grabs this season are $250,000, the cover of Dance Spirit (!!!), and the title of America's Favorite Dancer. Here's who's most likely to take it all after last night's episode.

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Dance on TV
Champion ballroom dancers Katia Hrstkova Bartunek and Lukas Bartunek (courtesy Dance With Me USA, LLC)

When you think "improvisational dance," the image that comes to mind probably doesn't involve satin heels and a ballgown. But in the ballroom dance world, knowing how to improv is key to success as a social and competitive dancer.

Why? Because tons of unpredictable obstacles arise on the ballroom floor, where multiple couples dance at the same time. Knowing how to improvise helps ballroom dancers navigate traffic by changing direction, increasing or decreasing the length of their steps, or slowing down the speed of a dip until the next couple moves out of the way. Improvising alone is one thing, though; improvising with a partner is another entirely.

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Ballroom
Charlize Glass is a next-level Step Up fan. (photo by Joe Toreno)

Pretty much every dancer grows up obsessed with dance films. They're endlessly entertaining, of course—who doesn't love a dance movie night?—but they're also endlessly inspiring. As an accessible way to see the work of some of the world's best dancers and choreographers, dance movies are often our first real exposure to the incredible power of this art form.

We asked six A-list dance pros to talk about the dance films they couldn't—and still can't—get enough of.

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Dancer to Dancer

What do you get when you mash up Mean Girls, High School Musical, and Fame, and then add in a cast of social media's top teen influencers? That'd be the upcoming film Next Level. And the movie's new trailer is, well, next-level stuff.

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