If you know Sean Lew (and let's be real—you should), you know that he pours his heart and soul into his craft. Born a star, Lew has danced alongside artists like Sia and Janet Jackson, choreographed for names like Justin Bieber and Meghan Trainor, and performed on two seasons on NBC's "World of Dance."
At only 19, Lew's worn more hats than your average human (or even superhuman), and yet he continues to build upon his long list of natural skills—by adding "producer" into the mix. This time around, he's focused on his own passion project. He produced, wrote, directed, choreographed, edited and even stars in his upcoming film II: An Unspoken Narrative, which also features some of our other fave dancers like Kaycee Rice, Zach Venegas and Bailey Sok, just to name a few.
More than just a dance video, and described as his "life's work put into motion," this experimental film fully encapsulates the past four years of Lew's life, depicting an unspoken narrative expressed through dance. There's no dialogue—everything is up for interpretation. Keep reading to get the inside scoop, and be sure to follow Lew at @seanlew as he continues to influence the world with his endless creative ventures.
Know any extraordinary dance educators? (We're guessing the answer is yes.)
Nominate them for a Dance Teacher Award! Every year, our sister magazine, Dance Teacher, recognizes excellence in teaching by honoring four outstanding educators for their contributions to the field.
DT is currently accepting nominations for the 2021 Dance Teacher Awards, and they're looking for dance educators who:
Congratulations to the January Cover Model Search Editors' Choice video winner, and our first 2022 CMS semi-finalist, Emily Roman! Watch her solo below, and be sure to enter the Cover Model Search here.
As you may have learned firsthand from your shin splints and furniture run-ins, it's nearly impossible to replicate some aspects of your dance training in a small bedroom or on a concrete driveway. But all is not lost in your quarantined quest to perfect your grand allégro.
Pilates is one of the best low-impact cross-training tools for dancers, thanks to its combined focus on strength, alignment, and flexibility. Taylor Sambola, certified Power Pilates teacher and professional ballet dancer, breaks down four exercises to develop the muscle strength and coordination needed for explosive jumps, without aggravating your joints—or your downstairs neighbors.
Exercise 1: Side Series
Exercise 2: Footwork Series
Exercise 3: Hamstring Curls
Exercise 4: Full Body Overhead
Time to let your artistic skills blossom—but this time, we don't mean on the dance floor. Dancer, choreographer, and artist Amber Pickens has used her quarantine time to illustrate a coloring book that celebrates Black dance history.
The Juilliard graduate, who recently made her choreographic debut, created Blooming in Motion as a fun, educational way to highlight 20 dance legends that have brought vibrance to the dance world. Perfect for Black History Month and beyond!
We got a chance to chat with Pickens (and her dog, Broadway!) about how the idea came to be from seed to soil to full-on sprout.
An Early Love for the Arts<p>Outside of dance, Pickens' appreciation for the arts was fueled by her early fascination with animation and sketching.</p><p>For her, one of the biggest takeaways stemming from this project is the newfound knowledge she's gained on each dance legend. "I wish I would've known more about Janet Collins when I was a little girl, or in college, when I didn't see that representation because I was always in these predominantly Eurocentric environments," she says.</p><p>Growing up with a book like this would've allowed Pickens to be less inclined to compare herself to others. "I think so many of us do that, especially in the ballet world. We see all these images of beautiful white women, and that's great. Their stories need to be told. But everybody's stories need to be told," she says.</p><p>She pondered the notion of giving people flowers while you still can, instead of waiting. Feeding that thought, she considered how flowers are a well-known symbol of gratitude and appreciation—and that's how the title came to be. These ideas naturally tied themselves into the coloring book "because that's what I'm doing: celebrating each one of them and really saying 'thank you,'" she says.</p>
Jacob Norman, courtesy Pickens
A Seed Is Planted<p>Four months into quarantine, the concept started to bloom as Pickens began studying more about the benefits of coloring. She also did a ton of research on mandalas, which inspired the floral designs you'll find complementing the dancers on each page. She wanted the theme of the coloring book to embody blooming and growing, and the concept became easier to build on when she realized that both dance and life are about growing through your journey, "not just doing the motions, but blooming in motion," she says.</p><p>For Pickens, coloring is a big-time mood booster. "It's like a meditation for the day, a break from everything going on," she says. "And it's nice when the images are something to look forward to! It's definitely like a creative getaway."</p>
Receiving Her Own Flowers<p><em>Blooming in Motion </em>honors many legends, but what does it feel like when one of those legends honors you? Pickens felt humbled to receive a review from one of her mentors, <em>the</em> Debbie Allen. As a young dancer, Allen's wisdom allowed Pickens to go through life saying "I'm not just a dancer, and I'm not just an artist. I'm an ambassador of the arts. I have a calling. I can do whatever I want to do."</p><p>"For Ms. Allen to like it, acknowledge it <em>and</em> be so gracious to share a quote with me truly meant the world because I want <em>all</em> of these legends to be proud."</p><p>The selflessness embodied within Allen's teaching made her a trailblazer without question, in Pickens' mind. "And that's how you reach your highest potential—your full bloom," she says. "It's when you understand that your purpose is so far beyond yourself."</p>
Jacob Norman, courtesy Pickens