Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2014 Cover Model Search finalists: Alyssa Allen, Sarah Pippin and Christina Ricucci! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit’s October 2014 cover. Check out each girl's bio and photos below, and watch their solo videos. Then, go behind the scenes to see the finalists in action at Broadway Dance Center and on set with photographer Erin Baiano. To read more about each finalist, get your hands on a copy of the July/August issue. You only get one chance to vote for your favorite—make it count!
Alyssa, Sarah and Christina spent three days in NYC with the Dance Spirit editors. They did some Big Apple sightseeing, took classes at Broadway Dance Center, saw Cinderella on Broadway and had a photo shoot with dance photographer Erin Baiano.
Voting is now closed. Look for the winner on the October cover of Dance Spirit!
In the competition world, a small group of musicians has attained almost cultlike status, with choreographers turning to their tracks over and over. We know how we feel about these bangers—there's a reason we can't stop dancing to them—but how do the musicians feel about us? We caught up with three contemporary artists whose music has dominated the competition scene recently, and gauged their reactions to the dances set to their life's work.
Bishop Briggs (photo by Eric Ray Davidson, courtesy Bishop Briggs)
<p><span style="background-color: initial;">When Galen Hooks and Tim Milgram released a class video set to Bishop Briggs' "River," it was instantly clear that the song would become a competition </span><span style="background-color: initial;">hit. Since then, choreographers at studios around the country have tried their hand at the song (not to mention the rest of Briggs' music), layering their interpretations</span> on top of her smoky pop beat.</p><p><strong>On discovering her dance-world popularity:</strong> "It's been surreal to find out what people have created out of my music. I'm really active on social media, so when I see dance videos set to my music, I watch them and comment on them. I stalk! I've met people completely out of the blue who've told me they've made a dance to one of my songs. That's the coolest thing."</p><p><strong>On making musical discoveries through choreography:</strong> "There are so many different beats that dancers pick up on that I wouldn't have thought of as the obvious choice. My favorite thing about the dance community is they're giving my songs new life. My original goal as a songwriter was to make people feel less alone. So the idea that dancers are taking a song and using it as their security blanket—or their reason to let go of that blanket and be fully themselves—it's just every dream of mine."</p>
Watch Bishop Briggs React to a Competition Dance Routine Set to "River"
<p><strong></strong><span style="background-color: initial;"><strong>On choreographers who cut or change the arrangement of her music:</strong></span> "Nothing rings negative to me about making it your own. In terms of changing a song or using a remix version of a song to do a dance to, that's all part of expression and creativity. I think it's really flattering."</p><p><strong>On what makes her music so danceable:</strong> "I hope there's something about the beats that makes people want to dance. When I'm writing, it's coming from a place of releasing something from my body, whether that's pain or sadness or joy or anger. When I think of dance, it also seems like such a release. Maybe that's what people are drawn to—it's a similar form of self-expression."</p>
Ryan Lott (photo by Zenith Richard, courtesy Ryan Lott)
Ryan Lott of Son Lux
<p>Son Lux incorporates elements of post-rock, electronica, hip hop, pop, and even classical—an ideal piece of clay for choreographers to shape. Songs like "Change is Everything," "Dream State," and "Cage of Bones" have blasted through competition speakers so often, we all know each detail by heart. Founder Ryan Lott is no stranger to the dance world, either: He collaborated with Travis Wall on Shaping Sound's show <em>After the Curtain</em>.</p><p><strong>On discovering his dance-world popularity:</strong> "My niece is a dancer, and at one point years ago, my sister told me she kept hearing Son Lux songs at dance competitions. Around that time, my wife, who teaches dance at a university, also observed that auditionees were dancing to Son Lux. Then we started getting requests to use our music on 'So You Think You Can Dance,' and our Instagram started to light up with young dancers moving to our music."</p><p><strong>On how he feels about said popularity: </strong>"I think it's rad! I appreciate anyone who spends their precious time listening to our music. And there's something even more special to me for those who choose to move to it."</p><p><strong>On making musical discoveries </strong><strong>through choreography:</strong> "Happens all the time! It's one of my favorite things about experiencing choreography to my music. Once it's made, it's no longer mine. Music lives its own life apart from its makers, and watching dance to my music often reveals this truth."</p><p><strong>On what makes his music so danceable:</strong> "There's an internal dynamism in Son Lux songs that is relatively uncommon in pop songs. And there are relatively few lyrics in our average song—the instrumental aspects are always doing most of the work. I know a lot of choreographers look for these traits when seeking out new music. I'm not a dancer, but I've been writing music for dance—apart from the Son Lux stuff—for a very long time now. There must be something about movement that has made its way into my creative voice generally, even when I'm not writing explicitly for dance."</p>
Jack Garratt (photo by Jake Wagner, courtesy Jack Garratt)
<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Dancers around the globe gravitated to Jack Garratt's 2016 "Surprise Yourself," with its powerful message, soaring vocals, and intricate beats. Since then, competition studios have created innumerable pieces to a range of Garratt's songs. And Garratt loves the dance world right back. In fact, his campaign for his latest album, </span><span style="background-color: initial;"><em>Love, Death & Dancing</em>, features eight videos full of him doing nothing but dancing.</span></p><p><strong>On the role dance plays in his music:</strong> "Dance is a hugely important part of the reason I make music. It's always been part of my life, and is an important storytelling method. As someone who makes a form of dance music, the highest compliment I can get is to have someone choreograph to it."</p><p><strong>On his personal relationship with </strong><strong>dance:</strong> "I'm not a trained dancer, but I used to dance when I was a kid. I like music that makes me want to move. Moving is such a vulnerable act."</p><p><strong>On his dance-world popularity:</strong> "I was aware of it a bit, because people tagged me in videos on Instagram, where my songs were being used in dance competitions. They were geo-tagged in different parts of the world that I'd never even been to, let alone known there was an active dance community there."</p>
Watch Jack Garratt React to a Competition Dance Routine Set to "Surprise Yourself"
<p><strong><span style="background-color: initial;">On making musical discoveries </span><span style="background-color: initial;">through choreography:</span></strong><strong> </strong>"Whenever I watch a performance to a song of mine, it's amazing to see the details in the music I hadn't spotted myself. Jillian Meyers did a duet to a live performance of a song from my first album called 'The Love You're Given.' She and her partner were able to create moments out of lyrics I didn't realize were as poignant as they showed them to be. It was a story I could never have told myself, because it's <em>their</em> story, even if my music is the base of it."</p><p><strong>On watching work set to his music:</strong> "You have to separate yourself. This is not my song at the moment, it's theirs. It's very important that I'm able to distance myself from songs once they've gone out and are helping other people, or are being extended by people in different ways."</p><p><strong>On what makes his music so danceable:</strong> "I think the reason people like to choreograph to my music is because there's a deep well of rhythmic information within it. I layer things up with cross-rhythms, counter-rhythms, and syncopated rhythms. I produce as well as write my songs, so I'm creating the sonic world that surrounds them. And I like to consider the 'movement' of a song—how does it exist in a visual space? The easiest way to do that is to think about how people could dance to it." </p>
The curtain rises, the crowd goes wild, and the bright lights of Broadway shine down as you make your debut on opening night…it's every Broadway baby's dream. But you may be surprised to learn that a show's journey to the Great White Way can be months, or even years, in the making. How does a production go from concept to curtain call? We spoke to industry veterans about what happens at every stage.
The Initial Idea
<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Typically, a producer, writer, composer, and director are the first people enlisted to help the idea for a show take shape, but every project is different. For Tony-award–nominated choreographer Joshua Bergasse, the earlier </span><span style="background-color: initial;">he gets on board, the better. "I like being able to influence </span><span style="background-color: initial;">the creation of the show, and point out which parts of the story can be told through dance and movement," he says. Once drafts of the book and music are completed, the team holds an informal reading of the work to get feedback from producers. Then, preproduction is assembled. "I'll use a skeleton crew of a few dancers, get into a studio, and come up with different combinations of choreography," Bergasse explains. "The goal is to create lots of different pieces that we can build on later." </span></p>
The women of King Kong on the first day of Broadway rehearsals (courtesy Eliza Ohman)
Developmental Lab and Rehearsals
<p>The next phase of the production is a workshop or developmental lab, which usually lasts three to four weeks. Here, the show begins to take shape, as an initial cast of principal leads and an ensemble learn musical numbers and staging. Dancers, take note: This is typically the earliest that you can audition for a show. Broadway dancer Eliza Ohman auditioned for a developmental lab of <em>King Kong</em>, and saw the show all the way to Broadway one year later. "For labs, the creative team looks for unique artists who inspire them," she says. "It's important to know your artistic point of view, and also when it's appropriate to share your own ideas." Naturally, even when you have the job, the audition is never quite over. According to Bergasse, "dancers have to prove they're excited about the project, and make themselves invaluable to the team as things move forward." The lab often culminates in a final showing, and from there, the production will either go back to the drawing board, or move on to a more rigorous rehearsal period.</p>
The Broadway cast of King Kong after its final studio run (courtesy Joshua Bergasse)
Tech and Previews
<p>Whether a show heads straight to a Broadway theater or out-of-town for a "tryout" run of performances, tech is where a production settles into its new home onstage. Costumes, lighting, and sets are all introduced in a jam-packed few weeks, until it's time to add the final ingredient: an audience. Ohman says, "When you start previews, the show feels alive again. It's rejuvenating for the company to have fresh eyes and ears reacting to the story." Previews are a production's first real test, for both the appeal of the show and the stamina of its cast. During previews, the cast spends its days in rehearsals implementing changes, corrections, and, sometimes, entirely new portions of the show. "By this point, you're exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally," Ohman says. "As an artist, you grow attached to certain aspects of the show, so it can be hard to see them changed. But you have to be willing to trust the process, problem-solve, and stay totally focused while performing each night's version." Adaptability is crucial. Bergasse explains, "If I have to put in a whole new number for the next performance that night, the dancers can't freak out. They have to be ready to roll with anything." </p>
<p>For Ohman, opening night is full of mixed emotions. "There's so much anticipation, but also a lot of nerves, because you don't feel settled in the show yet," she says. "It's likely that you didn't start performing the final version until a few nights before." Bergasse agrees. "There's a saying that you never actually finish a show; you just open it," he says. "You're always going to be tweaking things and trying to improve. But to finally let it go just a bit on opening night is cause for celebration."</p><p>Every show follows a unique path, and even veterans like Bergasse never quite know if a project is destined for Broadway. For Ohman, however, the process is just as rewarding as the final product: "There's nothing quite as exciting as being able to collaborate on a show you love, and help make it the best version it can be."</p>
If you're looking for a sign that 2020 might *just* be turning around, look no further than Netflix's new dance-centric film Work It. The movie comes out this Friday, August 7, and the hype is real. ICYMI, the film follows high school senior Quinn Ackerman, played by none other than Sabrina Carpenter, as she attempts to lead her dance team to a competition win in order to bolster her chances of being admitted to the college of her dreams. One small challenge: Quinn isn't a dancer.
Enter Jordan Fisher as Jake Taylor, a talented-but-troubled choreographer and dancer, to help Quinn lead the team. We had the chance to speak with Fisher about his experience on set, and why Work It just might be the dance movie we've all been waiting for.
<p><em>Dance Spirit</em>: Why should <em>Dance Spirit</em> readers be excited to watch <em>Work It</em>?</p><p>Jordan Fisher: The movie is littered with incredible talent from the dance world, that's a given—it's a dance movie. And we haven't had too many dance movies in recent history. I grew up with movies like <em>Save the Last Dance</em>, and <em>Honey</em>, and the <em>Step Up</em> series, even <em>Footloose</em> and <em>Dirty Dancing</em>. All of those movies informed my love and passion for film and for dance. So, I think that it's a modern dance movie is really exciting.</p><p><em>DS</em>: What was it like working with Sabrina Carpenter and <a href="https://www.dancespirit.com/tag/liza-koshy" target="_blank">Liza Koshy</a> on the film?</p><p>JF: Love them both so much. I've known Sabrina for forever. We've been friends since, like, 2013, but we've never actually worked on anything together aside from a few things we did for Disney Channel when we were both working there. So, working together on this project was really exciting for the both of us, having been longtime friends.</p><p>And I've been a fan of Liza's since her very first video on Vine, and I've followed her career ever since, so I was beyond thrilled to get to work with her. She's just a ray of sunshine—so kind, so warm, so stupidly talented, and so remarkably funny, so working with her made for some really great days on set.</p>
Fisher with Work It co-star Sabrina Carpenter (Brendan Adam-Zwelling/Netflix)
<p><em>DS</em>: Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes memory with them?</p><p>JF: Honestly, there were a couple of scenes where Laura Terruso, our director, wanted Liza to just <em>be Liza</em>. She would have Liza improvise, go off-script, and for me, trying to stay in character while she was doing that was the hardest acting exercise I've ever done. She is just so funny.</p><p><em>DS</em>: What was it like working with choreographer Aakomon Jones?</p><p>JF: He's incredible. Aakomon is just a walking vibe, and he cultivated such a great space for us to rehearse in. He's so full of love, so full of passion where dance is concerned, and even more where people are concerned, and it made for such a great environment on set.</p><p><em>DS</em>: Do you have a personal favorite part of the film?</p><p>JF: There's this great dance sequence that I got to be a part of that <a href="https://www.dancespirit.com/tag/d-trix" target="_blank">D-Trix</a> actually choreographed for this one specific moment: Sabrina and Liza's characters find a video online while they're trying to look up information on my character, Jake Taylor. They come across this dance video that "Jake" choreographed, but it was all D-Trix, of course, and it's so awesome. It was some of the most challenging dancing I did in the movie—we did some stunting and tricking that I hadn't done in such a long time, but D-Trix was just like, 'I know you can do this because I know you, so let's just throw it, let's just make it happen,' and I'm so proud of how it turned out.</p><p><em>DS</em>: What was it like working with D-Trix on this movie?</p><p>JF: It was such a blast. We have a ton of mutual friends, from the "So You Think You Can Dance" world and just from being a part of the dance industry, but we've never actually had a chance to work together before. We clicked immediately, and understood each other, so we had a ton of fun putting that number together. We actually added that scene in as a part of reshoots, after we wrapped on principal photography, so I had to fly back from New York—we spent a full day in the studio, learning the routine, and then shot it the next day, and had so much fun doing it.</p>
<p><em>DS</em>: What was the biggest challenge for you working on this project?</p><p>JF: A couple of things—I was actually working on a few different projects at the same time, so that was a new experience for me, having to fly in and out so much. I had to work really hard to stay engaged with the film because of that, so that was a personal challenge for me, and one that I'm really proud of myself for accomplishing.</p><p>Where the film itself was concerned, I've done a couple of movie-musical type projects, and they're really difficult. Shooting dance sequences is grueling. You spend all day, all night, just doing the same chunks of dances over, and over, and over again, having to go back and start over, and all of a sudden, it's 3 a.m. and we have to pretend like we're starting the number for the very first time. It's a mental and physical challenge that's not for the faint of heart, but the finished product is so satisfying.</p><p><em>DS</em>: We have to ask, since you were so great as John Ambrose McClaren—are there any similarities between this movie and <em>To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You</em>?</p><p>JF: Not too many similarities, other than the fact that it's a Netflix film! I'm playing a totally different character—you know, John Ambrose doesn't dance! But at the end of the day, John Ambrose, and Jake, my character in <em>Work It</em>, are both really good guys. Jake is a little more troubled, a little more frustrated with life than John Ambrose is, but I would say that watchers will be able to celebrate for Jake in the end a little more than they could for John Ambrose—no spoilers though!</p><p><em>DS</em>: What do you hope viewers will take away from <em>Work It</em>?</p><p>JF: The main message I hope people take away is that it's okay if plans change. We might have goals in our lives, and we might be working really hard to cultivate those goals, but it's okay if those goals shift or change, due to the people that you meet, or a new passion you develop—those things are actually really great. Life throws you curveballs, and how you navigate that is entirely up to you.</p>