MJ The Musical has found its Michael Jackson: Ephraim Sykes.

If there's anyone who's up to the task, it's easily Sykes. The Tony-nominated triple threat has proved his mettle time and again in six Broadway shows. No stranger to the soul and pop genres, he was in the casts of Memphis and Motown The Musical, and is currently starring as David Ruffin in Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.

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Dance News
Courtesy Kreiling

When Rachel Kreiling first walked into New York City Dance Alliance as a young student in 1995, she couldn't have anticipated the lifelong connections she was about to make. Following a performing career that took her around the world, Kreiling found herself back at NYCDA as an assistant at the invitation of founder Joe Lanteri. She joined the faculty in 2008 and has been there ever since.

At the heart of Kreiling's teaching is her passion for dancer wellness. Kinesiology, neuroscience and conditioning play a key role in her work at NYCDA and as a guest teacher at studios nationwide. We talked to Kreiling for our very first "Whole Dancer" column, where we hear from top NYCDA dancers, choreographers and teachers about wellness, self-care and more:

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Sponsored by NYCDA
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Sure, our Instagram bios permanently read, "I can't, I have dance." But let's be honest: We love it. All those grueling hours at the studio? They're also pretty wonderful.

Since it's the season of gratitude, we decided to make a list of nine moments every dancer is grateful for.

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Just for Fun
Courtesy Just for Kix

Dancer and teacher Ali (Clough) Geraets remembers a time when she couldn't find shoes for her class of hip-hop students. She wanted a pair of combat boots that were functional on the dance floor, stylish enough for performance, and at an affordable price point so her dancers could buy them. She also needed a store that carried enough stock for the whole class. "We ended up buying shoes from Kohl's, and they were super slippery," Geraets says. "We were like, 'Oh my gosh, we should be making these for dancers.' "

That's when Geraets, along with her colleague Xue Li, got to work on designing her own pair of combat boots, made especially for hip-hop dancers. Their first design was a pair of sequined boots made for Gia-Mia, that came in both black and silver. After that success, Geraets started designing shoes for Just For Kix, exploring options that are both functional and stylish for dancers.

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Just for Inspiration, Sponsored by Just for Kix
From left: Tina Pereira, Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin Floors; Courtesy Harlequin Floors

For today's versatile dancer, it's not enough to just show up to daily class. Top-notch training includes conditioning, self-care and a home practice with the right training tools. Amp up your home studio (and your dancing) with these three accessories from Harlequin Floors—just in time for holiday gift-giving. (Bonus: They all ship free!)

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Photo by Erin Baiano

Moody lighting streams across a dance studio. As a pop anthem blasts, a supergroup of strong, confident dancers attacks intricate choreography with finesse and poise. But this isn't the latest class video to achieve viral status—it's footage of the world-famous Radio City Rockettes at work.

For almost a century, the Rockettes have been celebrated for their signature style of precision dance, which combines ballet, tap, and classic jazz to awe-inspiring effect. These 80 women (two casts of 36, plus four swings/dance captains) have always been the undisputed stars of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which is seen by over a million fans each year.

But the Rockettes are out to start some new traditions, too. When opening night of the 87th season of the Spectacular arrives later this month, the curtain will rise on one of the most diverse kicklines in Rockette history—including an unprecedented 13 fresh faces. Meet four of them here.

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Cover Story
Francesca Hayward (center) in Cats (courtesy NBCUniversal)

Get excited, Jellicle fans: It's almost time meow!

We're about a month out from the release of the new movie version of Cats. To mark the occasion, the film's team has dropped another dance-filled trailer. The vid offers further peeks at Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography—and at the "digital fur technology"-enhanced versions of the celebrities (dance-world and, uh, world-world) involved, from Taylor Swift to Francesca Hayward.

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Dance Videos
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 serious about dancing, but I'm also a good academic student. I'm 15 now, and it's getting really hard to balance my intensive dance training with honors classes and the homework that comes with them. I don't want to pick a path just yet—I'm not sure if I want to try to dance professionally, or if I want to go to college, or if I want to do both! Is there a way to balance everything without cutting way back on either dance or schoolwork?

Alex

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Dear Katie
Okay, we might have been crying a little watching James Van Der Beek's foxtrot (Erin McCandless, courtesy ABC)

If you haven't yet watched last night's episode of "Dancing with the Stars," we're going to kindly recommend that you grab the tissues before doing so. Because, OH. WOW. We were teary-eyed through the whole darn thing. And we weren't the only ones: The entire ballroom seemed to be on the verge of waterworks, from the stars to the pros to, yes, even the judges.

That's not a huge surprise, really. It was the semi-finals, so naturally tensions were running high. And we only have one more week left with all our incredible stars, which is cause enough for crying. But before we start tearing up again, let's get to some of the incredible dancing we saw last night—of which there was plenty!

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Dance Videos
Darius Hickman and Taylor Sieve in Travis Wall's "It Takes a Lot to Know a Man" (Adam Rose, courtesy FOX)

As an audience member, it's easy to overlook how much work went into the performance onstage—a dancer's job is to make it look effortless, after all. But every pro has tackled a role that made them doubt themselves, whether by testing their stamina, pushing them out of their comfort zones, or touching on their vulnerabilities and insecurities. Here, six dancers share some of their toughest roles, how they made it through, and what they learned.

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Dancer to Dancer
Courtesy Macy's, Inc.

As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?

This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three NYC dance institutions.

Tune in to NBC November 28 from 9 am to noon (in all time zones), or catch the rebroadcast at 2 pm (also in all time zones). Here's what's in store:

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Dance News
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Sponsored by NYCDA
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Your first semester as a college dance student can be hectic. But being busy is no reason to put your mental health on hold. In fact, the times when you feel totally overwhelmed by tasks and to-do lists are actually when your mental health is most important.

Luckily, most colleges have tons of on-campus resources for getting help with your mental wellness. Just as you would go to the PT if your ankle were suddenly bothering you, you should seek out counseling resources if you're feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed. DS talked to two college educators about the best ways to use your college counseling resources—and why it's important to do so.

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