A Small-Screen Spectacular

This month, Nickelodeon premieres its first-ever movie musical, Spectacular! With an all-star cast of triple threats led by choreographer RJ Durell, this flick is sure to be a small-screen hit. We gave RJ a call to get the full Spectacular! scoop.  —Alison Feller

Dance Spirit: What can viewers expect from the movie?

RJ Durell: The whole movie is jam-packed with music and dance. It’s a really uplifting story. It’s also all performance-based. We had 15 rehearsal days to put together 12 musical numbers for the movie, so our plates were very full.


DS: What are your favorite scenes?

RJD: “Something to Believe In” is a showstopper! I also really like “Lonely Love Song.” The dancing brings out thecharacters’ personalities. It’s really fun.


DS: You’ve worked with so many people in the entertainment industry. Who’s been your favorite?

RJD: Madonna! When I was 15, I stayed up late one night to watch The Girlie Show on HBO. I watched the whole concert and remember thinking to
myself that if you dance with Madonna, you’ve made it. A few years later, I choreographed her Confessions tour and was like, “Wow, I made it!” That was a big milestone for me. She’s so driven, focused, intelligent and inspiring. She always goes full-out, and so do I. That’s how you get the best results.  


DS: What’s next for you?

RJD: I’m choreographing and directing Keyshia Cole’s tour. Her new album is really hot! Then I’ll be going to Russia to do some video choreography.
I really like being able to direct and choreograph. No one knows how to capture choreography on film like the choreographer. You need to have that creative mind. I love doing music videos and movie musicals, like Spectacular!


DS: What is your advice to dancers looking to be cast in movie musicals?

RJD: Be prepared. Take as many dance and acting classes as possible. In a movie, you’re not only performing a routine, you’re also part of the environment and story. Even if you don’t have lines, you have to carry the scene with the actors. When you’re auditioning, enjoy yourself. The people who look like they’re having fun are the ones I want to work with and hire.

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

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Amblin Entertainment

Steven Spielberg's much-anticipated remake of West Side Storychoreographed by Justin Peck, and starring a bevy of very good dancers—is in production, hooray! And that means it's finally time for us to get a look at the film's cast members in character. Let's break down the first photo from the project.

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