So here you go, "A to Z En Pointe." Did they miss any?
A TO Z EN POINTE www.youtube.com
So here you go, "A to Z En Pointe." Did they miss any?
A TO Z EN POINTE www.youtube.com
At just 20 years old, Sienna Lalau is the living definition of "dynamite dancer": bold, confident, almost addicting to watch, and, at her core, overflowing with pure passion. From her work with The Lab Studios to Video Music Award–winning choreography for BTS, there's no stopping this starlet from bringing her love of dance to the global stage.
"Dance is something that can truly connect people," Sienna tells Dance Spirit. "It's a universal language. We may not speak the same language physically, but when we dance, there's a connection where we understand each other on another level."
Photo by Joe Toreno
That sense of a universal language is a large part of the reason Sienna has felt so deeply moved by K-pop and its influence on the dance world. A longtime fan of the genre—a love so deeply rooted that Korean dramas have become her obsession throughout the pandemic—Sienna's first experience choreographing for a K-pop group was with Exo. With one day to put together the full routine ("I was up until about 5 am," she recalls), it was a stressful experience, but one that showed her the possibilities that could arise ahead.
That moment eventually led to her work with global superstars BTS, with whom she's developed a close relationship over the years. "Being in the same room with them is just so amazing to witness, because you instantly feel their passion and their energy, and you feel how much they care about their fans and their work," Sienna says. And as she talks about BTS, her voice lights up with clear admiration for what the group has accomplished, and for how proud she feels about the work she's created with them, as she rightfully should.
"It was so amazing to see her work with BTS and help bring them to life through her choreography," says Valerie Ramirez, founder and creative director of The Lab. "Even with a language barrier, it was pretty amazing to watch her work with them and see what she could do with their art form."
Sienna clearly has great synergy with the boys, given her similar sense of love and passion for dance and the art community as a whole. "Just seeing people that have never even heard about it before starting to listen to it now and starting to appreciate these different groups and the music itself, even if they don't speak the same language as us, is so wholesome to me," Sienna says. "And I think K-pop has literally just taken over the world."
Sienna's work with BTS largely stems from her roots at The Lab, a training studio for world-class dancers. She began working with The Lab back in November of 2016, while still living in her home state of Hawaii. Traveling back and forth between the island and California, Sienna began to grow her reputation with the organization before officially making the move to the West Coast in late 2017, after helping The Lab win Hip Hop International's Varsity Division.
"She's always been special and brilliant," says Ramirez. "Her ability to create with a team of peers at The Lab has allowed her creativity to fully bloom."
Making the move was far from an easy decision, though. Sienna's mom deeply wanted her to finish high school in Hawaii, but didn't want to discourage any opportunities that could come her way. And while moving to L.A.—or New York City—is often a young dancer's dream, it comes with an unspoken level of anxiety that Sienna experienced firsthand.
"I came up here by myself at first, and the first month alone was pretty tragic," she remembers.
Photo by Joe Toreno
Thankfully, Sienna's mom went out to L.A. a month later, but that time period—stripped from her family, home and everything that felt so natural to her—was an immense challenge in and of itself. In that moment, she turned to God for comfort.
"I knew that if I kept having faith, and I knew that if I just put my trust in God and really leaned on Him, I knew that he was going to provide for me, and he was going to take care of me, and I didn't have to worry about it," she says. And looking back now, that couldn't have been truer.
Sienna's work with The Lab quickly picked up steam, with headline-making moments popping up what felt like every couple of months. And still, it's impossible for her to pick a favorite. When pushed, though, she reveals that there's nothing as special as preparing for a competition with her fellow dancers.
"When we're preparing for a competition, it's so, so, so stressful, but it's helped me grow the most. The one thing that we really cherish at The Lab is our chemistry with each other," Sienna says, "There's days where we're literally just cleaning the same eight-count for hours, and still, the energy that you feel in the room is so amazing because everybody has each other's back. It really feels like a family."
She adds, "It feels like it's been a long ride, but I look back now, and it hasn't even been five years. But with the number of things that we've been able and blessed to do, it feels like the best crazy long ride."
And that ride is only getting started. Ramirez only sees success in Sienna's future, saying, "I think a world tour would be something that she is so ready to create for. She's ready to express herself on a higher level and a bigger magnitude of creativity."
Despite the ways 2020 has thrown the dance industry into a spiral, Sienna is staying positive and hopeful, knowing that the universal language of dance will never fade. Through the pandemic, she's been able to choreograph for Black Pink, Treasure, and for a visual album for "Changes" by Justin Bieber. And as if that wasn't spectacular enough, she also found the time to choreograph a special promo for March Madness to Selena Gomez's "Dance Again." Clearly, not even a global shutdown can stop Sienna's star from rising.
Like most of us, her go-to form of self-care during this troublesome time has been a Netflix binge. She's resting a lot more, as well, an uncommon thing for a dancer normally constantly on the move.
When it comes to the album she has on repeat, Ariana Grande's Positions instantly comes to mind. And when she's in the mood for some more K-pop, "Dynamite," by BTS, is the first to come on shuffle.
Photo by Joe Toreno
Looking ahead with so much up in the air, one thing is clear in Sienna's mind: Dance has never been so important. "Dancing in general is more important now than ever before, because it's something that makes people feel good at the end of the day and brings a lot of joy. And we all need that right now."
By now, if you're on #DanceTok, you've probably come across the Fosse Challenge, AKA a short portion of the dance number "Rich Man's Frug" from Sweet Charity, choreographed by Bob Fosse.
But you don't get the whole picture from one TikTok challenge. Here are five fast facts about Fosse that we're pretty sure you didn't learn on TikTok.
Before he was a choreographer, Bob Fosse was a dancer in vaudeville and burlesque shows. In 1945 he enlisted in the Navy and then returned to dancing after World War II ended.
Fosse took up directing his own shows in order to have more creative control over his choreography. From there he began directing and choreographing films, such as Sweet Charity and Cabaret.
Fosse choreographed his first musical, Pajama Game, in 1954. From there he added 10 more musicals to his repertoire, including Damn Yankees, Chicago, Pippin, and Cabaret.
You can thank Fosse for every dance to "Cell Block Tango," "Roxie," and "Mein Herr" that you see at dance competitions.
Fosse's signature style was groundbreaking at the time it was new, so naturally, other artists took notice. His choreography has influenced music videos starring Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and more.
Throughout his life, Fosse struggled with substance abuse and depression. He was prone to outbursts and arguments, and was a known serial philanderer. His tumultuous life and relationships were dramatized in the 2019 miniseries "Fosse/Verdon."
Bob Fosse holds a record eight Tony Awards for choreography, as well as one for direction. He also won Academy Awards and an Emmy over the course of his career.
Dance is famous for its ability to instill valuable life skills. But it can also be a conduit to so many other forms of artistic expression. And if you've ever watched the phenomenon that is "RuPaul's Drag Race," you've seen how interdisciplinary art can be—and how dance and the art of drag often work in harmony.
The show has made huge stars of its contestants, and among the most famous are those who trained in dance before they started drag. We spoke with four sickening "Drag Race" stars about how dance helped boost their careers in the direction of drag—and to eventual stardom.
You might know drag artist Brooke Lynn Hytes from watching her compete—and dance on pointe—on season 11 of "RPDR." Or perhaps you know her as the main judge on the spinoff series, "Canada's Drag Race." But did you know Hytes had a full-fledged dance performance career before entering the world of drag?
"I found dance a little bit later in life," Hytes says, who took her first dance class in the eighth grade. "I noticed very quickly that I had a good facility for it." A year later, while attending a high school arts program, a friend asked Hytes to audition with her for a summer session at Canada's National Ballet School. "She didn't even show up to audition," Hytes remembers. But Hytes showed up—and made the cut.
She trained at the school from grades 10 through 12, and an additional two years after that, before moving to Germany to study at the School of the Hamburg Ballet. Just two weeks in, Hytes got a call from dance pioneer Rudi van Dantzig, who'd taken notice of her while teaching at Canada's National Ballet School. He was looking to see if she'd play a lead role in a ballet he was mounting in South Africa, and, later, Dantzig helped Hytes secure a full-time contract with Cape Town City Ballet. But after two years with the company, Hytes found the job wasn't fulfilling. "I just had no interest in doing a double cabriolet or all the male stuff," she says. "I wanted to be the tall, pretty girl."
Hytes moved to New York City to dance with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the all-male-presenting ballet troupe that performs on pointe, and in drag. "It was very freeing," she says. But having to be slapstick funny—a hallmark of the company—wasn't exactly her "thing." And at that point in her career, her passion for dance was withering.
So, after four seasons, she left the company to focus full-time on drag. But her dance past continued to play a role: "My dance career has taught me important life lessons and life skills, like the importance of working as a group and being professional, and being able to take criticism," Hytes says. "And those are all things that have served me very well in my drag career."
On the most recent season of "RPDR", contestant—and queen of throwing shade (#IFYKYK)—Rosé made a real name for herself. In fact, she clawed her way to the top four in the "Grand Finale" episode.
Rosé attributes her success on the show (and beyond) to her background in dance and musical theater. "In college, I started really forming better technique," Rosé says. "I was a part of several modern dance companies that toured the world through my university."
The theater training, in particular, boxed Rosé within traditional conceptions of gender. "I was going through a theatre program that, for the sake of working in the industry, was trying to shape my ability and form to be more masculine." But the dance classes she took allowed for the opposite: expression. "When I was a kid, dance was definitely a form of gender expression when I was confused about all of that," she says.
Years later, those experiences continue to show up in Rosé's high-octane, fully embodied drag. "Little things from ballet inform my posture—like how I walk and hold myself," the NYC-based entertainer says. "Dance has also given me an awareness of my body. And because drag is so physical in its nature, dance has contributed not just to the performance aspect of my drag, but to how I look and how I move in a drag."
Chicago-based drag artist Denali, who served as a cast member on the most recent season of "RPDR," says her drag is based "solely around my ability to move, perform, and dance." She developed her craft performing in nightlife scenes throughout the Windy City. "I was booked a lot as the 'high-energy performance girl,' and filled that spot in most shows, since Chicago has a lot of artsy, conceptual performers, but not a lot of stunt queens." (Stunt queens are known for their jaw-dropping, often acrobatic, tricks.)
Her time as a figure skater inspired her to take up dance. "As cross-training, we did a lot of ballet, jazz, and hip hop," she says. "But I gravitated more towards hip hop, and blended different styles on the ice." Being a figure skater also helped Denali understand that she didn't have to stick to traditional gender expressions. Dance, she says, reinforced that.
When asked which choreographers she dreams of working with, Denali names Parris Goebel (and The Royal Family). "She's leading the mainstream dance movement in all facets and truly creates some of the most intricate shapes and movement in her work," she says. "I would also love to work with Yanis Marshall, Spella, and Kiel Tutin."
These sources of inspiration—and the years of dance training that came before—have established a deep appreciation for what the art has given her. "I wouldn't be the drag artist I am now if it weren't for dance," she says.
Milan performing (Jess Eason, courtesy Milan)
For Season 4 queen Milan, their interest in dance began early—really early. "My mom says when she was pregnant with me that she'd go dancing, and I would kick in the womb," Milan says. But they fell in love with the art form watching the dance-heavy Emerald City sequence in The Wiz. Then, during their senior year of high school, Milan says, "I participated in show choir. A member offered to pick me up and take me to her ballet class at the Florence Ballet Academy."
While in college, Milan would be accepted to a summer intensive program at The Ailey School. "I loved studying at The Ailey School, but I also really wanted to showcase my acting and singing ability as well," they say. "So, I returned to college and completed my BA in Theater at the University of South Carolina." Such diversified training would not only propel Milan to the biggest platform for drag, but would also lead them to Broadway stages. Billed as Dwayne Cooper, they've been part of the Broadway casts of Motown The Musical and Hairspray.
Still, dance—above other art forms—is Milan's "happy place," they say. "It's where my freedom lives. And if you are thinking about parlaying your dance training into a drag career, do it! Don't limit your expression or abilities by staying in one lane. Drag can open doors you never thought of—and free you from the trappings of conforming to what others want you to be as a dancer."