With his reedy, praying-mantis-like body, Billy Barry isn’t someone you’d pick out on the street as a dancer. But get him onstage and you’ll understand why the 22-year-old Juilliard alum earned a spot in Israel’s prestigious Batsheva Ensemble. Billy has something larger than technique: He’s an intimately arresting, delightfully odd performer who seems to speak his own mysterious language. In other words, he’s an alien—the coolest alien you’ve ever seen.
A native New Yorker, Billy first discovered dance at a local studio near his hometown on Long Island. Serious ballet training at the Eglevsky Ballet soon followed, and as a teen, he enrolled at Manhattan’s Professional Performing Arts School. While at PPAS, he began to hear the siren call of Juilliard. “I just knew it was where I belonged,” he says. The feeling wasn’t immediately mutual: Billy was waitlisted when he applied to Juilliard his senior year. Suddenly unsure of his future, he auditioned for the European tour of West Side Story and was cast as Baby John. But before he could jump on the West Side bandwagon, Juilliard called: He’d made the final cut.
At Juilliard, Billy was a standout from the beginning. “First you notice him because he’s so striking physically—then you see that he has this extraordinary imagination,” says Lawrence Rhodes, director of Juilliard’s Dance Division. And it was at Juilliard that Billy first met Batsheva director Ohad Naharin, who set excerpts from his works MAX and Three on the students during Billy’s sophomore year. In Naharin’s Gaga technique, which emphasizes image-based improvisation, Billy found a home. “Ohad added this extra ingredient to my dancing,” he says. “I stopped obsessing about technique. If you hang on to technique, you may be beautiful to watch, but you won’t be very exciting. And I’d much rather be exciting than beautiful.”
During his senior year at Juilliard, Billy had another dream-come-true moment: Naharin asked him to join the Batsheva Ensemble. Two months after graduation, Billy moved to Tel Aviv to begin working with the company. “It’s amazing—it’s a job that feels nothing like work,” he says. “It’s just playtime.”
Birthday: September 23, 1989
Dance idol: Martha Graham
Three words that describe your dancing: Spastic, off-kilter, quirky
Three words that describe your personality: Flamboyant, loud, chatty
Hidden talent: “I can make this goose-honk noise. The problem is if I cough or laugh really loud, that noise just happens, usually at some inappropriate moment.”
Who would play you in a movie: Dakota Fanning
Advice for DS readers: “See all kinds of dance—even if you’re not familiar with the company performing. I’d never heard of Batsheva before Juilliard!”
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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.
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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?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.