Find Out Who and What Inspires Brian Friedman on the Dance Floor
Brian Friedman is not only a legend in his own right—he's also worked beside the biggest legends in the business. Growing up a Scottsdale, AZ, comp kid, Friedman was soon dancing behind Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, and Paula Abdul, and as an OG Newsie in the 1992 film. Now he calls the shots: He's choreographed and been creative director for icons like Britney, Cher, Beyoncé, and Mariah. Nominated for five MTV VMAs, two Music Video Production Association Awards, and four American Choreography Awards, Friedman's won an Industry Voice Award for best choreography, and a World of Dance award. Dance Spirit talked to Friedman to find out what inspires him. —Helen Rolfe
I draw inspiration from my current assistants because of what their bodies can do. Anytime I get a dancer who can make the strangest creations in my head a reality, I never let go of them. I recently had Zack Venegas and Charlize Glass in class dancing side by side, and it's just not human, how they dance. Jade Chynoweth is another one of my kids who's ridiculously talented. I'm very drawn to that sort of out-of-this-world dancer, starting with Taja Riley a decade ago. Kaelynn Harris has also been an amazing inspiration to me.
With Jamie King (courtesy Friedman)
Working with Marguerite Derricks as a kid developed my sense of cleanliness. She was very specific about hand placement and stylistic choices—that's where I got my Fosse influence. Jamie King was all about musicality and speed. He moved so quickly choreographing, pulling out sounds in the music the normal ear wouldn't hear and making them part of the choreography. I worked with Kenny Ortega when I was very young. He'd create organic movements, which was a completely unfamiliar process to me as a competitive dancer. I didn't know you could make up moves that weren't already part of someone else's vocabulary. I found my own vocabulary thanks to my mentors, Marguerite, Jamie, and Kenny.
The first film that made me want to dance was Staying Alive, the Saturday Night Fever sequel starring my idol Cynthia Rhodes—aka Penny in Dirty Dancing and Tina Tech in Flashdance. I was enthralled before I even got into a class. There's a scene where they're doing all these moves in rehearsal for 'the big show,' and the choreographer's screaming 'AGAIN! AGAIN!' They're flipping, sweating—I wanted to do that. You can see its jazz influence in my work today.
Striking a pose with assistants at Degas (courtesy Friedman)
It's all about the room I'm in. I have to feel a certain way to get into a creative space. A former teacher of mine from back in Arizona opened a studio called Degas in Encino, CA. It's comforting how it reminds me of being a kid and feeling safe in the studio. I call assistants in, we go into the studio at 10 at night and stay there to make up choreography. That's my favorite place to create, just because it feels like a safe zone.
In rehearsal for "A Mob Story" (courtesy Friedman)
I choreographed and directed the dance segments for a new musical opening this year in Vegas, called A Mob Story. The show is set in Vegas in the '50s and '60s. I'm a mob aficionado now. The mob wives, the money, the parties, the crime, the terror! I watched all the movies and researched the fashion. We've got a great costume designer, and she sketched out different options they'd wear; I'd choose my favorite and use that as inspiration. The shapes and silhouettes of the clothes helped me develop vocabulary for the movement.
A version of this story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Choreographer's Collage: Brian Friedman."
He got our heads in the game in High School Musical. He pushed it to the limit in Jump In! He welcomed us to Holiday Inn. And now, curly-haired dancing heartthrob Corbin Bleu will be back on Broadway in the spring of 2019 with one of the season's most anticipated productions.
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are Artists AND Athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection, and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
Just in case you missed it: To highlight last Thursday's International Day of the Girl, The New York Times has launched a unique photographic and editorial project called #ThisIs18, all with the aim of spotlighting what life is really like for 18-year-old women around the world.
Quinn Starner is no stranger to competitions. The 16-year-old "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" alum has been slaying the contemporary circuit for years, winning Best Teen Dancer at The Dance Awards in 2017. But lately she's been more focused on ballet, relocating from Florida to train at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory two years ago. And while she's won awards at ballet competitions like ADC|IBC and Youth America Grand Prix, in June she upped the stakes by going to the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS—an audition-only event that's one of the world's most prestigious comps. We followed Quinn on her Jackson journey.
Amanda LaCount was born to move. The second the music comes on at her Dance Spirit cover shoot, the bubbly 17-year-old is shimmying her shoulders and tossing her hair. When she launches into a full-out freestyle to Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," you can't take your eyes off her.
And yet with every gig she lands, Amanda is challenging some of the dance world's longest-held biases. "I'm curvy," she says, "and I like being curvy. My body is not a bad thing. It's who I am." Here's how Amanda went from talented tot to hardworking pro—and from insecure preteen to body-positive role model.
Is there anything better than a dance convention? Frankly, we don't think so. Although we love getting a guest teacher to come to our studio for a masterclass every so often, there's just something so exciting about packing up our leotards and dance shoes and heading to a convention for the weekend. Here are 7 reasons why dance conventions are, without a doubt, the greatest things ever.
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This story originally appeared on dancemagazine.com.
"So why did you quit?"
It's a question I've been asked hundreds of times since I stopped dancing over a decade ago. My answer has changed over the years as my own understanding of what lead me to walk away from greatest love of my life has become clearer.
"I had some injures," I would mutter nervously for the first few years. This seemed like the answer people understood most. Then it became, "I was just not very happy." Finally, as I passed into my 30s, I began telling the uncomfortable truth: "I quit dancing because of untreated depression."
It's the age-old debate: Is dance a sport? The answer is, without a doubt, YES. Of course, dance is much more than just a sport. But when we get down to the logistics of it all, it's impossible not to recognize it as the athletic endeavor it is. Here are 10 reasons why dance absolutely qualifies as a sport.
Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.
Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!
Boston Ballet principal Ashley Ellis' dancing is the perfect pairing of ethereal grace and punchy musicality. The Torrance, CA, native began training at South Bay Ballet at age 6, and attended the School of American Ballet summer program in 1998. In 2001, she was accepted into American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, and the following year, she joined ABT's corps de ballet. In 2007, she became a founding member of Corella Ballet Castilla y León in Spain, under the direction of Angel Corella. Three years later, she headed back to the States and danced with Sarasota Ballet before joining Boston Ballet as a second soloist in 2011. In 2013, she was promoted to principal dancer. Catch her performing this season in the company's Nutcracker. —Courtney Bowers
Let's take a walk down memory lane to this past September, when the #LevelUpChallenge was in full-blown viral mode. Literally thousands of videos of people dancing to Ciara's song "Level Up" flooded the Internet, but only one truly broke it: an amazing clip of the Wilson Central High School Dance Team—and their Assistant Principal, Ranesa Shipman. Never one to miss out on a viral dance challenge, Ellen DeGeneres decided to have Shipman and the team perform on "The Ellen Show"—and the fun didn't stop there.
You and your phone have more in common than you might guess, says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, pediatrician and clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. "If you charge your phone halfway, it works for a few hours," he explains. "But it's not performing at its full potential, and you have to be careful about how you use that energy."
It'd be nice to just plug into the wall for nine hours until you hit 100 percent battery, but for (human) dancers, it's not that simple. So DS asked Dr. Pelayo and Dr. Argelinda Baroni, co-director of the Child and Adolescent Sleep Program in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, how to maximize your own battery life—ensuring you'll dance better and more safely in the process.
Two dancers from different studios on opposite ends of the country meeting at a dance competition may sound like the formula for a cheesy teen-rivalry movie. But it's actually real life for lots of dancers on the comp circuit. Meet four sets of adorable BFFs who found winning friendships at a competition.
We still can't get over the talent on "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors"—like how many YouTube tutorials do we have to watch to become half as good as these mini dancing machines? And just in case you forgot how skilled these prodigies are, this week's theme was sure to remind you: Last night, the ten couples performed to songs that came out the year they were born. (But let's be real, most of these songs aren't really that much of a throwback.)
It's safe to say that the bond between dancing siblings is one of the strongest out there. But for sisters Emma, 16, and Ava Blaser, 10, that bond runs deeper than most can even fathom: The pair continued to dance together throughout Ava's treatment for kidney cancer remission, and they say it helped them heal.