Brian's compliments make you leap!

If you’ve been following my blogs this week from The Pulse in New York City, you know this: Brian Friedman is tough, really tough. A compliment from him is enough to make a dancer leap in excitement … which I found out this week when I told Chaz Buzan, one of the 10 guys who is part of the Brian Friedman Intensive, that Brian had singled him out in a conversation with me.

“Really?” Chaz asked me, his eyes widening. “What did he say?”

“He told me you were part of a group of guys who are emerging,” I said.

“Yesss!” Chaz cried. His black hair flopped on his forehead as he jumped in the hotel hallway, landing squarely in front of Kayla Radomski. “Brian said I’m emerging!”

Kayla, who is Chaz’s partner in a featured duet in Friedman’s piece, could appreciate the magnitude of the compliment. Now 17, she met Brian at a dance convention when she was 11. He called her to the front at the end of his class, then visited her studio to teach the next year. Ever since, Brian has choreographed solos for Kayla and had her assist him in his teaching. She just graduated high school a year early and is planning to move to Los Angeles with her mother, Renee, to pursue a full-time entertainment career.

Earlier that day, Kayla, who has been represented by Anastasia Miller first at Bloc and now at Clear Talent Group since age 14, missed Friedman’s rehearsal to audition for Broadway’s West Side Story. She didn’t make the cut in part, the casting people told her, because she had Barbie-doll looks that made her stick out too much in a crowd.

Any rejection is disappointing, but I’m guessing Kayla, who does indeed have sunny blonde hair, can live with this one. She told me her ultimate goal is to be a superstar (put another way: NOT a performer who simply blends in). And Brian, her mentor, has clearly deemed her worthy of standing out. He chose her for that featured duet with Chaz, of course, and he also singled her out as one of his “leading girls.”

“They’re amazing,” he told me. “Every one of them is really the glue that’s holding the number together right now.”

For Kayla, Brian is a key connection that will help her when she makes the big move to Hollywood.

“I'm close with him and can talk to him about things,” she said. “He’s out there and he knows all about everything, so he can help me when I need some advice.”

You can be that advice will be right on point – even if it’s in the form of raw criticism.

(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.

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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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Photo by Erin Baiano

Click here to vote for Emma.

There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "

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