Brooklyn Mack in "Le Corsaire."

Photo by Carlos Quezada, courtesy ABT.

Brooklyn Mack to Debut With American Ballet Theatre in "Le Corsaire"

American Ballet Theatre announced today that Brooklyn Mack, a former Washington Ballet star, will join the company as a guest for its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Currently an in-demand international guest artist, Mack will dance in three performances of ABT's Le Corsaire this June.


Known for his powerful, show-stopping bravura, Mack first made waves on the competition scene, winning medals at international competitions in Jackson, Helsinki and Varna (where he won gold). After dancing with the Joffrey Ballet, ABT's Studio Company and Orlando Ballet, he joined TWB, where he stayed for nine years. During that time he was nominated for the prestigious Benois de la Danse award and launched a high-profile guest-artist career, performing in Moscow, Paris, Havana and with the English National Ballet (where he also performed Le Corsaire—check out this rehearsal footage below with Bolshoi legend Irek Mukhamedov.)


Many were surprised when Mack announced that he was leaving TWB last September. He later told The Washington Post that he and TWB artistic director Julie Kent could not come to an agreement over his salary, workload and guesting schedule. Mack has wasted no time since then, dancing with Tiler Peck at New York City Center's Fall for Dance Festival, as well as guest performances with the State Ballet of Georgia and Hong Kong Ballet (now led by Mack's former boss Septime Webre, who left TWB in 2016).

This June marks Mack's ABT debut, and he will be in impressive company—other guest artists include Natalia Osipova, Alessandra Ferri and Kimin Kim. His performances also bring welcome diversity to the season's male casting. Mack is set to dance the role of Ali at the matinee on Wednesday, June 12, and the central role of Conrad on the evenings of June 13 and June 15.

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Houston Ballet principals Karina González and Connor Walsh in Stanton Welch's Sylvia (Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)

The Dos and Don'ts of Partnering

Few things are as nerve-racking as partnering class, especially when you're a newbie. No matter the genre, the stakes feel high—and the potential for awkwardness feels unlimited. How do you avoid smacking your partner in the face? How do you communicate a problem without causing a major conflict? Dance Spirit spoke with some partnering pros to bring you answers to those questions and more.


Common Partnering Pitfalls

1. Deflecting Responsibility

None of us will be perfect partners at all times, especially when we're first learning. When we begin working with a teammate, it can be tempting to deflect responsibility for our weaknesses onto them. Resist the temptation!

"None of us likes to be wrong, so it can feel like a necessity to interpret your actions as correct, and your partner's actions as wrong," says L.A.-based choreographer Phillip Chbeeb. "That can be one of the most damaging dynamics in a partnership. Instead, assume that you have the power to adjust and assuage the problem. If you both maintain this mindset, you will always be able to move forward together."

One of the primary ways partners who are being supported can take responsibility is by simply holding their weight. "A common misconception is that the person doing the lifting is doing all the work, but a good partner is in complete control of their body even when it looks like they're surrendering," says choreographer Stacey Tookey. "You have to be solid on your own," says Houston Ballet principal Karina González. "You can't expect your partner to save you. You have to be comfortable on your supporting leg, whether your partner is there or not."

2. Lacking Spatial Awareness

Worried about smacking your partner in the face? First, just accept that it's going to happen from time to time. "It's the nature of the beast," Tookey says. Then, put in the work to become aware of the space around and between the two of you.

Assess your height difference, if there is one, and how it affects the choreography. Can you identify predictable points of impact that can be avoided with slight shifts in positioning? This dynamic will vary from partnership to partnership, so be patient as you work through the kinks.

To improve your spatial awareness while partnering, "Dancing with the Stars" pro Emma Slater recommends trying dance styles that require you to switch partners often. "Go to social dance events, or to dance classes that have an uneven number of men and women," Slater says. "Doing so will help you get comfortable dancing with a range of artists."

3. Discounting Differences

Just as no two people are the same, no two partnerships will be the same, either. But don't think of the differences between you and your partner as obstacles to overcome. Instead, reframe them as opportunities to make the most of.

Whenever Chbeeb sets choreography on pairs, he reminds himself not to get married to any of the work, because it will likely need to be altered to allow the different bodies to mesh well together. "I embrace the variety in body types and strengths," Chbeeb says. "I look to see what unique things these two specific bodies can create together."

When creating a duo with a partner, Chbeeb likes to discover those possibilities by working with his counterpart—without music. "That way, we don't have limitations to the timing of the shapes we create," he says. "If we stumble across something that works well for our two bodies, we can record it, making a collection of phrases to pull from. Then we can turn on the music and see what translates over."

(From left) Tyler Gledhill, Chelsea Thedinga, and Corey John Snide rehearsing a work by Stacey Tookey (Anna Marchiscello, courtesy Stacey Tookey)

Partnering Best Practices

1. Communicating Productively

Being able to communicate respectfully and effectively with a partner is something that, like any dance skill, takes practice. But it's critical to any partnership's success.

González has found that taking the extra time to think through the phrasing of a correction or question makes all the difference. "Be careful about how you speak," she says. "Take blame out of the conversation altogether, and respectfully communicate your concerns while being open to listening to a different perspective." Chbeeb recommends asking your partner what things they feel you could improve on. Doing so might encourage them to ask the same of you, allowing the two of you to approach corrections on an even footing.

Spending some time with your partner in a nondance setting, if possible, can help the two of you figure out a successful communication style. "During 'So You Think You Can Dance,' the dancers often only get to work together for a handful of hours before they perform," Tookey says. "I recommend they meet outside of the studio and get to know each other so conversation comes more naturally. The more you know each other, the better things will go."

What about the opposite problem, when you and your BFF get paired together and can't stop chatting? "Remind yourself that you have to be focused," González says, because the stakes are high: There's potential for injury if you aren't. "You can even schedule time to talk later, outside of the studio, so that when you're in rehearsal or class, you can keep things professional," González says.

2. Establishing and Respecting Physical Boundaries

It's important to state your boundaries outright. Partnering is inevitably intimate, but it should never cross hard lines set by you, your partner, and your teacher or choreographer. "If something doesn't feel right, you should communicate that to your partner and teacher," González says. "It could be that they didn't realize what was happening in the tangle of partnering. Or, it could be that they did cross a line, and that needs to be addressed immediately." Remember that boundary-setting goes both ways, so be ready to listen and adjust when your partner shares concerns.

It's also common to implicitly associate physical touch with romantic feelings, which can complicate partnering situations. "Many who're new to partnering immediately associate touch with something that isn't dance," Chbeeb says. "This can make professionalism difficult, and hold you back artistically. Try to reframe your perspective, so that you're not interpreting movement as anything other than art."

3. Being Thoughtful About Clothing and Hygiene

Look, dance is inevitably sweaty and messy—that's part of what makes it beautiful! But to be a considerate partner, it's worth thinking about your clothing and hygiene choices.

Chbeeb points out that it's important to choose clothes that won't inadvertently hurt your partner. For example, avoid wearing items with zippers, since they can scratch skin. Going shirtless? Sweaty skin can be dangerously slippery, so keep a towel handy. If you have longer hair, and it's not involved in the choreography, consider pinning it back so it doesn't whip your partner in the face.

Breath and body odor questions are complicated—opinions differ widely when it comes to bodily hygiene. But Chbeeb recommends showering or taking a breath mint before partnering if you know that you'll feel self-conscious otherwise. "You don't want to end up wasting mental space thinking about how you smell rather than the choreography," he says.

González and Walsh rehearsing Sylvia (Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)

Partnering During a Pandemic

In our new #SocialDisDancing reality, IRL partnering is often impossible. But there are steps you can take to get ready for the moment when we can all be together again.

Chbeeb recommends practicing by using items from around the house as partnering props. "I have always found that working with props stimulates a very similar portion of the brain as partner work," he says. "You get used to the idea of creating visuals that extend beyond your own body. Pick up anything portable—a frying pan!—and use it in a way you had never considered before. Then, apply the discoveries you make with your partner when you come together in person."

González recommends cross-training to develop the strength you'll need to be an effective partner. "Focus on leg and upper-body strength, which will help with lifting," she says. And core exercises will help you support your own weight during complicated partnering work.

You can also use this time alone to get inspired by other great partnerships. Watch YouTube videos of partners in different dance genres and styles, thinking about what it is that makes their collaboration work—mechanically, and also on an intellectual level. "Look to the amazing dancers who have been partnering for years, and apply the strengths you see in them to your own dancing when you return," González says.

Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Cory Lingner

How Broadway Dancer Cory Lingner Perfected the TikTok Duet

With #SocialDisDancing still very much in place, it's a challenge for dance partners to perform safely, and even harder to perform safely together.

But Broadway's Cory Lingner may have found the solution—on TikTok. He's using the app to tap alongside some of the most iconic movie stars, including Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines, Ann Miller and Shirley Temple. And, no, he doesn't have a time-traveling device.

Lingner has perfected the use of the app's duet feature. On one side of the video is a clip of the tap-dancing icon and on the other is Lingner, dancing in unison. And as a bonus, Lingner's also giving viewers facts about the stars and the performances as they watch.

Lingner's danced in everything from On the Town to An American in Paris, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Carousel. But still, his tapping TikToks may be one of his favorite challenges yet. "I've gotten very lucky to do shows on Broadway," Lingner says, "But I haven't actually gotten to do as much tapping as I'm doing in these videos."

When Broadway shut down last March due to the pandemic, Lingner was in rehearsals for Love Life with New York City Center's Encores! series. Without a stage and a live audience, he's getting his fill of performing from his social media duet series. And it's so popular on TikTok, he's gained more than 8 thousand followers in a mere month.


@corylingner

##duet with @tcm & Gene Kelly!! Couldn’t think of a better way to make my TikTok debut! ##genekelly tapdancechallenge ##tap ##tapdance ##dancechallenge

♬ original sound - Turner Classic Movies

Dance Spirit: How did your "Cory's Duet Series" on TikTok get started?

Cory Lingner: It was kind of just a spur-of-the-moment thing. The very first spark of inspiration was another fellow tapper, Nicole Billow. She actually did the first side-by-side with Gene Kelly from An American in Paris. I watched it and I was like, "This looks really fun." I went ahead and made a TikTok account and made my first duet. I posted that thing with zero followers and by the end of the night, there were 500 followers and it was blowing up with views.

DS: How do you pick which numbers you're going to do?

CL: Well, part of it is going down the YouTube rabbit hole looking up performers that I'm familiar with. The majority of what I've tried to focus on is introducing new performers so I don't repeat dancers too much. The last time that I repeated was with Vera Allen in White Christmas, since it was the holiday.

I also try to find sections where not only I can do the choreography in my limited space, with my little piece of plywood, but also if they're able to stay on a single camera shot for long enough for the 20 to 30 seconds.

DS: How long does it take you to learn the dances?

CL: It depends. If I'm a bit more familiar with it, I can probably pick it up quicker. Sometimes it takes 15 to 30 minutes. One that I worked on that I'm going to share is with Ginger Rogers. That took about an hour and a half. Luckily, I've always been a visual learner.

DS: What do you think about the skill level of some of Shirley Temple's tap steps?

CL: It's remarkable the fact that she did that many films and had that kind of tap dance skill set at such a young age. It is so impressive to me. People were commenting on that video too, writing, "Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize what she can do. That's very impressive."

DS: It seems like we don't see this style of dance anymore, since the Golden Age of the Hollywood movie musical. How do you feel film choreography has changed since then?

CL: This style of dance definitely does feel different. I've always admired it and gravitated towards it. It's fascinating to picture how these choreographers even conceptualized sequences where the stars are dancing all across these sets and sound stages.

I find myself wondering, "Did they have the set to begin with and then worked on it, or did they come up with ideas and then that gave set designers ideas to build?" The rhythms and the tap melodies are pretty bright, and that makes it really fun for me and exciting for anyone watching.

DS: What is some of the feedback you've been getting?

CL: Oh, my goodness. It's so lovely, all the comments and messages. There was a grandmother that said, "I think you just inspired my 3-year-old grandson to start taking dance." It warms my heart. From what I'm reading and seeing, it still resonates with so many people.

DS: What are some dream duets that you need to do?

CL: I've gotten a lot of people up requesting the Nicholas Brothers. They're the best. I'm going to try to see if I can find something to do them justice and try to keep up with them. But with my little piece of plywood, there's no way I can do their iconic jump into the splits because I'd get splinters.

There were other duets people were recommending, like James Cagney. So I'm trying to find a moment when he stays still. I learned "Moses Supposes" from Singin' in the Rain many years ago, which would be really fun to tackle again. Maybe I'd do that one in two separate sections, so I can do one with Gene Kelly and one with Donald O'Connor.

Because TikTok gifted us *all* the dance content in 2020 (Getty Images/TikTok)

20 of Our Favorite 2020 TikToks

In a year that has been especially tough on the dance world, TikTok has been a welcome distraction. The app, in all its dance-y, super-woke, and, often, delightfully cringe-y (ahem, #DixieDAmelioOneWholeDay) glory, gave us the content we needed: An escape from the ballooning insanity we're still trudging through today. (We're almost there, folx!)

To celebrate the bounty of good feels and good moves the app gifted us this year­ (and, frankly, to celebrate the end 👏 of 👏 this 👏 year 👏), here are 20 of our favorite dance TikToks from 2020.


HOOPLA

@karaleighcannella

new dance? i should be doing my mid-term paper rn 😂😂 but try it and tag me

♬ HOOPLA - KyleYouMadeThat

The #HOOPLA dance, with choreography by @karaleighcannella, consists of all the TikTok choreo staples: hitting the woah (multiple times!), the overemphasized clap towards the camera, and the groovy hip rocks. It also reminds us of High School Musical's "Get'cha Head in the Game," and #tbh, anything HSM-relevant—oh, the nostalgia!—is a 10/10 for us.

Here Comes Santa Clause

@callmefeigh

THREE😭 @mami.cyre DC: @laneyysgrig ##fyp

♬ this is our dance give credit lol - kara

From the remixed version of a classic, to the super-simple choreography you can do with a friend, the #HereComesSantaClaus dance, created by @karawardddd, is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. Fair warning: After one listen, you'll be humming this tune for the foreseeable future.

The Lyrical Dance Version of "W.A.P."

@alexdwong

All the lyrical/contemporary solos next season 🤣😂 ##dance ##dancer ##WAP ##WAPchallenge ##dancers ##dancecompetition ##comedy

♬ Alec Chambers Lyrical WAP - Matthew Deloch

Leave it to dancers to transform one of the year's biggest pop culture moments into a lyrical dance. We're loving all the beautiful leg lines, passionate reaches, and expressive performances this dance, choreographed by @besperon, has inspired.

Shower

@iambeckyg

##Stillsingingintheshower 🙃 I had to. DC: @zacklugo @notstoud_ @brandonmundine

♬ Shower - Becky G

Becky G's "Shower" is a bop that can put a smile on anybody's face. Add to it @zacklugo, @notstoud_, and @brandonmundine's easy-breezy choreography, and you have the perfect remedy for even the worst of your pandemic blues.

Body

@beautyby_babs

@theestallion 💚 ##grinch ##holidayvibes ##ColdWeather ##bodydancechallenge ##fyp

♬ Body - Megan Thee Stallion

The "Body" dance videos popping up all over TikTok feature the original choreography (by the legendary JaQuel Knight) from rapper Megan Thee Stallion's music video and live performances, so if you're dreaming of being one of her back-up dancers—because, uh, who isn't?!—hitting these steps on the app might just be your chance! Also, please enjoy this video of the Grinch doing the "Body" dance. You're welcome.

Dancer Check

@sisimorris

Love this challenge!🥰✨ @joandjax ##healthheroes ##TexansHelpingTexans ##freezeframe ##CookieWithACause ##fyp ##dancer ##foryou ##foryoupage ##viral

♬ Dancer challenge - Violet

The #DancerCheck challenge gives dancers the opportunity to show off their favorite—and least favorite—dance tricks. And since every dancer has unique strengths, the interpretations of the challenge vary, which makes watching these dance vids all the more interesting.

Shake Ya Boom Boom

@yuvalbiiton

Shake ya boom boom💥💥 That song😍(dc: @thewilliamsfam_ ) @staticandbenel @blackeyedpeas

♬ Shake Ya Boom Boom - Static & Ben El & Black Eyed Peas

As the title suggests, this song—and dance—is all about shaking what you've got. But the choreography for it, by @thewilliamsfam_, is so much more. Wild and upbeat, the #ShakeYaBoomBoom dance might possibly be the most hype one on the app, and we're so here for the energy!

Ghost

@baileysok1

👻 (dc @kamronagee ) ##fyp

♬ VMESHBEATS ADDERALL X BOO X IG FREESTYLE - Varoon Ramesh

Ever used TikTok's "Out of Body" filter? No? Well, the appropriately-named #Ghost dance, created by @kamronagee, is the perfect opportunity to try it out. The spooky effect, which allows users to pause their body in a position, then move outside that frame in a ghostly effect, makes this dance even more fun to film and edit.

Don't Start Now

@charlidamelio

@thexhan

♬ Don't Start Now - Dua Lipa

The #DontStartNow dance was mega-popular on the app this year. Perhaps it was the choreography (done by TikTok dance star @thexhan) that's equally apt for beginner and advanced dancers. Maybe it's the sunny vibes the music gives off. But we, like the rest of the world, can't stop doing this dance!

Clock Challenge

@lukeromanzi

##clockchallenge ##flexibilitychallenge ##fy ##fyp ##dancer ##dancersoftiktok ##tilt ##familytime ##alwayslearning ##vibewithme ##ChipotleSponsorMe ##xycba

♬ Originalton - Lisa Wagner

The #ClockChallenge is really just a creative way for users to show off their flexibility. Some dancers do it standing; others opt to execute it from a handstand position—but always are the feats accomplished in these videos super impressive.

Cake

@mizzko

My facials 🥰 ##Cake 🎂 dc: @mehki ##foryou ##cakechallenge ##braidtutorial

♬ KyleYouMadeThat - All About Cake - KyleYouMadeThat

Created by @mehki, the #Cake dance serves up movement that perfectly matches the song's thumping percussion, which makes dancing it—and watching others dance it—all the more fun.

Say So

@haleypham

cute dance by @yodelinghaley 😆 ##foryouppage ##fyp

♬ Say So - Doja Cat

OK, so maybe the #SaySo dance debuted on the app in 2019, but it really made a mark in 2020. The dance represents how much TikTok was part of the cultural zeitgeist this year, with parts of the choreography, by @yodeinghaley, making it into singer/rapper Doja Cat's epic 2020 MTV Video Music Awards performance.

Levitating

@dexrated

Obvi HAD to bring this dance back for ##DuaVideo ✨💯 dc: ME! @dualipaofficial ##levitating

♬ Levitating - Dua Lipa

Choreographed by one of our faves, @dexrated, the "Levitating" dance is a sassy mix of daring hip isolations and expansive arm movements. Like the song, the choreography exudes a super-chill vibe, and we can't get enough of the combination.

What You Know 'Bout Love

@iamnancyg

Say " DANCE " in your language💃🏽 // Mine is: Asa 🙋🏾 ##foryou ##fyp ##tiktok ##viral ##nancyg ##dance

♬ What You Know Bout Love - Pop Smoke

TikTok is full of upbeat dance vids, but the #WhatYouKnowBoutLove dance slows that pace down a bit. It features the laid back, in-the-pocket grooves of @willdevane, filled to the brim with swag and ultra-cool style.

Funky Town

@addisonre

♬ Funky Town - The Dance Queen Group

TikTok + disco music = the #FunkyTown dance! It mimics parts of the "Macarena" dance from the late 90s, and is really all about, well, getting *funky* with your moves and grooves.

Savage

@keke.janajah

NEW DANCE ALERT! 🚨 if u use my dance tag me so i can see🤗 @theestallion ##writethelyrics ##PlayWithLife ##foyou ##fyp ##foryoupage ##newdance ##savage

♬ Savage - Megan Thee Stallion

In March, just as the pandemic forced states into lockdown, TikTok queen @keke.janajah debuted her choreography to the song of the year, "Savage." The song's success was, in great part, due to the popularity of Keke's dance on the app—and we're still dancing it to this day.

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

@oliviaalboher

A little JAZZZZ for your day!!! dc: @melissabecraft ##dancer ##jazz ##fyp ##foryou ##dance ##legs

♬ Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) - ABBA

What would the TikTok dance community be without a little jazz dancing? Enter: the #GimmeGimmeGimme dance, choreographed by @melissabecraft. It's everything we love about traditional jazz: grounded pas de bourrées, high kicks, and so! much! energy!

Whole Lotta Choppa

@addisonre

@ohbukster

♬ Whole Lotta Choppas - Sada Baby

Need some good fun in your life? Look no further than the #WholeLottaChoppa dance. It's short, sweet, and easy to learn—but the best part? The more personality you throw into it, the more fun you'll have.

Get Up

@jm_yrreverre

BISH EAT THIS UP! NEW DANCE CHALLENGE! ##GETUPSUAVECHALLENGE 🤪 ##dancechallenge ##dance ##dancersoftiktok ##fyp ##foryoupage

♬ original sound - Jm Yrreverre

Singer Ciara's "Get Up" has always been a jam, but this remixed version of the song on TikTok—souped-up, with accents galore—is a dancer's dream. And the insanely musical choreography by @jm_yrreverre is even better.

The Renegade (of course)

@jalaiahharmon

ayeeee🙈🔥

♬ Lottery - K CAMP

No TikTok list would be complete without the "Renegade" dance, popularized in 2020 by Charli D'Amelio, but created months earlier by TikTok icon @jalaiahharmon. Users (and celebrities) all over the world were doing it. And the popularity of the dance spurred important questions about TikTok ethics: why weren't TikTokers getting credit for their moves, many of whom are Black? And whose responsibility was it to credit them? Fortunately, crediting TikTok creators has become less of an issue in recent months. And we have the "Renegade" dance (and Jalaiah) to thank for that.

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