These days, everyone seems to know just how talented Christina Ricucci is. She has more than 91,000 Instagram followers. For six years in a row, she competed at Youth America Grand Prix, and made it to the finals each time. Last summer, Christina won Teen Best Dancer at The Dance Awards and was named first runner-up National Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance. Oh, and she was accepted to The Juilliard School’s summer program—despite technically being a year too young to apply. It seems the only person who may not realize the depth of her talent is the ultra-modest Christina Ricucci herself. Perhaps that’s because no matter how many awards she wins, 15-year-old Christina always wants to do more, work harder, get better—and, most importantly, keep having fun.
Christina started competing with her studio, California Dancer, at just 4 years old, with song-and-dance solos. “I’d tap around the stage, and then take breaks to sing,” she says, laughing. When she was 9, she decided to amp up her training and moved to Murrieta Dance Project in Murrieta, CA, where she still dances today. “It brought my dancing to a different level right away,” she says—even though it took her a while to get used to the competition-dance style. “Before, I hadn’t practiced turning very much. At Murrieta, there’s an hour-long turns class. I like not being good at something and working for it. When you get it, that means you’ve grown.”
Today, Christina also takes classes at Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy. That hard-core technical training is evident when she performs: Christina’s every move is impeccably turned out and extended to the farthest corners of the studio. She’s been home-schooled since sixth grade, which allows her to dance all day during the week—in addition to singing, acting and modeling (quadruple-threat alert!)—and travel to conventions on weekends. “I used to be intimidated by the competition world,” she says. “But competitions teach you to perform onstage, under pressure, in front of so many people and judges. You learn discipline and self-confidence.”
Needless to say, the discipline is paying off. Christina says winning Best Teen Dancer last summer was “a dream come true.” As for the future? Juilliard’s summer intensive is just the beginning. Christina says that’s now her dream college, and she’d love to pursue the concert-dance world and someday join Shaping Sound.
“Christina is kind, humble and selfless. She has inspired so many young artists. I love that she’s still surprised when someone recognizes her or asks for her autograph. It makes me smile knowing that she dances because it’s in her soul, and no amount of fame or any award will change that.” —Erin Babbs, owner/director of Murrieta Dance Project
Birthday: September 5, 1998
What she’s listening to right now: Lorde and Beyoncé
Who would play her in a movie? Dakota Fanning. “Everyone says she looks just like me.”
Favorite actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Favorite movie: The Hunger Games
Must-see TV shows: “America’s Next Top Model” and “Cake Boss”
Favorite dancer of all time: Sylvie Guillem
Dance crush: Travis Wall. “My friends and I are kind of obsessed.”
Favorite food: Grapes
Hidden talents: “I can wiggle my ears and I play the guitar.”
If she could be a superhero, her power would be: “I would be invisible so I could play tricks on people…like my brother. I think about this a lot.”
(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.