(From left) Kaelynn Harris, Stevie Doré, and Alyssa Stamp nailing a heels combo by Brian Friedman and Yanis Marshall (via YouTube with permission from Brian Friedman)
Shirlene Quigley will never forget the audition that changed her life: a call for Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" video. It was one of the street dancer's first shots at a professional gig. But she had another reason to be nervous: Heels were required. "It was my first time dancing in heels," says Quigley, who didn't even own a pair at the time. "I wore knee-high boots, borrowed straight from my mom's closet!"
During the audition, Quigley found herself challenged at every turn (literally). "I kept saying to myself, 'Don't trip. Pull up,' " she remembers. At the same time, the shoes unleashed something new in her dancing. "It was so much fun," she says. "It felt so feminine and so fearless." In the end, Quigley booked the job, which led to a spot on the promo tour for Beyoncé's Crazy in Love album. Since then, she's basically lived in heels, performing for artists including Rihanna and Missy Elliott, and now she leads regular heels classes at Broadway Dance Center and Peridance in NYC and Millennium Dance Complex in L.A.
Dancing in heels has long been an industry staple, yet it's a skill that can be quite tricky for performers who've spent years training in sneakers or bare feet. We spoke to Quigley—and three other famously heel-clad dancers—about how to find your (heeled) footing.
Post:Ballet's Christian Squires and Raychel Weiner in When in Doubt (photo by Natalia Perez, courtesy Post Ballet)
If you're a serious ballet student, you've probably been dreaming about joining a big classical company. But when it comes to career planning, thinking outside of the ballet box doesn't have to mean hanging up your pointe shoes. In fact, there are many contemporary ballet troupes where bunheads can perform innovative works that make full use of the technique they've worked so hard for. We rounded up the 10 you need to know about.
Carmelized-onion salad by dancer Patricia Zhou (courtesy Zhou)
Tons of dancers bring their creativity from the studio to the kitchen—because we've all gotta eat! But a few take their cooking chops even farther, often preparing meals for friends and fellow dancers. We asked four dancers/amateur chefs for their favorite recipes.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
College can be a huge adjustment, and halfway through your first year, you may be feeling unsure: Am I making the right decision? Am I really fitting in? Is this the right school for me? While those anxieties may lessen or go away completely after a semester—or after a particularly great class—switching schools is an option. Here are some of the elements to consider before transferring.
Lesley Rausch with Jonathan Porretta in Balanchine's Prodigal Son (Lindsay Thomas, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)
From meditation to Pilates to Drake playlists, no two preshow rituals include exactly the same ingredients. But just like bakers following a recipe, most dancers follow a very specific—and very important—routine before every performance. We asked six pros to share what they do precurtain to make sure they're at their best onstage.
Whether you major or minor in dance, join a dance team or simply take a few extracurricular classes, there are myriad ways to continue your artistic journey in college. Sometimes, though, exactly what you're seeking isn't on campus—yet. That's where being in college comes in handy: You can start your own organization! Not only do student-run groups give you the chance to express your dancing self in unique ways, but you're also likely to gain leadership skills, hone your choreography chops and even make a few friends along the way.
A choreographer's notebook can be a very private thing. After all, it's where she crafts concepts, scribbles formations and documents her dancers' rehearsal processes before anything is ready to be seen by an audience. And while many artists use video cameras to record phrases and set movement on dancers, others choose to stick with good, old-fashioned pen and paper. Here, three choreographers give us a peek into their notebooks and explain just what their notes mean.
If you're one of Dusty Button's 146,000 (and counting) Instagram followers, you know this ballerina doesn't fit any molds. Because while she holds down a job as a Boston Ballet principal dancer and takes the stage in ultimate classical roles like Odette/Odile (which she performed this past April), she's just as comfortable in a fast-paced contemporary Jorma Elo piece or in a thin pair of socks working a hotel ballroom floor.
Anyone who's seen A Chorus Line is familiar with the high-pressure, “I hope I get it!" process of a musical theater audition. Out of hundreds of hopefuls, you have to be the one whose skills are strong enough to catch the casting director's eye. Then comes the callback, the workshop—and, most of the time, the “no, thank you." But while rejection can sting, it happens to everyone, including the very best. We spoke with five talented Broadway pros who missed out on coveted gigs. As their experiences prove, audition disappointments don't mean the world's ending—or even that a role is permanently out of reach.
Odds are good you've seen a T. Milly—aka Tim Milgram—production: He's filmed class routines for the likes of Tricia Miranda and Brian Friedman, and his concept videos for the Fraternal Twins and 8 Flavahz crew have garnered millions of views. You've also probably encountered talented choreographer Talia Favia, a Capezio A.C.E. Award winner whose lush creations are highly camera-friendly.So what does it take to capture the essence of a dance on film? And what makes choreography pop on screen? Dance Spirit got the scoop from Milgram and Favia, who discussed “Let It Go," the popular video they collaborated on last year.
Brigham Young University's Cougarettes in performance (Michael Skalla, courtesy Shaye Smith)
It's the ultimate groan-inducing moment: A dancer's graceful contemporary piece is going off without a hitch—her technique is flawless, her lines are pristine—but all of a sudden, she's taking four counts to walk to the upstage corner, narrowing her eyes in preparation. She might as well be yelling, “A TRICK SEQUENCE IS COMING." And she's broken the choreography's magic spell.
Evelyn Kocak in Giselle (Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet)
There's nothing like the thrill of attending a summer program. Getting to experience new teachers and classes can make a world of difference in your technique. Meeting other students who are as obsessed with dance as you are can lead to lifelong friendships. And sometimes, a summer program can alter the course of your dance career. Just ask pros Evelyn Kocak, Stacy Martorana, Mayumi Enokibara and Stephanie Klemons, who shared their life-changing summer intensive experiences with Dance Spirit.