Shelby Patterson can command a stage with a single look. That fierce presence, plus her laser-sharp focus and ball-of-fire energy, have made her a standout in both the contemporary and commercial worlds. "I'm always performing out to the audience," Shelby says. "People say things like, 'Oh, that's the Shelby face—she's in the zone.' "
And she's got the technique to back up that onstage confidence. Shelby started training in several styles at age 3 at Orange County Performing Arts Academy. She grew up as a classic comp kid, constantly competing and attending conventions. At 12, she got even more serious about her training, adding classes at the Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy to her busy schedule, and later she joined the prestigious pre-professional contemporary group Westside Dance Project. In 2016 alone, she won Radix Dance Convention's National Teen Core Performer title, was a Top 10 Teen Finalist at The Dance Awards, and was a Pulse Protégé winner. And this past June, she graduated from the Orange County School of the Arts—as co-valedictorian of the commercial dance conservatory. NBD.
Shelby dreams of a career that includes both commercial and contemporary dance, and she's open about what that path might look like. "So many people tell me you have to choose one," she says. "But, honestly, I'm really passionate about both realms. I don't want to limit myself." Whatever route she ends up taking, one thing's certain: She'll put her whole heart into anything that comes her way. "I care a lot," she says. "Dance is how I show who I am. If someone meets me, but they haven't seen me dance yet, they can't fully grasp who Shelby is."
"Shelby is an incredible young artist with beautiful technique, impeccable musicality, and a nuance and quality that makes her stand out in a sea of amazing dancers. Above all, she's a grounded and kind young woman, which is the most important." —Stacey Tookey, choreographer
If she could have a superpower, it'd be… "Either being like Elastigirl, super-flexible, or the power to never have sore muscles."
Her dancing in three words: Dynamic, genuine, powerful
Nicknames: Tubby or Bangs. "Tubby, because I danced with Alyssa Allen, and one day she accidentally called me Tubby. It just kind of stuck and now everyone calls me that. And Bangs because I've had them ever since I was in fifth grade, so everyone knows me as the girl with the bangs."
Something no one knows about her: "When I was in elementary school, I played Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Gabriel Figueredo in a variation from Raymonda. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.
This week, over 1,000 young hopefuls gathered in New York City for the Youth America Grand Prix finals, giving them the chance to compete for scholarships and contracts to some of the world's top ballet schools and companies. Roughly 85 dancers made it to the final round at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater on Wednesday. Today, the 20th anniversary of YAGP came to a close at the competition's awards ceremony. Read on to find out who won!
After a string of ballet-company rejections, Jennifer Sydor (here in Laura Peterson's "Failure") found success in other areas of the dance world. (Stephen Delas Heras, courtesy Jennifer Sydor)
In her senior year at Butler University, Jennifer Sydor auditioned for more than a dozen regional ballet companies—and got a string of "no, thank you" responses. "I have an athletic build, and my movement quality isn't the typical ballet aesthetic," Sydor says. "But I'd been laser-focused on ballet. When I didn't get a ballet contract, I was heartbroken."
Her one job offer came from Kim Robards Dance, a small modern company based in Aurora, CO. After attending KRD's summer intensive, Sydor ended up accepting a yearlong position with the troupe. "I was relieved and happy to begin my career," she says. She's been working as a contemporary dancer ever since.
In the dance world, rejection is part of the package. That doesn't make it any more pleasant. But whether you didn't get the Nutcracker role of your dreams or you weren't picked for a job despite feeling like you aced the audition, you can emerge from even the most gut-wrenching "no" smarter and stronger.
Ballet West principal Beckanne Sisk as Kitri (Luke Isley, courtesy Ballet West)
Guess who's baaaaack?! Your resident Dance Spirit astrologers! And on the eve of the Youth America Grand Prix awards ceremony, we thought it was the perfect time to pair each zodiac sign with a variation commonly seen during the competition. After many painstaking hours spent researching, consulting the stars, and staring wistfully into the sky, we compiled our data and present you with the definitive list of each star sign as a YAGP variation! As we said last time, don't @ us if you're not happy with your pairing—the stars don't lie, baby!