It's obvious to anyone who's seen her tap that dance is Sydney Burtis' passion. But in many ways, dance has also become a form of therapy for Sydney: It's helped her find her voice, both inside and outside the studio. "Dance allows me to express things about this world and things within myself," she says. "It's the expression that really resonates with me."
Sydney first started dancing at age 3, after being diagnosed with mild autistic tendencies. Her mother enrolled her in a ballet class with the hope that it would improve her communication skills. Ballet classes did help Sydney overcome her shyness, but she didn't find her deep-seated connection to dance till the following year, when she started taking tap. "Tap dancing is all about the relationship of rhythm and sound to movement," Sydney says. While verbal communication has always been a struggle for her, "when I was tapping, I realized I could communicate without words," she says. Over time, Sydney added jazz and contemporary to her repertoire, and slowly began to develop the confidence to compete. Soon, she was a regular on the comp circuit, receiving recognition and awards for her technical ability and artistry. Last January, she was named a YoungArts finalist in tap dance and a silver award recipient.
In the summer of 2017, Sydney and her teacher, Marshall Ellis, co-founded the Orlando Tap Festival, bringing professional tappers from across the country to teach dancers in central Florida. "Dance has helped me become the person I am, and I wanted to give that opportunity to others," Sydney says.
One day, Sydney hopes to establish a dance company that will seamlessly fuse tap and contemporary, her two favorite styles. This fall, though, she'll be checking a different dream off her bucket list: moving to NYC, where she'll have even more opportunities to express herself through dance. "I've been going to the city since I was little, so it already feels like a second home," she says.
"Sydney has a powerhouse work ethic coupled with genuine care for what is asked of her as a dancer. Be it performance, rehearsal, or class, I can count on her to execute with integrity, passion, precision, attention to detail, and a connectedness that's sophisticated beyond her years. She embodies a pure joy for dance that breathes life into her every movement, and she has always carried herself like a true professional."—Michelle Dorrance, tapper and choreographer
Birthday: August 7, 2000
Hometown: Kissimmee, FL
Favorite TV shows: "Friends," "Grey's Anatomy," "So You Think You Can Dance"
Nicknames: Syd the Kid, Squid
Hidden talent: "I can recite pi out over 60 decimal places!"
Go-to stress reliever: "Listening to jazz music and coloring in my coloring book"
Dance crushes: Sarah Reich and Melinda Sullivan
Her dancing in three emojis: 💚 🎼 😄
If she weren't a dancer, she'd be a: sign language interpreter or food critic
(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.