To celebrate Mother’s Day (May 12), we’re highlighting five well-known dancer moms and their dancing children. Their love of the art form makes these dynamic duos (and one quartet) very close. But like all families, they can still drive each other crazy!
Barbara Sandonato in Scotch Symphony (photo by Jack Mitchell)
Mom: Barbara Sandonato, teacher and former Pennsylvania Ballet prima: “I always understand what she’s feeling—the misery of having an injury or having to perform when she’s tired. But I also know the joy of it. We’re on the same wavelength. It’s a wonderful thing to share so deeply in someone else’s pleasures.”
Daughter: Gabriella Yudenich, Pennsylvania Ballet soloist: “She’s the best critic I have! She’s so knowledgeable about the art form and doesn’t sugarcoat things. I love that about her now. But as a student, I hated it. I couldn’t stand the fact that the teacher was my mom, and if I didn’t like a combination, I would let her know! She definitely threw me out of class a few times.”
Mom: Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, tapper extraordinaire: “Our connection is so special because we talk about everything. From when she was very small, I let her know the reality of a situation, be it good or bad. I think she respects me for keeping it real.”
Daughter: Eboni Edwards, Billy Elliot alum: “I was scared to audition for Billy Elliot. I freaked out when we got there and my mom took me to the bathroom and calmed me down. I wouldn’t have done so well if my mom hadn’t been there.”
The Jensen family in Paris; (L to R) Bryn, Whitney, Sarah Jayne and Lausanne
Mom: Lausanne Jensen, former dancer and teacher: “I’m a bit of a high-strung manager type. My sole purpose for opening a dance studio was to make sure my daughters were trained well enough in ballet, jazz and tap to make any of the high school dance teams.”
Daughter: Sarah Jayne Jensen, Broadway dancer and star of Center Stage: Turn It Up: “My mom constantly expressed her love for us and told us we could do and be anything. Nothing was impossible.”
Daughter: Whitney Jensen, Boston Ballet soloist: “I can talk to my mom about anything that happens at work. Any difficult ‘ballerina problem’ I face, she understands. And she definitely pushed all of us to our full potential.”
Daughter: Bryn Dowling, Broadway dancer: “Having a mother and sisters involved in dance is normal to me because it’s all I’ve ever known. I can’t imagine being the only performer in my family. That would be too weird.”
Travis and Denise Wall (photo courtesy NUVO)
Mom: Denise Wall, dance teacher: “Dance is every part of my being, and it’s hard to find anyone outside the dance world who understands everything I feel. It’s amazing to have a son and other children who are in the business, so we can share it all.”
Son: Travis Wall, choreographer and Shaping Sound co-founder: “After living in NYC for a while, I moved back home at age 14 when I got injured. My mom was the one who retrained me, who helped me get everything back. She knew exactly what I needed to do to get back on my feet.”
Debbie Allen with a very young (but already talented!) Vivian Nixon
Mom: Debbie Allen, Broadway legend and star of the TV show “Fame”: “Vivian is strong-willed, and I’m glad, because great artists are very opinionated. But when it comes to directing her, it’s like a battlefield! I get the, ‘No, Mom. I don’t want to do that’ a lot. Still, I would like Vivian even if she were not my daughter. I would love her. I admire her.”
Daughter: Vivian Nixon, Broadway dancer: “It’s kind of like having your own specialty dance doctor who knows what to prescribe for you. My mom knew when I needed to move away and get intense ballet training. She knew when it was time for me to come home because my attitude had gotten a little hot. She’s always offered me the best tools and had all the knowledge at her fingertips.”
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!