Dance-team diva. Kickline queen. Commercial champ. Keltie Colleen can do it all!
What’s Keltie Colleen’s secret? That’s what we were desperate to learn when the 27-year-old walked into our Dance Spirit cover shoot this past January.
Her charisma and classic beauty were evident from the start, but as the day went on, it was her other qualities that inspired us. She’s quirky, edgy and, above all, professional.
While moving seamlessly between outrageously dorky and super-sexy poses, she let it slip that she’d done her homework by practicing the night before and watching behind-the-scenes videos of past shoots at dancespirit.com/! Keltie knows that success is based on more than talent alone: It’s also about being determined and a risk taker.
“She always wants more.”
Most dancers would be satisfied booking just one of the types of gigs on Keltie’s resumé. She’s performed with Fergie at the Fashion Rocks concert and appeared in kanYe’s first music video, “Two Words.” She was a principal dancer in Disney’s Enchanted and recently choreographed John Legend’s “Green Light” video. She’s also toured as a Radio City Rockette—four times!—and danced with the Knicks City Dancers and the New Jersey Nets Dancers. Currently, Keltie is in Las Vegas to perform in Tony Award–winning director Jerry Mitchell’s new production, Peepshow, a sultry show that follows Bo Peep on her quest for love.
“I’m a chameleon, which is a dancer’s greatest asset,” Keltie says. “When I work for Fergie, I’m a hip-hop video girl; then when I’m onstage as a Rockette, I rock a bun and am tapping like it’s the 1950s.”
Keltie is also business-savvy. “She knows that if you want to work every day of your dance career, you have to be able to do it all,” says Anastasia Miller, Keltie’s agent with Clear Talent Group in NYC. “She’s always in class, and she’s always picking up new skills. She has never assumed that she’s made it. She always wants more.”
As one of the few dancers to make a name for herself on the internet, Keltie has acquired quite a fan base. She keeps in contact with young dancers through her MySpace page. (More than 40,000 hits last year!) She’s even gone on dancespirit.com/ to give advice on our message boards and produced a DVD that helps prepare dancers for auditions.
“Dance was my thing.”
But Keltie wasn’t always at the top of her game. In fact, she was a self-proclaimed back-row dancer when she started classes at Sherwood Park School of Dance in her hometown of Sherwood Park in Alberta, Canada. “It was like limbs everywhere!” she says. “If you had seen me at age 14, you might have said I looked pretty onstage, but was probably not a good dancer.”
But Keltie liked the attention that came with being a performer. “Dance was my thing that made me different from everyone else,” she says. Every morning, she took a 6:47 a.m. bus an hour and a half to Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts in Edmonton. Then she took another bus to class at Shelley’s Dance Company in the evenings. “I developed a work ethic that people don’t have when they are given things easily,” she says.
Keltie continued to push herself to improve by creating her own opportunities in the dance world. At the end of her senior year of high school, she auditioned in Toronto to dance on a cruise ship and was hired.
“New York was my goal.”
After dancing a year on the ship—“Everyone was in math class, and I was in St. Thomas!”—she had saved enough money to move to NYC in 2002. “New York was my goal growing up; something in my soul told me I had to dance there,” she says.
But when Keltie arrived, not everything went as planned. “When I auditioned for the Rockettes the first time, I didn’t get it,” she says. However, six months later, another audition landed her a spot in the famous troupe. “I’m glad I got over my fear of failure and had the chutzpah to stand in that line again.”
Keltie considers her big break getting to perform with professional dance teams—both the 2003–2004 New Jersey Nets and the 2006–2007 Knicks City Dancers. “Keltie immediately stood out from the 500 other dancers at the Knicks City Dancer auditions because of her energetic and fun personality,” says Michelle Harris, manager of entertainment marketing for the New York Knicks. While she was on the team, Keltie worked relentlessly to improve her dancing. “Her strong suit was her jazz technique, but she worked extra hard at her hip-hop skills to blend in with the rest of the team by mid-season,” Michelle recalls. Keltie agrees. “The kippup [hoisting the body from the floor to a standing position] was my nemesis!”
“Maybe It Was Her Smile.”
Keltie is so grateful to have a family that loves her and wants her to succeed. “They support me and celebrate with me and sent me money when I was broke,” Keltie says.
Another pillar of support in Keltie’s life is her boyfriend, Ryan Ross. (Yes, the same Ryan Ross of the band Panic at the Disco!) The couple met when Keltie was a backup dancer for the group at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. “We were at rehearsal, and the band came to see the routine. This one guy was staring at me. It was awkward!” she says. (“For some reason she was the only one I even saw,” Ryan says. “Maybe it was her smile. Something caught my eye—and still does.”)
“Later I got a call from my agent,” Keltie says. “The band wanted to make sure I was going to the after party. Ryan and I ended up talking about Pop-Tarts and books, and we have been together ever since.”
Although the two don’t get to see each other often since they both tour, they enjoy similar activities in their time off. “You wouldn’t guess it by looking at her, but she’s sort of a nerd, which is what I love about her and why I think we get along so well,” Ryan says. “We both like to sit around and read or watch the Discovery Channel.”
Having a famous boyfriend has its share of challenges, though. Since she started dating Ryan, numerous blogs, message board posts and videos have bad-mouthed Keltie. Old photos of her in revealing clothes, which she wore for previous dance and modeling jobs, were posted and scrutinized. “Sometimes I laugh it off, but some of it has affected me,” Keltie says. “It hurts when people say I’m not a good dancer or I’m using Ryan. No one deserves to hear bad things about themselves.”
“It’s OK Not to Be Famous.”
In order for her fans to see her in the best light, Keltie first had to see herself in that way. “I realized I could either be the half-naked ‘hot girl’ in the music video, or I could focus on making better decisions. It’s OK not to be famous if you have to go about it the wrong way.”
Whether it’s as a role model, dancer or girlfriend, she proves to be just as genuine the second, third and one-hundredth time you meet her as the first. “Keltie is the most giving and positive person that I have ever met,” Ryan says. “She’s made me want to be more like her in that way.”
Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"
If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.
It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.
With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:
At the tender age of 9, Destiny Wimpye moved cross-country with her mom so she could train at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The leap of faith paid off: Destiny's spent summers training at the School of American Ballet, the Ailey School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet; performed for Michelle Obama at the White House; and danced beside Mariah Carey in a TV special for Disney. Now she's a full-time student at the Colburn Dance Academy under the direction of former New York City Ballet principals Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, and it seems fated that Destiny will one day dance her dream role, Dewdrop in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. "I'm a jumper and a turner," Destiny says, "so I think it fits me pretty well."
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I've been battling Achilles tendinitis for months—it never seems to get better. How can I deal with it? Could there be an issue with my technique that's causing the problem?
Ever since starting her professional career, Broadway dancer Amber Ardolino has cupped. Using the holistic wellness practice to improve performance and take care of her body, Ardolino cupped before it was cool—even beating the 2016 Rio Olympics' purple polka-dotted athletes to the punch. But Ardolino's only one dancer who has put this therapy to regular use. Dance Spirit asked Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, and performance rehab specialist with St. Vincent Sports Performance who works with Indianapolis' Dance Kaleidoscope; and Thomas Droge, Chinese-medicine doctor and founder of Pathfinder Institute in NYC, to explain the ins and outs of cupping therapy.
Amber Ardolino in "Hamilton" (courtesy Ardolino)
What inspires you most as a dancer? What keeps you going on the days when the motivation just isn't there, and makes you feel like all the hard work, rejection and sacrifice is worth it for the pursuit of your dream? What makes you want to run into an empty studio and create something new?
Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over four decades of experience, often hangs posters with dance-related quotes on the walls of her studio, on everything from creativity to the hustle to the importance of teamwork. Sometimes the right words from dancers who have been there are just the push you need to spark your imagination and remind yourself why you love what you do.
In that spirit, here are 10 inspiring quotes from dancers on what their art form means to them, and why it's worth fighting through the hard parts:
Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.
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Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.
Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!
Oh, baby I'm a wreck (wreck) after watching Kinjaz's new music video.
Set to Post Malone's "Sunflower," the lead single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, the vid features the dance crew's ever-fabulous men—who appear to have Spidey senses, because seriously, how else do they stay down-to-the-fingertips in sync?—performing Vinh Nguyen's super-tight choreography, with an overlay of comic-book-esque graphics by editor Jonathan Shih.
Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.
If you haven't followed through on your New Year's resolution to practice more self-care, then Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start. Below, we rounded up the best ways to pamper, indulge, and heal everything from your muscles, to your skin, to your mind. Your body (and your dancing) will thank you.
It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistry. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).
The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.
Are you a college student curious about what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite magazine? You're in luck—because Dance Spirit is searching for an editorial intern for summer 2019!
We'll be accepting applications through March 1. Internships pay an hourly stipend and require a minimum two-day-a-week, onsite commitment in our NYC office from June to August. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)
If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resumé and two writing samples to Margaret Fuhrer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put "Summer Internship Application" in the subject line. All attachments must be formatted as PDFs.
We will interview selected candidates in March in person or by phone, and let candidates know by mid-April if they have been chosen. Please note that we do not accept high school students, or any students under 18, and that we give preference to college juniors and seniors.
We can't wait to meet you!