Sage Rosen dancing with partner Mackenzie Ziegler on the premiere of "DWTS: Junior" (photo by Eric McCandless/ABC)
Ever since it was revealed who the inaugural cast of "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors" would be, we've hardly been able to contain our excitement for the show. Seriously people, this group of tiny humans is TOTALLY stacked! And on the docket for the partnership we're most excited to see this season, is none other than L.A. commercial scene fave Sage Rosen and singer/actress/dancer/goddess Mackenzie Ziegler.
Kana Yamato dancing Fujimusume (courtesy Yamato Mai)
A poised young woman stands completely motionless, balancing a branch of wisteria flowers over one shoulder. With the twang of a shamisen (a three-stringed instrument akin to a guitar), her head rolls in a languid figure-eight and her arms carve delicate shapes through the air. Within these first few captivating moments of Fujimusume (Wisteria Maiden), it's clear why the 19th-century solo is arguably the most famous and popular work in nihon buyo—Japanese classical dance.
But beautifully stylized movement alone doesn't tell the whole story of nihon buyo. From its origins in traditional forms of theater to modern-day performances, nihon buyo has always been about communicating a clear narrative through an intricate physical language.
Dyllan Blackburn's sweet, low-key personality means she might initially fly under the radar—but once she's onstage, she's undeniably a star. With spectacular control and versatility that would put a chameleon to shame, Dyllan's bound to accomplish her dreams of "touring with famous people, and maybe becoming a choreographer." For now, though, she's plenty busy winning national titles at The Dance Awards and Radix, plus performing as part of the Beat Squad at DancerPalooza.
The best advice I ever received was when Tessandra Chavez told me to just enjoy the process, and not focus my energy on being competitive with others. —Dyllan Blackburn
A Chance to Dance students competing at Worlds (courtesy Kim Smith)
Kim Smith has been a dancer for most of her life. And now, she wants to make sure that anyone who wants to dance, can. Her program A Chance To Dance offers differently abled children the opportunity to express themselves through dance. "Dance is one of the most beautiful forms of communication and these children and teens need to be able communicate without having to use words," Smith told Dance Spirit. Three years after creating this inclusive dance program, Smith's students aren't just communicating, they're competing. The program has grown to include Senior, Junior, and Mini comp teams—A Chance To Dance students even competed at Worlds, placing in the top 10. But for Smith, it's not about the titles or the awards. "I'm all about breaking down barriers," Smith says. Read our interview with Smith below to find out how A Chance To Dance is further redefining dance culture norms.
Warren Craft in Dorrance Dance's Myelination (photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Craft)
Hoofer Warren Craft mesmerizes audiences with his sophisticated musicality and idiosyncratic style. He started dancing at age 8 in Poughkeepsie, NY, and later took private lessons with Ayodele Casel in NYC. He went on to study at the American Tap Dance Foundation, the School of American Ballet, and The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre. These days, you can see the multifaceted talent onstage with Michelle Dorrance's Dorrance Dance. In keeping with his ever-unconventional approach to his art, Craft wrote a poem to his younger self in lieu of a letter. —Courtney Bowers
James Whiteside and Misty Copeland showing off Odile's Gemini tendancies in "Swan Lake" (original photo by Gene Schiavone)
Over the last couple of months, I've gotten really (like really) into astrology, by way of memes on Instagram. If you're a millennial or Gen-Zer locked in an eternal scroll like I am (except it's my job, so I have an excuse!), then you're no stranger to these types of posts. One popular format? A list assigning zodiac signs with their corresponding "things," from foods to colors and everything in between. And since y'all love our memes (we're making more, we swear), I decided to spend my Friday afternoon figuring out each sign's classical ballet equivalent. I recruited fellow DS editor Helen Rolfe, and we proceeded to conduct a VERY scientific and THOROUGHLY researched study. If you don't like yours, I truly am sorry, but the stars don't lie. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Behold, the signs as classical ballets!
Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet
San Francisco Ballet soloist Lauren Strongin's classic grace and powerful acting skills captivate audiences. The Los Gatos, CA, native trained at the Kirov Academy of Ballet and the John Cranko School before joining Houston Ballet in 2009. In 2015, she came to SFB as a soloist and has since danced principal roles in ballets including Giselle, Swan Lake, "Rubies," and Onegin. This month, catch her performing with SFB in New York City Center's Balanchine: The City Center Years program. —Courtney Bowers
This past January,18-year-old Jay Ledford did what tons of aspiring dancers do every day: She posted a beautiful dance shot to Instagram. But this photo carried more weight than most. Clad in a black leotard, tights, and pointe shoes, and hitting a stunning arabesque, she was beginning a new journey—as a transgender ballerina. Ledford, then a student at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC, never thought she'd come out on Instagram, let alone experience such an outpouring of support. Here, she talks to Dance Spirit about the experiences she's had over the last 10 months, her hopes for the future, and what she wants the dance world to understand about trans dancers. —Olivia Manno
Ellenore Scott posing in shoes from the latest Marc Fisher fashion campaign that she choreographed (courtesy Marc Fisher LTD)
It's the most wonderful time of year for fashion and fierce fall fashion/dance collabs are all over the place. But we had to pick our jaws up off of the floor after watching the new dancetastic Marc Fisher LTD footwear commercials. The shoe brand created one of the most compelling ads we've seen thanks to the fancy footwork of six dancers and the choreography of "So You Think You Can Dance" alum Ellenore Scott. We talked with the multi-talented artist to find out how choreographing for a fashion commercial compares to creating routines for live shows on Broadway, like King Kong (which opens Nov. 8th). Check out our interview where Scott shares tips on what you can do to also become a choreographer in the biz one day.
Catie Robinson (right) on campus at California State University, Fullerton (courtesy Robinson)
Making future college plans can seem daunting. What is life as a dancemajor really going to be like? Catie Robinson, a sophomore at California State University,Fullerton, gave us an inside peek at her life on campus. Originally from Round Rock, TX, Robinson trained in a variety of styles growing up, including ballet, jazz, tap, and contemporary, and is now studying both dance and communications. See how she balances dance, academics, and a social life. —Courtney Bowers
New York Theatre Ballet's Alexis Branagan studied English at Princeton. (photo by Richard Termine, courtesy New York Theatre Ballet)
College-bound dancers sometimes feel as though a dance degree is the only path to professional success. But while majoring in dance can be a great option, it's certainly not the only one. College should be a time of self-discovery, which often means exploring a variety of academic interests. We spoke with five artists who chose college majors completely outside the dance world—without sacrificing their postgrad careers.
Broadway dancer Christine Cornish Smith's good luck charm is the quote "To thine own self be true." (courtesy Smith)
For many dancers, having a good luck charm stowed in a dressing room or dance bag feels like the key to a successful audition or show. We asked nine pros to share the goofy/sentimental/magical objects that they believe can make the difference between the performance of a lifetime and, well, actually breaking a leg.
Brion Marquis Watson, an Ailey School student who doubled for Ryan Jamaal Swain (aka Damon) on "Pose" (photo by Nir Areli, courtesy Watson)
2018 has blessed us with "Pose," the dance-centric FX show that breaks down all kinds of barriers. A sensitive portrayal of the vibrant ball culture of 1980s NYC, "Pose" not only features the largest cast of transgender actors ever to appear on a scripted TV show, but also includes some serious dancing.
One of the stars of "Pose" is aspiring pro dancer and ball scene novice Damon (played by Ryan Jamaal Swain), a student at the fictional New School for Dance. His dance scenes, many of which were filmed at the real-life Ailey School in NYC, required strong artistry and commitment from both Swain and his dance double, Brion Marquis Watson. We talked to Watson—who's currently in his third year of the Ailey School's certificate program, and is also a musical theater buff—about what it's like to be a dance double on this history-making show.
18-year-old Justin Souriau-Levine (indicated by arrow) takes us backstage as an ABT supernumerary. (Photo by Kyle Froman)
American Ballet Theatre boasts nearly 90 dancers. But when the company is mounting an elaborate story ballet at NYC's cavernous Metropolitan Opera House, it actually needs more bodies to complete the picture onstage. Enter supernumeraries, aka "supers." These supplementary performers are hired for non-dancing background roles (think "third courtier from the left" or "tall market lady"). Being a super is a fabulous way to get onstage experience—not to mention an up-close-and-personal look at some of the dance world's biggest stars.
Commercial dancer Justine Lutz's raw, emotional contemporary performances have helped her take the L.A. scene by storm. Lutz started dancing at the age of 3 in her hometown of Plymouth, MN. Later, she attended Loyola Marymount University and worked as an assistant for The PULSE On Tour before moving to L.A. in 2013. Since then, she's performed on TV shows, including "Glee," "Liv & Maddie," and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and has worked with loads of music industry greats, including Taylor Swift, Kesha, Ariana Grande, Kelly Clarkson, and P!nk. Read on for The Dirt!