Hip-hop teacher Gev Manoukian talking with dancers at West Coast Dance Explosion (courtesy Manoukian)
Whether it's your very first dance convention or you're a seasoned weekend warrior, you're undoubtedly hoping to catch the eyes of your favorite teachers, and dreaming of getting pulled onstage to demonstrate a combo. With hundreds of other talented dancers in the room, however, it's easy to feel (and actually get) lost in the crowd. We asked three veteran teachers on the convention circuit for tips on how to best grab their attention.
Twenty-two-year-old dancer and choreographer Easton Payne is an artist's artist: His movement is profoundly empathic, wholly original, and endlessly creative. That unique voice was honed through training at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education and Dance Town in Doral, FL. Payne now choreographs for studios across the country, though you're probably most familiar with his work for Molly Long'sProject 21. Read on to find out how he keeps making movement that's like nothing we've seen before. —Helen Rolfe
What do you get when you cross a 1920s jazz baby with an absurdly flexible alien life-form? Ten-year-old Gracyn French, who's taken the comp world by storm over the past two years. After she became KAR Miss Petite Dance America 2017, the 2018 Nationals season saw Gracyn break the Top 20 at Radix and the Top 10 at her very first Dance Awards (where she clinched the title of Mini Female Best Dancer this year). She's also danced in six Old Navy commercials, appeared on "Dancing with the Stars," and speaks Spanish thanks to her attendance at a dual-immersion school. A frequent muse for choreographers Easton Payne and Molly Long, Gracyn dreams of following in Long's footsteps one day: After a career as a "DWTS" pro, she wants to open her own studio with younger sisters Emmerson and Harlow.
Charlize Glass is a next-level Step Up fan. (photo by Joe Toreno)
Pretty much every dancer grows up obsessed with dance films. They're endlessly entertaining, of course—who doesn't love a dance movie night?—but they're also endlessly inspiring. As an accessible way to see the work of some of the world's best dancers and choreographers, dance movies are often our first real exposure to the incredible power of this art form.
We asked six A-list dance pros to talk about the dance films they couldn't—and still can't—get enough of.
At first it looks ordinary enough. (How many fouetté videos are there online?). But once you watch it, you'll understand why Autumn has more than a million followers. The turns are flawless, showcasing phenomenal technique—extension, coordination, lift, all of it. And if you keep scrolling, you'll find snippets of her working her butt off in class, equally at home in contemporary and hip hop, attacking each combination with the kind of fearlessness and confidence one rarely sees in a teenager.
That full-bodied devotion to her craft—what one of her mentors calls her "soul-bleeding dance"—makes Autumn a rare breed: an Instagram dance sensation more focused on her art than her follower count.
All photos Anna Marchisello and Jacob Patrick (courtesy Stacey Tookey)
Deep in the hills just outside Calgary, Alberta, Camp Kindle sits unassumingly, nestled in a forest clearing. With rustic cabins, a glassy lake, sprawling lawns, and a giant ropes course, the scene looks like the set of an old-school movie about summer camp- which is why it's so surprising to learn that, for one week each August, some of the competition circuit's most gifted dancers arrive there en masse for Stacey Tookey's Camp Protégé.
Crystal Nicholls (Danielle Da Silva, courtesy Nicholls)
In the fall of my senior year of high school, I had a plan for my professional dance career: After graduating, I'd leave my home in Barbados and travel to NYC to audition for the world-renowned Ailey/Fordham BFA program. I'd graduate with honors, work with several amazing companies in NYC, and then make it big on Broadway.
But my plan came to a crashing halt during an ill-fated rehearsal that September. I dislocated my patella, which caused the most blinding, dizzying pain. A few hours later, my knee had swollen to the size of a baseball. I couldn't put any weight on it, much less dance on it.
My Ailey/Fordham audition was two months away. I was devastated, certain that my dreams were over.
Instagram has become a huge part of dancers' lives. At its best, the image-driven platform can be a way for people to share their art and make it accessible to others. For dance influencers, Insta success can lead to opportunities to travel, perform, and build a career.
Teresa Reichlen as Odette in Peter Martins' "Swan Lake" (Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet)
When you think of a Balanchine ballerina, the dancer you imagine probably looks a lot like Teresa Reichlen. The New York City Ballet principal brings long-legged extensions and queenly poise to her extensive repertory of Balanchine "goddess" roles. She's also a captivating force to be reckoned with in works by Jerome Robbins, Justin Peck, and Christopher Wheeldon. Born in northern Virginia, Reichlen began training at age 10 at the Russell School of Ballet. Asked to stay for the winter term following her first summer at the School of American Ballet, Reichlen became a New York City Ballet apprentice a year later. She received her corps contract a year after that. You can see her perform the principal role in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 during the company's annual Saratoga Performing Arts Center residency this week. —Helen Rolfe
In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I used to know what I wanted—a dance career—but now I'm not so sure. These days, my parents are so involved in my training that sometimes it feels like I'm pursuing their dream instead of mine. How can I figure out whether I really want to do this, or if I'm just doing it to make them happy?
As a dedicated dancer, you're probably pretty proud of the number of hours you spend in the studio. You may even feel guilty whenever you divert from your normal non-stop routine. But time spent outside the studio can actually be super beneficial for your dancing.
Here are seven non-dance activities that can help you become a better dancer.
You've clocked in hours of practice, rounded up every single bobby pin you could find, and told friends "I can't, I have dance" so many times you might as well write it on your forehead. But the summer sacrifices are worth it, because you've finally arrived: This. Is. Nationals.
To get you even more hyped, we've rounded up the top six best things about the magical celebration that is #NationalsWeek.