Dancing with My Double

Six sets of identical twins share the joys and challenges of taking on the dance world two at a time.

Leigh-Ann (left) and Sara Esty backstage during The Nutcracker (courtesy Sara Esty)

Sara, soloist, & Leigh-Ann Esty, corps de ballet, Miami City Ballet

Age: 27

Do you have the same strengths in the studio?

Leigh-Ann: Sara is a quick mover, and I’m more of a lyrical mover. Our ballet mistresses have given us opportunities according to our strengths. But they also challenge us to do some of the same roles.

Has having a twin worked to your advantage?

Sara: In Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, we danced as the “bomb squad” girls, two dancers in red pointe shoes who do fast sequences across the floor in complete unison. We did one show in Chicago on tour, and afterward, our director said, ‘OK, that was just scary,’ because we were completely in sync with each other, doing the same exact little things with our heads and feet. It happens a lot when we get to dance next to each other, but this time it was extra creepy.

 

Samantha (left) and Jenelle Figgins (by Jefry Andres Wright)

Jenelle, Dance Theatre of Harlem, & Samantha Figgins, Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Age: 24

Did you always want to be in different companies?

Jenelle: We do want to dance with some of the same companies—we just don’t necessarily want to be there at the same time. We each want to maintain our individuality, and if we were in the same company at the same time, that might be difficult. We have different things to offer a company.

How are you different as dancers?

Samantha: I’ve always been a really good turner, and Jenelle is a beautiful jumper. I think she’s more striking and I have a smoother quality.

Do you stand next to each other in class?

Jenelle: Not at the barre, but we tend to dance together in grand allégro or waltz.

Samantha: It’s never a competition, but we push each other.

Do you share dance clothes?

Samantha: We live together in NYC, and sometimes I’ll sneak into her room when she’s at work. She does the same thing. I was looking at a video of her with DTH online, and I was like, “That leotard looks really familiar.”

 

Travis (left) and Tyler Atwood (by Darlene Froberg)

Travis & Tyler Atwood, competition dancers

Age: 13

How can people tell you apart?

Tyler: Travis has a mole on the right side of his nose. That’s really it. But once you get to know us, we’re definitely different, even our dancing. In hip hop, Travis is more contemporary, while I have an edgier style. Plus, Travis is a lefty, and I’m a righty.

How do you handle competition with each other?

Tyler: When Travis wins something, sometimes I get a little jealous.

Travis: In the end, we know it will benefit both of us. In 2011, I won National Mini Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance, but we both got to travel during the following season and spend time with the faculty.

Do people ever confuse the two of you?

Travis: Sometimes when we’re at conventions, one of us will get called up onstage and the teacher will see the other brother dancing on the floor and get really confused.

 

15-year-old Kenzie (left) and Kierra (by Levi Walker)

Kenzie & Kierra Fischer, competition dancers

Age: 17

How can people tell you apart?

Kierra: Only our closest friends and family can tell us apart. Some people think they can, but they really can’t. We don’t always tell them when they’re wrong. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m totally Kenzie!”

Kenzie: Even our dad can’t tell us apart all the time.

Do you ever intentionally switch places?

Kierra: One time, Kenzie had a solo she didn’t feel comfortable with yet, and she was begging not to go to rehearsal. I went and pretended to be her, and the choreographer totally bought it. Later I taught Kenzie the part I’d learned.

Do you always get along?

Kierra: We get along, but we also annoy each other. I get second-hand embarrassed easily. If Kenzie does something embarrassing, it feels like it was me—because people may not know it wasn’t.

Do you share dance clothes?

Kenzie: Yeah, we share everything. I keep all the dance clothes in my room, and she keeps all the dresses in hers.

Kierra: But we’ve come downstairs in the same outfit many times. Sometimes we’ll go with it, but there are those days when we fight about who had it on first and who has to go upstairs to change.

 

Kellie (left) and Katie Cockrell at the premiere of Jack and Jill (by Byron Purvis/AdMedia)

Katie & Kellie Cockrell, commercial dancers

Age: 25

What’s it like auditioning with your twin?

Katie: Most of the time, when people audition, they don’t have someone in the room who is family and loves them no matter what.

Kellie: At auditions with Katie, I feel more confident. There are actually a lot of “twin auditions,” too. We see the same sets of twins at every one, so we’ve made friends with a lot of them.

Has being a twin worked to your advantage?

Kellie: We’ve booked a lot of jobs because we’re twins, like our very first gig, which was a Disney Channel movie when we were 17. And we had small parts in the recent Star Trek movie. They wanted girls who looked alike, and being twins helped us stand out from the other auditioners.

How do you handle the competition when they’re only hiring one dancer?

Katie: Luckily, it usually happens that when one of us gets something, the other will book a job the next time. But it’s difficult—it’s your sister, your best friend, but you’re like, ‘Well, why did you pick her?’ It’s a delicate balance.

Kellie: It comes down to perspective and realizing that ultimately we’re family first. Having Katie as my twin is more important than booking a job.

 

David (left) and Jacob Guzman (by Heidi Gutman)

Jacob & David Guzman, Newsies on Broadway

Age: 18

Do your castmates confuse the two of you?

Jacob: Once people get to know us, they know the difference. They don’t even have to think, Oh, he has a freckle, so he’s Jacob. They can just tell by how we walk and talk and respond to things.

David: Jacob’s more outgoing. I’m more reserved.

Do you always get along?

David: We’re both competitive people. Whether it’s a video game or a physical sport, sometimes we’ll get so into it that we’ll get mad at each other. But then two seconds later we’ll say, “What-ever, it’s just a game.” We’re best friends.

How have you handled competing against each other?

Jacob: In 2009, we competed for America’s Teen Male Dancer of the Year at the American Dance Awards. David got first runner-up, and I won. In my speech the next year when I gave up my title, I said, “It was so hard to rejoice when I won when my brother had just fallen short of the prize.” Then, that year, David won the title! I’d rather be onstage competing with him than competing against him. I’m strong by myself, but we’re stronger as a team.

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.

Aries

You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)

Taurus

As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.

Gemini

Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).

Cancer

Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.

Leo

We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.

Virgo

You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.

Libra

Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.

Scorpio

You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?

Sagittarius

You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

Capricorn

You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.

Aquarius

Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.

Pisces

Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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