Meet the Ailey Dancer Who Takes Stunning Photos of Her Coworkers

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Danica Paulos, who runs the company's Instagram page, is a talented photographer.

Danica Paulos, who's now in her fifth season with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, moves with captivating grace and power onstage. And when she's not wowing in-person audiences, the multitalented artist is mesmerizing Ailey's online followers: A gifted photographer, she regularly posts beautiful images of her coworkers to the @alvinailey Instagram page, which she's run for the past two years. We caught up with Paulos to talk about her diverse interests—and find out how she's helped shape AAADT's digital presence.


Paulos fell in love with dancing at 5 years old, after seeing The Nutcracker in her hometown of Huntington Beach, CA. "I loved it immediately," she says. "I begged my grandma to put me in classes, and I started taking ballet, tap, and jazz. I always knew it was meant to be." At 16, she began studying at The Ailey School. She spent just one year in Ailey II before being earning a spot in the main company.

Paulos in Ronald K. Brown's "The Call" (Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT)

Throughout her dance training, Paulos harbored a passion for photography. "I took my very first photography course in high school, where I learned a lot of the basics," she says. "I only had a small digital camera at the time, and then for Christmas, my grandparents bought me my very first professional camera. I was hooked immediately and started taking pictures of everything."

Paulos behind the camera (photo by Courtney Celeste Spears, courtesy Spears)

Paulos has run AAADT's Instagram account for two years, and takes most of the photos and videos she posts. "I work with these dancers every day, and they're so open and generous," she says. "How could I not be inspired by their brilliance?" Her keen eye and unique perspective result in images that show the company in a way audiences normally don't normally see it. She specializes in intimate, behind-the-scenes moments that remind viewers of the work it takes to dance at this level—as well as the fun times that keep the dancers laughing and energized.

AAADT in Alvin Ailey's "Night Creature" (Danica Paulos)

When asked how she manages an Instagram that has 180K followers—no pressure!—she always circles back to the power of the lens and its ability to capture spontaneous moments. "I don't plan a lot of my posts," she says. " I do my best to be aware and keep my camera with me so I can capture what happens naturally. I used to post on the page every single day, but now I try to take a more relaxed feel and let the moment speak for itself. My camera has always been my best teacher."

One of the most beautiful examples of this practice happened last summer, while the company was on tour in Athens, Greece. Paulos took a breathtaking photo of AAADT's women dressed and posed like Greek goddesses. "Having the beautiful women of this company agree to give their time to work with me was nothing short of magical," she says. "I just asked everyone to get on the steps, said '5,6,7,8,' and the magic created itself!"

The women of AAADT in Athens, Greece (Danica Paulos)

As Paulos continues to grow as a dancer, she finds even more joy in capturing the moments around her. She's still learning about video and photography, and plans to take an online course in the future. "I hope that 50 years from now, when a new dancer looks at my photos, that they will resonate with them," she says. "I want others to to see their art portrayed beautifully, and to see themselves as the beautiful spirits they are ."

To see more of Paulos's work, be sure to follow her personal page, @lens_of_the_heart.

Branch Out
Kendra Oyesanya, Marcus Mitchell, and Carlito Olivero (courtesy YouTube/Lionsgate)

Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).

Keep Reading Show less
Dance News
Rochelle Mendoza-Axle, Courtesy Stiskin

In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:

Keep Reading Show less
Sponsored by Joffrey Ballet School
The cast of "Oklahoma!" during last year's run at St. Ann's Warehouse (Teddy Wolff, courtesy DKC/O&M)

You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.

Keep Reading Show less
BLACKPINK has worked with A-list choreographers, including Kyle Hanagami and Parris Goebel.

K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.

Keep Reading Show less
Commercial
Briar Nolet did NOT come to play. (NBC)

Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.

Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.

Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher (left) meeting with Bloch owner David Fox (right) in NYC. (Marius Bugge for Bloch)

For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.

Keep Reading Show less
Ballet
Martina Sandionigi as Giselle

We updated your favorite story-ballet tutus with modern details that'll please any 21st-century prima ballerina. Who needs a cavalier, anyway?

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Samantha Little

It's the fall of 2018. As the Brigham Young University Cougarettes step onto the field at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, UT, a crowd of nearly 64 thousand erupts into cheers. The dancers take their places, and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air: Their reputation precedes them.

The music—Ciara's banger "Level Up"—begins, and unbelievable precision ensues. Eighteen dancers attack the highly technical choreography, which nods at viral social-dance sensations and continuously builds in energy. The school's mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, joins the team on the field, and the audience goes wild. As the piece ends, the sound in the stadium is deafening. The 16-time national-title-winning group has proved once again why they're the standard for college dance team success—they're just that good.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Team
The ultimate dance mom: Debbie Allen with her daughter, Vivian Nixon (courtesy Nixon)

Dance moms: Where would we be without them? We all know how much support and help they give us—in addition to loads of love. Here are 10 reasons real-life dance moms are undeniably the best.

Keep Reading Show less
Dancer to Dancer
BLACKPINK has worked with A-list choreographers, including Kyle Hanagami and Parris Goebel.

K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.

Keep Reading Show less
Commercial
Briar Nolet did NOT come to play. (NBC)

Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.

Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.

Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
Paloma Garcia-Lee (center, in gold) and the cast of "Fosse/Verdon" (FX)

The extraordinary Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's danced in no fewer than five Broadway shows, can adapt to any choreographer's style. And before heading back to Broadway this spring in Moulin Rouge! (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), she's tackling the work of one of the most iconic choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse.

Garcia-Lee plays Adrienne in the new FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon," premiering April 9, which follows the romantic and creative relationship of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his muse Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Steve Levenson, and Andy Blankenbuehler serve as executive producers, with Kail directing and Blankenbuehler choreographing.

With the exception of performing on The Tony Awards, "Fosse/Verdon" marks Garcia-Lee's TV debut. "I'm really setting my sights on more on-camera work," she says. "Getting the chance to flex my muscles as an actress in this different medium, but still have the dance part, is all really exciting." (She's got real acting chops, too: While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she actually quit dance briefly to study acting instead.)

Dance Spirit spoke to Garcia-Lee about "Fosse/Verdon"'s epic final callback, how she got cast, and the transition from stage to screen.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
Delgado in George Balanchine's "Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2" (Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miami City Ballet)

Miami City Ballet principal Jeanette Delgado's dynamic, show-stopping presence and powerful, crisp technique have been wowing audiences for well over a decade. A Miami, FL, native, Delgado began training with Vivian Tobio, Liana Navarro, and Maria Victoria Gutierrez. At age 9, she received a scholarship to Miami City Ballet School and, in 2003, she earned the Princess Grace Award. That same year, Delgado became an apprentice with Miami City Ballet. In 2004 she was promoted to the corps, and in 2006 to soloist. She became a principal dancer in 2008. Catch her this month performing in the company's spring program. —Courtney Bowers

Keep Reading Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways