Derek Hough: "Dear Maria Menounos..."

Did you see Derek Hough's open letter to his soon-to-be "Dancing with the Stars" partner Maria Menounos? DHough took to the Huffington Post to share a few pre-competition words of encouragement for the "Extra" host. "When I first heard you were going to be my partner, I was completely stoked," he says. "You have incredible energy and are full of life. Some may even say you are a bit of a looker. I hadn't noticed." (Nyuk nyuk.)

Derek's letter also gives us an interesting peek at all the hard work that happens before "DWTS" filming begins. "Unfortunately, the audience doesn't get to see the first weeks of rehearsal, where I believe the majority of the transformation happens," he says. "It's like going from Bambi on ice to actually dancing full routines with all the bells and whistles."

Much has already been said about how the "DWTS" professionals, rather than the celebrity competitors, have become the true stars of the show. But I can't get over just how dramatic that flip-flop has been. Can you imagine anyone—well, us super-nerds aside—reading an article by one of the pros during Season 1? People barely knew their names. Whatever my conflicted feelings about "DWTS" as a whole, how awesome that it's given these fabulously talented ballroom dancers the recognition they deserve.

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

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Cover Story
Amblin Entertainment

Steven Spielberg's much-anticipated remake of West Side Storychoreographed by Justin Peck, and starring a bevy of very good dancers—is in production, hooray! And that means it's finally time for us to get a look at the film's cast members in character. Let's break down the first photo from the project.

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