EXCLUSIVE: Ballet Phenoms Avery & Marcus on the Hardest Part of Performing on "World of Dance"
Avery Gay and Marcus Sarjeant are the contemporary ballet bosses everyone's talking about. Their daring performance on "World of Dance" last week made for a surprising turn of events, knocking previous Junior Champion Eva Igo out of the competition. Not only are Avery & Marcus the only ballet act on the show to feature pointe work, but they're also hoping their crowd-pleasing approach to the art will change the way ballet is perceived by the public, making it more mainstream than ever before. Find out how these two got ready for their run on one of America's hottest dance shows—while living in different states.
How did you prep for "WOD"?
Marcus: I live in California, and Avery lives in Arizona, so we didn't have a lot of time to rehearse because on top of coordinating our schedules we had to deal with the added expense of traveling. We had about six months leading up to the show, and we'd have long, exhausting sessions with our choreographer Josie Walsh. She taught us to use visualization exercises so that when we were apart we could still rehearse by imagining the dance routines. It was extremely helpful.
What did it feel like beating Eva Igo?
M: It was intimidating to go up against her—not just because she's talented, but also because the show and its fans love her. But it forced us to push even harder for a great performance. Ultimately, going against Eva brought out the absolute best in both of us.
What's been your favorite part about being on "WOD"?
Avery: I've loved meeting the other contestants from all over the world and starting new friendships. "WOD" also gives you a peek into the life of a professional dancer and It's pretty special to dance for Derek, J.Lo, and NE-YO!
What is been most challenging about performing on "WOD"?
A: Having to polish our routines in such a short time was difficult. We had to trust each other and our choreographer to stay confident. Also, we were the first couple to dance on pointe on the digital, plexiglass "WOD" stage. They offered to cover it with a marley surface, but we didn't want to compromise the projections from the floor. So we essentially had to retrain our bodies to compensate for the unfamiliar surfaces. But that stage is state-of-the-art amazing, so it was worth the effort!
Dancing onstage is very different from dancing on TV. What do you do differently when you're performing for the camera in addition to a live audience?
M: We've both been trained to dance for live audiences, so we're used to looking out into a sea of people and feeling their reactions to our performance. But we had to learn how to dance for TV. We had to know where the cameras were at all times, for our safety and so the cameramen could get the shot they wanted. Sometimes we had to tweak our choreography so the lines would be pleasing to TV audiences.
How do you present ballet in a way that's appealing to a mainstream audience without compromising on technique or artistry?
M: Josie Walsh is extremely talented at choreographing contemporary ballet fusion. She combined ballet with b-boy touches, crazy lifts, and movements you don't typically see in contemporary ballet. At times it's difficult to stay true to our technique while pulling off some of our daredevil stunts. But we try to keep our performance engaging while maintaining the integrity of the art.
What do you hope people new to ballet will take away from your performances?
A: We hope people see the excitement, diversity, and athleticism that ballet dancers bring. Ballet isn't just Swan Lake or The Nutcracker. We want to encourage young kids to go to ballet class because it's cool , and to show ballet dancers in a different light.
Who's your dance role model?
A: I'm inspired by Josie Walsh and Stacey Tookey. They're very different choreographers, but they're both very Zen-like. They've taken the time to get to know me and teach me what they've learned in their careers—specifically, how to love yourself in a world where you're constantly critiqued. My classical ballet dance role model would be my ballet teacher, Olga Tarrasova. She's taught me not to try to emulate the famous ballerinas, but instead to dance like Avery Gay, and develop my own style with strong technique.
M: I have so many dance role models for different reasons. Sometimes it's their choreography or their style of teaching, sometimes it's their inspiring nature or creativity. Four people I really look up to are Chaz Buzan, Billy Bell, Josie Walsh, and Jackie Sleight. I love Chaz and Billy's movement, and Josie and Jackie are great teachers—always upbeat and encouraging.
What's next for you as a dancer?
A: Lots of training! I just turned 14 and I have so much ambition for the future, but one thing is constant: I want to be a professional dancer. I always thought I'd finish my training at a high-profile ballet institution, but recently I've become interested in the USC Gloria Kaufman School of Dance. Once I become a pro, I'd like to be able to have the flexibility to perform contemporary ballet and classical ballet in a concert setting. Who knows, maybe I'll even start my own company.
M: I'll be attending the Conservatory of Dance at State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase College in the fall. After college, I hope to join a company such as Nederlands Dans Theater or Batsheva Dance Company. I want to move between the concert and commercial dance worlds.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: I would tell myself to learn how to properly warm up before dancing full out on the dance floor to prevent unwanted injuries.
M: I would advise myself to start earlier—I didn't start dancing until about 12 years old and always felt like I was trying to catch up.
Amanda LaCount was born to move. The second the music comes on at her Dance Spirit cover shoot, the bubbly 17-year-old is shimmying her shoulders and tossing her hair. When she launches into a full-out freestyle to Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," you can't take your eyes off her.
And yet with every gig she lands, Amanda is challenging some of the dance world's longest-held biases. "I'm curvy," she says, "and I like being curvy. My body is not a bad thing. It's who I am." Here's how Amanda went from talented tot to hardworking pro—and from insecure preteen to body-positive role model.
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are Artists AND Athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection, and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
We still can't get over the talent on "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors"—like how many YouTube tutorials do we have to watch to become half as good as these mini dancing machines? And just in case you forgot how skilled these prodigies are, this week's theme was sure to remind you: Last night, the ten couples performed to songs that came out the year they were born. (But let's be real, most of these songs aren't really that much of a throwback.)
It's safe to say that the bond between dancing siblings is one of the strongest out there. But for sisters Emma, 16, and Ava Blaser, 10, that bond runs deeper than most can even fathom: The pair continued to dance together throughout Ava's treatment for kidney cancer remission, and they say it helped them heal.
When we first met Sydney Burtis back in April, she already had a resumé most seasoned pros would covet, peppered with competition titles, choreography credits, and even the co-founding of a dance festival. Now, the 18-year-old can add Dance Spirit Cover Model Search winner to that impressive list of accomplishments.
As soon as Sydney laced up her lime-green tap shoes at our photo shoot, we knew we had a star on our hands. She can fuse tap and contemporary dance in a brilliant way thanks to her impressive musicality, but it's her joy that makes her a real standout. You feel it with every click of her candy-colored shoes: Dance isn't just Sydney's passion. It's her life.
These days, the CMS winner is starting the next part of her dance journey as a freshman in Pace University's commercial dance program and honors college. We chatted with the new NYC resident to find out everything that's happened since we last saw her.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB 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 don't know what to do about my chest! Over the past year, I've gone from a 32B to a 32D, and it's awful. No leotards fit me, I'm self-conscious in all my costumes, and I even feel like it's affecting my sense of balance. Is there any hope for a well-endowed dancer?
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Summer is here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.
Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!
ICYMI, one of music's biggest events happened last night: the American Music Awards (aka, a chance for the industry's best singers to strut their stuff—usually with a squad of the fiercest dancers around). The show always brings some fabulously dancy performances, but the ones below were our top faves.
Televised dance competitions are downright notorious for mercilessly manipulating the emotions of contestants and audiences alike. But there's perhaps no other reality-TV phenomenon with the tearjerking potential of the Most Memorable Year tradition on "DWTS." The always-emotional episode comes around super-early each season, letting us get to know intimate, often painfully sad details of each celeb's life, just moments before an unlucky couple gets eliminated. That's right: It's only Week 3, but here come the waterworks already.
I'm so tired of my teacher playing favorites. I'm a strong dancer, but there's another talented girl in my class who's always the center of attention. I feel like the rest of us get fewer corrections because the teacher's focused on her. Should I switch studios?