Dancer to Dancer

EXCLUSIVE: Ballet Phenoms Avery & Marcus on the Hardest Part of Performing on "World of Dance"

Courtesy NBC

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.

Watch More of Avery & Marcus on "WOD"


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.

The Conversation
Cover Story
Photo by Joe Toreno

It's almost 2019 and the ballroom dance scene is positively booming! From prestigious world championships to TV shows, kids are at the core of all this hip-shaking action—and we're so here for it. These eight up-and-comers in particular are shaping the field. They're the next generation of superstars to make the leap from technically exquisite ballroom-ites to bona fide celebrities.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Low-quality screenshot, high-quality dancing. (via TheaterMania)

Well, we knew on an abstract level that Broadway's-golden-age guru Warren Carlyle would produce incredible choreo for the upcoming Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate! We just didn't know it would be THIS incredible.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Camryn Elizabeth, courtesy Djouliet Amara

At age 23, Djouliet Amara is a successful professional dancer signed with a talent agency in NYC. She's studied at The Ailey School and even danced in "Memoria" with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Having performed at City Center and appeared in numerous commercial campaigns for brands like Forever 21, Refinery29, and Danskin, it would appear that Amara is living a life most dancers only dream of. But as glamorous and successful as her career has been, Amara's journey to this point has not been an easy one. Her biggest challenge was her battle with an eating disorder that nearly cost Amara her career. Find out how this dancer found body acceptance and, in so doing, uncovered a dream she never knew she had. —Katherine Beard

Warning: This story may be triggering for those who have suffered or are suffering from disordered eating.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Us, @ this hilarious (and informative!) clip.

Even if you're a full-fledged Broadway baby, you'll learn a thing or two from LMM.

Keep reading... Show less
How To
Photo by Kaitlin Marin, courtesy American Repertory Ballet

"Lame duck." It sounds like nothing else in the classical ballet vocabulary, right? Also known as step-up turns or step-over turns—or, more technically, as piqués en dehors—these tricky pirouettes show up all over the classical ballet repertoire, perhaps most famously in Odette's Act II variation in Swan Lake. Here's how to keep your lame ducks from looking, well, lame.

Keep reading... Show less
Fashion
Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker" (photo by Simon Annand, courtesy Raw PR)

When most of us think of The Nutcracker, we imagine a growing Christmas tree, dancing mice, and a little girl named Clara (or Marie) traveling to the Land of Sweets. But companies around the world have been reinventing the holiday classic, changing the storyline or adding their own spectacular sets and characters. To get in the Nutcracker spirit this season, check out these out-of-the-box productions.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Jasmine Harper with Neil Haskell on "So You Think You Can Dance." (Photo by Adam Rose/FOX, courtesy FOX)

Every year, our friends over at Dance Magazine select 25 standout dancers, choreographers, and companies for their "25 to Watch" feature. The list is always overflowing with talent, but this year's iteration was especially exciting—four of the featured dancers have graced the pages of DS at one point or another: former cover star Aran Bell, DS Cover Model Search semi-finalist Sophie Miklosovic, Jasmine Harper, and "You Should Know" alum Easton Payne. It was a totally full-circle moment to see each of them score a coveted spot on this list. Check out their profiles below (which originally appeared in Dance Magazine), and major congratulations to everyone else selected this year!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
(screenshot via YouTube)

Maddie Ziegler is the kween of dance these days and it seems like there's no move this teen dancing machine can't do...or is there? In a recent video with Teen Vogue, Maddie shows us just how lit her dance skills are by demonstrating 10 iconic music video dance routines. From Britney Spears to Michael Jackson, the "Dance Moms" star gets her groove on as she dissects some of the most popular dances of all time. Though Maddie is a great dancer, it's pretty entertaining watching her do moves that might be a little outside of her comfort zone.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Giphy

It's the age-old debate: Is dance a sport? The answer is, without a doubt, YES. Of course, dance is much more than just a sport. But when we get down to the logistics of it all, it's impossible not to recognize it as the athletic endeavor it is. Here are 10 reasons why dance absolutely qualifies as a sport.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Joe Toreno

It's almost 2019 and the ballroom dance scene is positively booming! From prestigious world championships to TV shows, kids are at the core of all this hip-shaking action—and we're so here for it. These eight up-and-comers in particular are shaping the field. They're the next generation of superstars to make the leap from technically exquisite ballroom-ites to bona fide celebrities.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Colder weather is (finally) 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!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Getty Images

The Nutcracker has become an essential part of the holiday season—not to mention a part of most dancers' DNA. These days, the ballet is a beloved tradition, and the lifeblood of many dance companies, whose budgets depend on its reliably great ticket sales. But did you know that it was a flop when it first premiered in Russia? Or that George Balanchine himself once played Drosselmeyer on TV? Here's a timeline of the rich history of The Nutcracker.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Courtesy MSG Entertainment

For some it's a holiday tradition, for others its an iconic spectacle, but no matter the reason, more than 1 million people will watch the Rockettes perform in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular each year. And though the production has been around since 1933, much of what goes on behind those velvety curtains and intricate sets remains a mystery. To curb our curiosity and find out what ensues when these leggy ladies aren't doling out their sky-high kicks, we got a backstage tour from the legends themselves.

From hair and makeup, to warm-up exercises, and costume quick changes (the fastest quick change in the show is a #mindblowing 75 seconds, by the way) we got a glimpse into the glamorous (and sometimes not so glamorous) world of the Rockettes.

Keep reading... Show less

Showstopper sees all different dancers from across the world at their dance competitions. They understand sometimes it can hard to know how to stand out among the 100s of dancers that perform on their stages.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo by Donna Ward, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

On March 30, 1958, at the 92nd Street Y in NYC, dancer Alvin Ailey and a group of African-American dancers performed onstage together for the first time. Since then, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the company Ailey formed, has become legendary in the dance world. To commemorate its 60th anniversary, Ailey has dubbed its annual City Center season "Ailey 60." From Nov. 28–Dec. 30 choreographers including Ronald K. Brown, Jessica Lang, and Rennie Harris will present premieres, alongside the works of current artistic director Robert Battle, Judith Jamison, and over two dozen pieces by Alvin Ailey himself. We asked a few of the company members to share what the anniversary means to them.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story

When Hannahlei Cabanilla rolled up to her Dance Spirit cover shoot—just 36 hours after being named the "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 champion—she looked impossibly fresh-faced and well-rested. The Anaheim Hills, CA, native may have had "about eight blisters," as she joked, on her feet; she may barely have slept since the big win; and she may have just performed on "Live with Kelly and Ryan." But she jumped right on set, and quite literally didn't stop jumping for the next five hours. The fabulous technique, irresistible personality, and (especially) boundless energy that earned her the title of America's Favorite Dancer were all on full display.

So what was it actually like for Hannahlei to compete on the show she'd watched since she was a tiny dancer—and what's next for the now–19-year-old? Read on.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
via @wholenessmom on Instagram

The holidays are just around the corner and that means it's time to get your wish lists finalized. And while we have no doubt that stylish leos and cozy warm-ups will find their way onto your list, we think you'll want to consider adding some of these lit dance books to your holiday lineup, too. From revamped Nutcracker tales to biographies of your favorite dance stars, we've rounded up the latest and greatest books that every dancer will want to see in their stockings this season.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways