We can't stop cheering for all the amazing dancing we saw this year. (Courtesy Fusion)

Lights, Camera, Nationals: Our Favorite Trends of 2019

Take another bow, comp kids: Nationals 2019 was INCREDIBLE. From jaw-dropping solos to showstopping production numbers, you guys brought nothing less than your A-game to every number—and it showed. Before visions of next season start dancing in your heads, let's reflect on some of the top trends of this past summer's Nationals.


1. Mission Im-props-ible

Courtesy Starpower

It's all too easy for props to become a distraction onstage, but this season dancers found innovative ways to use all sorts of accessories.

2. Pantsuit Nation(als)

Photo by Exulting Images, courtesy Encore

Who says suits are just for the boys? We love that the ladies brought their strongest suits to the stage.

3. Hair Apparent

Photo by Visual Tech Productions, courtesy National Dance Honors

Tucked up in elegant braids or totally free-falling, your hair was majorly on point this season.

4. Shape Shifters

Courtesy Hollywood Vibe

Dancers took flexibility to a whole new level this season, creating stunning shapes the likes of which we've never seen before.

5. Monochrome Majesty

Photo by Drew Dizzy Graham, courtesy National Dance Honors

You all made bold and unified statements in monochrome ensembles this season.

6. A Grab Bag of Tricks

Courtesy Fusion

Styles blended together like crazy this season, and we were #HereForIt. We were especially into innovative choreography that combined hip-hop grooves with jazz and contemporary.

7. Timeless Technique

Photo by Evolve Photo, courtesy New York City Dance Alliance

The verdict's in: Technique never goes out of style. We loved watching dancers show off their finely honed turnout, épaulement, and alignment. And bonus points to every kid who hit the comp stage en pointe!

8. Left on Red

Courtesy Velocity Dance Competition

From deep burgundy to candy apple and everything in between, red was definitely the color of the season.

9. Next-Level Storytelling

Courtesy Showstopper

From Broadway-ready musical theater to sci-fi-esque contemporary, dancers created entire worlds of their own onstage.

10. Talent on Tap

Courtesy West Coast Dance Explosion

Tap truly thrived this season. (Tap solos to Kendrick Lamar? YES PLEASE.)

11. TeamWERK

Photo by Kathleen McPherson, courtesy National Dance Honors

This is our favorite trend of all! We were so inspired by the camaraderie and cooperation of every team this season. There's nothing like true human connection onstage, not to mention all the encouragement and memories made backstage.

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Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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All the Hollywood and Broadway Musical Moments to Look for in “Schmigadoon!”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

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Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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