Dance News

An Exclusive Peek Inside Choreographer Mia Michaels' First Book, Which Hits Stores Tomorrow

Mia Michaels' new book cover and (left) Michaels (photo by Russ Mezikofsky, courtesy Seal Press)

Working with choreographer Mia Michaels seems to be at the top of every dancer's bucket list. In her decades-long career, she's collaborated with music greats including Prince and Céline Dion; crafted Emmy-winning pieces for "So You Think You Can Dance"; created dreamy works for her own company, RAW; choreographed Broadway's Finding Neverland; and worked with a little troupe called The Rockettes. Now, with the release of Michaels' new book, A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys, out May 1, dancers far and wide can benefit from her career-making advice. Dance Spirit sat down with Michaels to get the inside scoop.


Tell us a little bit about the book.

It's motivational, inspirational, and autobiographical. It's kind of its own thing, because it has stories about experiences that have shaped me, but it also goes into a workbook format that helps the reader access their own inner unicorn—their true uniqueness and authenticity. My lessons are your lessons. What I learned along the way to celebrate my unicorn will help you learn to celebrate yours.

Explain the title for us.

I always knew the title would have something to do with unicorns. When I teach, if someone is really special, I always say "Oh my gosh, you're such a unicorn." A unicorn is someone who stands out and doesn't necessarily want to fit in. They want to stand in their truth and let people see who they truly are. After years of being in the dance world, I came to realize that when I auditioned dancers, I gravitated towards the artists that were tapped into who they are. They allowed themselves to come through in the movement. That becomes a whole different experience to watch.

What made you decide to write a book?

I got to the point where I knew I needed to tell my story in a bigger way. I realized my whole philosophy, concerning individuality, could only go so far in dance. So four years ago, I decided I wanted to write a book. I felt like it was an important message, especially now with everything that's happening in the world. These days, your only true sense of stability is yourself—and your faith in yourself.

What was the process of writing like?

It felt like choreographing on paper. I learned a lot about myself through it, too. It was fun to travel back into my life and see the lessons I've learned and how I've evolved. Writing is very difficult, but I love it. I find it so cool that you can hold the piece of work in your hands, whereas a choreographer's work is in the air. You can only hold it in your memory. It's very poetic.

Is there anything in the book readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I talk about growing up and being a little bit of a misfit because I was different. There are also stories about some of the people that I've worked with, including Madonna, Prince, and Céline Dion. I share some really fun moments and some really devastating moments. It's quirky, it's funny, it's emotional. People will get to know who Mia Michaels is on so many levels—not just as a choreographer, but as a real person.


Check out this exclusive excerpt from A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys:

The truth is, none of us is "normal." We're all unique because we were made that way. "Normal" is just an illusion that Donkeys—the mainstream, the trend followers and rule enforcers—perpetuate so that they feel less afraid.

Denying your individuality because you're scared, insecure, or frustrated has consequences. Fighting or hiding your true nature to fit into a standard is a recipe for depression, boredom, addiction, self-harm, and extreme blandness. I've seen it happen too many times among my students. When I think of the wasted joy and creativity, because of fear, I just want to cry.

The stakes are high for Unicorns to live an authentic life. If they can do it, they have so much to offer the whole world. I can't wait to see what the future holds for people who use their gifts. With guidance and encouragement, young and young-at-heart artists can break new pavement and reimagine what's possible. Leaders can overcome social pressure to conform, turn hate into love and fear into hope. We need more Unicorns to stand up and show themselves, and we need these shining stars to take our beautiful planet into the future."

A version of this story appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Mia Magic."

The Conversation
Rising Stars
Sykes Photography, courtesy Keisa Glover

At the tender age of 9, Destiny Wimpye moved cross-country with her mom so she could train at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The leap of faith paid off: Destiny's spent summers training at the School of American Ballet, the Ailey School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet; performed for Michelle Obama at the White House; and danced beside Mariah Carey in a TV special for Disney. Now she's a full-time student at the Colburn Dance Academy under the direction of former New York City Ballet principals Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, and it seems fated that Destiny will one day dance her dream role, Dewdrop in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. "I'm a jumper and a turner," Destiny says, "so I think it fits me pretty well."

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Dear Katie
Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I've been battling Achilles tendinitis for months—it never seems to get better. How can I deal with it? Could there be an issue with my technique that's causing the problem?

Fiona

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Ever since starting her professional career, Broadway dancer Amber Ardolino has cupped. Using the holistic wellness practice to improve performance and take care of her body, Ardolino cupped before it was cool—even beating the 2016 Rio Olympics' purple polka-dotted athletes to the punch. But Ardolino's only one dancer who has put this therapy to regular use. Dance Spirit asked Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, and performance rehab specialist with St. Vincent Sports Performance who works with Indianapolis' Dance Kaleidoscope; and Thomas Droge, Chinese-medicine doctor and founder of Pathfinder Institute in NYC, to explain the ins and outs of cupping therapy.

Amber Ardolino in "Hamilton" (courtesy Ardolino)

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Inside a Rockette audition (Amanda Schwab/Starpix)

Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
See photo credits below

What inspires you most as a dancer? What keeps you going on the days when the motivation just isn't there, and makes you feel like all the hard work, rejection and sacrifice is worth it for the pursuit of your dream? What makes you want to run into an empty studio and create something new?

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over four decades of experience, often hangs posters with dance-related quotes on the walls of her studio, on everything from creativity to the hustle to the importance of teamwork. Sometimes the right words from dancers who have been there are just the push you need to spark your imagination and remind yourself why you love what you do.

In that spirit, here are 10 inspiring quotes from dancers on what their art form means to them, and why it's worth fighting through the hard parts:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

4 hiring powers-that-be told DS their "do's" for dressing to audition.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Via YouTube

Oh, baby I'm a wreck (wreck) after watching Kinjaz's new music video.

Set to Post Malone's "Sunflower," the lead single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, the vid features the dance crew's ever-fabulous men—who appear to have Spidey senses, because seriously, how else do they stay down-to-the-fingertips in sync?—performing Vinh Nguyen's super-tight choreography, with an overlay of comic-book-esque graphics by editor Jonathan Shih.

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

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
Just for Fun
Inside a Rockette audition (Amanda Schwab/Starpix)

Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.

Keep reading... Show less
Body Buzz
Getty Images

If you haven't followed through on your New Year's resolution to practice more self-care, then Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start. Below, we rounded up the best ways to pamper, indulge, and heal everything from your muscles, to your skin, to your mind. Your body (and your dancing) will thank you.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
State Ballet of Siberia dancer Yury Kudriavtsev wearing Siberian Swan shoes (courtesy Siberian Swan)

As ballet's gender roles grow increasingly blurred, more men than ever are reaching new heights: the tips of their toes.

It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistry. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).

The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Are you a college student curious about what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite magazine? You're in luck—because Dance Spirit is searching for an editorial intern for summer 2019!

We'll be accepting applications through March 1. Internships pay an hourly stipend and require a minimum two-day-a-week, onsite commitment in our NYC office from June to August. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resumé and two writing samples to Margaret Fuhrer at mfuhrer@dancemedia.com. Be sure to put "Summer Internship Application" in the subject line. All attachments must be formatted as PDFs.

We will interview selected candidates in March in person or by phone, and let candidates know by mid-April if they have been chosen. Please note that we do not accept high school students, or any students under 18, and that we give preference to college juniors and seniors.

We can't wait to meet you!

Dance on TV
CBS

Need more evidence that K-pop is taking over the universe, one infectiously catchy song and impeccably choreographed dance routine at a time? Look no further than BLACKPINK's fabulous appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance on TV
GET IT, Janelle. (Getty Images)

Yes, yes, it's a music awards show, but for us, it's *always* all about the dancing. And last night, the Grammy performers—especially the ladies—gave us everything our little dancer hearts desired. Happy early Valentine's Day to us! 😍

Keep reading... Show less

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways