Most hip-hop dancers would jump at the chance to audition for a Missy Elliott video, but not Alyson Stoner—at least not seven years ago. Faced with that opportunity, she had to think about it (and so did her mom). She was only 7 years old, a little breakdancing brunette in pigtails.
“I almost didn’t go to the audition,” she says. “We didn’t know the content of Missy’s music.” But Alyson’s older sisters were all too familiar with the rapper’s work. “Yeah! It’s totally clean,” they assured their mother. Mom learned differently, of course, when Alyson was offered a lead-dancer role in Elliott’s “Work It” video. So an agreement was made with the directors: Put Alyson’s dancing in a clean part of the music, and she’s in. Alyson went on to be featured in three Elliott videos (the others were “I’m Really Hot” and “Gossip Folks”) and in Eminem’s “Just Lose It.” She was even asked to tour with Elliott, Em and 50 Cent, but opted out: “It was no place for a 7-year-old to be,” she explains.
Alyson can afford to be choosy. She began studying tap, jazz and ballet at age 3 in Toledo, OH, then added modeling lessons at 6. A strong showing at the International Modeling and Talent Association convention in NYC in 1999 prompted Alyson and her mom to move to L.A. She began taking hip-hop classes, which led to the video offers and more. She was cast as tough-girl Sarah Baker in 2003’s Cheaper by the Dozen, based in part on the spunk she portrayed in the Elliott videos. Alyson says the filmmakers told her, “You need to be the tomboy with this big attitude.”
Although Cheaper included a dance scene that was eventually cut, many of Alyson’s roles have included choreography that made it to screen. Her supporting role in 2006’s Step Up included a street dance scene. Ironically, in her first lead role (Alice Upside Down, which will be released on DVD this summer), Alyson’s character is a bad dancer.
Now 14, Alyson is building her rep as a triple threat. Along with her long resumé of dance and acting roles (and home-schooling; she’s currently at sophomore level), she writes inspirational music that she calls “soulful pop.” Every Friday night she assists her friend Lindsay Taylor in teaching a kids class at Millennium Dance Complex. She’s also developing “The Alyson Stoner Project.” “It’s a hybrid dance video—something you haven’t seen before,” she says, offering few details. To build interest, she’s blogging about the project at alysonstoner.com and posting short video clips at youtube.com/LThiphop. “There is going to be a lot of great music and dancing,” she says, “and I can’t tell you anything else!"
In our "Dear Katie" series, MCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I'm 14 and have been studying ballet seriously for about three years. Even though I feel ready,my teachers haven't put me on pointe yet. Am I doing something wrong? Should I ask them about it, or is it pointe-less?
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Samantha Figgins (Andrew Eccles)
Samantha Figgins is currently in her fifth season with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (and was a Dance Spirit cover girl back in 2013!). But what many people don't know is that the gorgeous dancer suffers from single-sided deafness. As a baby, Figgins contracted spinal meningitis, which caused her to lose all hearing in her right ear. She never gave up on her dance dreams, though, and fought her way through uncomfortable situations, never missing an opportunity to learn and grow. Now, after getting her first pair of hearing aids, she opens up about her path to success. —(As told to Courtney Celeste Spears)
Sara Esty as Maggie in "A Chorus Line" (courtesy Esty)
Sara Esty's ethereal grace and sophisticated charm have won over ballet and Broadway audiences alike. The bunhead-turned-Broadway-baby began training near her hometown in Gorham, ME, at the Maine State Ballet's School for the Performing Arts (with her equally fabulous twin sister, Leigh-Ann). She enrolled full-time at the Miami City Ballet School in 2004, and joined Miami City Ballet as an apprentice in 2005. In 2006, Esty won the Princess Grace Award, and she was promoted to soloist at MCB in 2011. After leaving MCB in 2014, she made her Broadway debut in An American in Parisas the understudy for Lise, and went on to share the role of Lise with her sister on the show's national tour. Most recently, she was seen in 5th Avenue Theatre's production of Marie, Dancing Stillin Seattle, WA. —Courtney Bowers