Garrett Smith takes his partner in an off-kilter balance with sly confidence and firm authority. This makes sense: It’s his own piece, one of many he has created while at Houston Ballet II, where he is also a dancer. Clear lines and bold dynamics earned him a coveted spot at HB II, and they are the same qualities he infuses into his edgy dances. Whether he’s adding a change that makes a lift pop or continuously tweaking a step, Garrett is all about shaking up the status quo. A stickler for details, he demands a lot from his fellow company members. “When I have an idea, I’m clear about what I want,” he says.
For two years Garrett has been doing double duty, choreographing for the Spring Academy Showcase and the American Festival for the Arts collaboration during the summer Academy workshop, as well as creating several solos for the Youth America Grand Prix competition. And that’s in addition to his daily life with the company as a dancer. “I’ve been given so much support from the artistic staff here,” says Garrett. “I’ve been encouraged to find my own language. I seek movement that has never been seen before.”
Case in point; He recently returned from a company tour of Budapest, Hungary, where his new quartet, Den III, received multiple curtain calls.
On top of being a respected creator, Garrett has earned accolades as a dancer, too. At 17, he was named a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Presidential Scholar. Meeting the president and Mikhail Baryshnikov, receiving a cash prize of $3,000 and dancing at the Kennedy Center were memorable moments for him. Then, after winning a scholarship to the Ben Stevenson Academy at HB in 2006, Garrett made the HB II company in 2007, and he’s been there ever since.
Trying to both dance and choreograph is accompanied by difficulties, though. With a mind always searching for novelty, 19-year-old Garrett has been caught more than once trying out new steps in class. Dancing in his own work isn’t easy either. “It’s hard to be the paint on the canvas and the artist at the same time,” he says.
Known for his eclectic vocabulary, Garrett bounced between ballet and jazz during his training. He started at age 9 with jazz and tap at a neighborhood dance studio in his hometown of Salt Lake City, UT. “I thought ballet was dumb and girly at the time,” he remembers. “But then, after some wise people suggested I try ballet, my opinion changed radically.” He went on to spend three years at Utah Regional Ballet, but missed modern and jazz too much. So he took a year off to dance with Odyssey Dance Theatre II. Meanwhile, summer programs at School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet kept his classical training on course.
Garrett is also no stranger to the competition circuit: He won the National Junior Outstanding Dancer at 13 and the National Teen Male Outstanding Dancer at 16 at the New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA). He credits NYCDA director Joe Lanteri as a key mentor. “That competition was my dance home. Joe inspired me to keep dancing and looking for my dream job,” says Garrett.
As his time with HB II draws to a close, Garrett contemplates several options. He’s considering auditioning for “So You Think You Can Dance,” and would like to join another company that will nurture his talent.
On top of it all, he is at yet another threshold in his personal life. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church), Garrett is contemplating going on a mission, the traditional path for a young LDS member. “If I’m going to do it, it needs to be soon. I’m a dancer and a human being, and service is really important to me,” he says. “I know I’ll have a long time to be a choreographer.”
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?