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.
It's pretty much undeniable that today's social-media-obsessed culture expects you to build your brand online—even as you're still building your skills in the studio. The positives of gaining exposure as a student are obvious, and posting your dance accomplishments may feel natural if you're already personally prolific on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook.
17-year-old Autumn Miller is one of our (and over 900 thousand other fans') favorite dancers to follow on Instagram, where her bubbly posts include insane turning combinations, beautiful dance shots, and adorable family snaps. Turns out Autumn is just as fun and chic IRL. We got the inside scoop on how to steal her California-cool studio style.
B-boy Ray "Nasty Ray" Mora demonstrating toprocking (photo by Josh Salcedo, courtesy Mora)
For most people, the word "breaking" brings to mind flashy feats on the floor. But those eye-catching tricks aren't the whole picture. Breaking actually features four different categories of movement: toprock, footwork (or "downrock"), freezes, and power moves. And while toprocking—the part of breaking that's done standing up—is often overlooked, it's one of the most critical parts of the art form.
"As b-boy Mr. Wiggles taught me, breaking is like a sentence, and toprocking is the introduction," says seasoned street dancer Valerie "Ms. Vee" Ho, who teaches at Broadway Dance Center, Pace University, Peridance, and Juilliard. So how can dancers start their sentences off in a way that'll keep people listening—and watching?
"Final exams." Those two words can strike fear in the heart of even the most confident collegiate dancer. To help you get through the pressure cooker of your dance exams, Dance Spirit asked two recent dance grads for their best stress-relief and time-management tips.
From lattes to jack-o'-lanterns, pumpkins and October go hand in hand. But this super squash is way more than just a spooky staircase addition—it's a performance-boosting powerhouse and a dancer's best friend. Here are a few ways to reap the health benefits of this fall staple.
Shannon Mather's Body Love being performed at competition (photo by Art Lee, courtesy Shannon Mather)
WhenShannon Mather choreographed Body Love on a group of dancers from her Mather Dance Company, a video of the work was so popular that it ended up going viral, garnering over a million views on YouTube. Set to a spoken-word poem by Mary Lambert on themes of body image, unhealthy beauty standards, and self-confidence, the piece resonated not only with competition judges (who placed the piece in the top three at Hall of Fame Dance Challenge), but also with the teenage dancers in the cast. "It spoke a lot to girls," Mather says. "I got so many messages."
Dancing to spoken word can be incredibly powerful, and help you stand out in a competition. But it comes with its own set of challenges, especially if you're used to having music backing you up. Here's what you need to know if you're thinking about tackling a spoken-word piece.
Diving into the competition and convention circuit with your studio's team can be an exhilarating experience. But it frequently comes with a steep price tag, including entry fees, costume expenses, and (especially) travel costs. "The remote location of our town means we inevitably need to travel to compete," says Mary Myers of The Dance Connection in Woodward, OK. "Dancers have to budget for gas, hotels, and food." When Nationals roll around, that travel bill can skyrocket with the added price of plane tickets.
All this money talk have your heart racing? Don't panic! A conservative budget doesn't mean you have to sit out the season. Here's how to get the most bang for your competition buck.
Junior Division students at The Ailey School (Eduardo Patino, courtesy The Ailey School)
Having a passion for dance is a wonderful thing. But it shouldn't mean ignoring your non-dance loves. "It's important for young dancers to explore other avenues and interests," says Guillermo Asca, coordinator of The Ailey School's Professional Performing Arts High School partnership. "Directors and teachers want to open up possibilities—and, if it's doable, they want to help you make it happen."
That said, even with your teachers' support, figuring out how to juggle your dance commitments and other extracurriculars can be tricky (to put it mildly). And there is a point when you'll have to focus deeply on dance if it's something you want to pursue professionally. So, how can you figure out the best balance for you?
Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranga suggests picking different places to spot along your manège's route. (photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet)
A beautifully executed manège—a whirlwind series of steps performed in a circular pattern around the stage—can create a powerful, dramatic climax onstage. But while a manège is always impressive to watch, it isn't always easy to perfect. Even the pros struggle with them: Boston Ballet principal Misa Kuranaga remembers one rehearsal of John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet where she "cut through center stage, and didn't even realize it!" during a manège of sauts de basque and step-up turns.
So, how can you master manèges? The secret lies in figuring out how to keep your balance while constantly changing direction.
OCU students learn skills like lighting design in both the dance management and dance pedagogy concentrations. (photo by Ryan Barrett, courtesy OCU)
So you want to be a dance major? Wonderful! But in college, your choices don't end there. Pedagogy, kinesiology, arts management: What can those different tracks help you with? Choosing a college concentration that opens up multiple career options is a smart move, setting you up for not only an exciting performance career, but also a lifetime of opportunities in the arts. Perhaps you're hoping to start your own dance company, but you have no idea how to run a business—a dance management degree will put you on the right path. Or maybe you want to keep performing while also teaching at local studios—dance pedagogy can help you build an exciting resumé. Read on for a breakdown of what to expect within various dance-program concentrations.
Picture this: You're in rehearsal, and you finally get a move the way the choreographer wants it—except that it makes your back twinge each time. Should you say you're in pain, or should you suck it up and keep going? You don't want to injure yourself, but you also don't want to jeopardize your role.
The dance world often teaches students to be quiet and obedient around authority figures. That said, there are definitely instances when you need to speak your mind. Try these tips to navigate sticky situations.
Because they're the one part of college applications you don't do yourself, teacher recommendations can feel like big, scary question marks. As Sarah Langford, college counselor at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, says, "When admissions chooses between equally talented candidates, a memorable letter can put you in the 'yes' pile." But take heart: You have more control over what ends up in these letters than you might realize. Here, Langford and Sarah Lovely, director of college counseling at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, spill the secrets to ensuring you'll get letters that'll help launch you into the dance department of your dreams.
School cafeterias often conjure up less-than-appetizing images—mystery meats, mushy vegetables, and stale cheese sandwiches are just a few of the things that come to mind. And while this isn't always the case, it can often be a challenge to follow a satisfying, dance-friendly diet if you're buying your lunch at school. Dance Spirit asked Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, and owner of Nutrition Conditioning, Inc., for her tips, tricks, and hacks for putting together a balanced lunch—no matter what your cafeteria offers.
(From left) Misty Copeland, Ebony Williams, and Ashley Murphy in pancaked shoes (photo by Nathan Sayers)
No two pairs of pointe shoes are the same, from their shanks to their boxes, their color to their shine. To make an array of shoes more uniform or to get them to a shade closer to your skin tone, dance teachers might ask that you "pancake" your pointe shoes before going onstage. But what does that entail, exactly? We're here to show you.