It's that time of year for high school seniors: early decision/early action season. Your guidance counselor at school might have already recommended these options to you—but just as the college admissions process is more complicated for dancers overall, you'll also need to think carefully before deciding whether or not you want to jump ahead of the regular admissions timeline. To help you decide, we enlisted the help of Dr. Elizabeth Stone (executive director of Campanile college admissions counseling) and Sara Pourghasemi (director of college counseling at the Professional Performing Arts School in NYC).
Whether it's your very first dance convention or you're a seasoned weekend warrior, you're undoubtedly hoping to catch the eyes of your favorite teachers, and dreaming of getting pulled onstage to demonstrate a combo. With hundreds of other talented dancers in the room, however, it's easy to feel (and actually get) lost in the crowd. We asked three veteran teachers on the convention circuit for tips on how to best grab their attention.
When you think "improvisational dance," the image that comes to mind probably doesn't involve satin heels and a ballgown. But in the ballroom dance world, knowing how to improv is key to success as a social and competitive dancer.
Why? Because tons of unpredictable obstacles arise on the ballroom floor, where multiple couples dance at the same time. Knowing how to improvise helps ballroom dancers navigate traffic by changing direction, increasing or decreasing the length of their steps, or slowing down the speed of a dip until the next couple moves out of the way. Improvising alone is one thing, though; improvising with a partner is another entirely.
In theory, partnered pirouettes should be easier than regular pirouettes, right? After all, there are not one, but two of you there to make lots of smooth, glorious rotations happen. But in practice, they can be…complicated. (Just ask Kristi Capps, ballet master at Kansas City Ballet, who once broke her ring finger on her partner's chest during a whip turn.)
Thankfully, partnered pirouettes can be exciting—and injury-free—if you and your partner work together to coordinate your timing and spacing. Here are a few simple rules to help you and your partner find common ground.
Summer is almost at an end. And for dancers, that can mean the onset of PSIS: Post-Summer Intensive Sadness. We learn so much during our weeks away in dance wonderland that it's no surprise we feel a bit let down once we're back home. How can you maintain the training momentum you built at your intensive? Here's how to keep the bliss of summer sessions going in the new season.
All dancers, from Broadway performers to avant-garde artists, are storytellers. The minute they start moving, they begin to convey character, emotion, and plot—even if they're performing an ostensibly plotless work. "Think about the famous Martha Graham contraction," says Broadway veteran Arbender Robinson. Even though it's an abstract movement, "each contraction has meaning."
But acting doesn't come naturally to every dancer. Some fall victim to over-the-top facial expressions, which can feel forced. Others struggle to free their minds from the details of technique or choreography. What separates an authentic storyteller from a dancer who does too much—or too little? Training and time can make all the difference.
Happy International Dance Day, everyone! Since 1982, this delightful holiday has been celebrated worldwide each April 29th. Why April 29th, you ask? It's the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810), who's often credited as the creator of modern ballet.
This year, we thought we'd mark the occasion by rounding up some of our favorite stories about world dance. Because we can think of no better occasion to learn more about the beautiful, rich traditions of styles like nihon buyo and bharatanatyam.
(By the way—don't confuse International Dance Day with National Dance Day, which is coming up on September 19th. More days to celebrate dance, hooray!)
Scrolling through your Instagram feed, you probably notice tons of awe-inspiring dance photos: a penché in front of a waterfall, a jeté over a busy city street. While these tend to get a lot of likes and attention, they may not be the best types of pics to send when you're trying to book a job. You want to keep the focus on what's most important to casting directors: you! So how do you find the right balance between eye-catching and professional? We talked to insiders across the dance world to find out.
Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"
If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.
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Colorado Ballet Studio Company dancer Robbie Downey has had her website, robbiedowney.com, for 10 years—nearly half her life. It's changed through the years, but in that time, she's relied on it to help secure auditions, network within the dance community, and find her own voice as a young performer at the start of her professional journey.
It's easy to see why having a website is a good idea for any dancer hoping to go pro. At the most basic, "it's a marketing tool," says Andrea Jasper, founder of the creative design and management company Urbane Collective, who has created sites for dancers including Kaelynn "Kay Kay" Harris and Will "WilldaBeast" Adams. Jasper likens a website to a business card—it's a way for casting directors, dance companies, and agents to get an idea of who you are and what you're capable of.
But even if you're not ready to go pro, a website is still a good idea. It's a great way to compile and prepare information that will eventually be a part of college applications, for one. It's also a way to steadily build and fine-tune your portfolio and learn how to market yourself for any career—even one outside of the dance world. Whatever your goals, building your own website can be a valuable experience.
You've been perfecting your technique for years, and now you're thinking about auditioning for musicals—but how are you supposed to conquer acting and singing, too? While dance may be your number-one strength, that doesn't mean you can't bring some serious skill to the table with your vocals and your ability to portray a character. We asked singing and acting coaches about some of the most common challenges dancers face—and their tips for tackling them.
When teaching convention classes, many choreographers start combinations mid-song, allowing dancers the freedom to improvise a few eight counts before the piece begins. How do you use those moments to learn and grow as a dancer, even if you're new to the style of dance? DS spoke with convention teachers about the best way to approach improvisation in a class setting.
With over one thousand Instagram posts showcasing her latest improv practice or snippet of competition choreo, it's safe to say Lucy Vallely is never not creating. But how does she avoid burnout? Here, she shares her key tactics for staying inspired and energized, in and out of the studio.
DO keep your body straight up and down. "Many dancers tend to pull their hips back and tip their bodies forward in step-overs, but that makes it difficult to get around," says Nanako Yamamoto of American Repertory Ballet.