It's Not Such a Small World After All

It was a great weekend for the dance community here in Dallas: Dancers and dance enthusiasts of all ages gathered at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts for the 15th annual Dance For The Planet Festival. The Dance Council of North Texas once again created a forum where participants could take master classes in an array of dance styles, absolutely FREE. And I wasn’t going to let that opportunity pass me by!

With more than 25 styles to choose from (jazz, tap, Afro-modern, mambo, circus aerial silks and belly dancing, just to name a few), picking a class was a challenge. In the end I decided on classic jazz dance with Danny Buraczeski, associate professor of dance at Southern Methodist University, and Horton technique with Melissa M. Young, associate artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

“I love dance festivals,” Young says. “For me, Dance Planet 15 is about sharing information and stepping into the unknown. It’s exciting not knowing what level of students you’re going to get and then watching them all open up and become more confident during class.”

Because classes were only 50 minutes, Young gave us an abridged version of her Horton class which included roll down and flat back exercises, balances, lunges and core strengthening. She told us we would use muscles we hadn’t used before--and boy, was she right!

If you wanted a break from classes you could head over to the Montgomery Arts Theater. Saturday morning I sat in on a Q&A session with “So You Thing You Can Dance” alums and Burn The Floor stars Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev. We learned a little bit about their childhood and ascent to dance stardom, and then they performed a saucy cha cha to “History Repeating.”

After my afternoon classes I went back to check out some of the performance showcase. They had every style of dance you could possibly imagine, from African dance and Brazilian rhythms to modern, ballet and jazz. I got to watch a sassy character jazz number by Pilates Squared, a sweet mother/daughter lyrical number by Miriam Project, a modern piece by FireWalk Dance and much more.

“Dance Planet is really an investment in the community,” Buraczeski says. "It’s a way for us to share our methods and keep dance alive.” In my eyes, Dance Planet 15 is solid proof that dance is not only alive but thriving here in the Big D.

Latest Posts

Trans dancer, choreographer, and activist Sean Dorsey in his work Boys in Trouble (Keegan Marling, courtesy Sean Dorsey Dance)

8 Phenomenal Trans and GNC Dancers to Follow

Whether through color-specific costumes, classes separated by sex, or the "traditional" view of the roles boys and girls should play in ballet, most dance students are taught that their gender determines their role in the studio beginning in elementary school. And, especially for those struggling with their own gender identity, that can cause harm and confusion. "From a very young age, I did not see myself reflected anywhere in the modern dance field," says trans dancer, choreographer, and activist Sean Dorsey. "There was a really intense message I received, which was that my body and identity don't have a place here."

Despite significant societal progress in regards to gender representation, the dance world has trailed behind, and many transgender and gender nonconforming teenagers still feel lost within the world of dance. Prominent trans and GNC professional dancers are few and far between. "Being a Black trans woman means I have to work extra, extra, extra hard, because I have to set the tone for the people who come after me," says Brielle "Tatianna" Rheames, a distinguished voguer.

But the rise of social platforms has given Rheames, Dorsey, and other trans and GNC dancers a path to visibility—and that visibility helps create community and change lives. "Social media plays an extremely big part," Rheames says. "You can't just hide us anymore." Here are eight incredible trans and GNC dancers to add to your own Instagram feed.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search