Letter to My Teenage Self: Rachael McLaren

(Photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Rachael McLaren moves with a ballet dancer’s refined footwork, a musical theater vet’s theatricality and a modern dancer’s unmistakable groundedness. After training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, McLaren performed in the Toronto cast of Mamma Mia! for two years before landing a spot in Ailey II in 2006. Two years later, she joined the main company, where she continues to perform featured roles in a wide variety of work by choreographers such as Wayne McGregor, Bill T. Jones and Jirˇí Kylián. This December, McLaren will make her New York debut as the lead in Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature during AAADT’s winter season in NYC. —Jenny Dalzell


Dearest Rachael,

Right now, you’re finding every opportunity you can to dance. It’s not just a hobby for you—you’re completely in love with it, and dance makes you feel like your strongest, most radiant self. Know that in sharing your passion, you’ll inspire enthusiasm and joy in others. This is what you were born to do. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Confidence is what you’ll need for your journey—and what a journey it will be!

Your adventures will lead you to work with many talented dancers, choreographers and artists, and you’ll get the chance to travel the world doing what you love. Be a sponge and learn from the inspiring people you meet. Don’t be afraid to be curious. There’ll be times when you’re thrown out of your comfort zone, but don’t shrink. Relish the challenge. Keep your heart open and your mind focused; you’ll be forever grateful for the gift of learning something new every day. Keeping a journal will help spark creativity, and it’ll help you get

to know yourself. In time, journaling will become beneficial for your sense of well-being.

(Photo courtesy Rachael McLaren)

Your body is your chosen instrument; treat it with love and tenderness. Go ahead and throw perfectionism and comparison out the window—they only lead to self-doubt and endless frustration. As you work hard to fine-tune your technique, be patient and work with your body. Always remember that your spirit is unique and your story is your own. You’ll find a beautiful sense of freedom in your artistry when you embrace your most authentic self.

I’m so proud of you for knowing your worth and trusting your gut! Don’t ever stop.

All my love,


(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to 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.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

When I sit with the soles of my feet together, my knees easily touch the floor, and most exercises to improve turnout are easy for me. But when I'm actually dancing, my turnout is terrible, especially on my standing leg. Why doesn't my flexibility translate to turnout?


Keep Reading Show less
Dear Katie
Via Twitter

Would that we could all live in Taylor Swift's Pride-topia, booty-popping with Todrick Hall and sharing snow cones with Adam Rippon in our rainbow-flag-bedecked RV park. But much as we're loving "You Need to Calm Down" and other similarly upbeat celebrations of Pride month, this is also a time to recognize the battles the members of the LGBTQIA+ community have fought—and are still fighting. That's one of the reasons why "I'm Gay," a new dance video by Eugene Lee Yang of The Try Guys, is so important.

The dark, deeply personal video is Yang's coming-out moment. We see Yang being rejected by his family, condemned by a preacher, and attacked by a hostile mob after attempting to express himself as a gay man. Though not a professional dancer (as we found out in "The Try Guys Try Ballet"), Yang is a gifted mover; he choreographed the project himself, and gathered a group of talented performers to bring the story to life.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Videos



Get Dance Spirit in your inbox