Letter to My Teenage Self: Tony Testa

(Photo by Mike Quain, courtesy Tony Testa)

A former comp kid who grew up in Fort Collins, CO, Tony Testa has had what many would call a dream career. By the time he turned 21, Testa had choreographed for Janet Jackson and Britney Spears and performed in the film Dreamgirls. In 2009, he worked closely with Kenny Ortega on Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour. Since then, he’s choreographed for TV shows, K-pop groups and concert performances, including One Direction’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

Testa is now using his dance-world celebrity for a good cause: In 2013, his work “Get Wet” premiered at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the organization Heal the Bay, to help raise awareness about overfishing. He’s also returning to his roots on the circuit—he’s on faculty at Monsters Dance Convention and New York City Dance Alliance, reaching hundreds of aspiring dancers and choreographers nationwide. —Jenny Dalzell


Choose courage over comfort. When you feel yourself coming up with reasons to play small, or to not participate, run head-on into whatever you’re fearing. The more you push yourself, the stronger and faster you will grow. And as you grow, hang on to your love for experimentation. Treat your biggest projects with the same playful curiosity you have in a studio by yourself, creating just for fun.

Speak your own truth. It’s OK to admit you don’t have all the answers. Don’t feel like you need to tell everyone how busy you are in order to stay relevant. I know you’re in a hurry to live this incredible life, but be proud of exactly where you are each step of the way.

At age 17 (photo courtesy Nancee Testa)

When you reach your goals, recognize and celebrate them! It’s tempting to just move on to the next project, but don’t skip this very important step. After all, you are living your dreams!

The world is yours,


P.S. If you’re wondering if your creative process will get any easier, the answer is (drumroll, please): Nope! Sorry, bud. But by putting more trust in your final product, you’ll learn to embrace the discomfort.

(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

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?

Keep Reading Show less
Cover Story
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)

If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.

Keep Reading Show less
Musical Theater



Get Dance Spirit in your inbox