Spectacular control and effortless extensions separate longtime Merce Cunningham Dance Company member Holley Farmer from the crowd. A late bloomer, it wasn’t until age 16 that Farmer began taking ballet classes with Hae Shik Kim at the Fig Garden Dance Studio in Fresno, CA. She was a natural. After dancing with the Theatre Ballet of Canada and in Toronto’s production of The Phantom of the Opera, Farmer returned to California to perform with the Oakland Ballet. She was unexpectedly diagnosed with a stress fracture in her fifth lumbar vertebra, but she used her recovery time to complete a B.F.A. at the Cornish College of the Arts, then an M.F.A at the University of Washington. It was at the latter that Farmer first met Merce Cunningham, who was in residence there. In 1996, she was asked to become an understudy with MCDC, and in 1997 she joined the main company. Farmer’s body of work with the troupe earned her a New York Dance and Performance Award (a “Bessie”) in 2004. After a rewarding career with MCDC, Farmer recently began working with another dance trendsetter: Twyla Tharp. —Marisa Graniela

Holley Farmer with Koji Mizuta and Silas Riener in Merce Cunningham's Nearly Ninety (Anna Finke)

Holley!

Don’t accept that apprenticeship at the bakery. I know it seems like a good idea—a job that maybe, one day, will get you to France. But trust me, you’ll get to see France without that apprenticeship. You’ll get to dance at the Paris Opéra—twice!

Keep hope for your dance career alive. Right now, as the oldest and biggest in your dance class, you feel totally awkward. Even the 10-year-olds write you off. (Well, you did show up to your last recital already wearing your tutu. Promise me you’ll put it in a garment bag next time!)

But soon, something important is going to happen: Your teacher is going to give you the keys to the studio. And there, alone, you’ll work out why you can’t do lame ducks and why you love jetés. You’ll fall on your butt and lose track of time. You’ll discover that your greatest gift is your love of movement.

So here’s what to do if you want to eat croissants in Paris, not make them:

1) Nurture your talent. Surround yourself with people who remind you why you love to dance.

2) Figure out your body’s strengths and weaknesses. Work on that core!

3) Start writing letters and filling out scholarship applications now. Opportunities don’t grow on trees.

4) Study other arts and cultures. The world needs dancers with a point of view—so find one!

Don’t bail on me now, Hol. I’m counting on you!

Bonne chance,

Holley

Latest Posts


All photos by Jayme Thornton. Wardrobe styling throughout by Chloë Chadá Van for The QUIRK Group.

Lizzo's Leading Ladies: Meet the Big Grrrls

Rising pop superstar Lizzo is changing the game in all kinds of ways. (A singer who also raps and plays the flute? You'd better believe it.) But she's become an especially important leader in the body-positivity revolution. And that emphasis on diversity and self-love extends to her fabulous group of backup dancers, known as The Big Grrrls.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Because there's never been a better time to get your TikTok on. (Getty Images/TikTok)

7 of the Best TikTok Dance Challenges to Learn While Stuck at Home

Right now, a lot of us are social-distancing. Which is a good thing for the community. But for dancers, being at home—read: not in the studio—can be especially tough.

Enter TikTok. The app is blowing up right now, with everyone from Hailey Bieber to LeBron James to former Bachelorette (and "Dancing with the Stars" champ) Hannah Brown making accounts to stave off the stir-craziness.

To get you started on your TikTok journey, Dance Spirit rounded up seven of the best dances for you to learn. And when you're ready to share the fruits of your TikTok labors, be sure to tag us @dancespiritmagazine—we'll repost some of our faves!

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

Margaret

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search