Life Lessons from a Brooklyn Nets Kid

Here's a Dance Spirit NBA playoffs update: Last night, the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Toronto Raptors in Game 4.

Vako (center) and his awesome hair performing with the Brooklyn Nets Kids (photo by Adam Pantozzi/Brooklyn Nets)

OK, that felt weird. You've probably guessed that we're not here to talk about basketball. Instead, we're concerned with something far dancier...the Brooklyn Nets Kids!

For those of you who don't already know, the Brooklyn Nets Kids is a team of insanely talented professional dancers who perform during Nets games at Barclays Center.

On Saturday, in preparation for Sunday's big game, the New York Daily News did a special on one Brooklyn Nets Kid with a particularly inspiring story. Vako Gvelesiani, 13, auditioned for the team last year. Only 17 out of over 500 auditionees made the cut, and Vako was one of them.

But three weeks into practice, the coaches noticed something off about Vako—he didn't seem to be listening to instructions. After speaking with his parents, they were shocked to find out that Vako has moderate to severe hearing impairment. Vako didn't want any special treatment—he wanted to earn a spot on the team fair and square—which is why he and his family originally kept his hearing impairment a secret.

Talk about overcoming obstacles to achieve your dreams! Check it out:

Dance News
(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?

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Cover Story
Photo by Erin Baiano

Click here to vote for Emma.

There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "

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