Little Girls in a B-Girl World
They’re masters of headspins, freezes and all things hip hop. They’re booking professional dance jobs in between completing homework assignments. They’re the rising young stars of the commercial dance world—and they’re taking the West Coast by storm (with killer style to boot).
Meet Simrin Player, Jade Chynoweth, Camren Bicondova, Jordyn Jones, Larsen Thompson, Taylor Knight and Emily Hoffman. These seven girls are sweet, cute and giggly—until the music comes on. Then sweetness turns to down-low grit, and giggles are traded for charismatic swagger.
It’s obvious why choreographers and directors are eager to work with these mini divas. They can certainly dance, most of them can act and a few can even sing. Read on to meet the newest—and most hirable—kids in the industry.
Simrin Player (by Erin Baiano)
…but you can call her: Simi or Simba (“And my mom calls me Poodle,” she says.)
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Where she trains: Club Dance and Master Ballet Academy
Street cred: Simrin toured with Justin Bieber and Willow Smith in the U.K. and had roles on “Bunheads” and in Step Up 3D. She recently appeared in the short film F.E.A.R. Not, which “showcases my kung fu skills,” she says. This summer, Simrin won the Teen Maximum Velocity Artist award at Velocity Dance Competition Nationals, and she’ll spend the year assisting the convention faculty on tour.
Signature moves: Headspins and windmills
Her freestyle song: “Angels” by The xx
Why you need to know her: Simrin does it all. She’s trained in hip hop, break dancing, tap, ballet, jazz, contemporary, pointe and partnering. She takes acting classes, plays piano and does kung fu. “We get to use weapons like swords, staffs and double daggers,” she says. “Thankfully, they aren’t too sharp, so I don’t beat myself up too badly!”
"When I first met Simi, she was so tiny. But when she danced, she became this big ball of energy. She was on fire, lighting up the dance floor at just 7 years old. Now, she’s one of the most incredible, gifted and well-rounded performers in the industry. Mark my words, Simrin Player is going to be a worldwide force.” —Hi-Hat
Jade Chynoweth (by Will Simons)
…but you can call her: JaDeBug
Hometown: Park City, UT
Where she trains: Pioneer High School for the Performing Arts
Street cred: Jade was an Elite Protégé at The PULSE On Tour during its 2010–11 season and performed in L.A. as a member of E-Kidz, a youth hip-hop group run by Dave Scott. She was a featured dancer in Mindless Behavior’s “My Girl (Remix)” and “Girls Talkin Bout” music videos, and performed at the 2011 and 2012 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. She danced at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards in the Britney Spears tribute piece (“I stood next to Beyoncé while waiting backstage—too cool!” she says), was a featured dancer in the 2012 Microsoft Surface commercial and was a cast member in the Monsters of Hip-Hop show Shadows this summer. Jade has appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and filmed a Toyota commercial that airs this year. Next, she’ll appear on the big screen as the young queen Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire.
Signature move: The backwards worm. “At least that’s what I call it,” Jade says.
Her freestyle song: “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West
Her go-to audition look: “If they’re looking for younger kids, I’ll wear bright colors, but if they want teens, I’ll wear something like black leather with bright accessories and a pair of colored Converse sneakers,” she says.
Why you need to know her: Don’t be fooled by her cute curls and face full of freckles: Jade’s a total tough-girl tomboy. Her dance style is quirky and experimental—think Mark Kanemura plus Tucker Barkley—and she can do every trick in the book. Jade won’t just do a cartwheel: She’ll do a cartwheel on her head over a chair. She’s also a battle master, having dominated at NUVO Dance Convention, the L.A. Hip Hop Dance Intensive, Bobby’s Beat Camp and Urban Dance Organization.
“Jade is one of the most outstanding dancers I’ve seen in a long time. Her maturity and versatility are rare, as is her respect for others at such a young age—it’s beautiful. She is definitely one to watch out for.” —Tyce Diorio
Camren Bicondova (by Louise Flores)
…but you can call her: Cam or CamCam
Hometown: L.A. Camren’s dad is active-duty military and their family just transferred to California after four years in Hawaii.
Where she trains: Movement Lifestyle, Millennium Dance Complex, EDGE Performing Arts Center and Academy of Dance Westlake Village
Street cred: Camren’s a member of the 8 Flavahz Crew, which took second place on “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 7 and performed in Ciara’s “Got Me Good” music video. She was an Elite Protégé for The PULSE On Tour’s 2011–12 season and was nominated for a 2012 The Industry Voice Prodigy award. She has performed at the Kids’ Choice Awards, with Ciara on 2012 VH1 Divas and at the Dizzy Feet Foundation’s gala. Most recently she’s been assisting Tessandra Chavez and performing with the immaBEAST hip-hop dance company formed by Willdabeast Adams.
Signature move: “I like whacking and love to add a simple pose after a really hard set,” Camren says. “The shablam is a personal fave.”
Her freestyle song: “No Diggity” by Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre
Her go-to audition look: “Usually capris and a crop top with my comfy shoes.”
Why you need to know her: She’s a survivor. Camren started dancing because she was having seizures and her parents thought dance classes might help. They did, and Cam was hooked. Today, Camren’s a self-described “edgy nerd” with a cute bob haircut (“It’s a great accessory, but it has a mind of its own,” she says) and a unique style that mixes girly movements with masculine, hard-hitting moves.
“It’s been a pleasure seeing Camren mature into a dancer with talent far beyond her years. She has a genius understanding of timing and is a tremendous, dependable assistant. She’s as good as the professional adults I have assisting me. Plus, she’s extremely captivating onstage.” —Tessandra Chavez
Jordyn Jones (by Erin Baiano)
…but you can call her: J-Dawg, J or JJ
Hometown: L.A. Jordyn’s family relocated from Three Rivers, MI, two years ago so Jordyn could pursue her Hollywood dreams while being home-schooled.
Where she trains: Millennium Dance Complex and Movement Lifestyle. She also takes private ballet lessons.
Street cred: Jordyn has danced with Will Smith, Christina Aguilera and Pitbull at the Kids’ Choice Awards, and with Zendaya on Disney Channel’s “Shake It Up” and in two of her music videos. She’s a member of collectiveUth, a hip-hop company run by Andrea Jasper, and just filmed a Jordache commercial with Heidi Klum. Jordyn is also recording music with producer Andrew Lane and plans to have her songs on iTunes soon.
Signature moves: Alphas, baby swipes and suicides
Her freestyle song: “#thatPOWER” by will.i.am featuring Justin Bieber
Her go-to audition look: “My Nappytabs pants and Heyday Footwear along with a swagged-out top and crimped hair. No look is ever complete without awesome shoes—gotta be ready to hip hop wherever I am.”
Why you need to know her: Tiny Jordyn is a punked-out princess: She has the highly bookable blonde-haired, doe-eyed look that’s needed on almost any commercial set, but she’s also a fireball just waiting to explode in a hip-hop battle.
“You can’t help but be a fan of Jordyn. She has the cutest face and the goods to back it up with her dancing. She’s the perfect package for casting directors and choreographers. The camera absolutely loves her.” —Brian Friedman
Larsen Thompson (by Erin Baiano)
…but you can call her: L-Pop
Age: She turns 13 this month!
Hometown: Thousand Oaks, CA
Where she trains: Millennium Dance Complex, International Dance Academy of Hollywood, Academy of Dance Westlake Village and Movement Lifestyle
Street cred: Larsen has done several national commercials, including Jon M. Chu’s Microsoft Surface spot last year and ads for Walmart, Target, Nintendo and McDonald’s. She has danced backup on “The X Factor” and performed with tWitch, Sophia Grace and Rosie on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” This summer, Larsen danced on “Shake It Up” and performed at the Kids’ Choice Awards with Christina Aguilera and Pitbull, and now she’s touring as an Elite Protégé with The PULSE On Tour while taking acting and singing lessons and modeling.
Signature moves: Suicides and alphas
Her freestyle songs: “Put Your Graffiti on Me” by Kat Graham and “I’m Legit” by Nicki Minaj featuring Ciara
Her go-to audition look: Harem pants, crop tops and “cool shoes from unique designers.”
Why you need to know her: Larsen can hold her own in hip hop, but she’s also passionate about contemporary dance. She’s a gifted technician with a quiet intensity.
“Most people think of Larsen as a hip-hop dancer, but I saw her do a contemporary solo and was blown away—I didn’t know she had that in her. She surprises me every time I see her move.” —Brian Friedman
Taylor Knight (by Erin Baiano)
…but you can call her: Taye or T.Knight
Hometown: Gilbert, AZ
Where she trains: Dance Studio 111
Street cred: Taylor’s first job was with Dave Scott’s E-Kidz, performing at street basketball games. She danced on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” with Kat Graham, was an Elite Protégé at The PULSE On Tour last year, and has recently been assisting Brian Friedman and Tricia Miranda at master classes and intensives. She’s also a member of her school’s senior dance team.
Signature move: The sideways moonwalk
Her freestyle song: “Anything Michael Jackson!”
Her go-to audition look: “Cool shoes and an outfit with a funky vibe.”
Why you need to know her: Taylor’s got that laid-back, effortlessly cool thing going for her, and she can isolate like a pro. She’s double-jointed in her elbows and shoulders and is known for her “bone crusher” move and her ability to contort herself into outrageous positions.
Emily Hoffman (by Erin Baiano)
…but you can call her: Em
Hometown: Costa Mesa, CA
Where she trains: Visions Dance Company, Boogiezone Utopia and Orange County School of the Arts
Street cred: Emily played the role of Darla in Gigi Torres’ The Little Rascals and has appeared in commercials for Old Navy, Hasbro Twister Rave and Living Spaces Furniture. She’s the American ambassador for the ivivva athletica line, trains with collectiveUth and won this year’s battle at the L.A. Hip Hop Dance Intensive.
Signature move: The checkmark
Her freestyle song: “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus
Her go-to audition look: “A tight, bright shirt or printed crop top with harem pants and my favorite pair of Vlados.”
Why you need to know her: This girl can flip. Emily started training in gymnastics as soon as she could walk, which is how she got her start as a dancer. “One day after watching the movie Stick It, I went to the gym and danced on the balance beam. My coach told my mom I should try hip hop, so I started taking classes,” she says. Now, Emily describes her style as “hard and grimy. But I can also do smooth and soft.”
Just in case you missed it: To highlight last Thursday's International Day of the Girl, The New York Times has launched a unique photographic and editorial project called #ThisIs18, all with the aim of spotlighting what life is really like for 18-year-old women around the world.
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are Artists AND Athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection, and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
Quinn Starner is no stranger to competitions. The 16-year-old "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" alum has been slaying the contemporary circuit for years, winning Best Teen Dancer at The Dance Awards in 2017. But lately she's been more focused on ballet, relocating from Florida to train at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory two years ago. And while she's won awards at ballet competitions like ADC|IBC and Youth America Grand Prix, in June she upped the stakes by going to the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS—an audition-only event that's one of the world's most prestigious comps. We followed Quinn on her Jackson journey.
Is there anything better than a dance convention? Frankly, we don't think so. Although we love getting a guest teacher to come to our studio for a masterclass every so often, there's just something so exciting about packing up our leotards and dance shoes and heading to a convention for the weekend. Here are 7 reasons why dance conventions are, without a doubt, the greatest things ever.
Amanda LaCount was born to move. The second the music comes on at her Dance Spirit cover shoot, the bubbly 17-year-old is shimmying her shoulders and tossing her hair. When she launches into a full-out freestyle to Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," you can't take your eyes off her.
And yet with every gig she lands, Amanda is challenging some of the dance world's longest-held biases. "I'm curvy," she says, "and I like being curvy. My body is not a bad thing. It's who I am." Here's how Amanda went from talented tot to hardworking pro—and from insecure preteen to body-positive role model.
Boston Ballet principal Ashley Ellis' dancing is the perfect pairing of ethereal grace and punchy musicality. The Torrance, CA, native began training at South Bay Ballet at age 6, and attended the School of American Ballet summer program in 1998. In 2001, she was accepted into American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, and the following year, she joined ABT's corps de ballet. In 2007, she became a founding member of Corella Ballet Castilla y León in Spain, under the direction of Angel Corella. Three years later, she headed back to the States and danced with Sarasota Ballet before joining Boston Ballet as a second soloist in 2011. In 2013, she was promoted to principal dancer. Catch her performing this season in the company's Nutcracker. —Courtney Bowers
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This story originally appeared on dancemagazine.com.
"So why did you quit?"
It's a question I've been asked hundreds of times since I stopped dancing over a decade ago. My answer has changed over the years as my own understanding of what lead me to walk away from greatest love of my life has become clearer.
"I had some injures," I would mutter nervously for the first few years. This seemed like the answer people understood most. Then it became, "I was just not very happy." Finally, as I passed into my 30s, I began telling the uncomfortable truth: "I quit dancing because of untreated depression."
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Let's take a walk down memory lane to this past September, when the #LevelUpChallenge was in full-blown viral mode. Literally thousands of videos of people dancing to Ciara's song "Level Up" flooded the Internet, but only one truly broke it: an amazing clip of the Wilson Central High School Dance Team—and their Assistant Principal, Ranesa Shipman. Never one to miss out on a viral dance challenge, Ellen DeGeneres decided to have Shipman and the team perform on "The Ellen Show"—and the fun didn't stop there.
You and your phone have more in common than you might guess, says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, pediatrician and clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. "If you charge your phone halfway, it works for a few hours," he explains. "But it's not performing at its full potential, and you have to be careful about how you use that energy."
It'd be nice to just plug into the wall for nine hours until you hit 100 percent battery, but for (human) dancers, it's not that simple. So DS asked Dr. Pelayo and Dr. Argelinda Baroni, co-director of the Child and Adolescent Sleep Program in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, how to maximize your own battery life—ensuring you'll dance better and more safely in the process.
Two dancers from different studios on opposite ends of the country meeting at a dance competition may sound like the formula for a cheesy teen-rivalry movie. But it's actually real life for lots of dancers on the comp circuit. Meet four sets of adorable BFFs who found winning friendships at a competition.
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It's safe to say that the bond between dancing siblings is one of the strongest out there. But for sisters Emma, 16, and Ava Blaser, 10, that bond runs deeper than most can even fathom: The pair continued to dance together throughout Ava's treatment for kidney cancer remission, and they say it helped them heal.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.