Marvelous Michelle

When it comes to strong dance families, nobody rivals Team Tap. Members of the tap community came out in droves when they heard one of their own was a finalist in this year's Cover Model Search. As they cast their votes, they made eloquent comments about how eager they are for tap to have a bigger presence in the dance world.

We hear you, tappers. And we can't think of a better representative for your cause than the magnificent Michelle May, voted the winner of our 2015 CMS contest.

(Photos by Erin Baiano)

This spring, during Michelle's trip to NYC as a finalist, the Dance Spirit staff saw firsthand how her signature orange tap shoes transform her from a sweet, shy teen into a bold, confident beast of a hoofer. The way she fuses tap and hip hop is remarkably innovative, but she makes it look as natural as breathing. And Michelle is more than a fantastic dancer. She's also smart (she just enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles), compassionate (she continues to work with Ready, Willing, and Able, which pairs dance mentors with teens and young adults with disabilities) and a natural leader (she wants to found a tap club at UCLA).

DS caught up with the busy college freshman to find out about all her summer adventures. Congratulations, Michelle! We can't wait to see what heights you'll reach.

“She's beyond amazing, and her work with disabled children is truly inspirational.

I <3 Michelle so hard." —DS reader

“Not only is Michelle one of the smoothest dancers out there, but she also has a really distinctive style—lively, spirited and totally joyful." —DS reader

“What a fantastic entertainer! Her combination of tap and hip hop is flawless, and with every step she shows us how much she loves to dance." —DS reader

Dance Spirit: So, what have you been up to these past few months?

Michelle May: I graduated high school in June, which was a big moment! At the end of that month, I went to a dance intensive at UCLA, which gave me a taste of what dancing in college would be like. Everyone there connected on a deep level—the classes allowed us to see and appreciate each other's gifts in a powerful way. After that, I headed to DancerPalooza, where I was a member of the Beat Squad and performed in Jason Janas' piece at the Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards. I danced in a Tap Sounds Underground show in August, too.

DS: You put on a really strong campaign. How did you get the vote out?

MM: The campaigning process was such an adrenaline rush. I did a lot of sharing on social media, and I asked my teachers and the members of the Syncopated Ladies to spread the word. I made paper flyers that I handed out to everyone in the airport when I was traveling—people seemed to like those. I was especially humbled by the help I got from Anthony Morigerato. He made a video for his website, Operation: Tap, about how one of the CMS finalists was a tapper, and he called on the tap community to vote. At that point, I'd never even met him! I was blown away by his support.

DS: How have you grown since the CMS trip?

MM: The UCLA intensive was a huge learning experience. I've known the type of person and dancer I am for a while now, but I think it helped me dig even deeper into what makes me me. We also took classes in some of the old-school hip-hop styles, including house—which, in a funny way, shares a lot of similarities with tap. So I've been working on a house-slash-tap piece.

DS: What are your goals for this upcoming year?

MM: To keep an open mind. I know I want to pursue dance—but from there, I'm not 100 percent sure. Hopefully, over the course of my freshman year, I'll gain perspective on the paths available. And I'm planning to create a tap club in college. There are some great tap dancers at UCLA, and I want to establish a community.

DS: What's your advice to other CMS hopefuls?

MM: Let your artistic side shine. It's OK to be different. It's OK to be unique. There are a lot of dancers out there, so you have to find the one thing that sets you apart. You have to figure out how to be completely yourself.

(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Dear readers,

Just being part of Dance Spirit's Cover Model Search was a huge honor—more than I could ever have dreamed of. I've been so blessed by all of your support, encouragement and votes. Thank you for believing in that tap dancer no one has heard of [Editor's note: False!] and giving me the opportunity to share my art with you. I was literally in tears reading your kind comments—I felt so much love.

I especially want to thank my family for pushing me and supporting me through the years. I wouldn't be the dancer I am now without the many hours you spent helping me pursue my dreams, and I'm forever grateful to have you in my life. Thank you to all my mentors and teachers, who are my role models and continue to inspire me.

Thanks, too, to the Dance Spirit staff for this unforgettable experience, Erin Baiano for the beautiful pictures, Chuck Jensen for the hair and makeup and Broadway Dance Center for an amazing first class in NYC. And I loved meeting two inspirational and gorgeous dancers I'm now lucky to call my friends: Gabriella Stilo and Jordan Pelliteri. I'm honored to have shared this experience with you both!

I'm so humbled by this opportunity, and so happy to have been able to share my passion for tap with all of you.

Love,

Michelle

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.

Aries

You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)

Taurus

As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.

Gemini

Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).

Cancer

Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.

Leo

We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.

Virgo

You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.

Libra

Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.

Scorpio

You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?

Sagittarius

You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

Capricorn

You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.

Aquarius

Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.

Pisces

Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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