Meet 4 of Our Fave Dance Comp BFFs
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.
Jada Pate & Peyton Criscione
Jada Pate (top) and Peyton Criscione (courtesy Pate and Criscione)
Whenever Jada and Peyton see each other, they hug, scream, jump, and break out their secret handshake. Jada lives in Ashburn, VA (where she trains at Studio Bleu Dance Center), and Peyton lives on Staten Island, NY (where she trains at Star Struck Dance Studio), but they've been besties ever since they first met at Starpower's Power Pak in 2012.
That's no shocker, considering they both have dance in their blood. Peyton's mom is the director at Star Struck, while Jada's dad owns Starpower—so, as Peyton puts it, "our parents are very involved in the dance world and have passed their insane passion down to us."
At competition, the pair have "the best time taking classes with incredible choreographers in all different genres," says Peyton. "We love sharing our summer vacations together." And when they're not meeting up in different cities, they're glued to FaceTime and Snapchat. "When we finally see each other, it feels like we've never been apart," says Jada.
Findlay McConnell & Payton Johnson
Findlay McConnell (left) and Payton Johnson (courtesy McConnell and Johnson)
Findlay and Payton's tight-knit friendship has spanned five years, two countries, and a whole lot of Cardi B dance jams. The pair first met at DancerPalooza's The Collective convention in 2013, and have been tearing it up together ever since. Some of their shared adventures include visiting Toronto's Wonderland, going to aquariums and water parks, and winning national titles at The Dance Awards last year (Teen Male Best Dancer and Senior Female Best Dancer).
Though Findlay lives in Toronto, where he trains at Elite Danceworx, and Payton now attends The Juilliard School in NYC, Findlay says they "make every second count" when they see each other. Luckily, that happens a lot more often now that they're both touring with Break the Floor Productions as demonstrators and assistants.
Payton says that she and Findlay fit so well because they know how to balance fun and focus. "As hard as we train, you have to be able to let off steam," says Payton, "and when we're together, we kind of become two sides of the same person."
Aiden Pressel & Tanner Frisbey
Aiden Pressel (left) and Tanner Frisbey (courtesy Pressel and Frisbey)
For Aiden and Tanner, Pace University holds extra-special significance: It's both the place where they first met, in 2015 at a New York City Dance Alliance summer dance intensive, and the school where they're now both enrolled—and roommates!
"Early on, we promised each other that if we both made it into Pace's dance program, we'd live together," says Aiden. "So after having a screaming celebration on the phone when we both got accepted, we confirmed we'd do just that."
On the path to Pace, Aiden and Tanner spent lots of time together on the competition circuit, meeting up at NYCDA's regional convention in Lansing, MI. Along the way, they developed a healthy appreciation for each other's talent. Tanner admires Aiden's fluidity, while Aiden is amazed at Tanner's ability to captivate an audience.
As the only boy at his studio, Aiden also gained more confidence through getting to know Tanner: "Being able to see a strong and confident male dancer as a role model really gave me the drive to become the best I can be, so that maybe I can inspire someone else someday."
Now they're doing the roomie thing and loving it—from quoting Vines to doing face masks to sharing "frequent and deep life talks." Lots of laughs are also in the equation, as Tanner says Aiden is "the kind of funny that makes your sides hurt in the best way possible."
Ezra Sosa & Tori Caro
Ezra Sosa (left) and Tori Caro (photo courtesy Sosa and Caro)
Tori vividly remembers the first time Ezra caught her eye. It was at Radix Santa Clara a few years ago, when they were both competing duets with different partners. "His duet was stunning," says Tori.
But the pair didn't actually meet until the next year, at Radix Utah, where they ended up in some of the same call-out groups. Tori was so impressed that she made it a goal to partner with Ezra in the future—and when she finally did, at IamForce, they made quite an impression.
They realized they had a real dance connection when they improvised during a combo together. "We were both really feeling it, and I literally sent her flying!" says Ezra. Adds Tori, "It was magical. It was raw, and we both said we felt like it overtook us."
As it turns out, both of them were destined for dance greatness: Tori won National Teen Female Core Performer at Radix in 2017 and Ezra got first runner-up in 2018. "Our relationship really grew seeing each other at all of Radix's regional cities," says Ezra.
Now that Tori lives in L.A., Ezra's goal is to join her there and become roommates. In the meantime, they're staying connected via social media. Tori also plans to visit Ezra in Utah, and he's counting down the days. "She's like my big Asian teddy bear," says Ezra. "Her hugs are amazing, and she offers so much love and light in my life."
A version of this story appeared in the October 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Competition Besties."
It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.
In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:
Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).
You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.
K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.
Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.
Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.
Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!
For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.
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Dance moms: Where would we be without them? We all know how much support and help they give us—in addition to loads of love. Here are 10 reasons real-life dance moms are undeniably the best.
It's the fall of 2018. As the Brigham Young University Cougarettes step onto the field at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, UT, a crowd of nearly 64 thousand erupts into cheers. The dancers take their places, and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air: Their reputation precedes them.
The music—Ciara's banger "Level Up"—begins, and unbelievable precision ensues. Eighteen dancers attack the highly technical choreography, which nods at viral social-dance sensations and continuously builds in energy. The school's mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, joins the team on the field, and the audience goes wild. As the piece ends, the sound in the stadium is deafening. The 16-time national-title-winning group has proved once again why they're the standard for college dance team success—they're just that good.
The extraordinary Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's danced in no fewer than five Broadway shows, can adapt to any choreographer's style. And before heading back to Broadway this spring in Moulin Rouge! (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), she's tackling the work of one of the most iconic choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse.
Garcia-Lee plays Adrienne in the new FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon," premiering April 9, which follows the romantic and creative relationship of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his muse Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Steve Levenson, and Andy Blankenbuehler serve as executive producers, with Kail directing and Blankenbuehler choreographing.
With the exception of performing on The Tony Awards, "Fosse/Verdon" marks Garcia-Lee's TV debut. "I'm really setting my sights on more on-camera work," she says. "Getting the chance to flex my muscles as an actress in this different medium, but still have the dance part, is all really exciting." (She's got real acting chops, too: While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she actually quit dance briefly to study acting instead.)
Dance Spirit spoke to Garcia-Lee about "Fosse/Verdon"'s epic final callback, how she got cast, and the transition from stage to screen.