Between their flawless onstage performances and carefully crafted class videos, dancers can seem superhuman—especially to the general public. But even the most famous dancers have surprisingly relatable, offstage lives. For the select few who take audiences behind the scenes, a quick dive into their YouTube channels will show you exactly that.
Robbie Downey may spend most of her time performing in Colorado Ballet's Studio Company, but she also has fun goofing around backstage. Mackenzie Davis, a trainee at CityDance School and Conservatory in Bethesda, MD, makes ballet look easy but admits that learning to drive was a #struggle. And Rollettes Dance Team founder Chelsie Hill is on the stereotype-busting-dancer grind nonstop, but she also loves to take fun vacations.Dance Spirit spoke to the top dancers in the vlogosphere to learn how they're using their videos to connect with their fans and share their unique perspectives.
DS: How long have you been vlogging, and what got you started?
Robbie: I have had my YouTube channel for over 10 years now, but have only been vlogging for about two. One of my "first time on pointe" videos from 2009 has over 10 million views! I cringe at some of my old videos, but appreciate that the process was documented. I really started to dive into vlogging when I was at USA International Ballet Competition in 2018.
Chelsie: I started vlogging back in 2014. I was really excited about where my life was headed living in L.A., and I wanted to document important events. Also, when you searched "spinal cord injury" or "wheelchair" on YouTube, there were just a lot of outdated videos, and I wanted to change that. I'm passionate about showing others how someone in a wheelchair lives a normal life.
Mackenzie: I've been making videos since I was 10 and really started taking it seriously at 12 or 13. I enjoyed making beauty videos at first, then I made a lot of improvisational dance videos. Over the years, my channel has evolved into mainly dance.
DS: What do you love most about vlogging?
Robbie: I like giving people a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of a dancer's life, especially during performances. It's interesting for fans who aren't aware of all that goes into it. Performances are the time when we get to put all those training hours to work onstage in front of an audience, and it's important for young dancers to remember that. I hope I can encourage up-and-coming dancers to stick with it. I also want to inspire people to attend the ballet, as well, and have a greater appreciation for the art form.
Chelsie: One of my FAVORITE reasons to vlog is being able to look back and relive the memories. I hope one day to be able to share this precious time with my kids and show them my journey through my eyes.
Tiff B Photography, courtesy Hill
Mackenzie: A lot of my viewers love dance, but some have never danced at all. It's amazing to have a platform that inspires people and sheds a positive light on ballet and the dance world.
DS: What topics do you like to vlog about?
Robbie: I mainly do behind-the-scenes of our performances and day-in-the-life–type vlogs at Colorado Ballet. I will be documenting my audition season process in the coming months. Hopefully, that can give some insight to younger dancers who are coming close to auditioning in the next few years. This type of content also helps them learn what to expect in their first studio company, because there is no guarantee you will get hired somewhere, and in many cases, you won't find out until after audition season is over. I think it's going to be a pretty emotional and exciting new year! Choosing dance as a professional career is a lot to navigate, and it's helpful to get some insight from those who have gone before you.
People have also asked for vlogs on what I do during my off-season or when I'm not dancing, so I'm working on some of that! I'd also love to collaborate with other dancers on projects, and even post some features of other dancers and interview them.
Rachel Neville, courtesy Downey
Chelsie: My favorite thing to vlog is weekly day-in-the-life or events! It shows the most about myself, my day, and also educates people. Traveling is so fun, especially when it's with the Rollettes, so we try to capture all the traveling we do.
Mackenzie: I make ballet tutorial videos, challenge videos, skits, and anything pertaining to dance. Once in a while I will make a video on a different topic.
Stanislav Issaev, courtesy Davis
DS: What's your go-to vlogging equipment?
Robbie: I use a Sony a5100 with a 16-50mm lens. I have it on a tripod, which makes things SO much easier. I'll use a wireless microphone when I'm filming content in the studio (to avoid echo and bad sound) or at home. I like to use an app called FilMiC Pro if using my phone and the mic, because I can see if the mic is working. It's a really handy app for anyone using their phone. People should not let a lack of equipment keep them from creating!
Chelsie: I use the Sony a5100. I love how you can flip the screen to see what's in-frame.
Mackenzie: I use a Canon G7 X with a tripod and a ring light.
DS: Do you follow any other dance vlogs?
Robbie: The Royal Ballet's channel is my favorite. They have amazing videos of rehearsal footage, and some of my favorite dancers are there. Sarah Lamb, Marianela Núñez, Lauren Cuthbertson...I could go on and on. I love being able to get a look inside their studios to see how they rehearse and get ready for performances. Some of the rehearsal videos are over an hour long!
Chelsie: I mainly watch beauty influencers and channels.