Meet Three of USC Kaufman's Game-Changing Dancers
The University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance is about to graduate its first class of dancers. We asked students Alyssa Allen, Jake Tribus, and Simrin Player to tell us about their experience at one of the best collegiate dance programs in the world.
Alyssa Allen, Class of 2019
Photo by Joe Toreno
From the moment the DS staff first met Alyssa Allen—back in 2014, when she was one of our Cover Model Search finalists—we knew she was going to do great things. Now, she's entering her final year of college as part of Kaufman's inaugural class.
For Allen, Kaufman's artistic opportunities have felt like a gift. "I've realized that school and education are my priorities," she says. "Short-term dance opportunities will always be there, so I'm trying to pursue long-term success." That said, she has been able to book commercial jobs and build her resumé during off-times.
At Kaufman, Allen has discovered that she loves connecting academics with artistry. "I grew up only knowing dance. I was in love with it. And that love has only grown as I see the importance of outside knowledge," she says. "Psychology has really spoken to me, understanding both the body and the mind. I'm very attracted to the whole human."
Jake Tribus, Class of 2020
Photo by Joe Toreno
Shortly after starring in the 2014 DS video series "The Road to Nationals," Jake Tribus was on the road to college. "I knew right off the bat that I wanted a four-year experience, four years of foundational training," he says. "And I wanted a program that incorporated everything, because I grew up very versatile."
As he navigates Kaufman, Tribus is learning how to be a dance leader, and to combine his passions. "I'm really curious about art, design, and business," he says. "When I graduate, I want to know how to do what I want to do." He's also figuring out his professional work ethic. "I've been thinking about how to get the same result from hard work without overworking myself," he says. "I can be a perfectionist and that gets in the way of my progress. I'm learning how to take the feedback I'm given and apply it instead of being overwhelmed."
Simrin Player, Class of 2021
Photo by Joe Toreno
A few years back, Simrin Player stole our hearts (and landed our November 2013 cover) as a tiny b-girl. But she's grown into a highly successful and incredibly well-rounded dancer—and even in her earliest dance days, she knew she wanted to go to college. "My parents instilled that in me," she says. USC was her top choice even before she heard about the Kaufman School. She's found the intimacy of a college program to be really special. "You get to work one-on-one with legends," she says.
Player's already-impressive commercial career hasn't slowed down at all during college. "Kaufman has been really understanding about professional development opportunities," she says. These days, though, she's showing up to gigs with a fresh sense of perspective, thanks to her academic classes. "I took a course about dance and feminine sexuality within Western and non-Western forms," she says. "It made me think about how I can approach commercial dance within the entertainment industry."
A version of this story appeared in the September 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Game Changers."
It's almost 2019 and the ballroom dance scene is positively booming! From prestigious world championships to TV shows, kids are at the core of all this hip-shaking action—and we're so here for it. These eight up-and-comers in particular are shaping the field. They're the next generation of superstars to make the leap from technically exquisite ballroom-ites to bona fide celebrities.
At age 23, Djouliet Amara is a successful professional dancer signed with a talent agency in NYC. She's studied at The Ailey School and even danced in "Memoria" with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Having performed at City Center and appeared in numerous commercial campaigns for brands like Forever 21, Refinery29, and Danskin, it would appear that Amara is living a life most dancers only dream of. But as glamorous and successful as her career has been, Amara's journey to this point has not been an easy one. Her biggest challenge was her battle with an eating disorder that nearly cost Amara her career. Find out how this dancer found body acceptance and, in so doing, uncovered a dream she never knew she had. —Katherine Beard
Warning: This story may be triggering for those who have suffered or are suffering from disordered eating.
"Lame duck." It sounds like nothing else in the classical ballet vocabulary, right? Also known as step-up turns or step-over turns—or, more technically, as piqués en dehors—these tricky pirouettes show up all over the classical ballet repertoire, perhaps most famously in Odette's Act II variation in Swan Lake. Here's how to keep your lame ducks from looking, well, lame.
When most of us think of The Nutcracker, we imagine a growing Christmas tree, dancing mice, and a little girl named Clara (or Marie) traveling to the Land of Sweets. But companies around the world have been reinventing the holiday classic, changing the storyline or adding their own spectacular sets and characters. To get in the Nutcracker spirit this season, check out these out-of-the-box productions.
Every year, our friends over at Dance Magazine select 25 standout dancers, choreographers, and companies for their "25 to Watch" feature. The list is always overflowing with talent, but this year's iteration was especially exciting—four of the featured dancers have graced the pages of DS at one point or another: former cover star Aran Bell, DS Cover Model Search semi-finalist Sophie Miklosovic, Jasmine Harper, and "You Should Know" alum Easton Payne. It was a totally full-circle moment to see each of them score a coveted spot on this list. Check out their profiles below (which originally appeared in Dance Magazine), and major congratulations to everyone else selected this year!
Maddie Ziegler is the kween of dance these days and it seems like there's no move this teen dancing machine can't do...or is there? In a recent video with Teen Vogue, Maddie shows us just how lit her dance skills are by demonstrating 10 iconic music video dance routines. From Britney Spears to Michael Jackson, the "Dance Moms" star gets her groove on as she dissects some of the most popular dances of all time. Though Maddie is a great dancer, it's pretty entertaining watching her do moves that might be a little outside of her comfort zone.
The Nutcracker has become an essential part of the holiday season—not to mention a part of most dancers' DNA. These days, the ballet is a beloved tradition, and the lifeblood of many dance companies, whose budgets depend on its reliably great ticket sales. But did you know that it was a flop when it first premiered in Russia? Or that George Balanchine himself once played Drosselmeyer on TV? Here's a timeline of the rich history of The Nutcracker.
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Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.
Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!
Showstopper sees all different dancers from across the world at their dance competitions. They understand sometimes it can hard to know how to stand out among the 100s of dancers that perform on their stages.
For some it's a holiday tradition, for others its an iconic spectacle, but no matter the reason, more than 1 million people will watch the Rockettes perform in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular each year. And though the production has been around since 1933, much of what goes on behind those velvety curtains and intricate sets remains a mystery. To curb our curiosity and find out what ensues when these leggy ladies aren't doling out their sky-high kicks, we got a backstage tour from the legends themselves.
From hair and makeup, to warm-up exercises, and costume quick changes (the fastest quick change in the show is a #mindblowing 75 seconds, by the way) we got a glimpse into the glamorous (and sometimes not so glamorous) world of the Rockettes.
On March 30, 1958, at the 92nd Street Y in NYC, dancer Alvin Ailey and a group of African-American dancers performed onstage together for the first time. Since then, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the company Ailey formed, has become legendary in the dance world. To commemorate its 60th anniversary, Ailey has dubbed its annual City Center season "Ailey 60." From Nov. 28–Dec. 30 choreographers including Ronald K. Brown, Jessica Lang, and Rennie Harris will present premieres, alongside the works of current artistic director Robert Battle, Judith Jamison, and over two dozen pieces by Alvin Ailey himself. We asked a few of the company members to share what the anniversary means to them.
When Hannahlei Cabanilla rolled up to her Dance Spirit cover shoot—just 36 hours after being named the "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 champion—she looked impossibly fresh-faced and well-rested. The Anaheim Hills, CA, native may have had "about eight blisters," as she joked, on her feet; she may barely have slept since the big win; and she may have just performed on "Live with Kelly and Ryan." But she jumped right on set, and quite literally didn't stop jumping for the next five hours. The fabulous technique, irresistible personality, and (especially) boundless energy that earned her the title of America's Favorite Dancer were all on full display.
So what was it actually like for Hannahlei to compete on the show she'd watched since she was a tiny dancer—and what's next for the now–19-year-old? Read on.
The holidays are just around the corner and that means it's time to get your wish lists finalized. And while we have no doubt that stylish leos and cozy warm-ups will find their way onto your list, we think you'll want to consider adding some of these lit dance books to your holiday lineup, too. From revamped Nutcracker tales to biographies of your favorite dance stars, we've rounded up the latest and greatest books that every dancer will want to see in their stockings this season.