Doug Letheren

What would you do if someone handed you a check for $10,000? Go on a Paris shopping spree? Buy a new car? Or follow your dreams all the way to Israel to learn a whole new approach to dancemaking and movement?

Doug Letheren, 23, opted for the last. Fresh out of New York’s Juilliard School, he has already been singled out by dance players like Mikhail Baryshnikov. Last spring, Baryshnikov nominated Doug to receive a Movado Future Legends Award, given annually to four young artists with extraordinary promise. With the honor, Doug received a $10,000 check. Now this dynamic dancer with a poetic soul is using his award to push himself as an artist.

Doug grew up in Manchester, NH. At 7, he took his first dance class—a funk, MC Hammer–style class for boys—and instantly felt at home. He continued dancing when he went to the prestigious St. Paul’s boarding school in Concord, NH. Doug spent his junior year training at the Conservatoire Nationale de la Region in Rennes, France, and came back ready to audition for Juilliard.

He impressed his Juilliard teachers from the start. “He’s an extremely charismatic performer with the potential to become a major artist in dance,” says Lawrence Rhodes, director of the school’s dance division. While he was still a sophomore, Doug was one of a handful of dancers selected to perform in Baryshnikov’s Hell’s Kitchen Dance. He also performed with the Public Dance Theatre—now called Borderline Dance Circle—a company that wants to bring dance to impoverished communities. One month-long trip with PDT, to teach and perform in Peru, helped shape Doug’s perspective on dance.

“We went into a Lima ghetto,” he says. “It was a real shanty-town with dusty shacks made out of garbage. During the last performance, we were dead tired, but giving it our all.” At that moment, he realized dance was meant to be shared, that it could have a larger impact.

Hoping to develop the vision and skill to make a difference, Doug decided to go to Israel to dance with the Batsheva Dance Ensemble. Not only will he be mentored by artistic director Ohad Naharin (one of his heroes), he’ll also choreograph. (Batsheva provides its dancers with whatever they need to carry out their visions.)

Doug wants to keep following his heart. “Dance, in many ways, is an education, an outreach program,” he says. “It can be a mirror that makes you feel and think. And that can inspire change.”

Latest Posts


Carlos Gonzalez (Ernesto Linnermann, courtesy Gonzalez)

4 Latinx Dancers Breaking Boundaries

It's National Hispanic Heritage Month, a period observed from September 15 to October 15 that recognizes the contributions of Latinx and Hispanic communities to American culture. The dance world has been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of those contributions, with Latinx dance artists leaving legacies that have helped move it to a more inclusive place.

At Dance Spirit, we're celebrating the month by highlighting four Latinx dancers whose groundbreaking work is opening doors for the next generation.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Goucher College students performing Women's Resistance (Jason Lee, courtesy Goucher College)

4 Colleges Committed to Diversifying Their Dance Curriculums

In the face of today's racial crisis, many Americans are now reckoning with their own complicity in the oppression of marginalized groups, and asking, "What can I do?" For college dance programs, which help mold the minds of the next generation of dance artists, this is an especially important question. For decades, most departments have centered on white, Western styles—ballet, modern, contemporary—rather than dedicating resources to the world's myriad other dance forms.

Fortunately, some college dance programs have pledged to diversify their course offerings, and to dismantle the layers of white supremacy that still pervade our art on a larger scale. And while many colleges are now beginning this work, a few have made
it a central part of their mission for years. Here are four schools with longstanding commitments to a more equitable dance education.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Class at Butler University (Michaela Semenza, courtesy Butler University)

The Truth About Grades as a Dance Major

You may know what it means to earn a silver, gold, or platinum award for your performance—but probably not an A, B, or C grade. Often, dancers don't encounter the idea of grading in dance until they enter collegiate dance programs. When you're evaluating an inherently subjective art form, what distinguishes an A student from a B student?

The answer: It's complicated. "There's a lot that goes into creating a well-rounded, successful student, which hopefully produces a well-rounded, successful professional," says Angelina Sansone, a ballet instructor at University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

In college programs, set movement phrases, repertory selections, or audition-style classes often serve as graded midterms or final exams. Written components such as self-assessments, audition research projects, and dance history tests might count as well. But the largest contributing factor to your grade is usually how you approach the work, day in and day out.

Dance Spirit talked to faculty across the country to discover what it takes to be a top student—and why dance grades matter.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search