My Favorite Performance

Wendy Whelan (by Henry Leutwyler)

Wendy Whelan

Principal Dancer, New York City Ballet

“One of my most memorable performances took place at the Palais Garnier in Paris in 2008, alongside dancers of the Paris Opéra Ballet. I danced the ballerina role in the second movement of George Balanchine’s Symphony in C. It took a lot of mental preparation for me to get ready for that moment—dancing this monumental role at probably the most famous opera house in the world, where Symphony in C actually had its premiere in 1947.

On a more personal note, my childhood ballet teacher was a dancer with POB. She was the first person who believed in me. She told me I had the potential to make something of myself as a dancer. I proudly danced that performance of Symphony in C in her honor. I still have my pointe shoes from that night. It’s the only pair of shoes I’ve ever saved from a performance.”

(Courtesy LINES ballet)

Meredith Webster

Alonzo King LINES Ballet

“One performance that remains clear in my memory was in Vaison-la-Romaine, in the Provence region of France. LINES danced there at an ancient open-air amphitheater. We were performing a collaboration with some of the Shaolin monks, and the feeling of being onstage with them, with ancient columns and worn bricks surrounding me and constellations in sight whenever I looked up, was overwhelmingly beautiful.”

(L to R) Jennifer Di Noia, Afra Hines, Nathan Peck

Afra Hines

Ghost: The Musical on Broadway

“My most memorable performance was my Broadway debut in Wicked in 2006. Growing up I was primarily a dancer—I didn’t sing or act. So doing Wicked on Broadway opened a whole new world to me. Now I’m in my third Broadway show, and I love it.”

Megan Branch (courtesy Celebrity Dance Competitions)

Megan Branch

Commercial Dancer

“Last summer, I competed for the last time at West Coast Dance Explosion Nationals with my studio, Dance Connection 2. I improvised my solo, and it placed in the top three. It was a little nerve-racking knowing I would be on my own the next year pursuing my dance career, but it felt really good to take the stage that last time and give it my all.”

Kenny Wormald (far right) with Timberlake (second from left) and dancers

Kenny Wormald

Commercial Dancer

“When I was performing on tour with Justin Timberlake, we did a show in Boston, MA, at the TD Banknorth Garden. I’m from Boston, and just a few years prior to the performance, I’d been back home in my living room trying to learn JT’s choreography. To return to my hometown performing with my favorite artist in the world was amazing. It taught me that anything is possible!”

Alicia Graf_Mack (by Andrew Eccles)

Alicia Graf Mack

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

“I performed Memoria this last New York season—it’s a piece choreographed by Alvin Ailey that I have loved since I was young. Memoria takes its lead dancer on a journey: She hears calls to go to heaven and ascends to another world. Groups of dancers move around her for much of the piece, so it feels like you’re dancing in a swirl of light. It was my first season back after not dancing for three years because of a knee injury and arthritis, so the plot of transcendence was close to my heart.”

 

Jacalyn Tatro (Michele Welsh/Inspirations Photography)

Jacalyn Tatro

Student, Inspire School of Dance in Naperville, IL

“Last year, I performed a dance called ‘The Lost Soldier’ at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals. Because it was on the Fourth of July, I felt a deep connection to what soldiers go through. I think all of us were able to move people in the audience even more than we usually do at competitions.”

 

Melinda Sullivan (center) (by Richard Termine)

Melinda Sullivan

Tap Dancer

“This past October, I performed with the New York Song & Dance Company at the Career Transition for Dancers Gala in NYC. I was featured as a vocalist and tap dancer in a number called ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin.’ I looked into the wings during the performance and saw Chita Rivera sitting there, smiling at us. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m singing and dancing for one of the world’s greatest song and dance women!’ After the show I had the chance to meet Chita. We had an exchange I’ll never forget. She was just like, ‘Do your thing, girl!’ ”

 

Hefa (left) and his brothers on the "DWTS" set

Hefa Tuita

Commercial/Ballroom Dancer

“Recently, my brothers and I performed a piece that I choreographed on “Dancing with the Stars.” To share that moment on the stage with my brothers—to be on TV in front of thousands of people with the people I love most—was so beautiful to me. The energy was kind of spiritual; it almost brought tears to my eyes.”

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Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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All the Hollywood and Broadway Musical Moments to Look for in “Schmigadoon!”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

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Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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