Photo by Erin Baiano

From the moment we saw Darriel Johnakin flash a million-watt smile while nailing a textbook tilt at her Cover Model Search photo shoot this spring, we knew she'd go far in the dance world. Now, having crossed "Dance Spirit Cover Model Search winner" off her bucket list, Darriel's back to doing what she does best: logging long hours in the studio, polishing her technique, applying her teachers' corrections, and trying to be a little bit better than she was yesterday.

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Cover Story
Get Shot By Brian, Courtesy National Dance Showcase

In today's culture, winning is everything—so much so that most dance competitions highlight trophies above all else and emphasize the importance of being on top. But before platinum and first place became top priority, competitions were a chance for dancers to be inspired, have an incredible experience, and grow, as both artists and people.

Some competitions, like National Dance Showcase, are committed to presenting a new model, in the hope that other comps follow suit. Instead of promoting a culture where only winning matters, NDS focuses on nurturing the whole dancer. That doesn't mean NDS or comps like it are any less competitive—it's just about striking the right balance and remembering what a dance competition should really be about:

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Sponsored by National Dance Showcase
Photo by Collette Mruk, courtesy Alison Stroming

When Alison Stroming was a 15-year-old student at American Ballet Theatre's Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis School, she had a chance encounter at the water fountain with none other than Misty Copeland. "I was grabbing a drink, and when I turned around, Misty greeted me with a 'Hey girl!' My mouth just dropped," remembers Stroming. Copeland ended up taking Stroming under her wing, helping the young dancer carve out her place within the cutthroat dance world. "To this day, I turn to her for advice," Stroming says. "She's more than a mentor—she's become a big sister and a friend."

This relationship with Copeland inspired Stroming to launch AS Mentorship, a new program that allows Stroming to build relationships with 15 handpicked dance students over the course of a year. We caught up with Stroming to talk about the importance of a program like this, how she selects her dancers, and how dancers can find mentors of their own.

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Dancer to Dancer
Dean College dancers performing "Bitter Suite" by student choreographer Jenna Mae Mixner ('19). (Scott May, Courtesy Dean College)

Imagine: It's your first year in a dance company and the artistic director is staging a new work. She works through a few phrases of choreography and then turns to you, asking you to come up with something of your own. Are you ready?

In many of today's most exciting companies, the choreographer/muse relationship is being disrupted in favor of collaboration. Many dancers also find that their own dancing improves after they have tried their hand at creating new work. "Choreographers want to work with performers who aren't afraid to take risks, make bold decisions, and contribute something that will ultimately make the work stronger," says Dean College professor of dance studies, Stephen Ursprung.

Make sure your dance degree is going to work for you in the real world. At Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts, The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance is preparing their BFA and BA dancers for the changing professional world that awaits them with a special focus on dance composition. Whether you are in school with an ambition to be a professional dancer, a choreographer, or both, look for opportunities to deep dive into the process of creating dance.

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Sponsored by Dean College
We can't stop cheering for all the amazing dancing we saw this year. (Courtesy Fusion)

Take another bow, comp kids: Nationals 2019 was INCREDIBLE. From jaw-dropping solos to showstopping production numbers, you guys brought nothing less than your A-game to every number—and it showed. Before visions of next season start dancing in your heads, let's reflect on some of the top trends of this past summer's Nationals.

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Competition
Jordan Matter, Courtesy BLOCH

When it comes to dancewear, BLOCH has long been a brand dancers trust—but you've probably never seen them quite like this before. For their new back-to-school campaign, debuting exclusively here on Dance Spirit, the brand teamed up with photographer Jordan Matter, known for his adventurous, playful shoots that push dancers out of their comfort zones.

They knew he'd be able to capture the energy, fun, and excitement of back-to-school season. It was also a dream collaboration for Matter. "I travel to London a lot, and I've used the outside of their store as a location because all the designs are so beautiful," he says. "Even before I ever worked with them I was starting to utilize their products in my photos. And I know they have a great reputation."

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Have you ever been happier to see Tom Bergeron? We missed you, Tom! (ABC)

Before this season even started, it was already the most dramatic season of "Dancing with the Stars." Not only did we have to wait a year in serious anticipation, but once Season 28 was announced, the drama didn't stop.

Between the revamp of the ballroom and the voting system, the loss of both the troupe and some of our favorite pros (we miss you, Sharna and Artem!), the controversy over certain stars joining the lineup, and then, just yesterday, the announcement that a last-minute mother-daughter switch-up would take place following a serious, in-rehearsal injury? Whew. We feel like we've had a season's worth of action, and it's only the premiere, folks!

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Dance News
Season 16's fabulous final four (Adam Rose/Fox)

In "So You Think You Can Dance" Land, there are really two finales.

First, there's the competition finale. The second-to-last episode—the one that matters. The one where the Top 4 dancers must step it up to an unbelievably high, seemingly unsustainable level, dancing for their lives for a full two hours. It's an exciting episode, that almost-finale. But it's stressful.

That's why the finale finale—the one where we find out the results—is so much fun. When the last finale rolls around, everyone can relax. The results—a tally of the combined votes from the past two weeks—are in. This finale, the real finale, means it's time to take a deep breath and just dance.

It's not that the final episode doesn't matter. It matters! But this one is just for fun. This one is the celebration of surviving the season—for the Top 4, the judges, and, hey, the audience in the studio and at home.

And of course, this show's 16th finale didn't disappoint. Cat Deeley in that sleek, sexy black ensemble definitely didn't disappoint. All the tearful montages didn't disappoint. And the revisiting of the best performances of the season—well, that part never disappoints!

After a brilliant, high-energy, disco-esque opening number for the Top 10 (courtesy Mandy Moore) and nearly two hours' worth of the most memorable routines of the season (chosen by the judges and the Top 4), it was time to reveal the results:

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Dance on TV
The Arnold sisters (via YouTube)

YouTubers and Arnold sister stans, take note: One of our favorite powerhouse dancing families is starting its own YouTube channel! And considering that the Arnolds have gathered over nine thousand subscribers in just five days, it seems like we're not the only ones who've been dreaming of this moment.

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Dance News
Original photos: Getty Images

We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

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Dance News
Photo of Lythgoe by Anthony Behar/PictureGroup, courtesy Fox. Photo of Deeley by Adam Rose, courtesy Fox.

It's been 14 years (!) since "So You Think You Can Dance" first graced our television screens. Over its 16 seasons, the prolific show has presented hundreds of routines. And many of them have been jump-off-your-couch-and-cheer great. "SYT" numbers regularly wow viewers, win Emmy Awards, and launch the careers of dancers and choreographers.

So in a way we weren't surprised that, when asked to pick their favorite "SYT" routines, producer Nigel Lythgoe and host Cat Deeley had the same initial response: It's too hard! We asked them to choose 5 to 10 pieces; Lythgoe couldn't narrow his list to fewer than 12.

In the end, their agonized-over choices included not only stone-cold classics, but also some unexpected picks. Here—in chronological order—are the "SYT" numbers Deeley and Lythgoe can't live without. —Margaret Fuhrer

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Just for Fun
Hip-hop queen Dana Alexa slaying it in the new "Snitch" music video (via YouTube)

We absolutely stan a music video that makes a commitment to showcasing serious dancers. Which is why we're full-blown excited for the new video for Netsky's "Snitch."

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Dance Videos
Photo by Erin Baiano

We're thrilled for our Cover Model Search winner, Darriel Johnakin—but we also love our two runners-up, Diego Pasillas and Emma Sutherland! We talked to Emma about how life has changed since her NYC visit for the contest.

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Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

We're thrilled for our Cover Model Search winner, Darriel Johnakin—but we also love our two runners-up, Diego Pasillas and Emma Sutherland! We talked to Diego about how life has changed since his NYC visit for the contest.

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Cover Model Search

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