Including a look at the Rockettes class of 2019 (photo by Erin Baiano)

The 10 Dance Stories Readers Loved Most in 2019

It's time for year-end roundups, dance friends! We decided to commemorate the conclusion of 2019 by gathering the 10 Dance Spirit stories readers couldn't get enough of this year. From profiles of Instagram sensations to a deep dive into the history of why we say "merde," there's something on this list for every dancer. Take a look—and happy (almost) New Year!


Ballet YouTube Star Luna Montana Isn't Afraid to Talk About Body Dysmorphia

Courtesy Luna Montana

Luna is YouTube-famous for all the right reasons. In addition to being a gorgeous dancer, she's also honest, transparent, and fearless—all qualities that made her video about dealing with body dysmorphia so compelling. We talked to the gifted teen about her goals for her channel, her budding ballet career, and how she found the courage to be her authentic self online.

7 Ways Being a Dancer Makes You Smarter

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Because dancing impacts pretty much every aspect of our lives—including our brains.

Meet the Radio City Rockettes Class of 2019

Photo by Erin Baiano

For almost a century, the Rockettes have been celebrated for their signature style of precision dance, which combines ballet, tap, and classic jazz to awe-inspiring effect. These 80 women (two casts of 36, plus four swings/dance captains) have always been the undisputed stars of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. But the Rockettes are out to start some new traditions, too. This year's Spectacular features one of the most diverse kicklines in Rockette history—including an unprecedented 13 fresh faces. We introduced you to four of them.

4 Strengthening Exercises for Flawless Pirouettes...

fitness, core exercises, exercise ball Photo by Erin Baiano

In addition to solid technique, perfect pirouettes require a lot of strength. We turned to Roman Zhurbin, soloist with American Ballet Theatre and owner of Roman Empire Fitness, for a breakdown of the best ways to strengthen the muscles used in a pirouette.

...and 3 Exercises for Better Pointework

Ballet Academy East student Stella MacDonald (photo by Erin Baiano)

Every young ballerina dreams of her first pair of pointe shoes. But a lot (A LOT) of hard work has to be done before the big moment arrives. We turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.

The 8 Dancers You Meet at Every Audition

Photo by Erin Baiano

The One Who Always Has to Be Front and Center. The One with the Insane Body. The One Who's a Childhood Friend You Haven't Seen in Years. YUP, YUP, YUP.

Why We Can't Stop Watching Instagram Star Autumn Miller—On Screen and Off

Photo by Joe Toreno

Does she have 1.4 million (and counting) devoted Insta followers? Ayup. But the contemporary dance phenomenon is also completely devoted to her craft, attacking every combination with a fearlessness and confidence rarely seen in a teenager. Autumn is a rare breed: an Instagram dance sensation more focused on her art than her follower count. And the whole dance world is obsessed.

Why Do Dancers Say "Merde"?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "merde" is a French exclamation that loosely translates to, er, "poop." So how did dancers end up saying "merde" to each other instead of "good luck"? We found out.

Nigel Lythgoe and Cat Deeley's Favorite "SYTYCD" Routines of All Time

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

Can you believe 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 fabulous routines. So in a way we weren't surprised that, when asked to pick their favorite "SYT" numbers, 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. Check out their agonized-over choices, including stone-cold classics and some unexpected picks.

How TikTok Is Changing the Dance World

Getty Images/TikTok

TikTok seems tailor-made for dancers. The app's short-form video format makes it easy to show off your best moves to a song that's gone viral. That's one of the reasons dance challenges are especially popular on TikTok, with over one billion views for the hashtag #DanceChallenge alone. And the growing trend has had a wide-ranging impact on both the music and dance communities. We took a closer look at five of the most influential TikTok dance challenges.

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Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

Sienna Lalau: The Dynamite Dancer and Choreographer Helping BTS Make Magic

At just 20 years old, Sienna Lalau is the living definition of "dynamite dancer": bold, confident, almost addicting to watch, and, at her core, overflowing with pure passion. From her work with The Lab Studios to Video Music Award–winning choreography for BTS, there's no stopping this starlet from bringing her love of dance to the global stage.

"Dance is something that can truly connect people," Sienna tells Dance Spirit. "It's a universal language. We may not speak the same language physically, but when we dance, there's a connection where we understand each other on another level."

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Tanishq Joshi brings his star quality to stage in his hometown of Indore, India (courtesy Tanishq Joshi)

Tanishq Joshi is Stomping on South Asian Stereotypes by Fusing Hip-Hop Choreo With Bollywood Music

For Tanishq Joshi (aka Taneesky), becoming a dancer was as unexpected as your music cutting off mid-performance. An unfortunate injury in his hometown of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, led to the more fortunate discovery of a new passion and a flourishing career.

Joshi's had the opportunity to choreograph and compete at "World of Dance" events, perform at the JaQuel Knight Showdown, and grace the stage at Pharrell Williams' "Something in the Water" concert. And that's all on top of work and training with dancers and choreographers like Devin Solomon, Denzel Chisolm, Josh Killacky, Samantha Caudle, and Jake Kodish.

Joshi shared his story with Dance Spirit, and broke down how his unique approach to choreography is helping him diminish stereotypes, open doors for South Asian dancers, and inspire the dance community at large.

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Houston Ballet Demi Soloist Natalie Varnum shows off her signature style (Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet)

Fashion Forward: 3 Pros Share What Goes into Their Dancewear Choices

When it comes to in-studio dancewear, the pros know that the right look, piece, or material can mean the difference between a day feeling confident and comfortable, or just plain out of sorts. With so much time spent honing their craft in dance clothes, choosing those items takes equal parts strategy, creativity and a healthy dose of fun.

Here, professional dancers Ian Eastwood, Karilyn Ashley Surratt, and Natlie Varnum share what goes into their fashion choices that enables them to look good, feel great, and turn heads in the studio.

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