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

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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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All photos by Jayme Thornton. Wardrobe styling throughout by Chloë Chadá Van for The QUIRK Group.

Lizzo's Leading Ladies: Meet the Big Grrrls

Rising pop superstar Lizzo is changing the game in all kinds of ways. (A singer who also raps and plays the flute? You'd better believe it.) But she's become an especially important leader in the body-positivity revolution. And that emphasis on diversity and self-love extends to her fabulous group of backup dancers, known as The Big Grrrls.

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The Best Apps for Dancers Who Are Social Distancing

We're living in unprecedented times, and for many of us, that means unprecedented screen time. (So please cool it with your Screen Time notifications, Apple.)

For dancers used to moving their bodies and working collaboratively, social distancing at home can come with particular challenges—not to mention the fact that many dance artists are out of work and losing income.

We rounded up the best apps to make this difficult period a bit easier—whether you need a distraction, a workout, a meditation or some inspiration:

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

Margaret

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