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