Sonya Tayeh

(Photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

Sail, with Tiffany Maher and Audrey Case on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Season 9, was about showing that athleticism can be beautiful. I’ve often heard that my choreography is strong—as if it’s a surprise. People call my work androgynous. But androgynous, to me, sounds like a woman trying to be masculine. Instead, I call my work genderless.”


(Courtesy Sonya Tayeh)



“Erica Wilson-Perkins (second from left) and Diane Mancinelli, my professors at Wayne State University, shifted my world completely. They had their own voices and taught full-bodied movement. The first piece I choreographed was in a college class. Then I couldn’t stop.”


(Photo via


“Björk is my go-to lady. She’s my ultimate hero, who embraces her unique creativity. When I requested her music for my Possibly Maybe duet on ‘SYTYCD’ Season 9, Björk asked me to write what the song meant to me. So I broke it down, lyric by lyric. That was the first time she allowed her music to be used on the show.”



(Courtesy FOX)


“Allison Holker and Cole Horibe execute movement in this really stunning way—an urgent, eager way. Being in a room with them during Season 9 was inspiring. They made me want to do better for them. I’m excited to incorporate Cole’s martial-arts background while choreographing Kung Fu, which opens off-Broadway February 4.”


(Courtesy Sonya Tayeh)



“My mother was my date to the Emmys. She’s a religious Muslim woman, who raised three girls. She’s always embraced us and been open to who we are. She’s had many struggles in her life, and she’s definitely the one who inspired my strength.”



(Photo by Mike Yarish/FOX)


“Whenever I do a piece for ‘SYTYCD,’ like for the Top 6 on Season 9, I start by just talking to the dancers. Then we move together so I can see what their instincts are, instead of just demanding what I want. I reach for the root of my dancers first before I build on it myself.”

(Photo by Matthew Murphy)



The Last Goodbye is a rock musical set to Jeff Buckley’s music that played in San Diego last fall. The inspiration for the movement came from Jeff’s music, which I’ve been a fan of since the ’90s. The show retells Romeo and Juliet, the ultimate love story, which is so honest and heart-wrenchingly beautiful.


(Photo by Kevin Sandlow)




“I met my father for the first time while he was dying. I was 12. That’s where the excessive emotion in my work comes from—my sense of urgency, my speed. There’s an underlying angst in my choreography that stems from experiencing death at a really young age.”




Latest Posts

Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search