Summer Study Besties
It’s no secret that summer intensives are a time to perfect your technique and learn exciting choreography. But they also come with another important takeaway: friendship! Finding the perfect person to tag in studio selfies or split a post-rehearsal snack with can make even the best summer program that much better—and can lead to a long-term career bond. Dance Spirit spoke to six sets of pros who still can’t get enough of their summertime BFFs.
Rinaldi and Grocki before Justin Peck's Year of the Rabbit (courtesy Grocki)
Leanna Rinaldi & Ellen Grocki, Miami City Ballet
Leanna Rinaldi and Ellen Grocki do everything side by side—they live together, dance together, travel together and joke together—and that’s just the way they like it. The two met during Miami City Ballet’s summer intensive in 2012. When Grocki was invited to stay year-round, Rinaldi invited Grocki to live with her and a friend, and their fate was sealed. They both joined the MCB corps in 2014.
“We’re more like sisters than friends,” Rinaldi says. “We can pretty much read each other’s thoughts.” Grocki agrees: “Our jobs are demanding, with lots of emotional highs and lows, so having someone to share that with in the studio and at home has been so helpful.”
Sullivan and Teicher at Jacob's Pillow in 2016 (photo by Hayim Heron, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)
Caleb Teicher & Macy Sullivan, Caleb Teicher & Company
Caleb Teicher and Macy Sullivan met during a two-week tap program at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2010. Sullivan had just finished her sophomore year
at The Juilliard School; Teicher had just finished high school. Teicher remembers admiring Sullivan’s dancing from afar even before they met. “I was intrigued and intimidated by her,” he says. “Being friends with Macy encouraged me to do better myself.”
Since then, the duo have supported each other professionally time and time again: Sullivan suggested Teicher try out for The Chase Brock Experience; they partnered up to swing dance with the Syncopated City Dance Company; and Sullivan now performs with Caleb Teicher & Company. “Dancing together professionally has been really special,” Sullivan says. “There’s a huge amount of trust between us, artistically and as friends, and that comes through onstage.”
Peters and DiPiazza in Wayne McGregor's Chroma (photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy PA Ballet)
Lillian DiPiazza & Alexander Peters, Pennsylvania Ballet
Pennsylvania Ballet principals Lillian DiPiazza and Alexander Peters met at the School of American Ballet’s Summer Course in 2007. Back then, their favorite between-class activity was soaking up the summer sun in Central Park. “We would bring these really gross Starbucks latte things,” Peters remembers.
They’ve been through a lot together in the years since, including graduating to the year-round program at SAB. DiPiazza transitioned to Pennsylvania Ballet one year later, and Peters followed her there after three more years. “Having a friendly face there made the transition much easier,” he says. Side by side, they’ve matured as dancers—and their culinary tastes have come a long way from lattes in the park. “We love to go out to explore Philadelphia’s food scene,” Peters says, “or we’ll just stay in and cook.”
Paulos and Harris' first Ailey II reception in Towson, MD (courtesy Paulos)
Jacquelin Harris & Danica Paulos, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
“Our co-workers refer to us as Frick and Frack or The Giggle Twins,” Danica Paulos says
of her friendship with fellow AAADT member Jacquelin Harris. “When someone tells one of us something, it’s assumed that we’ll tell it to the other. And we’re always laughing!”
Though the two first met as students at The Ailey School, they became BFFs during a summer at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2013. Harris remembers one adventure in particular that sealed the deal: “One night we took our blankets, pillows and comforters to Inside/Out [the outdoor stage at Jacob’s Pillow] and slept under the stars. I’m pretty sure that was against the rules, but we stayed up for hours getting to know each other and making memories.”
These troublemakers have stuck together ever since: They joined Ailey II together the week after returning from the Pillow, and have moved up the ranks side by side, entering the main company in 2014. “It’s like our amazing summer never ended,” Paulos says. They’ll be together onstage from coast to coast during Ailey’s 2017 tour Feb. 3–June 18.
Gilliland and Peck in 2012 (courtesy Peck)
Tiler Peck, New York City Ballet, & Kaitlyn Gilliland, freelance ballerina
At the School of American Ballet Summer Course in 2002, Tiler Peck and Kaitlyn Gilliland shared a moment you might not expect from two blossoming ballerinas: “Believe it or not, we first bonded over a Ludacris song,” Gilliland says. “It came on the radio, and we were each surprised to learn the other knew the lyrics.”
“She could rap all the words,” Peck says. “I was so impressed.”
This goofy pair continued to turn to each other for laughter and support throughout that summer. When they were both offered apprenticeships with New York City Ballet two years later, they roomed together in SAB’s dorms and later moved into a shared apartment—and continued to be roomies for the next several years. After four years dancing together at NYCB, Gilliland moved on to explore a freelance career, but their friendship has stayed intact. Peck is “a friend I hope to have for life,” Gilliland says. “I also earn major cool points with other friends when I bring them backstage at NYCB performances to meet her.”
The pair rehearsing in 2009 (courtesy Delgadillo)
Alicia Delgadillo, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, & Derek Ege, freelance dancer
For Alicia Delgadillo and Derek Ege, the perfect friendship grew from the perfect partnership. Both were freshmen in college coming from NYC—Delgadillo from the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, and Ege from The Juilliard School—when they spent the summer of 2009 together at an intensive at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. There, they were paired together for a duet in Jirˇí Kylián’s 27'52". “It was the craziest partnering I’d ever done,” Ege remembers. “We had to build a lot of trust—and we still have that.”
After three summers together at HSDC, the two went different directions—Delgadillo stayed on in Chicago, joining Hubbard Street 2 and then the main company, and Ege danced with the Trey McIntyre Project for one season, then returned to NYC, where he’s danced with Keigwin + Company, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, ZuiDance and, recently, on the international tour of Shrek: The Musical. But whenever they reconnect, they always pick up right where they left off. “He’s hilarious,” Delgadillo says. “And I know he likes that, to this day, I will always laugh at his jokes.”
Find Your BFF This Summer!
How can you raise your chances of meeting a friend who will turn into a lifelong ally? Here are some tips from those who’ve been there.
1. Ask for support. “Rely on the people around you if you’re feeling homesick, sad
or stressed, because they’re probably going through something similar.” —Alexander Peters
2. Remember: Opposites attract. Friends who are different from you can make for a more interesting summer. “I was very talkative, and Kaitlyn [Gilliland] was the complete opposite; it worked because we balanced each other out.” —Tiler Peck
3. Get out of the studio. “Do things outside of class or rehearsal. It’ll keep you from feeling overwhelmed.” —Lillian DiPiazza
4. Inspire each other. At an intensive, you’ll be surrounded by dancers who inspire and motivate you, so take advantage of that! “I was obsessed with Jacquelin [Harris]’s dancing before we met—I really admired her talent and work ethic.” —Danica Paulos
5. Be a team player, not a competitor. “It’s easier to make friends when you’re not caught up in comparing yourself to other people. The best friends are supportive of each other.” —Ellen Grocki
6. Just be you. “Be yourself. Your friends will find you.” —Kaitlyn Gilliland
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Steven Spielberg's much-anticipated remake of West Side Story—choreographed by Justin Peck, and starring a bevy of very good dancers—is in production, hooray! And that means it's finally time for us to get a look at the film's cast members in character. Let's break down the first photo from the project.