Seconds after the big reveal! (FOX)

And the "SYTYCD" Season 15 Winner Is...

Some people say summer is officially over after Labor Day. Others say the end of summer is the day everyone goes back to school. Officially, summer is over after September 21st. But in our world and yours, the end of summer is marked only by one thing: the "So You Think You Can Dance" finale.

Last night, to wrap up Season 15 and, along with it, another summer, Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and tWitch crowned one lucky dancer as the season's winner. But before getting to that, there was the usual dance down memory lane.


It all started with a Macy's-sponsored opening number. The energy was high, there was that fun element with the audience members throwing a zillion white balloons onto the stage, and the contestants seemed like they'd all finally taken some seriously deep breaths after weeks of high-pressure competition. (But the giant red Macy's star onstage, and the Macy's T-shirts on every single audience member, might have been...a bit much.)

From there, the night launched into a whole lotta #TBT-worthy memories and montages. Each judge picked his or her favorite routines for a reprise: Vanessa went with Jensen and Jay Jay's Tahitian number and Hannahlei and Jensen's heels performance, Mary opted for Cole and Hannahlei's cha-cha and Travis Wall's contemporary routine for Magda and Darius, tWitch was all about Mandy Moore's jazz piece for Magda and Darius and Slavik and Genessy's "House Work" hip hop, and Nigel chose Jay Jay and Lauren Froderman's epically energetic jazz routine and Travis Wall's "What Makes a Man" piece for Darius and Taylor Sieve.

Each Top 4 contestant also got to pick a past favorite for an encore performance. Genessy chose her contemporary routine with past winner Lex Ishimoto, Slavik went with his Luther Brown hip-hop with Genessy from week one, Jensen picked the "Cookin'" hip-hop routine with Jay Jay, and Hannahlei chose her Robert Roldan-choreographed contemporary duet with Marko.

Did anyone else SCREAM when tWitch busted out from center stage to join the Top 4 guys in that oh-so-memorable "Juice" routine?! The piece was amazing to begin with, but we can all agree that tWitch makes everything just a little bit better. AND THEN: Nigel popped up, just in time for a slick strut across the stage. This was SO GOOD.

Afterward, we found out that Slavik took fourth place. Meaning that or the first time ever, "SYTYCD" had an all-female Top 3!

Finally, after many audition rounds, numerous Academy intensives, several weeks of live shows, and millions of votes, the tallies were in. Genessy held it down in third, and Jensen was named runner-up, which means America's Favorite Dancer is officially Hannahlei!

Congratulations to all of this season's stunning dancers. And an extra special congrats to Hannahlei, who'll be Dance Spirit's December cover star!

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Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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All the Hollywood and Broadway Musical Moments to Look for in “Schmigadoon!”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

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Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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