Dance News
via @morganjeanquinn on Instagram

You probably remember the big Free People faux pas from 2014 where the popular clothing brand featured an untrained dancer (sickled feet and all) in its ad campaign, sparking a lot of shade from fuming dancers around the world. Well, Free People learned from its mistake and has been enlisting real dancers for some of their artsy promos ever since. From featuring The Washington Ballet's Nardia Boodoo in their lifestyle blog to including dance classes taught by Dance Theater of Harlem ballet dancer Alison Stroming in their pop-up shop fitness event, Free People appears to have caught on to the fact that we want to see real dancers dancing and not models mimicking an art that actually takes years of blood, sweat, and hard work to master.

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Dance News
via @maddygraham_ on Instagram

In the new film Antarctica: The First Dance, Madeleine Graham literally dances at the edge of the world. And while the footage of the Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer twirling and arabesque-ing her way across giant ice sheets is stunning, Graham braved the southernmost continent's frigid cold for a more important cause: to raise awareness about Antarctica's climate change crisis.

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

All the dancers in my level auditioned for a prestigious summer intensive—but I'm the only one who got in. Now everything is incredibly awkward at the studio. I'm really excited about the program, but I don't want to make my friends feel bad. What can I do?

Danielle

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Dancer to Dancer
Oregon Ballet Theatre's Jacquline Straughan (with Brian Simcoe) showing off her beautiful epaulment in Swan Lake (photo by Jingzi, courtesy Oregon Ballet Theatre)

It's in Odette's gracefully arched neck, the Lilac Fairy's regal bearing, even a contemporary dancer's extreme lines. The "it" in question? Épaulement—the nuanced positioning of the head, shoulders, and neck. Using your épaulement (which translates, literally, as "shouldering") does more than make your dancing prettier: It makes it better, richer, and more artistic. But achieving effortless épaulement is easier said than done, especially since technique classes tend to focus on the legs and feet.

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Dancer to Dancer
Screenshot via YouTube

Let's be real—as much as we love dance, there are days where the pain and discouragement that come from perfecting our craft can make us question why we do what we do. Well, five principal dancers of the Czech National Ballet got on our level and revealed that pain and pressure are as much a part of the process of dance as joy.

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Dancer to Dancer
Robbins (center) rehearsing West Side Story (photo by Friedman Abeles, courtesy Dance Magazine Archives)

Dancer and choreographer Jerome Robbins was undeniably one of the most important figures in American dance—and he would have been 100 years old this year. In honor of Robbins' centenary, here are a few things you should know about the legend.

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Dance News
Boylston in the Red Sparrow trailer (via YouTube)

The much-anticipated ballet thriller Red Sparrow hits movie theaters today, March 2. The film tells the story of a fierce Russian ballerina, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who's recruited by the Sparrow School, a secret Russian intelligence service that trains young people to use their bodies and minds as weapons. Expect lots of suspense, but also lots of dreamy dance scenes, thanks to Lawrence's dance double, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston; Lawrence's dance partner, Sergei Polunin; and choreography by New York City Ballet's Justin Peck.

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Dancer to Dancer
Ballet class at USC Kaufman (photo by Ema Peter, courtesy Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at University of Southern California)

Stefanie Roper didn't take her first ballet class until she was 20. Despite her obvious facility, she encountered plenty of naysayers. "I remember one teacher telling me, 'Honey, you're just too old,' " she says. And she did have to overcome obstacles as she entered the ballet bubble. "People talked about how good my feet were, and I didn't understand what they meant for the first four months," Roper remembers, laughing. But she found a mentor at Utah Valley University, where she was a student, and persevered. Now, six years later, Roper's professional resumé includes a stint with BHdos, Ballet Hispanico's second company.

It seems like most professional ballet dancers started taking ballet classes before they were born, especially the women. For those who didn't discover ballet until after elementary school, it can feel impossible to catch up to dyed-in-the-wool students. But it's not. Late starters face plenty of hurdles, but good facility and hard work will take you far—even if it isn't into the ranks of a ballet company.

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