All photos Anna Marchisello and Jacob Patrick (courtesy Stacey Tookey)
Deep in the hills just outside Calgary, Alberta, Camp Kindle sits unassumingly, nestled in a forest clearing. With rustic cabins, a glassy lake, sprawling lawns, and a giant ropes course, the scene looks like the set of an old-school movie about summer camp- which is why it's so surprising to learn that, for one week each August, some of the competition circuit's most gifted dancers arrive there en masse for Stacey Tookey's Camp Protégé.
It's an increasingly common scenario: A talented dancer wins big at a competition, is offered an assistantship with a famous faculty member, and ends up leaving her hometown studio to travel with a convention. Convention-hopping has obvious benefits. Every event generates new content for dancers to post on social media, gives them a better shot at ending up on their favorite choreographers' accounts, lets them learn from the best of the best, and helps them make valuable connections. "Traveling is a great way for dancers to gain admirers around the country," says Jen Jarnot, owner of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Thornton, CO. "That's something every dancer craves." So it's no surprise that weekend FOMO has been blazing through studios like wildfire.
But is this jet-setter lifestyle really the most effective road to take? Can weekends of dancing with top talent truly replace the bread and butter of daily work at your home studio? The answer, according to most industry experts, is no. We asked five pros to explain why.
Luke Barrett's been a standout on the comp scene for years now, thanks to his crystal-clear technique and soulful improv skills. He's a two-time New York City Dance Alliance National Male Outstanding Dancer (Mini in 2016 and Junior in 2018), 2nd runner-up at The Dance Awards (2017), and Beat Squad member (2018). Luke hasn't let negative comments and bullying at school weaken his passion for dance: "Support from my family and my dance friends has made me stronger in pursuing what I love," he says.
All your practice and prep for a competition leads up to the moment when you hit your final mark and look up at the judges' table. But do you ever wonder what their experience is like? Follow along with Dana Wilson—a dancer, choreographer, member of The Seaweed Sisters trio, and faculty member/judge for New York City Dance Alliance—on a typical day of teaching, judging, and doing a fair bit of juggling.
Earlier this month, 16-year-old Mackenzie Brown took home the first prize at the 2019 Prix de Lausanne. Not only was the Stafford, Virginia-native the only American to place in the finals; she also won the Contemporary Dance Prize and the Audience Favorite Prize. A student at the Académie Princesse Grace in Monaco, Brown's path to the Prix was anything but smooth: The determined young dancer fought against injuries that threatened to keep her on the sidelines.
We caught up with Brown, currently taking a few weeks to recover at home with her family in Virginia, to hear all about her experience at the Prix de Lausanne.
When Adrienne Gregorek was 14, she injured her hamstring and was sent to physical therapy. "I was super frustrated," she remembers. "I went to a clinic where there were mostly older people being treated and felt like the staff didn't understand the needs of a dancer. When they were re-testing me at the end, they said, 'You're good,' even though I really wasn't where I needed to be for optimal strength and flexibility."
For many dancers looking for their next step beyond the stage, a career that continues to connect them to the art is a no-brainer. In Gregorek's case, her interest in the human body, coupled with her passion for dance, led her to a career in physical therapy and landed her a job at Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, where she treats dancers, including members of New York City Ballet and students at the School of American Ballet.
When we asked what her proudest accomplishment so far is, Kiarra Waidelich paused for a moment. That's because she has so many to choose from: In the past two years, Kiarra's earned Mini and Junior Female Best Dancer at The Dance Awards, snagged Youth America Grand Prix's Hope Award, and made it to the divisional finals on Season 2 of "World of Dance." Equally gifted in ballet ("I love the mental and physical challenge") and contemporary, it's the latter that made Kiarra realize dance was her passion. "If something bad or stressful happens in my day, I use contemporary as a way to express and release what I'm feeling," she says. "Dance is a way for me to emote and let things go."
To say it's been a great few weeks for dance movies is an understatement—we found out mere days ago that "Driven to Dance," starring Juliet Doherty, was streaming on Netflix. And now, in what can only be described as the single best way to start the weekend, "I Dream of Dance" is streaming on Netflix.
Yesterday's episode was the all-important final step before the live TV episodes begin. Last Monday night, Vanessa, Mary, and Nigel cut half of the remaining ladies after seeing them perform a duet outside their style with a male All-Star. And last night, it was (finally!) the men's turn. Here's what went down.
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Are you a high school senior who's been accepted to a four-year accredited college or university program? Congrats! Within the 2017-2018 season, have you competed in events run by at least two of the organizations in the above graphic? Double congrats, because the Association of Dance Conventions and Competitions, or ADCC for short, wants to give you $1,000 (!!) towards college tuition.
Competition award ceremonies represent the culmination of months of preparation. It's no wonder dancers feel the pressure! But the truth is, most of us won't come away with the grand prize. How do you prepare yourself for the results, whatever they may be? DS spoke with teachers and comp judges on how to cope at different stages of the competition—and to use any disappointment to your advantage.
Dance Spirit is beyond excited to announce the first round of 2017 Future Star winners! Every year, DS partners with competitions to recognize dancers with exceptional presence and ability. The second round of winners will be featured in our January issue, so stay tuned!
Whether you've just started on the circuit or you're already the proud owner of several medals, dance competitions can be nerve-wracking. How can you make the most of the experience? Three former comp kids who've gone on to find major success in their careers shared their top tips.
For more on choosing whether to compete or not, click here.
I started dance classes at a young age. By the time I was 3, I was training at The Dance Club, and I grew up there. I started with the basics—ballet and jazz—and eventually added tap, tumbling, contemporary, and hip hop.
Early on, I did compete. I remember my first time: I did a trio at a small local competition, and it got first place. The trophy was as tall as I was, and I loved it. I attended conventions as a mini, and had the opportunity to take classes from Travis Wall, Sonya Tayeh, Andy Pellick, and Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh. There was so much variety—I was in awe.