Melissa Hough in Bruce's "Rooster" (Amitava Sarkar)
1. “Leave your ego at the door.” Remembering that phrase reminds me to listen and keep an open mind in class and rehearsal, which makes every experience more interesting and positive.
2. “Push from the back leg.” When I do, my dancing looks lighter and I’m better able to eat up the stage.
3. “Change is natural and inevitable, so enjoy the moment for what it is.” This helps me appreciate the good things in my life—roles, partners, relationships.
4. “Sometimes you just have to get mad at it!” I’ve danced some extremely hard roles, and getting angry at them helps kick me into high gear onstage. I need to get mad to dance the role of Red in Jirˇí Kylián’s Forgotten Land and Myrtha in Giselle.
5. “Don’t expect it to happen—make it happen.” This advice is especially helpful when it comes to actively applying corrections in my everyday work.
6. “Working with your natural rotation will save your hips and strengthen your turnout.” I have torn labral tissue in my hips, which means I can no longer force my turnout—at all. But my strength has improved since I’ve stopped pushing my natural limits.
7. “Take the good. Leave the bad.” It’s important to form opinions about what you like or dislike. When I watch other dancers, I think about what they’re doing that I can to take into my next rehearsal or performance.
8. “It’s all in the music. Just listen to it.” Music is the major driving force behind my dancing. Sometimes the only thing I need to remember onstage is to listen.
9. “Do what you’ve gotta do.” At the end of the day, it’s my body, my career, my life and my responsibility to do everything to the best of my ability.
10. “It’s okay to fall down, but then you’ve got to get up, look sickening and make them eat it.” A little gem from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”!
Last night, DS assistant/fashion editor Michael Anne Bailey and I got all decked out —I wore jeans, actually, but she was decked out and looked super cute — to attend the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Destiny Rising show at The Joyce Theater in NYC.
In honor of NYCDAF's first anniversary, last night's show boasted a star-studded roundup of choreographers and performers, many of whom are New York City Dance Alliance faculty and alumni (including New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild and Houston Ballet's Melissa Hough and Garrett Smith).
The people watching in the audience was, as with any NYCDA event, spectacular. But the real action happened onstage, and Michael and I are here to recap all the fun for you...
Alison: OK, so last night we went to the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Destiny Rising show at The Joyce. How would you describe the night in one word?
Michael: Progress. The foundation is really taking groundbreaking steps that will help young dancers get the training and education they need to be successful — not just in their 20s, but for the rest of their lives.
Alison: Totally. One of my favorite parts of the night was actually the video they played recapping some of the amazing scholarship opportunities NYCDAF has presented to dancers since its inception.
Michael: I loved that, too! I actually got emotional watching it — I know the scholarships will change lives. We talk about the importance of formal education in DS all the time, but to hear Susan Jaffe speak about how a lack of education initially held her back after an extremely successful dance career, really brought the issue home.
Alison: Yes! I love that she admitted that. And we got to hear from Corey Snide, who was the first-ever Astaire Award scholarship recipient. He's a freshman at The Juilliard School now, and he's flourishing there, thanks to NYCDAF.
Michael: Let's talk about the dancing. Did you have a favorite number?
Alison: Catherine Hurlin! I have always loved watching Catherine, and last night she performed a variation from Flames of Paris. She was just so sweet and easy to watch. That girl is a star, and I'm so glad she's getting awesome training at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre.
Michael: She was my husband's favorite! He kept talking about her performance all the way home
Alison: Here's the thing: There were a ton of contemporary numbers last night. Lots of instrumental music. When Catherine came out in her bright-white tutu and flashed that giant smile of hers, it was just fun. It was a nice change of pace.
Michael: I couldn't agree more. I was blown away by Melissa Hough and Garrett Smith from Houston Ballet. And when I realized that Garrett had choreographed the piece, I couldn't believe it! Her technique, passion, and dedication to the piece were unmatched.
Alison: I absolutely agree. Melissa Hough is another one of my favorites — all of my favorite dancers right now are ballet dancers who grew up on the comp scene. Go figure.
Michael: And it's so fun to see a ballerina in bare feet every once in awhile. Melissa Hough is so versatile, which I definitely think comes from growing up on the comp scene.
Alison: Camille A. Brown's piece was fantastic, too. She's hilarious, and even my boyfriend got into her solo.
Michael: I loved loved loved Camille A. Brown's piece. I had never seen her perform and was absolutely wowed. She draws you in like a true entertainer.
Alison: What was particularly amazing about her performance was that we couldn't see her face the entire time, but she was still so expressive. Her hat was down over her eyes, but she didn't need to connect with the audience visually. Her movement spoke volumes. She's a really unique performer.
Michael: I've never seen anything like it. And I would die to see it again!
Michael: YES!!! It's so fun to see how much they've grown since attending Tisch (Ida) and Marymount Manhattan (Zoey). Zoey danced in a number with probably 30 other girls and I only watched her. Zoey has always been an outstanding performer, but now her movement quality and technique are becoming more and more flawless.
Alison: Zoey is gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. And Marymount is working for her. She's grown a ton since we saw her for the CMS. I didn't love the number Ida was in, sadly — it just wasn't my style, and I wanted the show to kick off with something a little more upbeat — but the choreography really played to Ida's strengths.
Michael: I agree. I'm a bit bored with most of the contemporary pieces I'm seeing lately. Everything is starting to look the same: the music, the choreography, the performance quality.
Alison: Absolutely. Dear choreographers: We get it. We see what you're doing. We're ready for large group jazz numbers now! Love, DS
Michael: Ha ha, just something new and innovative, please! I'm ready to be wowed again, and I know these choreographers are talented enough to do it! That said, I left last night with an even greater respect for the NYCDAF, Joe Lanteri and the dance community in general — young dancers are in good hands!
Alison: Yes, at each event Joe's passion for the arts truly comes through. He knows each NYCDA kid by name, and that blows my mind. He knows which studio they're from, what the name of their solo is and where they're thinking about going to college. He's so invested in their futures, and as an audience member, it's a total pleasure to witness.
Michael: I couldn't agree more. What a wonderful night it was.
Alison: Have I mentioned I have a huge dance crush on Joe Lanteri? No? It's clear though, right?
Michael: Ha ha, yes, Alison, we know. But I'm pretty sure it's a general Dance Spirit crush.
Alison: On that note, thank you, Joe, for a wonderful night, and thank you Michael for being a great show-seeing partner.