James Whiteside (photo by Nisian Hughes, courtesy Whiteside)

The world isn't always a welcoming place for LGBTQIA+ people. But for those figuring out their sexuality, dance can provide welcome opportunities for expression. We talked to five star dancers about their experiences coming out and growing up, and how dance helped them live their full truth.

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Lucas Chilczuk

Watch Kate Harpootlian discuss her dance idols and her transition from dancer to choreographer in an exclusive interview with Dance Spirit.

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Lucas Chilczuk

With several Shaping Sound tours and TV credits like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars," and "Boardwalk Empire" to her name, you wouldn't expect Kate Harpootlian to be refreshingly down-to-earth. But that's exactly how she is: As soon as you start talking to the gifted dancer and choreographer, it becomes clear that she doesn't take herself too seriously. And she's happy to tell hilarious stories to prove it. (Ask her about the time she did a Mr. Peanut impression when Mia Michaels asked her to improvise, or the time she starred in a Japanese makeup commercial and had to do grand pliés wearing one pointe shoe and one flat shoe.)

That mixture of humor and grace is evident in Harpootlian's growing body of choreographic work. Her one-act show Better Late Than Never, for example, which premiered last summer, has a jazzy, West Side Story vibe, offsetting heavier moments with touches of whimsy. "There's always a balance in my work," Harpootlian says. "I want to use humor to balance out the darker aspects. It's like one of my friends once said: 'You make me laugh, and then you make me feel bad for laughing.' "

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Cover Story
Gaby Diaz showing off her diverse dance skills (photos by Lucas Chilczuk)

"So You Think You Can Dance" Season 12 winner (and Season 14 All Star winner!) Gaby Diaz is a dance powerhouse. She can perform at a crazy-high level in seemingly any style, from tap to jazz to contemporary to hip hop. Want to improve your own dance versatility? Diaz took a break from Shaping Sound rehearsals to give us her top 10 tips for doing so.

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Dancer to Dancer
Via @chantelaguirre on Instagram

Chantel Aguirre is a member of Shaping Sound, a newlywed, and a former Dance Spirit cover girl. And if you happen to follow her on Instagram (which you obviously do, right?), you know that the ballerina-turned-contemporary-dancer seems to permanently rock the dreamy, ethereal glow of a well-rested goddess. How does she take care of herself, even while touring the country in Shaping Sound's newest show, After the Curtain? "My overall goal every day is finding balance," Aguirre says. "I try to fuel myself with all things pure—in foods, in the people I surround myself with, and in my overall mindset." Here are 11 more ways Aguirre keeps her mind and body at peace on the road.

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Dancer to Dancer

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