If you closed your eyes and pictured dance paradise, what would it look like? Maybe you'd start your morning in rehearsal with a renowned contemporary choreographer, and then work on a dance driven by computer programming, and then run to a music video audition, and end the day discussing the impact of African dance styles on American pop culture.
Guess what? That dance paradise isn't just a dream. It's the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, a young program that's already attracting some of the most talented dancers around—for good reason.
Click here to meet Alyssa Allen, Simrin Player, and Jake Tribus, three of USC's standout students.
The University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance is about to graduate its first class of dancers. We asked students Alyssa Allen, Jake Tribus, and Simrin Player to tell us about their experience at one of the best collegiate dance programs in the world.
I say this publicly and without shame: I, Margaret Fuhrer, a fully-grown woman, spent much of my weekend watching Justin Bieber's "Purpose: The Movement" dance movie on repeat.
Look: I've had my ups and downs with Bieber over the years. We all have. He knows it. But you have to respect this insanely ambitious, insanely dance-y, insanely GOOD new project, which dropped Saturday. Leave it to Bieber to both over-promise and over-deliver on a premise that sounded iffy when it was first announced (dance videos for all 13 of the new album's tracks? Okaaaay) and now just seems brilliant (13 AMAZING DANCE VIDEOS AHHHHHH).
This isn't just a love letter to the Biebs, though. The person we should really be most in awe of right now is Parris Goebel, the genius 24-year-old choreographer who directed the whole thing. In addition to choreographing many of the tracks herself, Goebel pulled in an unbelievable number of dance stars to perform in and create for the various videos. There's a spirit of generosity to the project—she not only wants to show what she can do, but also what the people she admires can do.
Nobody disappoints. And much as we loved the cotton-candy happiness of "Sorry," "Purpose: The Movement" isn't all unicorns and rainbows. Several of the videos are genuinely dark—and genuinely moving.
November cover stars Keone and Mari Madrid create a gently heartbreaking portrait of one-sided love in "Love Yourself":
A fantastic cast of dancers, including our friend Janelle Ginestra, depict a searingly tragic love triangle in "The Feeling":
And that's not even the half of it. ("Sorry" fans, for example, will be happy to know that the lovely ladies of ReQuest and The Royal Family make appearances in several videos.) Check out the full dance movie here.
Also, THANK YOU, Bieber and Goebel, for crediting every single one of the choreographers and dancers featured in the videos. Note to the music industry: Let's make that a habit.
Headspins are one of the ultimate b-boy and b-girl tricks, and seem to defy the laws of physics. But since dancers don't usually find themselves balancing on top of their skulls, achieving a headspin can feel pretty unattainable. To better understand the best approaches for this advanced move, we asked Alex Welch (aka B-Girl Shorty) and Simrin Player (aka B-Girl Simi) to give us some tips.
Forget Choreographer's Carnival—let's give it up for Shoe Carnival!
The shoe mega-retailer is the latest brand to jump head-first into the very smart and hugely entertaining "let's feature dancers in our commercials" venture. (See also Microsoft, Target, Under Armour, Microsoft again and Virgin America.)
The national television commercial, choreographed by Jamal Sims and directed by Tim Milgram, features just a few of our favorite hip-hoppers, including former DS cover girl Simrin Player, "So You Think You Can Dance" champion and All-Star Fik-Shun, Kaelynn Harris, Taylor Edgin, Josh Killacky, Richard "Lil Swagg" Curtis, Austin Spacy, BJ Das, Kaity Martinez and Marvin Ryan.
Fancy feet grooving in fresh footwear? Going back to school never looked so fun! Check it out.
...gooey cinnamon buns for breakfast, a giant mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top and a roaring fire in the fireplace.
OK, and a few other things. We'll get to those in a sec.
First: Merry Christmas, everyone, from all of the Dance Spirit editors!
It's arguably the most festive day of the year, and if you're a Christmas celebrator, we hope you're in the midst of a very merry day. (Pajamas mandatory all day long. Deal? Deal.)
But you don't have to celebrate Christmas in order to make a lengthy wish list, right? Here's what the Dance Spirit editors are dying for this year...
Sophia's shoes are from Steve Madden. Get 'em while you still can! (Photo by Erin Baiano)
"Sparkly wedge high-tops, like the ones Sophia Lucia is wearing on our January cover. As a fellow shorty, I understand her need for a little extra height—even when it's a sneaker day." —Rachel Zar, managing editor
"I want another live musical on TV! How about Singin' in the Rain? Ryan Steele in the Gene Kelly role? Cloud Campos in Donald O'Connor's part? Somebody get Rob Ashford on this, stat!" —Margaret Fuhrer, associate editor
"I want to go to a taping of 'So You Think You Can Dance' during Season 11 so I can scream 'judges' in a Cat Deeley-esque British accent. That, and a pair of harem pants so I can feel like less of a bunhead in hip-hop class." —Maggie McNamara, assistant editor
"In a perfect world, stores would play Nutcracker music all year long—and the rest of the world would love it as much as I would." —Meggie Hermanson, fashion editor
Simi! Let's be twinsies. (Photo by Erin Baiano)
As always, I've got quite the list of my own going: I want Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring something—anything—to Broadway ASAP. I want to go shopping with Simrin Player. I want to put an end to "Dance Moms" and in its place create a TV show about all the great things that happen in the competitive dance world. I want Juliet Doherty to take home the top prize at the Prix de Lausanne. I want Nick Lazzarini to be the next President of the United States. I want newlyweds tWitch and Allison Holker to have, like, millions of little dancer babies. And I want to grow just one more inch so I can be tall enough to audition for the Radio City Rockettes.
Get busy, Santa—you've got some serious work to do for us this year.
The energy was insane at the photo shoot for this month's cover story, featuring seven b-girls who represent the next generation of hip hop. Each girl demonstrated her unique personality, both on and off camera. And while most of the time, it was all about fierce, hard-hitting hip hop, they let their silly sides slip through every once in a while. Get an insider's look at all the fun with this exclusive behind-the-scenes video. Then check out our Facebook page for fun outtakes from the shoot.
Did you love Alison's #FlashbackFriday post last week? Yeah, me too. And her video of little 10-year-old Simrin Player—before she became our cover star (at the ripe old age of 15)—reminded me of another mini-Simi video.
Three years ago, Simi was a featured dancer in Justin Bieber's "Somebody to Love" video. While she didn't get a whole lot of screen time in the finished product, based on this behind-the-scenes footage, it sure looks like she and Justin had fun messing around on set:
Sometimes, you have every intention of participating in #throwbackthursday, but then things get busy, deadlines pile up and the next thing you know, you're online shopping for a second pair of zebra-print workout pants...and the online holiday has passed.
Fortunately, there's always #flashbackfriday to fall back on. And just like "fetch," this is something I hope actually catches on.
So in the spirit of throwing back, flashing back and remembering all the good times, here are a few of my favorite dance videos that just never get old...
Britney Spears, "(You Drive Me) Crazy"
Baby, I was sooooo into this. It's got that somethin'...what can I do? See what I did there? Watching this brings me so much joy. The choreography was way fun and I definitely spent hours trying to learn it in my living room and in the dance studio with my friends. All I needed was that shiny green crop top and a cameo by Melissa Joan Hart. (I had the crimped hair going for me, so don't worry about that.)
'NSYNC, Live at the 2000 MTV VMAs
Before JT was JT, he was a member of the best boy band ever. And these dudes could move. The best part of this performance, in my ever-so-humble opinion, was when they danced behind the giant TV screens. Classic. Also the massive dance party at the end. I wanted to go to that dance party.
In the Heights at the 2008 Tony Awards
In the Heights is my favorite musical of all time. The show's creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is my idol. I saw this show on Broadway four times, and each time I cried the entire time, both out of sheer joy and out of sadness, because the second act was sad before it got happy again. Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography for this show was perfect, the cast was off-the-charts amazing and the music makes for a perfect running soundtrack. This show was perfect. (Bring it back, Broadway. Bring it back.)
Simrin Player, "My New Philosophy"
Four years ago, little Simi did a sweet musical theater solo at competition. Now, she's on the cover of our November issue. (Click here to read about Simrin and the six other rising stars we've dubbed "Hip Hop's Next Generation.")
And for something that's not-so-throwback, here's the latest from the Forever Queen of Pop, Ms. Britney Spears. She released a new music video this week, and while I personally don't think it's her best-ever work (She seems a little late on some of the choreography, right? And the baggy pants look just isn't my favorite, sorry, Brit.), I'm a big fan of dancing in the desert. Aren't we all?
Now get to work!
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Simrin Player has danced for Shakira, Miley Cyrus, Willow Smith and Justin Bieber. She’s performed on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Oprah Show” and at the Nickelodeon “Kids’ Choice Awards.” She’s even danced at the White House. Oh yeah, and she’s 12.
This pint-sized powerhouse began dancing when she was 3. Soon after, her family moved from Salt Lake City, UT, to Phoenix, AZ, where she expanded her training. Today, Simrin—Simi to friends—attends the Arizona School for the Arts, where she takes a full academic course load along with ballet, piano and choir. She spends most evenings in dance classes at various Phoenix-area studios, studying everything from pointe to contemporary to hip hop, though breakdancing is her favorite style. “I love the way you get to express yourself,” she says. “And I love the music—the music is the best for dancing.”
Simrin landed her first professional job when an assistant to hip-hop choreographer Hi-Hat spotted her at an NYC breakdancing competition. Hi-Hat invited the then-8-year-old to L.A. to audition for a spot dancing with Missy Elliot at the 2007 VH1 “Hip Hop Honors.” When she found out that she had booked the job, Simrin did what any young girl would do: she screamed. “I was so excited,” she says.
Since then, Simrin’s career has taken off. She frequently travels to L.A. for auditions, and although she’s often the youngest dancer at a call, she doesn’t get nervous. “I keep myself calm and focused by stretching,” she says. (She was nervous, however, when she performed at the White House Easter Egg Roll and met President Barack Obama. “When I shook his hand, I was shaking,” she says.)
In addition to performing with big-name pop stars, Simrin spent a season on the Nick Jr. musical sitcom “The Fresh Beat Band” and appeared in Step Up 3D. She’s also a familiar face on the competition scene. She was named Junior BreakOut Artist at the 2010 NUVO Nationals, and was a PULSE Protégé. But the pinnacle so far has been a month-long tour through the UK performing with Justin Bieber and Willow Smith.
So what’s left for Simrin, who’s already built an enviable resumé? “I want to become a better dancer, actor and singer,” she says. “I want to inspire people.”
Birthday: September 20, 1998 (She turns 13 this month!)
Favorite food: “I love Italian food.”
Favorite movies: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. “When I was at the ‘Kids’ Choice Awards,’ I was so focused on Snoop Dogg, I didn’t even notice Jim Carrey was there!”
Most played on her iPod: Mary J. Blige