It's pretty much undeniable that today's social-media-obsessed culture expects you to build your brand online—even as you're still building your skills in the studio. The positives of gaining exposure as a student are obvious, and posting your dance accomplishments may feel natural if you're already personally prolific on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook.
For contemporary dancer Jaxon Willard, having over 57,000 followers on Instagram comes with the territory of being a top contestant on "World of Dance" last season. The 17-year-old American Fork, UT, native watched as tons of fans flooded his account after his first national TV appearance—people around the world connected with Jaxon's emotional and super-vulnerable performance expressing his feelings about being adopted. But what's it really like to become an Instagram sensation overnight? And how is Jaxon's life different now? Here, he tells his social media story. —Courtney Bowers
For 14-year-old Rose*, who trains at a prestigious ballet academy, social media is a double-edged sword. "I value it because I can keep in contact with people I meet at intensives," she says, "and it's also cool to follow dancers I look up to, who inspire me when I have down days." But on the flip side, "there's constant comparison," Rose says. "A friend might post a video of herself, and when I see it, I worry—am I improving enough? There's so much talent out there, it's easy to view yourself unfavorably."
If social media is giving you anxiety, it's time to take a step back and reassess. That doesn't necessarily mean going off the grid—though in extreme cases, logging out completely might be the answer. Here's how to keep your social media experience from taking a toll on your mental health.
Scrolling your feeds endlessly can have a serious impact on your posture and alignment. "Since 2008 or so, I've seen a lot of heads and shoulders hunched forward," says Kim Fielding, a former dancer who created a Pilates class specifically to counteract the effects of technology. "Some dancers will overcompensate for this, leading to splayed rib cages and too much curvature in the lower spine."
Medical pros are now calling this set of symptoms "tech neck" or "text neck," and they can ultimately lead to neck herniations, rotator cuff injuries, and even foot and ankle problems. Here's how to keep your tech from hurting your technique.
Is there anything better than a killer dance photoshoot? OF COURSE NOT! Whether you're taking headshots, model shots, or simply images that'll slay on Instagram, dance photography makes the world a prettier place.
To make sure your next dance photoshoot is as 🔥 as you are, we asked photographer Kenneth Edwards for his dos and don'ts. Follow his advice and your dance photography future will be as bright as your "golden hour" lighting.
There are so many amazing street styles that, despite requiring tons of training to master, are still dismissed by concert dancers as being non-technical or simply not difficult. That's why a new competition hosted by the social media site Clapit is so cool: It puts street dance styles front and center, and celebrates the amazing talent and dedication required for dancehall, waacking, b-boying and more.
Omari and Shea, two vogue dancers from the House of Mizrahi, have launched a competition called "Dancing for the Streets," in which street-style performers can upload a video of themselves dancing for a chance to win a trip to NYC, a day in the studio with the two pros and a dance reel shoot.
If you've always wanted to see more street styles featured on "So You Think You Can Dance," or see b-boying break free from "America's Best Dance Crew," now's your chance to put your own unique style and talent out there!
Spring is nearly here! Get ready for longer days, pretty flowers—and pollen. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, roughly 35 million Americans suffer from pollen allergies. But how can you be sure you're dealing with allergies, and not the common cold? This chart from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) can help you recognize the difference.
(Photo by Igor Mozjes/Thinkstock)
Colds usually last less than two weeks, whereas allergies can last anywhere from days to months, depending upon the length of exposure to allergens.
How to deal? Whether you have a cold or allergies, the NIAID recommends antihistamines for itchy eyes and sneezing, and decongestants for sinus swelling and discomfort. If your symptoms indicate allergies, nasal steroids and immunotherapy (allergy shots) can further reduce symptoms, and allergy testing can help you pinpoint which allergens to avoid.
(Photo by Antonio Guillem/Thinkstock)
FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out," is the feeling that our friends might be having better experiences than we are. Thanks to social media, we're constantly distracted from our own lives by the possibility that something more interesting may be happening.
If you find yourself checking your phone during every rehearsal break instead of chatting with your dance buds, you could be letting FOMO rule your life. Take an online test at ratemyfomo.com, recently developed by researchers at the University of Essex, to get your FOMO in check.
(Photo by Anton Maltse/Thinkstock)
Did You Know?
Getting morning sunlight can help us fall asleep at night. Research suggests that the blue light in morning sunlight helps regulate when our bodies naturally wake up and fall asleep. As soon as we're exposed to it, our bodies begin a gradual, day-long process that eventually helps us fall asleep. The bottom line? Get some morning sunlight when you can. Your body will thank you for it later!
(Photo by Roman Gorielov/Thinkstock)
Are your sunglasses really protecting your eyes? Check the label for phrases like “99–100 percent UV absorbent" or “UV 400" to be sure they block most UV rays.
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Imagine posting on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and getting thousands of “likes” and dozens of comments—in minutes. For Sophia Lucia, Hayden Hopkins, Mia Diaz and Ashi Ross, that’s what using social media is like every day. These four dancers have become internet sensations, thanks to their exceptional technique, winning personalities and eagerness to interact with their fans online. But is being “internet famous” really all it’s cracked up to be? Dance Spirit spoke to Sophia, Hayden, Mia and Ashi to get the scoop.
Mia (David Hofmann)
The biggest benefit to online fame is definitely visibility. Having a devoted fan base and lots of easily accessible photos and videos online can lead to an array of opportunities, including professional jobs.
“People can Google my name and learn all about me,” says 12-year-old Mia, a Miami native who trains at Stars Dance Studio. At press time, Mia had more than 312,200 followers on Instagram, 29,900 followers on Twitter and 6,400 Facebook fans. “I’ve gotten job opportunities when people found me online and emailed to see if I was available—film and TV auditions, assisting jobs with choreographers, appearances at charity events.”
Similarly, 11-year-old Sophia got the opportunity to perform on “So You Think You Can Dance Ukraine” after being spotted on YouTube. An alum of “Dance Moms” who trains primarily at San Diego Dance Centre, Sophia also uses her social media following—more than 433,800 Instagram followers, 54,800 Twitter followers and 58,900 Facebook fans—as a platform to promote her touring appearances and her California Kisses clothing line.
Ashi (Primal Studios)
For 14-year-old Ashi, an Australian who has appeared in professional productions of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, on the TV show “Dance Academy” and as a backup dancer on “Australia’s Got Talent,” social media fame has led to photo shoot opportunities, a Details Dancewear Australia sponsorship and an offer to attend International Ballet of Houston on scholarship next summer. Ashi currently has more than 148,600 followers on Instagram, 2,300 followers on Twitter and 6,100 Facebook fans.
Social media is also a great place to network with fellow dancers. Sixteen-year-old Hayden learned the power of her network firsthand when she won Dance Spirit’s annual Cover Model Search in 2013 after using social media to get the word out about the competition. But beyond her CMS win and the other perks from her online fame—including dancewear sponsorships and teaching and travel opportunities—Hayden genuinely enjoys using social media as a social outlet. “I love that social media has allowed me to meet so many other dancers,” says Hayden, who has more than 99,600 Instagram followers, 8,600 Twitter followers and 11,900 Facebook fans. “People will come up to me at conventions and introduce themselves, which is really cool.”
If the upside to putting yourself out there online is increased visibility, the downside is…increased visibility. Sharing pictures, videos and thoughts with thousands of people inevitably leads to a few negative responses. “People can be cruel,” Hayden acknowledges. “They’ll write things they’d never say to my face—comments about my body, about my costumes and about me.” How does she deal? “I try not to let it mean anything. Those people don’t actually know me.”
Sophia and Maddie Ziegler of "Dance Moms"
“Kids can hide behind a computer screen and bully others, and it makes me sad,” Sophia says. “When people do that on my photos, it hurts, and it makes my family hurt, too. I tell myself, Haters are gonna hate, and you have to deal with it—but I also want to prevent more bullying from happening.” To do her part, Sophia has started using her social media accounts to speak out against cyber-bullying.
“When you’re in the public eye, you have to have a thick skin,” Mia says. “If there are rude comments on my pages, I delete them. I’d rather focus on the positive than on the negative.” Ashi agrees: “Sometimes people are mean and critical, but if I see a bad comment, I just delete it. If someone continuously writes rude things, I block him or her. What keeps me inspired and motivated is that I have so many followers who are supportive.”
Mia and her mom
The Bottom Line
It may be fun to be an internet celebrity, but it also takes work. Hayden, Sophia, Ashi and Mia all share new photos, videos and written posts at least once a day, every day. They do their social media postings themselves, or with a little help from their moms—especially Sophia and Mia, who, because they’re under 13, are required by the social networks to have parent-supervised accounts.
They have to consider what fans want to see and be thoughtful about how much of their private lives they share. “Some pictures don’t make the cut to go online,” Mia says. “You have to be careful about what you post because you don’t know who’s out there looking at it.” Sophia is vigilant about not sharing pictures with bad technique—“If my foot isn’t pointed, someone will comment on it,” she says—while Hayden tries not to post pictures where she looks too thin, also to avoid negative feedback.
Sophia and her duo partner, Gino
What gets the most “likes”? Dance pictures and videos are at the top of the list, but fans also want to see life outside the studio. “I share a lot of things going on in my life,” Sophia says. “Pictures of my family, my dogs, me hanging out with my friends—I’m a normal girl, and people like to see that.”
Interacting with fans is a big part of the job. Mia, Sophia, Hayden and Ashi take the time to reply to comments and share fan-made videos and images with the rest of their followers. They run contests, too. “I’ve done contests on Instagram to give away California Kisses outfits and autographed pictures,” Sophia says. “For my birthday, we asked fans to make an edit of me, and I picked my favorite to win a prize.” And, of course, there are the face-to-face interactions, from meeting followers casually at dance conventions (or while out shopping, which has happened to Ashi) to running workshops, appearing at events and video-chatting with fans.
Ashi and her dad
In the end, Sophia, Hayden, Mia and Ashi aren’t on social media to be famous—they’re on it because they enjoy it. “I love seeing other dancers’ pictures and sharing my own,” Hayden says.
Sophia agrees: “It’s fun to interact with my fans and my friends online, and it’s great to have a way both to give back—like trying to stop cyber-bullying—and to inspire other dancers to go for what they want in life,” she says. Mia also sees social media as a way to reach out: “I want to be known as a positive role model,” she says.
“I never thought I’d get as many followers as I have now,” Ashi says. “I’m really grateful for everyone who follows me.”
FROM SELFIE TO SUPERSTAR
No one starts out with 100,000 social media followers—and very few people make it that far. So how did these four dancers become online sensations? While dedicated posting and quality content are important, it also takes a little luck to stand out from the crowd.
“I started my Instagram when I was 14,” Hayden says. “At the time, I already had dance videos on YouTube and had maxed out my friends on Facebook, so Instagram was another way for people to follow me.” She did a lot of in-person networking at conventions that year, meeting as many other dancers as she could. “I won a couple Nationals and started putting dance pictures online. I gained followers pretty quickly!”
Ashi’s turning point came when she reached 10,000 followers. That was when Instagram started featuring her on its “Popular” page, putting her in front of even more avid dance fans. Her numbers went through the roof, bringing her to almost 140,000 followers for her year-old account.
TV helped launch Sophia into the internet stratosphere. “I was so happy to hit 10,000 followers in October 2012,” she says. “Then I did ‘Dance Moms,’ and my numbers just blew up.” More media appearances—including a performance on “Dancing with the Stars” in May 2013 following her Guinness World Record–breaking 55 pirouettes in March 2013—helped her online popularity continue to grow.
When Mia launched her Instagram account, she was already very popular on YouTube. After she won first overall Junior lyrical solo at Hall of Fame’s Boca Raton regionals in 2011, the competition posted a video of her winning routine, “Ave Maria,” on its site. The same video was shared on YouTube, where it became wildly successful and led to more videos and more fans. Joining Instagram was a natural next step, and it only took Mia a year to get to 100,000 followers.
Build your own online community by posting with some of social media’s most popular “theme day” hashtags:
Share songs you love with your followers.
Post a photo of yourself rocking your best side tilt! (Just be sure to wear a tasteful outfit with this wide-legged pose.)
Ballerinas unite to share gorgeous tutu pictures on this theme day—so add yours.
#WayBackWednesday, #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday
For these days, pull out pictures from an old recital or the first time you wore pointe shoes.
For bookworms, here’s when you can tell your friends and fans about the best dance book (or Dance Spirit article!) you read recently.