The Wonder Kids

Diane Walker and Jason Samuels Smith have two major things in common. First, they’re a couple of the best tap dancers around. Second, they were trained at Paul and Arlene Kennedy’s Universal Dance Designs in L.A. Now, a new class of tap prodigies is going through the school. They’re the inspiration for the documentary The Wonder Kids, which was screened in both L.A. and NYC in the fall. Narrated by Dick Van Dyke and Savion Glover (a former Kennedy student), the film spotlights all the
generations that learned to tap there.

 

To find out more, DS spoke with studio owner and UDD teacher Arlene Kennedy, plus tappers Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Joseph Wiggan.
Lauren Levinson

 

DS: Who are the Wonder Kids?
Arlene Kennedy: Tap students with special gifts, specifically younger kids [featured in the movie] who could do more complex things than the previous generation. It’s any child who has passion and goes after it. I saw it in Savion at age 11 when he watched a master tap class with a mesmerized stare.

 

DS: What did you learn from the Kennedys?
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards: They taught us to focus on the rhythm, while styling our upper bodies. What’s coming out of there is not to be messed with!

 

DS: What memories do you have of the late Paul Kennedy?
Joseph Wiggan: He expected professionalism in every class and wanted genuine expression. He comically beat it out of us by carrying a cane and tossing shoes at us to get us to focus!

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search