Travel Journal

Hi, DS readers! In an effort to get you even more fun and up-to-date dance news, we’re adding a few guest bloggers to the site! Julie Diana, a Principal with Pennsylvania Ballet, will be writing to you every-other Wednesday to let you know what's new in her life and in the dance world. To read up on Julie and learn more about her extensive list of credentials, check out the Pennsylvania Ballet website.


I feel so fortunate to do what I do! This profession allows me to travel all over the world, to experience other cultures, and to work in places that I would otherwise never see.

In the whirlwind of these travels, I’ve managed to jot down some notes about different theaters…I hope you find them as interesting as I did!

Paris Opera House

The theater reeked of elegance and history. Stagehands and dressers smoked in the wings, in the hallways, on the stairs. Enormous oil paintings lined the walls and evoked the spirits of great, dead artists. The windows in each dressing room, almost as tall as the twenty-foot ceilings, let in the smell of fresh baked baguettes and the sounds of passing double-decker tour buses.

The stage was raked at a perilous angle, but I felt no fear. I was just happy to be there.

Beijing National Theater

A thick layer of grey dirt covered the entire stage and backstage area. I didn’t want to touch anything, let alone roll around in the grime. No soap, no toilet paper, and no toilets; the uninviting bathrooms offered just a few tiny holes in the ground. One bathroom also hosted a smoky gambling ring – Chinese men, hiding from authorities, set up a folding table and chairs on the grungy floor and played cards throughout the entire day.

The size of the stage mirrored the city’s major streets with its sense of monitored expansiveness – uniformed men stood off to the side and watched our every move. 

Halfway through my set of thirty-two fouette turns, my left knee buckled and I was catapulted about six feet toward the wings. There must have been a sniper in the balcony. 

Reykjavik, Iceland

That particular week of performances, the sun refused to set. We emerged from the theater at around midnight, exhausted and hungry, only to put on our sunglasses and walk the deserted streets back to the hotel. I couldn’t sleep well on that tour – sleeping pills and eye pillows proved to be no match for twenty-four hour daylight. With our ballet company of snoozing swans and cranky cavaliers, I’m glad that the Icelandic critics had little basis for comparison.  

Edinburgh, Scotland

Everything about the space was tiny: narrow hallways with dipped ceilings, squat staircases, minimal lighting. The area felt so cramped and claustrophobic that I couldn’t wait to get onstage and breathe. 

The best thing about the theater was the coffee shop just outside the stage door. I salivated over their fresh bagels served with a maple oatmeal cream cheese spread. The place where J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter, it held more appeal than the mini theater across the alley. 

Tarragona, Spain

Carved into ancient rock, the theater felt like it could’ve alternated as a museum of natural history. Recessed lighting illuminated the cavernous house and the acoustics were unlike anything I’d ever heard. Tickets oversold, so they set up folding chairs in another part of the theater and showed a live broadcast of the performance. We had to exit through a discreet side door after the show, avoiding an unrealistic crowd desperate for autographs. We felt like rock stars.

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Click here to vote for Emma.

There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "

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