The cast of "The Cher Show" on Broadway (Joan Marcus, courtesy Rubenstein PR)
Welcome to the fifth annual Dance Spirit Jazz Hand Awards—aka "The Jazzies"—where we honor the most dancetastic new Broadway shows. Some are shining onstage right now, others will open in the next few months, and they're all worth a ticket. Consider this your official guide to the season's latest and greatest.
At 17, commercial standout Natalie Bebko ("Nat Bat") has already accomplished more in her career than most adults: She was an assistant choreographer for the 2016 BET Awards and has worked with tons of music greats, including Trey Songz, Flo-Rida, Sia, Mila J, and Big Sean. She trains with immaBEAST dance company and consistently breaks the internet by slaying in class videos. Catch her on Instagram, where she has a casual half a million followers, and read on for The Dirt!
It's been a crazy few years for dancer, singer, and actress Ariana DeBose. After performing in Hamilton's original cast (where she earned viral fame as The Bullet), she scored a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Disco Donna in last year's Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Now, she's set to play Anita in Steven Spielberg's remake of the iconic West Side Story movie, which starts filming this year.
DeBose's star turn is coming at a time when true triple threats have become a rarer breed on Broadway, with shows favoring dancers who dance and singers who sing. But the multifaceted DeBose has always defied categorization—and her versatility has proved to be the key to her success.
Dorrance Dance's Elizabeth Burke's dynamic technique and intricate musicality have made her a tap-scene standout. A Chapel Hill, NC, native, she trained with the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble, led by her mentor, Gene Medler. She's an alumna of The School at Jacob's Pillow and graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with bachelor's degrees in political science and communication arts. Burke appeared on a Dance Spirit cover in 2010, and has danced with Dorrance Dance since its formation in 2011. Catch her performing at the company's New York City Center run tonight through Saturday, and read on for The Dirt!
Photo by THEGINGERB3ARDMEN Photography, courtesy Gogo Public Relations and Marketing
Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Larissa Gerszke is a standout, thanks to her gorgeous lines and easy grace. An Ottawa, Canada, native, Gerszke began training at Canterbury Arts High School, and later earned her BFA from Fordham University and The Ailey School—while simultaneously working and touring with Complexions. Catch her this month and next on tour with the company throughout the country, and read on for The Dirt!
Tiler Peck in "Little Dancer" at the Kennedy Center (Matt Karas, courtesy 5th Avenue Theatre)
Remember Little Dancer, the musical starring Tiler Peck and inspired by Edgar Degas' sculpture of the same name? After a 2014 run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the creative team did some major reworking of the material, and now the show is making its West Coast premiere. The revamped production opens at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre tonight, now under the name Marie, Dancing Still.
Houston Ballet first soloist Oliver Halkowich (right) in rehearsal with Justin Peck (second from left) (Lawrence Knox, courtesy Houston Ballet)
Houston Ballet will present an exciting new program starting tonight and running through Sunday, March 24: Come In, by Aszure Barton, and Dream Time, by Jiří Kylián, both company premieres, and Reflections by phenom Justin Peck. We caught up with HB first soloist Oliver Halkowich to get the scoop on what it was like in the studio with Peck.
Camille A. Brown dancer Maleek Washington captivates audiences with his super-fluid, intricate contemporary moves and adept musicality. His exceptional technique and presence have also landed him gigs with artists including Sia and Rihanna. An NYC native, Washington grew up in the Bronx and trained at the Harlem School of the Arts, Broadway Dance Center, and LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts. He attended The Boston Conservatory on a full scholarship before accepting a job with CityDance Ensemble in Washington, DC. He's also worked with Kyle Abraham and his company Abraham.In.Motion. for four seasons, and became the first African-American male to perform in Sleep No More. Most recently, Washington performed in NBC's "Jesus Christ Superstar" live. Catch him dancing with the Camille A. Brown company this month at The Joyce Theater in NYC and at University of Arizona in Tucson—and read on for The Dirt!
Kelli O'Hara as Kate/Lilli Vanessi with the cast of the Kiss Me, Kate revival (courtesy Polk & Co.)
The classic Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate dazzled audiences when it first opened on The Great White Way in 1948. It went on to win the very first Tony Award for Best Musical, and it's seen London and NYC revivals almost every decade since. Tomorrow (Valentine's Day!), previews begin for its latest Broadway revival, this time by Roundabout Theatre Company. The high-energy romantic comedy based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew features iconic tunes, including "Too Darn Hot," "So In Love," and "Another Op'nin, Another Show," and the revival will star Broadway veteran Kelli O'Hara as Kate/Lilli Vanessi, Will Chase as Petruchio/Fred Graham, and Corbin Bleu as Lucentio/Bill Calhoun. There will also be brand-new choreography by Warren Carlyle. Dance Spirit got the inside scoop on the production from dancer Christine Cornish Smith, who will also be understudying the role of Lois Lane/Bianca.
What is it about dance shoe videos, guys? Is it just us, or does everyone else also geek out over #bts footage of shoes being made or ballerinas breaking in their pointe shoes? Asking for a friend, here...
Every January, students, parents, professionals, and lovers of dance all gather for the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's annual fundraising performance "Destiny Rising" at The Joyce Theater. And every year we fall a little bit more in love with the foundation's mission: "Investing in the next generation of professional performers by offering scholarships for secondary and college education." Since its founding in 2010, the foundation has awarded over 2.5 million dollars in scholarships. Because of the program (and its uber-generous donors), kids across the country literally get to attend college and pursue their dance dreams. What could be better than that?! Not much...
The iconic 1990s musical Rent is the latest Broadway show to get the live treatment. Airing January 27, the star-studded cast includes Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen Johnson, Jordan Fisher as Mark Cohen, Tinashe as Mimi Marquez, and "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant Valentina as Angel. Keala Settle of The Greatest Showman will also make an appearance to sing "Seasons of Love," and Sonya Tayeh will provide brand-new choreography. We caught up with ensemble dancer Khori Petinaud to get the inside scoop on the movement—and why fans of the original will be super-satisfied with this version.
Photo by Donna Ward, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
On March 30, 1958, at the 92nd Street Y in NYC, dancer Alvin Ailey and a group of African-American dancers performed onstage together for the first time. Since then, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the company Ailey formed, has become legendary in the dance world. To commemorate its 60th anniversary, Ailey has dubbed its annual City Center season "Ailey 60." From Nov. 28–Dec. 30 choreographers including Ronald K. Brown, Jessica Lang, and Rennie Harris will present premieres, alongside the works of current artistic director Robert Battle, Judith Jamison, and over two dozen pieces by Alvin Ailey himself. We asked a few of the company members to share what the anniversary means to them.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer and choreographer Hope Boykin shares the best tips she learned. (via Instagram, @hbdance)
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater recently hosted their first Choreography Unlocked Festival, where artists in the business of creating dance gathered to immerse themselves in workshops, performances, and panel discussions. Young choreographers learned tips, tricks, and all about the creative process of choreographing from Ailey's Artistic Director Robert Battle and other choreography experts, including Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.