Photo by Joe Toreno

It was fall 2016. Gianna Reisen—then 17 and in her final year at the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet's official training school—had just been made the offer of a lifetime: the chance to choreograph a work for the company's fall gala. She would be the youngest person ever to do so.

Two weeks later, Reisen went from an all-time high to an all-time low: She found out she wouldn't be getting an apprenticeship with NYCB. "I absolutely deflated," she remembers. "Imagine if, after seven years of working towards something, it simply doesn't happen. It's sort of heartbreaking."

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Cover Story
Photo by Cooper Bilington

For dancers, stretching is one of those things that fall into the "second-nature" category—at some point each day, you'll likely be found in a split, a straddle, or with your leg up on the barre. But stretching incorrectly can cause some serious problems. Dance Spirit turned to athletic trainer and acupuncturist Megan Richardson, who's on staff at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, for advice on how to safely execute three common dancer stretches.

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Fitness
NYCB dancers Peter Walker (left) and Jonathan Fahoury performing Kyle Abraham's "The Runaway," with costumes by Giles Deacon (photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy NYCB)

Autumn in the Big Apple means one thing: New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala. Since its inception in 2012 by Sarah Jessica Parker, the gala has produced dozens of new ballets, complete with original costumes designed by the fashion industry's biggest names. Ahead of this year's gala—which takes place September 26th and features new works by Lauren Lovette and Edwaard Liang, with costumes designed by Zac Posen and Anna Sui—NYCB joined forces with INTERSECT by Lexus on an exhibition showcasing the many stunning gala costumes from years past. Dance Spirit met up with Marc Happel, NYCB's Director of Costumes, to talk about the retrospective, the biggest lessons he's learned over the years, and the designers he'd love to work with in the future.

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Dance and Fashion
Photo by Collette Mruk, courtesy Alison Stroming

When Alison Stroming was a 15-year-old student at American Ballet Theatre's Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis School, she had a chance encounter at the water fountain with none other than Misty Copeland. "I was grabbing a drink, and when I turned around, Misty greeted me with a 'Hey girl!' My mouth just dropped," remembers Stroming. Copeland ended up taking Stroming under her wing, helping the young dancer carve out her place within the cutthroat dance world. "To this day, I turn to her for advice," Stroming says. "She's more than a mentor—she's become a big sister and a friend."

This relationship with Copeland inspired Stroming to launch AS Mentorship, a new program that allows Stroming to build relationships with 15 handpicked dance students over the course of a year. We caught up with Stroming to talk about the importance of a program like this, how she selects her dancers, and how dancers can find mentors of their own.

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Erin Baiano

From the moment we saw Darriel Johnakin flash a million-watt smile while nailing a textbook tilt at her Cover Model Search photo shoot this spring, we knew she'd go far in the dance world. Now, having crossed "Dance Spirit Cover Model Search winner" off her bucket list, Darriel's back to doing what she does best: logging long hours in the studio, polishing her technique, applying her teachers' corrections, and trying to be a little bit better than she was yesterday.

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Cover Story
Getty Images

Each September, as throngs of models and designers descend upon the Big Apple for New York Fashion Week, we at Dance Spirit wait with bated breath for the inevitable fashion/dance collabs to pop up in our Insta feeds. And while the fashion industry has a long, sometimes complicated, sometimes amazing, history with the dance world, it's done nothing but wow us as of late. Case in point? 21-year-old model/dancer extraordinaire Alton Mason's star turn at the Tommy Hilfiger x Zendaya show Sunday night (which took place at the historic Apollo Theater, no less).

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Dance and Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

If there's one thing every dancer is always working on, it's her pirouette. It's no secret that this skill takes years of honing and practice. But in addition to solid technique, perfect pirouettes require a lot of strength. We turned to Roman Zhurbin, soloist with American Ballet Theatre and owner of Roman Empire Fitness, for a breakdown of the best ways to strengthen the muscles used in a pirouette.

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Fitness Tutorials

All photos Anna Marchisello and Jacob Patrick (courtesy Stacey Tookey)

Deep in the hills just outside Calgary, Alberta, Camp Kindle sits unassumingly, nestled in a forest clearing. With rustic cabins, a glassy lake, sprawling lawns, and a giant ropes course, the scene looks like the set of an old-school movie about summer camp- which is why it's so surprising to learn that, for one week each August, some of the competition circuit's most gifted dancers arrive there en masse for Stacey Tookey's Camp Protégé.

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Erin Baiano

When it comes to injury-prone body parts, knees reign supreme for dancers. But a little strengthening can go a long way in preventing painful outcomes. We turned to Dirk Hartog, a physical therapist with Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, for three exercises that'll support and stabilize your knees.

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Fitness
Getty Images

Dancers are naturally "in their heads" all the time—but not always in productive ways. Long days of receiving and applying corrections, taking class, and performing can get to even the most composed individuals. What should you do when you feel like your mind is just as busy as your rehearsal schedule? Try meditation. Dance Spirit turned to Adreanna Limbach, a head teacher at NYC-based meditation studio MNDFL, for a breakdown of this highly beneficial practice.

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Mind
Photo by Erin Baiano

Click here to vote for Darriel.

There are a million and one ways to describe the versatile Darriel Johnakin, but "rare breed" is a good place to start. In fact, it's the first phrase Marie-Louise Gaschler, artistic director of Miami Dance Collective, uses to characterize her longtime student. "Darriel reminds me of how dancers used to train back in the day," Gaschler says. "She never misses a class, gives it her all, inspires the entire room, and somehow manages to stay humble and eager for corrections."

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Cover Model Search
YouTuber Michelle Khare (second from left), with Alison Stroming (second from right), looking none too shabby at her final recital (screenshot via YouTube)

What do we love more than a video about ballet? A video about ballet done rightlike YouTuber Michelle Khare's chronicle of her 6-week deep dive into the world of professional ballet.

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Dance Videos
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Chances are, you're regrettably familiar with those unpleasant pre-period symptoms known as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. PMS is a sign of a healthy, functioning body, but it's still frustrating to deal with every month—especially during long Nationals rehearsals or summer intensive classes. Dance Spirit turned to Dr. Lauren Streicher, a gynecologist and clinical professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, for advice on all things PMS.

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Body Buzz
We're not worthy 😭 (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

We're officially declaring April the month of Beyoncé. Not only did she gift us the greatness that is her Homecoming documentary, but she followed it up with the #BeforeILetGoChallenge, the newest viral dance craze to sweep the world wide web.

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Dance Videos
Ballet West principal Beckanne Sisk as Kitri (Luke Isley, courtesy Ballet West)

Guess who's baaaaack?! Your resident Dance Spirit astrologers! And on the eve of the Youth America Grand Prix awards ceremony, we thought it was the perfect time to pair each zodiac sign with a variation commonly seen during the competition. After many painstaking hours spent researching, consulting the stars, and staring wistfully into the sky, we compiled our data and present you with the definitive list of each star sign as a YAGP variation! As we said last time, don't @ us if you're not happy with your pairing—the stars don't lie, baby!

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Dancer to Dancer

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