Who Run the World? Beyoncé's Girls!
A year from now, many people won't be able to tell you who played in that important football game on February 3, 2013. They won't remember the first downs, the second downs or the touchdowns. What will they remember? Beyoncé, who absolutely threw down for her much-anticipated Super Bowl halftime show performance.
For 13 minutes that Sunday night, the superstar celebrated her greatest hits, bringing the roaring crowd at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans—plus 108 million home viewers—into Beyoncé nation. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers may have come to play at the 2013 Super Bowl, but Beyoncé was the night's true victor.
That groundbreaking performance was all about girl power. Beyoncé and her team of more than 100 “single ladies" plowed their way into the stadium and showed the world that women can be sexy and classy at the same time—not to mention showstoppingly talented. And for eight of those lucky women, performing at the big game was the beginning of something even bigger: the sold-out, nearly 50-city The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour with Queen Bey herself.
Kimmie Gipson (photo by Erin Baiano)
“Dance for You"
When hundreds of dancers showed up in NYC, L.A., Atlanta and Chicago to audition for a spot on the Super Bowl stage, they were actually trying out for a much longer gig as well. “This year's tour audition process was the Super Bowl," says longtime Beyoncé choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. “We saw 800 girls and once we got down to 100, we paid close attention to who was professional and magical. Beyoncé was very clear on who to pick for the tour—she means business. She's hands-on and she wants her dancers to shine like stars."
In the weeks leading up to the tour's April 15 kickoff in Serbia, the dancers were in rehearsals daily, typically beginning at 9 am and lasting “until…" says Kimmie Gipson, who has been dancing with Beyoncé since her 2009 I Am…World Tour. Gatson and fellow choreographers JaQuel Knight and Chris Grant led the rehearsals; most days Beyoncé joined the dancers as well. “The whole rehearsal period was a lot," says Sarah Burns, who joined the Beyoncé team in 2012. “Emotionally, physically, mentally—it was very stressful." During rehearsals, the eight dancers were required to wear all black, and if Beyoncé was in the room, they also had to wear heels.
For Ashley Everett—one of the original “Single Ladies"—the rehearsal demands are no longer shocking, but that doesn't mean the process has gotten any easier. “Don't let the hair flips, heels and booty shaking confuse you," she says. “Beyoncé's choreography is very diverse—we do it all." Ashley has been Beyoncé's dance captain since 2009. “I have to know all the choreography, counts and timing," she says. “I pay attention to every detail."
Of course, attention to detail can be difficult when you're learning choreography alongside the queen of pop. “The first time I met Beyoncé was the day after I auditioned for her tour in 2009," says Kimmie. “She came in bright and early to rehearse 'Naughty Girl' with us. Everybody stood so far away from her, giving her so much space. She looked at us like, 'Guys, I don't bite!' That day I began to see her work ethic firsthand. She was right there with us trying to get the steps."
Ashley Everett (photo by Erin Baiano)
With so few female dancers accompanying Beyoncé onstage during this tour, it was crucial that the casting team pick eight girls perfectly suited for the job. Of course they had to be talented, and of course they had to be able to master that branded “Single Ladies" ring-finger point and Beyoncé stomp-walk-strut. But The Mrs. Carter Show women come from a wide variety of backgrounds. There's Ashley, the master of all styles who trained at The Juilliard School, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, the School of American Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem School and American Ballet Theatre and then went on to become a Radio City Rockette. There's Hajiba Fahmy from Paris, who boasts a contemporary dance background as a former member of Jean-Claude Gallotta's company. And there's Kimmie, who worked at McDonald's (“It taught me how to remain calm in stressful situations," she says) before going on to join the Philadelphia 76ers dance team. The Beyoncé “camp," as the dancers call the group, hails from California, Australia and everywhere in between.
What brings the multifaceted group together is the carefully crafted choreography. A total of seven choreographers worked on The Mrs. Carter Show tour, but Gatson, Knight and Grant handle the bulk of the work. “We show Beyoncé at least four versions of each song," Gatson says. “She wants options to choose from because she's done all kinds of dance, from ballet to tap." (When Gatson and Knight were choreographing “Single Ladies [Put A Ring On It]," they spent three weeks on the choreography and created 10 versions of the number.) In the end, Beyoncé makes the final decision about what she likes or dislikes. “She wants to have fun dancing onstage for two hours, so she has to love all of it. She wants to do everything the correct way—the best way. She doesn't want watered-down choreography," Gatson says. “She has such respect for dance. And she will do almost anything as long as she remains a lady. She has class with everything she does, even a booty shake. She knows technique will keep your movement classy. When you mix ballet with street movement, you get the Beyoncé brand. We call it country fried chicken with hot sauce."
“Once in a Lifetime"
When rehearsals are done and it's time for the show to hit the road, the work really begins. It can be a tough adjustment for the dancers. “You're in and out of hotels and airports," says Kimmie, who takes her zebra-print Snuggie on tour with her so she has “something familiar" on the road. “The hardest thing about tour life for me is the lack of rest," Ashley says. “Aside from doing the show five times a week, I want to sightsee, teach, shop, go out, eat and experience the world. We do all that and then perform and jump on a tour bus to drive all night to the next city—and we keep doing it over and over again. It can be draining."
Despite the sore feet, muscle aches and exhaustion, each of the eight girls makes one thing clear: This is their dream job, and it's all worth it when they're onstage in front of thousands of screaming fans. “I love those moments onstage when we make eye contact and connect with each other—the band, the audience and Beyoncé," Kimmie says. Adds Ashley: “I'm doing what I love night after night. I'm living my biggest dream."
(L to R) Amandy Fernandez, Tanesha "KSYN" Cason, Kim Gingras and Kimmie Gipson (photos by Erin Baiano)
MEET THE LADIES
Ashley Everett (Dance Captain)
24; Chico, CA
First Beyoncé job: The Beyoncé Experience tour, 2007
On being one of the original “Single Ladies":
“I get recognized, and it's so weird when I do. I'm like, 'Really? You were paying attention to me?' "
24; Paris, France
First Beyoncé job: A commercial filmed earlier this year
On the best part of working with Beyoncé: “She does everything well. Dancing, singing…she's like nobody else. You have to be a woman before you're a dancer in order to work with her. You have to know your essence."
26; Perth, Australia
First Beyoncé job: “Revel Presents: Beyoncé Live," 2012
On how she scored it: “I was living in L.A., went to an open audition and got the call from my agent that I had booked the job. Everything I've done with Beyoncé since then has been a direct booking."
25; Austin, TX
First Beyoncé job: “Revel Presents: Beyoncé Live," 2012
On rehearsals: “You have to be ready for anything at any time. There are so many elements—the band, the dancers, the stage—and you don't always have every piece of the puzzle at once. Your job is to be on your game and master your field."
First Beyoncé job: “Run the World (Girls)" music video, 2011
On getting to know Beyoncé: “I helped workshop for the 'Revel' show [Beyoncé's first performance after giving birth to baby Blue Ivy] with Beyoncé and two other dancers. It was just the four of us, so I got to do a lot of dancing with her. She's a sweetheart. She's down-to-earth and really nice."
Tanesha “KSYN" Cason
29; Bronx, NY
First Beyoncé job: The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
On her favorite Beyoncé routine: “ 'Diva.' It's the perfect blend of hood and sexy choreography with a bit of acting."
27; Montreal, Canada
First Beyoncé job: The 2013 Super Bowl halftime show
How she got the job: “When I saw Beyoncé's ad about the Super Bowl show, I said, 'This is it.' I'm a strong believer in positive thinking and visualization. I listened to her songs over and over and pictured myself with her onstage."
29; Plainfield, NJ
First Beyoncé job: I Am…World Tour, 2009
On taking the stage each night: “I anticipate the moment when the lights go out and everybody starts to yell. It sends chills all through my body and my nerves turn to excitement. We all hear it onstage, we all feel it, and then we're like, 'Let's do it.' It's so powerful."
Just in case you missed it: To highlight last Thursday's International Day of the Girl, The New York Times has launched a unique photographic and editorial project called #ThisIs18, all with the aim of spotlighting what life is really like for 18-year-old women around the world.
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are Artists AND Athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection, and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
Quinn Starner is no stranger to competitions. The 16-year-old "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" alum has been slaying the contemporary circuit for years, winning Best Teen Dancer at The Dance Awards in 2017. But lately she's been more focused on ballet, relocating from Florida to train at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory two years ago. And while she's won awards at ballet competitions like ADC|IBC and Youth America Grand Prix, in June she upped the stakes by going to the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS—an audition-only event that's one of the world's most prestigious comps. We followed Quinn on her Jackson journey.
Is there anything better than a dance convention? Frankly, we don't think so. Although we love getting a guest teacher to come to our studio for a masterclass every so often, there's just something so exciting about packing up our leotards and dance shoes and heading to a convention for the weekend. Here are 7 reasons why dance conventions are, without a doubt, the greatest things ever.
Amanda LaCount was born to move. The second the music comes on at her Dance Spirit cover shoot, the bubbly 17-year-old is shimmying her shoulders and tossing her hair. When she launches into a full-out freestyle to Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," you can't take your eyes off her.
And yet with every gig she lands, Amanda is challenging some of the dance world's longest-held biases. "I'm curvy," she says, "and I like being curvy. My body is not a bad thing. It's who I am." Here's how Amanda went from talented tot to hardworking pro—and from insecure preteen to body-positive role model.
Boston Ballet principal Ashley Ellis' dancing is the perfect pairing of ethereal grace and punchy musicality. The Torrance, CA, native began training at South Bay Ballet at age 6, and attended the School of American Ballet summer program in 1998. In 2001, she was accepted into American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, and the following year, she joined ABT's corps de ballet. In 2007, she became a founding member of Corella Ballet Castilla y León in Spain, under the direction of Angel Corella. Three years later, she headed back to the States and danced with Sarasota Ballet before joining Boston Ballet as a second soloist in 2011. In 2013, she was promoted to principal dancer. Catch her performing this season in the company's Nutcracker. —Courtney Bowers
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This story originally appeared on dancemagazine.com.
"So why did you quit?"
It's a question I've been asked hundreds of times since I stopped dancing over a decade ago. My answer has changed over the years as my own understanding of what lead me to walk away from greatest love of my life has become clearer.
"I had some injures," I would mutter nervously for the first few years. This seemed like the answer people understood most. Then it became, "I was just not very happy." Finally, as I passed into my 30s, I began telling the uncomfortable truth: "I quit dancing because of untreated depression."
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Let's take a walk down memory lane to this past September, when the #LevelUpChallenge was in full-blown viral mode. Literally thousands of videos of people dancing to Ciara's song "Level Up" flooded the Internet, but only one truly broke it: an amazing clip of the Wilson Central High School Dance Team—and their Assistant Principal, Ranesa Shipman. Never one to miss out on a viral dance challenge, Ellen DeGeneres decided to have Shipman and the team perform on "The Ellen Show"—and the fun didn't stop there.
You and your phone have more in common than you might guess, says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, pediatrician and clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. "If you charge your phone halfway, it works for a few hours," he explains. "But it's not performing at its full potential, and you have to be careful about how you use that energy."
It'd be nice to just plug into the wall for nine hours until you hit 100 percent battery, but for (human) dancers, it's not that simple. So DS asked Dr. Pelayo and Dr. Argelinda Baroni, co-director of the Child and Adolescent Sleep Program in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, how to maximize your own battery life—ensuring you'll dance better and more safely in the process.
Two dancers from different studios on opposite ends of the country meeting at a dance competition may sound like the formula for a cheesy teen-rivalry movie. But it's actually real life for lots of dancers on the comp circuit. Meet four sets of adorable BFFs who found winning friendships at a competition.
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It's safe to say that the bond between dancing siblings is one of the strongest out there. But for sisters Emma, 16, and Ava Blaser, 10, that bond runs deeper than most can even fathom: The pair continued to dance together throughout Ava's treatment for kidney cancer remission, and they say it helped them heal.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.