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In January 2001, Dance Magazine published our first “25 to Watch.” From the recommendations of our esteemed writers, we chose 25 “dancers, choreographers, troupes, and trends we’ll be watching in 2001 and years to come.” Now, 10 years later, we’ve turned the tables on a select group of those we’ve singled out over the years. We’ve asked 25 former “25 to Watch” artists to pass the torch. Choosing from peers and colleagues to those they admire from afar, our “watchers” were faced with quite a challenge. Did this new process bring more subjectivity than usual? Definitely. Some hyperbole? Perhaps. But along with any bias comes a glimpse of the artistry, work ethic, and magic that happens beyond the stage. Here are 25 artists to watch in 2011, championed by 25 Dance Magazine favorites.
Corps de ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Chosen by PNB principal Carla Körbes, a 2006 “25 to Watch”
The first thing I noticed is how light Jerome can be. It's like he has air underneath him. You can see every position while he's still in the air. He has the perfect lines, he's very clean in his technique, and his presence is very prince-like. The way he holds himself is very classical, very calm. He’s so beautiful, like a little movie star. I would love to see him do Swan Lake.
He's at the age where he’s about to figure out who he is as a dancer and discover his full potential. He had a great season last year—he got to do Franz in Coppélia and he just ate it up. He had the right spirit for it and did a great job. I'm excited to see how he's going to grow. I think Jerome has potential to create magic onstage.
See Jerome in PNB’s upcoming home season, beginning with Cinderella in February.
Artist, Sacramento Ballet
Chosen by choreographer Amy Seiwert, a 2005 “25 to Watch”
The first time I saw Roberto dance was in Smuin Ballet’s Christmas Ballet in 1999 when he was 11. He was performing a tap dance that has a battle between him and this girl, and suddenly he dropped to fourth and did 11 pirouettes. I was floored!
When I choreographed a piece last year for Sacramento Ballet, I cast him as the central figure. He was phenomenal. He had transformed from this insanely talented prodigy to an artist who was hungry to do more.
He pushes himself so far, never holding back, but also never throwing movement out there without intelligence behind it. He’s not the kind of dancer who says, “Well, I did what you told me to do so now I’m done.” He’s always trying to get it to another level, do it better each time. It’s amazing watching him move past the tricks and turns. And he’s still growing.
I’ve always wanted to create a L’Histoire du Soldat, but the dancer I originally had envisioned for the Soldier left for Germany years ago. Without him, my interest in the project waned—until lately. It would be perfect for Roberto. I would love to create it for him.
See Roberto in Sacramento Ballet’s upcoming home season, beginning with Romeo & Juliet in February.
Corps de ballet, Boston Ballet
Chosen by Boston Ballet principal, Misa Kuranaga
I’ve known Isaac since he was 16. He grew up in Boston and he went to Citydance which is Boston Ballet’s outreach program. I was in the company and he was in the school. Even in school, he was shining. He has this special aura about him. When I look at his dancing, I don’t feel like I’m looking at technique, I feel like I’m looking at artwork. He just makes things look really easy.
He has a really, really big jump. He works very hard; he comes to class every day and prepares before class. But it’s how he presents himself onstage—it really comes from inside of him. It’s not like he’s thinking about it. He was born with it. His father is a photographer—I think that’s how he gets this artistry. Some people just have that energy onstage that makes people go really crazy.
I would love to see him do Romeo, because Romeo is sensitive and boyish. This is only his second year in the company and he’s definitely going to be one to watch.
See Isaac in BB’s upcoming home season, beginning with the company’s Jorma Elo program in March.
Corps de ballet, Miami City Ballet
Chosen by former MCB principal soloist and So You Think You Can Dance contestant Alex Wong, a 2010 “25 to Watch”
His biggest first role was the Green Boy in Dances at a Gathering by Jerome Robbins. He was 17 then. This was actually really early last season, and I remember him being like, “I can’t do this. I don’t know why they’re giving me this.” I was like, “No, you really can do it.” I remember him practicing over and over again, and he wasn’t really ready in his partnering. And he ended up doing it really, really well.
I think he’ll become one of the main dancers. He’s so versatile that they can put him into anything. He’s got a classical line and he’s got great features, so when you watch him you’re like, Oh wow, that’s a prince. He’s very regal. And then when you see him do something more contemporary, more modern, he’s got that spunk as well—he’s got that quick movement, that fire.
He’s a young, growing talent and it’s a gift to be able to see that.
See Renan perform with Miami City Ballet in Florida this month.
Corps de ballet, American Ballet Theatre
Chosen by ABT principal Gillian Murphy, a 2002 “25 to Watch”
Leann is on the verge of a brilliant career at ABT. She has all of the technical elements: turning, jumping, extension. But she moves beyond that. She’s very musical and extremely versatile. She’s capable of greatness whether it’s allegro or lyrical in classical ballet, and also in modern works. Last season she seemed right at home in a principal role in Twyla Tharp’s Brahms-Haydn Variations, and she has also done exemplary performances of the third shade variation in La Bayadère. With each new opportunity she’s growing in her individuality, she’s expressing her artistry more and more, and looking stunning in all sorts of different roles.
She also exhibits a warmth of spirit both on and off the stage. She’s very disciplined, professional and just a pleasure to be around. She exudes respect for her colleagues, which is definitely reciprocated. Her grace under pressure is exceptional. It has made her shine in great roles at a very young age.
See Leann perform with American Ballet Theatre in Washington D.C. this month, in London in February, and in New York beginning in May.
Artist, Ballet West
Chosen by choreographer Helen Pickett, a 2007 “25 to Watch”
My first experience with Whitney was in the fall of 2009, when I went to Ballet West to start making my new ballet, But Never Doubt I Love, based on Shakespeare plays, which premiered last spring. She was a part of the process from the very beginning. Whitney is a risk taker and she had a brightness in her eyes. I could tell she was curious and ready to be in that room and be a part of something new.
She has a beautifully honed technique, a dynamic attack in her lower body, and a keen sense of épaulement in her upper body. She’s got a huge jump, she can pull off multiple pirouettes, and has sky high extensions. And she has a really good base that can take her in classical and contemporary ballet directions. All of that works in tandem with her magnetic stage presence. She lights up onstage.
See Whitney in Ballet West’s upcoming home season, beginning with The Sleeping Beauty in February.
Leading artist, Milwaukee Ballet
Chosen by San Francisco Ballet principal Tiit Helimets, a 2007 “25 to Watch”
Julianne is intelligent and beautiful with strong technique. She is always going to give 100 percent. She’s had a very solid career.
Val Caniparoli created this suite, a ballet called “A Doll's House” for SFB’s 75th anniversary season on me and Julianne. I saw such a beautiful artist bloom and show me an incredible depth of character. It was unbelievable.
I reworked the Sylvia pas de deux for a gala in Estonia, and I chose to create it on Julianne. I threw any kind of technique I could think of at her, and she never said, “No I can't do it.” She said, “I’ll try it.” She was so polite about it and so wonderful. We created such hard pas de deux; I don't think any woman would want to do it except Julianne. If you want to see a true artist, see Julianne.
See Julianne in Milwaukee Ballet’s upcoming home season, including in Coppélia in May.
Brittany is a chameleon: She morphs to fit any choreography right before your eyes. I’ve seen her debuts in all kinds of works, from Balanchine and Robbins classics to more contemporary pieces, and it always looks like she’s danced them before. When she did the soloist part in Scotch Symphony—a very difficult role—she looked like an old pro, with a beaming grin on her face. She’s an honest performer, too; you can see who she is when she dances.
Brittany did a lot of competitions growing up, and I think that performing experience helped her immensely. She’s already a fully-formed performer—she’s comfortable up there. You can teach technique, but you can’t teach that kind of presence.
Of course, she’s also beautiful technically. She has a wonderful facility. Feet and legs? Check and check. She attacks everything, she turns well, she knows how to move across the floor. And she’s a smart dancer. She does her homework. The bigger the challenge, the more she prepares, the more she studies the role.
Brittany is a part of this new super-versatile generation of dancers that’s going to push the dance envelope, to keep the classics looking good but also bring out the new choreography and kill it. She represents the future.
See Brittany perform with NYCB at the David H. Koch Theater this month.
First artist, Royal Ballet
Chosen by choreographer Wayne McGregor, a 2001 “25 to Watch”
Melissa is proving to be a bold, intelligent, and dynamic dancer in both the Royal Ballet repertoire and in new creations. Hyper-mobile, fluid, with an elegant sense of line, she devours movement easily and on stage has a magical, untouchable presence. She is fantastic in new creations and choreographers seem always to want to create with her in the studio. She is a refreshing muse. We worked on Infra together and she was simply incredible with Eric Underwood. Rehearsals were a real pleasure—invigorating, inspiring and fun. Equally, she interprets the repertory roles in a questioning and individual way.
Melissa relishes any challenge placed in front of her; as she grows in experience, she excels on stage. All of this is down to her extraordinary concentration and focus. The time she spends on nurturing her own talent and motivating herself to improve is a lesson to us all in not taking our gifts for granted.
Melissa is someone to watch in 2011, 2012, 2013 and beyond. She has been in the original cast for my last four creations at the Royal and recently, brilliantly danced Chroma for the first time. I think its safe to say we will see her again in a McGregor ballet.
See Melissa perform in The Royal Ballet’s upcoming season, including a new Wayne McGregor work in May.
Corps de ballet, Houston Ballet
Chosen by HB principal Melody Herrera, 2007 “25 to Watch”
Allison is the best mix: a strong technician with a very graceful and elegant quality. She has pure and strong technique, but there’s also something so feminine and delicate about her dancing—it’s enchanting to watch. When we did Balanchine’s Ballo della Regina, the second she came out, it was like she was flying across the stage.
But on top of that, she’s got such an awesome personality and attitude; she’s just so joyous. She brings lightness to the atmosphere at work, which can sometimes be a hard and competitive environment. Ali has such an easy laugh; it just makes you feel warm.
Now she’s getting more and more recognition. I enjoy watching her every day, and that can only translate onto the stage and to an audience’s perspective.
See Allison in HB’s upcoming home season, beginning with Marie in February.
Chosen by American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes, a 2001 “25 to Watch”
I’ve known Adam since the Houston Ballet summer program in 1996, before I went out to France and he went off to Juilliard. He has a lot to offer to the dance world. I love and respect his choreography. He’s inspired by Kylián and by Nacho Duato, but he has made it into his own vocabulary, I spent a little time with him in Brazil and we choreographed my solo, Small Steps, together. It never felt like work; we went to the studio whenever we wanted. The amazing thing was how we collaborated together, yet he kept the integrity of his choreography. His work may be something abstract, but it has a sense of feeling, emotions behind it. He's a young choreographer, but he has that sensibility that you don't often find from other young choreographers.
See Cincinnati Ballet perform the premiere of Adam’s The Firebird in March, and Louisville Ballet perform his Rite of Spring in April.
Director, Whim W'Him and principal, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Chosen by PNB principal Kaori Nakamura, a 2001 “25 to Watch”
When I first worked with Olivier, we were in Canada with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and he created a pas de deux for himself and me. He was already using really unique movement and costumes. He mixes classical with contemporary, and his new ballets are always different. For 3Seasons, his costume idea was to use recycled shopping bags, hundreds of plastic bags. It was set in the baroque period, but using bags. I was like, “I've never seen this!”
Working with Olivier is wonderful. He's always listening to music, asking me, “How about this?” His brain is always creating, always thinking about new things. He never gets tense, he's always relaxed. We’re like a family. He knows each dancer's personality and what each dancer can do well, so he picks every good thing from each of us. He knows exactly what he wants and when you get it once, it feels great. He just started his company in January 2009. We worked so hard and everybody was tired, but the shows went really well. It was sold out! I hope in the future there will be more shows, maybe touring, maybe a full-time company.
See Whim W’Him perform Jan. 14–16 at The Intiman Theater in Seattle and Jan. 27–30 at On the Boards for The A.W.A.R.D. Show.
Director, Post:Ballet and dancer, Company C Contemporary Ballet
Chosen by Ballet Arizona dancer Natalia Magnicaballi, 2005 “25 to Watch”
When I met Robert in Phoenix—we joined Ballet Arizona the same season—he was starting his professional career. I pretty much saw him grow up in front of my eyes. I saw him improving his body, his technique, and being hungry for new movements and ideas. I’ve always admired his discipline and determination to overcome very tough situations in his life. He constantly challenges himself as a dancer and choreographer.
Robert does everything from his heart. He wants to reach audiences through all their senses. He’s a very musical and visual person—he likes to collaborate with new composers and visual artists.
Robert has always been a very positive, fearless person. He has no boundaries. He’s a fighter, always looking forward and trying to be better.
As a dancer and as a choreographer with his Post:Ballet, he just keeps surprising audiences.
See Robert’s new work in process at “Sneak Peek” in the spring and the final work at Post:Ballet’s “Seconds” this summer.
Dancer, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Chosen by AAADT dancer Jamar Roberts, a 2007 “25 to Watch”
I remember him being this little, scrawny kid in The Ailey School. I mean, just like a pencil. He also did Ailey II, and I saw him perform a solo called Takademe by Robert Battle. It was just so astonishing because he has this really big facility and really wide range of movement in his limbs and extensions. To do a solo that was so quick and contained and be able to control his length—I thought it was brilliant.
In Festa Barocca by Mauro Bigonzetti, he does a duet with one of the women. A lot of times the men are overshadowed by the women, but there’s a moment when the guy does a small solo, and at that moment, I was like, “Wow—this kid could really be something.”
We perform this all men’s piece called The Hunt, also by Robert Battle. You really need the energy of all the other guys on stage in order to get through that piece, and I remember seeing him across from me, flailing because there’s a moment when we improv. And he was just really going for it. I was like, “Wow, that’s what I need. Let’s go, let’s finish this.” It’s a really good energy to feed off. He’s just completely determined.
See Yannick perform with Ailey on tour starting in February.
Dancer, Keigwin + Company and nathantrice/RITUALS
Chosen by K+C director Larry Keigwin, a 2004 “25 to Watch”
Everybody who sees Ryoji has a dance crush on him! There are dancers who are technically proficient, but this guy is born to move. He does spectacular things with what looks like no effort—it’s not Fred Astaire’s type of movement at all, but it has that same ease. Watching him is like watching water: Everything is seamless and velvety. In a room full of great dancers, the eye goes right to him.
Ryoji has never once had a complaint in the studio. He is endlessly generous with his time and his energy, and so gracious in the way he handles the rehearsal process. He’s very much a team player and somehow figures out the steps before they’re even given. On top of it all he has a quiet, wonderful sense of humor.
He is always making dance doodles—he’s always moving—and is endlessly curious about movement. He’s extremely inventive, which as a choreographer I appreciate. He’s always choreographing for me, to tell the truth! And he’s just started to make his own work, too, which is fantastic. He’s a special little creature, and he’s ready to explode.
See Ryoji perform with Keigwin + Company Jan. 19–22 in PA and in March in NYC.
Dancer, Akram Khan Company
Chosen by director Akram Khan, a 2002 “25 to Watch”
I went to Beirut to look for dancers. There’s something very, very spiritual in his way of moving and how he relates to music and movement. And it’s very rare that you see that in dancers. His energy always travels upwards. For Vertical Road, I wanted the body to express spirituality and to express a story somehow without words or text. That’s why I chose him. He had something that I felt was needed to kind of infiltrate all and share with the other dancers.
His background is hip hop and breakdancing and contemporary dance is something he’s done quite recently. He’s really a beautiful dancer and good improviser, but it’s been challenging for him. It’s also challenging for me to find ways to guide him, to have a crash course in a completely different way of relating to choreography. There’s a lot of unison so that was kind of a big thing for him, but he’s done remarkably well. The other dancers are wonderful with him. They’ve really exchanged ways of moving and he does it naturally.
See Ahmed perform Vertical Road in the Netherlands and Belgium this month.
Dancer, Faye Driscoll Dance Group
Chosen by director Faye Driscoll, a 2008 “25 to Watch”
Nikki is constantly surprising me. In the three years I've known her, she's risen to every challenge. My process is very rigorous. You can't just be like, “Oh I've got the choreography, now I can relax.” I'm always pushing it for new layers. She’s someone who really loves the investigation, who shows up for often painful creative processes with an open mind and a sense of humor and a craving for growth and challenge.
Her movement quality? Very clear. Strong. Layered. Aggressive. Hilarious. Grounded. Fierce. She can embody the complexity of character but at the same time nail very difficult, virtuosic movement, which is an exciting combination. She had a 10-minute solo in my 2008 piece 837 Venice Boulevard in which you could see all of these things. She morphs between different characters, states of mind, genders, doing crazy-hard movement. She really shined in it.
I know she's excited about opening up to more projects, and I think it'd be interesting to do something much subtler with her. There's a universe to be explored. She’s a keeper.
See Nikki performing with Faye Driscoll Dance Group at the Fusebox Festival in Austin in April and at The Joyce in New York in June.
Dancer, Gallim Dance and Sidra Bell Dance New York
Chosen by Benoit Swan-Pouffer, director of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, a 2008 “25 to Watch”
I'm fascinated by Troy. She has a presence that's a rarity; she commands the stage. She's very feminine, but at the same time she's very grounded and raw. She has a very strong energy, an amazing physicality and musicality as well. She's young and she's a hard worker. She has this uncommon beauty, eyes that are very piercing.
She was stunning in Sidra Bell’s Beautiful Beast/The Other Face. She made you look at her. For five minutes she was making faces at the audience and provoking the audience. To do that it could be very hokey and wrong, but she's right.
She's an incredible artist. She really has something special. If she's in it, I'll go see it—that's how interested I am in her dancing.
See Troy perform with Gallim Dance at Dance Theater Workshop in New York this month.
Chosen by NY2Dance director Nejla Y. Yatkin, a 2005 “25 to Watch”
Emily Schoen is a beautiful redhead that can adapt roles from one character to another. I first met her in spring of 2009 when she auditioned for my company NY2Dance. I chose her for the Berlin Wall Project because I needed dancers that were physical and raw but also refined and had many textures in their dancing.
The first couple of months of the rehearsal process she was holding back. Then we had a residency in Berlin and we were working on the film The Wall as well as the concert piece Wallstories. which we premiered in New York this fall. During that process a shift happened in Emily and she came into her own—one day in class, all I could see was Emily. She transformed into this bundle of energy. She became this powerful female warrior with attitude and hunger for life. It was breathtaking. Since that time she has been featured in many works of mine and she surprises me again and again. She is comfortable in her own skin. Her physicality and maturity and sensitivity are really interesting to watch, not only in my movement but also in her own.
See Emily perform with NY2Dance on tour in Honduras in March and at home in Washington D.C. in the fall.
Choreographer and dancer, Limón Dance Company
Chosen by Hubbard Street 2 director and HSDC artistic associate Taryn Kaschock Russell, a 2003 “25 to Watch”
I found Jonathan’s intelligence intriguing from the start. From the second he stepped in the studio to create his piece after winning Hubbard Street 2’s National Choreographic Competition he was just working. And there was something incredible about watching the changes that were happening inside of his mind and then how he would translate them. He’s very— I really wish I had a different word besides “confident.” But he just has an incredible vision, a strength of vision, but with an open mind.
You can just tell when someone has that kind of inspiration where there are things they have to create because they are inside of them and need to come out. Jonathan is like that. I was joking that my son is always watching The Jungle Book and Jonathan was like, “I remember choreographing to the elephant scene in The Jungle Book in my living room when I was 4.” And I have no doubt that he actually was, in his living room, creating a piece. It just seems like that kind of drive has always been there—that he has always been interested in finding his vision realized on stage.
Now, I don’t know if it’s the chicken or the egg, what happened first, but I think people are noticing something that was already happening inside of him. I think he’s right at that catching-fire point.
See Jonathan’s latest work for the Limón Company at its home season in June.
Chosen by Fang-Yi Sheu, a 2005 “25 to Watch”
When Huang Yi is performing his incredible flow of movement through space fascinates me. The way he floats is like his body blends into the air. He has a very special way of learning and choreographing. He is a very quiet person—quietly observing, quietly learning, and quietly choreographing. He makes dance through different lens and media, like with a video camera, projector, and LED lighting. Huang Yi is also a videographer and he uses that in his dance making. He will film some sections of dance, and then work on the time, rhythm, and spatial features of that dance phrase. Through the camera, we see different angles of dance. He then re-adapts the new changes back onto the live performance. Nevertheless, he knows that technology is but a tool, and dancing is expressed through the body, so how to present the performance quality of each dance composition is something he continues to work on.
In his dance making, he creates questions, ponders over them, and solves them. He’s creative, constantly learning and improving, and then he continues onto the next cycle of making dances. You can never guess his next card!
See Huang Yi’s newest work Symphony Project – I. Violin in March at Cloud Gate 2’s annual “Sprint Riot” program in Taiwan.
Chosen by choreographer Noémie Lafrance, a 2004 “25 to Watch”
Luciana is doing something that has an edge, but it’s also very clean, concise, together. I feel like her work, while experimental, is also accessible. You could see it if you hadn't been exposed to dance and still be moved. It has a touch of being universal.
She’s also very strong as a performer. She’s powerful without being arrogant; her power is very pure. She’s a very down-to-earth human being—generous and natural.
Her last show, PURO DESEO, really brings you on a journey. It takes a little while to evolve. You hear this humming, this singing, and she's going into this very repetitive back-and-forth. But you feel as though the room is starting to get haunted. There's some kind of shamanic quality; the air is getting a little bit thicker. When artists are able to do that, they transcend the space with what they are doing.
I'm curious to see what she does next. I don't know what else she's reserving, but she definitely has more intriguing work up her sleeve.
See Luciana Achugar perform at the Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Arts Center in New York this month.
Alexandria “Brinae Ali” Bradley
Dancer and co-director of the Tapology Dance Festival for Youth
Chosen by Roxane Butterfly, a 2002 “25 to Watch”
On National Tap Day in 2000 at NYC’s Town Hall, a young troupe of hoofers from Flint, MI, blew my mind the same way Baby Laurence did when I first saw him dance on video. Their piece was choreographed and also performed by Ali Bradley. During her solo, I caught Harold Nicholas in the audience with the most mesmerized face.
In the middle of a rehearsal, as we worked on a gnawa rhythm, she asked to remove her tap-shoes and began the most beautiful African dance solo, reaching out to that state of trance so hard to find within our four-walled dance studios and theaters. It was beyond the sound of jazz or tap, beyond African dance.
Ali's artistry is about pure expression. She is the perfect balance between fierceness and control, fragility and power, humility and exuberance. And in that, I find again the great spirit of my bebop mentors.
See Ali at Flint’s annual Tapology Summer Tap Intensive in August and at the Tapology Dance Festival for Youth in October, both of which she helps manage, direct, and choreograph.
Freelance dancer and faculty member, JUMP Dance Convention
Chosen by former “In The Heights” performer and “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant William Wingfield, a 2010 “25 to Watch”
I met Teddy through Mia Michaels. He’s one of the most incredible dancers and human beings I’ve met. He has a very sweet energy—you just feel comfortable around him. When you watch him dance, you want to move with him. You don’t even realize you’re doing it; it just happens. He takes the music by the horns and rides it until the wheels fall off. He’s such a great mover, how he transitions from one movement to the next feels like that’s the way it should’ve been done. Like a cut in a movie, you don’t want to notice the cuts—you want to be carried along in the story. Teddy does that in his dancing. Watch him on YouTube doing his thing. You can tell that he absolutely loves to dance. It’s impossible for the world not to know his name at the rate that he’s going.
See Teddy performing on awards shows such as the Academy Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards and on JUMP’s national tour.
Co-choreographer, Peepshow and dance captain, Catch Me If You Can
Chosen by choreographer Jerry Mitchell, a 2003 “25 to Watch”
Nick is a really gifted choreographer. What I like most about him is he understands the storytelling of theatricality, yet he’s got all the contemporary moves that I so rarely see in a Broadway show. He was a big, big, big component of putting Peepshow together for me in Las Vegas. And he’s a brilliant dancer. He’s extremely sexy, extremely masculine.
I find it’s very hard for young choreographers because the work in film and in video is usually done by the editor, not the choreographer. Nick understands that onstage, the frame is chosen by the choreographer, and so what I have helped him do and understand is to get that story clear.
Nick is on that precipice of being discovered as somebody who can do it all. He’s got the vocabulary, he’s got the brain, and he’s got the patience because he’s not a kid. So his work ethic, his craft that he’s created is really becoming very specific.
See Nick perform in Catch Me If You Can, scheduled to open on Broadway in previews in March.