Michaela DePrince is having one spectacular year. On New Year's Day, the Dutch National Ballet dancer was promoted to soloist. And yesterday, she scored a major endorsement as a face of Jockey's "Show 'Em What's Underneath" campaign. We've said it before: There's a right way and a wrong way to feature dancers in mainstream media. This campaign hits the mark by celebrating DePrince's grace, athleticism and story of hope.

If you need a refresher on her remarkable journey—from war orphan in Sierra Leone to being adopted and launching her ballet career—check out Jockey's video below.

DePrince's path has an uncanny connection to Dance Magazine. As a young child, she found the May 1979 cover of DM outside her orphanage. Mesmerized by the image of Pennsylvania Ballet's Magali Messac, she kept the treasured cover hidden in her panties, dreaming of becoming a dancer herself. After she was adopted, DePrince began training at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. The rest is history.


Congratulations to DePrince on this milestone in her career!

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What's better than getting into the summer intensive of your dreams? Getting in with a scholarship, of course!

Hundreds of dancers entered our Video of the Month contests over the past three months, vying for a chance to win a scholarship to one of the Joffrey Ballet School's summer programs. We scoured so many videos, saw tons of amazing talent and are super excited to announce the final winners.

Michelle Quiner took home the grand prize: a one-year housing and tuition scholarship to the school's year-round trainee program in New York City. Check out her winning video:

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Photo by Kyle Froman for Dance Teacher

Class can be a whirlwind of information. Your teacher throws out multiple corrections at once—often in the middle of a combination—and as much as you want to apply them, they don't always stick. Though some are notes you've heard time and time again, you get too overwhelmed trying to fix all of them to correctly incorporate any of them.

Ashley Tuttle, photo by Duncan Cooper

Feedback is a necessary part of a dancer's craft, providing the guidance to develop technically and artistically. But applying new information is not always easy. You might feel bombarded with too many notes at one time, or insecure about being singled out for criticism. Learning to implement corrections is an art in itself.

Be Receptive to Feedback—And Show It

Smart dancers know that feedback is a gift, so show that you're eager to receive it. Make sure your body language and attitude reflect a willingness to learn. "Have a pleasant expression and look really involved," says Deborah Wingert, who teaches at Manhattan Youth Ballet and the Ailey Extension. Once you've been given a note, try to make the change immediately, or go to the back of the studio and practice on your own. Show that you at least understand the concept, even if you can't apply it right away. (If you have an injury that prevents you from doing something, communicate that to the teacher before class.) Dancers who resist new information might discourage teachers from wanting to help them.

Laurie De Vito, photo by Justin Chao

Remember that teachers usually give atten­tion when they see potential. "It's not that they're picking on you," says former American Ballet Theatre principal Ashley Tuttle, who teaches ballet at Barnard College, Mark Morris Dance Center and other schools. "Stay positive, and quiet the doubtful voice that can prevent you from receiving information and incorporating it."

If you're not getting any feedback, remember that you can benefit from other dancers' corrections as well. "You don't have to wait for a special invitation," says Wingert. "Just have a hunger to learn."

If You Don't Understand, Ask for Clarification

It's okay to ask questions if you don't understand a correction. "Wait for the break, or go up to the teacher after class," suggests Laurie De Vito, contemporary Simonson teacher at New York City's Peridance, Mark Morris Dance Center and Gibney Dance. "Ask for an alternate image and have a conversation about it." You can also talk to a dancer you respect or someone in your class who gets similar corrections. If you don't express your confusion, teachers might think that you're not listening—or that you don't care.

Wingert teaching at the Baltimore School for the Arts

Make Your Corrections Stick

You may need to use additional senses to cement a correction. Visualize it in your mind and, if possible, implement it while looking in the mirror. "Then get your brain out of it and let your body find the position," De Vito says. "If a physical adjustment will help you understand, ask your teacher to move your body into the correct shape." Attaching a movement to music might also help you solidify the right feeling.

Some corrections take time to physically manifest. "It's a commitment," says Tuttle. "Your brain understands, but your body follows to the best of its ability. It takes longer for some people." If you're being told to turn out more, for example, don't get frustrated because you can't do it immediately. Work on engaging the proper muscles, keeping your heels forward and sustaining your maximum rotation. "Remember that dance is not about being able to make the perfect picture, but being able to move in and out of the best positions you can make," says Tuttle. "Don't get down on yourself or force your body into places that will lead to injury."

"True artists have patience," says Wingert. "You do your best until it clicks.

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Matthew Karas

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been seriously getting into dance lately. But now it's taking its love affair one step further: Gallim Dance director/choreographer Andrea Miller was just named the museum's artist in residence for the 2017-18 season—the first dance artist ever chosen for that distinction!

We caught up with Miller to find out exactly what this means.

Gallim Dance at the Temple of Dendur. Photo by Ani Coller, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

Congratulations on being named artist in residence! How did this come about?

I was offered an opportunity to create a work in progress for a private event at the Temple of Dendur last September. It was a really great experience. I was learning about ancient Egyptian dance and art and music. I got to meet archaeologists and work with the curators and the Met Live Arts team. I think they thought it might be a relationship to develop with a residency.

What did you like about working at the Met?

For a while now I've been enjoying working outside of the proscenium theater. The conversations and the restrictions are different. What you can do, what you can't do. Having new set of variables intrigues me—it pushes my craft further.

What does it mean to you to be the first dance person named artist in residence at the Met?

Dance hasn't always been welcomed into these homes for art, but it makes a lot of sense for a museum to be thinking about dance as art. I'm so happy to be running with my ideas in these halls. They are really open about working with me and thinking really closely with me about what could be possible and letting me direct quite a bit what I'd like to do there.

And what do you plan to do?

First, I'm going to build the Temple of Dendur piece into an evening-length work, to premiere in October. That's called Stone Skipping. It has some scenes about the environment and climate change, thinking about the journey of the temple from the Nile to the museum.

The next piece is going to happen during museum hours, a durational work throughout the day. It's very exciting to me because it's going to completely break with the start-and-stop, beginning-and-end setup of most traditional dance.

One of the things I'm trying to do is think about what is "Met-only" about these works. How am I engaging with the Met and its permanent collections and its architecture, making work that is housed in that space?

But the third work will be treating the dance as its own art. Taking art off the walls, into the gallery space, observing dance in a similar way you do with visual art.

We'll also have open rehearsals and workshops.

What do you think this residency will mean for your company?

I definitely hope that there will be a definitive time before the Met, and after the Met. The imprint of this experience is going to be inextricable from my future creative language and process.

How do you see your aesthetic meshing with the museum's very formal, reverential atmosphere?

I think some of it is gonna fly and some of it is gonna be difficult, and maybe a little controversial. I imagine a lot of it will have to do with the curators of the areas I'm working in, and how they see other elements defining the existing art, and how they interact with each other. My aesthetic is very raw and can sometimes feel wild; there's a sense of abandonment. That's very different from how a lot of art is experienced at the Met. Even if the content has that same level of fierce rawness or extreme expression, that only stays within the canvas—everything else is super controlled. We're taking that out into the space.

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I love my BFA program, except for one class where the teacher only has eyes for the men—and even seems to flirt with them in class. The women, myself included, get zero attention, while the guys get loads of personal feedback. I know teachers have favorites, but this seems unfair. How can I stay motivated?

—Sara, New York, NY

Dance class is not a place for flirtation, especially from teachers. I suggest you speak to the director about your concerns. Appropriate behavior between faculty and students is usually spelled out in the school's guidelines. Meanwhile, each of you young women can set your own goals for class, such as focusing on phrasing or musicality, and being your own cheerleaders. You'll have a better class and may even catch your teacher's attention. Remember: Improving in dance is a personal journey. Even if the instructor isn't doing his job, you don't have to give up your power to stay motivated and progress.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at advicefordancers@dancemedia.com.

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Donnell Oakley, Cori Marquis, Kyle Marshall in "O, round desire"

After a program of Doug Elkins' works last Saturday, I moderated a post-performance talk with him. This was part of the high-powered Peak Performances series at Montclair State University in New Jersey, in which Doug premiered a film and a new dance and reprised his popular Mo(or)town/Redux. Students from MSU as well as Rutgers, where Doug teaches, were in the new piece, O, round desire.

Doug is a wild one to interview because his mind races all over the place. But he's also terrifically entertaining, so I had the feeling the audience was hanging on his every word—and every impromptu sound effect. Here are a few of his scintillating remarks, lacking exactness due to the fallibility of my memory:

• "Abstract and narrative are not opposites for me. They are on a continuum. It's like a Venn diagram, where you can see the overlap."

• "I swim in many oceans, and I sample from each one."

• "I don't have one train of thought; I have a whole squadron of planes of thought."

Kyle Marshall, Donnell Oakley, Elias Rosa and Cori Marquis in "Mo(or)town/Redux," all dance photos by Marina Levitskaya

• "I am in conversation with every dancer in the room. I work with their corporeal history."

• "When a child steps out of the bathtub and hears a party going on downstairs and he goes there naked to grab a potato chip, he's not being provocative. He's just doing what his senses tell him to do."


Elkins, photo by Christopher Duggan

After the talk, Doug emailed me with two more bits of explanation:

• "I often find myself oscillating or vibrating between causal logic and emotional association. For me, the place where they meet is in movement, in dance. It's why I've always loved Trisha Brown's description of herself as 'a bricklayer with a sense of humor.' "

• "Stories are irrevocably affected by the fallibility of the human mind, its limited perspective, distorted perceptions and the decaying of remembering. I can only offer glimpses of moments of things and let you, the viewer, connect it, causally or otherwise, as you see fit."

Doug also made a sort of confession about his new piece, O, round desire: "That's me as a B-boy having a crush on Trisha Brown."

For more Dougisms, watch his "Choreography in Focus":




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Trending
Alexei Ratmansky and the women of ABT. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

On Friday, The New York Times posted an article to its website titled "A Conversation With 3 Choreographers Who Reinvigorated Ballet," a joint interview with Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky. It's a delightful conversation at first, veering from process to style to musical choices—delightful, that is, until a question about the dearth of female choreographers in classical ballet arose.

Screenshot via nytimes.com

These responses range from sort-of-passable (Peck at least acknowledges the need for systemic changes) to worrisome (Wheeldon's apparent bafflement) to troubling (Nijinska? Seriously?). In a word, problematic.

The issue Roslyn Sulcas raises here is not news. We know that there are far, far fewer women choreographers than men in the ballet world. We know that a small group of white men (who are, to be fair, fantastic choreographers) largely dominates the field in terms of consistent international impact.


Justin Peck. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

In fact, it's slightly absurd that in 2017, we feel it's cause for celebration when Cincinnati Ballet programs a season equally split between works by men and women, or when New York City Ballet commissions two works by women choreographers for their fall gala for a second year in a row. Even allowing for the reality that the comments from Peck, Wheeldon and Ratmansky are from an excerpted, edited interview in which printing space is at a premium, even allowing that it was a relatively informal conversation, even allowing that it is an extremely complex issue—even then, these three men could, and should, have done better.

Earlier today, Luke Jennings, who writes on dance for The Guardian and The New Yorker, tweeted this response:

Screenshot via Twitter.

And with that, Twitter went mad. NYT chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay laid out a seven point rebuttal critiquing Jenning's response, then parlayed with Jennings on several of the points. Other NYT dance writers also chimed in, as did notable critics from other publications and a number of Dance Magazine contributors. The threads quickly became sprawling.


Christopher Wheeldon in rehearsal. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Meanwhile on Instagram, a flurry of heated comments resulted from NYT and DM contributor Siobhan Burke posting an image of the three responses in question. Choreographer Annie-B Parson simply chimed in with, "Haha. I can speak to this #erasure #beenthere."

Obviously, this is a far, far more complex problem than can be fully discussed in a 140 character tweet or a sharply worded comment on Instagram, or even in an interview like the one that launched this entire conversation. And that's just the thing: We need more conversation, we need more collaborative effort, and we need to stop shrugging and pointing to dance history as though one Bronislava Nijinska makes up for all of the other voices we might still be missing in the ballet world today without systemic change. It's happening—however slowly—and we'd much prefer it if the men who are currently dominating the field can take a step back, acknowledge the power they have and use it to move the conversation forward.

So a message for Peck, Wheeldon and Ratmansky: We love your work. Now do better.


UDPATE (Apr. 25): Alexei Ratmansky shared this post on Facebook, giving more context to the question. He also calls for deeper conversation on the topic.

Screenshot via Facebook.

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Photo by Hibbard Nash

Growing up, I was an artist, always drawing. It was my escape into a world full of color and light, using my brain in a creative way no matter where I was. But I always looked up to performers like Tina Turner, Madonna and Michael Jackson, and I loved playing around with cousins and performing. I remember my aunt once catching us pretending we were in a band (I was one of the leads, of course).

One day in middle school, in my homeroom class (which was in the dance studio, weirdly enough), I was dancing and the instructor asked if I would come by later and try out some movements. She invited me into the school's magnet performing arts program. From that point on, I was hooked!


In my freshman year of college at New World School of the Arts, my Graham teacher, Peter London, showed the class a video with three ballets: Errand into the Maze, Night Journey and Diversion of Angels. I fell in love with the physicality, beautiful costumes and sets, and drama.

Photo by Brigid Pierce

I continue to love Graham's choreography because it speaks to me in a way no other dance form has, portraying real human emotions in a very smart technique. I still pinch myself when I think of all the opportunities I've had, and biggest of all being made a principal at the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Dance has always been an outlet for me. When I'm frustrated, I know that by taking a class or just dancing by myself in a studio, I can release energy and be a little more at peace. I believe dancers are the strongest people, and for some reason so undervalued, but we continue to prove time and time again that when we put our mind to something, we can do anything.

I had a whole year where I was sidelined with a herniated disc. It was awful to know I couldn't go to class or rehearsal and experience something I loved beyond words. But I always believed in my body and worked to give it the tools it was missing, and eventually came back stronger.

Photo by Hibbard Nash

Dance is humbling in the way that it always brings you down to earth with what you can do, cannot do and have the potential to do. Nothing for me is better than knowing that I can escape into a realm, and take someone watching to somewhere else.

So many times after dancing, I've gone offstage shocked, because I was on a high that could never really be taught. But I would always remember it as an explanation of why I dance.

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