The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2018
What did our readers care about most in 2018? Judging by our top-clicked stories, topics as broad as confronting a bullying teacher, investigating how Instagram has impacted the dance world and advocating for dance as an intellectual pursuit were the biggest stories in dance this year.
But our biggest hit, published just earlier this month, already has us looking to the new year: Our annual "25 to Watch" list for 2019, profiling the artists we think will be taking the dance world by storm sooner than later.
These are our 10 most-read stories of the year, and why we think they struck a chord with readers:
#10: Is It Time to Completely Rethink Ballet Class?
BalletMet in company class onstage before a show. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, courtesy BalletMet
The demands of ballet repertory have changed dramatically since the structure of the ballet class was invented. So is it time we give barre and center an update? That's the question that writer Emma Sandall thoughtfully poses in this March feature, citing how BalletMet director Edwaard Liang encourages ballet masters to adapt their classes to the choreography dancers will be performing that day, and studies that show how barre may not be helping dancers as much as previously thought.
Readers were divided about the ideas posed in the story, with some arguing that changing ballet class would sully the integrity of the classical art form, while others saying that dancers being better physiologically prepared to tackle choreography can only be a positive step.
#9: Don't Get It Twisted: Dance Is An Intellectual Pursuit
This story argues that because dance is ephemeral, people take it less seriously. Photo by Nadim Merrikh/Unsplash
If you ever hear someone imply that dance isn't a "serious" career, this would be a good story to send to them. Writer Alice Blumenfeld lays out seven compelling reasons why dance is an intellectual pursuit—such as how dance can pass down cultural knowledge, create kinesthetic empathy in audiences and help us cope with traumatic experiences. It's no wonder readers shared this story so many times: Who wouldn't want to brag about being involved in such a powerful art form?
#8: *This* Is How You Should Actually Warm Up Before Dancing
Static stretches don't count as a proper warmup. Photo by Jim Lafferty
Lots of dancers are guilty of sitting in static stretches and calling it "warming up." But deep down we all know this is incorrect—and this story, by writer Leah Bueno, lays out exactly why.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a warmup should include "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section." Bueno takes us through all four of these sections, and we're guessing her practical suggestions and helpful exercises earned this story its popularity online.
#7: Why Do Some of the Most Talented Dancers Never "Make It"?
We look at the factors that make prodigy-level students quit. Photo by Matthew Murphy for Pointe
What happens to all those ballet whiz kids who earn medals at Youth America Grand Prix, then seem to disappear from the scene? That's what we were wondering when we assigned this story to writer Candice Thompson for our August issue. Thompson found six reasons why talented students get derailed before making the leap into the professional world, along with ways these problems can be avoided. Readers seemed to connect with the idea that talent is only one part of the equation.
#6: Is Your Teacher A Bully Or Just Strict? 10 Ways to Tell The Difference
There are red flags you can look for if you think your teacher is going too far. Image by Thinkstock
In a year full of conversations about dancer mistreatment, this story about how to tell if a teacher crosses the line, written by Quincy Cundiff-Kopplin, took off. She lists 10 red flags to look for, like if a teacher's behavior prevents you from learning, or causes you to feel anxious outside of class.
Many readers commented that they related to the story, an unfortunate sign that bullying and inappropriate behavior is indeed still far too rampant in our field.
#5: The Dance Community Responds to NYCB's Firing of Amar Ramasar & Zachary Catazaro
Ramasar and Catazaro were fired from NYCB after engaging in inappropriate communications. Photos via Instagram
Speaking of inappropriate behavior, this story about the termination of New York City Ballet dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, written by Dance Magazine editor in chief Jennifer Stahl, sparked a wealth of responses on our Facebook page about the allegations against the men and the future of NYCB. Stahl assembled responses from the two dancers, as well as from their union and the wider dance community, and the conversation continued amongst our readership.
#4: Can Music Artists Stop Stealing from Choreographers Already?
Country singer Kelsea Ballerini and her choreographers Nick Florez and R.J. Durell couldn't have imagined the fury they would create when they plagiarized Ohad Naharin's Minus 16 for the Country Music Awards. My story covering the performance fanned the flame, with hundreds of dance fans rightfully getting up in arms about the evils of blatantly stealing from another artist.
#3: We Need to Talk About Non-Consensual Audience Participation
10000 Gestures brought up questions of safety and consent. Photo by Ursula Kaufmann via nyuskirball.org
I almost didn't write this story, worrying that it was a one-off experience and that I would come off as too whiny or sensitive. But this essay about my experience at Boris Charmatz's 10000 Gestures, an invasive work that sent barely-clothed performers fumbling into non-consenting audience members' laps, took off in a way I never could have guessed. Readers shared their own experiences with unwanted audience participation, and discussed the issues around consent and safety the essay brought up.
#2: Is Instagram Changing The Dance World's Value System?
Some Instagram accounts fetishize extreme tricks and contortions. Photo by David Hoffman/Unsplash
Like it or not, Instagram becomes more influential in the dance world every day. And since what gets seen on the platform is determined by a double tap of the finger, the costs of its growing clout are many. Writer Theresa Ruth Howard lays out these costs in this story, making the case that the prevalence of super-flexible tricksters (who may or may not be able to actually dance) on the platform could have a real, and negative, impact on the field. Many readers expressed their agreement on Facebook, citing other ways social media is changing dance and suggesting ways to move forward.
#1: Our "25 to Watch" Picks for 2019
Our "25 to Watch" cover star Evan Ruggiero. Photo by Jayme Thornton
It's not even the new year yet, but our 2019 "25 to Watch" stars are already making a splash. Shortly after we posted the list it became our most-read story ever. It's no wonder: These artists—from planetary geologist/choreographer Adeene Denton to soulful, Beyoncé-adjacent Jasmine Harper to Russian's next big thing Maria Khoreva—are truly remarkable. We can't think of a better way to close out 2018, and welcome 2019.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.
It can be hard to imagine life without—or just after—dance. Perhaps that's why we find it so fascinating to hear what our favorite dancers think they'd be doing if they weren't performing for a living.
We've been asking stars about the alternate career they'd like to try in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and their answers—from the unexpected to the predictable—do not disappoint:
"New York City Ballet star appears in a Keanu Reeves action movie" is not a sentence we ever thought we'd write. But moviegoers seeing John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will be treated to two scenes featuring soloist Unity Phelan dancing choreography by colleague Tiler Peck. The guns-blazing popcorn flick cast Phelan as a ballerina who also happens to be training to become an elite assassin. Opens in theaters May 17.
The Brooklyn-based choreographer Gillian Walsh is both obsessed with and deeply conflicted about dance. With her latest work, Fame Notions, May 17–19 at Performance Space New York, she seeks to understand what she calls the "fundamentally pessimistic or alienating pursuit" of being a dancer. Noting that the piece is "quiet and introverted," like much of her other work, she sees Fame Notions as one step in a larger project examining why dancers dance.
What does Mikhail Baryshnikov have to say to dancers starting their careers today? On Friday, he gave the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
The heart of his message: Be generous.