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The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2018

Clockwise from top left: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ohad Naharin's Minus 16, photo by Pierre Wachholder via alvinailey.org; Photo by David Hoffman/Unsplash; Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, photos via Instagram; Boris Charmatz's 10000 Gestures, photo by Ursula Kaufmann via nyuskirball.org

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.

Dance Training
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Mark Morris Dance Group

You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.

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In Memoriam
Ross Parkes, right, teaching in Shanghai in 1983. Lan-Lan Wang is at left. Courtesy Lan-Lan Wang.

Notable dancer and beloved teacher, Ross Parkes, 79, passed away on August 5, 2019 in New York City. He was a founding faculty member at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, where he taught from 1984 to 2006. Lin Hwai-min, artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater, said: "He nurtured two generations of dancers in Taiwan, and his legacy will continue."

About his dancing, Tonia Shimin, professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara and producer of Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance, said this: "He was an exquisite, eloquent dancer who inhabited his roles completely."

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The USC Kaufman graduating class with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Gus Ruelas/USC

Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.

Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:

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Breaking Stereotypes
Lindsay Martell at a class performance. Courtesy Martell.

More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:

"Is your daughter the dancer?"

"Actually," I say, "I am."

"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"

"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."

Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.

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