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.
For choreographer Raja Feather Kelly, music is simple: "There's good music and there's bad music and I love good music and I love to hate bad music."
But, true to form, Kelly—whose past few months have included choreographing the Skittles Super Bowl musical and earning one of our first-ever Harkness Promise Awards—had some surprises up his sleeve when he made us a playlist he describes as "for moody Geminis who work over 12 hours a day and need a playlist that can shuffle and never disappoint."
Though the playlist has some whiplash-inducing twists and turns—from Coheed and Cambria to Carly Rae Jepsen to Missy Elliott to Schubert—there is a through-line: "Music that makes you feel like you're in your own movie. I love walking through the street feeling like I'm on a runway, living my best life."
Every dancer's nutrition goals are different. Maybe you're trying to go vegan, or maybe you want to cook your own dinner more often. No matter what your personal objectives are—or whether you work with a dietitian—there are all kinds of apps that can help you make smart decisions at the tap of a button.
The lack of female leaders in ballet is an old conversation. But a just-launched website, called the Dance Data Project, has brought something new to the discussion: actual numbers, not just anecdotal evidence.
Whether she's performing on stage, in music videos, or on television, French electro-pop sensation Chris (formerly known as Christine and the Queens) never seems to stop moving.
Building a full-length ballet from scratch is an intense process. For the world premiere of Anna Karenina, a collaboration between The Joffrey Ballet and The Australian Ballet, that meant original choreography by Yuri Possokhov, a brand-new score by Ilya Demutsky, costume and set designs by Tom Pye and lighting designs by David Finn.
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Growing up, I never saw a problem with my dancing and neither did my Muslim-Egyptian dad or my non-Muslim, American mom. They raised me to understand that the core principles of Islam, of any religion, are meant to help us be better people. When I married my Pakistani husband, who comes from a more conservative approach to Islam, I suddenly encountered perceptions of dance that made me question everything: Is it okay to expose a lot of skin? Is it wrong to dance with other men? Is dance inherently sexual? What guidelines come from our holy book, the Quran, and what are cultural views that have become entwined in Islam?
When Thomas Forster isn't in the gym doing his own workout, he's often coaching his colleagues.
Two years ago, the American Ballet Theatre soloist got a personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Now he trains fellow ABT members and teaches the ABT Studio Company a strength and conditioning class alongside fellow ABT soloist Roman Zhurbin.
He shared five of his top tips for getting into top shape.
No matter how much anti–Valentine's Day sentiment I'm feeling in a given year, there's something about dancer couples that still makes me swoon. Here's a collection of wonderful posts from this year, but be warned: Continued scrolling is likely to give you a severe case of the warm fuzzies.
When Rennie Harris first heard that Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater had tapped him to create a new hour-long work, and to become the company's first artist in residence, he laughed.
"I'm a street dance choreographer. I do street dance on street dancers," he says. "I've never set an hour-long piece on any other company outside my own, and definitely not on a modern dance company."
When Chase Brock signed on to choreograph a new musical at a theater in New Jersey in 2015, he couldn't have predicted that four years later, he would be receiving fan art featuring his Chihuahua because of it. Nor could he have he imagined that the show—Be More Chill, based on the young adult novel by Ned Vizzini—would be heading to Broadway with one of the most enthusiastic teenage fan bases the Great White Way has ever seen.
It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistic possibilities. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).
The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.
Lately I've been having recurring dreams: I'm in an audition and I can't remember the combination. Or, I'm rehearsing for an upcoming show, onstage, and I don't know what comes next. Each time I wake up relieved that it was only a dream.
However, this is the reality of how I often felt throughout my dance career. Once I knew the steps, there was no undoing it. It was the process of getting there that haunts me to this day.
Since its founding in 1999, more than 80,000 ballet dancers have participated in Youth America Grand Prix events. While more than 450 alumni are currently dancing in companies across the world, the vast majority—tens of thousands—never turn that professional corner. And these are just the statistics from one competition.
"You may have the best teacher in the world and the best work ethic and be so committed, and still not make it," says YAGP founder Larissa Saveliev. "I have seen so many extremely talented dancers end up not having enough motivation and mental strength, not having the right body type, not getting into the right company at the right time or getting injured at the wrong moment. You need so many factors, and some of these are out of your hands."
Though Polunin has long had a reputation for behaving inappropriately, in the last month his posts have been somewhat unhinged. In one, Polunin, who is Ukrainian, shows off his new tattoo of Vladimir Putin:
Camille Sturdivant, a former member of the Blue Valley Northwest High School dance team is suing the school district, alleging that she was barred from performing in a dance because her skin was "too dark."
The suit states that during Sturdivant's senior year, the Dazzlers' choreographer, Kevin Murakami, would not allow her to perform in a contemporary dance because he said her skin would clash with the costumes, and that she would steal focus from the other dancers because of her skin color.
You wander through the grocery aisles, sizing up the newest trends on the shelves. Although you're eager to try a new energy bar, you question a strange ingredient and decide to leave it behind. Your afternoons are consumed with research as you sort through endless stories about "detox" miracles.
What started as an innocent attempt to eat healthier has turned into a time-consuming ritual with little room for error, and an underlying fear surrounding your food choices.
Aside from a solid warm-up, most dancers have something else they just have to do before performing. Whether it's putting on the right eyelashes before the left or giving a certain handshake before a second-act entrance, our backstage habits give us the comfort of familiar, consistent choices in an art form with so many variables.
Some call them superstitions, others call them rituals. Either way, these tiny moments become part of our work—and sometimes even end up being the most treasured part of performing.
Raise your hand if you've ever gotten sucked down an informational rabbit hole on the internet. (Come on, we know it's not just us.) Now, allow us to direct you to this new project from Google Arts & Culture. To celebrate Black History Month, they've put together a newly curated collection of images, videos and stories that spotlights black history and culture in America specifically through the lens of dance—and it's pretty much our new favorite way to pass the time online.
If you're anything like us, your Instagram feed is chock-full of gorgeous dance photos and videos. But you know what makes us fall in love with an artist even more? When they take a break from curating perfect posts and get real about their missteps. These performers' ability to move past mistakes, and even laugh them off, is one reason why they're so successful.
Every time you fall out of a pirouette, just remember: The stars—and literally every. single. dancer.—have been there, too. (Even Misty Copeland.)
Dancers today have an overwhelming array of options at their fingertips: New fitness tools, recovery trends, workouts and more that claim to improve performance, speed up recovery or enhance training.
But which of these actually meet the unique demands of dancers? In our new series, "We Tried It," we're going to find out, sampling new health and fitness trends to see if they're dancer-approved.
First up: Brrrn, the cold temperature fitness studio (the first and only of its kind, they claim) located in Manhattan.