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25 to Watch

Unity Phelan

PC Nathan Sayers

Corps member, New York City Ballet

Unity Phelan's long, willowy limbs drip with girlish glamour: She presents her hand to her partner as though she expects a diamond ring to be placed on it. As a matter of fact, she presents her feet the same way. But what makes her so fun to watch is how she infuses her natural elegance with an endearing sense of playfulness. Her articulate lines seem to stretch beyond the confines of her body with a delight that can't be contained.

Last spring, the 21-year-old New York City Ballet corps member was handpicked by Christopher Wheeldon to perform one of four principal roles in his new American Rhapsody. Partnered by Amar Ramasar, Phelan brought her signature exuberance to the role. That summer, she starred in a premiere by emerging choreographer Claudia Schreier at the Vail International Dance Festival before returning to New York to debut a lead role in NYCB principal Lauren Lovette's first main-stage choreography. As excited as Phelan might be to take center stage, she's quickly become a pro at soaking up the spotlight. —Jennifer Stahl

Ito in Peck's Heatscape. PC Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

Shimon Ito

Soloist, Miami City Ballet

Shimon Ito grabs attention with his keen physicality—whisking across the stage, whipping out turns, jumping as if onto cushions of air. But then attention becomes admiration as those athletic moments accrue into memorable art. There's his portrayal of Puck, irrepressibly mischievous, in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream; his fervor among the sun-kissed companions of Justin Peck's Heatscape; his superhero-worthy feats in Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room. Even in tricked-up choreography, his dancing runs on a smooth engine, fueled by high-grade classicism. No effect, no matter how forceful, looks superfluous. All this was behind Ito's recent promotion to soloist at Miami City Ballet. “I try to learn a lot about a ballet," says Ito, “and translate that to the stage." —Guillermo Perez

Amanda DeVenuta

PC Kenny Johnson/Elevé Dancewear, Courtesy Kansas City Ballet

Dancer, Kansas City Ballet

In an ethereal pas de deux from Yuri Possokhov's Diving into the Lilacs last spring, Kansas City Ballet's Amanda DeVenuta moved with feather-like buoyancy. Her expressive abilities showed not only in her demeanor and gestures, but in every step she took—a hint that this young dancer is just beginning to tap into her wellspring of talent.

In addition to Possokhov's ballet, the Carmel, New York, native, previously with Minnesota Dance Theatre, has danced a featured role in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments and made waves with her effervescent performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in artistic director Devon Carney's new production of The Nutcracker. Described by Carney as “a rising star" in the company, the 22-year-old is now in her third season with KCB. Says DeVenuta: “Each performance I do I learn more about myself as a person and a dancer."

Steve Sucato

Jeffery Duffy

Duffy in Forsythe's N.N.N.N. Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Dancer, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Once a competition kid who danced to Michael Jackson in his grandmother's basement, Jeffery Duffy, 23, has already forged a fairy-tale career. After training at Dance Theatre of Harlem, the School of American Ballet and The Juilliard School, Duffy's graduation cap had hardly hit the ground before he signed a contract with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2015. Performing with a level of maturity unusual to new grads, Duffy's liquid-like flow complemented his veteran co-workers in Alejandro Cerrudo's Second to Last and Crystal Pite's Solo Echo last season. Brilliant ensemble dancing and a captivating duet with Kellie Epperheimer in Penny Saunders' Out of Keeping attracted the notice of the Princess Grace Foundation, earning Duffy a Dance Fellowship in 2016. He has a penchant for repertoire that is less safe, less pretty, less predictable—work that pushes audiences to the edge of discomfort. Performances in a trio of William Forsythe pieces (Quintett, N.N.N.N. and One Flat Thing, reproduced) might best exemplify this, though Duffy will easily excel even further left of center.

Lauren Warnecke

Chan in Edwaard Liang's Murmuration. PC Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet;.

Chun Wai Chan

Soloist, Houston Ballet

Chun Wai Chan oozes confidence—and has the technical chops to warrant it. He joined Houston Ballet's corps in 2012 already poised for promotion, which he received in 2015. His flash, princely good looks and rock-solid work ethic have made him a go-to dancer for Stanton Welch and visiting choreographers. He was a standout as the Groom in Welch's new Giselle, dreamy as Waltz man in Balanchine's Serenade, wild and exacting in Alexander Ekman's Cacti and mostly airborne for Bluebird in Ben Stevenson's Sleeping Beauty. His tall, elegant stature, combined with his flawless technique, makes it just a matter of time before he's Houston Ballet's next leading man.

Inspired by fellow Chinese-born and former Houston Ballet dancer Li Cunxin, whom he

resembles in both height and poise, Chan had Houston on his radar from an early point in his life. “I saw what he did here," he says, “and I thought: I could do that too." —Nancy Wozny

Paige Fraser

Dancer, Visceral Dance Chicago

Fraser in Pupillo's Vital. PC Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Visceral Dance Chicago

In 2013, Paige Fraser took what she describes as “a giant, scary leap of faith." After sending a video to Nick Pupillo, who was starting contemporary troupe Visceral Dance Chicago, she was invited to join the inaugural ensemble. Though she barely had the money to fly to Chicago—and knew almost nothing about the city—she said yes.

With her naturally long line, strong technique and dramatic attack, Fraser became a standout in this fast-rising company. Pupillo's 2016 world premiere Vital showcased her dynamite style with beautifully unforced extensions and gazelle-like leaps. “Paige's faith and determination completely embody her movement," Pupillo says. “She has been a driving force in the growth of Visceral."

Fraser received a 2016 Dance Fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation and recently made a dance-meets-high-tech commercial for Intel that underscores her ability to blend driving energy and lyricism. As for future dreams, Fraser mentions creating a community center for dance and the arts in the Bronx, her hometown. —Hedy Weiss

Parris Goebel

Goebel (denim jacket) with her dancers. PC UE/Joy Jacobs, Courtesy HUE/Parris Goebel.

Commercial choreographer and dancer

Parris Goebel is the feminist force hip hop has been waiting for. The 25-year-old's work is loud and colorful, and her distinct “polyswagg" style has a mission of empowerment. Her moves display an in-your-face confidence, but they don't scream to be noticed. She doesn't strive for popularity or follow trends. She is simply and unapologetically herself, take it or leave it.

But the commercial world is taking it—acclaim follows everything Goebel touches. She's choreographed for Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez; the crews hailing from her New Zealand studio (including the all-female ReQuest) consistently dominate at competitions. Justin Bieber's 2015 “Sorry" music video that she choreographed, directed and performed in scored her three MTV Video Music Award nominations and nearly 2 billion views on YouTube, placing the viral video among the top four most-watched in site history. And her latest venture into producing her own music, under the name Parri$, proves she's truly charting her own path, one that's stamped with plenty of her signature sass.

Courtney Bowers

Elise Cowin

Dancer and choreographer

Cowin in her Up to the Elbows. PC Daniel Fong, Courtesy Elise Cowin.

Elise Cowin's work is chock-full of contradictions: egalitarian yet meticulous, subtle but transparent, elegant and approachable. Her task-oriented pieces often begin as deep dives of research into arcane topics—the United Kingdom Highway Code or a historical survey of patents for wearable devices designed to allow the body to take flight. Next comes the creation of costumes and props, often of Cowin's own design. Only then does she begin building her choreography, for dancers of all ages and abilities, to be presented matter-of-factly in galleries, public spaces or on video.

For Up to the Elbows (2016), she manufactured six sandbags, matching the general size, shape and weight of her head, torso, arms and legs. These allowed her to perform a “duet" with a copy of her own body in pieces. Simultaneously formal and fallible, Up to the Elbows extracts the essence from one of Cowin's inspirations: the novel Don Quixote.

“I've gone through phases with the word 'dance,' " Cowin confesses. While earning her MFA in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, “I had faculty tell me, 'That's not dance.' But right now, it sits well with me."

Zachary Whittenburg

Collymore with Seth McPhail in Peugh's The Clean-Cut American Stage Show. PC Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy METdance.

Kayla Collymore

Dancer, METdance

Movement seems elastic under Kayla Collymore's spell. Nothing appears forced or pushed; she makes dancing look like something that just rolls off the tongue. All lightness and limbs, Collymore apprenticed with the Stephen Petronio Company, danced with Brian Brooks Moving Company and spent a year performing in Beijing before heading to Texas. Now in her second season at Houston's METdance, the Jersey-girl-turned-Texan is settling into the demands of dancing with a rep company. “I tend to excel in the wet-noodle flow pieces, so I love that at the MET I get to do all kinds of work, including Camille A. Brown's earthy New Second Line," says Collymore, who relished the chance to dig into works by Rosie Herrera, Joshua L. Peugh and Katarzyna Skarpetowska this past year. “I'm also ready to take on a leadership role in the company," she says. “I've learned that for a company to be successful we have to network, promote and warmly welcome the numerous renowned choreographers that walk in our doors." —Nancy Wozny

Elizabeth Wallace

Corps member, Pennsylvania Ballet

Wallace with Aaron Anker in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments. PC Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

It's hard to miss Elizabeth Wallace. Tall and rangy, the 24-year-old Kentucky native takes special ownership of her roles no matter the size, her lines extending well beyond her 5' 9" frame. With silken sophistication and a soaring arabesque, she draws you in with a natural, open presence, her long limbs swallowing space as if air itself were a precious luxury.

Wallace's Balanchine background is unmistakable in her dancing—she finished her training at the School of American Ballet and danced as an apprentice with New York City Ballet before joining Pennsylvania Ballet in 2012. Artistic director Angel Corella has made significant changes to the roster since his appointment in 2014, but he obviously sees something special in Wallace. She's danced a steady and wide-ranging stream of leading roles since his arrival, including Christopher Wheeldon's Liturgy, Wayne McGregor's Chroma, Choleric in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments and Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote. One of a handful of corps dancers still left from the old regime, her future under Corella looks bright.

Amy Brandt

Omari Mizrahi

Mizrahi with Bruce Harris in Asherie's Riff this, Riff that. PC Darial Sneed, Courtesy Mizrahi.

Dancer, Ephrat Asherie Dance

With flinging arms and powerful spine undulations, Omari Mizrahi is riveting. His knees are so springy that every jump is a pounce. As a member of Ephrat Asherie Dance, he captures the essence of Asherie's amalgam of hip hop, house, funk and Lindy, to which he adds his own blend of West African, house and voguing that he calls AfrikFusion. When he performs it, he can switch on a dime from fiercely masculine to decoratively feminine. Teaching last summer, he said, “West African dance is all about fluid arms that never stop, and in voguing it's all about striking a pose."

Born in Senegal, Mizrahi came to the U.S. when he was 6. By 10 he was already dancing in his parents' troupe. He later earned a name for himself as a voguer in Harlem's ballroom nightlife, and has since worked with John Legend and Jennifer Hudson. When Asherie or another choreographer shows him a step, he says, “I go back to my memory. The nae nae, a new hip hop dance, reminds me of the way we sway with the West African lamba. The connection speaks to me." —Wendy Perron

Jess LeProtto

Broadway dancer

PC Matthew Murphy, Courtesy DKC/O&M.

When Jess LeProtto is onstage, his enthusiastic charm and sharp comedic instincts win you over immediately. As the mischievous Mungojerrie in Broadway's current revival of CATS, he makes the choreography's acrobatic cartwheels and nimble leaps look easy, but can illustrate character—and draw a laugh—just as effectively through a smartly timed facial expression.

A former “So You Think You Can Dance" competitor who's also performed with American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, LeProtto has the versatility to tackle choreography by everyone from Jerome Robbins to Jack Cole to Andy Blankenbuehler. And at 24, he's already appeared in several Broadway shows, including the ensembles of Newsies and On the Town. In CATS, he proves that he can shine in a more featured role—and cements his status as a true triple threat. —Suzannah Friscia

Karissa Royster

Royster (in pink) in Shuffle Along. PC Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy Royster

Broadway tap dancer

When Savion Glover invited her to participate in a creative workshop in 2014, Karissa Royster assumed it would be a short-lived experience. But that project became Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, and Royster made her Broadway debut last spring as both an ensemble performer and dance captain. Her effervescent energy and aplomb as she embodied the production's period charm and complex history made her a standout amongst a cast of notable hoofers. Playing a Jimtown Flapper and a Jazz Jazmine, one of the musical's vivacious chorus girls, Royster proved herself a rhythmic chameleon, gliding just as easily through the choreography's vernacular moves as she did through Glover's grittier, more hard-hitting combinations.

Royster is currently in rehearsals for new projects with Glover. She plans to continue her voice and acting training in New York City when not teaching or taking tap classes. “Shuffle Along expanded how I view myself as an artist and exposed me to new ways in which I can grow as an entertainer," she says. With a Broadway show already under her belt, she'll no doubt be entertaining many audiences to come. —Ryan P. Casey

Reed Tankersley

Dancer, Twyla Tharp Dance

Tankersley in Tharp's Brahms Paganini. PC Yi-Chun Wu, Courtesy Twyla Tharp.

When Twyla Tharp was auditioning Reed Tankersley, the two spent a week together in the studio one-on-one. One day Tharp asked why he looked so nervous, and the recent Juilliard graduate responded “...because you're Twyla Tharp?" She quickly retorted, “We'll have to get over that." Get over it he has. Since landing a spot on her 50th-anniversary tour, the dancer has become an essential member of Tharp's team of veteran performers. In the virtuosic 10-minute-long opening solo of her Brahms Paganini, he balances slippery spontaneity with grounded precision, rendering legible what feels like a choreographic run-on sentence. Endless energy seems to be his mode of operating—when not dancing for Tharp he's performing with other choreographers like Jonah Bokaer. “I wouldn't turn down dancing for Ariana Grande," he says cheekily of his future plans. Who knows? Tankersley has the crisp-yet-malleable technique and youthful openness to do anything. —Lauren Wingenroth

PC Paul Virtucio, Courtesy Chitra Vairavan

Chitra Vairavan

Dancer and choreographer

With a heart-stopping stare that drags your soul deep into her character's pain and passion, Chitra Vairavan has been a standout since becoming a founding member of Ananya Dance Theatre. In 2012, with her “Bird" solo in Moreechika: Season of Mirage, this contemporary Indian dancer took flight as she emerged from an undulating heap of bodies with a fluttering poise and winged uplift. Since then, the Tamil (South Indian)-American has spread her wings even further, conveying her progressive brown politics through collaborations and in her own pieces. Schooled in bharatanatyam and muscular, percussive Chhau- and Odissi-based choreography, her fearlessness in revealing the personal as political earned her a 2016 McKnight Fellowship for Dancers. Vairavan's ardor for igniting change through dance is as innate as it is intentional. Watch her soar. —Camille LeFevre

Mario Bermudez Gil

Dancer and choreographer

Bermudez Gil in his Wooden Bones. PC Kang Seon Jun, Courtesy Bermudez Gil

Peppered with syncopated rhythms, Mario Bermudez Gil's Gaga-influenced choreography simmers with flamenco passion. When he takes the stage in one of his works, he captures a striking duality: He is both a simple pedestrian and an uninhibited dancer. What transmits to the viewer is an unabashed love of moving, with wild, high-flying jumps, whirling spins and athletic floorwork seamlessly woven together.

After four transformative years with Batsheva Dance Company—and previously one year each with Gallim Dance and Jennifer Muller/The Works—Bermudez Gil now follows his own choreographic path. This past year he started a company, Marcat Dance, with partner Catherine Coury. Bermudez Gil's first evening-length piece, Alanda, debuted in Spain last summer. He has already performed his work in Israel, Japan and Korea, winning second place in the Copenhagen International Choreography Competition along the way. Additionally, he was granted a production award to create new work for National Dance Company Wales. The influence of Ohad Naharin inspires many a Batsheva dancer-turned-choreographer, but developing a unique voice can be daunting. Bermudez Gil has a looming legacy to follow but is well on his way to an exciting career of creation. —Jen Peters

Zhang as Benno in Swan Lake. PC Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

Zhiyao Zhang

Corps member, American Ballet Theatre

Zhiyao Zhang may have simultaneously confused and delighted many in the audience for Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House last summer. With a line so aristocratic and a presence of such authority that he could have been mistaken for Prince Siegfried, the American Ballet Theatre corps member excelled as Benno, the prince's friend. Every airy leap possessed enough thrust to land him yards from where it started, and although he had power to spare, he always displayed a seemingly unforced assurance whether in mime or grands jetés.

His dream roles demonstrate a healthy aversion to typecasting. He says the rogue Birbanto in Le Corsaire intrigues him because the character can be played as a clown, a villain or a villainous clown. Zhang should triumph in each interpretation— possibly in the same performance. —Harris Green

Crousillat in Brown's Set and Reset. PC Stephanie Berger, Courtesy Crousillat.

Marc Crousillat

Freelance dancer

At 25, Marc Crousillat has already performed for a who's who of downtown choreographers, including Netta Yerushalmy and John Jasperse, and the Trisha Brown Dance Company. In Yerushalmy's dances he oozes character and endearing disjointedness, while in Brown's he can coolly demonstrate clean geometries or heat up with wild abandon. The 2016 Princess Grace Fellowship recipient credits his appetite for “disrupting" his body's knowledge and habits to the range in his training at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. He looks at other art forms—cinema, literature—to find more dimensionality in his dancing. Finding time to make his own work's been hard, but he'll be going in that direction, too, showing a project at Brooklyn's Roulette next month. —Lisa Kraus

Nichols (center) in her work \TILTED\. PC Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher

Martha Nichols

Choreographer and dancer

Martha Nichols is proof that “So You Think You Can Dance" doesn't have to be the pinnacle of any dancer's career. After finishing as a top-five-female during the show's second season, Nichols has since performed in the long-running Cirque du Soleil show Criss Angel Believe in Las Vegas, danced backup for Rihanna's Diamonds world tour and grooved her way through a Gap commercial. But it's her more recent foray into choreography that really speaks to her maturity as an artist. Her infectious, funky-fabulous, neon-clad group piece \TILTED\ took home the top prize at last summer's Capezio A.C.E. Awards. Nichols is hard at work prepping for her own evening-length show this year with her $15,000 production-budget prize money. If it's anything like \TILTED\, don't expect your standard dark and funereal contemporary fare: Think fiercely joyful, effortlessly in charge. “Part of me feels like dance is so sad. I'm not that sad," she says. “I like life. I am a happy person." —Rachel Rizzuto

Sirui Liu

Liu as the Fairy Godmother in Victoria Morgan's Cinderella. PC Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet.

Senior soloist, Cincinnati Ballet

It takes a particular kind of talent to move audiences with passionate performances, and another to do so while nailing every ballet position with textbook precision. Cincinnati Ballet's Sirui Liu is one of these rare artists. The newly promoted senior soloist's spot-on technical ability is something to marvel at, as is her ability to translate those skills into contemporary dance styles with eye-grabbing personality. The 26-year-old showed off her rich abilities this past September in Justin Peck's playful Capricious Maneuvers, tossing off sparkling pirouettes and jumps as though bubbly with delight. In that same program, she also showed her flexibility, steadiness and ability to access heartfelt emotion in a trio in Ma Cong's Near Light. Lifted by her shoulders and legs above her two male partners, she was slowly lowered headfirst to clench a rose between her teeth, which she held there throughout the rest of the dreamlike trio. In her sixth season with Cincinnati Ballet, Liu's career trajectory appears to be on a fast track toward principal. —Steve Sucato

Sarah Lapointe

PC Vikki Sloviter, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet

Dancer, Charlotte Ballet

Charlotte Ballet's Sarah Lapointe is the prototypical ballerina. She uses her to-die-for extension to send legs skimming past an ear skyward, but the 19-year-old boasts more than just good genes. Lapointe's performances reveal fluidity in her movement between steps; a sense of grace in every unfolding arm movement leads the eye to delicate and perfectly placed fingers. Possessing technical skills and stage presence beyond her years, Lapointe's talent is magnetic.

A 2015 National YoungArts Foundation award-winner, Lapointe attended Philadelphia's The Rock School for Dance Education and has guested with The Washington Ballet. Now in her second season with Charlotte Ballet, she continues to follow a mantra given to her by her artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and associate artistic director Patricia McBride: “Don't be shy, and just go for it." Charlotte audiences can see her do just that as she brings her formidable extension to a role tailor-made for it: the Lilac Fairy in Bonnefoux's Sleeping Beauty this March. —Steve Sucato

Meg Foley

Foley in her Utah. PC Bill Hebert, Courtesy Foley.

Dancer and choreographer

Like an oyster fashioning a pearl, Meg Foley is always chewing on gritty questions. For her 2016 opus Action is Primary, she asked how she could transition years of solo improvisation practice into a collective working experience for multiple dancers. To get there, each of her dancers took on some of Foley's daily practice, including doing and documenting solo improvisations at 3:15 pm wherever they happened to find themselves. The result was big—three weeks of performances with Foley and her creative collaborators working from their own scores in changing combinations of dancers. They blurred everyday behavior with intentional melodramas and extravagant movement invention. It felt deep, mature and brimming with risk taking.

Foley, 35, is a dancer of extraordinary power. She has been choreographing in Philadelphia since she moved there after college, but her achievement in making Action is Primary promises more work with the potential to shift the ground of dance. Parallel with her own creative work, Foley is building a community hub at The Whole Shebang, a South Philly workspace she co-created in 2015. It's a place for workshops, special events and, yes, more research into her burning questions.

Lisa Kraus

PC Christopher Peddecord, Courtesy NW Dance Project

Ching Ching Wong

Dancer, NW Dance Project

Control and abandon are difficult for any dancer to navigate, but NW Dance Project's Ching Ching Wong masters both in a single movement. In resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem's Yidam, half of her body dangles as if free of bones, completely unbound in some precarious, impossible position. Meanwhile her standing leg supports the gorgeous shenanigans going on in the rest of her body, her astonishing ability to have balance while being off balance galvanizing attention at every moment.

There is nothing predictable about the 2015 Princess Grace Award winner's dancing. “I am working on not being perfect, not apologizing for anything I do onstage, to let my body go through it, and ride it like a wave," says Wong. “I want to test my body's physical and emotional capabilities onstage, explode even more, to dive into character. I am looking for more opportunities to be less controlled, to go beyond the boundaries of my 4' 11 3/4" body." —Nancy Wozny

Charlotte Edmonds

Ballet choreographer

Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy ROH

Having just turned 20, English choreographer Charlotte Edmonds is remarkably composed and confident. Her choreography has exactly the same qualities. “I'm trying to think of ways you can manipulate classical ballet and change it into something fresher and more modern," she says of her supple-spined, richly fluid and music-driven movement, which fuses classical and contemporary lines and dynamics. By the age of 16, Edmonds had twice won the Royal Ballet School's annual choreographic competition and gained her first professional commission. After completing her training at the Rambert School, Royal Ballet director Kevin O'Hare created a brand-new role for her in 2015: Royal Ballet Young Choreographer, where she is mentored by Wayne McGregor.

Edmonds is a fan of Crystal Pite, Mats Ek and William Forsythe, and she's particularly interested in contemporary narratives—she recently worked on an adaptation of a Zadie Smith story for Northern Ballet. Yet more than anything, she has a desire to connect with deep emotions and move her audience. A timeless aim from a very of-the-moment young talent. —Lyndsey Winship

Shrainer with Ilya Artamonov in Le Corsaire. PC Pavel Rychkov, Courtesy Bolshoi

Margarita Shrainer

Corps member, Bolshoi Ballet

When an unknown name appeared on the Bolshoi's principal casting in London last summer, ballet-goers took notice. At 22, despite being ill, the Bolshoi Ballet's Margarita Shrainer made her debut as Kitri during the tour, the only corps dancer cast in a leading role. “It was a pleasantly shocking experience, completely unexpected," she says.

With her combination of long lines, speed and buoyancy, Shrainer is a pure product of the Moscow school. She was billed as a potential star when she graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in 2011, yet only minor roles came her way in her first seasons. When new Bolshoi director Makhar Vaziev arrived last March, however, he immediately spotted Shrainer. A dizzying string of debuts followed, with The Flames of Paris, La Sylphide, “Rubies" and Don Quixote in just three months.

A self-described workaholic, Shrainer rose to the challenge under the guidance of her coach Nadezhda Pavlova. Her joyful, expressive presence onstage bodes well for the future, and she is determined to seize the moment: “If I continue working like I do, if I listen, all my dreams can come true. Everything is in my hands—with Makhar Vaziev's help!" —Laura Cappelle

The Conversation
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Dance Magazine Awards
Lopez coaching Chase Swatosh and Lauren Fadeley in Balanchine's "Diamonds." Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miami City Ballet

No, she isn't like other artistic directors, and that's not just because she's a woman. Lourdes Lopez, who's led Miami City Ballet since 2012, doesn't want this to be taken the wrong way, but as for her vision? She doesn't really have one.

"I just want good dancers and a good company and good rep and an audience and a theater—let us do what the art form is supposed to be doing," she says. "I don't mean that in a flippant way. It's just how I've always approached it."

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Dance Magazine Awards
Michael Trusnovec models what it takes to become a great Paul Taylor dancer. Photo courtesy NYC Dance Project

Paul Taylor cultivated many brilliant dancers during his 60-plus-year career, but seldom have any commanded such a place of authority and artistry as Michael Trusnovec. He models what it takes to become a great Taylor dancer: weight of movement, thorough grasp of style, deep concentration, steadfast partnering, complete dedication to the choreography and a nuanced response to the music.

Trusnovec can simultaneously make choreography sexy and enlightened, and he can do it within one phrase of movement. Refusing to be pigeonholed, he has excelled in roles as diverse as the tormented and tormenting preacher in Speaking in Tongues; the lyrical central figure—one of Taylor's own sacred roles—in Aureole; the dogged detective in Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal); and the corporate devil in Banquet of Vultures.

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Rant & Rave
Did The Tenant unintentionally conflate transness and mental illness? Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy The Joyce Theater

Last week, Arthur Pita's much-anticipated The Tenant, featuring American Ballet Theatre principal James Whiteside, had its New York City premiere at The Joyce Theater.

Based on the novel by Roland Topor and the 1976 Roman Polanski film, The Tenant follows a man who moves into an apartment that's haunted by its previous occupant (Simone, played by ABT's Cassandra Trenary) who committed suicide. Throughout the show, the man—Trelkovsky, played by Whiteside—slowly transforms into Simone, eventually committing suicide himself.

But some found the show's depiction of a trans-femme character to be troubling. Whether the issues stem from the source material or the production's treatment of it, many thought the end result reinforced transphobic stereotypes about mental illness. We gathered some of the responses from the dance community:

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Raffaella Stroik. Photo via

Update: Raffaella Stroik's body was found near a boat ramp in Florida, Missouri on Wednesday morning. No information about what led to the death is currently available. Our thoughts are with her friends and family.

Raffaella Stroik, a 23-year-old dancer with the Saint Louis Ballet, went missing on Monday.

Her car was found with her phone inside in a parking lot near a boat ramp in Mark Twain Lake State Park—130 miles away from St. Louis. On Tuesday, the police began an investigation into her whereabouts.

Stroik was last seen at 10:30 am on Monday at a Whole Foods Market in Town and Country, a suburb of St. Louis. She was wearing an olive green jacket, a pink skirt, navy pants with white zippers and white tennis shoes.

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Dance Training
Dancemaking skills will serve you far beyond the studio, says Iyun Ashani Harrison. Photo by Willow Pinkerton, courtesy Harrison

Whether or not you see yourself choreographing in your future, you can gain a lot from studying dance composition. "Many companies ask you to generate your own content. Choreography is more collaborative now," says Autumn Eckman, a faculty member at the University of Arizona.

Look beyond the rehearsal studio, and you'll find even more benefits to having dancemaking skills. "Being a thinker as well as a mover is what creates a sustainable career," says Iyun Ashani Harrison, who teaches at Goucher College. "Viewing dance with a developed eye and being able to speak about what you're seeing is valuable whether you're a dancer, a choreographer, an artistic director or a curator."

Succeeding in composition class often has more to do with attitude than aptitude. Above all, you need "a willingness to play along and explore," says Kevin Predmore, who teaches at the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. "You have to let go of the desire to create something extraordinary, and instead be curious."

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Breaking Stereotypes
Judith Lynne Hanna in a still from "Partying Alone." Image courtesy Fox Force

Egg Drop Soup's "Partying Alone" video turns a run-of-the-mill dance team audition on its head with a vision of female power from a mature woman. The panel is stunned when a gray-haired, red-lipsticked 80-something tosses aside her cane and lets loose, flipping her hair—and the bird.

Egg Drop Soup - Partying Alone (Official music video)

Take a second look at that head-banging grandma—she is none other than renowned dance researcher and anthropologist Judith Lynne Hanna. An affiliate research professor in anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park, the author of numerous scholarly books and an expert witness in trials for exotic dancers, she has spent her career getting us to think about dance's relationship to society. Hanna, 82, said she hadn't performed since college when she got a call from a music video producer, who caught a video of her dancing with her 13-year-old grandson. The rockers of Egg Drop Soup loved her energy and flew her out to Los Angeles for a day-long video shoot. We spoke to Hanna about the experience.

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Career Advice
A successful career takes more than great technique. Photo by Thinkstock

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."

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Ramasar and Catazaro, photos via Instagram

New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)

The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:

"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."

Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.

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Major ballet companies are banding together for The Equity Project, to increase the presence of black dancers in ballet. Photo by Joseph Rodman, Courtesy DTH.

Twenty-one ballet organizations have come together to support the advancement of racial equity in professional ballet. They're all part of The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a new effort being led by Dance Theatre of Harlem, The International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/USA.

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What Dancers Eat
Dancers often make the best chefs. Photo by Quinn Wharton

Tired of the typical turkey and stuffing? For Thanksgiving this year, try something different with these personal recipes that dancers have shared with Dance Magazine. The ingredients are packed with dancer-friendly nutrients to help you recover from rehearsals and fuel up for the holiday performances ahead.

If anyone raises an eyebrow at your unconventional choices, just remind them that dancers are allowed to take some artistic license!

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Health & Body
A performance psychologist can help dancers work through barriers to peak performance. Getty Images

A dancer once contacted me because he was devastated after walking in on his girlfriend with another man. While he was distressed about ending the relationship, he was most concerned about a major performance coming up. They had to dance a romantic pas de deux. When I met with them together, she was afraid he would drop her and he didn't want to look lovingly in her eyes. My role was to help them find ways to make magic onstage and keep their personal difficulties offstage. They ended up dancing to rave reviews.

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Cover Story
Dance Magazine's December 2018 cover girl: Adji Cissoko. Photographed by Jayme Thornton

Adji Cissoko has the alchemical blend of willowy limbs and earthy musicality you expect from a dancer in Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But she also has something more—a joy in dancing that makes every step feel immediate.

"She has this soulful quality of an ancient spirit coming through her body," says LINES chief executive officer Muriel Maffre, a former prima ballerina with San Francisco Ballet. "She's fearless, which is fun to work with," says artistic director Alonzo King. "I don't know how to put it into words— she's herself."

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Rant & Rave
Jan Fabre's Mount Olympus pushes dancers to their limits. Photo by Wonge Bergmann, via

When Jan Fabre's troupe Troubleyn presents his Mount Olympus: To glorify the cult of tragedy (a 24 hour performance) at NYU Skirball tomorrow it does so under a heavy cloud of controversy.

Fabre is a celebrated Belgian multidisciplinary artist who has been honored as Grand Officer in the Order of the Crown, one of the country's highest honors. His visual art has been displayed at the Louvre and at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. According to The New York Times, his dance company, Troubleyn, receives about $1 million a year from the Belgian government.

But in an open letter posted to Belgian magazine Rekto Verso just a few months ago, 20 of his company's current and former dancers outline a horrific culture of sexual harassment, bullying and coercion. This comes on the heels of similar accusations at New York City Ballet and Paris Opèra Ballet.

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Style & Beauty
Tiler Peck's CFDA Fashion Fund red lip also makes for the perfect Nutcracker makeup. Photo via Instagram, Rebecca de Ravenel

Earlier this week, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck gave us some major onstage makeup inspiration while attending an offstage event. While walking the red carpet at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund gala, Peck's beauty look was still perfectly suited for the ballet with her top knot hairstyle and stage-worthy red lip. Peck's makeup artist for the night, Daniel Duran, shared his exact breakdown on the look, working exclusively with beauty brand Chantecaille. So, whether you're in need of a waterproof brow pencil, volumizing mascara or long-lasting red lip this Nutcracker season, we've got you covered.

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Dance & Science
Simulations of An's "Marie . T" prosthetic design, via

There's a new tool that lets amputee ballet dancers perform on pointe. As reported in Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, industrial designer Jae-Hyun An has created a prosthesis he calls the "Marie . T" (after Marie Taglioni, of course) that allows dancers with below-the-knee amputations to do pointe work.

A carbon fiber calf absorbs shock while a stainless steel toe and rubber platform allow a dancer to both turn and grip the floor to maintain balance. What it doesn't allow the dancer to do? Roll down to demi-pointe or flat.

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