Introducing Our 2023 “25 to Watch”

December 16, 2022

What will the dance world of tomorrow be like? An answer—or several—might be illuminated by our annual list of dancers, choreographers and companies on the brink of skyrocketing. These trailblazers and breakout stars are forging their own paths through our field. We can’t wait to see where they lead us next.

Dandara Veiga

Dandara Veiga poses in a pale cropped tube top and matching briefs, wearing pointe shoes in a shade of bronze that matches her skin. She balances in a forced arch open fourth position, torso twisted toward the camera as she frames her face with her hands.
Dandara Veiga. Photo by Jayme Thornton.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Doña Perón, created for Ballet Hispánico, does not shy from darkness. Its portrait of Eva Péron devotes ample time to the shadowy aspects of the controversial Argentine first lady’s life. But such is the brilliance of Dandara Veiga’s charisma that, should you see her in the title role, you’ll inevitably come out admiring Evita. 

The kind of dancer who can make psychological turmoil legible in her body, Veiga brings us not just into Perón’s world but into her churning mind. Her dancing and acting share a clarity of purpose: Every element is well-defined, though free of melodramatic overstatement. In Veiga’s hands (and limbs, and face), Perón becomes a person rather than a caricature.

Veiga has been a standout since joining Ballet Hispánico in 2017. But Doña Perón, the company’s first commissioned full-length work, gives her room to expand into her artistry. It’s a star vehicle, and Veiga is a star. —Margaret Fuhrer

Cameron Catazaro

On a darkly lit stage, Cameron Catazaro lunges shallowly to the side, gazing hopefully up at the red feather he holds triumphantly aloft. To the left, the sorcerer Kastchei falls to one knee in dismay as a shadowy horde of colorful creatures cringe away in the background.
Cameron Catazaro (right) as Prince Ivan in Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine’s Firebird. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy MCB.

Steady strength and lyrical pliability put a bloom on Cameron Catazaro’s dancing. His carriage—at over 6′ 2″, he stands tall in the corps of Miami City Ballet—adds nobility and romantic magnitude to his portrayals, a combination that has earned him a bouquet of eye-catching roles, with Prince Siegfried in Alexei Ratmansky’s Swan Lake at the forefront. Catazaro credits his Swan Queen, principal soloist Samantha Hope Galler, with inspiring him to build, through a diligent work ethic, dramatic dimension. His knack for characterization has also heightened the father’s solemnity in Prodigal Son and put youthful vigor into an old legend through Prince Ivan in Firebird.

Canton, Ohio–born and trained, Catazaro spent a year each at Ballet Academy East and MCB School fine-tuning Balanchine-style technique, which sped him, after joining the company in 2019, to featured roles in “Emeralds” and Stravinsky Violin Concerto. And his repertoire keeps growing. Just this fall he took the lead in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. For the season ahead, he’s learning Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun and is set to perform Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels, in which he spread his first-timer’s wings at Jacob’s Pillow last summer. —Guillermo Perez

Guillaume Diop

Guillaume Diop extends a leg to the side, supporting leg turned out in plié. His working side hand is on his hip, the other extended side. He smiles slightly as he gazes down his chin to his extended leg. Other dancers in costume snap to the music in clusters around him.
Guillaume Diop as Basilio in Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote. Photo by Julien Benhamou, courtesy POB.

Becoming the face of diversity at a venerable institution like the Paris Opéra Ballet is no small burden to bear—and can magnify the pressure of a high-profile debut. For a split second, early in Guillaume Diop’s first performance as Solor in La Bayadère last season, a flash of panic registered on his expressive face as the 22-year-old struggled to keep French star Dorothée Gilbert balanced in his arms.

Yet not only did Diop recover, but he improved as the evening went on, with supple elevation in Solor’s treacherous variations and unaffected poise. Born to a French mother and a Senegalese father, the young corps member—who trained at the Paris Opéra Ballet School, but credits a summer intensive with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as a personal breakthrough—has handled every challenge with grace in his four years with the Paris Opéra.

In 2020, he was among a group of Black employees who pushed for progress around racial issues at the institution. The following year, Diop, who was still a quadrille—the lowest corps rank—was given the last-minute opportunity to replace an injured principal as Romeo in Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet. Under heavy scrutiny, Diop’s joyful elegance won over the audience, a feat he repeated as Solor and as Don Quixote’s Basilio. This fall at the internal concours de promotion, he was promoted to the highest corps rank, sujet. The road to becoming the French company’s first Black étoile may be long, but Diop has all the makings of a trailblazer. —Laura Cappelle

Adelaide Clauss

Adelaide Clauss balances in attitude back en pointe, facing the wings, her head tipped to the sky and arms extending wing-like past her shoulders. Over a dozen corps dancers in matching white tutus pose in a V, each standing in an open B-plus, wrists crossed to hover just over their tutus.
Adelaide Clauss as Odette in Julie Kent and Victor Barbee’s Swan Lake. Photo by xmbphotography, courtesy TWB.

As Terpsichore in Balanchine’s Apollo this summer, The Washington Ballet’s Adelaide Clauss mesmerized the audience—as well as Apollo—with adroit, sharp-edged dancing coupled with a flirtatious allure. Gifted with ribbonlike épaulement and an ardent work ethic, Clauss is a consummate artist.

A Buffalo, New York, native, Clauss trained at The Neglia Conservatory of Ballet and American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Catching the eye of TWB artistic director Julie Kent shortly after joining ABT’s Studio Company in 2015, the now-24-year-old is currently in her sixth season with TWB and a bona fide company star.

“Adelaide has this mystery, imagination and luminous quality that allows her to lose herself in whatever roles she is performing,” says Kent. With Clauss having done so in plum roles including Odette/Odile in Kent and Victor Barbee’s Swan Lake and The Lilac Fairy in their The Sleeping Beauty, along with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker, Kent foresees her having many more opportunities to further develop as a storyteller in 2023 and beyond. —Steve Sucato

Andrew McShea

Andrew McShea poses barechested and barefoot in front of a grey backdrop. He looks to his right as his right leg rises in a side attitude, foot arching toward the floor. His opposite arm mirrors his working leg as he hunches slightly forward over his bent standing leg.
Andrew McShea. Photo by Allina Yang, courtesy Whim W’Him.

Rooted yet explosive, his wingspan like that of some ravenous bird, Whim W’Him’s Andrew McShea creates shapes that seem impossible. “His bones are like liquid,” says artistic director Olivier Wevers of this astonishing shape-shifter. McShea easily claims the focus onstage, evoking haunting narratives as he creates characters that are bold, vulnerable, unnerving. In Ethan Colangelo’s a vanishing thread, he’s a painter, the space is his canvas, and every part of his body adds color to his story and character. In Wevers’ Cannibalistic Sanctuary, it’s the torque of his torso, head, then limbs, all wildly flexible, that makes him become the crawling creature, the wounded son. The past three years with Whim W’Him have brought great leaps in artistry and confidence for this dancer, who is, more than anything, a storyteller. “He invites me into a dance fantasy,” says Wevers. “An incarnation of the contemporary dancer I wish I could have been.” —Gigi Berardi

Ishida Dance Company

A woman in a floor-length, off-white gown looks up at one corner, fearful or puzzled as a taller man in a white tank touches her on the shoulder from behind. Other dancers appear to be sleeping upstage.
Brett Ishida’s i want to hold, darling. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Ishida.

It’s rare, in Texas, to witness the level of dancing and dancemaking that Ishida Dance Company consistently achieves in a single evening. Since debuting the company at the beginning of 2020, artistic director and choreographer Brett Ishida has recruited dancers with a flair for drama and rare movement qualities from top companies and choreographers from all parts of the globe. The result? One-of-a-kind shows in Austin and Houston, which project a boutique international festival vibe. Ishida, who has a background in literature, crafts evenings that alchemize into a cohesive whole. Creating a poetic structure that begins with her own work—which typically stems from a written script—and choosing guest choreographers and movers who complement the narrative thread, the gentle impresario orchestrates events that transcend what’s expected of the typical pick-up company model. The season ahead offers new works by European choreographers John Wannehag, Kristian Lever and Mauro Astolfi. Judging from the growth of audience enthusiasm, Ishida, who’s begun nabbing increasingly prominent commissions, and her eponymous company are enjoying a warm Texas embrace. —Nancy Wozny

Mac Twining

Mac Twining drifts through an off-kilter balance, arms floating up to shoulder height as one leg rises to a low side attitude. His hair fluffs out behind him as he directs his gaze on a upward diagonal. He wears short white trousers and a black vest open over a bare chest. Around him, male dancers in diaphanous skirts move through the same motion.
Mac Twining as the Poet in Christopher Williams’ Les Sylphides. Photo by Paula Court, courtesy Richard Kornberg and Associates.

Choreographer Christopher Williams’ works often evoke both the immediate present and the mythical past, the earthly and the unearthly. While those oppositional forces might pull uncomfortably at some performers, Mac Twining, a dancer of great freedom and sweep, handles them with easy grace. As the Poet in Williams’ queer reimagining of Les Sylphides, Twining is a hero for both the Romantic and the modern era. Playful, breezy, open-hearted—shades of Timothée Chalamet—he becomes the perfect foil for the more introspective elegance of ballet star Taylor Stanley’s Queen of the Sylphs.

Twining also performs with Stephen Petronio Company, bringing the same relaxed naturalness to Petronio’s harder-edged, thoroughly contemporary works. Wherever he’s dancing, Twining seems very much himself, and right at home. —Margaret Fuhrer

Amanda Castro

Amanda Castro smiles, gaze downturned toward her blurring feet. She wears a long tunic vest and head wrap that match the white of her tap shoes, and blue pants. Behind her onstage are musicians playing a violin, trumpet, and drums.
Amanda Castro in Soles of Duende’s Can We Dance Here? Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy Castro.

Amanda Castro never wants audiences just to see her when she dances. “I want you to feel things,” she says. “It’s not about me. It’s about what you walk away with.” It’s a somewhat paradoxical desire for a dancer whose luminous stage presence is almost addictive—you fear you’ll miss a clever improvisation or a flash of joy if you let your eyes wander to another performer even for a moment. Her warmth, her vivacity linger long after the curtain closes. 

Castro usually practices her onstage magnetism in tap shoes, frequenting the works of the genre’s heavy hitters like Dormeshia, Ayodele Casel, Jared Grimes and Caleb Teicher. But that wasn’t always the case: Castro danced with Urban Bush Women for four years, taking tap classes whenever she could, before transitioning into musical theater (including a high-profile tour as Anita in West Side Story). It was while working on UBW’s 2015 Walking With ’Trane, inspired by the music of John Coltrane, that she had a realization: “The whole process, I just wanted to have my shoes on,” she says. It didn’t take long for Castro to become one of New York City’s most in-demand tap dancers (winning Grimes’ Run the Night competition in 2016 didn’t hurt). 

Recently, Castro has been expanding her “rhythmic storytelling,” as she puts it, through Soles of Duende, a collaboration with kathak dancer Brinda Guha and flamenco dancer Arielle Rosales that’s quickly amassing critical praise and institutional support. Broadway and an evening-length solo work are still on Castro’s bucket list—blink, and she’ll have already checked them off. —Lauren Wingenroth

Águeda Saavedra 

Águeda Saavedra is shown in profile from the waist up, mid-performance. One hand pulls against her hip as the other curves out to her side. Her head tips forward against her pulled back shoulders, an intense expression on ehr face. She wears a purple dress, flowers bound in her loosely pulled back hair.
Águeda Saavedra. Photo by Farruk Mandujano, courtesy Mandujano.

In flamenco it is not so much what you do as how you do it that is most important—and this is where Águeda Saavedra excels. She nullifies the need to perceive her movement as either contemporary or traditional; rather, she is a vessel of movement expression that recontextualizes time from moment to moment. Her deep backbend can go anywhere; with castanets it evokes an old style of decades ago, while with a head roll while seated on the floor, we are swept into today’s world. 

The 27-year-old has been described in the national Spanish press as the “present and future of flamenco.” Performing with top companies on international stages since her late teens, Saavedra has worked under the direction of award-winning contemporary flamenco choreographers Manuel Liñán, Daniel Doña, Marco Flores and Mercedes de Córdoba as well as the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, and regularly appears in Spain’s most prestigious tablaos

“I have a personal and artistic need to expose myself in a solo work, in a way that I have never done,” Saavedra says. With the coveted Best New Artist Award from the 2022 Festival de Jerez and what she describes as “an unbeatable team” in hand, it seems such a project is only a matter of time. —Bridgit Lujan

Vidya Patel

Vidya Patel kneels at the front of a studio, an excited smile on her face as she gestures with her arms in front of her as though holding an invisible ball.
Vidya Patel. Photo by Josh Hawkins, courtesy Patel.

Following in the footsteps of Akram Khan and Shobana Jeyasingh, Vidya Patel brings together her knowledge of classical Indian and contemporary dance to mesmerizing effect. In a dance film created in fall 2021 as part of her two-year tenure as a Sadler’s Wells Young Associate, she executes quintessential kathak turns and gestural flourishes with her own personal twist. Delicate and intentional, she switches deftly between fluid, almost meditative motions and sudden staccato slices and foot taps. Performing an abstract piece of choreography, Patel’s earnest eyes follow each of her movements with an intensity that gives them narrative meaning. Her talent for storytelling is also evident in the film Trinity (2021), by visual artist Hetain Patel, where she was not only required to dance but also act.

Trained in kathak, Patel first caught the British dance scene’s attention when she represented the South Asian category in the Grand Finals of the 2015 BBC Young Dancer competition. Soon after, she was invited to work with a range of well-known companies and choreographers, such as Richard Alston and Gary Clarke. 

This October, she premiered Don’t Mind Me at Sadler’s Wells, using the children’s board game Snakes and Ladders—which originated in India—as a frame to explore themes of trauma and healing, luck and chance, power and society. It was her final piece as a Young Associate, and only whetted appetites to see how her work will develop. —Emily May

Ashton Edwards

Ashton Edwards' eyes drift close as they backbend towards the ground, the ends of their long braids draping onto the stage, arms rising overhead. They are held aloft by Taylor Stanley, whose arms are wrapped around their waist. Ashton's hips rest on Taylor's bent knees. They both wear multicolored unitards. The stage is outdoors, greenery blurry in the background.
Taylor Stanley and Ashton Edwards in Mango, an adaptation of Andrea Miller’s sky to hold. Photo by Jamie Kraus, courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.

A soaring jump, whirligig turns, refined pointe work, lines for days—Ashton Edwards has them all. But what makes the 20-year-old Pacific Northwest Ballet corps member an unforgettable performer isn’t their meticulous technique, musicality and apparently effortless physicality—it’s joy, pure and simple. Onstage, Edwards (whose pronouns are they/them) radiates a love for ballet that started at age 3, when they saw Brandye Lee dance the Sugar Plum Fairy. “I just wanted to be everything she embodied,” says Edwards. They started training a year later, and ballet quickly took on a deep personal resonance. “Growing up queer in the Black community, and also in a low-income community, it was this escape from reality,” they say.

Fast-forward 16 years and Edwards has garnered featured roles in Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing and Dwight Rhoden’s Catching Feelings at PNB, and in Mango, adapted from Andrea Miller’s sky to hold, in Taylor Stanley’s Dichotomous Being program at Jacob’s Pillow. They’ve also had an impact as a nonbinary ballet dancer of color. “Ashton is so much more than their talent,” says PNB artistic director Peter Boal. “They are a thoughtful advocate for change within the company and in the world of dance.” Yet for Edwards, everything still comes down to The Nutcracker, and that magical feeling of ballet bliss. “Getting to perform the corps of Snow—my heart flutters every time!” —Claudia Bauer

Quinn Starner

Quinn Starner balances in fourth position en pointe, chin raised smartly to look past her extended arm. Her hair is neatly pulled back in a bun; she wears a leotard-esque costume in oranges and reds over pink tights.
Quinn Starner in Silas Farley’s Architects of Time. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy NYCB.

Professional ballet isn’t where most comp kids—the contemporary-competition dynamos who dominate “So You Think You Can Dance” rosters—end up. But when they do turn their distinctive powers toward ballet, magic often happens.

Quinn Starner, an alum of the competition circuit, now cuts fearlessly through choreography of all styles at New York City Ballet. When she was a young teenager, her fantastically vivid solos earned accolades at both contemporary and ballet contests. In 2018, she changed tacks, enrolling at the School of American Ballet; last year, she joined NYCB’s corps. Professional ballet life has polished down some of her harder edges, but that has only enhanced her sparkle. As an original cast member in both Silas Farley’s Architects of Time last spring and Kyle Abraham’s Love Letter (on shuffle) last fall, she showed a new refinement in her épaulement and port de bras.

Starner seems more than ready for ballet’s technical challenges, and invigorated by its artistic ones—much like fellow comp-kid-turned-ballet-pro unicorns Tiler Peck, James Whiteside and Catherine Hurlin. That’s a good list to be on. —Margaret Fuhrer

Elijah Richardson

Elijah Richardson crouches on a series of boulders beside a body of water, long black hair flowing in the wind as he looks up toward an outstretched arm, fingers curling. His other hand rises near his mouth, somewhere between amplifying a call and shielding his face.
Elijah Richardson. Photo by Michelle Reid Photography, courtesy South Chicago Dance Theatre.

With quirky charisma and an infectious smile, Elijah Richardson burst onto Chicago’s dance scene in 2018. But it was last year that he made an indelible mark, delivering a masterful performance in South Chicago Dance Theatre’s smash hit, five-year anniversary concert at the Harris Theater—just two years and a pandemic after he worked there as an usher. The San Jose, California, native has long been insatiable, training in everything from figure skating to musical theater, ballet to Gaga. He booked a ticket to the Windy City the moment he graduated from Chapman University with a dance degree. Three seasons with DanceWorks Chicago solidified Richardson’s command of physical theater, but this dancer is as multifaceted as his interests: He pulls off impassioned lyricism and pinpoint precision as easily as slapstick comedy. Others outside Chicago have taken notice too: He recently guested with Memphis’ Collage Dance Collective and has had his work selected four times for the 92Y Mobile Dance Film Festival. —Lauren Warnecke

Dominic Moore-Dunson

Dominic Moore-Dunson in blue jeans, white t-shirt, and green blazer dancing in front of a wooden wall.
Dominic Moore-Dunson. Photo by Olivia Moon Photography, courtesy Moore-Dunson.

“Urban Midwest storytelling” is how dancer and choreographer Dominic Moore-Dunson describes his approach to his works. The 33-year-old’s visceral, cross-disciplinary dance projects, themed around Blackness and social justice, pull from his personal experiences living and working in Akron, Ohio. Trained at Akron’s performing arts schools, Moore-Dunson performed with Cleveland’s Inlet Dance Theatre for 10 years. His 2018 The “Black Card” Project, billed as a “live-action dance-theater cartoon,” was developed during his time at Inlet; a solo work, CAUTION, was commissioned by Akron Art Museum that same year. A 2019 Jacob’s Pillow Ann and Weston Hicks Choreography Fellowship and 2019 Cleveland Arts Prize Emerging Artist Award for Theatre and Dance soon followed.

His current project, inCOPnegro, is a two-pronged exploration of the concept of “safety” and police relations in Black communities throughout America. “It’s me trying to understand what to say to my kids about police as Black people,” says Moore-Dunson, who has been wrongfully stopped some 45 times by police. The podcast inCOPnegro: Black and Blue, launched in April 2022, features the dance artist in conversation with individuals on both sides of the “blue line” as he tries to find answers to that question. The evening-length dance theater production, developed in part at the National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron, is set to debut in June. —Steve Sucato

Becca Robinson

Becca Robinson, a woman with a buzzcut, wearing white-framed sunglasses, chunky
hoop earrings, a green and red Hawaiian shirt, turquoise pants, and black tennis shoes, poses in
front of a concrete wall. Her feet are wide apart with the heel of her left foot lifted. Her knees are
bent, and she is leaning to her right side, while looking upwards and to the left.
Becca Robinson. Photo by Liv Battista, courtesy Robinson.

When given the chance to perform on national television, most dancers flaunt their most impressive tricks. But as a contestant on NBC’s “Dancing with Myself,” Becca Robinson chose instead to make people laugh, sniffing her armpit and dropping into a sudden split. That’s not to say Robinson lacks real moves: Her eye-catching versatility has earned her impressive credits, including assisting choreographer Bo Park in creating a Virgin Voyages dance show, as well as dancing in the movies In the Heights and Isn’t It Romantic, Taylor Swift’s performance at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, and a flash mob at the premiere of Jennifer Lopez’s documentary Halftime.

No matter the job, the San Diego–born, New York City–based Robinson lets her sense of humor shine through. In a hypercompetitive dance world, her unapologetic quirkiness is refreshing. “If there’s not some sort of comedic element in my improv, the dance or my facials, then I didn’t do my job of being authentic,” she says. “It’s okay to be different. There’s room on the dance floor for everyone.” —Kristi Yeung

Tendayi Kuumba

Brown Skinned woman with locks draped to the left and arms lifted to the right of the face
Tendayi Kuumba. Photo by Hayim Heron, courtesy Kuumba.

The Lady in Brown in Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf is the choreo-poem’s emotional center, bookending the show with her utterances of the famous lines that give the groundbreaking work its title. But in Tendayi Kuumba’s interpretation of the role, it wasn’t just her monologues that both catalyzed and grounded last year’s much-lauded Broadway revival, directed and choreographed by Camille A. Brown. It was her dancing—electric, free, fearless—that established her as the show’s driving force and the standout in a cast full of standouts.

Kuumba’s Chita Rivera Award–winning performance was just the most recent example of the 34-year-old’s striking ability to bring her full self to all the vastly varying stages she dances on, from David Byrne’s American Utopia—her Broadway debut—to her time with Urban Bush Women. The work she creates with partner Greg Purnell as UFly Mothership is as multi-hyphenated as she is, combining music, movement and technology to create expansive sensory universes. (Their most recent work, The Adventures of Mr. Left Brain and Ms. Right, for the Stephen Petronio Company, premiered last month.)

Next up for Kuumba: choreographing one-third of a shared program with Annie-B Parson and Donna Uchizono that will premiere later this year in New York City and tour in summer 2024. —Lauren Wingenroth

Mikaela Santos

Mikaela Santos caught midair in a sissone, back arm raised on a diagonal to mirror her split legs. She smiles warmly, chin raised. She wears a yellow dress in the style of a romantic tutu. Around her other costumed dancers watch from the sides and back of the stage.
Mikaela Santos in Giselle. Photo by Kim Kenney, courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

It’s her imaginative spark—along with pristine technique and bright musicality—that makes Mikaela Santos one of Atlanta Ballet’s most captivating dancers. Last March, Santos breathed startling freshness into Giselle’s peasant pas de deux, catching the music’s quickening pulse with fleet footwork while her upper body revealed buoyant flourishes with warmth and spontaneity. In May, Santos enchanted in Sergio Masero’s Schubertiada. She tripped along Schubert’s rolling rhythms with swift attack—each change of focus revealed new facets and feelings as she caught her partner’s eye and drew out the music’s playful sensuality.

Born in the Philippines, Santos credits her teacher, Effie Nañas, for preparing her to study and compete at the international level, where Santos developed an “inner presence” and the confidence to show her individuality, and with nurturing her natural expressivity. Santos often imagines she’s dancing in wind or underwater. “Once you finish a step, it breaks the moment,” she says. “I want people to feel that it’s not going to stop.” After her recent tour de force performance in Justin Peck’s In Creases, with more opportunities ahead, it doesn’t seem she’ll have to. —Cynthia Bond Perry

Simone Acri

Simone Acri is midair, doing a temps levé. He is costumed in an old-fashioned, childlike blue suit with red piping. A dancer costumed as a shaggy dog appears behind him, seeming ready to pounce.
Simone Acri as Fritz in Stanton Welch’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet.

Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch has found a new muse in Simone Acri. In a jaw-dropping solo in Welch’s Sparrow, set to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Baby Driver,” Acri weaved through the driving beat, revealing the song’s bittersweet undercurrent. In Brigade, he nailed Welch’s tongue-in-cheek humor while dazzling with his freewheeling style. And it’s not just his artistic director’s work in which the newly minted soloist excels: He launched this season with a robust performance of Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan, giving the hellion of a wild child ample charisma along with soaring flying skills. With an ability to both move with total abandon and mine the in-between places, Acri sources his spectacular technique to shape a choreographer’s vision. He’s like a fully charged battery—high-energy but precise, and solid with his bravado turns and jumps. But it’s how he does those things, with such nuance, joy and connection to the audience, that has him turning the heads of spectators and artistic staff alike. —Nancy Wozny

Elwince Magbitang

During a performance, Elwince Magbitang performs a brisé to his right. He wears a billowy off-white shirt with blue-striped trim, a thin orange headband, white tights with blue-stipes along the left leg and white ballet slippers. A glittering staircase is upstage of him in the background.
Elwince Magbitang in the Neopolitan dance in Swan Lake. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy ABT.

It’s not every day that American Ballet Theatre casts an apprentice in a soloist role. And yet, as Elwince Magbitang soared through barrel turns, 540s, tours and other feats in the second act of Don Quixote last June, it was clear that the company was introducing its audiences to a virtuoso talent

Powerful, musical and charismatic, the 21-year-old Magbitang has been creating buzz since he arrived in 2018 from his native Philippines to train at ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. As a student he was chosen to dance a small part in the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Seasons. Shortly afterward, in 2019, he joined ABT’s Studio Company, where he impressed in bravura roles like the folk-inspired Gopak variation. This fall, as a newly promoted corps member, he made his debut as Puck in Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream.

“Elwince’s dancing shows strength and panache,” says former ABT principal Stella Abrera, a close mentor. She spotted Magbitang, then a student at Manila’s Steps Dance Studio, in 2018 when he performed in a fundraising gala she organized in the Philippines. Impressed, she and her husband, Studio Company artistic director Sascha Radetsky, arranged his audition for the JKO School. “It’s been such a thrill witnessing his journey,” Abrera says. “He’s an inspiration to his hometown and beyond.” —Amy Brandt

Erin Casale

Erin Casale balances in attitude front en pointe, her partner, the prince, supporting her around the waist and mirroring her outside arm in high fifth. She wears a pale blue dress with golden details and finery. Courtiers in red look on from upstage.
Erin Casale with Lucius Kirst in Susan Jaffe’s Swan Lake. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy PBT.

A compact powerhouse as much at home in leotard roles as she is in tutu-and-tiara ballets, Erin Casale is every bit a 21st-century dance artist. In an excerpt from Marius Petipa’s Le Talisman while she was a student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, her buoyant steps, turns and extensions evoked visions of an ebullient Disney heroine. As a featured soloist in Nacho Duato’s Duende, she contorted her body into shapes resembling symbols from some ancient civilization. “Erin is very daring and dynamic when she moves,” says former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre artistic director Susan Jaffe. “When I needed someone with presence and power to dance the lead in my Bolero, Erin was the perfect fit.”

A Johnstown, Pennsylvania, native, Casale trained at Virginia’s Academy of Russian Ballet and Johnstown Concert Ballet prior to going to PBT’s school, where she rose through its levels to be handpicked in 2019 by then–artistic director Terrence S. Orr to join the company. Now in her fourth season with PBT, the 23-year-old says her career goal is “to experience everything.” —Steve Sucato

Gianna “Gigi” Todisco

Gianna “Gigi” Todisco is jumping in the air, with one leg extended in front of her and the other bent behind her. One arm is wrapped around her head and the other is extended behind her. She is in the hallway of a white building with columns and a terra cotta colored tile floor. She is wearing black boots, cargo shorts, and a button up white shirt. Her dark hair is in braids. 
Gianna “Gigi” Todisco. Photo by Anna Tse, courtesy Todisco.

Gianna “Gigi” Todisco’s resumé is the picture of versatility. In the six years since she graduated from Loyola Marymount University, she’s served as movement director for Post Malone, ZHU, Islands and NIKI; performed in a series of operas choreographed by Jacob Jonas and No)one. Art House’s Chris Emile; appeared in music videos and commercials for the likes of Tinashe, Vans, OnStar and Hennessy; and made waves in the concert dance scene with Micaela Taylor’s The TL Collective. She recently wrapped up a run as choreographer and performer with opening act Kali Uchis as part of Tyler, the Creator’s world tour. Through it all, Todisco leaves her unique stamp on everything she does, imbuing each project with her gritty, avant-garde, effortlessly cool sensibilities—whatever corner of the industry she finds herself in. —Sophie Bress

Jordan Demetrius Lloyd

Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, a tall Black man crouched down on a white box. He’s smiling with his hands up.
Jordan Demetrius Lloyd. Photo by Whitney Browne, courtesy Lloyd.

On a balmy evening early last June, a public school playground deep in Brooklyn became New York City’s hottest proverbial club: Droves of people—an equal mix of experimental-dance who’s whos and Bedford-Stuyvesant residents—flocked to a free performance of Jordan Demetrius Lloyd’s Jerome, an enchanting, elegant work that seemed to both capture and converse with the particular magic of golden hour in the neighborhood. 

Lloyd—whom New York audiences may also know as a performer in the works of David Dorfman, Beth Gill, Tere O’Connor and others—was as surprised as anyone by the massive turnout. But in retrospect, underestimating Lloyd’s skill as a community-gatherer, a self-producer or an artist is a mistake. The 28-year-old, who’s been receiving growing support for his work over the past several years (a New York Live Arts Fresh Tracks residency, a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, commissions from Issue Project Room and Danspace Project), leaves little to chance, crafting dreamy, highly detailed works full of unexpected gesture and pedestrian virtuosity.

Inspired by postmodernism, Lloyd positions his work at the intersection of that canon and other contemporary performance aesthetics. But don’t try to put his work in any kind of box, or category: “I feel a deep aversion to branding myself as the artist that does a thing,” he says. “A unidirectional career does not feel like the one I’m after.” We may not know where Lloyd is going next, but the masses are sure to follow. —Lauren Wingenroth

Musa Motha

Musa Motha came into his own in the September premiere of Rambert’s Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby. Equally at home in flamboyant jazz club scenes as in opium-riddled dream sequences and fast-paced fight choreography, Motha seamlessly switches between cheeky, staccato, hip-hop–inspired solos and intimate duets in the role of Barney.

Musa Motha balances on his crutches, downstage leg bent at the knee with a pointed foot. He hovers over a sea of fog against the backdrop of a red velvet curtain. A rope at the height of his waist runs out of frame to each side. His gaze is meditative as he peers down into the fog.
Musa Motha in Ben Duke’s Cerberus for Rambert. Photo by Camilla Greenwell, courtesy Rambert.

Motha dances with crutches; his left leg was amputated when he was 11 after he was diagnosed with bone cancer. While such a surgery could have been seen as career-ending for anyone in a physical profession, it propelled Motha into the world of movement. After starting off as a commercial street dancer—most notably featuring in Drake’s “One Dance” music video—Motha, originally from South Africa, first transitioned into contemporary concert dance when he joined the Johannesburg-based Vuyani Dance Theatre in 2018, before debuting with Rambert last May. While the UK is home to pioneering organizations like Candoco, which hires a mixture of disabled and non-disabled performers, the former rarely secure positions with mainstream companies like Rambert. Now, as a member of Britain’s oldest contemporary-dance company, Motha is helping to shift perceptions in the country’s dance scene, and is perfectly placed to continue growing as an artist in his own right. —Emily May

Madeline Maxine Gorman

Madeline Maxine Gorman jumps in front of a white backdrop. Her knees are tucked up beneath her, feet pointed, while she twists to look toward the arm that is raised up and behind her. She wears a dark suit over a white button down. Her brown curls fly around her face.
Madeline Maxine Gorman. Photo by Bill Gorman, courtesy Madeline Maxine Gorman.

Madeline Maxine Gorman doesn’t just live her values, she choreographs and dances them. Navigating the dance world as a queer, disabled and neurodivergent creative, she incorporates material from her intersectional identities into her intellectually probing, politically minded and personally revelatory works. Between Myself, a developing solo show, draws from her childhood diary musings, memories of terrible first dates and her ongoing experiences with hearing loss. Bitten Tongue, created when she was studying dance and communications at Towson University, probes the inner psyche of a working woman rebelling against holding her tongue in a male-dominated corporate world. Filled with flings and forceful tumbles, its androgynous choreographic language leans in. New this year, her Tooth and Claw will examine “tall poppy syndrome” (when successful people are criticized for succeeding), pointedly blasting American exceptionalism to an original score riffing on ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money.”

Gorman, who was selected for Dance Place’s Dance and Disability Residency, created GRIDLOCK Dance to reflect her values as an artist and person. Foremost, that means paying dancers for rehearsals and performances, and deep collaborative work. She strives for what she calls “concinnity,” a concept akin to harmony. In practice, that includes planning around dancers’ schedules and valuing other parts of their lives. “Real life comes first,” she says. “Not a part-time gig.” —Lisa Traiger

STL Rhythm Collaborative

A half dozen smiling women in tap shoes pose on a tap board in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
STL Rhythm Collaborative. Photo by Katie Strzelec Photography, courtesy STL Rhythm Collaborative.

The professional tap scene in St. Louis fizzled when Robert Reed, founder of the St. Louis Tap Festival and lead ambassador for the form in the Gateway City, died in 2015. But Maria Majors took up the mantle in 2021, forming the STL Rhythm Collaborative by combining her pickup troupe, moSTLy TAP, with companion group moSTLy JAZZ to reconnect tap dancers with their jazz music roots. Its first full-length show, which premiered in October 2021, pulled apart music by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and strung it back together with indulgently satisfying taps layered on top. That same year, the company launched the STL Rhythm Fest, modeled after Reed’s illustrious festival and reinvigorating the local scene. This summer’s edition brought heavy hitters like Chicagoans Nico Rubio, George Patterson III and Martin “Tre” Dumas III back to the city to shore up professional-level training, but the company itself has some serious chops—proving that St. Louis’ ongoing legacy as a city for tap is secure. —Lauren Warnecke

Header photo credits, left to right, top to bottom: Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miami City Ballet; Mike Esperanza, courtesy Castro; Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre; Michelle Reid, courtesy South Chicago Dance Theatre; Farruk Mandujano, courtesy Mandujano; Olivia Moon Photography, courtesy Moore-Dunson; Amy Gardner, courtesy Todisco; Paul Court, courtesy Richard Kornberg and Associates; Laurence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy Houston Ballet; Agathe Poupeney, courtesy Paris Opéra Ballet; Paula Lobo, courtesy Ballet Hispánico; Liv Battista, courtesy Robinson; Camilla Greenwell, courtesy Rambert; Whitney Browne, courtesy Lloyd; Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy American Ballet Theatre; Clarence Alford, courtesy STL Rhythm Collaborative; xmbphotography, courtesy The Washington Ballet; Bill Gorman, courtesy Madeline Maxine Gorman; Erin Baiano, courtesy New York City Ballet; Allina Yang, courtesy Whim W’Him; Kim Kenney, courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Spelman College, courtesy Kuumba; Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet; Camilla Greenwell, courtesy Patel; Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Ishida.