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We Totally Nailed These Past "25 to Watch" Picks

It's January, and that means one thing here at Dance Magazine: It's "25 to Watch" time. Back in January 2001, we started the tradition of highlighting 25 up-and-coming dancers, choreographers, companies and trends who, in our humble opinion, were on the brink of making major waves. This was my first year being in the room where it happens, and poring over the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of worthy nominees inspired me to look back at our previous "25 to Watch" lists—and I have to say, we've got a pretty great track record. So to celebrate the ringing in of a new generation of 25 to Watchers, here are 25 dancers and choreographers who proved us right.

Daniel Ulbricht's 2008 DM cover.

2001 In the inaugural edition, we called out recently-promoted American Ballet Theatre soloist Marcelo Gomes, now a seasoned principal and 2015 Dance Magazine Award recipient; high-flying NYCB stars Ashley Bouder and Daniel Ulbricht (then still an SAB student!); and a pre-Royal Ballet/Chroma Wayne McGregor.

2002 Speaking of seasoned ABT principals: Gillian Murphy got a nod from Gus Solomons jr, who described her as "fearless, flawless, and versatile." On the other end of the spectrum was kathak/contemporary master Akram Khan, then gaining momentum to become the internationally lauded star he is today.

Misty Copeland was a 25 to Watch in 2003. PC Jayme Thornton.

2003 There were a lot of phenomenal artists on this year's list, but you only need to hear one name to understand their collective caliber: Misty Copeland. The barrier-breaking ballerina who now needs no introduction was then a new member of ABT's corps. Georgina Parkinson prophetically told us, "She's going to flourish here."

2004 The year we put Stella Abrera on the cover, a full decade before she received her long-deserved promotion to principal dancer at ABT. Also on the list: tap wizard Jason Samuels Smith, and the first American to become a principal at the Bolshoi Ballet, David Hallberg.

2005 We pointed out the wondrously leggy Teresa Reichlen as a rising star at New York City Ballet, and that view was validated pretty quickly: Peter Martins promoted her to soloist that very month.

Carla Korbes graced the cover of our February 2010 issue.

2006 Also known as: The year of the future cover stars. We had beloved former–Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Carla Körbes (cover: February 2010); ABT's luminous Hee Seo (cover: May 2013); NYCB's dreamy leading man Amar Ramasar (cover: February 2016); and fierce and fabulous Boston Ballet principal Misa Kuranaga (cover: November 2016).

2007 Natalia Osipova? Enough said.

2008 Ivan Vasiliev? Likewise.

2009 Just saying: We knew Kyle Abraham was a genius three years before the MacArthur Foundation made it official.

Alex Wong at the cover shoot for DM's June 2015 issue. PC Nathan Sayers.

2010

Alex Wong wowed us during his fast-tracked career at Miami City Ballet, where he had recently been promoted to principal soloist when he landed on our list. Little did we know he would take the daring leap from classical to commercial that summer, stealing the hearts of "So You Think You Can Dance" fans before going on to have a phenomenal freelance career.

2011 He was still a principal dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet when he founded Whim W'Him, but we knew that Olivier Wevers was onto something. (If you want proof, we recently followed him through a tech day for an episode of "Behind the Curtain.") Across the pond, Melissa Hamilton was making a serious impression on London audiences with The Royal Ballet, particularly as something of a muse to Wayne McGregor.

2012 When Taylor Stanley was promoted to principal dancer before a New York City Ballet performance in May, the only surprising thing about the decision was the timing. He was a year away from a soloist promotion when we featured him, but he'd already turned heads dancing the lead in Balanchine's Square Dance.

2013 Creative collaborators/offstage couple Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener were standouts as individual dancers in the Merce Cunningham Company, but once they started choreographing with and on each other in 2010 they reached a new level of cool. And that wasn't the last we've seen of the duo: Between what seems like non-stop work on their various creative projects they found time to appear as the cover stars of our "Renegades" issue in 2015.

2014 Another former Cunningham dancer, Melissa Toogood, already had an impressive resume of freelance work to her name in 2014: Pam Tanowitz, Rosie Herrera, Stephen Petronio, Kyle Abraham, Rashaun Mitchell...Yes, this is what really "making it" as a freelance contemporary dancer in NYC looks like.

2015 We loved Stuart Singer so much that when, the following year, we dedicated our March issue to freelance stars of NYC, we had to put him on the cover. The former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company member and Bessie winner simply shows up (and does amazing things) everywhere.

2016 It was impossible to pick just one. (And besides, we've already hit 25.)

In Memoriam
A flyer showing Alberto Alonso, Fernando Alonso, Benjamin Steinberg and Alicia Alonso. Photo courtesy the author

Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.

My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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Hansuke Yamamoto in Helgi Tomasson's Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet, which features an exciting and respectful Chinese divertissement. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.

In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."

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Dance & Activism
Allegra Bautista in Nevertheless, by ka·nei·see | collective. Photo by Robbie Sweeny

An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.

"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.

With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.

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