The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

January 3, 2020

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

A stock image of two sets of feet, each of which in tendue to the same same. They are barefoot against a black floor.

Getty Images

#10: The New Injury Prevention Rules

Dance science has come a long way in the past few decades. Leading the way has been the team at The Australian Ballet, who famously rehabbed American Ballet Theatre principal David Hallberg after his ongoing struggle with injuries.

We asked Dr. Sue Mayes, the company’s principal physiotherapist, about the injury-prevention recommendations she’s developed through years of extensive research
. Her insight—some of it contradictory to what dancers are often told, such as limiting stretching and foam rolling—captured our audience’s attention, showing that dancers are hungry for the most up-to-date information about their bodies.

A woman in a black jumpsuit kicks one leg up, and has her hands behind her ears. A large group surrounds her, cheering her on and taking photos.

A Ladies of Hip-Hop battle.
Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop

#9: At What Point Does Appreciation Become Appropriation?

The dance community is (thankfully) becoming more aware of why it’s harmful to appropriate a culture that doesn’t belong to you. But that doesn’t mean we can’t engage with dance forms from other cultures at all. So what does it look like to do so respectfully? When does appreciation become appropriation?

Writer Brian Schaefer explored that question with the help of a wide variety of dance artists—like Nic Gareiss, an American who performs Irish and Scottish dances, and Ephrat Asherie, a white woman who has made her name as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer.

The question isn’t answered simply, but it’s still worth asking—clearly our readers agree.

Boren stands on a small stage, demonstrating releve in first position. A room full of women in athletic gear copy her, standing on yoga mats.

Boren teaching a class for an Equinox event.
Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

#8: Get-Fit Tips from an ABT Dancer Who’s Also a Certified Trainer

Dancers (even ballet dancers!) are finally embracing cross-training, after years of silly worries about building “bulk.” Some personal trainers have emerged as go-tos for dance stars. And some dancers have become personal trainers themselves.

We asked ABT dancer and certified personal trainer Kathryn Boren for her best tips
—from strengthening parallel to focusing on your weaknesses to just taking your time. Readers seemed to appreciate her unique perspective as both a professional dancer and a fitness expert.

A young woman wearing a blue leotard, tights and audition number stands in front of the barre. We only see from her chest to her upper legs.

Matthew Murphy

#7: An Open Letter to Artistic and Executive Directors: Stop Making Dancers Pay to Audition

Seriously, why is this still a thing?
As Sara Bibik points out in this letter, there’s no other field where you have to pay to attend a job interview. She also debunks the arguments that auditions are essentially master classes, and that companies are just trying to make up for the expense they incur by holding auditions.

Considering how many times this story was commented on and shared, it’s safe to say that our readers have some feels about this topic—and that many of them agree with Bibik.

Watson, wearing only short black shorts, extends his leg up at a 180 degree angle, grabbing his ankle with his hands and leaning slightly forward toward his leg, he is on releve on the other leg.

Edward Watson in Wayne McGregor’s Carbon Life
Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Royal Opera House

#6: The Story of How Ballet Legs Got Higher, and Higher, and Higher

Extreme extensions haven’t always been the norm in ballet. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s—thanks to dancers like Sylvie Guillem and choreographers like William Forsythe—that it became normal for dancers’ legs to extend past their ears.

Writer Emma Sandall traced the history of high legs in ballet in this fascinating story, and explored the political, anatomical and historical factors that caused legs to rise over the years. The most notable reader response was from former New York Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay, who disagreed on some of Sandall’s points and added more context to others.

A black and white stock photo of dancer performing en pointe, wearing a long, light-colored dress. She faces slightly away from the camera, with one arm in fifth position and the other in second.

Hannah Homayoonfar/Unsplash

#5: Why Do Dancers Push Through Pain Even When They Know It’s Bad for Them?

We’re all guilty of ignoring twinges, aches and pains. But since dancers today are smarter about their bodies than ever, there’s really no excuse to keep dancing through “bad pain” when we know it only makes things worse.

Writer Kathryn Boland investigated why it is that dancers continue to do this
, finding that our culture often encourages dancers to be “hardcore,” and that dancers’ lack of time and money contributes to unhealthy habits. Unfortunately, many readers on Facebook responded to the question posed by the headline with “because we have to.”

Khoreva in a white leotard and short white skirt. She is in a wide position en pointe, at a slight angle. Her arms are above her head, holding a small harp. She is against a blue background.

Maria Khoreva in Apollo
Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre

#4: The Insta-Ballerina: How Mariinsky Newcomer Maria Khoreva Shot to Stardom

Maria Khoreva, the 18-year-old Mariinsky superstar, has 353,000 Instagram followers. So it’s really no surprise that our cover story on her was one of our most popular of the year.

Writer Laura Cappelle compellingly conveys how Khoreva is more than an Instagram star or a trickster—she’s a bonafide artist, and one who we should all have our eye on.

Dancers lined up at a ballet audition, with numbers pinned to the front of their leotard. We only see them from the chest down, and they seem to be standing at the back of the room observing.

Quinn Wharton

#3: How Do You Succeed in Dance?

Who doesn’t want dance advice from Paloma Herrera, Judith Jamison and Meredith Monk? For this feature, we asked 33 industry leaders—from artists to casting directors to psychologists to stage managers to physical therapists—what it takes to succeed in dance today. Their advice was wide-ranging, and touched on the creative process, sustaining a long career and just being a good human.

A group of ballet dancers who seem to be learning choreography in a dance studio. They are in rehearsal wear and look like they are marking movement being taught at the front of the room.

Matthew Murphy

#2: Can’t Pick Up Choreography Quickly? This Might Be Why

Our second most-read story of the year
speaks to a challenge that so many dancers have, and that we probably don’t talk about enough. Speech pathologist and dancer Helene Schwartz recounts her experiences struggling to pick up choreography as a student, and explains how her time working with children who have auditory processing deficits has made her rethink what was actually happening in her brain. She makes the important case that everyone processes information differently, and that we should be teaching movement with that in mind.

#1: “Good Morning America” Thinks It’s Totally Acceptable to Laugh at a 6-Year-Old for Taking Ballet

If you were paying attention this year, you could probably guess what our top-clicked story was. When Lara Spencer made fun of Prince George for taking ballet classes on “Good Morning America,” the dance community rallied together to show the world why she was wrong. Dance Magazine was one of the first outlets to report on the story: Not only was it our most popular of the year, but our most popular of all time.

Even our follow-up post
covering Lara Spencer’s apology and interview with Robert Fairchild, Travis Wall and Fabrice Calmels ended up as one of our most-read of the year.

Let’s hope that 2020 brings more unity and action within the dance community.