Mary Grace McNally's "Not for Picking" (Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher)

Congrats to the 2018 Capezio A.C.E. Awards Winners!

What's better than a competition that gives promising choreographers a whole bunch of funding? How about a competition that also puts on a must-see show as part of the process? That's the genius model of the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. Every year since 2009, the contest has brought upwards of a dozen finalists, selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants, to present their choreography in a fabulous showcase at the Dance Teacher Summit. On Saturday night, we got to see the work of no fewer than 21(!) talented finalists in this year's performance.

The judging panel—whose task we did not envy—featured boldface names Mia Michaels, Tyce Diorio, Tessandra Chavez, and Dance Magazine Editor in Chief Jennifer Stahl. Who'd they select for the top prizes? The winners are...


Second Runners-Up (It's a Tie!): Rudy Abreu and Erik Saradpon

All hail the power of a strong all-male ensemble. Abreu's powerful work, "Pray," set to Sam Smith's song of the same name, featured a tribe of men in white grappling with the ideas of death and spirituality. Saradpon's "Play" also highlighted a talented cast of guys in an infectiously fun Michael Jackson mashup, which turned a collection of briefcases into a crazy sort of jukebox.

Rudy Abreu's "Pray" (Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher)

First Runner-Up: Aidan Carberry and Jordan Johnson

This choreographic duo (also known as JA Collective) from the USC Kaufman School of Dance mixed contemporary and hip hop in mind-meltingly ingenious ways in their piece, "Off the Hill." A special shout-out to their excellent group of dancers, which included our faves Simrin Player and Jake Tribus.

Aidan Carberry and Jordan Johnson's "Off the Hill" (Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher)

Winner: Mary Grace McNally

Mixing earnest emotion with tongue-in-cheek wit can be a tricky thing, but McNally's remarkable piece, "Not for Picking," found just the right balance between the two. Her sophisticated choreographic voice found beautiful expression in a strong cast of women.

Mary Grace McNally's "Not for Picking" (Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher)

Congrats to all the winners! Each will receive funds to produce a full-length show—and we can't wait to see what their brilliant minds come up with.

This story originally appeared on dancespirit.com.

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TaraMarie Perri in tree pose at Storm King Art Center. Photo by Sophie Kuller, Courtesy Perri

5 Self-Soothing Exercises You Can Do to Calm Your Anxiety

Physical stillness can be one of the hardest things to master in dance. But stillness in the bigger sense—like when your career and life are on hold—goes against every dancers' natural instincts.

"Dancers are less comfortable with stillness and change than most," says TaraMarie Perri, founder and director of Perri Institute for Mind and Body and Mind Body Dancer. "Through daily discipline, we are trained to move through space and are attracted to forward momentum. Simply put, dancers are far more comfortable when they have a sense of control over the movements and when life is 'in action.' "

To regain that sense of control, and soothe some of the anxiety most of us are feeling right now, it helps to do what we know best: Get back into our bodies. Certain movements and shapes can help ground us, calm our nervous system and bring us into the present.

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