Dance History
President Obama awarding Bill T. Jones the National Medal of Arts. Photo by Pete Souza via Obama White House Archives

Every year since 1985, the President of the United States has recognized our country's greatest artists with the National Medal of Arts. Many dancers and choreographers—from Martha Graham to Tommy Tune to Edward Villella—have received the award.

But President Trump has yet to award any artists (the deadline for the 2016 medals was last February, and historically the ceremony has been held later the same year). Though the White House says it will "likely" issue awards later in 2018, this is the longest gap between ceremonies since the founding of the award—and it speaks to the current administration's general disinterest in the arts.

Since taking office a year and a half ago, President Trump has held no dance performances at the White House, and aside from the military band, no performances whatsoever. He has frequently disparaged artists, from Meryl Streep to the cast of Hamilton. The fate of the National Endowment for the Arts has also come into question. If the President does indeed continue with the award, we wonder how his attitude toward artists will affect who is chosen—and whether artists will even accept the honor. (Carmen de Lavallade and several other Kennedy Center honorees skipped the White House reception last year to boycott the President.)

None of this will stop us from continuing to celebrate worthy dance artists—or from remembering the many dancers and choreographers who've been honored by past Presidents:

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Dancers Trending
Keone and Mari Madrid have created a first-of-its-kind dance ebook. Photo via Kickstarter

For the past few years, when Keone and Mari Madrid would try to explain their next big idea to people, they were often met with confusion. The pair—known for their viral dance videos and stint on "World of Dance"—dreamed of making a dance ebook, where text, video, audio and illustration would combine to create an interactive storytelling experience.

Now, years after conceiving the idea, they've done it—and they're on their way to opening the door for more artists to explore the medium. Their ebook, Ruth, follows an elderly woman who has left her retirement home for the first time in years, and is transported to an alternate universe—filled with dance, of course.

We caught up with the duo to hear about the project—and what it was like to work with over 200 dancers in five different countries.

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Dancers Trending
Miami City Ballet's Nathalia Arja, PC Alexander Iziliaev

We love learning new things about our favorite dancers through our "Spotlight" Q&A series (like Sterling Baca's obsession with spiders!). One of the questions we always ask is: What's the biggest misconception about dancers?

After a while, we began to sense a pattern in the responses. Here's how five dancers answered the question (warning: this may make you hungry!):

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Dance Training
Nadia Khayrallah wishes she'd been told how much dance work is unpaid. Photo by Eric Bandiero, courtesy Khayrallah

Every year it seems to become more financially difficult to get by as a dancer. But are colleges preparing students for this reality? Some programs teach skills like budgeting, grant writing and marketing. But fewer delve into personal finance, and address what it really takes to dance professionally in today's economy.

Part of the problem is how rapidly the dance world has changed. There were far more full-time company positions available 20 years ago, and many faculty members don't have firsthand experience of today's gig-to-gig landscape. Students today take on more student loan debt and face higher costs of living. Dance professors might also have some form of survivor's bias, as recent Columbia University graduate and New York City–based freelance dancer Nadia Khayrallah points out: They "made it" in the dance world, so their tendency might be to tell students that they'll "make it" too.

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News
Katherine Williams has been promoted to soloist. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT.

It's that time of year: American Ballet Theatre has just announced promotions, and they're as exciting as ever.

This season, it's all about the ladies: corps de ballet members Zhong-Jing Fang, Katherine Williams and Catherine Hurlin have been promoted to soloist, effective September 1.

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News
The Broadway revival of CATS. Photo by Matthew Murphy

A Jellicle Ball is coming to the big screen, with the unlikeliest of dancemakers on tap to choreograph.

We'll give you some hints: His choreography can aptly be described as "animalistic," though Jellicle cats have never come to mind specifically when watching his hyper-physical work. He's worked on movies before—even one about Beasts. And though contemporary ballet is his genre of choice, his choreography is certainly theatrical enough to lend itself to a musical.

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Dance Training
University of Texas at Austin students in When. Photo by Lawrence Peart, courtesy ACDA

What's on the minds of college students today?

I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.

Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:

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Dance on Broadway
Brown's Once on This Island. PC Joan Marcus

As one of the most celebrated concert dance choreographers working today, a Broadway musical felt like a natural next step for Camille A. Brown. She'd already dabbled in choreography for musical theater and plays. Plus, she tells rich, vivid stories in her concert work about the struggles and triumphs of being a black woman in America today. So when we found out she would be choreographing the Broadway revival of Once on This Island, we were understandably excited. And she didn't disappoint.

But when the 2018 Tony Award nominations were announced last month, Brown wasn't on the list for Best Choreography. Four white men snagged the five nominations (Christopher Gattelli for My Fair Lady and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, Steven Hoggett for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two, Casey Nicholaw for Mean Girls and Justin Peck for Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel.) Most of the choreographers overall this season were white men, as is usually the case.

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Health & Body

With dancers' busy schedules, it's easy to forget about how much waste we're creating, or how our daily routines might be contributing to pollution or climate change. But the fact is that everything we do—from getting ready for a show backstage to fueling up for a rehearsal—has an impact on the environment.

Start small by swapping out these six everyday items for eco-friendly versions. Don't worry, they aren't overly expensive: In fact some of them may save you money.

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Dance Training
Muhlenberg Collge student Winfield Maben allows his two majors to inform one another. PC Matthew Wright, Fig Tree Photography

In today's dance world of freelance gigs and cobbled-together careers, it makes sense that students are thinking about supplementing their dance major with another subject. But that doesn't mean a second major has to be your backup plan, or that you have to double-major to support yourself. Taking on another area of study—or not—is all about what you're interested in and how you envision your college experience.

Don't be fooled by these common double-major misconceptions:

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Playlists
Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Spirit

It's no secret that Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters loves Queen Bey. So we dared to ask him to rank his favorite albums. This is what he sent us:

Dangerously In Love: EVERYTHING
B'Day: LIT
I Am...Sasha Fierce: YASSS
4: SHOOK
Beyoncé: WIG SNATCHED
Lemonade: SLAY

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Rant & Rave
Jessica Lang's Her Notes, one of ABT's few recent commissions from women. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.

"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.

Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.

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Rant & Rave
The power dynamics and working environments in dance can leave women vulnerable. Photo by Soragrit Wongsa/Unsplash

When an anonymous letter accused former New York City Ballet leader Peter Martins of sexual harassment last year, it felt like what had long been an open secret—the prevalence of harassment in the dance world—was finally coming to the surface. But the momentum of the #MeToo movement, at least in dance, has since died down.

Martins has retired, though an investigation did not corroborate any of the claims against him. He and former American Ballet Theatre star Marcelo Gomes, who suddenly resigned in December, were the only cases to make national headlines in the U.S. We've barely scratched the surface of the dance world's harassment problem.

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News
Dorrance Dance, a Fall for Dance favorite, will have their largest solo engagement to date. PC Julieta Cervantes

New York City Center just announced programming for the 2018-19 season, and we're frantically marking our calendars for all the must-see dance. This year is the venue's 75th anniversary, and they're pulling out all the stops—from the reliable fan favorite Fall for Dance to the most epic Balanchine celebration and more:

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Dance in Pop Culture
The Shelby gang...in tights? Why not? PC Robert Viglasky

If you, like us, have a thing for historical crime dramas and foul-mouthed British men, we've got great news: "Peaky Blinders," the BBC's cult favorite show following the Shelby family gang in 1920s Birmingham, might be getting the ballet treatment.

According to Deadline, creator Steven Knight recently said at a press event that the show will likely be continuing for at least three more seasons—and that British contemporary ballet company Rambert approached him about making a ballet.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Diana Vishneva is starring in a ballet produced by a former Trump aide. PC Svetlana Avvakum, Courtesy Vishneva

Just when we thought we could no longer be surprised by the headlines coming out of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, a New York Magazine report has our jaws on the floor.

The latest former Trump aide to be interviewed by Mueller is a man named Michael Caputo, who worked for the President during the campaign, but has since moved on to more artistic endeavors. Like producing ballets. For Diana Vishneva.

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