3 Lasting Pro Dancer Friendships That Were Forged on the Convention Floor
For many dancers, being part of a competitive team is just a short chapter in a long dance journey. But the personal bonds built at competitions and conventions can last a lifetime. These three pairs of dancers who forged their friendships on the comp circuit show that having a tried-and-true teammate in your corner can make a big difference in the professional dance world, too.
Justin Pham, Los Angeles–based choreographer and dancer, and Chryssa Hadjis, New York City–based freelance dancer
When Hadjis moved from California to New York City in the fall of 2023, it was the first time she and former competition teammate Pham had been separated since they met as kids at Murrieta Dance Project in California. The pair competed in nearly every category, including as successful duet partners. When Pham enrolled at University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, Hadjis soon followed.
“It was fun to experience comp life together, and then the college conservatory realm felt so different,” says Hadjis. “It was great to have a friend there to share the ups and downs.”
Hadjis danced in many of Pham’s choreography projects, including one he presented at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. “You want to work with people you enjoy being around,” Pham says.
“In a way you can root [our friendship] back to competition dance, because that’s where we met,” Hadjis says. “Or you could root it to dance as a whole, because through dance we’ve experienced life together.”
“We literally grew up together,” Pham says. “We’ve been able to experience each other in all these different phases of our lives, and yet in a way we’re doing what we’ve always been doing.”
Kylie Dyson, Boston Ballet II, and Marissa Mattingly, Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Dyson and Mattingly met on the competition circuit in central Florida and became close when Dyson joined the studio Mattingly attended, All American Classical Ballet School, in Tampa. They competed at the Youth America Grand Prix, USA International Ballet Competition, and World Ballet Competition as soloists and in groups, and performed a duet from Swan Lake during their last comp season together.
Whenever they had a break from their rigorous schedule of classes and rehearsals, they would study together in a café. “We’d try to do homework, but we’d usually end up talking,” says Mattingly.
“It’s cool to think back to us talking about what companies we wanted to join, and now when we FaceTime to talk about our days, we’re living the life we used to daydream about,” says Dyson.
Now at the beginning of their professional careers, Dyson and Mattingly are glad to have each other’s support. “We text all the time,” Dyson says. “Despite the distance, nothing has changed,” Mattingly adds. “We’re super-bonded.”
Courtney Conovan, L.A. Dance Project, and Makaila Chiplin (known professionally as Chip), New York City–based freelance dancer
Every year on their respective birthdays, Conovan and Chip post funny throwback videos of each other from their competition days on Instagram.
“It’s such a perfect time capsule of how we were dancing then compared to how we are now,” Chip says. As members of Rise Dance Company in Round Rock, Texas, “we were just enjoying ourselves and having so much fun.”
“The memories [of that time] that I think of aren’t competing onstage or what pieces we did—it’s always the hotel room after, or the trip to Corner Bakery that we took between every rehearsal,” Conovan says. “I think of us doing life together, more than being dancers together.”
The friends stayed in touch through texting and FaceTime as Conovan left for Purchase College and Chip, a year later, enrolled at University of the Arts. Now, as professionals, they say not much has changed.
“We have a very goofy friendship,” Chip says. “We get together and it’s like we’re 11 years old in the hotel room after a competition again.”