Training

What Does It Take to Get Noticed at a Dance Convention?

Kayla Kalbfleisch teaching at 24 Seven Dance Convention. Photo courtesy 24 Seven

Conventions can offer myriad opportunities, from making connections to landing college scholarships. But how can a dancer stand out in a sea of talent? We turned to some of our favorite convention faculty to find out.


Kayla Kalbfleisch: Jazz teacher at 24 Seven Dance Convention

Kayle Kalbfleisch demonstrates to a room full of students

Courtesy 24 Seven Dance Convention

"A dancer who is willing to take risks stylistically will always catch my eye. In convention auditions, there are so many technical dancers in the room. The ones who pay attention to detail, yet are confident enough to bring their own individuality, a boldness to the choreography, always stand out to me."

Jason Luks: Tap teacher at New York City Dance Alliance

Tap teacher Jason Luks high fives his students

Courtesy NYCDA

"So often in a convention tap class, dancers are taking class on carpet, or sometimes even in sneakers. I always look for weight placement. You have to show me that your body is leaning into the right place. If you put the room on mute, I would still be able to know who's doing the correct footwork just by looking at where the body is and how much they're picking up their feet."

Mallauri Esquibel: Ballet and lyrical teacher at NRG danceProject

Mallauri Esquibel teaching

Robert Kelley, Courtesy NRG

"I love when dancers use their voices. We meet and see hundreds of kids a weekend. I love when a dancer introduces themselves to me after class. Those little moments make lasting impressions."

Broadway

We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.

But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)

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Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Cover Story
Jayme Thornton

It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."

Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"

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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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