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"Dance Is the Best Way I Know How to Express Myself"

Matthew Murphy for Broadway.com

I have always been extremely dramatic. I think "extremely" might even be an understatement. As a child, I was constantly in costume. Never clothes. Always a costume.

When I was 8 we moved into a new house, and took a home video to send to my dad's family. My siblings were performing a song for the camera. I desperately wanted to join them, but they got annoyed and said no. In the video I run out of the room crying hysterically, and you can hear my dad saying, "It's okay, Sam, you can dance for the camera later."

This is followed by about 45 minutes of me dancing. Music changes, style changes, costume changes, the works. Dance was, and still is, the best way I know how to express myself.


At 4, I told my mom I wanted to be "just like Gene Kelly when I grow up, but a girl." So she and my dad put me in class, and I never looked back. Both of my parents were dancers. My mother was a principal with The Washington Ballet, and now has her own school in northern Virginia.

My father was a theater major in college, and he performed in musicals. Mom was my ballet teacher, and Dad was my jazz and modern teacher. They introduced me to Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse—all these incredible dancers. My mind was blown. Here were these people doing all the things I loved to do.

I love to sing and really love to act, but I think dance will always feels like home. Then again, in my opinion, the greatest dancers are also great actors. I think that's part of the reason I fell so in love with theater, and theater dance in particular.

Ronnie Nelson

I saw my first Broadway show, The Music Man, when I was 14. I cried at intermission because I wanted to be on that stage so badly and didn't know if it would ever happen for me. I think about that moment often. I am extremely grateful every time I get to be on a stage, whether it be a Broadway one or not. What we do in theater is truly magical.

I feel so lucky to be able to dance. The transformation that dance can do to the human body still mystifies me. It can encompass every facet of the soul. I can be sexy. I can be innocent. I can be curious. I can be mischievous. I can be quirky. I can be timid. I can be confident and self-assured. I can be old. I can be young.

As soon as I start to move, no matter what style of dance I am doing, I feel wholly human, yet wholly ethereal. Nothing else in life does that for me. I am my truest self when I am dancing.

Carol Rosegg

In Memoriam
A flyer showing Alberto Alonso, Fernando Alonso, Benjamin Steinberg and Alicia Alonso. Photo courtesy the author

Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.

My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.

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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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Hansuke Yamamoto in Helgi Tomasson's Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet, which features an exciting and respectful Chinese divertissement. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.

In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."

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Dance & Activism
Allegra Bautista in Nevertheless, by ka·nei·see | collective. Photo by Robbie Sweeny

An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.

"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.

With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.

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