Isabella Boylston, Photo by Jayme Thornton

These 8 Dance Stars Had That Special Spark When They Were Kids—and We've Got the Videos to Prove It

Our favorite dancers didn't step onstage for the first time as fully formed artists. Like any performer, they dedicated years to their training. But looking back at videos from pro dancers' tween and teen years, you can see that, even then, they had an undeniable spark—their technique was gaining finesse or their creative gears were beginning to turn or they were able to captivate an audience with their piercing stage presence.

This "special sauce" can be hard to define, but it's oh-so-enjoyable to study. We dug up footage of eight pros before they made it big.


Michaela DePrince

In this 2009 clip, 13-year-old Michaela DePrince projects confidence and a commanding stage presence in one of ballet's most challenging variations: the tambourine dance from La Esmeralda. Now, DePrince is a member of Dutch National Ballet, where she's been a soloist since 2016.

Caleb Teicher

When Caleb Teicher became a YoungArts winner in 2011, he was already incorporating his dry sense of humor into his work. Now, the choreographer, dynamic performer and recent Dance Magazine cover star has racked up commissions from major organizations like New York City Center, La MaMa, The Yard, CUNY Dance Initiative, Jacob's Pillow and Works & Process at the Guggenheim.

Jim Nowakowski

Yes, even when he was 13, Jim Nowakowski has those no-doubt-I-can-hold-them extensions. Refer to the video for solid examples of sustained développés and penchés. After performing with Houston Ballet and appearing on Season 12 of "So You Think You Can Dance," he's currently sharing his talent with audiences at BalletMet.

Isabella Boylston

Now she's one of the most recognizable names on American Ballet Theatre's roster. But in 2001, Isabella Boylston was a budding ballerina of just 14, showcasing her technique at Youth America Grand Prix.

Derek Dunn

Though he was still a student in this clip, current Boston Ballet principal Derek Dunn was already a turning whiz. Even at a young age, he was able to balance explosive jumps with landings of incredible control. We're still dying to know his secrets.

Derek and Julianne Hough and Mark Ballas

Years before their "Dancing with the Stars" fame, siblings Derek and Julianne Hough and Mark Ballas were a tight trio. Check them out in this rehearsal clip choreographed to an instrumental from Chicago. Seems they were made for the camera.

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Nicolle Stookey built a tutu while at home. Courtesy Stookey

The At-Home Hobbies Keeping Dancers Creative Right Now

When you're not spending all your hours in the studio, you suddenly have so. much. more. free time. While Netflix marathons have certainly been in order during the shutdown, many dancers have pivoted, using the opportunity to explore new hobbies or dive deeper into ones they don't typically have time for.

Here are some of the at-home hobbies we're digging. However you're redirecting your creative energies, we salute you!

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