Wayne McGregor. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy ROH

Need Some Inspo? Watch These 8 Great TED Talks Given by Dancers

It's no surprise that dancers make some of the best TED Talk presenters. Not only are they great performers, but they've got unique knowledge to share. And they can dance!

If you're in need of a midweek boost, look no further than these eight presentations from some incredibly inspiring dance artists.


Prumsodun Ok: Artists are magicians

Founder of Cambodia's first gay dance company, Prumsodun Ok gives a hybrid dance/speech about Khmer dance and how genocide wiped out 90 percent of its practitioners. But rather than focus only on the devastation, he delivers a message about beauty's ability to grow anywhere.

Miko Fogarty: It's never too late to reinvent yourself

Former prodigy Miko Fogarty opens up about her decision to leave the world of ballet, and the courage it takes to listen to your gut and pursue what you actually want.

Michaela DePrince: It's okay to be different 

Dutch National Ballet soloist Michaela DePrince shares her story of growing up as an orphan in Sierra Leone, where she was shunned due to her vitiligo, and talks about how finding ballet helped her discover a sense of self-worth.

Wayne McGregor: Creativity is something you can teach

Choreographer Wayne McGregor is obsessed with technology—first and foremost the technology of the human body. In this presentation, he describes choreography as "physical thinking," and introduces his creative process to the audience by making a dance from scratch in real-time.

Camille A. Brown: Social dance is an expression that emerges from a community

In this viral video lesson on social dance, presented by TED-Ed, Camille A. Brown talks us through some of the biggest popular dance styles that have emerged from the African-American community throughout history.

Charlie Hodges: Every day starts with space to get better

Sharing his stories of being body shamed over and over again in the dance world, Charlie Hodges talks about how he overcame the challenge of having an atypical dancer's body to become a professional with Twyla Tharp and L.A. Dance Project, among other companies.

Merritt Moore: Share your energy

A ballet dancer who doubles as a physicist, Merritt Moore explains how her time in the lab has changed her perspective on connecting to an audience—then she shows exactly what she means in a duet with Adam Kirkham from BalletBoyz.

Bill T. Jones: Wait

In 2015, Bill T. Jones teamed up with TED Fellows Joshua Roman and Somi to improvise together as a way of offering the audience the chance to see their creative collaboration in action. They call it, "The Red Circle and the Blue Curtain," referencing the iconic red TED stage and Isadora Duncan's iconic blue backdrop. There's more dancing than talking in this TED talk, but we don't mind that one bit.

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Brandt in Giselle. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

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

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

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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Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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