Whoever told Emma Portner not to move to NYC probably feels silly now. Photo by Quinn Wharton

12 Dance Stars Share the Worst Advice They Ever Received

Raise your hand if you've received bad advice from well-meaning friends or family (or strangers, tbh) who don't know anything about what it really takes to be a dancer.

*everyone raises hands*

Sometimes it's even dance insiders whose advice can send you down the wrong path. We've been asking pros about the worst advice they've ever received in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and rounded up some of the best answers:


Miami City Ballet's Nathalia Arja

Her answer: "I've been told, 'be the best' but I completely disagree with that. I believe that the best advice you could give to a dancer is 'be YOUR best and every day try to be a little better than yesterday.' That's my mind set—I think that's a healthy way of thinking for a healthy career!"

B-girl and choreographer Ephrat Asherie

Her answer: "Someone told me to always have another dancer in the corner of my eye to compare myself to 'because that will push you to be better.' I actually believe the opposite to be true. Your inner drive to grow has to far outshine any external stimuli or comparison you may draw with someone else. That will give you longevity and sustenance. As my breaking mentor Richard Santiago (aka Break Easy) once told me, 'The biggest battle you'll have will always be with yourself.' "

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Leta Biasucci

Her answer: "You should straighten your hair more often."

Commercial darling Emma Portner

Photo by Quinn Wharton

Her answer: "That I shouldn't move to New York."

The Washington Ballet's Ashley Murphy

Her answer: "Stay where you are comfortable."

Tap dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher

His answer: " 'You'll sleep when you're dead!' is a common expression. I disagree—I have to sleep while I'm living, too..."

Former NYCB and freelance star Kaitlyn Gilliland

Her answer: "Don't think too much."

Martha Graham Dance Company's PeiJu Chien-Pott

Her answer: " 'You will never be able to dance again after you have a child.' As a matter of fact, I auditioned for the Martha Graham Dance Company twice, two years apart. The first audition was before I had my daughter, and I was not picked. The second time was right after I had my baby, and I was hired!"

Pennsylvania Ballet's Sterling Baca

His answer: " 'The best thing you could do is just kinda mark the whole thing so you are able to get through it.' I would rather fall on my face giving everything I had."

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Hope Boykin

Her answer: "I will never forget being told that I had learned all I could where I was studying at the time, and that I should go and try something else. Ultimately, that is what I had to do, but I never worked harder to stay on the path I knew was meant for me. I would never speak to a student in such a way, but it didn't deter me. It only pushed me toward my goals."

San Francisco Ballet's Sarah Van Patten

Her answer: "That I'll never be able to do something or that a specific role isn't for me. Anything that makes me feel limited."

International guest artist Joy Womack

Her answer: "That the best thing an artist can be is a blank canvas."

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Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

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Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.

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Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

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