Erica Lall and Leal Zielińska, two of our 2018 "25 to Watch." Photo by Nathan Sayers

The Inside Scoop on How We Pick Our "25 to Watch"

By now, you're probably as obsessed with the artists on our 2018 "25 to Watch" list as we are. But how do we decide who makes it? One answer is: carefully. Another: It's a long, long process.


It all starts (officially) with an email. Over the summer, we ask Dance Magazine contributors and editors which young dancers, choreographers and companies have broken through over the last year—or who might be right on the verge of doing so. We thumb through the programs of shows we've seen (and we see a lot of shows) and look back on casting announcements. As nominations roll in from around the world, we trawl through reviews, read bios, and dig up YouTube and Vimeo and Instagram videos—we see snippets of flamenco performances and contemporary improvisation, watch variations and choreography reels.

And then the editorial team sits down with a massive stack of nominations and faces the daunting task of coming up with a list of 25.

Sometimes a few of the picks are obvious—dancers who skyrocket into prominence so quickly that we feel like we're running to catch up to them, like Cesar Corrales or Angelo Greco, two of this year's picks who are already principal dancers at their respective companies.

Erica Lall. Photo by Nathan Sayers

Others have been on our radar for a while, artists who we've watched grow until they seem on the cusp of something big. This was the case with Alice Klock, a luminous dancer at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago whose choreography is taking off, and American Ballet Theatre corps member Erica Lall, who we've had our eye on since her days in ABT's Studio Company.

Some have recently snagged our attention at performances here in New York City: Alston Macgill had our jaws dropping with her performance in Balanchine's Symphony in C while still an apprentice with New York City Ballet, while Leal Zielińska was impossible to get out of our heads after we saw her in a Sidra Bell Dance New York show. Others we have yet to see in person but came with sparkling recommendations from our contributors abroad, such as flamenco artist Eduardo Guerrero or Mariinsky Ballet trainee May Nagahisa.

Leal Zielińska. Photo by Nathan Sayers

At the end of the day, the issue isn't so much coming up with a list of 25—it's narrowing it down that far. After our first round of picks we watch even more videos, ask the opinions of even more writers and do even more research, comparing our findings and debating our stances until we've agreed on our final choices. Then comes the months of assigning, writing, editing, fact-checking, proofreading—but that's a whole other story.

Historically, we've done a pretty good job, and we've enjoyed watching artists we singled out so early in their careers blossom into that promise. But we also have the pleasure of watching the dancers who didn't make the cut go on to have amazing careers of their own. And that's maybe my favorite part of organizing this behemoth of a feature every year: It gives us all a chance to get to know the wider dance community we love so dearly just a little bit better.

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Charlene Gehm MacDougal as Lead Nursemaid in Petrushka. Photo by Herbert Migdoll, courtesy the MacDougal family.

In Memoriam: Joffrey Dancer Charlene Gehm MacDougal, 69

Former lead dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Charlene Gehm MacDougal died of ovarian cancer on January 10 at her home in New York City, age 69.

Gehm illuminated the inner life of each of the varied characters in her extensive repertoire. Whether she was the gracious hostess in George Balanchine's Cotillon, the riveting Lady Capulet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, or in the tumult of William Forsythe's Love Songs, she drew the viewer's eye and heart to the essence of the role.

As Forsythe puts it: "Charlene was certainly one of the most elegant dancers I have had the privilege to work with. Her striking countenance flowed into her work and, joined with her wicked sense of humor and intelligence, created thoughtful, mesmerizing and memorable art."

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February 2021