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.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
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:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"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.