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Andy Blankenbuehler Discovered Her in High School. Now She's in Hamilton

Justice Moore, right from center, in Hamilton. Joan Marcus, Courtesy Moore

June 3, 2016, was a big day for Justice Moore: It was her 19th birthday, high school graduation and the day she found out she'd been cast in the ensemble of Hamilton's Chicago production. Her controlled, versatile approach to movement, honed on the competition circuit, has only brought her more opportunities since then. Last summer, Andy Blankenbuehler chose Moore for a workshop for his new musical, Only Gold, and this March, she transferred her much-loved "bullet" track to Hamilton on Broadway.


Moore in a pench\u00e9, leaning against a support beam of a rustic, wooden building. She is wearing maroon leggings, a floral crop top and a black jacket.

Britney Holmes, Courtesy Moore

Age: 21

Shows: Hamilton productions in Chicago, on tour and on Broadway

Hometown: Allen, Texas

Training: Academy of Dance Arts and Next Step Dance, both in Texas

Accolades: New York City Dance Alliance top 16 senior female, The Dance Awards 3rd runner up senior female in Las Vegas

A black-and-white photo of Moore, in costume for Hamilton. She is lunging toward the camera.

Moore currently dances on Broadway in Hamilton's much-loved "bullet" track.

Josh Lehrer, Courtesy Moore

Breakout moment: Blankenbuehler taught a master class at Moore's studio and, a year later, asked her director if Moore could fly to New York City to audition for Hamilton. "I always thought that I would start out in L.A.," she says. "I was never really interested in musicals. As soon as I auditioned, I fell in love."

New terrain: Diving into the show gave Moore a crash course in musical theater. She learned how to manage everything from the lightning-paced rehearsals to vocal training to eight shows a week. "I had to learn how to call out. How to take breaks and be like, 'I can't push through this.' "

Meeting her idols: At the workshop for Only Gold, Moore found herself in the room with dancers like Peter Chu, Alessandra Ferri, Georgina Pazcoguin, Ricky Ubeda, Cindy Salgado and Ryan Steele—many of whom she'd looked up to or taken class from at conventions. "Now we were all in the same boat," she says. "I could not believe I was there."

What Andy Blankenbuehler is saying: "Besides being fabulous onstage, Justice has a maturity and work integrity that are far beyond her years. I trusted her immediately," says the Hamilton choreographer. "We will continue to cross paths for years to come."

Overcoming doubt: "Just graduating from high school and then doing Hamilton, I felt unworthy," says Moore. "It took me a while to get over that, and that's why I want to encourage anybody not to let anything hold them back."

Broadway

We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.

But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)

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

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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Cover Story
Jayme Thornton

It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."

Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"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.

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