Dancers Trending
Many of this morning's students outside the "GMA" studios with the five teachers in the front row. Chava Lansky.

At 6:30 this morning, I exited the subway in Times Square and walked towards the group of dancers gathered outside the "Good Morning America" studios. The moment I entered the fray, any lingering early morning grogginess disappeared; the energy in the crowd was palpable. By 7 am, the time that "GMA" goes live to millions nationwide, over 300 dancers of all stripes had gathered, and class began.

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Just for Fun
Shopify Partners via Burst

Oh, internet challenges... We don't know who starts them or where they come from, but we definitely love it when dancers get involved.

The past few weeks have seen the rise of the #bottlecapchallenge, which involves someone kicking the top off of a plastic bottle. The slow-motion videos show the cap neatly spinning off. Of course, everyone from dogs to celebs have tried their hand (er, foot?) at the challenge. But ballerinas have taken it to the next level. As far as we can tell, Cuban dancer Marlen Fuerte Castro was the first to add a ballet spin: fouetté turns.

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Career Advice
Alex Wong. Photo by Dan Freeman, courtesy Wong

When Instagram launched in 2010, few would have predicted it would become the identity-defining, I-can-make-a-living-off-this-thing behemoth that it is today. For dancers in particular, Instagram comes with a host of possibilities. Three dancers share how they translate double taps into career advancements—while thousands of people follow along.

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Just for Fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

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Just for Fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

Keep reading... Show less
Playlists
His musical taste is just as versatile as he is. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Dance Magazine

If you know anything about Alex Wong, you know that he's non-stop. The ballet-turned-commercial star is literally always dancing—in the street, in hotels, on tennis courts—and does some of the most mind-blowing cross-training workouts we've ever seen. Plus, we can't keep track of his many high-profile projects, and often find ourselves spotting him in our favorite movies and TV shows—from The Greatest Showman to "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

What we're saying is that we'll have some of whatever it is he's having. And it turns out that a hype playlist is part of the secret to his endless energy. Lucky for us, Wong shared his go-to warm up songs:

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Dancers Trending
Ricky Ubeda and Jessica Richens perform a Sonya Tayeh number on "SYTYCD." Photo by Adam Rose, Courtesy FOX

Last year, it looked like "So You Think You Can Dance" might be on its final season. Viewership and ratings were down, and the show seemed to be trying to hang on by switching up its format, focusing on young talent ages 8 to 13 instead of the adult dancers audiences were used to.

But this summer it's back to its traditional formula, and embarking on a 14th season starting next Monday. That means we get another summer where dance gets an audience numbering in the millions.

That much exposure for that many seasons begs the question: What kind of mark has the show made on the dance world?

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Dancers Trending

Alex Wong is a nut. In the absolute best way.

In every issue of Dance Magazine, we highlight how dancers work with the unique limits of their bodies to stay in shape and build the strength they need to perform at their best. Every dancer creates their own cross-training regimen that works for them. Some do weight lifting, some jump on trampolines, a lot do yoga and Gyrotonic. But I've never heard of anyone doing this:

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Burpees are hard enough even when you're just doing a simple two-legged squat jump off the ground. But adding in tour en l'airs, entrechat six and split leaps? Now that's a serious dancer workout.

It doesn't surprise us in the least that this is something Alex Wong is doing at the gym. This guy will whip out a split leap any chance he gets. He seems to be in the air more often than he's on the ground—even when he's in public.

Just one of the many reasons why we love him.

Dancers Trending

Whether you're flying solo or in a relationship, these nine supremely talented—and, ahem, hunky—male dancers wanted you to know they'll be thinking of you this Valentine's Day. Gift these for Galentine's Day or just consider them a gift from us to you. (You're welcome.)

Alex Wong (and his abs) wish you a fantastic day.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

Carlos Acosta may be retired from The Royal Ballet, but he still wants to dance with you.

Photo by Kristie Kahns

Master choreographer Hofesh Shechter has offered to share his craft.

Photo by Lucas Chilczuk

Tony Yazbeck, here in costume for On the Town, took a short break from Finding Neverland to say hi.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

American Ballet Theatre corps dancer Sterling Baca is looking for a partner on the dance floor.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

New York City Ballet principal (and our February cover star) Amar Ramasar might have some free time to rehearse.

Photo by Jayme Thornton

Downtown dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener know how to play it cool.

Photo by Jayme Thornton

New York City Ballet's Justin Peck thinks that you could be The Most Incredible Thing.

Photo by Jayme Thornton.

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Convention teaching 101

 

 

 

 

Alex Wong instructs students at Excel in Motion convention. Photo: Courtesy Excel in Motion

 

 

“At a convention, you have the chance to share your knowledge and what you believe about being an artist with 1,500 kids—in a single weekend,” says choreographer Mandy Moore, who has been on JUMP Dance Convention’s faculty for nine years. “There’s not another platform like that.” Still, there’s no mistaking conventions for an easy teaching gig: Hotel ballrooms are filled to the max with students of varying ages and skill, all kicking and elbowing for space—on a carpet. Classes might be only 45 minutes long, and with the teacher on a raised stage, the intimacy of a normal studio experience is missing.

 

Despite the challenges, teaching at conventions is a resumé booster, and a chance to earn significant side dough. And although many convention-circuit students may only attend one event per year (limiting a teacher’s reach even more), the scene is growing. There are more than 30 touring convention companies listed for 2013, which means even more jobs for dancers—and the work can be quite rewarding. For Suzi Taylor, a longtime faculty member of New York City Dance Alliance and Steps on Broadway in New York City, the biggest perk is watching students grow up. “I’ve known dancers since they were 7, and now they’re on Broadway or in companies,” she says. “They come to my class at Steps or assist at NYCDA. It’s like my other family.”

 

 

Planning the Syllabus 

 

To make the most of short time frames, convention classes have to be streamlined. “In a studio setting, I can work with dancers on a daily or weekly basis to improve technique, strength, or musicality,” says Taylor. “At a convention, my goal is to inspire dancers to want to be better. I give them information to take home.” Convention teachers have to focus on the big picture; they can’t give specific feedback to each dancer. 

 

Alex Wong, a former Miami City Ballet soloist and So You Think You Can Dance All Star, likes to incorporate exercises that work on technical issues he often sees as a competition judge. He’s a faculty member on Excel in Motion and NRG conventions, and points out bent knees in grand jetés, low relevés, and unpointed feet. “I want to help dancers realize what they’re doing wrong and how it feels to do it right, so they can continue fixing it on their own,” he says.

 

Most conventions offer a group warm-up at the start of each day, so teachers can often jump into choreography immediately, trusting that dancers are ready to move. Moore tailors each combination for the levels she instructs. “With Minis [ages 7–10], I like to do counting and coordination,” she says. “Juniors [ages 11–12] might work on direction and weight change, and I challenge teens with long combinations so they can practice picking up choreography.” By the time the students reach the senior division, Moore can give them professional-level work. Then, she says, “I go wild.”

 

 

Managing the Classroom 

 

Learning how to maintain order without sacrificing student excitement takes practice. Moore, who has been teaching on the convention circuit for 17 years, recommends that new teachers spend time watching veterans in action. “You can see when something works, if the kids are focused, or if they’re doing cartwheels,” she says. Moore’s tricks to keep everyone engaged: Set goals for students and refer to them throughout the class, and leave the platform to interact with dancers on the floor.

 

“Keeping control of the room doesn’t take yelling,” says Brooke Lipton, associate choreographer of Glee and teacher with The PULSE On Tour and Hollywood Connection. “It’s about what you demand from the students.” For instance, Lipton frowns on students marking choreography. “You can’t really learn the choreography until you do it full-out,” she says.

 

When it comes to disciplining disruptive students, Lipton prefers to wait until after class to say something to individuals, unless they are doing something unsafe that needs action immediately. “I don’t want to give more attention to the dancers acting out,” she says, “but I also don’t want to embarrass anyone. Being a convention teacher comes with a lot of responsibility. What you say to a student can really affect them.” If Lipton is faced with many unfocused dancers, “the easiest and most effective punishment is push-ups,” she says. “They can be done anywhere, anytime—and no one wants to do them.”

 

 

Inspiring young artists

 

A first soloist with Houston Ballet, Melissa Hough is in her first year on the faculty of NYCDA. She preps for her classes by thinking about what kept her engaged as a student at the convention. “I remember what I liked about certain teachers’ classes: hearing the music for the combo sooner rather than later, and dancing rather than listening to the teacher talk,” she says.

 

The fact that Hough has such an impressive career doesn’t hurt her success as a teacher, either. NYCDA founder and director Joe Lanteri says teachers with professional experience bridge the gap between the convention world and the real world. “A good convention class allows dancers to dream big and to feel like their dreams are attainable.”

 

While conventions may help advanced dancers find a spot in the commercial world, they also give them a chance to try out new movement styles with an open mind. Wong designs his combinations to push dancers into unfamiliar territory. “I like to challenge them from a stylistic as well as a technical standpoint,” he says.

 

Lipton wants her classes to help students develop ambition as artists. “Dancers sometimes wait for inspiration to be handed to them,” she says. “I tell them, don’t wait for it—take it. The level of talent in a room will never be equal, but your level of effort is up to you.”

 

Regardless if students become professional dancers, advocates, or patrons, convention teachers have the potential to affect every person in a packed ballroom. For Lanteri, that outreach is what matters most. “The kids always come first,” he says. “It’s your goal to keep everyone interested, motivated, and inspired. And when it works, you walk away so excited about what just happened.”

 

Kathryn Holmes is a writer and dancer based in Brooklyn, NY.

 

 

 

TAKE FIVE

 

Is convention teaching on your horizon? Here are five tips for a successful class.  

 

Aim to inspire, not to nitpick. “If students’ technique isn’t where it could be,” says Suzi Taylor, “I put it in their heads that they can improve if they work at it.”

 

Teach to the entire room—not just the best dancers. “Some dancers won’t be able to han-dle the choreography, but you have to inspire them to want to be able,” says Joe Lanteri.

 

Observe veteran teachers. “Watch from the front and back of the room,” Mandy Moore says. “If the kids are engaged throughout, you know it’s a class that works.”

 

Maximize action. “You can get stuck going over the material, but at a certain point, you have to move on,” Brooke Lipton says. “Minimize time spent changing groups and clapping; you want them to dance.”

 

Put your enthusiasm and passion for your art front and center. “These kids are listening to everything you say,” Moore says. “They’ll take the experience with them for the rest of the year.”  -—K. H.

 

 

 

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