Inside a bustling television studio in Los Angeles, Lindsay Arnold Cusick hears the words "Five minutes to showtime." While dancers and celebrities covered head to toe in sequins whirl around preparing for their live performances on "Dancing with the Stars," Cusick pauses to say a prayer to God and express her gratitude.
"I know that it's not a given, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do what I love for a living," says Cusick, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For her, prayer is a ritualized expression of her faith that she has maintained since she was a girl in Provo, Utah. Even with her seven-plus years of industry experience, she always takes a moment to steady herself and close her prayer in Christ's name before rushing onto the stage.
Tessandra Chavez has always had a desire to create: The San Diego native founded her own company, Unity Dance Ensemble, when she was just 15 years old. Today, her intensely emotive work onmusic videos, concerts and TV shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars" has garnered her an Emmy win and two World Choreography Awards. Her latest endeavor brings her back to her company as they compete for the top spot on NBC's "World of Dance."
Chavez recently spoke with Dance Magazine about how the show has taught her new skills, and why she embraces both criticism and failure.
Marinda Davis. Photo by Louise Flores, Courtesy Davis
When Marinda Davis was named second runner-up at the 2015 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, she dove headfirst into choreographing and producing a full-length show for her company, marInspired; the storytellers. But as her career was booming, Davis' body was breaking down. Behind the scenes, she was dealing with eight very serious illnesses, one of which led to a months-long hospital stay. Now, as she prepares a piece for Giordano Dance Chicago (debuting in March), Davis reflects on how she's powered through it all.
Make room for a new dance show in your television lineup. King of the competition series Simon Cowell (he's behind hits like "The X Factor" and "America's Got Talent") is said to be working on a new project just for dance fans: "The Greatest Dancer." The Telegraph reports that Cowell's show is expected to replace "Strictly Come Dancing" (the UK version of "Dancing With The Stars"), and will feature dancers from every genre.
Mandy Moore loves the chaos of live television. Photo by Lee Cherry, Courtesy Bloc Agency
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win.
You've come a long way on "So You Think You Can Dance"—from assistant to the choreographer (Season 1) to creative producer (Season 14). What keeps you returning to the show?
"So You Think You Can Dance" was one of my first jobs, so it feels like home. I love the chaos of live television; as soon as one show is over you're on to the next.
No, you didn't miss the Emmy Awards telecast. (It's next weekend.) The Creative Arts Emmys, on the other hand, were awarded yesterday, including the Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography. Among the nominees were "Dancing With the Stars" favorite Derek Hough, "So You Think You Can Dance?" contestant-turned-choreographer Travis Wall, surprise contender Fred Tallaksen for comedy "The Real O'Neals" and commercial dance juggernaut Mandy Moore, who grabbed two nominations for both "DWTS" and "SYTYCD."
From salsa to the waltz to the Lindy hop, "Dancing with the Stars" has brought 22 seasons of ballroom into viewers' living rooms. While we admit that it's fun seeing celebs show off a newfound skill (like Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson in this Lindy hop routine from a few years back), sometimes the most entertaining—and dare we say skillful—ballroom can be found by digging into the past. Though you may not immediately know his name, chances are you've seen Frankie Manning dance. Not only is he the subject of today's Google doodle, but the dancer and choreographer, who would have been 102 today, has been crowned by many as the ambassador of Lindy hop.
Frankie Manning in 1989. Photo by Bill Cunningham, via nytimes.com.
Manning (1914–2009) was a key figure in the popularization of the energized, rhythmic, thrill-seeking genre and a dynamic fixture at Harlem's historic Savoy Ballroom. He also choreographed and appeared in many movies in the 1930s and '40s, including Keep Punching, Hellzapoppin' and Killer Diller.
So where have you seen Manning and his work? Surprisingly enough, on FacebookandYouTube. For the last few years, I can't tell you how many times this clip has popped up on my feed after it was shared by dancers and non-dancers alike. Admittedly, I watch it Every. Single. Time. And it never gets old. This Lindy hop scene from 1941's Hellzapoppin' was created by Manning (although he went uncredited), and you can catch him dancing at the 1:22 mark. Before you ask, no, the video playback has not been sped up. The way the dancers attack each lift and turn is unabashed—talk about trusting your partner. And the accelerated footwork and use of momentum are downright impressive.
After you pick your jaw up off the floor, read more about Manning's spirited style and incredible legacy in thesestories from our sister publication Dance Teacher. Happy birthday, Frankie Manning!