Dance Magazine’s 2019 Cover Stars Took the Decade Challenge

March 13, 2020

As the decade comes to a close, we asked our 2019 cover stars to look back on where they were in 2009, and how far they’ve come since then. Their answers were sweet, sometimes surprising, and showed us how much a life in dance can change over the course of 10 years.

Evan Ruggiero jumps off a table with his legs reaching out to the sides.

Courtesy Ruggiero

Evan Ruggiero, 2009

Cover image of Evan Ruggiero standing on his prosthetic leg, the other reaching toward the camera

Cover shot by Jayme Thornton.


“In 2009, I was a freshman at Montclair State University. This photo was taken right before I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. I have two legs here. I can be seen right in the middle coming out of a toe touch in Crazy for You—one of the first musicals I did at school. I was taking ballet four times a week, plus tap and jazz twice a week, in addition to voice and acting classes.

“Ten years later, I’ve traveled around the world as a singer, actor, one-legged tap dancer and motivational speaker. I’ve spoken and performed for many notable individuals including Joe Biden, Ellen DeGeneres, President el-Sisi, Chita Rivera and Patti LuPone, as well as performing alongside my childhood idol, Jason Mraz. I’ve been presented awards and nominations for awards in theater that I never imagined I’d receive. All of it is kind of crazy. To think back 10 years ago, where I was, what I was doing, and to see where I am now. For starters, I wouldn’t have thought I would only have one leg. But that’s what makes life crazy and unusual. I’m excited to see what this next decade has in store, by the end of which, I will have then lived most of my life with only one leg.” —Evan Ruggiero

Caleb Teicher reaches to the side in a tap slide.

Courtesy Teicher

Caleb Teicher, 2009

Cover image of Caleb Teicher reaching toward the camera

Cover shot by Jayme Thornton.


“Ten years ago, I was in my last year of high school wondering how I could make dance a major part of my life. In that way, all my dreams have come true—I wake up every day thinking about dance, music and how the two together can make the world a better place. I’ve worked with some of my favorite artists, and, together, I’ve learned so much about who I am and what I want the world to look like.” —Caleb Teicher

Maria Khoreva swings a hula hoop with her leg in du00e9veloppu00e9.

Courtesy Khoreva

Maria Khoreva, 2009

Cover image of Maria Khoreva with her leg in du00e9veloppu00e9

Cover shot by Quinn Wharton.


“In 2009 I was doing rhythmic gymnastics. And gymnastics was with objects. And it was difficult. But how the top step on the podium beckoned!

“In ballet, there are no top podium positions. Is it easier or harder to compete with oneself? I know just one thing: Without an intrinsic motivation, and thirst to become better today than you were yesterday, I would not be where I am now. Perhaps the most important thing is wanting to surpass yourself. Always being dissatisfied with yourself and knowing that you can do better. At least something better than now.” —Maria Khoreva

Da'Von Doane leans to the side with his leg reaching to the sky.

Rachel Neville, Courtesy Doane

Da’Von Doane, 2009

Cover image of Da'Von Doane and Amanda Smith intertwined

Cover shot by Jayme Thornton.


“In 2009 I had been with the Dance Theatre of Harlem for one year. I was also working with a few New York–based dance companies and choreographers including my dear friend Ja’ Malik. I performed his work Love Sonnets at E-Moves—Harlem Stage in 2009.

“Since then I’ve continued working with choreographers in New York City, constantly trying to expand. In 2012 I joined the newly relaunched Dance Theatre of Harlem. In 2014, I became one of Dance Magazine‘s “25 to Watch.” It meant a lot to be recognized in that way. When I was a kid I used to flip through dance magazines hoping that I’d be one of those faces on the cover. I started choreographing at Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2010, creating my first piece for a DTH Sunday matinee.

“I had been choreographing since I was 15. So when I finally got to New York City, I was so excited to work at a place that was made for someone like me. My every move has been to eventually be able to make my own works. I’ve made on average one ballet per year since moving to New York, most of which people have not seen. My dancing and choreography have alway been ways that I express that which words cannot. I think that I have a voice that can change ballet for the better—more diverse perspectives are necessary and I believe I could be one of them. Hopefully the day will come when I can truly share my gifts with more audiences around the world.” —Da’Von Doane

Leta Biasucci onstage in a tendu front

Leta Biasucci in Christopher Wheeldon’s
Courtesy Biasucci

Leta Biasucci, 2009

Cover image of Leta Biasucci in a low coupu00e9

Cover shot by Jayme Thornton.


“This 2009 photo was taken during my second season at Oregon Ballet Theatre in my first featured role as a professional dancer. Since that solo was performed, I have had the honor of being promoted to principal at Pacific Northwest Ballet, and I have graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I am filled with tremendous gratitude when I think of these milestones, but in some ways, these markers can also feel external. For me, these milestones were about the journey—the lessons, experiences and opportunities that they brought along the way. Since then, I also met and fell in love with my wonderful husband, gained five nephews and inherited one hilarious beagle. But what has remained the same since 2009 is my privilege to dance for a living—to be surrounded by beauty and inspired by my peers. For the milestones, the journey to reach them, the love, and dance that the last decade has brought, I am incredibly grateful.” —Leta Biasucci

Four dancers in white tank tops and briefs stand close together with their working legs bent, looking back.

Sean Dorsey Dance’s Brian Fisher, Sean Dorsey, Nol Simonse, Juan De La Rosa
Lydia Daniller, Courtesy Dorsey

Sean Dorsey, 2009

Cover image of Sean Dorsey standing on a red radiator

Cover shot by Jayme Thornton.


“In 2009, Sean Dorsey Dance was performing and touring our show Uncovered: The Diary Project, which was based on the lifelong diaries of pioneering trans activist Lou Sullivan. I spent a year researching, reading and hand-transcribing over 30 years of Lou’s diaries, which he bequeathed to the GLBT Historical Society’s archives before he died of AIDS complications in 1991. This project has a very, very special place in my heart. This image is from that project.

“It’s absolutely remarkable looking upon the past decade of my life, and all that has happened and blossomed during that time. In 2009, I never would have imagined that I’d be on the cover of Dance Magazine one day! Since 2009, my company has toured to over 30 cities, and I’ve taught as an openly transgender person with a trans-positive pedagogy in more than 35 cities. As an activist, I’ve seen so much change…and not enough change.

“Just this week I celebrated my 18th anniversary with the love of my life Shawna Virago. This year I’m also celebrating the 15th anniversary of Sean Dorsey Dance. And in 2020–21, we’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of the trans arts nonprofit I founded in San Francisco, Fresh Meat Productions.” —Sean Dorsey

A row of ballet dancers in pink tights and black leotards

Caili Quan, fourth from right
Courtesy Quan

Caili Quan, 2009

Cover image of two dancers in bunny ears

Cover shot by Jayme Thornton. Quan at right


“In 2009, I was a trainee with Richmond Ballet. It was an exciting time because the company was performing Balanchine’s Four Temperaments and they asked the trainees to do some of the corp spots. I got to be one of the Battement women in ‘Melancholic,’ which was tough because I wasn’t very flexible, even at 21. Richmond was my first experience in the professional dance world. I learned a lot and met some really wonderful people, like my best friend Kelly, who is standing to the left of me.

“Looking back, I realize I spent too much time trying to force myself into a mold. In the last decade, I’ve learned that you don’t have to look or dance like anyone else. Don’t compare yourself to others. The most important part is to work hard, keep pushing forward and be grateful, especially for the people that fought for you along the way.” —Caili Quan

Chloe Perkes in a white tutu in a fish dive

Courtesy Perkes

Chloe Perkes, 2009

Cover image of two dancers in bunny ears

Cover shot by Jayme Thornton. Perkes at left


“This 2009 photo is me in Sacramento Ballet with Sunchai Duday Muy. I was thrilled to be back in a tutu after three years of very contemporary work in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve been profoundly lucky to have joined BalletX in Philadelphia, been a part of almost 80 world premieres, started an experimental music and dance company called ‘duende,’ and fallen in love with the many incredible people I’ve worked with. Every moment contains its own brilliance, be it during your daily class, or in the midst of a performance. As dancers, we get to feel, appreciate and show the brilliance of that moment.” —Chloe Perkes

Alicia Graf Mack speaks to students in a dance studio.

Cyndy Maasen, Courtesy Graf Mack

Alicia Graf Mack, 2009

Cover image of Alicia Graf Mack with her palms touching each other as students around her clap

Cover shot by Claudio Papapietro, courtesy Juilliard


“2009 marked the year that I fell in love with teaching. I had left Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater a year prior due to injury and illness, and I moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to pursue a master’s degree in nonprofit management and to live closer to the love of my life, Kirby Mack. I spent my evenings and weekends teaching ballet and modern at COCA (Center of Creative Arts), where my passion for working with young dancers grew into a new, inspired career path.

“It’s crazy how similar this photo is to the 2019 cover shot at The Juilliard School.” —Alicia Graf Mack