This Beyoncé Choreographer Has the Most Relatable Cross-Training Routine
Even if you haven't heard her name, you've almost certainly seen the work of commercial choreographer James Alsop. Though she's made award-winning dances for Beyoncé ("Run the World," anyone?) and worked with stars like Lady GaGa and Janelle Monae, Alsop's most recent project may be her most powerful: A moving music video for Everytown for Gun Safety, directed by Ezra Hurwitz and featuring students from the National Dance Institute.
We caught up with Alsop for our "Spotlight" series:
What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?
That we are not athletes. I think because there is this beauty, grace and poise that comes along with dance, some people still try to discount the fact that we train ruthlessly. It would be great to see the art of dance respected equally.
What other career would you like to try?
Acting. I can't see myself doing something unrelated to performance. Performing is too deep in my blood.
What's the most-played song on your phone?
"Made For Now" by Janet Jackson
What was the last dance performance you saw?
A hip-hop competition in Boston called Bring Da Hype. It was so edgy and all the dancers were so raw and hungry. My love for dance was reinvigorated by the youth of it.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
Close my eyes and whisper the most intimate prayer.
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
Trying to find music to keep dancing. The high from being on stage is still so strong that I have to keep it going.
What's your favorite book?
Terry McMillan's A Day Late and A Dollar Short. I have probably read it 6000 times.
Where did you last vacation?
My favorite place on Earth: San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?
Janet Jackson, Debbie Allen and Bob Fosse.
What app do you spend the most time on?
Much like the rest of the world, I unfortunately spend the most time on Instagram. It's literally tantalizing. I'm addicted.
What's the first item on your bucket list?
To buy something major or pay a huge bill off for my parents. I owe them everything.
What's your go-to cross-training routine?
I am the absolute worst and have never cross-trained in my entire life. I have never even had a gym membership. So my routine is trying my hardest to avoid the Taco Bell drive-thru!
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
The 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance of "Run The World" by Beyoncé. It was the first time I got to work on an awards show as a choreographer and I learned so much by being a part of such a huge performance.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
I don't think I have ever received any bad advice. I can't remember a time when someone tried to help and it not be for my benefit.
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.