Meet the Dancers: From Ballet, Broadway, and Beyond

Meet the Dancers: From Ballet, Broadway, and Beyond

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by Amy Nathan
     
 

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Lots of kids enjoy dancing, but what motivates them to push past the sore muscles, early-morning technique classes, and crazy schedule required to become a professional dancer? In this book, dancers from many backgrounds talk about their different paths to success in ballet, modern, jazz, Broadway, and hiphop.

They also share advice and helpful tips, such as:

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Overview

Lots of kids enjoy dancing, but what motivates them to push past the sore muscles, early-morning technique classes, and crazy schedule required to become a professional dancer? In this book, dancers from many backgrounds talk about their different paths to success in ballet, modern, jazz, Broadway, and hiphop.

They also share advice and helpful tips, such as:

• Practice interpreting the music and the mood of a movement, even when you're doing a standard warm-up exercise.

• Try to be in the front row at auditions so you can see what's going on and so the judges know you're eager to be seen.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
This absorbing book will appeal to all kids who love dance, especially those who are taking classes and considering dance as a career. Nathan interviews sixteen successful dancers, who share their unique experiences and insights with aspiring performers. Each tells about discovering dance and starting lessons, struggles with technique, discipline necessary for improvement, and choices to be made in a professional career. From the world of ballet, Nathan talks with Gillian Murphy of ABT, Lauren Anderson from Houston Ballet, Teresa Reichlen and Amar Rascar of New York City Ballet, and Aesha Ash of Morphoses, among others. Modern dance is represented by Clifton Brown from Alvin Ailey, Lauren Grant and David Leventhal of Mark Morris, and Jamal Story, who started with modern and ended up on Broadway, as did Nancy Lemenager, Broadway star. Judiciously placed sidebars shed light on issues like warming up, accepting corrections, finessing auditions, coming to terms with your own body and style, working in a professional company, and life after dance. From schedules of each dancer's typical day, readers will discover that dancing is a demanding, full-time job that often means sacrificing other interests, but brings much joy along with personal and artistic fulfillment. Abundant photos show the dancers in action, including each as a child or teen; another fun feature is "Sugar Plum Sightings," revealing that all but four appeared at least once in some production of the ubiquitous Nutcracker. Well researched and neatly produced, this survey makes irresistible reading for dance-lovers of any age. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal

Gr 5-9- This collective biography reveals the paths that 16 diverse dancers followed to become professionals and to join prestigious companies. Each story is unique, but there are common threads that include hard work, sacrifice, and a joy and passion to dance that overcame any obstacles encountered. Some burned out for a while. Some started late. Some faced rejection because of their body type. Ultimately, they found what worked best for them. The tone of the text is conversational, and quotes are included. The profiles begin with lists: the styles of dance studied, childhood pets and favorite books, activities then and now, etc. In sidebars, the dancers offer brief but pertinent advice about performing, taking classes and auditioning, and so on. Black-and-white photos show each dancer as a child or young adult and then as a professional. The pictures dramatically capture how talented these performers are. Anyone, whether considering a career in dance or not, will be inspired and educated by these up-close-and-personal accounts.-Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA

Kirkus Reviews
In this companion to Meet the Musicians (2006), Nathan offers a chatty and informative look at 16 dancers, their childhoods, their training and their professional lives. Sidebars offer quick tips on taking class, summer activities, typical days and performance pointers. There's also an entertaining "Sugar Plum Sightings," revealing where each performed The Nutcracker and in what roles. The range of dance styles, from classical ballet to modern dance to Broadway, gives this a wide appeal, as does the pleasing diversity of the 16 men and women. Readers drawn to dancing won't necessarily pore over the black-and-white photographs, but they will find value in reading about the winning combination of childhood and adult determination, hard work, perseverance, family support and help from teachers. Brief bios at the beginning of each chapter provide appealing personal tidbits. Recommended for those interested in the lives of dancers or a career in dance. (glossary, resources, index) (Collective biography. 9-12)
From the Publisher
“A chatty and informative look at dance. The range of dance styles gives this a wide appeal, as does the pleasing diversity of the 16 men and women.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Anyone, whether considering a career in dance or not, will be inspired and educated by these up-close-and-personal accounts.”

School Library Journal

“A valuable book, and one that even dance hobbyists will find absorbing.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805097870
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
06/10/2008
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
574,136
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Meet the Dancers

Dance On

INTRODUCTION

I'm always amazed at what kids can accomplish when they throw themselves into something, and there can be no better examples than the sixteen "kids" you'll meet in this book. They're all grown up now and have become successful professional dancers. Some perform in ballet or modern dance companies, while others are kicking up their heels in Broadway musicals or strutting their stuff in music videos. But it all started when they were dance-crazy youngsters, sweating their way through dance class, day in and day out, as they (and their aching muscles and oh-so-sore feet) did what had to be done in order to master the intricate technique, expressive beauty, and exhilarating joy of dance.

In this book, these pros explain how they got hooked on dance. Many fell in love with it at a very young age, but others didn't discover dance until they were teenagers. You'll read about the ups and downsthey experienced along the way. For some, those challenges were especially hard to take, as they came to terms with the fact that their bodies didn't fit the stereotype of a classical dancer.

A few even experienced burnout as kids, having started dancing very early and then finding that they needed to pull back and take a break. That happened to John Selya, seen having the chance of a lifetime in the photo on fig. 1. He was dancing with superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov in an American Ballet Theatre production of the classical ballet La Sylphide. Then John decided to quit! Feeling stressed out from too many classes, he did other things for a while. However, before long, he realized he couldn't live without dance and came back, full-steam ahead.

 

 

SUGAR PLUM SIGHTINGS

The ballet The Nutcracker—with its Mouse King, toy soldiers, Sugar Plum Fairy, and dancing candies—played a big part in the childhoods of the dancers you'll meet in this book. Most performed in this holiday classic as kids, but four didn't. Being turned down for a Nutcracker production actually helped one girl find her way in dance. As you read on, be on the lookout for who was or wasn't in this winter wonderland of a ballet.

Like John, many dancers in this book had other interests as kids, enjoying such activities as swimming, riding horses, playing soccer, acting in plays, making music, competing in gymnastics, or curling up with a good book. These activities broadened their experiences and helped make them the exciting performers they are today. But for many of these pros, being involved in extra activities slowed down during their early teen years. By then they weretaking so many dance classes that there wasn't time for much else. "Dance is so time-consuming," notes modern dancer Julie Tice. "I had to give up a lot in high school. I couldn't go out for sports, cheerleading, choir, or anything like that." Every once in a while, that got her down. "But then I realized there was nothing else I wanted to do as much as dance."

Ups and downs continued for some well into their professional careers, as they changed companies or, in some cases, even changed dancing styles. A few are nearing the time now when they may have to start winding things down a bit. A full-time performing career for a dancer doesn't last forever. The wear and tear of dancing can take a toll on the body. Some of these pros are planning ahead for the day when they may have to stop performing regularly.

To choose the dancers featured in this book, I asked for suggestions from major dance companies and also from a prominent dance agent, Victoria Morris. I selected these sixteen dancers because they followed different paths in their training and in their careers. There are, of course, many other possible paths that can lead to a life in dance, but the experiences of these sixteen give an idea of what it takes to excel. Despite the differences in their journeys, however, they have some things in common. As kids, they all had amazingly supportive families, with enthusiastic parents and other relatives who spent countless hours driving or accompanying their talented young dancers toclasses, rehearsals, and performances. They also had encouraging teachers to guide them, both at small, local studios where most started out, and also at the more advanced, professional-level schools that many attended later.

Most important, taking all those dance classes—and coping with aches, pains, spills, and sprains—was something these dancers did as kids because they absolutely adored dancing. "I was sort of shy, but when I danced I felt completely free," says Gillian Murphy, now a principal ballerina at American Ballet Theatre.

This love of dance continues to carry them along. "Dancing looks very glamorous onstage, but there's a lot of work you have to put into it," notes New York City Ballet's Tess Reichlen. Professional dancers, like Tess, continue to take class every day, no matter how famous they become. They log in long hours of rehearsing, performing, and exercising, followed by the always-important icing down of sore feet, ankles, and muscles. They also periodically check in with physical therapists to deal with the injuries that are bound to happen. As Tess points out, "If you want to go all the way, you have to really love it."

Tess, Gillian, John, Julie, and the other pros you'll meet in this book really do love it. So do many other dance students who try their hardest but don't manage to make it as professional dancers. It's like basketball: Only a few basketball-loving kids grow up to play in the NBA. This book's dancers lucked out and made itto the top. They learned a lot during their journeys. On the following pages, they share valuable tips that can help smooth the way for kids who are just starting out in the exciting and demanding world of dance.

DANCE TALK STYLE STORY

Ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, tap—these are some of the main styles of dancing studied by the pros you'll meet in these pages. At the start of the glossary (on here), you'll find descriptions of these styles, followed by definitions of other terms you'll run across in the book. However, to gain a real understanding of a type of dance, you have to see it. Photos can help. So can watching dance on TV or checking out dance videos, such as the ones listed in the resources section (see here). Better yet, go see live performances by professional companies or contact local dance studios to find out if you can observe various kinds of dance classes or see an upcoming recital.

Henry Holt® is a registered trademark of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

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