A force to be reckoned with in both contemporary and hip-hop, featured dancer Lauren Herb already has countless regional and national titles under her belt and is not slowing down anytime soon. Her long lines and fierce stage presence have made her an unstoppable force in the competition world. Growing up under the influence of past featured dancer and close friend Courtney Schwartz, this “Next Generation” dancer is following Court’s footsteps all the way to LA, with recent experiences dancing at the renowned Millennium Dance Complex and Mather Dance Company intensive. Lauren’s determination and passion for dance are undeniable every single time she steps on a stage or takes a convention floor, which is why we were proud to interview her as an Everything Dances featured dancer. Don’t forget to view her feature video on our YouTube channel, everythingdances!
Q: What is your favorite style of dance and why?
A: My favorite style actually would be hip hop or contemporary. I never really liked hip hop as much, it was just fun, but I’ve been going to a lot of PULSE lately and that has helped me with hip hop and I have really been into it. So hip hop has been more a part of my dancing recently, and then contemporary has always been my favorite.
Q: Who are your dance inspirations and why?
A: I have two, actually. The first, Hayden Hopkins, because I just think her technique and her emotion onstage is just ridiculously amazing. And Smirin Player. I know she is known for b-girl hip hop, but she is really into ballet now and has really good technique—and can break dance. She’s very well-rounded, so I look up to her because I hope to be as good as her someday.
Q: You and past dancer Courtney Schwartz grew up dancing together. How has dancing with Courtney impacted your own dancing and how would you describe your relationship?
A: She is always over my house, because I don’t know if you know, but her boyfriend is my brother, so even if she was over my house we would be working on dance. We had a duo together and she would always help me and correct me. She’s just a really big inspiration to me because she’s amazing. I can’t even explain how much she means to me. She just really inspires me. And our relationship.. she’s like a sister to me. I talk to her off and on, but since she’s been in California and off and on to Utah, we haven’t been as close—but she is like a second sister to me.
Q: What dance competitions and conventions are your favorites?
A: Competition-wise, I would say Starquest is my favorite. I feel like just the competition, the faculty and everyone, is so supportive there. I’ve been to their nationals before, and that was the one I won with “Because of You” and that was a really fun nationals. I think their competition is just a lot of fun. There’s usually a lot of good competition there, and I feel like it attracts the best dancers, and it really pushes me. Conventions, definitely PULSE and NUVO or JUMP. I’ve only been to PULSE maybe four times, but I’m hoping to go to a lot more. But NUVO and JUMP I’ve gone to since I was eight. NUVO was the first convention I ever went to, my first year [at Studio 19] we went to NUVO and I had no idea what I was doing, but I remember Justin Giles’s class—he kept me up on stage and I’ve liked conventions since. NUVO has been part of me since I was a little kid, I’ve been there all my life. And then I did NYCDA nationals, too. If you want to get your technique, they really focus on technique. And then PULSE is hip hop, so I like to get all of the styles.
Q: You’ve been to many conventions, what advice do you for getting noticed in those classes?
A: There’s a little trick that I do: I learn the combinations and take class on the side, I’m not the one you’d find front and center, “in your face.” I kind of just go off to the side, and I practice on the side while all the other people are going. When it’s my group, I go to the front. Definitely don’t hide in the back, but when you’re learning it, and you make mistakes, I wouldn’t want them to remember the mistakes I made while learning it, so I just kind of hide. When I go to the front, I make sure it’s good and I don’t make mistakes. And just be yourself—don’t be too obnoxious or in their face. Just be yourself and express who you are through your dancing, and not through being over-the-top.
Q: Transitioning from the junior to the teen level is very hard. How was that adjustment for you?
A: When I was 11, that year I was undefeated and I won every single regional and then I won that Virginia Beach nationals. And moving up to the teen [level], I was really, really nervous because our teen category at my studio is very strong and competitive. So when I moved up when I was 12, that was very hard. I came in top five off and on, like I was always in the top couple, but I never won. I practiced a lot more, I was very inspired by the other teen dancers because I wanted to work harder. I really pushed myself that year. Recently, this past year, I competed as a 13-year-old and I won off and on, but it was very hard. Moving up to the teen category is very challenging. It’s stressful, but good at the same time.
Q: Being a teen is hard enough, but it’s even harder when stress levels are high. Have you ever dealt with cattiness or drama backstage with your own studio or other studios, and how do you deal with that?
A: Dealing with drama, I’d say I’ve had a couple of issues before. People can not be so supportive, so I definitely block them out and forget about them. I just do what I do, and dance. I’ve never really had any drama with other studios, I’m usually close with other studios and try to make friends with them.
Q: What is your favorite part about competing?
A: My favorite part is just being there in the environment with my friends, and just going up onstage and being able to perform in front of the audience and the judges. But definitely my favorite is just being at a competition, at the high school or wherever the competition is, with your studio, your second family—just having fun, performing, and doing what you love.
Q: Who has had the biggest impact on your dancing?
A: I would say definitely my dance teachers, Katie and Tammy, and like I said Courtney, and my older sister. She dances too, and she’s been here obviously since I was born, so she has helped me through all the way and inspires me every day to be a better dancer and a better person.
Q: Who is your favorite choreographer you’ve worked with?
A: I would say contemporary, for that side of dance styles, I really like Stacey Tookey and Travis Wall. My favorite hip hop teacher would be Misha Gabriel or Brian Friedman. I’d say those are my four favorites. And also, Dee Caspary is one of my favorite teachers.
Q: What has been the best dance experience that you’ve had so far?
A: My best dance experience was NYCDA nationals. I made the Top 12, and it was my first NYCDA nationals, and I think my third overall [NYCDA], so I was just going in there just to take classes and just for the experience. But I ended up doing really well, and it was fun because we re-competed our solos. And another was when I won three nationals in a row. And getting PULSE protégé was a really great experience, and I think it kind of bumped up my confidence level a little bit. I mean, PULSE is a really big convention, and I got it in Atlantic City, and Atlantic City is very intimidating so I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was surprised I did that.
Q: What was it like auditioning for America’s Got Talent and being featured on national television?
A: It was very, very cool. We had to go through a couple of auditions to get to New York to perform on the real stage. We went to New York for four or five days toward the end of the school year, and everyone was like “Where are you going?” and I was like, “Auditioning for AGT!” When we got to New York, it was definitely different than I thought it would be, like on TV. It was very private when we got there, there were only 14 acts in our segment that actually performed and auditioned. Before the judges were there, we did all of the camera-ing and rehearsed so we knew what was going to happen, so just learning where the camera was going to be, and how to speak, and not to look at the camera, you don’t want them to know you’re looking. Performing on that stage was definitely a very good experience, it was so fun. There was probably a couple thousand people in the auditorium. Heidi Klum and all of them, performing for them was absolutely amazing.
Q: This past summer, you went to California for the Mather Dance Company intensive. What was it like working with Shannon Mather and the dancers at MDC?
A: Actually I’m wearing my Mather dance sweats right now! She came to our studio, so her and Katie are pretty close friends, so Katie was scheduled to teach acro classes at Shannon Mather’s. So Katie taught there, and she taught us while we were there, and we also took class at Millenium and the Edge. That was my first time taking class there, so that was a pretty cool and inspiring situation. But as far as Mather Dance Company, I loved it. All of the faculty she brought in to teach was amazing, and being with those people, I remember watching YouTube videos of them when I was younger—watching Autumn Miller, all of them. So being able to meet them and take class with them was so cool. The people there are so nice and amazing at dance, it is very intimidating but also very inspiring.
Q: What is your biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome when dancing?
A: I would say dealing with dance and school-slash-friends. I’m very close with my school friends. I switched schools when I was in 7th grade, and I’m in 9th right now. I switched schools, and at this new school I’ve had so many close, good friends. And always having to be like “Oh, I can’t, I have dance,” or, “Maybe next weekend, I’m out of town,” it’s always hard. And with school and balancing out grades, homework is very stressful. I do really well in school, but it is always hard. I have to stay up until 12:30a.m. or 1a.m. to study for a test because I get home at 9:30 from dance, and I go straight from school to dance. So friends and school are definitely the hardest obstacles.
Q: What would you like to do in the future with dance?
A: I would like to go to college for dance. I want to get a degree, and I would like to audition for Juilliard, but as we all know, that is very hard to get into, so I would just like to go for the experience. It would be absolutely wonderful if I got in, but I have to practice a lot to get into there. So, I would like to go to a college, even in California so I could do college and then when I’m off, I could go to auditions. I don’t really want to do commercial work I’d say, I want to do more company work, like Travis Wall’s company or Stacey Tookey’s company. I would definitely want to audition for commercial stuff, though.
Q: Why college? Why not just move out to California right away?
A: That’s what I thought I wanted to do, but my sister and my mom were just telling me that it would be better and you need to be more prepared for California. Going to college would definitely help me, I would major in something else and then get a school degree and a dance degree, and then move out to California and have money, and a job, and already be set, instead of just going out to California and not knowing what to expect, not being thrown into California, and kind of hoping for the best and if you’re lucky or not. So college I definitely think would be a necessity for what I want to do. Also, I feel like if I went to college, and I want to get into a company, I would be able to get in better. If I got into Juilliard or another good dance school, it would definitely help me do well in the dance world. And as far as California, it would give me a better background.
Q: Why do you dance?
A: Oh, God. When I was younger, I did everything—I did soccer, I did cheer, I did swimming, gymnastics, and dance, all at one time. But I started breaking away from each one as I went, and then it was down to either gymnastics or dance. And I picked dance because I’ve loved dance ever since I was younger, and it’s just my life. I couldn’t imagine what I would be doing right now if I didn’t have dance.
Q: What is the biggest mistake a young dancer could make? What is your best piece of advice to other dancers your age?
A: The biggest mistake, I would say, is dancing or acting not how you are—not being true to who you are, and just pretending to be someone you’re not. And, like I said convention-wise, being obnoxious. The biggest mistake as a dancer is letting obstacles get in the way of your dancing, like quitting for a year or not going to dance classes. My advice is to always stay focused and set goals for yourself. I always set goals, even if they’re little ones. Just work hard, and never miss dance, and try your best.
Q: Anything else?
A: Just thank you for this opportunity, featuring me. It has been really cool to be a featured dancer for the “Next Generation.”