Britney Hall wasn’t the protégé of famous choreographers before she moved to LA. She took a leap of faith and arrived not really knowing what to expect (and three years later, she’s still learning). She’s not sure where her career will take her, but Britney is absolutely certain about one thing: she belongs in LA. Quite possibly the sweetest dancer we’ve featured thus far, Britney is not only determined to be successful, she’s determined to achieve that success by staying kind to others and true to herself. She’s not just driven by her dreams, she’s also driven by her faith. Britney loves letting music move her, and Everything Dances was moved by her inspiring interview.
A: I started dancing when I was six just because my parents put me in it because I was super shy — like seriously shy, didn’t want to talk to people at all — and my parents were like “You’re going into dance.” I just started out in combo classes, recreational, and then that same year the owner of the studio was like “Can you start competition?” and so I started competition. And then when I was 12 I moved to Strictly Rhythm, and I think my thing with Strictly was I thought everyone was so good so it pushed me to practice (I practiced my turns every day). So that’s when I knew I wanted to dance for life.
Q: What has your path been like so far?
A: After that, I went to school in Chicago for a year when I graduated. The dance program was really different, not like anything I was ever used to doing. It was a lot of modern and ballet. Surprisingly I was okay with the ballet, and not so much the modern. I actually really liked the ballet, but I was like I want to move to LA. And I knew I wanted to move to LA when I graduated [high school], but my parents told me no because I was too young. So after I finished that year of school, that’s when I moved here.
Q: What made you take that leap of faith and move to LA?
A: So I was sort of like, “Mom, Dad, you told me to try school out for a year, so I did that, and I know I want to go, and I’m not getting any younger, so I need to go now.” I feel like I have to be here.
Q: When you got there, was there anything you weren’t expecting about LA?
A: Well not necessarily for me, but when you move out here people think you’re going to start dancing with Beyonce right away. Or be this big blown-up dancer right away. But it’s not like that at all. You really have to train and make a name for yourself. Like I’m still doing that, and it’s been two, almost three, years. So it takes time. LA is definitely not the place for people who like to give up. Your big break doesn’t come right away, so you really have to train and keep pushing yourself. Try to make a name for yourself without sucking up to choreographers — that’s not good.
Q: What would you say is the hardest part about living and dancing in LA?
A: The hardest part is staying motivated because when you’re auditioning, you get cut all the time. It doesn’t even matter how good of a dancer you are, most of the time it’s not even about that. You could be amazing, and they’re just not looking for that type or you’re too short, you’re too muscular, your boobs are too big — it’s not about your dancing most of the time, it’s about what they’re looking for. Just be true to yourself. Sometimes people are like “Oh, this person’s booking this job, so let me try to change and be like them.” But you can’t do that, you have to stay true to yourself and the right job will come to you.
Q: What keeps you going, what is the best part about being in LA dancing?
A: All of the different opportunities — the dance stuff I never thought that I would ever love or do, it’s super cool. Meeting people on the job, and just meeting new choreographers and taking class from these people you never thought you’d take from. I’m super grateful to be able to take class here every day.
Q: What are your audition tips for dancers who go to LA and don’t really know what to expect?
A: Like I was saying, to always stay true to yourself. I always want to grow and get inspired by other dancers, like yesterday I was at an audition with Courtney Schwartz — she’s so awesome and looking at her dance, I’m like “She’s so cool, let me try to just watch.” It’s cool to grow and watch your friends and learn from them and pick up new moves, but I feel like staying true to yourself is a fierce thing. Because if you try to be like everyone else all the time, who are you as a dancer? I feel like you have to just know what you’re good at, and use that. Obviously if at an audition if they say, “Can you tumble?” and I can tumble but that’s not my best thing, I’m not about to try to whip out a back tuck. Learn from others, but don’t try to be them.
Q: What has been your best experience in LA so far?
A: I think I mentioned Victorious? That was my first job, it was so cool to be at Nickelodeon Studios where they film iCarly and their other shows. It was cool to be around Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande. So I think performing here was such an adrenaline rush. I was like, “Oh my gosh I can do this, I could do this for life.” I think the first job was just so much fun, and the atmosphere and vibe was so cool, everyone was just super nice. It was only me and another girl dancing behind Victoria, so it wasn’t like you had to pick me out of the crowd.
Q: What was the process like of getting an agent?* Obviously, that’s the key thing. But sometimes people are just like, “So, how do I do this?”
A: After I completed the Edge program, I started looking around for agencies and MSA was literally right across the street from Edge. The owner of Edge was like you should stop by MSA and see if they can represent you, and he’s represented by MSA too, and they came to watch me dance at Edge. I went into a meeting and they just signed me, but sometimes it’s not that easy. That’s just another one of those things where you can’t give up, because you will get signed. Having an agent is important for auditions, without an agent you don’t really get auditions. There are general auditions, those big cattle calls, but for exclusive auditions, you definitely need an agent.
*Britney is now represented by Go 2 Talent Agency.
Q: What is it like living in LA completely on your own?
A: Well first of all, it’s super expensive, which is why I teach at two studios. But it’s so fun. Sometimes I miss my family, but I talk to them every day. Besides that, just as long as I’m dancing, I’m fine.
Q: What’s something people may not know about you?
A: I’m strongly involved in my faith. I go to church a lot, and that’s one thing that keeps me sane while I’m living out here and keeps me from getting discouraged. I’m involved in a church group, so I’ve met some friends through that. I wake up every morning and pray or watch a Christian broadcast online or something, or read my devotionals. It just makes my day so much better. I could be stressed about an audition coming up, but if I pray or spend time with God, I feel SO much better. So that helps me calm my nerves, cause I’m a stress case.
Q: That’s really cool to see since Los Angeles has a reputation of corrupting young artists, and when you’re dancing sexy roles, that there’s another side.
A: It makes everything better when I interact with dancers — of course every dancer is competitive, but I don’t see it as “I need to beat this person,” or “Why did they book this job and I didn’t?” I try to lift everyone up, even if it’s something small. I’ll text my friend and be like “You looked awesome in class today.” Because dancers can get super catty out here. Basically I just try to make people feel like they’re important and they’re doing the right thing by being out here. It’s so tough for a lot of people, so making that first step is such a big thing. Even if they don’t book jobs right away, or get an agent right away, that they’re still amazing at what they’re doing because they’re following their passion.
Q: What would you say has been the biggest obstacle to overcome in dancing?
A: I feel like at a young age really pushed myself to be better because I really felt like I wasn’t a good dancer, and everyone else around me was amazing. I would go home and put a scrunchie on the wall and spot, practicing my turns. The biggest thing I had to overcome was my self-confidence.
Q: What is your biggest piece of advice to dancers?
A: I think my biggest advice is to branch out and meet people, take class, and go to conventions. But at the same time, people don’t realize the balance of sucking up to people just because they’re good dancers or big-time choreographers — of course you want to network, but just be genuine about it because people see right through that. Be genuine about the connections you make, and don’t make connections just because you want the job or you want to have a lot of Instagram followers. It’s not about that at all. Well, for me it’s not. I think of it like when you get old, people are not going to remember how famous you are, how many Instagram followers you have, they’re just going to remember how you treated them. People sometimes just do it for the same. But of course are also those really nice people, like the dancers from STARS who are amazing and have tons of Instagram followers but are actually genuine. People like that are the greatest. Because it can be taken away from you just as quickly as it was given to you.
Q: Why do you dance?
A: I dance because it’s honestly an escape from all the things that stress me out, and all my problems. Like when I was going through my breakup with my boyfriend that I dated for four years, I was just on my floor. This is dramatic, but I was just so sad. But then I went to dance and forgot about it. I just forget about everything else when I dance. Sometimes when I listen to music I’m just like, “Wait. This person knows my life. Her lyrics are my life.” And just to let the music move me — not even move to the music, have the music move me — it’s really cool.
Q: So what’s next?
A: I want to tour with an artist. I’m working towards that, working on getting jobs to build my résumé. Any job I get is super fun and I’m grateful for the opportunity, but I think touring would be amazing being able to travel. I have a friend touring with Taylor Swift, and he gave her private lessons the other day. Just that he gets to know her and perform for millions of people is amazing.
Why we love her: Feminine and fierce, commercial dancer Britney Hall has used her competition training and confidence to take on Los Angeles and break into its commercial dance scene. However, this turning top is more than just technique—her versatility allows her to transition from beautiful contemporary to sexy street jazz faster than you can say “Five, six, seven, eight!” Here are a few fun facts, and stay tuned for Britney’s full interview!
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.”
From acro to theatre and ballroom to ballet, little miss Dora Dolphin does it ALL. Her dance idol happens to be past featured dancer Alyssa Ness, so it was a no-brainer to ask this pint-sized powerhouse to be a part of our “Next Generation” group of featured dancers. With a heart almost as big as her talent, Dora is living proof that kindness and passion are keys to success: she’s earned perfect scores on her solos, has been told she could be on Dancing With the Stars someday, and was offered the opportunity to train at the Kirov Ballet Academy until graduation. Everything Dances was lucky enough to chat with this pint-sized powerhouse not only once, but twice—before and after a performance-packed summer! Don’t forget to view her feature video on our YouTube channel, everythingdances!
Part One (Spring 2013)
Q: What is your favorite style of dance?
A: My favorite types are lyrical, ballet, and jazz. I like lyrical because it really gets to tell a story and I really like feeling the music. And jazz because you really get to be fun and it’s really jazzy…and ballet is because I love learning a lot of technique. And I love ballet because you really get to flow with your arms and it’s really fun.
Q: What is your favorite part about doing dance competitions?
A: My favorite part about doing dance competitions is that you get to perform for other people and you’re nervous before you get on, but once you get out on that stage, it’s just really fun! And I also love my friend Sage, I love her, she’s awesome. I actually met her at a dance competition! I love meeting new people, that’s also what I love about dance competitions—meeting new people and performing for new people.
Q: What is your favorite part about dance conventions and taking classes?
A: I get to experience new teachers!
Q: Where do you dance?
A: I dance at Minnesota Dance Theater and Dance Attack when I’m in Miami, I love it so much! At Dance Attack, I love working with John Culbertson and Cookie Ramos.
Q: What has been your favorite dance moment so far?
A: Well I really just in general love performing for everybody. I liked meeting my friend Sage, I loved that because there’s a thing at Masquerade competition that’s called Pre-Stars and I met her there, and we were next to each other for a lot of the dance, and then we started loving being with each other. I really love her a lot. She lives really far away from me, usually when we want to get together my mom or dad calls or texts her parents and we just get together. She lives a little far away from us, so it is hard to get together, but we try!
Q: Who has helped you the most in your dance journey?
A: My dance coach Jennifer, and then my ballet teacher, and my mom and my dad, and all of my friends—they’ve really supported me—oh, and my grandmom who created all of my props. I have a lot of people who support me!
Q: What is your favorite solo?
A: My favorite solos are my new solos, they are really interesting & fun. They are really different and creative.
Q: What’s your secret to success?
A: Just practicing seven days a week, just making sure I do practice and not miss a day.
Q: What is the hardest part about dance for you?
A: I’ve been taught to really encourage other people and to be happy for other people, and other people haven’t been like that to me. I’ve had people who haven’t really supported me. But I have a lot of people who do support me. I be myself and be nice and don’t really worry about it.
Q: Who is your favorite dancer to watch and look up to?
A: On Dancing with the Stars Derek Huff, and Alyssa Ness. And I really like Sophia Lucia. Oh, and I love Maddie from Dance Moms!
Part Two (Summer 2013)
Q: This summer, you were the youngest dancer at the Kirov Ballet Academy intensive in Washington, DC—and yet you were also invited to attend Kirov as a year-round ballet student in their professional training division! What was that experience like?
A: It was fun, I like being the youngest. I got a chance to look up to people. The school program starts at 7th grade, but I’m in 5th grade so I could stay in the dorm there, but I would have to move there. I’m in 5th grade so I’m going to do online school so I would do that on the computer and then I could do ballet there because I’m not old enough for the education part.
Q: Congratulations on being showcased as a special guest this summer in an Annual Ballroom Championship Show dance! What was it like competing in ballroom as one of the youngest contestants?
A: That competition was really fun. I like to collect rhinestones off of the floor! Ballroom is just really different from other kinds of dances. I like the way the other ballroom dancers move.
Q: You also take rhythmic gymnastics as well, how has that helped your dancing?
A: I’m actually not competing in rhythmic, I’m just doing the moves. I’m doing ball and ribbon, and I’ve had the ball in some of my dances.
Q: How was your experience performing in “This Side of Paradise” with the History Theatre?
A: It went really well, it was really fun. The cast was really nice. I got to act, which was different.
Q: How are your performances with “The Belmont Hotel” going so far?
A: We just performed at the state fair! I was just on the news last night with some of the other cast members. I’m doing both, dancing and acting. You have to act through your dancing. This company is Collide Theatrical, it’s about dancing and acting together.
Q: With all of this acting, could you see yourself on Disney Channel one day?
A: Yes! I would really like to do that. [Dora would love to be on Jessie!]
Q: What’s new coming up for little miss Dora?
A: I tried out for The Christmas Carol at the Guthrie, and I got in! There’s going to be singing, and dancing, and acting. There are only like twelve or thirteen kids in the show. I’m an understudy for a Crachit kid, and I’m Belle’s daughter, Wimple’s daughter, and a Fezzwig guest!
Q: What advice do you have for other dancers your age on how to improve as a dancer and deal with others who are not supportive?
A: Don’t give up, and if you feel like you can’t do it, you can do it. Don’t say you can’t because you really can. Reach for the stars and just have fun! Always love each other and be nice, and believe in yourself and be yourself.
Q: You said your dream dance role or career would be to be a movie or Broadway star, why those?
A: I think it would be really fun to be a different person. I love how the whole Broadway and movie stuff works, like how cool it is. I’m going to be in “This Side of Paradise,” the story of F. Scott Fitzerald and Zelda. I’m going to be Young Scottie, and I’m young Zelda as a ballerina.
*At the time of her first interview, Dora had not yet performed in this production. Since then, she has completed 32 performances as Young Scottie in This Side of Paradise at the prestigious History Theatre!
Q: Why do you like to dance?
A: I like to dance because I like performing for everybody and it’s really fun and I get to meet new people. Other people don’t know how hard dance is to do, and I love it so much. To express and perform—I really love that.
Q: Why do you admire past featured dancer Alyssa Ness?
A: I look up to Alyssa because she is a sweetheart with a very big heart and a beautiful dedicated dancer.
You’ve seen her on Dance Moms Season 3, and now Everything Dances is proud to announce our second “Next Generation” featured dancer. With the same technical prowess as sisterly friend and past featured dancer Tori Cullo, Kaeli Ware was the perfect choice for our “Next Generation” feature. The two girls have a close bond both behind-the-scenes and onstage, which is seen in their stunning routines together. You may recognize this girl’s beautiful lines and remarkable stage presence from her recent appearance on reality television, but we’re excited to show you the real Kaeli—a beautiful dancer and person, inside and out. Don’t forget to view her feature video on our YouTube channel, everythingdances!
Q: What is your favorite style of dance?
A: Ballet because it is technical and then jazz because it shows my personality a lot and I also get to use my ballet training a lot.
Q: You said your favorite solo was “Garden of Eden” choreographed by Marinda Davis because it was challenging. How so?
A: All of my solos have usually been lyrical or jazz until now, I had never done a contemporary solo before. So when she came, I had to work harder with her because it wasn’t my style and I had to get used to it.
Q: Who has been your favorite choreographer to work with?
A: My favorite teacher I’ve had is Mia Michaels because she came to our studio, and she’s really inspiring, and she likes to help dancers get better.
Q: What is it like dancing at Studio Bleu Dance Center, the top studio in the country?
A: It’s a very supportive environment. Everyone works as hard as they can all the time, and I just love going there because they all work so hard and they’re a great team.
Q: What was it like dancing with Abby Lee Dance Center for a bit during Dance Moms?
A: It was a lot of fun, and I’m glad that I got to do it for that amount of time, even though it wasn’t a long time. I love having different teachers, especially in different areas because they always teach differently and have different corrections to give you and different ways they do stuff.
Q: How was learning from Abby Lee?
A: I really liked it. Actually, she’s really nice. She’s one of my favorite teachers I’ve had because she works with you on what you need to get better at and she pushes you the hardest, but she’s not mean about it.
Q: What was it like dancing with all of the girls on Dance Moms?
A: They’re all really nice and we all became really good friends. My mom and Sophia’s mom are really, really close and they talk all of the time. That’s a friendship that we’re always going to have, it’s not just for the show. Bella is from my studio, but Sophia and Ally were really nice about meeting us and it was really fun.
Q: In your fast facts, you said even though you’ve done a group dance with her, Sophia Lucia would be one of your dream dance partners. Why her?
A: I look up to her because she is just such a hard worker and it was nice taking class with her. I went to California during the summer and we did a workshop and she would just push me to go harder because she is just so amazing. So when I was in class, she was there pushing me. And I liked doing that group dance with her [on Dance Moms] because she was really nice about it. She was really fun to work with and she is really nice, so it was just fun meeting new friends and being able to do that dance. It was really funny because she came on literally the last day and me and Bella were talking to each other and we were like, “That’s Sophia Lucia! That’s Sophia Lucia!” And now we’re really good friends with her!
Q: How did you handle the new fame that came with the show?
A: We usually would always do workshops and competitions in our area, like in Woodbridge or Maryland, and the first time it was really big because I went to NYCDA in Philadelphia, and there were so many people there it took me thirty minutes to just go eat my lunch. It was really funny because the last time I was in New York, I was just walking down the street and someone was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re Kaeli from Dance Moms!” and I was like “Woah!” And all of my friends joke around a lot because they knew me before I was on the show so they’re always like, “Can I have your autograph?!”
Q: What has it been like being homeschooled?
A: I really like being homeschooled because I can do it on my own time and it gives me a lot of dance opportunities because some jobs you have to be there the next day, and you can’t do that when you’re at a public school. When I was in elementary school, I didn’t get to do a lot of stuff, like I was supposed to be in a movie but I couldn’t do it because they wouldn’t let me skip school. So now, I feel like when there’s something I CAN say, “Yeah, I’ll be there the next day!”
Q: So you were at ABT for a couple of years, and then you performed with Joffrey, so you have a lot of pre-professional experiences, especially ballet. What is it like being one of the youngest in a professional environment like those?
A: It makes me work a lot harder, since everyone is so much older and a lot of them are a lot better than me. So I’m like “Oh my gosh, they’re so amazing, I want to be like them when I grow up!” So I liked working with them, especially when I got to perform with the ABT company. It was so amazing because Misty Copeland is one of my idols and we got to talk a lot.
Q: For a lot of dancers, their inspirations are commercial dancers or SYTYCD stars. Why is Misty Copeland yours?
A: Because she is a really good ballerina, and I really want to be a ballerina when I grow up. And she was the first African American in ABT, in the company. She just inspires me a lot and I really look up to her.
Q: What advice do you have for other dancers who want to be successful at conventions and auditions?
A: My advice would be to learn from other dancers and always push yourself as hard as you can and not feel discouraged.
Q: What would you say has been your best dance experience so far?
A: I think my best dance experience would probably be being in New York with ABT and getting to do all of those amazing opportunities like I got to dance at the MET, and I have danced at the Library of Congress. I really like ballet a lot, and I’m glad I take a lot of ballet.
And also, Dance Moms has helped me because I think it made me more known…so I danced a lot harder, and I’ve definitely gotten a lot better since then.
And going to all of the conventions this year, it was my first year really going to all of those conventions, and so that’s helped me a lot. I really liked NYCDA because it is a ballet-based convention and so they do a lot of ballet, and also I went to the PULSE this year for the first time, and it’s a lot of hip hop so it made me work a lot harder because I love hip hop, but it’s not my strongest.
Q: What is the hardest part about dance?
A: I think just having no time. I’m really never home, like the only time I’m ever home is to go to sleep because I’m always at the studio. Like on Saturdays I’m there from 8:30 in the morning to 7:30 at night sometimes. Also just having to travel a lot, I’ve only been home for two weeks in two months because I was in California, and then we had nationals, and then I never went home between nationals and New York. And so it’s very weird because I’m never home, and I wasn’t used to that before.
Q: What was it like doing a photo shoot with one of the best dance photographers in the business, David Hofmann?
A: It was really, really fun and I really loved it because for probably four years, before he was really famous, he’s been asking my mom if I could do a photo shoot with him because I thought I lived in California. So it was really cool that I got to finally do one with him. My favorite part about it was probably just trying all of the new poses because he’s really an amazing photographer. My mom, she always thought that I did a jump badly, but he would snap it at the perfect time and it would look really good. He’s really fun to work with and he’s a really nice guy.
Q: You said that your dream dance career would be something in LA or on Broadway, as long as you’re dancing you’d be happy. What path would you like to pursue?
A: I was always supposed to be on Broadway, except I’ve gotten so tall and I can’t really play a children’s role. But I’d really like to move to New York or LA and just dance with different professional companies, probably a contemporary or ballet company, I think it would be really fun.
Q: What advice do you have for other dancers your age?
A: My advice would be to always work as hard as you can. This is my first year in the teen category in dance, so it definitely pushed me a lot harder and I really had to work for it. And I think it’s always really exciting when you learn a new trick. Like even when I came to New York, I took class with a new choreographer and it was really fun because I got to learn from other people. If you travel a lot, I think it helps. It’s always great to be in a positive environment and to see everyone who is supporting you.
Q: What is the biggest mistake you could make as a dancer?
A: I think the biggest mistake you could make is trying to be a different dancer than you actually are. One of them has plenty of other weaknesses, and I always learn from other dancers within my own classes. If they do something I like, I think, “Oh that’s cool, I want to do that!” But I don’t try to be another type of dancer. I know that I’m a really good lyrical and ballet dancer, but I wouldn’t want to try be someone I’m not, like a hip hop dancer because I think it’s really nice to know what you’re good at.
Q: What has it been like dancing with past featured dancer Tori Cullo?
A: I’ve known Tori probably since I was four or five. We’ve gotten a lot closer and she’s danced at both of my studios, my dance teacher’s old studio and at Studio Bleu, so we’ve gotten really close because we’ve always had each other. Now we’re traveling together, and it’s really so nice to have a good sister like that. I admire all of her technique and all of her hard work because it just makes me want to become a better dancer in every way.
Q: Why do you dance?
A: My dad always cut music, and I just started doing all these older kids’ dances, I hadn’t even started dancing yet. And so my mom was like “Oh my gosh, she somehow knows the dances!” So at first it was just yeah, my mom put me into dance, like every other kid, but now as I’ve grown older, dance is my passion and I love to do it every day to make myself a better dancer.