A Family Affair

August 15, 2010

When Ashly DelGrosso was 14, she stood on the floor at a ballroom dance competition, awaiting the results. Just a few feet away stood her

then-17-year-old sister Amber, who was also her competitor. Ashly—now known as Ashly Costa, of “Dancing with the Stars”—figured these results would go the way they always had: Amber would win, and Ashly would congratulate her with a hug.


But this time was different: For the first time, Ashly took the top score, and Amber finished in fourth place. As her sister rushed over, Ashly nervously blurted out, “I’m so sorry Amber! I didn’t mean for this to happen.” Luckily, Amber just laughed. “Are you silly? You won,” she said. “You’re amazing!”


When multiple family members are involved in dance, it can lead to plenty of awkward moments like Ashly’s—especially when the dancers compete for the same awards or jobs. Dancers in these families often feel pressure to keep up when their relatives excel. But, as part of a dance family, they also get a built-in support system and round-the-clock encouragement. DS found out what it’s really like to keep it all in the family.

Identity Crisis

Finding your own place in the dance world can be challenging, especially if you’ve got a sibling who’s better-known than you are. When Kimberly Klapow was 12 and landed her first paid job, her brother Chucky was 15 and already choreographing professionally for commercials. A decade later, when she nabbed dance roles in the second and third High School Musical films, Chucky was there too, as a choreographer.


But Kimberly’s confidence in her own talent has helped her push through moments when she’s felt pressure to live up to her brother. “I don’t do choreography. I’m a dancer,” she says. Because they have different specialties, “I don’t really consider myself to be living in his shadow,” she says. This positive attitude has made it easier for the siblings to establish their positive working relationship.

Who’s the Boss?

When one family member is in charge of others, it can make for a tricky dynamic. Bonnie Story, like Chucky, was a choreographer on High School Musical, and she worked with her daughters Bayli Baker and Kelli Herbert on all three films. Bayli admits that she usually finds it harder to take criticism from her mother than from her other bosses. “The more time you spend with someone, the stronger your relationship becomes. But it’s also easier to get frustrated with her,” she says. “Between being at home and on set, we were together 24/7 during filming. It got to be a lot.”

But Bayli says being a professional will get you through any sticky situation. “Tense moments are inevitable,” she says. “Keep your comments to yourself and avoid showing that you’re offended.”

Conflict of Interest

While working for a family member can be challenging, there is something tougher: dealing with the perception that you got a job because of your connections.


“Jobs aren’t just handed to us,” Kelli says. “We have to work twice as hard to prove ourselves.” In fact, she says she feels more pressure to perform when she works with Story. “If we mess up, people will think we’re only there because of our mom,” she says.

Built-In Support System

In spite of the occasional awkward moment, most dancers appreciate having family members around to provide comfort and understanding. Siblings Abi and Jonathan Stafford are both principals with New York City Ballet. Abi, who is a year and a half younger than Jonathan, moved to NYC at 16 to follow in her brother’s footsteps and attend NYCB’s School of American Ballet. “The school is extremely competitive,” Abi says. “It

was nice to have someone there who knew where I came from.” More than a decade later, the siblings remain each other’s support system. “I can speak openly with her and she’s not going to tell the rest of the company, and vice versa,“ Jonathan says.


While Ashly may have found it difficult to compete against her older sister, ultimately she enjoys sharing dance with her siblings (seven out of eight DelGrosso siblings are dancers). When her younger sister Afton auditioned for “DWTS,” Ashly was able to share insights on the choreography and how to work the camera. “My mom always told us that our relationships with our sisters are the most important relationships we’ll ever have,” Ashly says.


Tim O’Shei is the author of 60 books and a frequent contributor to

Dealing With Your Dance Family

By Colleen Bohen

Dancing with your relatives isn’t always easy. Here are four ways you can make the experience a positive one.

Set your

Do your best to avoid comparing yourself to your family members. “Comparisons don’t get you anywhere—they’re a sign of insecurity,” says Linda Hamilton, wellness consultant for New York City Ballet. Identify what makes you special and embrace it!


Talk it out

If you have a problem with your relative, be honest about it. “Avoid addressing personal issues in the studio,” says Hamilton. “Wait until you’re in a non-dance setting, then tell the other person how you feel and figure out how you can fix the problem.”


Seek outside support

Don’t rely on family members for comfort and understanding. “Have your own group of friends and develop interests outside of dance,” says Hamilton. “And remember that you can always seek professional help if you have trouble finding a neutral

person to talk with.”


Know your limits

Sometimes you’re just not meant to work with family members. “If you’re feeling hostile and competitive and you don’t get along with your relative, don’t keep working together,” says Hamilton.




Photos top to bottom: Ashly Costa and Buzz Aldrin on “Dancing with the Stars” by ABC/Adam Larkey; Afton DelGrosso and Cody Linley on “Dancing with the Stars” by ABC/Kelsey McNeal.