There Are a Bunch of Familiar Faces in Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch"
Every year, our friends over at Dance Magazine select 25 standout dancers, choreographers, and companies for their “25 to Watch” feature. The list is always overflowing with talent, but this year’s iteration was especially exciting—four of the featured dancers have graced the pages of DS at one point or another: former cover star Aran Bell, DS Cover Model Search semi-finalist Sophie Miklosovic, Jasmine Harper, and “You Should Know” alum Easton Payne. It was a totally full-circle moment to see each of them score a coveted spot on this list. Check out their profiles below (which originally appeared in Dance Magazine), and major congratulations to everyone else selected this year!
Aran Bell with Devon Teuscher in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy ABT
Performing Romeo as a 19-year-old corps member would be a feat at any company. But at American Ballet Theatre, where it can take dancers near decades to land promotions and principal roles, it’s nothing short of a coup. Yet when Aran Bell did just that last summer—in New York City, at the Metropolitan Opera House, no less—he did it with a gravitas it takes most dancers years to develop and a sincerity only an actual teenager could bring to the role.
Bell was hardly an unknown before his debut. He was profiled in the 2011 documentary First Position, where at age 11 he was already raking in awards and turning like a top. But he hasn’t rested on his prodigy laurels. Though he’s still a virtuoso technician, he’s also a refined actor with an unflagging work ethic—he even spent an extra year in the ABT Studio Company in the midst of a challenging growth spurt. Now 6′ 3″, he’s a natural partner, dancing with some of ABT’s starriest women, such as Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera. But his Romeo debut was perhaps his greatest triumph thus far, tackling Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s near-impossible lifts with ease and finesse. —Lauren Wingenroth
Sophie Miklosovic as a Wili in Giselle. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet
A mix of youthful innocence and vulnerability characterized Sophie Miklosovic’s Juliet this past August. Dancing Romeo and Juliet‘s balcony scene pas de deux, she attained a level of artistry that equaled her expert technique. Delicate port de bras accompanied textbook footwork as Miklosovic embodied Juliet’s elation and trepidation.
The former competition dancer from Detroit says she always had an affinity for tiaras, but that competing was more than that: It was instrumental in honing her natural skills as a dancer. She earned top honors at the 2015 and 2016 Youth America Grand Prix and a gold medal at the 2017 World Ballet Competition. BalletMet artistic director Edwaard Liang hired her in 2017 when she was only 17.
Despite her many early successes, Miklosovic says the constant challenge of ballet keeps her grounded: “Working to achieve something difficult in a split second is what keeps me going.” —Steve Sucato
Jasmine Harper with Neil Haskell on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Photo by Adam Rose/FOX, Courtesy FOX
There’s a deep soulfulness to Jasmine Harper’s movement. Her dancing is precise, yet fluid, featuring an intricate musicality that’s rare on today’s commercial scene. In the five years since her stint on “So You Think You Can Dance,” the 25-year-old has rocketed into Los Angeles’ current commercial dance zeitgeist.
After performing with Beyoncé during her Super Bowl 50 performance in 2016, Harper appeared in the star’s video for “Formation.” Most recently, she danced with Queen Bey at Coachella (dubbed “Beychella” after the performance went viral), appeared in the iconic music video for “APES**T” that was filmed at the Louvre Museum, and performed in Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On the Run II tour last year.
“I try to let the music speak through my movement,” she says. “I want the audience to feel what I feel when I’m performing.” —Courtney Bowers
Photo by Lee Gumbs Photography, courtesy Payne
When it first hit the competition stage, Easton Payne’s work—set to bold song choices like classic Frank Sinatra, and devoid of standard tilts and pirouettes—was a breath of fresh air. The 21-year-old choreographer started making waves on Instagram in 2015, posting one markedly different combo after another while cultivating something of a cult following in the process. Payne’s unapologetic singularity quickly caught the eyes of dancers, teachers and commercial-world standouts alike. Soon, he was choreographing routines for some of the country’s top competition kids, while getting cast in everything from concept videos with Tyce Diorio to fashion collaborations with Adidas.
Like any young professional, he has his fair share of career bucket list items (namely, choreographing a Broadway show). But for now, he’s as content as can be, returning to Los Angeles when he isn’t choreographing for studios across the country. “I will never truly fit the mold,” he says, “but that’s the common human experience—discovering how to ‘fit’ without sacrificing our innate shape.” —Olivia Manno