This past summer Ida Saki practically bounced into the DS offices with her bubbly spirit and giant, glowing smile. Dressed in a casual white tee tucked into a 50s-style high-waisted skirt, gladiator sandals and a flower clipped in her long, beachy hair (an outfit that was very hipster meets West Side Story), she was especially excited about attending the Complexions Summer Intensive later that day. But this was not Ida’s first time in the Big Apple since the Cover Model Search last April. A few weeks before the Complexions workshop, she threw her body and her heart into New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, and won the prestigious Senior Female Outstanding Dancer award. Whether it was her risk-taking solo (she used the same “Schindler’s List” one that she danced in her CMS video), her gorgeous extensions or her can’t-look-away stage presence, she’s been on fire this year. To top it all off, she graces our October cover because of your votes, making her our 2009 CMS winner!
When we sat down to catch up with Ida in July, she told us that her ultimate goal is to be a role model. And at just 17, we think she’s already accomplished that. This Texan is not only an award-winning dancer, but she’s also a diligent student with an almost perfect GPA. What makes Ida exceptional is that beyond her impressive resume, she’s a truly humble person, grateful for all opportunities thrown her way. Here, Ida opens up to DS about what it’s like to be part of the CMS—and win!
Dance Spirit: What’s it like to look at the cover of DS and see your picture?
: Being on the cover of DS feels amazing. I am so thankful to all of the people who took time out of their lives to vote for me.
DS: What was your favorite part of the CMS week in NYC?
: Definitely meeting all of the DS editors and the other CMS finalists. I love meeting new people! Also, the photo shoot—goofing around and showing my technique off front of the camera was fun. Getting my hair and makeup professionally done was cool, too.
DS: What was the hardest part of the week?
: Probably the classes at Broadway Dance Center. I went to them right after I flew in from Texas, so I felt a bit out of it. The classes definitely tested my determination, and I think as the day progressed, I overcame my grogginess.
DS: How do you think you’ve changed since coming to NYC as part of the CMS?
: I feel more confident. The DS photo shoot helped me understand how to feel comfortable in front of the camera, which came in handy when I recently modeled for a catalogue. I learned so much from the other dancers—especially Kamille’s fluidity and Nicole’s sassiness. I now try to incorporate their styles into my movement.
I’d also never taken classes in that type of professional NYC atmosphere before. It gave me insight into what I want to do for the rest of my life. Brian Thomas, who taught the jazz funk class I took at BDC, said I didn’t put myself out there enough during his class. Since then, I’ve been standing in the front of my classes more and dancing bigger. I feel stronger and uplifted.
DS: This year, thousands of people voted in the CMS. Who do you think supported you most?
My friends at my studio, Dance Industry in Plano, TX, and my school, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, were very supportive. My family also sent emails to our Iranian friends, who then sent emails to their friends and so on. I recently attended a local Iranian rally, and people told me that I represent the country well and that they’re proud of me. I feel so honored. It’s the biggest compliment.
DS: Tell us about competing at NYCDA.
: There were 77 seniors girls up for the SOD title, and that alone was intimidating. After I watched their phenomenal solos, I was even more intimidated. So I started observing them in rehearsals and classes, and it made me want to work harder. I have no idea how I won—I was shocked. Maybe it was because my solo was so different. I used the Schindler’s List solo I did for the CMS [log onto dancespirit.com/ to see it]. When I perform, I try to balance technique and passion. I feel like I finally accomplished that at the competition, so it might have set me apart.
DS: Had people seen the solo before because of the CMS?
: Yes, but people said that it was different to see it live. Supposedly I got a standing ovation (even from the judges). I didn’t even realize it because I was so in the moment.
DS: What was it like accept your SOD award?
When I won, I actually did notice everyone standing! Seeing people cheering, even if they weren’t from my studio, was so powerful. I felt I had gotten across the feelings that I wanted to portray in the dance. It wasn’t only about the Holocaust, it was about anyone who has seen a bit of hope and used it to overcome struggles.
DS: What do you have planned for your future?
I received a half-tuition scholarship through NYCDA to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, but I’m not positive that I want to major in dance. I may want to major in something else, such as nutrition or physical therapy, which I can do after dancing. I may pursue a dance career while I’m in school, but on the side. After college, I want to do everything dance-wise—movies, commercials, music videos, Broadway—and my ultimate dream is to be in a contemporary/modern company. I don’t see a point in settling for just one thing. I want to do it all. It would be a challenge, but I love challenges.
For more on Ida’s reaction to winning the CMS, watch her “thank you” video on dancespirit.com/
Ida’s Advice For Future CMS Hopefuls:
Take the Initiative
Post your video! You can do something to help you stand out, like writing a letter to the editors, which is what I did. Make sure it includes everything that you would want to say if you got into the magazine.
If you’re chosen as a semi-finalist, send good photos that portray your technique and style. Get everything in on time.
Let Yourself Grow
If you’re one of the three finalists, be determined! Look at the other girls, try to pick out what makes them special and work those elements into your own dancing. Stand out by having your own style and knowing what you do best. Also, know your weaknesses, but don’t let them show. My weakness was probably having low confidence. Nicole told me how she used to struggle with low confidence and overcame it. Seeing how confident she was made me realize I could do it too. I put myself out there and didn’t look at my flaws as downfalls, but as stuff I needed work on to improve.
A Note From Ida
I cannot thank you, plus my friends, family and teachers, enough for your support. I’m so grateful that I was given this opportunity. I have been inspired by and looked up to so many dancers throughout my life, and I hope I can now inspire others as well. My ultimate goal in this competition was to reach out to the readers and relate to them in some way so that they would get on the computer and vote! I thank you for taking the time to do that and for supporting my dancing. Being on the cover because of your votes is such an honor.
Why You Voted For Ida
“She is so amazingly strong and fearless!”
“The strength and control she exhibited in her piece were mesmerizing. I held my breath watching her. Beautifully done.”
“Ida is a fabulous dancer who has gorgeous lines, and most of all, she is humble and friendly to all of her peers. She’s a well-rounded, nice person who happens to dance beautifully.”
“Each of her movements flows into the next, creating a vivid picture of emotion and strength.”