A Hoofer Prepares for Miss America Pageant

For the reigning Miss New Hampshire, a 21-year-old tap dancer, competing for the Miss America title is nothing compared to her own battle with cancer. Megan Lyman was 12 when she was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma, a stage three tissue cancer. She had to stop dancing for two years while she underwent seven surgeries.

She met her mentor Aaron Tolson during a workshop at Broadway North studio in Belmont, New Hampshire. “Aaron was outstanding. He was always making plans for me for when I got out of the hospital,” she says. “He really kept my head in the right place.”

After her recovery, Tolson asked Lyman to join the off-Broadway cast of Halftime and appointed her as the dance captain of his troupe, New England Tap Ensemble. Today, Tolson, a former Riverdance cast member, lives in NYC and teaches at Broadway Dance Center, so Lyman has been commuting to the city to prepare for January’s pageant. “If I had let her ease in slowly [after treatment], she wouldn’t be here preparing for this big stage today,” he says. “She had so much spirit, so I was tough.” March marks seven cancer-free years for Lyman.

Sadly, Lyman didn’t make it to the talent portion of this year’s competition, which aired live January 12, but this year’s winning participant happens to be a tapper as well! Watch 2013’s Miss America performance here:

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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