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Help your dancers improve their performance—and scores—with this advice from veteran competition faculty: Martha Nichols, Judy Rice and Suzi Taylor.

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Chloé and Maud Arnold pose with NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts, Debbie Allen.

Last night, the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation awarded Debbie Allen the 2015 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Award at the annual “Bright Lights Shining Stars” gala. Held at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, the event paid tribute to Allen through song, dance and celebration.

Highlights from the evening:

Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies opened the show with a bang! With ear-to-ear grins, their fierce quintet, set to music by Beyoncé, created a celebratory tone for the entire evening.

Kolton Krouse performs Andy Pellick's Path of Enlightenment.

NYCDA student Kolton Krouse performed a gravity-defying solo choreographed by NYCDA faculty member Andy Pellick. Krouse was later awarded the Adele Astaire College Scholarship by An American in Paris star Robert Fairchild.

Jessica Lee Goldyn and dancers perform "I'm a Brass Band" from Sweet Charity.

Broadway star Jessica Lee Goldyn and a chorus of male dancers performed “I’m a Brass Band” from Sweet Charity. With original choreography by Bob Fosse, this was hands-down my personal favorite from the evening.

Allen's daughter Vivian Nixon performed the role of Anita from West Side Story.

Allen’s daughter Vivian Nichole Nixon made a surprise appearance, reprising Allen’s Tony-nominated role, Anita from Jerome Robbins' West Side Story. Nixon's lively rendition of “America” proved that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Dancesanity Stars' Karla Choko and Josen Torres showed that salsa can be enjoyed at any age, when they were joined onstage by their young students Nathalie Huiracocha and Felix Monge. The petite duet impressed—they held their own next to the professional duo.

Joe Lanteri stands with 2013 NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Catherine Zeta-Jones and her husband Michael Douglas. Zeta-Jones gave the welcome remarks at the top of the show.

Over the past five years, the NYCDA Foundation has awarded more than $17 million in college scholarships to hundreds of young dancers nationwide. Founded in 1993 by executive director Joe Lanteri, the NYCDA convention currently travels to 23 cities each season. Faculty includes Andy Blankenbuehler, Jared Grimes, Suzi Taylor and Melinda Sullivan. Many NYCDA alumni have gone on to have successful careers in dance including, Travis Wall, Derek Hough and Nick Lazzarini.

Photos from top: by Rachel Neville; by Eduardo Patino (3); by Rachel Neville, all courtesy of NYCDA.

Congratulations to Amanda Mitchell, the latest Editors’ Choice winner for Dance Teacher’s Video of the Month!

Mitchell’s lyrical competition solo, “The Closest I Get,” choreographed by Suzi Taylor (DT December 2013), helped the high school senior win first overall in her age category at Legacy Dance Championships (where the video was filmed), as well as NYCDA’s regional competition in Orlando and Masquerade National Dance Competition.

Mitchell first met Taylor as a student at NYCDA. “Suzi would call me out in convention classes and speak to me individually about my dancing,” she says. Eventually, she worked up the nerve to ask Taylor to choreograph for her. Taylor, who prefers to create solos for students she already knows, agreed. “Amanda’s so specific in her musicality, and she’s so beautiful and strong. I knew what I wanted for her,” she says. This solo, their second collaboration, highlights Mitchell’s strengths with precise body positions and fluid transitions. “So much thought goes into every move of Suzi’s choreography, and she is very helpful with performance tips,” Mitchell says. “She tells me to make sure movement generates from my back and to use all of the space on the stage.”

Mitchell sometimes assists Taylor in class and hopes to study dance in a BFA program next year.

Want to build buzz about your studio, workshop or class? Posting videos to the Dance Teacher Video of the Month Contest is quick, easy and free—and it’s a great way to get noticed. If your video is selected as Editors’ Choice, you’ll be featured on this page, and you’ll win a free one-year subscription to DT! Don’t miss out on a great opportunity—visit dancemedia.com, share your videos and vote for your favorites. Any and all kinds of dance are welcome.

This exercise follows the plié, tendu and dégagé series in Suzi Taylor's lyrical jazz class. It helps students manage their ribcage and shoulder alignment, while finding their centers.

Taylor trained in Southern California with Douglas Caldwell, Jaime Rogers and Philip and Charles Fuller before moving to New York City. There, she studied at The Ailey School and with Doug Wassel, David Howard and Finis Jhung. She has been teaching at Steps on Broadway for 25 years and is a founding teacher at New York City Dance Alliance. In fall 2013, she joined the dance faculty at Pace University.

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