"tWitch" Boss and Allison Holker Have a True Hollywood Love Story

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!


It's almost too perfect to believe that two of the most popular contestants ever to grace the "So You Think You Can Dance" stage have ended up as a happy couple (married at Nigel Lythgoe's winery, no less). Yet, somehow tWitch Boss and Allison Holker have lived out every dancer's fairy tale. They continue to perform professionally in various capacities, travel with 24 Seven Dance Convention on the weekends, teach for CLI Studios (a company they co-founded with Teddy Forance, Caitlin Kinney and Jon Arpino) and are raising two darling kids along the way.

Allison: We didn't meet until we were All-Stars on Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance." I had a crush on him from our first rehearsal together, but I didn't know how to talk to him. I would get so awkward. I would try to flirt with him and send him signals that I was interested, but he was completely oblivious to all of them. We were both so focused on doing a good job as All-Stars on the show that we ended up keeping our attention on that and nothing happened between us. Finally, at the wrap party Stephen came up to me, reached out and took my hand. He walked me upstairs, and we shared a few dances together. We've been dating ever since.

tWitch: Allison and I booked a commercial together that was choreographed and directed by friends of ours. They were so awesome and helped me turn the job into a marriage proposal. We were filming the whole day, and then when we were nearing the end, they asked Allison to leave the room to fill out some paperwork. Meanwhile, we brought her family and friends into the room and filled the entire crew in on what was going to happen. Then she came back in, and we started filming a portion of the commercial where I would freestyle on the table and then bring Allison up to join me. Once she got up there, our song, "I Won't Give Up," came on and we began slow-dancing. Then I turned her around to see that her family had flown in for the proposal as well. Then I got down on one knee and gave her a speech and asked her to marry me. It was really perfect. We got the whole thing on film, and you can see it online. 👇


Allison: Since the first time I ever saw tWitch perform, I have been drawn to this commanding presence about him that is so unique from other performers. He is such a beast onstage, but then has this endearing quality about him that simultaneously exudes love from every part of his body. It's enchanting.

tWitch: Allison is able to make a real connection with her students. Whether it's minis, juniors, teens or seniors, she finds a way to relate to whatever room she walks into. Then, on top of that, she makes the dancers' jaws drop to the floor as soon as she starts performing. When you combine her ability to connect as a teacher, and the fact that she can prove herself as a dancer, it makes her a class knockout. If she doesn't grab your attention one way, she will get you in another.

Allison: My teaching philosophy is that freedom and performance are just as important as technical proficiency. I want my students to learn that they are free to use their uniqueness in their movement, and to love it. I do this by being vulnerable in front of them myself. I don't mind making mistakes or being wild. I am who I am, and I let them see it. I give them the energy I expect from them, and let them know that there is no judgment in my classroom.

tWitch: As a hip-hop teacher, it's really important to me that I incorporate the culture and energy of hip hop into the class. I want them to see that hip hop isn't just a class you take, but a lifestyle you live. If I can teach kids this, then class becomes about the vibe, and having a good time with our friends. I want them to leave knowing how to move with a room, and recognize their individual role in keeping the energy up for everyone else.

Meet the four other couples including Kirven and Antonio Bouthit-Boyd, Simon Ball and Frances Perez-Ball, Randi Kemper and Hefa Tuita and Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton.

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.


The state of Alexis' health changes from day to day, and in true dance-teacher fashion, she works through both the good and the terrible. "I tend to be strong because dance made me that way," she says. "It creates incredibly resilient people." This summer, as New York City began to ease restrictions, she pushed through her exhaustion and took her company to the docks in Long Island City, where they could take class outdoors. "We used natural barres under the beauty of the sky," Alexis says. "Without walls there were no limits, and the dancers were filled with emotion in their sneakers."

These classes led to an outdoor show for the Ballet des Amériques company—equipped with masks and a socially distanced audience. Since Phase 4 reopening in July, her students are back in the studio in Westchester, New York, under strict COVID-19 guidelines. "We're very safe and protective of our students," she says. "We were, long before I got sick. I'm responsible for someone's child."

Alexis says this commitment to follow the rules has stemmed, in part, from the lessons she's learned from ballet. "Dance has given me the spirit of discipline," she says. "Breaking the rules is not being creative, it's being insubordinate. We can all find creativity elsewhere."

Here, Alexis shares how she's helping her students through the pandemic—physically and emotionally—and getting through it herself.

How she counteracts mask fatigue:

"Our dancers can take short breaks during class. They can go outside on the sidewalk to breathe for a moment without their mask before coming back in. I'm very proud of them for adapting."

Her go-to warm-up for teaching:

"I first use a jump rope (also mandatory for my students), and follow with a full-body workout from the 7 Minute Workout app, preceding a barre au sol [floor barre] with injury-prevention exercises and dynamic stretching."

How she helps dancers manage their emotions during this time:

"Dancers come into my office to let go of stress. We talk about their frustration with not hugging their friends, we talk about the election, whatever is on their minds. Sometimes in class we will stop and take 15 minutes to let them talk about how their families are doing and make jokes, then we go back to pliés. The young people are very worried. You can see it in their eyes. We have to give them hope, laughter and work."

Her favorite teaching attire:

"I change my training clothes in accordance with the mood of my body. That said, I love teaching in the Gaynor Minden Women's Microtech warm-up dance pants in all available colors, with long-sleeve leotards. For shoes, I wear the Adult "Boost" dance sneaker in pink or black. Because I have long days of work, I often wear the Repetto Boots d'Ă©chauffement for a few exercises to relax my feet."

How she coped during the initial difficult months of her illness:

"I live across from the Empire State Building. It was lit red with the heartbeat of New York, and it put me in the consciousness of others suffering. I saw ambulances, one after another, on their way to the hospital. I broke thinking of all the people losing someone while I looked through my window. I thought about essential workers, all those incredible people. I thought about why dance isn't essential and the work we needed to do to make it such. Then I got a puppy, to focus on another life rather than staying wrapped in my own depression. It lifted my spirit. Thinking about your own problems never gets you through them."

The foods she can't live without:

"I must have seafood and vegetables. It is in my DNA to love such things—my ancestors were always by the ocean."

Recommended viewing:

"I recommend dancers watch as many full-length ballets as possible, and avoid snippets of dance out of context. My ultimate recommendation is the film of La Bayadère by Rudolf Nureyev. The cast includes the most incredible étoiles: Isabelle Guérin, Élisabeth Platel, Laurent Hilaire, Jean-Marie Didière, who were once the students of the revolutionary Claude Bessy."

Her ideal day off:

"I have three: one is to explore a new destination, town, forest or hiking trail; another is a lazy day at home; and the third, an important one that I miss due to the pandemic, is to go to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, where my soul feels renewed by the sermons and the music."

Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.