70 • October 2016 • dancespirit.com ”
To her high school classmates, Sarah Pippin was a regular
girl: a good student and a friendly face around campus. But on the weekends—
at dance competitions and conventions across the country—Pippin was a
bona fide celeb, adored by her fellow competitors and faculty members alike.
By the time she graduated high school, Pippin had racked up major
accomplishments, including performances with Janet Jackson and Shaping
Sound, a role on Dance Spirit’s own reality series “Road to Nationals,” titles
such as New York City Dance Alliance’s National Mini, Junior and Senior
Outstanding Dancer, and, most recently, a college scholarship on behalf of
Dance Magazine through the NYCDA Foundation.
There’s no doubt that Pippin, now a freshman at The Juilliard School, is
among a rising generation of competition and convention stars. And while
“celebrity” isn’t a term they’d give themselves, you know who they are.
These dancers are adored by legions of real-life fans hoping to watch and
dance alongside them, not to mention the thousands of social media follow-
ers ready to double-tap everything they post.
Being so popular on the circuit has its perks—traveling every weekend,
internet fame, working with big-name choreographers—but it also comes
with its share of struggles. Here’s a peek at what it’s really like at the top.
Where Does the “Celebrity” Start?
From the faculty perspective, “A lot of the celebrity factor comes from
dancers winning national titles and traveling with conventions,” says Ray
Leeper, director of NUVO Dance Convention. “Suddenly they’re in the fore-
front, representing the event as the Best Dancer or Elite Dancer or whatever
title they’ve earned. Plus, they’re assisting at the conventions on the weekends
alongside the faculty.” And when all those enviable experiences are getting
shared online, dancers can really rack up a following: “People anywhere
can watch them and follow them,” Leeper says.
What’s it really like to be a comp-circuit celebrity?
By Alison Feller
Dancers can’t let
their training fall by the
wayside...Someone can be
Insta-famous or YouTube famous,
but she still has to be able to
execute her job properly.
While a lot of the hype may seem like it starts online—
Christina Ricucci, for example, a former Teen Best Dancer
winner at The Dance Awards, has nearly 120,000 Instagram
followers—it usually exists for a reason. These dancers
aren’t just posting pretty pictures. They can really dance,
too, and most are beloved because they have the personality to back up their moves. “Most choreographers or
teachers know these kids because they’re brilliant,” says
New York City Dance Alliance faculty member Joey
Dowling-Fakhrieh. “Sure, they’re popular on social media,
but they also have the chops to back it up.”
To an outsider, the thought of being a so-called celebrity
is a dream. But when you’re the one with adoring fans,
you may feel differently. “You’re a role model,” says
Ricucci. “People are constantly watching you, so you
always have to be doing the right thing and making
sure you’re setting a good example for everyone around
you.” It can be a lot of added pressure.
Sarah Pippin assists
in a convention class
at New York City