Upcoming Choreographer Spotlight

By Brittany Lombardi

Stephanie Hilton, former dancer with Cirque De Soleil, and native of Boston, Massachusetts; Boston Youth Moves alumni.
As a BYM alumni, how did it feel to return to your 'home' at JNDS to create a piece for current students in the program?
I have always loved coming "home" to JNDS since graduating in 2002. Last October, when I set my first work, I was so excited to work with the kids. Jimmy and Jeannette have always instilled strong work ethic and great technique into their students, and it continues to be evident today. I'm so proud to be a part of BYM as an alumna and now choreographer. 
How did BYM prepare you for your careers in the industry today? How is this program different from others?
There are so many ways BYM prepared me for the professional dance world. Accountability is one of the main tenets of the program; showing up, both mentally and physically, and taking responsibility for your attitude and actions. This is huge in the dance world. I've had choreographers want to work with me again based on my professionalism and personality more than my dancing. As you grow in the dance world, how you conduct yourself in the room and on stage becomes just as important as how you execute a step. Jimmy and Jeannette drilled that into us from a young age. They urged us not to take a back seat to our own training, but to show up and give it our all, be motivated and always stay focused and polite. 
I also have to note the technical foundation that was given to me by BYM. I felt like I had an advantage going into my college dance program, because I was exposed to so many different movement styles, and given the gift of plié. As Jeannette says, the secret of jazz (dance, really) is plié, and that is THE TRUTH! 
This program stands out because it is not about "winning" or "gaining new tricks.” It's about fostering a sense of responsibility and personal accomplishment in a professional environment. The students are given tools to help them succeed in dance and in life, because the instructors really do invest themselves in you. A student in BYM is more than just a cog in a wheel; she/he is an integral part of their class and the program as a whole. 
Throughout your 1 week residencies working with BYM students, what was your experience like, were there any memorable/inspiring moments that you will carry with you after leaving Boston?
My experiences with the current BYM students have been extremely rewarding. They are so eager to learn the movement and get comfortable with new vocabulary. I think my favorite moments are when we laugh in rehearsal. I'm a very silly person and that carries through in my rehearsal. Sometimes funny moments happen and it brings a lightness to the rehearsal, and maybe builds a sense of trust between myself and the dancers. I also love the final run through for Jeannette and Jimmy. There's a heightened sense of anticipation, because the dancers want to make them so proud. It's always really exciting for me to see the dancers present their work at the end of a long week. 
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