All dancers know that one of the best ways to learn something new is by studying someone else. Throughout the last century, there have been dozens of famous dancers who have left behind a legacy of skill, artistry, and bold determination to make a name for themselves and share their love of dance with the world. In today’s blog, we are going to discuss some of the dancers we find the most influential, whose signature styles, moves, and looks have influenced the performances we see at our dance competitions every year.
List Of Influential And Inspiring Dancers
Anna Pavlova (1881-1931)
Perhaps the most famous name in ballet, Anna Pavlova knew the meaning of hard work. Even though ballet did not come easily to her, she ended up being the first ballerina to tour the world. Of hard work, she said, “No one can arrive from being talented alone. God gives talent, work transforms talent into genius.” As she toured the world, she learned new dance styles from Japan, Mexico, India, and so forth, performing these and spreading cultural and classical dance throughout the world.
Fred Astaire (1899-1987)
While Pavlova made a name for herself on the stage, Fred Astaire found his fame in front of the camera. Gene Kelly, another renowned film dancer, said of Astaire, “The history of dance on film begins with Astaire.” Astaire was effortlessly light on his feet and made dancing look fun, easy, and like anybody could do it (of course, we know this was the result of endless practice). Astaire referred to his own dance style as “outlaw style,” as it drew inspiration from jazz, swing, ballet, tap, and numerous other styles.
Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950)
This Russian dancer is regarded as one of the best male ballet dancers of all time and starred alongside Anna Pavlova in many productions. He was known for not only his dancing ability but his acting skills as well. He is also remembered for being one of the first male dancers to dance en pointe, a skill typically reserved for female ballerinas of the time.
Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri and was the granddaughter of freed slaves. Though she had a natural talent for acting and performing, the racial tension in America at the time prevented Baker from reaching her true potential. Eventually, she landed a lead in a Vaudeville show, which eventually took her to Paris where her jazz dance style, short hair, and big personality made her an instant star. In the 1920s, she was the epitome of the flapper girl and her style reflected the gaudy luxury of the era. More than just a dancer, during World War II, Baker was recruited by the French military intelligence agency to collect information about German troop locations from state officials she wooed at parties.
Michael Flatley (1958-Present)
While many of the influential dancers on our list got their start in ballet, Michael Flatley found fame in Irish step dancing. Flatley began taking dance lessons at the age of 11, and by 17, he was the first American to ever win a title at the Irish Dancing World Championships — meaning like us, he was no stranger to the world of dance competitions. He went on to found Riverdance, a full-length Irish step dancing show that still tours today, as well as Lord Of Dance and Feet Of Flames. At the age of 39, Flatley set the then-world record for fastest taps while tap dancing at a whopping 35 taps per second!
Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948-Present)
A natural-born dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov was known for being compact, strong, and graceful, all at the same time. He is typically regarded as the greatest living male ballet dancer, and is well known by many for his acting roles in The Turning Point and Sex And The City. Born in the Soviet Union, now Latvia, his eccentric and creative dance style did not fit in with the strict and rigid ballet seen at the time, and he found his stride after defecting to Canada in 1974.
Show Us How These Dancers Inspire You At A Dance Competition
These dancers all worked hard and overcame adversity to bring their love of dance to the world. We see modern dancers do the same at Star Systems dance competitions! If you are inspired to bring your skills to the stage, be sure to register for an upcoming dance competition. Take a look at our list of dance competitions in 2019, and show us what you’ve got! You just might be the next Fred Astaire, Josephine Baker, or Anna Pavlova!