"If I got it, then tell me I got it then..."
January 8, 2024 by Preston Miller
In recent months, I've reflected on my role in the dance and education space. I've come to understand that dance, at its core, is a spiritual practice. The daily commitment to cultivating awareness in mind, body, and soul transcends the surface pursuits of our industry, such as performances and competitions. True fulfillment lies in the dedicated pursuit of self-improvement. This philosophy guides our curriculum and mentorship approach. But every once in awhile, a dancer achieves something so remarkable that it warrants special recognition.
It was 2020 when Liana Wise popped up on my zoom screen as a blissfully naive 15 year old with big dreams for dance. Over the span of 5 days, I watched her transform her body in small ways only visible to those that understand what can happen when you spend hours challenging yourself. These results weren’t from going to class, they were from going in a room and getting to work on herself: challenging her nervous system, her athleticism, but most importantly challenging the idea of who she is against who she wants to be.
The last 3 years have seen Liana go from that average 15 year-old that could outwork anyone, to one of the strongest performers of her class.
I’ve watched her log onto zoom for years and soak up every bit of knowledge that she could. When she steps in the studio she outworks every other student with the creativity of a 10 year old but the demeanor of a seasoned professional. She briefly freaked her parents AND us out when she said she didn’t want to pursue a company, but rather Musical Theater. After giving it a little thought I realized, this is Liana Wise. This kid can do whatever she wants.
Now, in her Senior Year of high school she has the skill to step right onto Broadway. We meet a lot of dancers that want to be professionals instead of going to college, but few that are actually good enough to succeed in the first years of a career. Every teacher, choreographer, or coach that we’ve introduced her to has seen the same thing… she’s ready for whatever she wants.
This is why it came as no surprise when she sent the direct message: “I won YoungArts in Jazz!”
Being a YoungArts Winner is a fantastic accomplishment. It means that you are considered a future leader in the classical arts space, and have a higher ceiling for potential than most. It’s an exciting national achievement, and for performers, still fleeting.
When you’re a high level dancer, the awards and achievements feel good, but they’re never enough. Similar to elite athletes, championships only feel like ‘enough' once the career is over. As a result, we try to prioritize celebrating the daily discipline over any award... But every once in awhile a dancer accomplishes something that so truly represents their greatness.
Liana is everything that she wants to be: the hardest working person in the room, honest with herself, curious about self discovery, and extremely self-aware. She’s an elite athlete, an inspiring artist, and everything that I want my daughter to see when she looks at her generation of principal artists. As a result there’s no surprise that she is the 2023 YoungArts Winner in the Jazz Category.
Artists like her love dance for all of the right reasons. She gives more than she takes, and she has a lot to give to the industry. If you have the opportunity to hire Liana, take it. If you have the opportunity to accept her into your program, take it. If you have the opportunity to say hello, take it. She's a great artist, but an even better human.
Artists like her deserve everything that they have coming to them.
About Preston Miller
Preston Miller is the founder of The Dance Artist Prep, which provides customized coaching to college dance applicants and their families. Preston’s philosophy is that every dancer applying to college deserves the best advice, and TDA Prep’s College Candidate Program aims to deliver just that!