This month’s winner tells the story of immigrants traveling to America who experience tragedy before reaching the shore. Michael Susten, New York City–based choreographer and teacher, was initially inspired by the song “This is Not the End,” by Clare Maguire. “Her voice really painted a picture in my head,” says Susten. “I could hear the heartbreak.” Instead of sharing the story he envisioned with the 12 young dancers at Prestige Academy of Dance, he first focused on teaching them the choreography.
After a long day of getting the steps down, he then asked the dancers to create a character for their role in the piece. He wanted the team to explore how each individual perspective contributed to the narrative as a whole. “I think it helps keep the performance honest and new every time, instead of feeling too robotic and over-rehearsed,” says Susten.