Styles & Emma
TV dance duo grows as a team
As a well-known dance partnership originating from Rochester, Styles Dykes and Emma Vandewater provide inspiration for young contemporary and ballet dancers. Dykes and Vandewater, ages nineteen and seventeen respectively, were born and raised in Rochester. Growing up, both Dykes and Vandewater were influenced in their love for dance by family members’ passion for the art. However, “Styles & Emma,” as they are known in the media, were the first in their families to take dance to a competitive level.
Vandewater says, “I didn’t really do many sports when I was younger, so dance was the only activity I really had. It’s what made me happy.” On the other hand, Dykes practiced basketball, football, baseball, and track but says, “nothing really felt as special as dance.”
Dykes and Vandewater met through the Rochester dance community when teachers would often pair them together for their similar dance styles. “Dancing with a partner is different than dancing solo because it not only depends on what the story is, but you have to focus on what your partner is doing too,” Vandewater explains. “You also have to connect your emotions with each other,” she says.
Dykes emphasizes that consistent training with your partner is essential to the group’s success. He says it “gives our coaches and teachers more things to look for,” and “allows them the opportunity to try things out on the two of us to see what works.” In January 2020, Dykes and Vandewater competed in the Youth American Grand Prix held in Chicago, Illinois. Dykes took first place in contemporary dance and second in classical. Vandewater took second in contemporary and first in classical in the senior age division. Both Vandewater and Dykes agreed that their experience in the Youth American Grand Prix helped them to prepare for World of Dance, a national dancing competition show on NBC. “It’s a huge competition,” Vandewater says, “so preparing for that definitely gave us a lot of experience. Training, picking up choreography quickly, and having to learn to take direction really quick all definitely helped in World of Dance.”
Dykes notes that his past training in “all-styles” dance has been beneficial in his ability to implement unique and fun tricks in his contemporary dancing. Vandewater also enjoys mixing styles of dance. “Usually, in class, we keep contemporary and ballet separate, but in hard competitions like the Youth Grand Prix, we mix a little bit of both,” she says.
Vandewater and Dykes train together five or six days a week for four or five hours each day. One week of training easily combines ballet, classical, and jazz classes, all of which incorporate strength conditioning and stretching. This training requires physical strength training as well as substantial emotional and mental preparation. “I close my eyes, and I breathe,” says Dykes. “When I get nervous, I shake out all the jitters through my hands.”
Likewise, Vandewater explains, “Before I perform, I close my eyes and listen to the music in my head and walk through my dance to make sure that I know it.”
When asked what the duo’s biggest challenge was thus far in this season’s World of Dance, Vandewater names the duels. “When you’re competing against somebody else, you’re being compared to them. It can be hard to top things that they do.”
Dykes says that the pair’s biggest strength, which separates them from the rest of the competition, “is the connection that we have to each other. Everyone here is so amazing and so great, but where we differ is in how rare our connection is.”
Emily Beagles is a Rochester Institute of Technology graduate from Virginia who loves science and photography.