Hi, kids! Writing to you this week from beauteous Toronto, where I’m working on So You Think You Can Dance/Canada! (Would’ve been hard to work on SYTYCD/Spain from here, obviously! Haha!) Before we dive in, first things first, and those “things” are thank-yous! Thank you to all of you who have “Liked” the Facebook page for my plugged-in “dance” album Ballroom Remixed and to all of you who have “Liked” the page for me (myself and I) AND to all of you who have “Friended” my studio, Dance Times Square! Remember, you can always pop in and sign up for a lesson from my instructors and/or me. (Though lately, most weeks, I seem to be bopping from hither to yon! Where do I live again?). Our motto at the studio is, “It doesn’t matter if you come in with two left feet… we’ll set you right!”
Now then, a bunch of you have asked about how our routines on SYTYCD are created. In particular, how much do we tailor our choreography to reflect the strengths of the particular dancers we are working with? Let me see if I can answer that in under a thousand words…
If Tony and I are assigned, say, a salsa, we’ll get to work choreographing it well before we even know which kids it is for. So when we meet them, we already basically have the number down. Then we teach it to them, rehearse with them, and off they go to rehearse on their own as well. At this point, it is not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But they know what they are supposed to be doing, and they work to do exactly that.
As our rehearsals together go on, Tony and I may change a move because the dancers can’t seem to quite nail it, or because we decide, “Eh, we don’t like that after all, let’s do this instead!” Do we add/subtract/alter bits to play to a dancer’s strength(s)? Sometimes, sure. Because we want to show them off in the best possible light. We WANT them to succeed. BUT, and this is a big “but,” there remain certain requirements for most dances. (Like, if we’re doing a waltz, a closed hold, at least for a portion of the number, is a necessity.) So, while we do try to help the dancers shine, we can’t, don’t, and won’t turn a salsa into, for instance, a contemporary dance with a salsa beat just because our dancers are better at contemporary. A salsa has to be a salsa. Period.
Did any of that make any sense? (I’m never sure when I explain something if I’m actually explaining it or talking in circles. Either way, by the end, I tend to be dizzy!)
It goes without saying, I should add — so wait, it DOESN’T go without saying? — that I can only speak for how Tony and I work with the dancers and the dances. I’m sure everybody has their own approach, and within the different disciplines of dance, there are obviously different requirements and different areas where leeway is allowed.
Now that that’s out of the way, last night’s show! My Top 3 (of the finalists in their numbers with the all-stars) were:
Jordan: She danced that contemporary routine with complete and total confidence — and why shouldn’t she have been confident? She had the complete and total strength to back it up! (Those legs… wow!) This kid just gets better with every show, so much so that I keep thinking, “There’s GOT to be a point where she can’t get any better.” And yet, week after week, she does!
Tadd: In his hip-hop number, he epitomized sexy and cool by fully harnessing both his musicality and swagger. Even when he lost his hat, he didn’t lose his way. Awesome!
Marko: Absolutely brilliant in his contemporary piece. And after his message to his mom, I believe he looked right at her toward the end… reducing me to a puddle. Tears of joy! Made me wanna reach through the screen and hug him and congratulate him!
And my favorite of the finalists’ duets was:
Melanie and Sasha: Although they were not 100 percent in sync when the choreography called for it, I honestly didn’t care — they were so stupid-good in this routine! It was just sheer, unadulterated cool, showing (again) why both of them so richly deserve their spots in the competition. They make me proud (and grateful) to be involved with this show.
As for the rest:
Sasha: Her quickstep was pretty darn good overall, but it could’ve stood to be smoother and softer, with more cushion in the knees. It also seemed to me a bit choppy and stiff at times.
Caitlynn: She seemed very natural in her hip-hop routine with Ivan, but maybe a bit TOO comfortable and laid-back. That might explain why he outdanced her…
Melanie: Granted, the moment in that contemporary number where she leapt into Neil’s arms was magic. ABSOLUTELY magic! But, as amazing as that was, and as technically flawless as she was, I was still left somehow wanting more… something. Was that just me?
Ricky: Hmm. He was lacking in a couple of important jive actions — body weight forward and one bent knee as the other one straightens. Now, admittedly, these are just pieces of the puzzle that makes up the jive, BUT they’re pieces that make everything else look more natural.
Jess: I was very impressed by his work in the hip-hop routine. It seems to me that he’s learning to turn it on and off, and kind of growing up before our eyes. Good for him!
Caitlynn and Tadd: In their foxtrot, his shoulders were up while he was in closed hold, and both of their arms were unnatural while in open or side-by-side position. Aside from that, it felt a little “quiet” for me.
Marko and Ricky: Mind you, I am NOT a hip-hop expert, but I thought Ricky was cool as all get-out here and even managed to outdance Marko, which surprised me. He also LOOKED tougher than Marko through most of the routine — another surprise.
Jordan and Jess: Well, they were both a bit awkward in technique and hip action, as well as arm styling. But he looked every inch the handsome devil.
And that’s it for Lady Cha-Cha this week! If any of my work from the next SYTYCD/Canada episode ends up on YouTube, I’ll try to have Santa’s little helpers post links on the Ballroom Remixed Facebook page (especially for you, Joanne). See ya next time!
Melanie LaPatin’s album of quirktastic dance songs, ‘Ballroom Remixed,’ featuring hitmakers from the U.S. (Kyle Brylin), UK (Lee Latchford Evans of Steps), Sweden (Gravitonas), Germany (Linda Teodosiu) and beyond, is now available on iTunes, amazon and everywhere in between.