Melanie LaPatin on 'So You Think You Can Dance': This is how we do it!
Hi, guys! Thank you, as always, for all of your questions and comments. (You got me, AL — this must be why I’d never make it as a fact-checker!) Before we dive in to last night’s SYTYCD performances, I thought I’d try to ‘A’ Rebecca’s ‘Q’ about what the days leading up to the show are like, at least from my (and, I assume, most choreographers’) perspective…
Usually, once my partner, Tony Meredith, and I get to L.A. (or Canada, obviously, if we’re working on the Canadian version), it goes something like this:
Day 1: By the time Tony and I meet the dancers, we will have already worked out the choreography that we have in mind for them — which, heaven knows, is a must — and will have already even sent the wardrobe department design ideas! This first day together, we only get 90 minutes (on camera, no less) to show the couple their moves. After that, we head over to the costume designer to look into their wardrobe, and the dancers practice on their own.
Day 2: When the show first started, we only got five and a half hours with the dancers, total, to get their routines down! Now, thank heavens, we get seven hours. Which may not sound like a lot more, but every minute helps! Anyway, on Day 2, we work with our couple for three and a half hours and just really pound it all out! (No cameras around on this day, either… )
If Tony and I are choreographing two numbers for that week’s show, we take a lunch break and then dive back in. If it’s only one, we zip back to the costume designer to see how things are progressing.
Day 3: This one starts early — like 7 a.m.! (Always wish I drank coffee on Day 3… ) We get a half hour on stage to block the number (you know, figure out exactly where on stage this or that will happen), then we get another half hour in the studio to fine-tune the routine.
After that, we get to see the dancers perform the routine full-out a couple of times, holding our breath and hoping it all comes together. (The “holding our breath” part is not a requirement, I don’t think; I just don’t know any other way to do it. Heheh.) Next, there’s more blocking, this time for the lighting designer and the director.
Day 4: Another early day. And by the time Tony and I arrive at 7, the dancers are already there, doing their warm-ups. On this day, we get another half hour on stage and then another half hour in the studio; then each couple does three passes on stage with the lighting designer and director. After that, the kids can watch a playback with us so that we can discuss the spots where their performance needs to be stronger/softer/better/more connected, etc. At that point, we can also discuss any camera angles or particulars that we’re still hoping to see.
Did I mention that this is a super stressful day? It is, but it’s also, as I’m sure you can imagine, super exciting. I mean, it’s game time!
Anyway, all of this usually takes us to lunchtime, after which it’s off to the races: hair and make-up for the dancers, slight panic for the choreographers. (I usually try to cover up that panic with an extra layer of concealer. Has it been, um, working? Don’t answer that!) Next thing you know, we’re sitting in our seats (usually right on the edge of them, to be specific), and the dancers are backstage!!!
This is around the time I always start thinking, “ACK! Our babies are on their own!!!” I think some of them are thinking that, too. Haha: “ACK! We’re on our own!” But they’re also little jumping beans, so hyper-energized to get out there that they couldn’t sit still if they wanted to! Frankly, it can be pretty tough for us choreographers to sit still, too, because we want them to do so well! And then it’s showtime!
Speaking of which, what about last night’s show? My three favorite performances of the week (of the couples dances) were:
· Caitlynn’s Argentine tango. By the end of it, even though her frame wasn’t perfect technically (she was too far from Pasha at one point while in closed hold position), I was thinking, “This could be in Forever Tango.” Simple. Elegant. Effective.
· Ricky’s jazz “nightmare.” I agreed with the judges on this one: It was his best performance to date. Not only did he come off dangerously macho (in a good way, mind you!), he danced it with as much depth as he did power.
· Clarice’s Bollywood number. Honestly, I thought she was so good in this routine, I don’t have anything to critique. There MAY have been a lift that didn’t go quite right (I was watching live, so I’m not sure), but overall, nada. It seems to me that if you TOLD her, “Clarice, only give this 100 percent,” she wouldn’t know how; she ALWAYS gives 150 percent. She’s just meant to dance.
As for the rest…
· Marko’s samba. Although he’s a tremendously magnetic performer, his botafogo actions were off (his legs were too far apart), and on his voltas, his feet were turned in when they should have been turned out.
· Jordan’s contemporary routine. There were a couple of tough moments here, and I wanted more emotion from her during the first half… But overall, I thought she did well. It was a good reminder of how she can do pretty much anything she’s asked to.
· Mitchell’s Broadway number. I feel bad saying this, but even though I think HE was feeling it in every pore of his being… I kinda wasn’t.
· Tadd’s hip-hop routine. Obviously, the guy is as talented as the day is long. But I’m not sure he was altogether connected to this piece, and maybe as a result of that, neither was I.
· Sasha’s hip-hop routine. If I was picking a Top 4 this week instead of a Top 3, she’d be in it. Period. How could she not be? Her work here was simultaneously crisp and fluid. Love her to bits.
· Jess’ contemporary number. On the plus side, I didn’t notice him having any trouble at all with the lifts. On the minus side, in a way, I also almost didn’t notice him. He danced this piece very humbly, perhaps a smidgen TOO humbly. (There’s a happy medium between mugging and vanishing.)
· Melanie’s Viennese waltz. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I will again: This girl’s a star. But I thought it was interesting that, as beautifully and seemingly effortlessly as she danced this piece, she and Pasha were never in closed hold position, which is traditional for a Viennese waltz (unless I blinked and missed it).
And that’s that for me. Until next week, thanks again for reading (and writing)! May you always have a samba in your heart and a rumba on your lips! Oh, and if anyone’s keen to sample a few tunes from my Ballroom Remixed album (and you aren’t sick yet of hearing… er, reading… me go on about it), you can check out snippets of four tracks here. There’s an American style rumba by England’s divine Elouise and cha-chas by Sweden’s Neo and homegrown talents Kaya and Simon Curtis. Yes, I know that’s a lotta cha-chas for one clip. But they don’t call me Lady Cha-Cha for nothin’! ;)
Melanie LaPatin’s album of quirky dance songs, Ballroom Remixed, featuring Jenny McLaren (of England’s irreverent Spray), all-American bad boy Jerry Reid, and the Dutch Bieber, Jeronimo, is now available on iTunes, amazon and everywhere in between.