I don't know about you guys, but I'm still #shook. Like, beyond shook. I mean, remember when this season's "DWTS" cast was announced? Remember when we basically called it that our former cover girl (and "Glee" superstar and Beyoncé backup dancer) Heather Morris was gonna win it all? Yeah, that's not happening—Morris and her partner, Maks Chmerkovskiy, were sent home last night. So while that news sinks in, let's talk about the amazing dancing that happened (because there was lots of it, despite the crazy elimination). On to the dancing and the stars!
Team Girl Group vs. Team Boy Bands
I'm a sucker for lots of things, but specifically coordinated outfits, giant neon signs that say "Ladies Night" and the iconic TLC masterpiece, "No Scrubs." Seeing as the Team Girl Group dance had all of those things, it's getting a big shoutout. Team Boy Bands gets one, too, because they were equally as amazing, and it's not their fault they had #NoScrubs to dance to.
Normani and Val's Salsa
To say this dance was a highlight is an understatement—Normani can bring the heat. She and Val were living their best life out there. Her dancing skills are amazing to begin with, but her performance skills are literally beyond. The duo easily executed some super-tricky partnering and flips for a score of 38/40.
Heather and Maks' Rumba
If you look up "Perfect Rumba," chances are the example would be this video. Maks Chmerkovskiy is the definition of an attentive and trustworthy partner. Seriously, this dance was incredible. Every moment was picture-perfect, every flick of the wrist and développé was precisely timed, and every step was fused with musicality. Naturally, the judges felt the same way and gave the pair a well-deserved 40/40.
But apparently, perfect scores mean nothing and everything is a lie: Heather Morris and Maks Chmerkovskiy, aka The Couple That the Entire World Thought Would Win, were eliminated. It's a whooooole new ball game in the ballroom, so be sure to catch next week's recap—it's bound to be a very interesting episode after this shake-up.
NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art has long had an impressive collection of still-life art about dance (much of it by a little-known fellow named Edgar Degas). But The Met as a hot dance performance venue? That's a pretty new thing—and a very, very awesome thing.
Last fall, as we were prepping to shoot our cover story on Andrea Miller's gorgeous Gallim Dance, the company gave a beautiful, innovative performance in The Met's Temple of Dendur. And now the museum has named Miller one of its 2017-18 Artists in Residence. That's especially major because Miller is the first-ever choreographer to hold the AIR title.
So, what does being a Met AIR mean? Next season, Miller will create several works that take advantage of The Met's iconic spaces—the first of which, Stone Skipping, will be performed back at the Temple of Dendur in October. You can find more info about the performance here.
Gallim's dancers won't be the only ones performing at The Met next season. Further solidifying its commitment to live dance, the museum has announced that choreographers Faustin Linyekula and Eiko Otake will also create pieces for its various spaces, and that Monica Bill Barnes' fabulous Museum Workout will return for another run (literally).
How cool is that?
Even if you've never been to L.A., you probably have a solid idea of what class at Millennium Dance Complex in North Hollywood is like. You can picture the vibrant red walls; you can feel the waves of dancers feeding off one another's explosive energy. Why? Because you—and millions of other dance fans—have watched countless class videos filmed at the center.
Class videos are a VIP pass, taking dancers and non-dancers alike inside the commercial world's hottest studios. And people are watching them obsessively, sharing them on platforms across the web, helping them rack up tens of millions of views. We turned to some of the industry's key players to find out more about what makes the class video format uniquely appealing.
Photo by Evolve Photo, courtesy Matt SteffaninaMatt Steffanina teaching at The Pulse
The viral class video is a pretty recent phenomenon. It's been almost a decade since choreographer Matt Steffanina began posting videos on YouTube, but it was only five years ago that he started to have his class videos go viral. "And I was one of the first dancers to get real recognition on YouTube," he says. "It's really blown up outside the dance world in the last two years." He attributes that explosion to the rising popularity of reality entertainment. "People are looking for that raw, authentic, unedited feel," he says. "They're more endeared to real people than production effects."
These days, choreographer Jojo Gomez likes to think of YouTube class vids as the new MTV for commercial dancers. "Tons of people started dancing in the '80s after watching Michael Jackson's music videos on TV," she says. "Now, class videos are doing the same thing, online."
Courtesy Jojo GomezJojo Gomez leading a class at Millennium in Salt Lake City, UT
In fact, Gomez says class videos inspired her to move to L.A. to pursue a career in commercial dance. While she received excellent training through a competition studio in her Massachusetts hometown, she felt like something was missing: "I'd procrastinate from homework by watching YouTube videos of Tricia Miranda, Kyle Hanagami, Janelle Ginestra and WilldaBeast Adams' classes in L.A.," she says. "There was something raw about their style, and I craved that energy in the studio."
Building a Brand
Starring in a class video is a potent—and relatively simple—way for dancers to earn major recognition. In 2013, Gomez appeared as a featured dancer in Adams' vid to Beyoncé's "Upgrade U," filmed by Brazil-Lionheart. Within a few days, the class video had more hits on YouTube than the official music video. "Everyone knew who I was after that," she says. "I was the blonde in the 'Upgrade U' video."
But class videos are even greater assets to the choreographers behind the steps, giving them an inexpensive way to develop a large following. When Gomez discovered her passion for teaching and choreography, she knew to turn to YouTube: "I began teaching in smaller schools in Orange County and posting 30-second clips of my choreo," she says. Eventually, she developed enough of a reputation to land a full-time teaching slot at Millennium, where she regularly puts out videos with popular producer Tim Milgram.
As a primarily self-taught dancer from a small town in Virginia, Steffanina also paved his way to teaching jobs by posting choreo clips. "I started getting contacted by East Coast schools that wanted me to teach," he says. "That's when the light bulb really went off." He continued building his brand through YouTube, and began to get commercial as well as teaching work thanks to his online presence. Singer Natalie LaRose and Taboo, from the Black Eyed Peas, are among the artists who've hired Steffanina after seeing his class videos.
Energy Is Everything
What is it about class videos that makes them so universally addictive? Dancer Allison Buczkowski, who frequently appears in choreographer Tricia Miranda's vids, chalks it up to energy. "The videos capture the vibe of the last 10 minutes of class, when we're done stressing over the steps, and we're just having a blast celebrating dance," she says.
Courtesy Allison Buczkowski Allison Buczkowski in class
Buczkowski admits that the energy in the class isn't always as explosive as it appears on screen. "But you learn to turn it on for camera," she says. Choreographers like Miranda, Adams and Gomez often have the dancers form an "energy circle," occasionally featured in the videos, before the final run-throughs of a combo. "It really helps hype everyone up," Buczkowski says. Fellow class-video favorite Kaelynn "KK" Harris agrees: "A good inspirational pep talk pre-filming helps us enter the choreographer's world and really vibe off one another," she says.
Keepin' It Real
The other key to a real, raw class video is maintaining the integrity of the class, even though cameras are present. "Filming can compromise the class experience if dancers come to be seen rather than to learn," Harris says. "YouTube fame shouldn't get in the way of the dancers' pure love of dancing."
For that reason, choreographer Eden Shabtai tries to get a two-hour slot when she's planning to film, so that filming doesn't eat into class time. "It's important to remember that it's not about the video," she says. She relies on Milgram's vision so that she can focus her efforts on teaching. "If people are truly learning and having fun, it'll make a good video."
Combos for the Camera
How do choreographers craft class combinations that read on film? Shabtai, who first blew up on YouTube with her combo "Needed Me" and has also worked on music videos, live tours and TV shows, says the formula is similar to choreographing for music videos—both require eye-popping steps and lots of energy—but there are a few adjustments. "In music videos, people are looking for signature moves and repetition," she says. A repeated sequence can visually correspond to the song's chorus, for example. In class videos, there's less of an emphasis on recurring moves. Instead, the focus is on creativity and abundance. "I try to put more choreography into class videos, without compromising moments of stillness," she says.
How do you land the center spot in a viral class video? The key is to master the basics before you add personal flair. "For the first hour and 15 minutes of class, I do the combo cut-and-dry to get the choreo the way the choreographer intends," says dancer Allison Buczkowski. "When it comes time to film, then I may add extra hair flips, and more of my own personality. But you can't train that way the whole class. You don't want to alter the choreography just to be seen."
Dancer Kaelynn "KK" Harris agrees that going over the top all of the time isn't the best approach. She recommends focusing on the combo's musicality instead. "People gravitate to dancers who make them feel the music coming to life," she says. "It's what makes them want to get up and dance too!"
As far as musical theater news is concerned, this week has been liiiiiiiiit. On Tuesday, we reported that Carousel is coming back to Broadway next year in a production featuring several New York City Ballet favorites. Now there's word that two more of our ballet/Broadway baes are at the helm of a new City Center Encores! production of the classic Brigadoon.
Christopher Wheeldon will direct and choreograph this concert staging of Lerner & Loewe's romantic fantasy, opening November 15 and running just 5 days in total. So snag those tickets now!
Still not convinced? The swoon-worthy Robert Fairchild will play Harry Beaton, a handsome rebel living in the magical Scottish town called Brigadoon. We can't wait to have our very own modern-day Gene Kelly doing his triple-threat thing again.
To tide you over until November, here's Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in the 1954 movie version of Brigadoon. Because Cyd Charisse.
We're the dance dads. And we're here to help you in your pursuit of greatness.
We're happy to do it, for we—like so many other dance parents, and teachers, and choreographers, and extended family members—have found our purpose in helping you reach your dreams. We drive you to lessons until you can drive yourself. We teach you the steps until you can learn them on your own. We create your dances until you find your voice hidden in the lines. We buy you shoes. A lot of shoes.
We see you give your all at dance school and rehearsals and master classes and conventions and choreo camps. And sometimes you giggle with friends or do cartwheels in the back or don't pay attention. We remind ourselves that you are children while we guide you back on path. Because we are here to get you to the next place you were always going.
We watch you dance at competitions, your hearts as much on your sleeves as the four hundred sequins that needed to be hot glued last night. We help you with quick changes, we guard dream duffels, we pretend potato chips have nutritional value when the venue is sold out of everything else. We listen as every song we've ever loved gets remixed, remastered, and turned into a contemporary routine featuring, we think, eagles that have flown into an oil spill.
We watch you dance.
Oh, how we watch. As much as those brief minutes on stage are what you train for all season, it is what we live for. You may never understand that until you become a dance dad (or mom) yourself.
We see you sit on the stage waiting for awards, singing out loud to Moana and Beyoncé. We see you gather pins and plaques, ribbons and signs. We share your elation at placing, we share the surprise when a routine does worse than expected or the even bigger surprise when it does better than we imagined. We celebrate after competitions, or we console.
Through it all, we admire you more than you know. Dancers do not push through conventions to become rich. You do not give up sleepovers with friends and birthday parties and countless other social functions to become famous. Our celebrities have brief public moments on TV competitions or talk shows. The most successful dancers do not typically become household names like the best singers or actors. Dance is not about fame (although it's a bit about Fame, but that's different). Dance is art, and you are passionate artists becoming your true selves. We, the dance dads, are proud to help lift you up. (Not literally, though. Dance dads have bad backs.)
We don't tell you this to make you thank us. We tell you this so when you feel like the journey of your dance life is a difficult burden to bear, you know that you aren't alone. There are so many people helping you, teaching you, showing you where to go. Dance dads are here to help you separate dance from the rest of your world, or bring it together, whatever is needed.
You dance, we watch. Good deal. Keep going.
When it comes to winning combos, it's hard to beat ballet and black and white. Need proof? Watch this absolutely mesmerizing video for Justin Peck's new ballet, The Decalogue.
The latest from NYCB's always busy, undoubtedly superhuman resident choreographer seems to have all of the "Peck-isms" we've come to love, from super unique formations that appear as quickly as they disappear, to visually delicious shapes carved out by the über-talented NYCB dancers. The trailer's also shot on grainy film, giving the whole thing a nostalgic, romantic vibe that we're absolutely loving. But the best part? The Decalogue marks Sufjan Stevens' second original score for Peck and NYCB (Stevens composed the music for 2014's Everywhere We Go). We won't spoil the rest, so do yourself a favor and check it out below.
If you lived for Megan Fairchild in On the Town and Robbie Fairchild as An American in Paris, get stoked. Next March 23, a revival of Carousel is opening on Broadway, featuring the talents of no fewer than three New York City Ballet stars.
As reported by The New York Times, Justin Peck will choreograph this revival, Amar Ramasar will play seductive baddie Jigger Craigin and Brittany Pollack will take on the role of Louise Bigelow, a young woman trying to move on from her parents' troubled past.
Speaking of troubles, a lot of people are wondering how this revival—the fifth (!!) since the original 1945 production—will address the, um, problematic aspects of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical's tragic plot. Carousel follows a young, innocent millworker named Julie Jordan, who falls hard for the town bad boy, a carnival barker named Billy Bigelow. Cue alllllll of the heartbreak, including domestic violence and other hallmarks of a toxic romantic relationship.
Personally, I can't wait to see how Peck addresses these possibly controversial elements, especially since he says he's "hoping to both pay homage to what Agnes de Mille did originally, and to extend the show further into new territory." No real specifics have been revealed yet, but traditionally there's a HUGE dream ballet in the second act centered on Jigger (Ramasar) and Louise (Pollack). Get excited, Broadway bunheads!
Yo current "Dancing with the Stars" competitors, we're really happy for you, and we're gonna let you finish, but last night Alfonso Ribeiro and J.T. Church had one of the best "DWTS" opening numbers of ALL TIME.
Seriously: If those two had a spinoff show in which they did nothing but dance their way through magical Disney fairylands, we would totally watch that. (And shoutout to J.T.'s equally adorable partner in crime, Gracyn French.) Thank you, Mandy Moore, for conjuring up this glitter-dusted Disney Night goodness:
On to the actual competition! In a surprise to pretty much nobody, rising favorite Normani Kordei continued her leaderboard domination, thanks to her ferociously fierce paso doblé with Val Chmerkovskiy to Mulan's "I'll Make a Man Out of You." For good measure, the duo was accompanied by Donny Osmond in his very sparkliest blazer, because why not.
Also unsurprising: The consistently excellent Simone Biles earned the second-highest score of the night for her contemporary number to "How Far I'll Go" from Moana. Strong and energetic as her performance was, though, we have to admit that we spent about 30 percent of it dying over singer Auli'i Cravalho, who's straight-up incredible.
While many of the other competitors gave fair-to-decent performances (we were especially into Heather Morris and Alan Bersten's sweet Frozen number), we'd like to use this space to discuss one of the stranger things we've ever seen on television: Nick Viall and Peta Murgatroyd as Not Sexy Pinocchio and Very Sexy Jiminy Cricket, respectively. Somehow it almost...worked? Never underestimate the power of a good pair of lederhosen, friends.
After the parade of Disney delights, Real Housewife Erika Jayne and partner Gleb Savchenko were sent packing—about right, but also a bit of a bummer after their strong Finding Dory-themed waltz. (Any Finding Dory performance that does NOT involve giant fish costumes is a win.) We cheered up quickly, though, when we heard that next week's theme will be Boy Band vs. Girl Group. 'Til then!