Your Saturday Video Fix: "Glee" Meets In the Heights Meets "This American Life"
I'll admit it: I'm addicted to the radio show "This American Life." I've listened to almost every one of its hour-long episodes (that's a little under 530 hours of my life); I've read countless books written by its contributors; I've watched its short-lived TV series on Showtime; and I've attended live events related to the show. I literally can't get enough.
(L to R) Anna Bass, Ira Glass and Monica Bill Barnes in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.
(photo David Bazemore)
And much to my delight, the show has been getting even more satisfying in recent years—"TAL" is getting its dance on.
Back in 2012, host Ira Glass teamed up with downtown choreographer Monica Bill Barnes. She performed on a live episode of the show (which was then broadcast on air), and she choreographed one of the most touching dance-with-text works I've ever seen for the late author David Rakoff. (Grab a tissue before you press play.) Glass and Barnes have been collaborating ever since; the two are currently touring a stage show called Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.
Fast-forward to 2014, and "TAL" decided to try something completely new. On June 7, the radio show took to the Brooklyn Academy of Music stage to perform a live show, complete with dance, opera, musical theater and vocal performances. Spoiler alert: The musical section was AMAZING. With help from Broadway choreographer Lorin Latarro, In the Heights' Tony winning lyricist and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda and Wicked star Lindsay Mendez, the "TAL" 2012 radio piece "21 Chump Street" came to life as a full-fledged musical theater extravaganza.
Anthony Ramos (center) and the cast of 21 Chump Street: The Musical
(photo Adrianne Mathiowetz)
21 Chump Street: The Musical follows a Florida-based high school honors student who gets into trouble with the law after he falls for an undercover cop (posing as a kid), who was stationed at the school to catch students selling drugs. You just gotta watch it. Take a look at the beginning of the musical section below:
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽
Guys, we all knew this was coming—"World of Dance" was eventually going to eliminate someone. But man, is it brutal to watch these talented dancers give their all, only to be sent home. It's the name of the game, though, and after last night's episode, only two dancers per division remain. (At least Misty Copeland guest-judging was a silver lining!) Here's what went down last night:
They've impressed the judges, now it's time for the Top 100 dancers to enroll at The Academy—and to impress the All-Stars. Welcome to So You Think You Can Dance Academy!
The 100 dancers who made it through auditions in NYC or L.A. are now at The Academy, which is basically a beautiful building with floor-to-ceiling windows. The show opens with that Mandy Moore-choreographed Academy routine which, even after watching it 12 times and trying to learn all the choreography at home, is still delightful.
This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. First up: Isabella Torres from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts in Baltimore, MD, who competed at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals for the first time this year. (All photos courtesy Shannon Torres.)
Merritt Moore is a ballerina who just so happens to be graduating from Oxford University with a PhD in quantum physics. Is she even human? The jury is still out on that - but the 29-year-old, who earned her undergrad degree from Harvard, has actually found dance to be a powerful tool that assists her in her studies.