Is “good-ish” good enough?

“It’s good-ish.”

That’s how Brian Friedman responded when I inquired about the progress of his intensive group’s piece.

Good-ish, I thought to myself. That doesn’t sound all that good — especially when you consider that I asked him the question only about 10 hours before his group was to perform the The Pulse’s gala closing event.

I asked Brian to explain.

“Good-ish means I'm not completely upset with them,” he said. “I was starting to see in this morning's rehearsal a piece, not just a bunch of steps put together. There's got to be flow.”

Brian then explained what was missing most — transitions. “They're having a lot of trouble having getting on and off stage and making it to their formations ,” he said. The reason is that the stage had no front wings, only side wings, and so the dancers were tripping over each other and the clothes from their costume changes. That morning Brian made an executive decision and eliminated most of the costume changes. And, as he had all week, he delivered a long list of individual corrections, virtually all of them dealing with minutiae: the angle of a leg, the cleanliness of a jump, and so on.

The level of detail didn’t surprise 19-year-old Sloan-Taylor Rabinor. She’s worked with Brian for three years.

"It’s a lot on your mind,” she said. “It’s very detail-oriented. You go home at night and say, ‘What did he say? What do I have to do differently?’ But that’s what you come here for. You come here to be pushed by him. You know that he knows exactly what he's doing, and he’s the creme de la creme. So if he says it, it goes.”

Later that day, Brian made sure a 4 p.m. Pulse-wide question-and-answer session with the choreographers began on time so that his 5 p.m. rehearsal would begin as scheduled too. It was his final rehearsal for the piece, which included two songs — Danity Kane’s “Sucka for Love” and Ne-Yo’s “Closer.” By a little after 7, with less than an hour to spare before curtain, Brian had managed to address every detail and tie down his ending. Before rushing back to his hotel room to change into a dressy vest for the evening’s affair, he told me, “I actually think it's going to be really good tonight. We worked out every kink that we had.”

Brian’s number closed the show, and it was indeed a success. As his dancers performed, Brian watched from the front row, moving around in his striped-cushion chair, hands waving, acting, as he told me later, like “a blubbering idiot.”

“The adrenaline was there,” he told me afterward, “which made me not care what was going on onstage.”

What! After all those corrections, all that critical feedback, the references to making their work as clean as Ajax, Brian didn’t care?

Well, I don’t think it’s that he literally didn’t care. I do think, however, that dance reaches a level – even for Brian Friedman – where emotion overtakes exact execution

“They performed,” Brian continued. “When you put performance on top of something and you're dancing to your heart and soul, it doesn't really matter, all of the little things I was picking apart in rehearsal. I was completely entertained. I loved what everyone did. I was proud of every single person onstage."

Brian stuck around for a couple hours after the show, posing for pictures and signing autographs. The next day he was to leave New York for Barcelona, where he is going to choreograph pieces for the Polish version of “So You Think You Can Dance.” The 24 finalists for that show are going to perform his work in an effort to make it to the top 16.

For Brian, it turns out, The Pulse and his intensive were just a warm-up. The Polish dancers were about to feel the real wrath of his precise choreography.

“I intend to make them hurt, make them bleed,” he said, “and make them wish they were never dancers."

Do I believe him? Partly. Polish finalists be warned: Brian Friedman will work you hard. But he delivered those words to me with a sly grin, which makes me think that any Polish dancer who can perform with pure emotion has a real shot at winning Brian Friedman’s approval.

Latest Posts

Protocol like mandatory face masks, temperature checks, and careful class staging have become the norm at comps and conventions like NYCDA (Evolve Photo & Video, courtesy NYCDA)

4 Industry Leaders Walk Us Through the State of the Competition/ Convention World

After a year of tumult, virtual events and constantly moving targets, it's more than reasonable to wonder: What exactly is the state of the competition world?

For months, we didn't see our favorite friends and teachers unless it was through a screen—now, against all odds, programs are rising from the ashes to bring you meaningful training and performance opportunities both in person and online. We asked four prominent competition/convention directors to give you the inside scoop on what to expect from this season (and, yes, that includes Nationals).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
William Zinser works with a dancer at The Joyce Theater (Kristin Stevens, courtesy William Zinser)

How to Beat 5 Common Cheats Dancers Commit

Y'all, we get it. Dance is really, really hard. So what's the harm in taking the easy way out on a technical correction? Answer: an increased chance of injury, and a whole slew of new technique problems that could take a loooooooong time to fix.

Lucky for you, Dance Spirit has enlisted the expert help of Dale Lam, artistic director of CCJ Conservatory in South Carolina, and William Zinser, certified athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in NYC, so you can start leveling up your technique the honest way.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
What happens if you are passed over for the opportunity when it feels like your time? (Getty Images/kf4851)

What to Do When Your Dance Teacher Says You're Not Pointe Ready

Since the day you pulled on your first leotard, you have no doubt been dreaming of the day you would attend your first pointe shoe fitting. Going on pointe is a rite of passage as a ballet dancer, and the result of years of hard work.

But what happens if you are passed over for the opportunity when it feels like your time? It's totally understandable to be disappointed and frustrated if your teacher doesn't move you on pointe, but don't lose faith in yourself. "I've seen a lot of dancers go on pointe over the years," says Josephine Lee, professional pointe shoe fitter and founder of The Pointe Shop. "I don't think I have ever seen a dancer who was held back from pointework feel like they were behind in the long run."

Ideally, your teacher has laid out clear guidelines for what makes a dancer pointe-ready. But if they haven't, there are some milestones that ballet professionals are looking for to give the green light for your first pair of shoes. Factors like your age, technique level, range of motion and strength all come into play. And the good news is that if going on pointe is a goal for you, there are proactive ways that you can get there.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search