Rita. Moreno. Is. A. Legend.
As if we weren't already deeply in love with this rainbow unicorn of a human being—a dance and film icon probably best known for her epic, Oscar-winning performance as Anita in the film version of West Side Story—her appearance at last night's Academy Awards made us fall even harder.
Why? Oh, let us count the ways.
Nope, there's still no Oscar for Best Choreography—but thanks to your votes, we now get to reveal the winner of our own Dance Spirit award for best cinematic choreography of 2017. Though we're big fans of all four of the nominated choreographers, and think each one deserves to be acknowledged for their contributions to some of our favorite films this year, there can only be one winner. And that is...
Last month, we asked why there wasn't a Best Choreography category at the Oscars—and discovered that many of you agreed with us: Choreographers should definitely be acknowledged for their work on the super-dancy movies we can't get enough of.
Now, we're taking matters into our own (jazz) hands.
We've decided to create a Dance Spirit award for the best cinematic choreography of 2017. With your input, we've narrowed the field to four choreographers whose moves lit up some of the best movies of the year. Check out our nominations for best choreography below—and vote for the choreographer you think deserves the honor. We'll announce the winner on Friday, March 2.
The 2018 Oscar noms are here. Which is fun and all; we'll never not get excited about a night of glitz and glamor and, when we're lucky, pretty great dancing. But we'd be a heck of a lot more excited if the Academy Awards included a Best Choreography category. And really—why don't they?
We're going to take a minute off from obsessing over WHAT THE HECK WENT DOWN during the Best Picture award presentation last night (seriously, how did that happen?). Because while that'll be the moment most people remember from the 89th Academy Awards, we need to recognize the actual best moment of the evening. And that would be its first one: Justin Timberlake, in perfect form, opening the show with a delightfully dance-y rendition of "Can't Stop the Feeling!"
(In case you're one of the three people who need a "why" for a JT performance, the song was, in fact, nominated for an Oscar. It was featured in Trolls.)
It's pretty unusual for a musical performance to open the Oscars, rather than some kind of skit or monologue by the evening's host. But kudos to whoever gave this new route the green light. Because there are few better ways to shake the stiffness out of a sometimes very stiff ceremony than to have our favorite *NSYNC alum and a group of a-list dancers boogie down the aisles of the Dolby Theatre.
TL;DR: The whole thing made us want to dance, dance, dance, c'mon. And we weren't alone...
Before we get to the highlight of last night's Academy Awards, we need to say: Congrats to Idina Menzel and the writers of "Let It Go"—this year's Best Original Song.
Sing it, Idina. (photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
But honestly, we really just want to talk about "Happy," which was also a nominated for Best Original Song.
Full disclosure: We realize we've been a little bit obsessed with Pharrell Williams' hit song lately. We just can't help but get behind a song that's encouraging people everywhere to dance.
And Williams' performance at the Oscars last night did not disappoint. From a stage filled with talented performers of all ages (shout out to Comfort Fedoke!) to the movie stars themselves—everyone was doing the "Happy" dance.
(Photo by Getty Images)
But the highlight of the performance had to be when Williams hopped off the stage to dance with three of Hollywood's brightest—Lupita Nyong'o, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. And dang, did they show their stuff.
Lupita Nyong'o—Best Supporting Actress, best dressed and best danced. (Photo by Getty Images)
Who knew the 18-Academy-Award-nominated actress knew how to shimmy? (Photo by John Shearer/John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Bold moves, Amy Adams, bold moves. (Photo by John Shearer/John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Missed last night's performance? Catch the entire video here:
Have a very "Happy" Monday!
OK, so you've actually already "met" him—several times. He's the Tony-winning choreographer responsible for Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé's epic musical number at the 81st Academy Awards (which earned him an Emmy, making him a Tony- and Emmy-winning choreographer). He's also the man behind last year's dance-tastic Oscars ceremony and NBC's The Sound of Music Live!...
It's Rob Ashford!
Rob Ashford accepts his Tony for best choreography in Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002 (photo via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
This guy's known for getting non-dancers to shake it. (Exhibit A: He had Daniel Radcliffe pirouetting in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.) So just imagine what he can do with a fellow dance aficionado like Ellen!
Unfortunately, when it comes to spilling the deets on this evening's performances, Ashford's keeping his lips sealed. Sigh. Suppose we'll just have to tune in tonight to find out!
In the meantime, here's a clip of Ashford's Emmy-winning choreography from the 2009 Oscars to tide us over:
In case we haven't mentioned it recently, we love Ellen Degeneres.
And with the 86th Academy Awards just one week away, we're getting pretty anxious to find out what dance-tastic surprises this second-time host has in store for us. Last year's show (somewhat surprisingly) did not disappoint on the dance front—so, needless to say, we've got high expectations.
If Ellen's Oscars trailer (choreographed by none other than tWitch Boss) isn't enough to remind us that we're in good hands, hopefully her quirky and dance-filled Beats commercial will do the trick:
Yep, that's right: Ellen's always just lookin' for some music to groove to.
And with some of the most-ever-talked-about nominees for Best Original Song this year (umm "Happy" please?), we feel pretty confident Ellen will find her jam at the 86th Academy Awards.
I expected the borderline-inappropriate jokes. I expected the appearance by Ted (sighhhhh). I even kind of expected the tribute to boobs on film.
But what I didn't expect from Seth MacFarlane's turn as host of the Academy Awards was a whole bunch of dance numbers. Dance! And here I was thinking the Busby Berkeley-style opening to "Family Guy" was a joke! Who knew that Mr. MacFarlane, the modern master of the fart joke, was a legitimate song-and-dance man?
Anyway, I think I'm not alone in feeling that the dancing elevated what could otherwise have been a very "meh" Oscars show. Let's run down all of the fun dance-y numbers, shall we?
We got off to a strange but, let's be honest, hilarious start with the boobs song. I know, it's terrible and tasteless and everything everyone hates about Seth MacFarlane, but c'mon. It was funny, and not less so thanks to the troupe of tux-clad backup dancers.
Next up, my personal favorite: Charlize Theron (who studied at NYC's Joffrey Ballet School!) and Channing Tatum channeling Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in an elegant foxtrot that was even better for being totally unexpected.
Then we were treated to a cute little softshoe by Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Harry Potter's dance skills could use a little polishing, but points for effort—and Gordon-Levitt looked pretty darn legit. (Remember that time he redid the entire "Make 'Em Laugh" number from Singin' in the Rain on "Saturday Night Live"? I'm striking out in my search for video of the performance, but trust me: It was amazing.)
And then there was that big ol' reworking of "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast. It wasn't the biggest hit of the night, but I'm never really going to knock any production of a classic Disney song. Plus it featured some of DS's fave dancers, including Alex Wong, Spencer Liff, Cody Green and Jaimie Goodwin.
(I can't find any good video of this number, so you'll have to settle for a screenshot from the original instead. Just pretend Lumière is Seth MacFarlane. Not such a stretch, actually.)
Last but certainly not least: Catherine Zeta-Jones and a Fosse chorus in "All That Jazz" from Chicago. Girl's still got it! And it was another chance for our dancer friends to show off a little, too.
My only regret is that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence didn't get to re-enact their so-bad-it's-awesome dance from Silver Linings Playbook. But I guess the two of them had other things on their minds, what with being nominated for Academy Awards and everything.
(Side note: Jennifer Lawrence. You are amazing. You basically fell on your face last night and it only made everyone, myself included, love you more. I feel like you and Emma Stone and maybe Sandra Bullock should hang out and be awesome and funny and super-stylish together.)
Dance Spirit: What was it like to perform in front of so many celebrities?
Bruce Weber: We actually knew beforehand who was going to be sitting where, because there were pictures of all the actors and actresses on the chairs. During the show we weren’t thinking about them because everything goes so fast, but afterwards we looked out and there were all of these talented and famous people standing and clapping for us. It was completely overwhelming and amazing.
DS: Wow! Did you get to meet any of them?
BW: Billy Crystal gave us a hello and a wave, and at one point I was really close to Gwyneth Paltrow! It was hard to talk to them because of the tight security, but everyone backstage was really nice.
DS: You usually perform Iris at the Kodak Theatre, where the Academy Awards are held. How was this different from any other show?
BW: The Kodak Theatre is our home, and usually we have dressing rooms. For the Oscars we were kicked out of them. The only place we had was the dance studio.
DS: In the show, are there separate dancers and acrobats, or does each person do a little bit of both?
BW: For both Iris and the Oscar performance, there is a group for each specialty--dancers and acrobats. Occasionally, there is a crossover if a performer is able to do both. For instance, two of the dancers in the Oscar performance are "hand to hand" acrobats in Iris. As the dance captain I primarily deal with the dancers, but I'm responsible for some of the choreography in the acrobatics sections, too.
BW: Being a dance captain means that I manage all of the dancers, try to keep the integrity of the choreographers' movement, work closely with the creators and keep everyone in check!
DS: As a dancer, what was your favorite part of the Oscar routine?
BW: I love the long finale--it’s high-energy and full of acrobatic tricks. Plus, I love fast, crazy choreography! But the most memorable part was sitting in the chairs onstage and looking out at the audience.
DS: Do you have any advice for readers that are interested in joining Cirque du Soleil?
BW: Make yourself known. There are so many dancers that want to be a part of this company, so you need to keep in touch with casting, update your file periodically and persistently let the Cirque agents know that you're available and interested. Also, you need to be as well-rounded as possible. Take as many different classes as you can. The more styles you're proficient in, the more valuable you are.
Click here to watch the cast of Iris perform at the Academy Awards.