After four speedy rounds of solo auditions, we've arrived at The Academy!
If you've been living in "So You Think You Can Dance" Land for a long time (shout-out to everyone who was alive and watching back when Nick Lazzarini won Season 1 in 2005), The Academy is the new Vegas Week, when the narrowed-down group of dancers who impressed the judges in NYC and L.A. get thrown to the wolves. (This year, as we found out in last night's ep, Academy sessions happened at the Dolby Theater in L.A.) They're put through grueling choreography rounds, where they're tasked with picking up choreo super fast, then performing it, then hoping not to get cut, and then moving onto the next style—learn, rehearse, repeat.
This week, the choreographers on deck were husband-and-wife dream team Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo and ballroom wizard Jean-Marc Généreux. But first, we kicked things off with a prelim in which the 70 Academy dancers did solos for Nigel, Mary, and Vanessa. Those performances determined whether or not they'd move on to the choreography rounds. And the judges weren't playing—Nigel said he was ready to "break a few hearts."
So, how'd the first Academy episode play out?
"So You Think You Can Dance" has everything a dance show needs: crazy judges, incredible talent, famous choreographers, and heartwarming stories. Whether you're on your second season or your 15th, if you're a true "SYTYCD" fan, you can relate to the following signs of true-blue fandom.
The dance gods must have been smiling when Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo first met at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Who would have guessed that an army veteran from California (Napoleon) and a cheerleader from New Jersey (Tabitha) would join forces and eventually take over the commercial hip-hop world?
(Photo by Jennifer Johnson, courtesy the D'Umos)
Since the two started performing with the dance crew Culture Shock in the 1990s, they’ve been inseparable, working with artists including Madonna, Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez. They’ve also choreographed for “America’s Best Dance Crew” and “Dancing with the Stars,” though they’re most known for their work on “So You Think You Can Dance,” which has earned them two Emmy Awards. When they’re not designing new pieces for their dancewear line Nappytabs, you can catch the couple (and parents of two-and-a-half-year-old son London) on tour with Monsters of Hip Hop and Velocity Dance Convention and Competition. —Jenny Dalzell
Dear Teenage Tabitha & Napoleon,
Slow down. We know that the future seems like an eternity from now. But from where we’re sitting, the last 20 years feel like only a moment. So don’t waste an hour—make every second count. You’re busy, and it can be challenging to make enough time for anything or anyone. But make time for family.
Remember that life is pretty simple—it’s we who insist on making it complicated. Stay focused on the positive things and the rest will fall into place. Make decisions with your heart; it knows more than you do.
If you fall out of love with what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to move on. And failing once doesn’t mean you’ll fail every time. You will fail, however, if you don’t learn from your mistakes.
Fight for what’s important to you, but be conscious of your approach when speaking up. If you speak out of anger, odds are, your message won’t be heard as clearly. And never let the envy you might feel for another turn into jealousy or hatred. Instead, use that energy as motivation to work harder.
Get ready for a wonderful adventure. In college, you’ll meet your best friend and the love of your life.
P.S. Adults are always telling you that hard work pays off. They’re 100 percent right.
Hearthrob McHearthrobberson Ed Sheeran has been on a bit of a dance kick recently. A few weeks ago, the charming Brit featured Phillip Chbeeb in the video for his hit song "Don't," with Chbeeb popping and locking his way up the social ladder. Yesterday, Sheeran released another dance-y video, this time for his latest single, "Thinking Out Loud." Brace yourselves, ladies: Turns out he's got some pretty serious moves himself.
Choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo (naturally) and co-starring "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10 alum Brittany Cherry, the vid is swoonily romantic: Sheeran and Cherry waltz and tango and swirl all over a beautiful candlelit ballroom. Things get a little steamy...
...and Sheeran has a few chances to show off his impressive partnering skills:
Eat your heart out, "Dancing with the Stars" celebs. And for any doubters out there, NappyTabs took to Twitter to confirm that this video is all Ed, all the time—no body doubles. Enjoy!
The "So You Think You Can Dance" Top 10: By definition, that's a pretty rarefied crowd. At this point in the competition there are no obvious weak links in the contestant lineup, so eliminations are starting to feel...weird. We're invested in all the remaining dancers, which means, to horribly misquote Sheryl Crow, now every cut is the deepest.
The good news? None of these dancers are going down without a fight—and last night's episode included some of the best dancing we've seen this season. Here are my top five highlights from the show.
1. The opening number made "neon cowboys" a thing. I was a tad confused, initially, by Jamal Sims' concept. The dancers were supposed to be "getting a drink at the Last Chance Saloon"—but the Last Chance Saloon is a place where everyone wears highlighter-hued crop tops and carries parasols? Once the whole updated-take-on-the-Wild-West thing clicked, though, the piece was good cheesy fun. I especially liked that it gave each contestant a moment in the sun—even the tappers, who frequently get shafted in group pieces like this. (And Mr. Sims: Props to you, sir, for wearing a neon suit in solidarity with your dancers.)
It's a hip-hop hoedown, y'all.
2. Nappytabs absolutely dominated. Tabitha and Napoleon's absence so far this season had created a gaping hole in my heart—a hole they promptly filled last night with two fantabulous hip-hop routines. First we had Emilio as an Egyptian king alongside Jasmine as a slinky pet snake with royal asp-iriations. I swooned for Emilio's tutting at the opening of the piece—and I love Nappytabs for never being afraid to go on-the-nose literal in the best way possible (tutting for King Tut, naturally!). Next up, the dynamic duo gave us tWitch as an old-fart creeper creepin' on pinup girl Jessica, and my mind pretty much exploded. #grandpatwitch forever. (Maybe the "bench test" should be a way to determine choreographic personality? I.e., give Mia Michaels a bench and she makes this; give Tabitha and Napoleon a bench and they make the world's greatest dirty old man jokes.)
Creepers gonna creep.
3. #TeamBallroom. I think I have a ballroom problem, you guys, and "SYTYCD" is not helping. Tanisha smoldered in her Argentine tango with Ryan; the two of them nailed all of the routine's leg-flicking intricacies. And the lifts that choreographers Leonardo Barrioneuvo and Miriam Larici incorporated? Mind-boggling. (At one point Tanisha balanced on Ryan's neck. His neck!) I was thoroughly impressed by Rudy's ballroom skills in his cha cha with Jenna, too. I'll put it this way: When Jenna is wearing a super-naked hot pink dress trimmed with feathers and yet your eyes still occasionally flicker to Rudy, Rudy is doing a darn good job.
We see you, Rudy!
4. Travis Wall made the show's first-ever contemporary ballet piece, and...don't hate me, but I'm feeling conflicted about it. On the one hand, I'm a ballet freak and a half—in my eyes, anything ballet is always a DO. On the other, much as I love Travis (and think that his routine for the Top 7 guys last week will go down as one of the greatest in "SYT" history), why not choose a choreographer who specializes in contemporary ballet? Where's someone like Dwight Rhoden, whose company literally has "Contemporary Ballet" in its name, when you need him? The piece was successful in some ways; Jacque and Chehon were utterly committed, and I loved the super-dramatic lighting. But I'm not sure what pointe shoes added to the overall picture. This wasn't just a one-off experiment for TWall—he's made work for the Los Angeles Ballet, too—and it's exciting to see his curiosity leading him down different dance paths. My official verdict? Let's all keep a close eye on Ballet Travis.
That lighting, though.
5. Sonya Tayeh dug deep. Sonya began the rehearsal process by telling Zack and Amy that their routine was a tribute to a friend of hers who'd passed away suddenly—and right away, I knew we were in for a teary ride. The resulting work was intense and moving, thanks in part to the beautiful, atmospheric music by Max Richter. While I was touched by how involved Zack and Amy became in the story, I have to admit that the choreography didn't scream "Sonya" to me. It felt strangely...generic. But I think I must just be a grump, because everyone in the audience gave it a big old standing O. And excuse me—Sonya's making a piece for the Martha Graham Dance Company? Now that I can't wait to see.
Zack and Amy, hauntingly lovely
Ultimately, we were forced to say a painful goodbye to Emilio and Bridget. Our consolation prize? Next week's show will celebrate the work of—ahem—Michael Jackson. Color me verrrry intrigued. 'Til then!
Remember back in March, when we gave you the inside scoop on Make Your Move, a Romeo and Juliet–inspired dance film starring Derek Hough and K-Pop celeb BoA? Well, the movie was every bit as awesome as we thought it would be based on our interview with director Duane Adler. The choreography featured a pretty spectacular mix of hip hop, tap, contemporary, even aerial dance—a crazy-genius mish-mosh that only choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo could have concocted. And rather than take time-outs for dance breaks, the movie incorporated dancing into the story itself.
If you missed Make Your Move the first time around, never fear: The film comes out on Blu-ray and digital HD July 22. In the meantime, we've got an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip featuring interviews with Hough, Adler and Nappytabs about how all the dance scenes came together. Take a look!
If you're like me, you were really, really sad for the first half of last night's Emmy Awards. Song-and-dance king Neil Patrick Harris was hosting, and we'd been promised big, dance-y things. But for more than an hour there was nary a dancer in sight.
Then came the middle of the show. And there was a number there. Called "The Number in the Middle of the Show." Featuring NPH being the song-y, dance-y NPH we all know and love. And the "Emmy Gold dancers" doing some very flashy choreography indeed. (And, for some reason, actor Nathan Fillion and comedian Sarah Silverman.)
Don't get us wrong: It was nice. The lyrics were cute. ("Here's some really sexy dancing in the middle of the number that's the number in the middle of the show!") We were feeling a little better. But it wasn't the knock-'em-dead, we'll-never-forget-this extravaganza we were expecting.
We needn't have worried.
When it came time to present the Outstanding Choreography Emmy, we were transported to a crazy, weird, wonderful dancetopia, where the characters in our favorite shows were played by some of our favorite dancers (Melanie Moore! Jeremy Hudson! Kayla Radomski! Jaimie Goodwin! Dana Wilson! Kathryn McCormick! Teddy Forance! Nick Lazzarini!)—plus the Emmy nominees themselves (Derek Hough! Allison Holker! Mandy Moore! Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo! Travis Wall! Sonya Tayeh!). It was a world where "Mad Men"-ers tangoed, "Boardwalk Empire"-ers Charlestoned, and "Breaking Bad"-ers breakdanced (break-bad-danced?). In short, it was fabulous. (Congrats to Derek Hough, who, after all of that amazingness, took home the Emmy!)
"Where my choreographers at?" (Neil Patrick Harris - photo AP/Mark J. Terrill)
Up until now, the Emmy award for choreography has been presented at the smaller Creative Arts Emmys ceremony rather than the big Primetime Emmy awards. And while we're happy the Emmys at least HAVE a choreography category (*cough* Oscars, get on that! *cough cough*), it's always bummed us out a little that they didn't give dance a moment in the primetime spotlight.
But this year, that all changes. Not only will the choreography Emmy be presented at the primetime show, but the seven nominees—Derek Hough, Allison Holker, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo and Travis Wall—will join forces to create a dance number starring Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris. That's eight of our favorite names of all time in one sentence. What could possibly make this more awesome?
I'll tell you what: This little rumor, courtesy The Hollywood Reporter:
"One option being bandied [for the Emmy number is] the choreographers themselves dancing, and each has been invited to hire two of their favorite dancers for the number (likely from the shows they were nominated for)."
Please, oh dance gods—please let all of these choreographers dance at the Emmys. With NPH. And some top-notch "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance" folks. It's all we want for Christmas and our birthdays combined.
Catch the sure-to-be-amazingness during the Primetime Emmys, September 22 on CBS.
I love the first week of competition on "So You Think You Can Dance." It's that wonderful time when nobody's injured, everyone's amped up and, since there are no eliminations, we can pretend all the dancers are going to stay around forever and ever.
In that spirit—and because last night's show was pretty fun—I'm going to keep things 100 percent positive in this recap. (OK, fine—we'll say 95%. This is new for me! I'm trying!) Here are my top five happy* highlights from the episode.
1. The opening number rocked my socks. Tabitha and Napoleon always kick butt, but this kick-butt routine was unusually butt-kicky. Let's break it down, shall we? Nappytabs gave us:
-a montage filmed in a single extended shot...
-...featuring all of the dancers—and judges (Nigel can animate, sort of!), and choreographers (ahhhh Travis' giant feather shrug!)...
-...playing in the costume room and popping in and out of backstage doorways before arriving on the actual stage...
-...to rock out to, of all things, "Puttin' on the Ritz."
The finished product felt like one of those classic "Saturday Night Live" "let's go behind the scenes" openers. It was totally charming. Plus, BABY LONDON WAS IN THE HOUSE! Shocker of the century: Mini-Nappytabs is adorable.
2. The costume department was on fire. Malece and Jade's glamorous Gatsby-esque ensembles? Tucker and Jenna's cute 1940s getups (complete with the verrrry tricky to pull off vest-and-suspender combo)? Makenzie's ruffly, kicky 1950s dress? It was like a whirlwind tour of fashion in the 20th century. And I'm not even going to talk about the multiple pairs of animal-print hammer pants that appeared over the course of the evening. Multiple pairs.
3. Brittany and BluPrint made beautiful Afro-Jazz music together. Brittany's Latin ballroom training and BluPrint's animator skills meshed surprisingly well. They both have that laser-sharp attack thing down pat, which worked perfectly in Sean Cheesman's hard-hitting Afro-Jazz routine. This number also gave us the gift of Cat Deeley's Afro-Jazz impression, which was awesomely hoe-down-y. (But Nigel, please: Let's not ever make comments about how BluPrint "didn't grow up in a jungle" again. *facepalm*)
4. Wayne Brady gave Jesse Tyler Ferguson a run for his money as the best "SYTYCD" guest judge of all time. Wayne's awesomeness really came to a head after Aaron and Jasmine Harper's Sonya Tayeh routine. On Jasmine: "If Lil' C was here, he'd say, 'You are a little chocolate Amazonian fool and imbued of all the strength that you draw upon of the divergent forces which make you an entity to be reckoned with!' " Brilliant. That said, Wayne occasionally drifted into dirty-old-man territory. For example—when talking to a topless Fik-Shun about partnering Amy in an intense Sonya Tayeh duet: "Fik-Shun, whenever I want people to see my serious side, I take my clothes off and dance with a white girl, too." Ugh, don't go there, Wayne! Nigel's already got that territory more than covered!
5. But let's talk about Fik-Shun and Amy in that sick Sonya piece. The powerful choreography felt like a return to form for Sonya, who's seemed a bit off her game in recent seasons. (I guess it's hard not to look like you're going downhill after creating the masterpiece that is "The Garden.") The number's premise—that Fik-Shun represented all of Amy's unresolved issues—was reminiscent of Mia Michael's famous "Gravity" routine, and the concept proved to be just as fruitful for Sonya. Amy is both a natural Sonya muse and possibly the best dancer in the competition, which definitely didn't hurt. And there was something appealingly restrained about the way both she and Fik-Shun approached this number. It's not that they weren't dancing full-out; they just didn't fall into the over-emoting trap that seems to plague most dancers in Sonyaland. Also, the performance gave Cat her first chills of the season, and she sang a song about it, so, plus a million bonus points.
And there you have it! After all that, who do you think is heading home? Let us know in the comments—and we'll see you here next week, same time, same place, for our recap of the first elimination episode (DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN)!
*Because I'm working very hard to remain positive, I'm not going to say anything about Nigel and Adam Shankman's "So You Think You Can Prance" video. I'm just going to link to it. There you go.