Friday, July 24, 2009

SYTYCD Choreographers have mastered the art of the 90 second duet.

One and one-half minutes is not long, yet SYTYCD choreographers have crammed a lot of content into that brief time. And perhaps because the human condition is so complex, they have used that time to reflect on innumerable subjects from the mundane to the sublime.

Traditional (heterosexual) couplings of ballroom dance are obvious duet choices and we have witnessed every variety: cha cha, samba, waltz, foxtrot, jive, disco, tango, rumba, paso doble, and the dreaded quickstep. These have been performed with more or less success and many have been outstanding. But for me, the really original work is being done in less specific genres, ones they call contemporary, jazz, and hip hop, even Broadway. These have styles that are particular to them, but are so flexible that they can be employed to express nearly any human experience.

Week 7 had two exceptional examples of what I mean. Tyce Diorio’s touching duet for Melissa and Ade addressed an immensely emotional subject: cancer. In 1 minute and 30 seconds, this team of artists expressed the fear, confusion, and loss of a cancer patient while demonstrating the difficult role of friends and lovers in providing a safe place for her to stand. The closing lift, with Melissa reaching into the future on Ade’s shoulder, was one of the most powerful single moments in SYTYCD history. Has anything else brought Nigel to tears (not to mention the rest of the judges, Diorio, and the studio and home audiences).

From this sublime performance, we jumped to a dark, zombie choreography by Shane Sparks. This theme always recalls Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but in the capable hands of Sparks, it was entirely fresh. Kayla and Jason performed it brilliantly building the drama to another electrifying conclusion: the strangulation of Kayla.

On the 100th anniversary program, we had a chance to see some of our favorite mini-dramas from past seasons. The Hummingbird piece was as magical as the first time, with those preternatural creatures poking inquisitively at one another. I had hoped we would see Mia Michaels’ moving tribute to her father. Michaels is a daring choreographer: remember her addiction piece from week 5.

I would love to see some of these short-form choreographies developed into larger forms, though many of them are so complete in themselves its hard to imagine how that could happen. A good drama has a beginning, a middle, and end, and a good plot. How they accomplish all that in 90 seconds is truly admirable. Is it any wonder that 4 of their choreographers have received Emmy Award nominations?

We will get a chance to see and hear from these and many other contemporary choreographers in an upcoming documentary “Move: The Film” due out in 2010. Meanwhile check out their website and YouTube preview. And for a cogent review of week 7 SYTYCD, check out Tonya Planks blog, Swan Lake Samba Girl.

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