Liberty 2011 – Update #4

Liberty  2011 Update #4

Saturday night at Liberty is “Dress To Impress” which some people actually did, in either classy or tacky evening wear depending on what they were trying to impress you *with.*

Our gracious host Mr. John Lindo was marvelous in elegant black tie, Blake Hobby made a pewter sequined pencil skirt verrrrrrry happy, and Yuna wore a sparkly little black dress which matched her sparkly black eyes and her sparkly black bangs (thick blunt-cut almost to her eyelashes – she chopped them off herself that morning), with hot-pink feather earrings and matching hot-pink 4″ stilettos as her only accessories. Legs to die for. Very retro 60’s London chic, very Twiggy. I dragged her out to the lobby so I could pretend to be a fashion photographer, grabbing an adorable Frenchmen along the way to use as a prop. Yuna said, “But people will say who’s that guy? And where’s Bill? And what’ll I say cause he doesn’t speak English and I don’t even know his name!”

I love Saturday nights, the Big Night of an event. Routines! Yay!

First up, Juniors:

1. Ian and Emily, Jay and Kelly Hull’s 6-yr-old twins performing their hip-hop swing gangsta routine, choreographed by Melina. Cuteness overload.
2. Connor and Alyssa, “Little Red Corvette,” their own terrific choreography. Alyssa is a superstar about to happen. I can’t take my eyes off of her, she is so musical! Quick! Clever! And beautiful! And sweet! which shows in her dancing. Robert told us that this performance marked the end of Connor and Alyssa’s years dancing as Juniors. From now on they’ll compete in Classic. Watch out, grownups.
3. Chris and Nicole, “Disco’s Revenge” (jazz piano). This routine is SO GOOD! Elegant and witty, all about piano keys. They’re dressed like piano keys and they dance like piano keys. We were blown away by this at last year’s Open, and now, seven months later, it is flawless.
4. Steven and Hannah, to both Beyonce’s *and* the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” two entirely different songs with the same name, blended together in a funky *very* fast piece which flies (and at one point runs and jumps) around the floor. Fun choreography.
5. Akil and Alexis, “Evacuate The Dance Floor,” cuteness overload extreme. And Alexis! Holy shamoly – those big wide-set blue eyes, long lanky limbs, long blonde hair – Alexis is a stunner, sheesh. Her parents are in for trouble. And attitude! She’s Dean and Dawn combined. On steroids. She got a double wammy of the Born To Perform gene. And Akil! Adorable! I love his face, love how he jumps around hugging everyone cause he’s just fit to bursting with the joy of dancing.

Next, Rising Star:

1. Donnie and Daria – 100 pirouettes holy shamoly
2. Michael and Jamie –  sassy rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Take a Load off Annie” (the song is actually called “The Weight”)
3. Mike Glasgow and Kristin Wenger – “She’s Not There” – clean, quiet, elegant

And then, Classic!

1. Julien and Beverly (from Lyons, France), “You Found Me,” in red and black (she’s got a red turtleneck on a bare back, one red sleeve, one red stripe down her back, and a red belt on black pants. He’s all in black with one red stripe around his arm and an untied red bowtie hanging in his collar). Six outside-turn pirouettes into four inside-turn pirhouettes, no foot down in between. Hard hits throughout with full force, full accelerations, moving to the very ends of the connection, fully committed compressions, very pleasing to watch. Fully expressed “sentences” instead of half-expressed timid mumbling. Beverly is 15 years old, maybe almost 16. I had said earlier there were 12 people from France but that was Thursday night. On Friday another 10 arrived so we had a crowd of Frenchies again and they were all sitting right behind me for Classic. Normally they’re yelling and cheering but for this routine they were oddly silent and when I turned to look I saw 20 French people wiping their eyes, beaming with emotion and pride.

2. Tybalt and Hazel, all in black, “Love Thing,” Hazel the diva with her huge smile in a hustle-flavored, shag-like, multi-pirouetted fun piece that showcased their fast footwork and ability to fly across a floor.

3. Mike and Shelli, “Heartless,” lots of intricate wrap moves and a one-footed flatback during which she holds her left foot at waist level with her right hand. Robert Royston (on the mic) demonstrated how this move came to be: Sheli was bent over tying her shoe when Mike decided to spin her like a top, Sheli yelling “wait I’m tying my WAIT just a minute I’m trying to MIKE! hold ON lemme finish tying my WAIT A MINUTE MIKE” – very funny watching Royston hop around the floor demonstrating.

4. Saturday’s Breaking News: Benji and Melissa Rutz! By late Saturday afternoon everyone was talking about this. When I looked at my phone I had 12 texts from around the world asking what’s going on?! why are they dancing together?!? did we know what the routine was going to be? how would world politics be affected!?

Like Benji and Torri’s amazing last-minute Bulletproof routine (can’t remember if that was last year or 2009) this one was conceived in one hour on Friday and then rehearsed for a second hour at 6:30 Saturday evening. And, like everything Benji choreographs (and Melissa too, for that matter), took into account the very special requirements of this particular performance by these particular individuals, to this music, at this event, at this particular moment in time. It’s like Benji gets a box of magic markers and with utter focus and abandon scratches out these marvelous doodles on a giant sketch pad in the sky.

This routine included two things I have been itching to see for years: First, they chose the fantastic music of the Brazilian Carnival: samba drums with whistles and yells of “Oh No! Here we Go!” No sound ever created can incite a crowd like a parade of drums – you cannot stay still. And the second thing I loved is that they used silence! They danced to silence! When I first learned to read music as a young child I learned that there are notes and there are rests, long ones and short ones of each, and rests are counted and “played” just as notes are counted and played, they are equally important to a piece of music, they are themselves a sound – not the absence of a sound. Stuff happens during a rest, the story is moved along. If you listen to the soundtrack to a horror movie the silence while the monster is sneaking up the stairs is just as important as the full-orchestra chord when he throws open the door to the bedroom. It has always seemed to me that silence isn’t utilized enough (or at all) in WC routines and the potential for great contrast and drama is lost.

So I was beside myself when Benji and Melissa exploded onto the floor to a wild pounding Batucada with back-bends and leans and pulls and skids and head whips and punches, up and down and everywhere, as if body parts were each banging out their own separate rhythms on their own drums. And then! Suddenly …  silence! No whistles, no drums, not a whisper in the ballroom, just wide-eyed open-mouthed astonishment as Benji and Melissa continured dancing to the silent beat, not marching but swinging, soft little closed-position triplets and simple whips, like a happy murmur, keeping perfect time in silence for precisely 32 beats – one tidy phrase – and then you heard a far away muffled “Let’s go!” and BAM! Crash! Boom! Whistles and drums in a crazy din! And I am telling you the ballroom simply went wild!

So much was great about this routine – the contrasts, the quality of movement of each of these two, how much fun they were having, how Melissa flies, how clean, controlled and elegant she is, the slow lean into compression in which only their centers are inside and every other body part is stretched away like two sling-shots strained to the snapping point. The routine was so big, so loud, that you didn’t notice if it was a little rough, maybe a little simple, that it made you wonder what would actually be if they developed it from a wildly scratched doodle into a complete painting. I get goosebumps just thinking what that might look like.

Melissa says they hadn’t really talked about doing anything more since she and Ben are dancing at every event for the rest of the year, up to the Open. But you never know.

They got a standing ovation, of course, many people including judges just standing there smiling and shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders as if to say “Well, nothing to say to that. I got nuthin’ to add. Except wow.” They got a standing ovation and then who should follow but Jordan and Tatiana with “Gravity,” as if we weren’t rattled enough already, and they, too, got a standing ovation. And danced, as they always do, with power and passion and then, just at the end, in the middle of a whirl of 10 pirouettes in which Tatiana does five in a demi-plie and then five in a high arabesque with her beautiful neck and head trailing way out over her shoulder, in the middle of this she put her foot down for a second, on the beat, of course, which you wouldn’t know wasn’t in the choreography unless you’ve watched the routine before and just knew. But they made a mistake. They actually make mistakes – I saw it myself.

I can tell when dancers (any athletes for that matter) are supremely good because it looks like what they’re doing is easy, like I could do it. That’s when I know I’m seeing a lifetime of hard work combined with supernatural talent. I watch some of these super-hero dancers and I catch myself thinking “hey those flatback pirouettes are cool, I’m gonna try that during the next song break.” Then the song break comes and I can’t even stand up from the chair cause my knees won’t unbend.

Four more routines in Classic and lots more to tell. Next update …

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