It is autumn here at home. Wistfully lovely. Day after day of crisp chilly air, cornflower blue sky, maize-yellow sun falling in shafts through red, orange, gold, green, brown leaves – it’s enough to make you drunk from staring at the colors, light, and shadows dancing with each other in the October breeze.
Pumpkins in huge crates at the supermarket, skeletons and jack-o-lanterns on every doorstep. Halloween right around the corner, apple cider, mini-snickers, cranberry sauce, lines at the mall, freezing rain, candles, blazing fireplace, snow storms, New Year’s …
And the US Open!
This time of year bittersweet hangs in the air. Goodbye to summer, goodbye to 2012. Many routines we saw last weekend at Boogie may never be danced again – there is now only one NASDE comp (Tampa) before the Open. Classic and Showcase at Boogie were, for me, even more emotional than at other times of the year. Some routines I hate to see end!
Thirteen couples in Classic.
1. Arjay and Jen with their fast, sexy “Moves Like Jagger,” interrupted in the middle of this year by Jen’s knee injury but danced last weekend as if there’d been no interruption at all. I’m a Jen DeLuca fan. First time I saw her, years ago, I thought “I want to dance like that.” Her quickness, her sharp, precise, tiny movements have always reminded me of a sparkly-eyed, nimble forest animal – a baby deer or fox darting about. I will never dance like Jen of course but I’m just as entranced now as I was the day I first saw her. And Arjay! They’re great.
2. Gary and Susan – NEW ROUTINE! For me, at least, and for others last weekend at Boogie. Testing it out in anticipation of the Open perhaps? “Maybe I’m Amazed” by the Beatles. Love these guys’ music choices! For me favorite classics, for young people “retro” classics heard for the first time. Susan’s lines! AUGHGHGH! Someone (don’t worry buddy I won’t embarrass you) said last weekend “Susan is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, ever, anywhere. In life.” I’m sure other men agree. Susan is appallingly beautiful standing still – when she moves she’s jaw-dropping. Her lines, her control, her multiple pirouettes into backdrops or controlled splits, never needing a second leg for balance. Her head-whips, her limber, passionate neck and arms. Too gorgeous! Oh yeah and there’s Gary. He’s okay too.
(haha joking of course. Gary’s pretty daggone handsome himself, and a stupendous dancer)
3. Clint and MacKenzie, “Folsom Prison Blues.” These two are lovely together. Perfectly matched heights, perfectly matching long legs and shape and feel of their two bodies – beautiful couple. They accentuate how well their bodies match by synchronizing the timing and angle of every movement, line, and pose. This routine is not particularly emotional or overly dramatic, it is simply an accomplishment of visual lovliness, like a painting, aesthetically pleasing. MacKenzie is another jaw-dropping beauty; a gymnast with absolute control, balance, groundedness, and an extreme feel for the music. The piece is a series of lovely turns, poses and lines punctuated by quiet triples, anchors, whips and pushes. And a one-handed cartwheel to finish.
4. Ronnie and Brandi, “Boys Don’t Cry.” And I did cry knowing this is probably the last time I’ll see this wonderful, haunting, personal favorite, a routine which spoke to me for whatever reason and will be forever burned on my mind’s eye. Don’t know if people realize how fast this routine is, how fast their triples are, how small, contained, and clean their movements and footwork have to be in order to be as dense and complex as the choreography requires. This is definitely not Ceroc. No triple is spared, no moment is left empty. Ronnie’s joy! Every time he looks out at us his face spreads into a wide joyful grin. Brandi’s crazy spins! Her understated emotion!
But what I want to know is how, for an entire year, I’ve thought their costumes were palest mint green, which I’ve thought: How beautiful! Pale mint green! Perfect for the mood of this piece! Their costumes were never pale mint green. They’re white.
5. Ben and Cameo, “Fort Knox,” Cameo’s long legs, her extensions and balletic control and precision, her grace and elegance, her smile that lights up the room – she’s stunning. Have I mentioned that they do a series of “Jen DeLuca elbow” chenee turns? Or 13 effortless pirouettes and fouettes ending in a sexy shimmy? Or her splits?
6. Luis and Taletha, “She’s On Fire.” Love Taletha’s long limbs, her fiery hair and eyes. This routine is almost dirty. Not quite, but almost. Not obscene, but it does convey what I think was intended – sexuality. Raw, salacious, wanton, erotic sexuality. Another routine we’re probably not going to see again after last weekend (not sure if “Luis and His Women” will be in Tampa or not.)
7. Ben and Melissa “You and I.” AUGHGHGH!! THEY NAILED IT! Best EVER all year! Such a hard routine! So fast! And risky! So many mess-ups all year! But at Boogie? THEY NAILED IT!
I. Love! This! Routine! Never woulda thunk, either, since I wasn’t particularly crazy about the song when it first came out. But their choreography has made me love the song and I will never hear it again without seeing every part of the routine that went with every measure of music.
Melissa’s hair danced this routine. It was Ben dancing with Melissa’s hair. Thrashing and whipping through the air, showers and ripples of ringlets.
Ben is such a great partner! Melissa – that tiny lil’ dress, those spiky high heels – is right there in front, in your face, stealing the show. But Ben! He’s SO damn good – catching her with perfect timing, precision, speed and control, redirecting her momentum, her leverage and compression; stretching, leaning, spinning, stopping on a dime, creating shapes, narrative, sound-byte moments one after the other after the other. Love his face on “It’s my dad and Nebraska and Jesus Christ,” tossing her up from a double neck-drop, shouting WOOO!
8. The Markers! “The Rest Is Still Unwritten.” I love these people and have loved this routine all year. They choreograph just how they talk! In sentences comprised of bits of colorful ideas and punctuated with wide-eyed joyous exclamation points. I – everyone else who knows these two – love their love for each other and how it shows in their dance. Annmarie is tall – there’s a lot of her – long hair even. I love how all of that length moves through space in its own way, like a proud Great White Egret around a lake, landing here and there, spreading it’s huge white wings to lift up again.
Three-quarters in they lost hands, taking almost twelve counts to find their place again. Talk about love and support! One might think our audiences love you more when you make a mistake. The entire ballroom breathed in sharply, held their breath, gripped their neighbors arm, then jumped up cheering when the routine got back on track. Lot of love for this couple.
9. Gerald and Robin Cote, “Do You Remember,” with their great neck-drop trick in which she’s kicked up with one foot then caught in a 2×4 drop, turned, and passed between his legs.
10. Paul and Cat, first time back in the states in two years! Dancing to Usher’s “Euphoria,” in all-black, long, skinny, slinky, dangerous – very clubby feel. Love the start as they breathe and unfurl in slo-mo from crouched over. They’re best when they’re slow, using to advantage their long LONG torsos and ability to isolate hips and rib cage to show fluidity and movement. Most people don’t have this advantage. It’s like playing with a long piece of string. With those torsos and limbs they can form shapes most of us cannot – wide curving lines, round shapes, gently undulating designs in space. Gorgeous couple!
11. The Uspenskys, “Eet.” LOVE the song, love the choreography, love the dancing. A piece overflowing with emotion, sweetness, sadness, and a perfect interpretation of the music. Colleen is cute as a button, Arthur is strong, witty and graceful. For me, as a musician, what is especially pleasing is the tiny syncopated footwork *between* the bigger movements. That’s my favorite part of this routine, that it is so rich, there’s no wasted empty space. It’s dense, complex – a physical and visual expression of every breath, silence, and phrase of music. Not just movement for the sake of movement, though, like one sometimes sees. Movement which makes sense, has meaning and emotion. A gorgeous piece of artistic choreography is what I’m trying to say, danced beautifully by these two. Love this routine!
12. Jake and Kara, “Do I Move You,” their bluesy steamy boudoir-pink-and-black-lace sultry interpretation of Nina Simone. This is a year-old partnership that becomes more powerful, passionate, and in-sync as the months go by. Both Jake and Kara are strong, both are “all-the-way” dancers. Whatever the opposite of “tentative” or “timid” is, that’s what they are. Separately and together. This is a good partnership. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us at the Open! SO EXCITING!
13. And finally, last Classic routine of the night, our beloved Sean and Courtney with the routine we’ve seen ~20 times since last November, loving it every time. Great routine, clean first time out of the gate and now, a full year later, even tighter. And what are THEY working on for the Open?!? TOO EXCITING!!
Some music notes:
Here is the more accurate version, with artists, of the songs played for the Champions’ Strictly. As Beth said, “I wouldn’t want anyone to think that “Let’s Rock” (as I had listed it before) is a favorite song of either of us”
“Beth & Andy’s Classic Favorites”
True Love by Pat Benatar
It’s Better to Have (And Don’t Need) by Don Covay
Baby Workout by George Benson
Mustang Sally by The Commitments
Kiss by Tom Jones
Good Rockin’ Daddy by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Ray’s Rockhouse by The Manhattan Transfer
Danny’s All-Star Joint by Rickie Lee Jones
Swanee by Aretha Franklin
Fever by Elvis Presley
Stray Cat Strut by Stray Cats
Don’t Play That Song by Aretha Franklin
September by Earth Wind & Fire
And some songs from other divisions: (Thank you Beth!)
Novice J&J Finals:
“Domino” (Jessie J)
“Pillow Talk” (Joss Stone)
“The Truth Hurts” (Kenny Neal)
“Ability To Swing” (Patty Austin)
Intermediate J&J Finals:
“The Way You Make Me Feel” (Kurt Hunter)
“Rack Em Up” (Jonny Lang)
“On A Slow Boat To China” (Ronnie Dove)
Masters J&J Finals:
“Love You Like a Love Song” (Selena Gomez)
“All Shook Up” (Basix)
“The Low Life” (Fathead)
“A Natural Man” (Lou Rawls)