More stories from Grand Nationals!
But first I want to tell you about the Roystons.
Nicola didn’t make it in time for Showcase on Friday night so Robert and Nicola performed their Showcase routine, “The Edge” (Lady Gaga) which they modified to work for Cabaret.
Why didn’t Nicola make it in time for Showcase?
Just listen to this. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Robert had driven in to Atlanta early Thursday morning from Nashville where he had been staging the opening for the Rascal Flatts tour.
Nicola, with their son Bobby (9 yrs old) and daughter Summer (3 yrs old) left on Thursday afternoon for a 1 pm flight to Atlanta – an easy hop, about an hour.
This is the story as it was told to me. All you dance-circuit frequent flyers: read this and a dark fear will be put upon your very being.
Thunderstorms were raging up and down the east coast that day, never a good thing for flying. Just as Nicola had dreaded the flight was delayed. For an hour.
Not so bad.
But then it was delayed for another hour.
And then for another hour.
Three hours later the storm let up and Hooray! An announcement was made: They were good to go.
Boarding, finally! Nicola called Robert with relief – the kids were holding up well considering – we’re finally getting on the plane, see you soon.
The passengers file in, scuffle and snarl around, territorial skirmishes flare up here and there, several major wars are fought, eventually an overhead-luggage cease-fire goes into effect, seat-belts are buckled, phones off, ready for take off.
But the plane is not moving.
They wait. Since they’ve already been waiting several hours at the gate they are now resigned to waiting.
An hour later the plane is still not moving.
An announcement is made. The lift-gate is broken. Sorry we have to de-plane you.
A long grim line of zombies shuffle down the skinny aisle and back off the plane, dragging their overhead baggage and supplementary emotional baggage from the battles for overhead space and arm-rests, there are enemies, revenge plans being plotted. The gate area has become a zombie war room.
An hour later an announcement is made. They’re re-boarding! There is a God!
Everyone back in again. Seat belts on, phones off, overhead luggage in interesting locations, engines firing up, moving away from the gate …
Moving, moving, moving …
Oh, what do you know! Moving again! In the wrong direction.
They’re taxiing back to the gate.
An announcement is made. There is a “plane malfunction.”
A plane malfunction?
That doesn’t sound good.
Sorry we have to de-plane you again.
Zombies file back out to the gate area.
Another two hours.
Seat-belts, luggage, arm-rests, phones off, they’re good at this now.
Moving, moving, moving slowly towards the runway.
Taxiing back to the gate. An announcement is made. Sorry we have to de-board you again. Bad weather conditions.
Zombie gate area in full psychotic mode.
They wait an an hour. No announcements.
At midnight, eleven hours after the plane was to take off, an announcement is made. This flight has been cancelled. Come back tomorrow morning, we’ll put you on the next flight to Atlanta.
So Nicola and her two small brave soldiers return home.
Next morning they’re back again, mom, kids, carry-on’s, stroller, re-packed and ready to go, and great luck! The flight takes off just as scheduled!
Mid-flight an announcement is made. We have to re-route to Dallas. Weather conditions.
In Dallas an announcement is made. We need to board you quickly! And get you seated quickly! We have only a twenty-minute window of clear sky before the storm hits!
Nicola, Bobby, Summer, luggage, stroller and a silent line of gloomy specters file in quickly, heads down in determination, Night of the Living Dead, no conversation, all frivolous pleasantries have been done away with, get seated quickly, seat belts buckled quickly, luggage stowed, quickly. They’re good at this now.
Engines are on! Plane is taxiing down the runway! They’re going to make it! They’re on their way at last!
The plane stops.
Turns around, taxis back to the gate.
An announcement is made. A woman in first class has a medical issue. They have to de-board her.
They miss the twenty-minute window.
An announcement is made. We have to de-plane due to weather conditions.
Again at the gate. New day, new gate.
The flight is delayed an hour.
Another hour and a half.
HALLELUJAH! An announcement is made. Get back on the plane!
36 hours later a forlorn Nicola, carrying two forlorn children, and forlorn carry-ons, and a happy stroller, arrive in Atlanta.
Without their bags. Their bags were lost.
Which is why Nicola danced not in her beautiful red ruffly Showcase costume, but in a black outfit she found in the mall behind the hotel. And why they danced on Sunday in Cabaret instead of Friday in Showcase. And why she might have been feeling slightly distracted.
But they danced! She wanted to dance at Grand Nationals, her favorite event, and she did.
Have you heard about Cabaret in Atlanta? SO much fun!
1. Gabrielle Jamison from Atlanta, doing a modern/jazz routine, the first minute or so in total silence. That ballroom was SILENT, spellbound, as she spun slowly over, picked up a man’s fedora from the center of the floor and then a suit-jacket, slowly wrapping herself in both; and “If I Were A Boy” (Beyonce) comes on and she dances her heart out across the floor finishing by laying the hat and jacket back down and walking sadly off. Great!
Parker: “That was The. Quietest. I have ever any ballroom be. I had to sneeze and I think I burst a blood vessel in my eye.”
2. Curtis Woods and Victoria Pipkin (the Juniors couple! They’re modern dancers!) from Alabama. Two chairs are placed in the middle of the floor. Silence. Victoria walks out, white dress, barefoot, her face in her hands as if crying; she looks back and Curtis enters, dressed in black, barefoot. “Colorblind” (Counting Crows) opens with its doleful repeating piano notes and what follows is a sad struggle to come together while being torn apart – Curtis is black, Victoria white – and they’re young, so young it is even sadder, more poignant, to see them address such somber material. This was powerful, almost painful to watch. Wonderful use of the chairs – reaching through them towards each other, sliding slowly down in tandem, dancing on them, rolling across the floor between them – great choreography and lovely heartfelt dancing by these two sweet young people.
3. Justin Guilmette and Kimalee Piedad from Florida, stopping at Grand Nationals on their way to Blackpool (where they won last year’s Theater Arts division) to dance to Kelly Clarkson’s wonderful “Up To The Mountain.”
Stunning. That’s all I can say about that. They received a standing ovation, people all around me wiping tears from their faces. And a first place win!
Here they are performing in San Juan last July (different routine.)
4. Lisa D’Amico’s wonderful eight-girl team, “D-Troupe” – each girl dressed with one half of her a white leotard, white tutu, white tights, and a white shoe – the other half of her black leotard, tutu, stockings, and shoe – in circus makeup and pigtails – a sort of “scary rag-doll” look – MARVELOUS! To the wonderfully spooky “Garden” by Mirah. The girls stand beside each other black sides beside black, whites beside white, moving legs and bodies in an optical illusion to look like two halves of different girls belong to the same person – so much fun! A delightfully creepy kaleidoscope of color and shapes using chairs, the floor, and all kinds of moving formations – great choreography!
5. Griffin Glick from Alabama, with a fun pop-lock-break-wave hip hop routine to Justin Bieber’s “All Around The World” – complete with moon walks and floating moves (does EVERYONE in Alabama moon-walk? Maybe they teach it in the schools.)
6. The Roystons, dancing the “Hallelujah I Made It To Grand Nationals!” dance.
7. Brad Price and Hayley Nichols from Alabama dancing to “Apologize” (Brand New Rockers) – another lovely juniors couple with a modern-dance routine complete with lifts, fouettes, drops, leaps, and floor work. It is so great to see these young dancers get out there and compete! Love NASDE events that have a Cabaret division so you can see what other dance forms people are working on, what else is informing their styles and movement.
8. Tommy Beacham from Charlotte, NC – wow was the crowd cheering for Tommy as he walked onto the floor, you knew something special was about to happen. And man oh man – special it was. He’s a tap dancer! With AMAZING quick feet and syncopated rhythms to make you want to jump up and yell! No music – total silence except the sound of his tapping – the audience bursting out in uncontrollable cheers every so often but quickly stopping again to not miss a tap. What a treat! He’s good, really really good. Love his face, sheer joy on his face. Standing ovation!
9. Ralph Marion and Alexa MacBeth from Alabama – cute hip-hop/jazz routine to Chris Brown’s “Forever.” Another juniors couple from Alabama! In sparkly red, black, and matching Converse All-Stars. Bet this girl is a cheerleader. If not she should be! She’s adorable.
10. Taylor Perkinson from Virginia, dancing to “Light Em Up” (Fall Out Boy) – a fast, ferocious, modern routine including spins, leaps, floor work, back-bends – this girl (I’m guessing she’s 15-ish?) explodes with strength and power, eyes on the audience from start to finish, full of fire. I love when you can feel a dancer’s drive and tenacity out there. This girl wants to dance. She’s good. And she’s fierce.
11. Lisa D’Amico’s second team, “Rewind” (from Houston), five young women dressed in black tops with lipstick-red slashes, black short-shorts, black over-the-knee socks, red armband and wristbands, and a gigantic red flower around one eye. Dancing to Melanie Martinez’s sultry, moody “Toxic.” Using chairs, and black and red umbrellas! in a burlesque-meets-jazz splashy merry-go-round of color and shape. Both of Lisa’s cabaret acts reminded me of Wade Robeson’s Roisin Murphy/Rama Lama on So You Think You Can Dance. Quirky, minor key, carnival costumes – clever and fun.
12. Brooks MacBeth and Holly Dunbar from Alabama, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” (The Police.) Neat story-telling with beginning, middle and end. Loved this! He’s married, she’s the temptress, but not the “femme fatale” kind of temptress – this girl is so delicate, graceful, and sweet she’s almost too angelic for the part. Theatrical modern dance piece, floor work, leaps, lifts – using the entire floor, flying, rolling, hand-springing to every corner. More of the Alabama kids!
13. And finally, the couple responsible for all the Alabama kids, TJ and Wendy Zito themselves, performing a Theater Arts Adagio piece to Missy Higgins’ “Where I Stood.” I love this couple together, the trust, how you can feel their pride in each other’s dancing. Wendy is a shy self-admitted “odd duck” in a wonderfully eccentric way – and TJ loves her and she loves him and it shows. What can I say I’m a sap, but these two just warm my heart. All kinds of lovely lifts, drops, leans, lovely poses, including Wendy standing on TJ’s shoulders, dropping down into his arms and spinning round and round under the lights.
1ST PLACE Justin and Kimalee
3rd Taylor Perkinson
4th Robert and Nicola (and a crowd of ghostly apparitions in a silent standing ovation)
5th Tommy Beacham
Young Adult (13 – 18 years old)
Chris and Nicole (“You Really Did It” by Jason Mraz) – their insanely great, crazy fast, witty, complex, gorgeous piece of brilliant wonderfulness. A whole basketful of adjectives can’t do it justice.
Ian MacLeod and Holly Dunbar from Alabama (“Why Don’t You Do Right” by Sinead O’Connor) two long, lean tall drinks of water – he in fedora, she in scarlet-and-sequins bikini top – lots of leg-kicks (of her mile-long legs,) Charleston footwork, Fosse-esque patterns … adorable!
Kyler Byrum and Whitney Brown (Gina’s daughter!) dancing to Otis Redding’s “Dock of The Bay” and “Sittin’ On The Boatdock” by Fatback Deluxe.
Royston: “They’re Brad and Angelina! At age 16!”
Wow. These guys. This routine. Just wow.
Here’s my description of being wowed earlier this year. Now that a couple of months have passed they’re even better.
I was mesmerized by Whitney all weekend in Atlanta. Her repose. I stared and stared, trying to understand what it is about her movement, her composure, that is so compelling. She is calm. She appears utterly unfazed by the audience, her partner, speed, balance – nothing seems to be of much consequence to her. She approaches dance with as much nervous energy as I approach a glass of milk.
Most noticeable there’s a maturity there beyond her years (she just turned 17 in June.) As if she’s comfortable in her own skin, knows herself in a way most teenagers don’t. I asked if she’s heard “you seem mature” and she says yes, she hears it often. She thinks it’s about confidence which comes from her relationship with the floor. Because as a gymnast the floor has always been her friend. Her first partner.
I am writing about Whitney in Atlanta having just returned from watching her at Michigan Classic which followed the next week. Whitney blew it away in Michigan. Her strictlys, jack and jills, the crazy jam at 2am Saturday night, her threesome jack and jills. She was the Superstar of the weekend, crazy ridiculous hilarious marvelous great.
I hope she likes west coast enough to stick around. I want to watch her do a million things.
Josh and Anyssa (“Finally Moving” by Pretty Lights and “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida.) Here’s my description of this routine at it’s debut at Boogie last October. At this point it’s clean, strong, fun, full of attitude. Josh has newly blonde hair! Way cool. He’s already a looker but blonde hair makes him uber hip. Both he and Anyssa are two more I can’t stop watching, exploding onto the dance scene with their own styles and voices. Most fun is watching them social dance – with each other and anyone else – inventing moves like a game of Twister on steroids – most of which don’t work but sometimes do. So much laughing, playing, love of music.
Tommy Brodie (Robin’s son and JB’s younger bro) and Monica Garcia, dancing to “Release Me” (Agnes.) MAN is Tommy handsome, holy shamoly. James Dean hair, chiseled face, lady-killer material. And Monica is gorgeous! (If you can see her that is. Which you can’t if she’s standing sideways. Her torso is the width of an Ipad.) Those long limbs of hers – so graceful! Really pretty couple, really pretty choreography! Lovely lines, sassy attitude, great chemistry and trust, and speed – they fly! Near the end they fumble an exit from a lift – loved her face and attitude. It was like “Oooopsie! Hahaha” Not an ounce of “mortified,” only “Keep on dancing!”
Tyler Perkins and Julianne D’Amico (Damon and Lisa’s daughter!) not dancing to “The Thrill Is Gone” which Louis threw on by mistake – I was convinced Tyler’s reaction to the wrong song was choreography, the way he whipped his head around to the beat, looking out at us with a huge grin. He’s cool. What they were dancing to was a terrific Sonny Terry-style harmonica piece and Martin Solveig’s “Everybody” – great music and great, fun choreography full of jokes, lightning feet, shimmies and shakes, one-upmanship, slides, level changes, spins, lifts, sudden hits – so fun. These two look like they’re born to be out there on the floor.
Griffin Glick and Hannah Parish from Alabama dancing to “Without You” (David Guetta) looking like a future Showcase couple in the making, smooth graceful lines, several lifts, Hannah dances like she’s got some sort of training – lovely balance and poise. They do a slow DeLuca elbow spin! (I’m sure Jen didn’t invent that spin but I’ll never see it again without picturing Jen and Michael, “Din Da Da” in 2006.)
Curtis Woods and Victoria Pipkin from Alabama dancing to “I Want You Back” (Jackson 5) – he in black with a glittery turquoise-and-silver tie to match her sparkly tight shift in the same fabric. It is SO fun to watch young people ham it up to Michael Jackson! Curtis’ face and enthusiasm hahah SO GREAT! But c’mon – the music’s so good who can help having fun dancing to it? Cute choreography with MJ touches throughout – moon walks, snap turns, hand waving – just plain fun.
Brad Price and Nicole Glick from Alabama (I think all these Alabama juniors are from Hoover – TJ and Wendy Zito’s studio, if I’m not mistaken. WOW! How totally great to be bringing so many young people into west coast! Doing routines no less! That’s awesome!) dancing to “Since U Been Gone” by Ester Dean & Skylar Astin. Beautiful strong couple, solid and competent like they’re just this side of a huge, complicated project. They’re tall with long legs, so this routine flies, with nice stretch, spins, several low lifts, just lovely.
And the Young Adult Winners …
1ST PLACE Chris and Nicole
2nd Kyler and Whitney
3rd Josh and Anyssa
4th Tommy and Monica
5th Tyler and Julianne
Young America (6 – 13 years old)
The cute thing about these couples is how their growth spurts are all spurting differently. So you have skinny tiny little pip-squeak boys dancing with giant Thor-sized girls; or tiny specks of girls with boys tall as men. Their size differences just made them all cuter.
Gavin Clarkson and Bryn Anderson from Texas, dancing to a fun mix of every top billboard hit of the last year (with an “announcer” at the beginning: “THIS IS THE GAVIN-BRYN-THOLOGY”) – he all cocky attitude and a fedora (try keeping a hat on your head while dancing! It’s not easy!) she long, lean and lovely and at least a full head taller. So cute!
Jay Zito (TJ and Wendy’s son!) and Jackilyn Rochford from Alabama, dancing to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” – she a tiny fragile princess of a girl in a pale yellow dress, toothpick legs and sparkly silver shoes, he a foot shorter, courting her and bowing like a Southern gentleman. When she walks across the floor hiding her head in sorrow he (in his teeny little vest) runs over, lifts her by the waist and spins her round the floor. Too cute.
Royston: “She answered him just like my wife – ignoring him while walking away.”
Ian and Emily Hull from our neck of the woods (DC area) – twins! In loud multicolored tops, he in a hipster white vest, black and white oxfords, punk-rock hair and makeup (Ian’s red-tinged Mohawk haha.) Dancing to “Revolution” (Rascal Flatts cover) – fun routine reminiscent of west coast in country bars of the 90’s including lots of symmetrical patterns perfect for these two symmetrical, very adorable twins. First place win!
Gabe Pipkin and Jordan Rochford from Alabama, this time he the bigger one, twice her size and five times her weight – she a tiny bird in a long, sleek turquoise-and-navy long-sleeved top, dancing to “Gold” (Britt Nicole.) Starts with her perched on his hip and continues with a series of sweet lifts and poses using him as a “jungle gym.” Including leverage moves, multiple moon walks, FOUR full splits! – so much fun!
Aidan D’Amico (Damon and Lisa’s son!) and Helena Zaharatos (Texas) enter the floor from opposite sides, she in a series of running handstands and cartwheels! Dancing to “Payphone” (Maroon 5) – Aidan full of attitude and confidence, smiling at us, mugging, singing along, miming the lyrics. Helena a little gymnast. Lots of solid, well-executed basic patterns in this routine – no surprise considering the choreographers.
Cooper Kip and Hayley May from Georgia dancing to “Louder” (Chris Willis) – a beautiful couple who are the same height! And approximate weight! These two almost look like teenagers, probably near the end of “Young America” and mature dancing like Young Adult material, too. Totally ready to compete in that division.
And the Young America Winners were …
1ST PLACE Ian and Emily
2nd Cooper and Hayley
3rd Gavin and Bryn Thology
4th Gabe and Jordan
5th Aidan and Helena
6th Jay and Jackilyn
Heard On The Mic:
Royston: “I heard there are 50 people here from Texas! [cheers] And you all came up together! On a BUS! [more cheers] Can you imagine that bus stopping for gas in Georgia?!? People looking over, saying “Now WUT dew yew s’pose is ian thet thar BUS?!? [fifty Texans now cheering at the top of their lungs]
Parker: “LeAnn is the BEST Norris.” (har har har Parker made a pun. He’s smarter than he looks I guess.)
Royston: “How many of you use voice-to-text when you’re driving, cause you can’t text so you talk into your phone?”
“Well yesterday I sent Parker a text, using my voice, and this is what I thought I sent:
“I was wondering if you knew anybody that could dance with Stephanie. It ended up that her partner double-booked and now she doesn’t have a partner. I was going to reach out to LeAnn, and to Victor as well, to see if they knew anybody.”
I get a sentence back from Parker and it says, “You need to do yourself a favor and read that text out loud. Because I don’t know what you just said.”
Cause what I sent was this (reading from his phone):
“Hey bro I was wondering if you new to dancegoing with Steph. He ended up looking. She doesn’t have a part. LeAnn said she would have Victors parts and see.”
Parker (presenting Charlie with his prize money, for winning Masters Shag): “It’s not even his event but Charlie is still making money here at GNDC”
Royston: “No, no, no. I’ll bet Charlie’s probably thinking,
“How many years have gone by …
… and FINALLY … I get a check!”