So Robert’s bringing out the judges.
Big introduction for each, down the steps they come one by one, lot of fanfare.
First, Head Judge Dawn. Then Festa is introduced. Phil Lamothe, Teddy Kern, Bill Cameron, Chuck. Then Nicola whom Robert escorts to her seat — or shall I say follows her to her seat — wagging his tail like a happy puppy dog hopping along obediently behind his owner.
Then he returns to the center of the floor, big happy smile, saying “She’s hot. I’m just sayin’.”
Meanwhile he’s completely forgotten Blake – stunning, eyeball-poppingly gorgeous Blake Hobby – who has walked tentatively down the steps and is now standing awkwardly behind him not sure what to do, Robert on the mic with his back to her going on about his wife.
The ballroom began to laugh, harder and harder, soon everyone was just losing it. Robert’s looking at us confused — um is something funny? am I missing something here? — and he turns and there’s Blake nearly on top of him, still waiting to be introduced.
It. Was. Hilarious.
Nicola runs up, grabs the mic, saying “See what I do to him? I totally mess him up.”
And Robert, deadpan, replies,
“Your BEAUTY is what messed me up.”
We nearly died laughing.
Louis plays BLEEEP! WRONG ANSWER! and Robert whirls around to face him, no comment, just glaring in his direction.
I’m telling you the ballroom was falling off our chairs laughing. The entire chain of events was beyond hilarious, one of those surprise unscripted funny moments. It took five minutes of clapping for the laughing to finally die down.
Then Robert told how he’d met John many years ago, and how John has this amazing ability to touch your heart just by his presence. And how much joy John brings to everything he does – dancing, teaching, his relationships. How his friends will do anything for him. And how great to see a new generation of dancers all around the world who get to know and love John.
And how Robert believes (I certainly agree – see below)** that events trickle down from the top and John cares SO much about dancers and how this shows in so many ways, like giving back all the prize money, providing a breakfast buffet every morning, the incredible hospitality room for pro staff (where Michael Frank cooked fantastic gourmet meals all weekend long,) Friday night’s Pizza Party …
And Lindo comes out wiping his eyes, saying “My therapist says it’s okay to cry,” trying to thank his staff but having to stop every two seconds because he can’t talk through his tears.
And that’s how Saturday night’s program began.
1. Sebastien and Blandine, “Skinny Love.” I continue to be mesmerized by this routine, especially as we approach the end of our circuit year when routines have become so polished they’re at their most powerful. This one just gets me.
She makes some movements that should be big – small. An arm motion that doesn’t go all the way to the end, a rocking motion that doesn’t fill up the whole space. She puts small movements in caps and boldface to make them larger than they would be. She has an extremely nuanced sense of the subtlest textures of the music. She’s brilliant.
I wish this was a west coast swing routine. Which based on their continued low placements I’m beginning to think maybe it isn’t.
I wish I didn’t love it. I feel guilty like I should be punished as a wcs traitor. [Liza you nitwit. Delete the last three paragraphs.]
2. Ronnie and Brandi, “Draw You.” Simple black slacks, tailored white shirts, elegant as always, Ronnie and Brandi are all class. Communication so clean and clear – this you can depend on with them. They dance like they speak: thoughtfully, modulated, with good grammar. And always an awareness of you, always respectful of you, the other half of the conversation. And they speak with one voice – if I didn’t know them I would guess they were sister and brother by the way they finish each other’s sentences. They don’t get in the way of themselves – their dancing is so graceful and effortless you’re almost not aware that they’re dancing. It’s more that they are speaking to you with movement.
3. Sean and Courtney, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Great storytelling. Starts slowly, tentatively. Then comes the first “the joke is on me” — and a pregnant [silence] [silence] [silence] — and at the peak of the silence Sean sweeps a mile-long leg across the front – and the piece moves into a new emotional phase, a new mood, tension, speed, a new force in their movement, picking up energy, Courtney’s hair thrashing about, level changes, sweeps, drops, the emotion building until you want to burst. This routine gives me chills. The stops and starts, the fast and slow. I love their arms! How synchronized their arms are – the angles, curves, how all four arms move together at precisely the same speed. Love how much we see their arms and hands in this choreography. Sean’s limbs! Marvelously long. Nice to see them taken into account!
4. Byron and Mindee, “Lose Control.” Fun west coast hip-hop routine and those hips on Mindee! Like I’ve said, hips to make grown men cry. They’re both so grounded and balanced you can feel them down “in the floor” – exactly the way ballet isn’t. And hip-hop and west coast should be.
5. Benji and Melissa, “Black Skinhead,” (Kanye’s explosive song from the brand new album “Yeezus” he dropped on the music scene like a bomb earlier this month.) Black short-shorts and boots on Melissa, both dancers in baggy white t-shirts covered with angry black rectangles drawn with Sharpies. Dark black rectangles across their eyes.
Psycho-rag-doll head whips, body shudders, drunken head rolls; round shapes interrupted by sudden aggressive slashy angles. This was a fast, belligerent, hostile “Wade Robeson meets Wayne Bott.”
I think it was choreographed on Friday. To be performed on Saturday. These people are not human.
6. Hugo and Stacy, “Wild One.” Young, fresh, sexy, lively … This routine feels like a Strawberry Daiquiri on a hot summer evening. So fun! Such a lovely couple and great chemistry!
7. Mike and Sheli, “Too Close.” How does she do so many spins – and flat-backs! – and pirouettes! – while looking down? If you’ve ever tried this you know it’s impossible – you get dizzy and disoriented looking at your feet. I don’t think she has inner-ears. Sheli’s balance is amazing!
Both of these guys are amazing. I love watching them social dance as well as dance routines. Sheli is one of the more hilarious people I know and her social dancing is just as funny as her conversation. And Mike, well, all I can say is I have an autographed picture of Mike’s bare chest on my office wall, and, I have yet to get near enough to ask him to dance due to the long line of determined girls on a Mission To Get Magic Mike.
8. Kyle and Sarah, “Stay.” Ohhhh! I love this! Been waiting to see this again after their first time out in Atlanta. It’s beautiful! A round routine, round shapes, round movements, Sarah spinning, being spun and turned and spun and swept and spun some more, back and forth, across around and over. All turning sweeping movements, punctuated every now and then by contrasting extensions of an arm or leg to accent the repeating cymbal crashes in this dramatic piece of music.
Sarah’s arms on those crying guitar strings just after “show me something” at the very beginning. Love when she uses her arms and upper body to fill out a space. Her sudden head and neck drops to her shoulders! Love how they use their sizes – Kyle shadowing her from behind like a canvas as she paints pictures in front. This routine is a showpiece for Sarah – or, I should say I, at least, found myself mostly watching Sarah, only aware of Kyle in the background.
And it’s swing! It’s west coast swing. Walk walk triple step. Whips. Pushes. Fast footwork underneath floating bodies.
My favorite moments are when I can feel her heart, her emotion – those moments are powerful.
And then there was a moment — just after the song ended, just before she bowed — there was a moment when Sarah stood there in front of us — and she looked so small, shy, vulnerable, more exposed than I ever remember having seen her. As if she had just revealed something very private.
I am loving this routine.
9. Kris and Rebecca, “More Than Words.” Best I’ve seen them do this lovely, romantic piece with its beautiful leans, stretches and lines, Rebecca’s gorgeous balletic movement. Her balance and control is mesmerizing. Most controlled, most believable I’ve seen them dance this.
** I always say you can “feel” the personality of the event director all weekend long. From the tiny things to the big things, what an event director cares about comes through in all the decisions he or she has made – scheduling decisions, how the ballroom is arranged, prize money, registration, deejays, size of floors, the workshops, fun extras included (or not) with your ticket, the event staff, the judging panel, travel issues, emcees, special items on the program, managing the hotel staff, food, caring for your staff – *infinite* number of decisions, each decision reflecting the values and motivations of the event director. And the whole feel, vibe, personality, of the weekend.