John was adorable introducing the “Johnvitational.” So adorable!
“I’m going to bring out the kreeem de la kreeeem.” (I know I’ve already quoted this but his mispronunciation is so funny I have to say it again)
“The top eleven leaders and followers. With the exception of TATIANA WAAAAA!! But she’s watching us – I LOVE YOU TAT! I HOPE YOU FEEL BETTER! She’s sending me so many text messages “I’m so sorry I’m so sorry.” Tat we love you we miss you and we’re going to put on a show for you!”
We must have heard a hundred comments last weekend “For someone who’s not even here she sure is getting a lot of press! Maybe I’ll stay home and see if I get noticed more.” hahaha That’s Tat. She is so very loved. The whole world loves her, friends and fans. Her presence – or her absence – make a huge difference.
“So I’m going to bring out the couples – and the leaders have given us their favorite songs and we’ve put all the songs into a bucket.
“And the first leader out is Maxence … and who you’re dancing with is [drum roll] … HAZEL! Cause I saw a video of you two guys dancing at MadJam and you kicked some ASS!
“So Hazel now pick a song. And you’ve picked — Jordan’s song!”
So Maxence and Hazel danced to “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke.) Great song! Great cheering audience! The pros up there dancing in their seats! Hazel is SUCH a showgirl, so much fun to watch, that huge smile and infectious love of dancing and life. Great way to start the division!
Next was Sean paired with Nicola, dancing to Kyle’s song – another great song: “Living Is Easy” (Guts.) Sean dipped Nicola backwards into Robert’s lap and the ballroom cheered. Eight counts later Robert stands up politely, buttoned-up expression, clapping with as much enthusiasm as an accountant. He’s hilarious.
Arjay was paired with Sarah. Someone shouted “This is RIGGED!” and John laughed “Yes. It is. By John Lindo.”
They pulled Arjay’s song, “Wanna Be Starting Something” (2008 Remix, King of Pop Brazil,) John saying “That wasn’t me! I had nothing to do with that one! That was luck of the draw!” Such fast footwork, so smooth! Just fabulous.
Ben Morris and Jessica pulled Sean’s song, “Treasure” (Bruno Mars) – more fabulous dancing, just brilliant to watch perfect choreography, perfect leading and following.
Lindo: “Next year I need to have a workshop on How to Flick Your Hair. That’s what I say in workshops I say “Look at Jessica. Look how she works huh hair. That’s how you get to foynals. Me, I got a haircut before I got heeya, it doesn’t work fuh me. Jessica don’t evah cut your hair. Jordan don’t evah let huh cut huh hair.
“No, you know what, you get to do whatevah you want Jessica. With a body like THAT? Pfbfpfbhbhbfhbfh! You can do whatevah you WANT.
“Frisbee.” he says, looking threateningly in Jordan’s direction. The audience laughing and clapping in agreement.
Erik and Lemery chose Greg’s song, the lovely Sara Bareilles version of “Dock of The Bay” (live at the Filmore version,) a slow (70 bpm) oozy beautiful song to which they danced a slow oozy beautiful dance with lovely lines, sweeps, drops and oozy beautiful shaping.
Robert Royston and Torri picked Benji’s song (Robert looked heavenward, crossed himself, then got down on the floor trying to be Benji, grasping his heel straining do do a leg extension (Lindo: “No Robert you gotta do that standing up.”)
They danced to a great fun song, “I Love It” (Icona Pop and Charlie XCX.) (I love this song! Thought I was the only one! I’ve DJ’d it but haven’t heard it played anywhere else. I’m finding that I love every song Benji chooses both for his own and other couples’ routines as well as his choices in JJ’s. He’s got a musician’s ear! As well as a dancer’s the-rest-of-his-body.)
Torri! Ridiculous crazy great. She’s hilarious! And like I’ve been saying for years the girl can follow anything, anywhere, any speed, making it look better even if it was already maxed out on betterness. She hit “You’re from the se-ven-ties, BUT I’M A 90’s B&(!*” arms out to the audience like “THAT’S ME! YAAY!” She’s just funness. Relaxed, adorable, funny, playful, and technically brilliant.
And Robert! So talented, so funny, the “old man” at age 30-whatever. (“Old” in wcs is like dog years – you’re five years older after one year in the community. Then it goes backwards when you get to Masters – you’re five years younger for every year you stick it out. Annie Hirsch is now 22 years old. Seriously though, age in the dance community is different than outside it, right? Where else would 12 year olds be social dancing with 57 year olds? Or competing together as partners? I love west coast.)
Loved this dance. Robert walking Torri backwards across the floor using an index finger on her forehead? So great.
Maxime and Courtney chose Maxime’s song! “Don’t Cry On My Shoulder” (Sam Cooke.) So smooth, so musical! The dance ends and they return to their seats and Lindo says, “Maxime. I know in France they just leave the girl on the dance floor, but here we show her back to her seat. I should have told you the American rules when I invited you.”
Greg and Blandine pulled Maxence’s song, “I Want You Back” (Michael Jackson) More lovely musicality, Blandine’s blindingly quick footwork, pirouettes, spins, back-bends, leans – lovely!
Jordan was up next.
Lindo: “Jen just gave me the DON’T PICK ME! look.
“You can’t give me the look and think I’m not gonna pick you. It’s like school. Get up.”
They drew Ben’s song which Jordan must have guessed because before the music starts he’s already sitting in the middle of the floor. So Jen sits down. Ben, laughing, pushes a chair onto the floor so Jordan sits down in the chair.
It’s T-Pain’s “Booty Wurk, One Cheek At A Time.” hahahah uh oh!
The first notes come on and Jen backs up to Jordan who’s beckoning to her from his chair, she’s wurking one cheek at a time, then she wheels around and — kneeling in front of Jordan who’s now leaning back like a stud — performs 50 of the fastest hair-flicking wild head-whips ever whipped.
And you know you are about to witness some kind of a dance!
What followed was bad-ass sexy 4am west coast at its finest. Jen DeLuca is a BEAST. Jordan is all controlled-hilarity, backing into her with booty-shakes, stud-smiling like he won the lottery. Standard basics – whips, pushes, passes – the dance was not so much tricks as UBER styling. Jen’s leg syncopations, her hips, her quickness, her wit, her pure all-out sex-goddess hawtness. OMG.
Jen says that minutes before her husband, watching at home, had texted her a picture of his screen showing Jen sitting primly waiting for her turn, texting her how proud he was and how much he loved her. Here’s hoping he still loved her a few minutes later after watching her booty wurk on Jordan.
Benji and Rutz chose Erik Novoa’s song, “Forever” (Chris Brown.) They’re standing in closed postion, the song comes on and Benji freezes, a frozen distracted fake smile plastered on his face. Then he draws back and gives Melissa a WOP! WOP! across the face, in acknowledgement of Chris Brown and his domestic violence against then-girlfriend Rihanna (his problems don’t appear to be going away – today, as I write this, he is facing brand new charges.)
Amazing dancing, just amazing. Love these two together! Kindred spirits in their joy, goofiness, and flight. They soar around the floor, dancing to music, lyrics, and mood. On “feels like we’re on another level” he lifts and carries her for three beats, her legs kicking in time. An instant later, at the next measure, “feels like our love’s intertwined,” he drops her into a twisted head-lock. Which she exits to “we can be two rebels, breaking the rules, you and I” with a series of pulsing body-roll back-bends, Benji holding her hand while floating by in a side-pass.
Holy Moly. Astonishing.
Last couple to dance – Kyle paired with Brandi, drawing Royston’s music choice, “Baby Work Out” – the speed-demon version by Grady Gaines and The Texas Upsetters – 142 beats per minute! What a trip to watch two of the best dancers in the world move at this speed, so smoothly! So elegantly! Blindingly fast footwork. Patterns accomplished as lightly and sweetly as if the song were slow. Not a single jerking of arms, feeling of hurriedness, loss of balance or connection,tripling all the way through and never missing a beat. Stunning mind-altering supersonic swing.
For the All-Skate Louis put on “Beautiful” (Mariah Carey and Miguel) I LOVE THIS SONG! and “Pause” (Pitbull) I LOVE THIS SONG TOOOOO!! I love Louis.
On “Pause” they all jumped into a line-dance. I didn’t know there was a line dance to this song, now I do. Have to learn it! Is it this?
What a great division! Great Invitational! The first “Johnvitational.”
Which reminds me of a question that’s been discussed for years: What exactly is a “pro” division, who should be included in an “Invitational,” and who, exactly, is a Champion?
Who do you include in your big final show of the weekend, Sunday’s Jack and Jill with the top dancers at your event?
If you’re a small event and can’t afford to bring in a lot of top names your division might include Allstars, Advanced, and local teachers. You might want to call it a “Champions Jack and Jill” for publicity reasons, and many (or most) of your attendees won’t know the difference, or care.
But the dancers included in this division might know the difference, and might care, and might, at the next event, want to dance in Champions again. Maybe they should. But maybe they shouldn’t.
If, on the other hand, you’re a large event, bringing in the top dancers from around the world, you have different issues. Namely: who you are likely to offend if they’re not included. Allstars who consider themselves Champions, spouses/dance-partners/boyfriends of Champion dancers, your close friends who you know will be hurt if not included, local pros, people who have donated money, overseas teachers who are huge in their own country but might not be considered so in another, people who have travelled for three days to be at your event.
The list of who you might offend is endless.
Who is a Champion dancer? In our world “Champion” is almost a descriptive term rather than an actual division to which you graduate via points.
To me “Champion” is like Supreme Court Justice Stewart’s famous comment about pornography:
“You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.” **
We’ve all seen people sitting up there with the Champions and thought “Really?”
I’ve seen several attempts to define the word but none that have been useful or a reflection of actual practice.
Does it even matter?
I can see how it might matter when an actual Champion draws a non-Champion in a Jack and Jill – someone who just does not belong in that division. Which is the same issue we all face in Jack and Jills, since, as we know, the points system, and judging, are neither standardized nor a reliable reflection of ability. For most of us this is just an irritation. But for those whose professional careers are tied up with contest results I can see that it might be more than an irritation.
I imagine it could be frustrating to find you’re unable to put on a great show or give your audience the entertainment they’re expecting because your partner can’t do anything. We’ve all seen that happen.
No solutions come to mind.
Because of the unique community that we are: a hybrid of two worlds — Social/Street and Competitive/Performance — always straddling the line, one foot in each world, split-weight.
And because of the value we put on friendships in our community. Relationships are a priority in our culture.
I can’t think of any other community through history where fellow competitors have had the intense, complex, intertwined relationships that we have, fusing social life with competition. And not just any social life but one where we live, eat, sleep, party, and work in the same enclosed hotel space. For a lifetime. We’re like a small town on steroids. A small town of artists, no less! Who live with passion and the endless, relentless pursuit of perfection, the drive to do it better the next time.
I can’t think of any other community, dance or otherwise, that has accomplished this balance and not only thrived but moved forward in both artistic expression and community richness.
So I have no idea how to address the question of who I would include in my Champions division. Maybe John’s idea is the best – call it the “Your-Name-vitational” and invite who you want.
** “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.“
—Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in “The Lovers.”