MadJam 2014 Update #2 – Classic Battles It Out Again!

We’re about to see the US OPEN! TOP! FIVE! CLASSIC! COUPLES! –  AGAIN!!!!


Have you seen these routines live yet? Well – you will! In three days! If you’ll be at MadJam!

You will see:

Jordan and Tatiana’s austere “Inception” (by Mind Heist, London Music Works), in glittering black-and-white formal.

Serious, dignified, polished.

A dazzling composition, departing, once again, from their past repertoire with an overall concept breaking new ground.

Not a derivative piece of work – not a copy of anything they or anyone else has done before.

You won’t say “This reminds me of the routine that so-and-so did in —–“

It won’t remind you of anything you’ve seen because nothing like it has ever been done. Which, of course, is Jordan and Tatiana’s “M.O.”

From the MTV-friendly “Pump It;” to the ushering-in of storytelling with “How To Save A Life;” the soaring, orchestral, religiopolitical “Viva La Vida;” or the edgy, experimental, art-house piece “Uprising,”

Setting new ground is what we expect from them.

Every year we wait to see what new ideas they’ll bring to inform our understanding of the possibilities of this art form, how they will again reshape the direction of west coast swing into the future.

This new piece introduces theatricality in a new way.  There’s a sophistication to it – it feels cosmopolitan, stately, grand.

Too big, almost, for our ballrooms.

It also showcases their talent for evoking psychic tension and release through extreme contrasts.

That opening sequence! The quiet, chilling, contained tension, like the buzzing of high-voltage power lines before the transformer blows.

Their acute synchronicity. They are two halves of one brain – Jordan the left hemisphere, Tatiana the right.

How they are so clean, hitting precise locations in space with bullet-like accuracy.

How they can be that blisteringly fast without looking rushed.

How it swings – instantly recognizable as west coast swing.

This would be the routine you’d show your friends – and you wouldn’t hear “I’ve seen routines just like it on SYTYCD! It’s Lyrical! It’s Hip Hop! It’s Modern! It’s Jazz!”

This is what you show your friends so they can see what a side pass is. An anchor. A whip.  Walk walk triple step.

And more than anything else you would show – because you can’t put it to words – and because no one has ever done it better – what we mean by “stretch.”

That elusive and defining feature of our dance.

You would show them how Jordan and Tatiana vary the rate of speed of a stretch in tiny imperceptible increments – faster, slower, stopping entirely, starting again.  How they expand the stretch like a balloon, filling up a space, inflating backwards and even to the edges on either side, growing larger, building pressure, energy, and force – before the explosive return.

You would show them what it means to be a moving illustration of the music.

It’s funny how this level of performance always fools the eye. Like Meryl Davis and Charlie White soaring round to “Scheherazade” — at this level of expertise movement doesn’t look strenuous but instead comfortable, effortless. You imagine yourself dancing this easily.

Until you watch with a critical eye. Then your jaw drops and you wonder how in the world can she do that?

I like to watch without sound or in slo-mo.  With this routine it’s the level of difficulty that gets me. The speed, quality of movement, the control. How when they’re motionless something seems still to be moving, building force, pressure, power. How they make impossible tricks look simple.

I sometimes try to picture couples performing each others’ routines. How that might change the feel of a routine. Which choreography would be easier or harder to master. This routine, to me, seems really difficult.

This is a mature routine.  A piece that could represent us on the world stage with dignity and respect. I can see it performed at the Tokyo World Super Stars of Dance, or the Kremlin World Professional Championships. I’d be proud for our community.

Gary and Susan with a  great mix of “Amarok The World” (vnmxx), “Save The World” (Swedish House Mafia), “Until Now” (Swedish House Mafia), and “Sleepless” (Lyck.)

Superb costumes, as always with Gary and Susan. Gorgeous, thoughtfully designed, perfect for this music and choreography. The camo! The arm bands, the sashes flying in the wind!

Most of all her magnificently wild eye makeup. What a beautiful creature she is!

Gary and Susan excel at telling stories. Without any set or props they have created an entire fantasy world in our imaginations. A desolate apocalyptic wasteland, evoking Thunderdome, mayhem, violent chaos … even conjuring images of sand, deserts, maybe Iraq or Afghanistan.

Gary and Susan are sole survivors, soldiers, fighting to save the human race.

Brilliant references and imagery, created entirely through movement. No choreographer explaining beforehand what this is supposed to be about, à la SYTYCD. Their choreography itself is enough.

Swedish House Mafia needs to fire their video guy and hire Gary and Susan. This interpretation is WAY better than the weirdly confusing YouTube video featuring floppy-eared golden retrievers, adorable puppies and elegant afghans bounding along Purina style with their tongues hanging out, whilst presumably attacking a rapist and mugger.


What beautiful dancers are Gary and Susan. Stunning control, balance, strength, power. And grace!

Her extensions! The ball-and-socket of her shoulders do magic tricks. They come apart! Allowing her arms to reach out an extra 6″ more than other people’s arms where they float, suspended in air, held to her body by skin and tendons only.

Okay not really.

But how does she extend her arms out that far? That gracefully? Or her legs?

Susan’s lines are inspiring. Her shapes are flawless.

She’s a prima ballerina who’s not even doing ballet.

But this routine, oh my god! You will LOVE seeing this live! You’ll be blown away.

It is FABULOUS. That choreography WOW! Suspense, high drama, flight, despair, rage, fear, determination!

The clarity of every moment! No fuzzy or confusing choreography here. No movement crammed in just to fill space, or to get some trick in there with no story-telling purpose.

No, nothing here is sloppy. This piece is put together with extreme attention to every detail.

Those “tick-ticks” she does through the beginning, to every “tick tick” of the song. The way she pulls his shirt. Her hands the hands of a clock.

It is just, simply, mind-blowingly fantastic.  Seriously.

If you are about to see this live at MadJam you are in for a treat!

It’s like a Broadway routine! It could be on Broadway, really, it’s that good. At least as good as anything Tyce Diorio has done on SYTYCD.

I don’t know if I’d use this to show a newcomer what swing looks like because this routine is either right ON the edge between swing and something else – or – it’s over the edge.

I would definitely show it to a newcomer, though.  Because I like to show off and you can’t beat this for show-off potential. I’d take full credit. I’d be all non-chalant and I’d be like “Yeah, we see Gary and Susan all the time. They’re in the community. That’s the level of dancers we are in wcs. [yawn]”

Maybe there’s not enough swing in this routine, who knows, I’m not a judge.

But whether there is or is not it is a fantastic piece of work. I love Gary and Susan’s dancing, love their choreography. I hope they keep doing exactly what they’re doing – swing, or not swing – forever.

Ben and Jen’s terrific “I’ll Kill You” (Busta/Eminem)

You’ve heard me rave about this before (read a full description here.)

And by now you of course know that Ben and Jen BURST onto the scene last year at SwingDiego with this total crowd pleaser, with its beyond-fantastic music mix guaranteed to get any ballroom psyched to the point of passing out (this mix should be sold to football stadiums wait! wait! I have an idea! It should be sold as a complete package which includes Ben and Jen dancing on the jumbotron! That’s awesome!)

Such a great routine! It’s upbeat, it’s urban, it’s contemporary, funny, clever – all in all one Bad. Ass. Routine.

Loved by audiences all around the world, every time it’s been performed.

Ronnie and Brandi  “Citizens” (Alice Russell)

What a great FANTASTIC song!  These guys have for years consistently chosen brilliant songs, as I know I’ve said before.  Moody, evocative, emotional songs that stay with you for weeks, playing all night in your dreams.

Everyone groans about the choosing-music part of putting together a routine. I’ve been told it’s agonizing. Maybe because it’s important — maybe even the most important element of a routine.  Well, that is, after finding a partner you won’t have to stab to death.

Ronnie and Brandi must have a special talent for finding music cause this is one more chillingly great song.

Love the knife-like hits sliced between moments of absolute stillness and moments of blazing speed. And footwork!

They blind you with footwork. Because of their impeccable timing.

It’s their musical timing that’s responsible for that crazy gorgeous footwork.

Okay, this sounds odd, but they remind me of Bach’s fugues and canons, those dense contrapuntal harmonies with complex counterpoint.  I think because they’re making weight changes on the 16th notes, trilling along stepping four times to every beat. And in between to syncopate.

For non-musicians out there: stepping on 16th notes means lickety split fast. This song is 97 bpm so they are dancing at 388 bpm. That is fast, my friends and fellow dancers. Cheetahs can’t dance that fast.

This  reminds me of Ronnie and Brandi dancing fast (of course Bach didn’t write for a sax quartet but see what I mean?)  And here  is Ronnie and Brandi doing slow.

Their precision and cleanliness, their technique! Amazing.

Her control!  She spins speeding up, slowing down, standing high, bent low, extending and retracting developpés – all within the spins, playing the music with her body.

Their composure, their command. Their “verbal” wit.  As always, they dance a conversation with us, a dialogue.

Aren’t her arms and fingers great? Those loaded moments of just arms, fists, dancing fingers. So tense and marvelous.

Kyle and Sarah  “Bang Bang” (Nancy Sinatra, and Will.I.Am.)

Loooove that glittering jewel-encrusted top of hers, like a resplendent brocade almost. Dazzlingly beautiful!

What a great classic song they’ve chosen – both versions are great – they’ve got both moody and funky.

And of course no one does funky better than Kyle and Sarah. Especially funny and funky – that’s Kyle and Sarah at their best.

Skippy says “Don’t try to be funny in your routine. Too risky.”  Good advice when you consider stand-up comedians bombing up there on stage – audiences do not tolerate unfunny. We don’t just dislike the poor unfunny bum – we hate him, we get angry. Why? I don’t have a clue. But that’s the way it is with comedy.

So Skippy is wise to advise her students to steer away from humor in a routine.

But Kyle and Sarah? They are just plain funny. Naturally funny. They can pull it off and they’re loved like great comedians are loved because they make us laugh.

Maybe it’s cause Kyle is one of the funniest people you’ll ever know, on and off the dance floor. Maybe that’s why. And Sarah’s reactions hahaha, her shocked, open mouthed “OH!”, the expressions on her face. Hilarious. So much fun.

How smooth are they? The move across the floor as if sliding on oil, no movement of their upper bodies at all.  If you hide the bottom half of the video you’d swear they’re standing on a conveyor belt.

But they’re not standing still. They’re FLYING.  How Sarah shoots down the floor! Her hair winging out behind her, those tiny little legs making up the distance, matching Kyle’s long tall self. Their famously speedy footwork, this time including Charleston-esque steps to go with music. This song is 127 bpm which is slow for them, they’ve danced at warp speed before. But they move with such energy it seems much faster.

That ending! The series of rolls in his arms as they streak down the floor! How great is that!

And then – Sarah’s booty shake. That famous booty shake, presented in all its glory in that historic moment one Sunday afternoon at  SwingDiego in 2011.

Sunday Card 2 2304

So. Are you going to MadJam? If so, you are about to have a verrrrrrrry funnnnn time.

You will see all these top five US Open Classic couples (with the exception of Ronnie and Brandi – boooo! Double triple boo! Their dancing – and their exceptional teaching – and their crazy great energy – will be missed.)  and ten others!

And Showcase! And Rising Star! And Pro-Am Routines!

For me seeing all these routines is like, I don’t know, what’s better than heaven? Seeing these is like whatever’s even better than heaven.

Oh and guess what? Kris and Rebecca are coming! They texted last week – and – they have a new routine! Which they’re putting on the floor for the first time at MadJam! AUGHGHGH! I LOVE Kris and Rebecca’s dancing!

I am so excited I’m having Restless Body Syndrome (that’s like Restless Leg Syndrome only worse. I just invented it.)

Also Lara Deni and PJ Fritzler texted to say they’re dancing in Classic. And I’m many others are coming, I’m sure, who will register last minute.

It’s going to be FUN!

How will judging go?

We shall see, I guess, right?

No idea who Dave has chosen as his judging staff. We’ll hope they will know what they’re doing, with so many professional careers in their hands.

I do expect Dawn Garrish to be Chief Judge as she usually is at Dave’s events. And Dawn is as good as it gets – trustworthy, with a keen experienced eye, ferociously fair, with absolutely zero tolerance for wrong-doing in any form. If she smells bias, disrespect, agendas, laziness, inattention, or if you don’t follow her rules, she drags you into the scoring room and shoots you. Dawn doesn’t mess around.

So are you ready?? THREE DAYS!!! AUGHGHGHGH!!!


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