Handicapping The Choreographers

You know, driving for six hours in the car one way, and then six hours back, gives you a lot of time to think.

Think about DANCE SHOW, of course!

I know I am crazy insane with this. But here’s a post I wrote during the car ride down, so I figure I may as well type it up and post it. I apologize to those of you who are not reality TV show obsessed. I NEED HELP.

Anyway, in today’s totally obsessive dance show related post, I will handicap the major choreographers on the show. This isn’t to say which ones are the best and which are the worst. Instead, my rankings here indicate how likely it is that a given couple will end up in the bottom three, if they are given a certain choreographer.

1. Mia Michaels. My Mom thinks she’s nutty, but I adore Mia, I think she’s a genius. She’s a master at the SYTYCD format — a strong idea, fully realized in one and a half minutes, and she’s equally amazing when working with a big group or a duo. If you’re a dancer on this show and you score Mia as your choreographer…you’re going to work hard, but you’ll be rewarded with one of the most interesting, memorable, and winning numbers of the night. (See: the Emmy winning park bench routine for Travis and Heidi from Season 2; the legendary door routine for Katee and Twitch from Season 4; this season’s Ode To Derrierre for Evan and Randi.)

2. Tabitha and Napoleon. Sure, they’re a little soft when it comes to true hip-hop, but they’re great at working with the dancers they have been given to highlight their strength. Although their dances might not be as hard-edged as other hip-hop artists, their dances don’t look simple, and like Mia, they usually come up with a killer concept for the short routines. If you have NapTab, you’re golden. (See: Katie and Joshua’s Gulf War number from Season 4; Phillip and Jeanine’s chain routine from this season.)

3. Wade Robson. Wade is probably the most original and brilliant choreographer they have on the show, and all the dancers usually want to work with him. He is fantastic 95% of the time…but then there’s that odd 5%, when he just goes a wee bit too far, and loses relatability. Chances are good though, that a Wade Robson routine will not end up in the bottom three. (See: The Crash Test Dummy number from this season; the Emmy nominated Hummingbird number for Hok and Jamie from Season 3; the newspaper number for Sarah and Jesus from Season 3).

4. Shane Sparks. Regular viewers of this show sorely missed Shane last season when he left for some MTV Crap Dance Crew Something Or Other. His hip-hop routines are so unique, so boom-boom-pow, they look great and have mass appeal. The one thing about Shane, though, is that if you don’t work really, really hard, and find some inner gansta, then you’re in trouble — you absolutely cannot fake your way through one of his routines. So as a dancer, you know you’ve got a great choreographer — but it’s up to you to sell it. (See: The Emmy nominated Transformers routine for Pasha and Lauren in Season 3; the adorable Umbrella number for Ivan and Alison in Season 2.)

5. Jean-Marc Genereaux and his lovely wife, France. I admit it: I love Jean-Marc. He’s the head judge on SYTYCD Canada and he’s so wacky and manic, yet so brilliant. His group routines are my favourites and I think he’s great at working with the dancers he’s been given, and finding clever ideas to make his ballroom routines interesting for the general public. Unfortunately, ballroom will often land you in the bottom three even with a great choreographer and excellent execution, so getting Jean-Marc is no guarantee of top 3. Still, if you draw a ballroom dance, you better hope it comes with Jean-Marc and France. (See: Karla and Vitolio’s quickstep, with the dazzling costume change, from this season; this group number from SYTYCD Canada, which is possibly my favourite dance show performance of all time; Kherington and Twich’s waltz for Jean-Marc’s daughter from last season.)

6. Doriana Sanchez. Used to be disco was a kiss-of-death dance, bottom three for sure. But last season and this, Doriana has kicked it into high gear. She no longer pussyfoots around the dancers and is throwing all kinds of impossible and dangerous stuff at them — with results. The disco numbers from the past two seasons have been dynamic, fast, and chock full of thrilling lifts, all the better to bedazzle the crowd. If you have The Snap, then disco is very close to being a sure thing. (See: Sarah and Neil’s amazing disco number from season 3; Brandon and Janette’s kick-ass high speed dance from this season.)

7. Sonya Tayeh. Sonya’s generally pretty solid, giving her dancers interesting moves to work with an distinctive music and costumes. However, if you can’t get into her characters, it’s all over. You have to be able to strut if you want to rock a Sonya routine. One last thing — her numbers after two seasons are starting to get a little repetitive, too, I find. She needs to step it up if she’s going to dazzle us in the future. (See: Ade and Melissa’s rock number from this season.)

8. Adam Shankman. Adam hasn’t been around as much due to various other movie committments, but he’s still a solid choreographer who creates dynamic and flashy numbers for his dancers. Broadway seems to be one of the harder styles to impress with on the SYTYCD stage, so if you do draw Broadway, your best bet is to land Adam. (See: Donyelle and Benji’s Hairspray number from Season 2.)

9. Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin/Louis van Amstel. Ballroom is hard. It’s tough to impress with really original stuff when you have to stick with a strict format and dictated steps. Tony and Melanie are obviously masters of their craft, and they can really bring the sexy. Louis is hip and fun and bouncy. Their big problem is that they aren’t so good at working with the people they get; they do their choreography and expect the dancers to match it. That’s not a failing — you’d expect your dancers to be able to work with your ideas — but at the same time, it sometimes does not do the dancers any favours, and results in a bottom three ranking. (See: Melissa and Ade’s rhumba from this season; Vitolio and Asuka’s waltz from this season).

10. Chroeographer Mandy Moore. I like Mandy, she seems like a really nice lady. I’m hot and cold on her choreography though; sometimes it clicks, but more often, it does not. I think her contemporary stuff is better than her 80s jazz numbers, but either way, if you pull Mandy, then you better hope she’s on instead of off. (See: Sabra and Neil’s awesome office meeting dance from Season 2; Melissa and Ade’s contemporary number from this season.)

11. Brian Friedman. This guy is a weirdo, there’s no doubt. Whereas Wade and Mia do offbeat but charming, Brian does offbeat but offputting. He does keep things interesting and I’m glad he’s on the show, but unfortunately, America will probably not vote for you when Brian is your choreographer. (See: Max and Kayla’s pop jazz routine from this year.)

12. Tyce DiOrio. Maybe I just don’t get the whole Broadway style, but Tyce’s stuff just seems so derivative. Every number is like an ode to an existing, famous musical — only never quite capturing the magic of the original. He’s had a few high moments but in general, if Tyce is the choreographer, I know I’m not going to like it — and neither will America. (See: Alison and Ivan’s contemporary routine from Season 2; Asuka and Vitolio from this season.)

13. Joey Dowling. See all my comments about Tyce above, only TIMES TEN. Joey is terrible — her numbers have no cohesive idea, they are so SO SO copycat, and she just does not inspire her dancers to greatness in any way. Run, dancers, RUN, from the Joey. (See: Evan and Randi from this season.)

14. Lil C. I love, love, love Lil C as a person. He is my favourite guest judge, because he’s so insightful and thoughtful and says clever and cool and witty things. But krump is SO impossible for any dancer who is not Lil C. I think he’s improving at adapting his style for the dancers he has, and last season’s krump with Twitch and Kherington was the closest I’d ever seen to something I could identify as an actual dance, and not a complete mess. There’s no doubt about it — krump is a hard sell. (See: Lauren and Dominic krump from Season 3.)

Edited to add: I left out Dan Karaty! He hasn’t been on this season, has he? Where did he go? Anyway, I like Dan fair enough. I’d say he fits in at about 8b. Here’s his hip-hop for Anya and Danny from Season 3.

4 thoughts on “Handicapping The Choreographers

  1. I love this post, and the show. I have a friend who is into it just as much as you and you two could probably talk ALL DAY about it. I may just forward him this post 🙂

  2. Wow. I;m not sure if I should be a little worried about the fact that you rated all the judges for SYTYCD AND took the time to type it all into a blog post. Or be very impressed and want to write a rebuttal post.

    I think I will come somewhere in the middle and think, a little obsessed, but loved it. And can’t really do much on the rebuttle because I pretty much agree with you bang on. Love love love Mia Michaels.

    Poor Philip last night. I thought it might be Jason, but it’s true, Philip didn’t pull off the other styles too much. Has your opinion of Ade changed after his solo last night? I’ve always liked him the best. And his solo was KICK ASS! Can’t wait to see what the pairs look like next week. How am I watching this, you ask? Rabbit ears! I get CBC and CTV. Woohoo!

  3. I love that you did this…

    First off, I think that Russian dance routine was one hell of stupid idea. There is just NO WAY to make people like that. (If they wanted to do it, it should have been part of the results show as a demo, like that awesome Indian dancer they had on there.) That being said I don’t think Philip had the chops to carry on in the competition.

    I am a ballroom fiend. I love ballroom, in terms of working with a partner there is no greater test. That tango from Janette and Brandon this week was phenomenal. I actually started clapping all alone in my living room. That is usually a kiss of death but, IMHO, done right it doesn’t have to be. Tango is really hard — that … well that… wow. (we used to ballroom bc.) That waltz … well, it was not really a waltz and it was just meh. (Ade gave awesome solo.)

    The samba, the cha chas… I adore them when they are done well… and well, last week’s wasn’t. Heidi and Benji from season 1 that was incredible. (Ditto Brandon and Janette’s cha cha from last week.)

    I am hit and miss with Mia Michael’s. I love this week’s addiction piece (Made me cry.) And there was a very simple piece with Allison from season 2 I think that was stupendous as well.

    Really dances hit people different ways. Hip hop rarely does it for me. (Exception Brandon and Janette this week possibly.)

    Did I mention I have a thing for Brandon and Janette.
    (I hope they find another host for SYTYDC Canada… I want to hit Leah Miller.)

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