Blast from the Past: My Interview with Bruno Mars’ Choreographer Phil Tayag

It’s Monday and it’s been a while since I shared a blog post so I thought I’d go into the archives and share one of my favorite interviews from my time as a freelancer with TheCelebrityCafe.com (Now known as Stars and Celebs).

In February 2016, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil ‘Swaggerboy’ Tayag, a founding member of the JabbaWockeeZ and Bruno Mars’ choreographer (he choreographed Bruno’s Superbowl XLI performance with Coldplay and Queen Bey, his video for “Uptown Funk”  as well as the “Finesse” video with Cardi B). Back when I spoke with Phil, the JabbaWockeeZ had just launched their Vegas residency JREAMZ at the MGM Grand hotel.

I got the chance to hear more about the concept for the show, how the JabbaWockeeZ create movement, and what it was like for Phil to work with Bruno Mars. We even had a slight bonding moment when he realized I was a dancer after I mentioned tutting. This was one of my first experiences combining dance with journalism and I’m excited to (re)share it here!

To check out the full interview on Stars and Celebs click here. And read one of my favorite quotes from Phil below:

Obviously, if we’re having fun then the people have fun watching us, because ultimately we’re having fun and that’s what it’s about.

This is goodbye …An announcement from DanceTopia

Though I’ve done my best to keep up with this blog, life keeps happening. It’s made it impossible to maintain, update and share content in the way I want to. In part, I think this is because I don’t have enough experience as a professional to make my words super compelling. But fortunately, that’s totally in my control. I’ve decided to focus more on taking class and performing as much as possible. Maybe once I have a few more shows, classes and life events under my belt, this blog will have some meat to it.

So it is with a heavy heart that I say…

I’m not going anywhere y’all. But I do need to get better about blogging…that was…no joke.

I’m sorry, I had to get one in. Also, happy spring! 🌼💮🌹🌺

Rapidfire thoughts on the ‘World of Dance’ Season Premiere

I’m late to the WOD party I know

Between a yoga workout and preparing for a huge project at work, I finally had time to watch the season premiere of World of Dance.

Full disclosure, I got really delinquent in my viewership last season (so much so that I completely missed Jenna Dewan’s announcement that she’d be leaving the show). This is partly because, since dance occupies so much of my existence, it can be hard to consume it for sheer entertainment. I’m hoping to get better about that because before tonight I’d forgotten what a truly entertaining show World of Dance is.

Rather than try to look at each and every dance critically, I thought I’d just share a few in-the-moment thoughts I had watching the World of Dance qualifiers, and post a few  of my favorite dances from the episode.

Enjoy…

    • I feel like I’m maturing as a dancer because I can see some of the things the judges see, especially when it comes to dances that didn’t make the cut, or got critical feedback.
      • Sub point – I agree with Ne-Yo way more often so far this season…when did that happen?
    • I used to not know how I felt about the fact that people could compete more than once, but I realize now that I appreciate it. It drives home the point that this is a dance competition and what was once hot may not be hot anymore. Conversely, what didn’t work can come back stronger.
    • I like that the judges move unique acts forward but point out what isn’t strong and don’t let them get away with it.
    • Having a dancer throw their shoes at you is (informally) one of the highest compliments out there…I hope The Kings mounted both of the shoes that were thrown at them somewhere (jk, they probably had to give them back).
    • Having taught and cleaned a full piece for kids for the first time in years, my hat goes off to the junior groups that go on (and the, I’m sure, eternally patient teachers who help them perfect their routines).
    • Even when duos don’t make it through, I have to admire them for being compelling enough to hold people’s attention for the ≈minute-and-a-half they’re on stage.
    • Boy, Instagram really has people thinking that anything is possible in a short period of time. Meeting up w/ a complete stranger (because they were IG famous no less) and expecting to develop enough chemistry to compete with people who’ve been partnering for years because they met organically??? Tuh!
    • Having said that, on the one hand, WOD recognizes that going viral helps and, in some cases, is the impetus of some really lucrative dance careers (see: Les Twins, The Syncopated Ladies, hell, see the kid who made flossing popular). But the judges so far are showing that it takes more than going viral, a professional background or even an existing fan base to be competitive on a world stage. And WOD is truly that, a world stage.
    • I know sibling dance telepathy is a thing. And I’m sad I’ll never experience it myself.
  • I need to take a trip to Europe for the sole purpose of taking tap classes.

A few of my favorite dances:

Ne-Yo’s “Elegant breaking” description was spot-on – I was transfixed from the moment they started moving– their fluidity and variation reminded me of a kaleidoscope.

This piece makes me wish I had a sibling that danced (I still love you big bro!). Watching this piece was such a treat because it was about more than tricks, legs and skimpy costumes (no shade). These ladies were in near perfect unison and their individual moments were wonderful as well (I loved the little body roll one of the girls did at the very end–it was so musical and just looked like it felt so good).

Dance World News (Aug. 26, 2017)

First things first… Happiest of Birthdays to the O.G. Dance Momma, whose truck (R.I.P.  Chrysler Aspen) became a bus to and from Orlando for competitions and a home for lost dance shoes, my Mom!!! Love you so much!

And now…on to the news of the world, the dance world that is.

 

  • From the corps to choreography: Alvin Ailey Alum (one time for alliteration) Jamar Roberts will be premiering his first choreographic work for the company “Members Don’t Get Weary” during the company’s upcoming season on Dec. 8. Set to the music of saxophonist John Coltrane, the work is, “a response to the current social landscape in America [and] takes an abstract look into the notion of one ‘having the blues,'” Roberts said in a statement. Learn more here.
  • The Boston Ballet Goes Black:  The Boston Ballet recently accepted three new Black Members into its corps. Dancers Daniel Durrett, Chyrstyn Fentroy and Tyson Clark will be joining the company during its 2017-2018 season. On the whole according to the Bay State Banner, the company is comprised of people representing 15 nationalities.
  • Cast your votes for Dance Magazine‘s Readers Choice Award!
  • With its new location in Memphis’ midtown entertainment district, Ballet Memphis hopes to bring ballet out of the suburbs and position it as a relevant urban cultural fixture. Learn more here.

👀

Watch this!

 

This video shows a troupe of robots dancing in perfect sync. At 1,069 they have also taken home the Guinness World Record for most robots dancing simultaneously (which I didn’t even know there was a record for…)

Dance World News [August 17, 2017] – Yes, really

It’s been a long time, shouldn’t have left you, with out some dance news to step to….

I’ve been spending the past few months figuring out this professional dancer with a job thing. But now I’m back and focused and ready to bring you some dance world news!

Where in the World is Carmen de Lavallade? Not at the White House. – Dance legend Carmen de Lavallade is among this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, but she’ll be joining fellow honoree Norman Lear in her plans to skip the White House reception. In a statement, she explained her decision:

“I am truly honored to receive the Kennedy Center Honors Award and look forward to attending the ceremony at the Kennedy Center. In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House.”

Speaking of Which…Watch this video of a TED Talk Ms. De Lavallade did in 2012 where she performed “The Creation.”

Beaches and Brisés – See what some of your favorite dancers have been up to on vacation here. Because, yes, as much as it pains us, we do occasionally take breaks.

The Cuddliest Ballet Class Ever – You can now take class with alpacas at the 313 Farm in Manitoba, Canada.

Happy 25th Dance for Life – Chicago’s Dance for Life celebrates 25 years and looks to broaden its horizons over the next quarter century.

Industry Dance Awards – Noted choreographer Kenny Ortega who directed all three High School Musical films and worked with Michael Jackson was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Industry Dance Awards. Nia Sioux was named “Fave Dancer under 17.” You can replay the rest of the livestream here to see the rest of the winners and nominees.

👀 Look at This! Blue Ivy Carter slays in a sequined tutu and snatched bun in photos from her dance recital. How does she already look like a pro? At her age I was getting lost trying to find the stage and bawling for my mom!

Candids of #BlueIvy from her dance recital 😍 📸: @gerardlalosandoval

A post shared by The Shade Room (@theshaderoom) on Aug 14, 2017 at 7:55pm PDT

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👂Listen to This! 

I just came across this podcast at work. In this episode of Queer Money, Robert Carter of the ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo discusses his career, men doing ballet that is traditionally set on women, men in tights (and pointe shoes) and the message of the company.

I won’t go silent for this long again, promise! My life is together now!

Dance World News (March 22, 2017)

Rest in Peace…Dance innovator Trisha Brown passed away on Saturday March 18 after a long illness. Brown studied under Anna Halperin and later went on to revolutionize post modern dance with her own company, the Trisha Brown company (founded in 1970). Brown is known for her works including Set and Reset and Watermotor. Brown was also known as a visual artist with drawings appearing in various exhibitions and museums. Brown retired from dancing in 2008 and received numerous including the MacArthur “Genius” Grant (she was the first woman to receive this award), two Guggenheim fellowships, the New York Governor’s Arts Award and the 1994 Samuel H. Scripps American Festival of the Arts Award.

Former American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet Dancer Michael Maule passed away. Maule was born and began studying dance in South Africa. After moving to the United States, Maule performed with ABT and NYCB partnering with ballerinas including Alicia Alonso, Alexandra Danilova, Maria Tallchief and Alicia Markova. Maule also taught at Juilliard and served as the head of the Academy of the Arts in Chamaign-Urbana

Sneak Peek…Jennifer Lopez held a press event for her upcoming show World of Dance. “It’s like a dream come true and, like, the perfect job for me. In a sense, we created literally the perfect show for me to be a part of,”  she said about the show. World of Dance is set to premiere in May and will feature Derek Hough, Ne-Yo and Jenna Duwan-Tatum as judges. Benny Medina, Lopez’s longtime manager, and the show’s executive producer promises that the show will   “to do to dance what ‘The Voice’ has done to singing.”

Dancing into Space…Dance and science will collide again, in Pearlann Porter’s new “The Invisible Jazz Labs” series. The work will debut at Point Breeze’s The Space Upstairs above Construction Junction and will also include field studies at Carnegie Mellon University.

Make Dance not War Women in Gaza have begun forming dance troupes and performing at Christian and Muslim weddings. These troupes were formed to generate income for women, combat unemployment, the and challenge the conservative culture and  traditionally male dance world in Gaza. “This will not stand in the way of the source of my livelihood, nor will it stop me from developing my talent and achieving fame in this field,” said Naha, one of the dancers who declined to provide her full name to Al Monitor.

Saying Goodbye…After 50 years of training dancers in the Oakhurst, Calif. area, the Patti Law School of Dance will be closing its doors. This closure is occurring as a result of the expansion of the Golden Chain Theatre School of the Performing Arts. Patti Law, who also helped found the GCT is less than pleased “After working all those years to keep the GCT open, and to be there to burn the mortgage in 1999, It’s just not right to dismiss one of the founding members who loves the Golden Chain. This is not the way I dreamed it would all end,” she said.

Let the kids dance…The Dance Liberation Network is calling for the repeal of New York City’s “Cabaret Law,” which prohibited three or more people from dancing in a club without a license. The law was reportedly created to regulate black jazz clubs and is still enforced.

 

What’s going on in your dance world? Did I miss anything? Let me know below!

Dance World News (Mar. 2, 2017)

Learn about why Misty Copeland is pro-drugstore makeup and anti-excessive contouring in her latest interview with Allure Magazine.

Dancing with the Stars announces its season 24 cast! This year’s lineup includes Olympic Gold Medalists Nancy Kerrigan and Simone Biles, Mr. T and Heather Morris.  Who will take home this season’s mirrorball trophy?

 

On the heels of Black History Month, learn about a Washington D.C. dance studio that has been named a city landmark.

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Yasmeen Godder worked with both able-bodied and disabled dancers for her new work Simple Action, which is set to premiere next week in Jaffa.

Click here to learn more about the fascinating cultural exchange between Russian and Italian ballet.

Dance protests are popping up all over the country. Read about this one in New York, and see below for a video of a dance protest in Chicago.

Dance World News (Feb. 23, 2017)

We open with a bit of sad news as the president continues to express his intent to cut the NEA, which not only funds the arts and various dance companies, but also provides aid to news outlets like PBS and NPR.

 

Happy 150th birthday to the Boston Conservatory. Relive some of the prestigious school’s history and learn more about its exciting winter and spring lineup.

New research shows that dance training can lead to mental health problems including psychological inflexibility, anxiety and depression.

Take a break from Dance Moms and binge-watch Kelly Ripa’s Youtube reality series Joffrey Elite. The show follows 10 dancers at the Joffrey Ballet School who enter dance competitions. The series will release new episodes every week for the next four months-goodbye weekend plans, hello bed, sweats and popcorn!

 

Meet Russell Janzen, the New York City Ballet’s newest principal!

Looking to cross-train? Swimming, running and rowing are among the best cardio workouts for dancers. Get your gym shoes on!

 

 

Save the National Endowment for the Arts!

In lieu of a Terpsichorean Heroes post, I wanted to share how you can be a terpsichorean hero today. All it takes is your signature.

In the wake of the inauguration of President Donald Trump, major changes have taken effect including executive orders that defunded Planned Parenthood, increased deportations, and suspended entry for Syrian refugees, among other radical decisions. Also rumored to be under attack is the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA provides valuable funding for the fine arts (dance, visual arts, music, etc.) as well as literature. This endowment, which has found itself on the chopping block many times in the last three-and-a-half decades, has helped organizations including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, LINES, Chicago Children’s Theatre and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Currently, according to The Hill, the new administration is planning budget cuts that would eliminate the NEA and  The National Endowment for the Humanities. The new administration plans to also privatize The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

You can help preserve this important benefactor to the arts by signing this petition to the White House. The petition needs to reach 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House, hopefully it will be a good one!

For more information about how the NEA has pushed the dance world forward, click here. To learn how the arts help the world around you, click here.

Dance World News (Jan. 18, 2017)

  • The dance and photography worlds mourn the loss of renowned photographer Martha Swope. Known for her images of Martha Graham and George Balanchine, Swope herself was a former student of the School of American Ballet whose career spanned nearly four decades. Swope’s works were honored with a special Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater (2004) and a lifetime achievement award from the League of Professional Theater Women (2007). Read more here.
  • The Bessie Awards recently held an event where Phoebe Pearl, the Rockette who initially spoke out against performing at Donald Trump’s inauguration, gave a rousing speech. “It’s our obligation to use our platforms to do what’s right,” she said.  “This isn’t political, this is about human rights. No matter where you come from, your sexual orientation or race, you deserve respect, you deserve love.” Other big names in dance including Yvonne Rainer and dance writer Eva Yaa Asantewaa were also in attendance. Click here to learn more.
  • Justin Peck is debuting a new work for the New York City Ballet titled, “The Times Are Racing,” which will featured the famed dancers in sneakers. Learn more here.

Watch Kate Hudson and James Corden take dance lessons from toddlers and see if you can keep up!

 

 

And…

 

Ryan Gosling recently watched an old video of him dancing hip hop and was about as embarrassed as anyone would be after watching an old dance video. It’s okay, Ryan. We’ve all been there.

 

Dance World News (Jan. 11, 2017)

Back on schedule and back in the news!

  • Dance Theater of Harlem will pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with their piece “Changes.” Choreographed by Diane McIntyre, the piece will feature music performed by the Spelman Glee club and will have the dancers, who typically dance en pointe, to dance in a more grounded, modern/african based style of movement.
  • Viral dance challenges may have found their next muse with a seven-year-old remix of Evelyn “Champagne” King’s disco hit “Love Come Down.
  • After years of being told “no,” former Beyoncé back-up dancer Akira Armstrong is saying yes to body positivity with her Pretty Big Movement Dance Company.
  • In the upcoming dance documentary Reset or Rélevé (in New York and L.A. theaters on Jan. 13), Benjamin Millepied describes the racism he encountered as director of the Paris Opera Ballet and other issues that ultimately led to his departure from the company in 2016 after just over a year in the role.
  • The winners of the prestigious Clive Barnes Award were announced Monday.

Finally, for our video of the week, watch this pair of newlyweds nail their version of the final dance from Dirty Dancing. Try not to smile, I dare you.

NEW! Terpsichorean Heroes

*TH posts will typically go up on Fridays, this one is coming late, again because cold. This means that there will be two TH posts this week!

And now without further ado, the inaugural edition of DanceTopia’s Terpsichorean Heroes will feature….

Mariah Carey’s back-up dancers. 

Throughout your life as a dancer,  you’ll learn to push through a lot of things that can go wrong during a performance, whether it is through direct experience or by watching others.  Personally, I’ve learned how to keep going when you make an onstage mistake, how to recover from a fall (helpful hint: it often feels worse than it looks), and how to salvage your performance when your music malfunctions or shuts off.  This New Year’s Eve I think we all learned something else–how to persevere when the star of the show has given up.

By now I’m sure everyone has had their fill of Mariah Carey news, but one of the best parts of her NYE performance was the part that got the least coverage. As you watch Mariah Carey meander around the stage and “lip sync” (I use that term VERY loosely),  you’ll also notice that her dancers never stopped giving their all even when it became obvious that Mimi wasn’t even going to try.

I guess the choreo’s not going to do itself, right?

At certain points the dancers even HELPED Mariah get to her marks on stage so that she could do the choreography. For all the things that went haywire during this show, the dancers weren’t it.

Idk about you Mariah but these guys had bills to pay.

Whoever trained these guys trained them well, and I’m sure when it was all said and done they felt that they’d more than earned their checks.  So while 2016 may have claimed one last victim in Mariah Carey’s career, it also gave us one last glimmer of hope in her dancers. These guys were six true models of professionalism and endurance, even as they danced behind someone who would be dragged in the news for weeks to come and became a part of meme/gif history.

 

Don’t believe me, just watch!