Results tagged “choreographers” from ARTicles

Just watched Penn Jillette low ball it on "Dancing with the Stars" with Kym. He tried illusion on the judges and it almost worked, sort of. I know that's redundant, but Jillette may be one of the few "from the other side" in the business (no matter how famous he is, his origins --authentic, off-B'way, 99 -seat theater or less -- stick) who would venture into this commercial TV show and retain his hip.

I'm a huge fan of the TV dance shows, especially "So You Think You Can Dance" in part because they teach critical skills through subterfuge. And, in other part, because they seriously promote choreographers. Those judges can be tough and very often they are right. Save for Debbie Allen, who is so loaded with pomposity and 'tude she registers as nothing but false and massively egotistical. She can't judge without plugging her LA studio. There is something to be learned from that about what NOT TO DO. About the separation between advertising and editorial.

But I digress...Penn Jillette and "Dancing with the Stars"...last week The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner held a reunion. Her-Ex theater critic Jack Viertel "discovered" Penn & Teller. I know he did. I remember him returning to the office -- ahhh the days when we critics wrote in the office around communal pillars on computers the size of carry-on luggage, reading our ledes aloud, smoking cigarettes and editing each other's copy in ink on cog-marked, green and white striped printout paper.

(For the most incisive nostalgic report on the Her-Ex old days, see John Schwada's Reunion blog for Fox News Channel 11. He captures the Herald perfectly -- and why so many true blue die hard reporters and critics came out of there. And why this was journalism in all its romantic glory.)

But on one of those days, Jack Viertel returned beside himself over Penn & Teller. The rest is history, and Jack got it. Critics meant something then. They still can and do. It just takes guts. By which I mean listening to your gut.

Choreographers on TV and film have always been a big deal inside the circle of Those Who Care, but something is happening right now that is different and monumental and we ought to pay attention. "So You Think You Can Dance" will start up soon (the search for the next Top 20 began on March 1 in NYC).

The only thing missing from most of its contenders is ballet. Perhaps the only reason ballet should exist right now is because it provides (still) the best training a human dance body can get. The choreographers on the show don't come from ballet, but they value it. They value good movement, period. (Mia Michaels often scrapes emotions raw, a good thing, to my mind, and exceptional on television.)

As a result, it's impossible as a dance-lover not to value them, the choreographers. They give the contestants new works, often in styles that are alien, each week. To see those kids perform -- I mean, think if, on "American Idol," the singers didn't get to choose their songs but had to sing something completely original each week -- is to see budding artists on the line. The choreographers reign.

In acknowledgment of the ascendancy of the on-camera choreographers...If you are one, you may want to submit your work for a Choreography Media Honor. Go to for a submission form. The 2nd annual CMHs will be held on June 13 at the Directors Guild of America (DGA in Hollywood). A potentially fabulous opportunity to see a lot of film and/or TV work by choreographic talent known and unknown. For tickets, contact Teresa Taylor at

March 17, 2008 9:15 PM |


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