Live to Dance: Best Dance Act in America

Right now, much of the United States is about edgy, razzle dazzle pyrotechnics as far as much dance is concerned. Even the new and heightened awareness of the art of ballet, due to the popularity of the movie, Black Swan, is that kind of special effects shock effect with the reprieve of the artistry visible in the film through the choreography of New York City Ballet’s Benjamin Millepied.

I can see why some of the performers doing well on Live to Dance are getting acclaim. Most of it seems to be a competition for dance routines… acts… the kind of showcase performances and recitals that are the bread and butter of many American dance schools. Show dancing. A very few give me the art of dance and the craft of it.

The group, Twitch, represents this edgy kind of dancing. I wanted to know who did their choreography and who taught and rehearsed them. This is a high power, acrobatic group that wowed us with their gifts. I felt I was seeing a professional modern dance company at times. These high school dancers gave 110%, were well-rehearsed and dynamic. I had a difficult time deciding between them and Dance Town Chaos. Twitch’s dramatic fast non-stop action and costumes made me think of another young people craze, the Twilight Saga. Twitch’s male soloist looked a little stiff and off at one point when he was in the spotlight, but that was the only solo that stopped me for a moment.

I do wonder if this kind of sharp, thrown, attack-the-space choreography isn’t a flavor of the month craze. But I haven’t watched the show each time to know what kind of range in choreography Twitch  has, nor what they can do that might use another side of these fine young dancers. Thumbs up.

White Tree Fine Art is altogether different. Two sweet people whose choreography at times speaks to the heart and at other times seems a little plain and nondescript. They are a breath of fresh air to all the frantic sharp pow antics of most of the other performers. Unfortunately after the last performance of theirs I saw, this time the piece they did felt ordinary and a bit dated. Since I know exceptional ballet technique when I see it, I didn’t find either performer to have the highest caliber technique and they felt a bit limited in what they can do. With masterful choreography, perhaps they’d fare better.  Thumbs down this time.

The Vibe. On past viewings of this group, I found them dynamic and unusual. This time, I found the choreography chaotic with no core, theme or focus for my eye. There were moments – flashes – of design and then those were lost. I view this group like a dance company and as such I have seen so many companies that knocked my socks off. Such companies used choreography that was theatrical, well-performed and a feast for the eye. Something happening everywhere isn’t necessarily a plus, unless we’re at the circus. Cirque du Soleil comes to mind. But even Cirque uses thematic material and the work is choreographed to be viewed – to lead us somewhere, emotional or thought-provoking or stimulating in its design.

Chaos can be a theme but I don’t think that was the intent behind The Vibe’s performance. What does The Vibe want to say – each time? What does its choreographer(s) want us to get from a viewing? A pure adrenaline rush? I was grabbed as I said, at moments. But somehow because whatever was behind this performance wasn’t clearly defined to engage me, I didn’t feel involved – as I did with Twitch and as I did later in the program. This is where craft comes in.

Dance is a visual kinesthetic form. With so much going on all over the stage, it’s difficult to be affected kinesthetically or artistically and especially emotionally. Where am I supposed to look? What could I feel – learn – appreciate? I could take little in because I was flustered looking from one spot to another. I couldn’t connect.

Kendall Glover. Wow. This soloist – at age 11 – did what no one else did for me all evening. She had it all–technique, charisma, passion and choreography that allowed me to see her, connect with her and all she has to offer. I had tears in my eyes during her performance. Why? Because she listened to the judges and grew. She was totally present – effective in sharing her dancing with the viewing public.

Although her choreography remains too similar for my taste, since I first saw her Kendall learned to connect each movement into a whole which made this a dance rather than isolated gestures and acrobatics flung haphazardly. She’s a little spitfire. Her dancing this time had more nuances – she held certain extensions so that I could see her control and technique and musicality. She also lets us in: she’s so eager, determined and honest. I loved her and what she shared. A big thumbs up.

Dance Town Chaos. Wonderful. They gave me all that I ask for in a performance. The choreographer’s eye for design – incredible. Unison work amazing. This group was innovative and offered a challenge to young men everywhere – a call to the dance – and what dance, dance that is athletic, beyond sports, dance that is challenging, engages the spirit and has incredible growth potential. Thumbs up.

D’Angelo & Amanda. They’re adorable. They’re serious. They’ve learned technique. However, they’re difficult for me to judge because somehow instead of being able to be children which they are and which Kendall was allowed to be, they looked like mini-adults copying an aesthetic that they couldn’t possibly know in their hearts or minds. They’ve learned to dance in a way that seems superficial. I didn’t see a uniqueness or individuality or choreography that took me in and let me feel them in some personal way, whether musically or through characterization, story, or pure dance.

Because Amanda’s growing and long-legged, I found her body a bit all over the place and that was distracting, interrupting my focus on the pair and on the style of dance. What might help is if she learned to have more control instead of throwing her limbs. Still, these two youngsters had great technique for their ages. Unfortunately, what they did didn’t affect me deeply or engage me in any kind of visual excitement the way choreography by Derek Hough on Dancing with the Stars usually does. Once they learn to gift us with who they are and their choreographer decides how to best show them off, and it may take some maturity, they may be an amazing pair. Thumbs down.