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PureDWTS Court Rants: The Argument in Favor of Outside Choreographers

Ever since the “Choreography Emmy-gate” scuttlebutt erupted last summer, there seems to be a new, controversial topic I see thrown around more and more amongst the fans: the pros using/not using outside choreographers. And there have been offshoots of that topic as well – how much credit outside choreographers should be given (if any), the contractual ins-and-outs of using outside choreographers, and whether or not the use of an outside choreographer somehow makes a pro “less talented”.  And honestly – it kinda gets my goat, because fans that know little to nothing about how choreography works suddenly have their noses in the air about some of the pros on the show using them. So I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now: just a post setting the record straight, and hopefully addressing some of the misguided opinions I’ve heard about the use of outside choreographers on the show. Read more..

April 8, 2016 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, baker, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Follow me (and my dog!) on Twitter & Instagram: @putuincespence & @BirkinTheBulldog

PureDWTS: Questions We’re Tired of Answering, Volume II: The Emmy Edition

I wasn’t planning on writing another edition of “Questions We’re Tired of Answering” so soon after the first edition, but after the sh*tstorm I witnessed on Twitter in the past 36 hours since Derek & Julianne won an Emmy for their “Elastic Heart” routine with Tessandra Chavez, I felt it necessary to field some of the questions I’m seeing over and over again about the Emmy’s.

Before I get into it, though, let me just say this: I think a lot of these questions are stemming from the increase in “entitlement mentality” I’m seeing from a lot of the pros – and some of the fans are starting to buy into it.  Contrary to what some seem to believe, not every pro deserves a MBT, an Emmy nomination, an Emmy win, movie roles, Broadway gigs, book deals, endorsements, etc., simply by showing up and being a pro on DWTS.  That, in itself, is a privilege; things like MBT’s, Emmy’s, etc. are rewards for merit and hard work – not entitlements.  If a pro wants these things, to quote Britney Spears, “you better work, b*tch!”. Let’s try to keep that in mind…

Why does SYTYCD get so many more nominations than DWTS?

To understand this, you have to understand that there’s two components for success in the “Outstanding Choreography” category at the Emmys: the strength of the choreographic content, and the strength of how it was performed.  Therefore, you’re much more likely to get nominated if a) your choreography is strong, creative, and innovative, and b) you’ve got a skilled dancer performing it. Thus, it’s kind of easy to tell why it’s easier for SYTYCD routines to get nominated: all of them are performed by professional dancers, and because the choreographers (usually) aren’t limited to tailoring their choreography to the skills of their dancers, they can take more risks and do more off-the-wall stuff.  Choreography for DWTS, on the other hand, tends to be limited by the skill set of the celebrity – which affects what exactly the pros can include in the routine, and how well it gets performed on show night.  On top of those two factors, the Academy voters tend to be more from the contemporary style than from ballroom – and thus have a bit of a bias towards contemporary routines (of which there is usually quite a few on SYTYCD) and a bit of a bias against ballroom (which is the bulk of what we see on DWTS).  Most years, the best that DWTS can hope for is (1) nomination, against usually 4-5 from SYTYCD.  So for me to see some people complaining about [insert pro here] and [insert another pro here] not getting nominated as well, I feel like puking – cause the fact that DWTS was actually able to get TWO nominations this year is HUGE…whining about them not getting more is a tad greedy, I’m afraid.

Why wasn’t Sharna nominated for an Emmy for her choreography for Noah? It was awesome!!!

The explanation above kinda explains this one, too – Sharna likely didn’t get nominated because the routines she created for Noah were rather limited in their choreographic scope, and were not performed by a skilled dancer.  Let me repeat for good measure: it is incredibly hard to get nominated for a routine that isn’t performed by a dancer with a high level of skill.  It’s not impossible – Derek did get nominated last year for some of his choreography for Amy, who wasn’t quite as physically limited as Noah – but it’s certainly not probable. While the choreography Sharna did for Noah was great for someone as physically limited as him, I’m not sure it would stand up as great choreography for someone that was completely able-bodied.  Would you still be as wowed by choreography if, say, Alfonso danced the same routine? I doubt it.  Remember, when DWTS is up against dynamic routines danced by professional dancers on SYTYCD, they’ve gotta bring their A-game – solid routines danced by skilled dancers.  This explanation in particular seems to be one that Sharna & Noah fans just can’t seem to wrap their brain around – I’ve gone blue in the face explaining this one, only to have the people asking say “Well, I still think she should have been nominated. That choreography was incredible!” That’s great – their routines were awesome and Sharna did an incredible job showing what Noah could do.  No one can take that away from her. But just understand that it was incredible choreography FOR NOAH – not necessarily incredible choreography, period.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Why wasn’t Mark nominated for his choreography with Sadie and/or Willow?

IMO, because he focused a bit too much on production value…at the expense of choreographic content.  These past two seasons, Mark has choreographed a LOT of routines that were very set and costume-heavy…and it seemed to dominate those performances, to the detriment of the actual dancing being done.  His Halloween paso doble with Sadie kinda sticks out in my mind as a good example – I enjoyed it, but even I can admit that the OTT costuming and set kinda distracted from the actual dancing.  The set and costumes OVERWHELMED the dancing, rather than working with it.  Derek’s “Walking on Air” routine with Jamie Goodwin is a good example of the set working WITH the dance – the set itself was almost like a 3rd dancer, with all of the moves choreographed with it in mind.  Ditto for “Elastic Heart” – the set itself was actually choreographed into the dance.  I think if Mark would focus more on the choreography itself instead of the set & costumes, we might see more nominations for him in the future – especially if SYTYCD kicks the bucket after this season, which is looking evermore likely from their dismal ratings.

Why was Witney nominated??? IT WASN’T EVEN HER CHOREOGRAPHY!!!

This is me emphatically rolling my eyes.  To those of you still repeating this tripe started by a few disgruntled pros (and one rather scheisty-seeming outside choreographer) on Twitter/Instagram, please stop – we’ve already talked about it at-length here, but here it is again, once more, with feeling: if you don’t have a formally-written contract with an outside choreographer to help with a certain routine, the Academy will not give them co-choreographer credit in the event of a potential nomination.  Academy rules, fools. And judging from what SYTYCD choreographer Spencer Liff said in the link I posted above, ghost choreographers are well aware of this rule – so for this Alan dude (and most of “The Fam”) to suddenly be crying foul is kinda…d*ck.  If you’re of the camp that is trying to claim that she shouldn’t have been nominated because the choreography “just wasn’t that good”, hehe…ok.  Whatever you say.  Nevermind that it was choreographed for possibly the most skilled male celebrity that we’ve ever had on DWTS, and he KILLED IT – and the Academy agrees that the choreography was outstanding.  And then it gets even weirder – I’ve had more than a couple people try to write off the Carlton jazz routine because “it was derived from a dance that Witney didn’t choreograph”.  The fact that people are (probably pretending to be) genuinely upset that about 15 seconds of a nonsensical dance with TWO STEPS was used in the routine makes me not want to live on this planet anymore.  So, were you guys expecting her to give Alfonso credit for “the Carlton dance” or something? It ain’t even really his dance, either – he cites Courteney Cox & Eddie Murphy as his inspiration for it.  Should they have been given credit? Do you people now see how ridiculous you sound?  At this point, you may as well just admit that you just don’t like Witney…cause this is really reaching, kids.

Why wasn’t Allison nominated???

I have to kinda eye roll at this one, too, because it seems like some are drinking the “Allison was awesome on SYTYCD; therefore, by default, she is also awesome on DWTS” Kool-Aid.  For as stellar as Allison is as a contemporary dancer/choreographer, she is still a mediocre-at-best ballroom choreographer.  And again – the bulk of the routines on DWTS are still hardcore ballroom.  On top of that, her first season with Jonathan didn’t really have any standout routines, and some of her strongest routines with Ryker were a bit derivative (i.e. their paso – it was good, but how many Pirates of the Caribbean routines do you think the Academy has seen in the last 10 years?).  Maybe we’ll see some nominations for her once she steps up her ballroom game, but right now? Just not cutting the mustard as a ballroom choreographer yet, though she is improving.  She’s probably more likely to get nominated for any pro-dance collaborations she does – particularly if she does them with Derek.

September 14, 2015 I Written By

Ultrasound sales specialist by day, semi-knowledgeable DWTS fan by night...with a smattering of hair & makeup enthusiast, occasional model, baker, and crazy cat lady peppered in to make things REALLY interesting ;-) I might pee my pants in happiness if Donnie Wahlberg ever does DWTS - or if they ever use "Sunglasses at Night" as a paso doble. Follow me (and my dog!) on Twitter & Instagram: @putuincespence & @BirkinTheBulldog