Tag Archives: hip hop

Backstage at the Los Angeles Carnival Choreographer’s Ball

1456745_10151708267366237_598503973_nIt’s just past midnight as we wait backstage to go on for the Los Angeles Carnival Choreographer’s Ball.  Some of us have been here since 3:00pm for tech, others of us have filtered in after work, but no one cracks a yawn, tired as we are.

Is it adrenaline or the cold air bursting through the open door that has us jumping up and down as we struggle to concentrate?

We try to warm up stiff limbs while dodging dancers in Cleopatra costumes and gold leggings.

As the dance onstage starts to wind down, Stretch Dance Co. circles up for one last huddle, our excitement arcing between us like electricity in a lightning storm.  We whispered well wishes and encouragements, squeezing hands for support.

“Don’t mess up,” I say–I always know how to ruin a Hallmark moment.

Some of the Stretchers tittered, but our laughter dies out as the lights went out on the dancers onstage.  It was show time.

But for me, the show had  started the minute I walked through those doors.

I’d heard so much about Carnival Choreographer’s Ball from dancers who had performed there in the past, but I had no idea what to expect when I arrived on scene at the Avalon in Hollywood with two bulging bags full of potential costumes and my work bag past the bouncers who, if they weren’t Russian mob, had been trained by them to scowl like supervillain henchmen.


It was like I had stepped on the set of every dance movie ever made.  I had to quickstep out of the way of hip hop dancers practicing in the lobby, tiptoe around a couple salsa practicing a steamy routine on the landing in front of the stairs.

It was humbling to see all the amazing talent at the show during the dress rehearsal.  From a cute holiday mall-themed hip hop dance where the “mannequins” come to life, to a clever burlesque piece that shows that being sexy isn’t all that’s cracked up to be, to steamy Latin dancing… there were so many jaw-dropping dances and dancers  that it was easy to feel overwhelmed.

And I was feeling a bit overwhelmed in spite of myself.  I’ve been performing since I was three years old and I still can’t get over the preshow jitters every time I’m in the wings.  How was I, little music theater ensemble kid, supposed to measure up to all the talent that had already been onstage tonight?

But as the first twinkles of Macklemore’s “Same Love” filtered through the speakers, the jitters died. I wasn’t here to outdance anyone at Carnival tonight. I wasn’t here prove myself the best performer.  I wasn’t even here to be seen by the jaded agents and directors watching sleepily from the back seats.

I was here to spread a message: that underneath all the makeup, the technique, the costumes, we all share the same love for dance.

Don’t mess up, I whispered to myself.

And then I joined the dancers of Stretch Dance Company onstage.


The Next Era of Dance

Same Love   Stretch Dance Company   YouTube
Theatrical dance relies on the emotions underneath the piece to inform the dancing, not the other way around.


Put this question to a professional dancer and even they might be stumped.  It’s not really musical theater dance.  It’s not concert dance.  It’s not the dance you do while waiting in the ridiculously long line for the bathroom at a theater.

We may not know it yet, but theatrical dance may be the next evolution of movement, thanks to new generation of versatile dancers.  Whereas it was once good enough to be the master of one form, the modern dancer must be as fluent in ballet as they are in break dancing to remain competitive in an increasingly diverse environment.

Television and YouTube have helped bridge the gaps between the different types of dance, and myriad studios offering any and every kind of dance have given birth to a new type of dancer who has learned Bollywood and ballet in the same studio.

Such a diverse and talented new generation of dancers have set the stage—literally—for shows like So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Next Best Dance Crew, and even Dancing with the Stars, ushering in a whole new era of dance that blends the established techniques of different forms to tell create story-specific movement.

Think back to your favorite piece from So You Think You Can Dance.  Do you remember the amazing dancing, or the amazing story told through the dance?  I’ll bet you’ll remember the story better than you remember how many pirouettes, or how high their jumps were.

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Many routines on SYTYCD uses short, yet intense stories to capture the audience

These shows have capitalized on their dancers utilizing a wide range of techniques, but have blended it with strong–yet succinct–story telling.  It’s the perfect format for today’s fast-paced world: a snippet of easily digestible story with a strong narrative.

Add to that a modern flair that mixes hip hop dancers with ballerinas or tappers with a contemporary vibe or a pas de deux with aerial—something that the dance critics would have found horrifying fifty years ago–and you have the recipe for a form of dance that is as powerful as it is adaptable.

Each of these shows relies on each dancer’s individual talents and their ability to seamlessly adapt to new styles and partners while still maintaining a through line.  Shows like SYTYCD gleefully reimagine how dance is pieced together every single week.

This adaptability makes theatrical dance the perfect form for Stretch Dance Co.  Theatrical dance takes advantage of the many talents of our dancers, focuses on the individual strengths of each one, and is flexible enough to transition from a dramatic look at the Holocaust to playfulness of Lady Gaga.

Theatrical dance takes the richness of all the traditions of dance, and yet eagerly steps outside the box to suit its purposes, which is exactly what Stretch Dance Co works for in every dance, every song, every story.  This new trend in dance is already popping up onstage, on screen, and on the streets, but few have realized that these dances reach beyond traditional forms and into a brave new frontier.

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What Makes a Stretch Dancer?

Miss our weekly video? We’ve missed making it!  But don’t worry: we’re coming back with a hearty round of Applause from Lady Gaga this coming Thursday! Stay tuned on our YouTube channel to see it first!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a Stretch Dancer?  After watching our dancers back in action at our latest rehearsal, I’ve compiled a list of what makes a SDC member stand out above the rest!


A Stretch Dancer is…

Disciplined – When you only rehearse once a week, you have to be on your A-game.  This doesn’t apply to just  polishing the combinations learned during rehearsal, but making a personal commitment to keep our dance skills and knowledge at its best.

Versatile – Versatility is key for a Stretch Dancer.  One week we’ll go Gaga, the next we’ll turn Pink, then head into history the week after that.  Dancers need to be able to make those leaps without missing a beat while still portraying their character honestly and respectfully.

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Carrie’s got the Stretch part down pat!

Exceptional Actors – Stretchers come from a variety of dance backgrounds ranging from contemporary to flamenco, but we share one thing in common: a solid set of acting chops.  Lyndell’s choreography is extremely story-driven and would wouldn’t pack as much of a punch without some amazing storytellers  behind it.

Stretchy– Dancers have to be flexible, and not just on the dance floor!  Since we come from such different backgrounds, everyone has their chance to shine…and to stretch their abilities. From dance steps to emotional vulnerability onstage, each dancer has to face moments where they move past their comfort zone.

Passionate – Above all, Stretch Dancers are extremely committed to dance and storytelling.  Dance is more than a job or a workout to us; it’s expression at its purest form.  This week’s video might suggest otherwise, but we’re not in it for the “Applause.”

Interested in learning more about becoming a Stretch Dance member?Find out more StretchDanceCo.com! 

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We’re also just an awesome, open group of people who love to dance!

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