2nd Place at US Open: 3rd year in a row!
We did it! 2nd place in Showcase for the 3rd year in a row! The first year we won 2nd was a total shock and we were floored by the overwhelming feedback, including extended stomping standing ovations both after our routine and when receiving our award. The second year we were just amazed to have survived it so well, given the insane amount of life stress we were facing leading up to the Open. This year, we had no life stress, but we had a “championship” to defend.
We had more time to dedicate to the process than we had in previous years. We decided that we wanted to show diversity, and instead of sticking with our strength of lyrical dancing, we wanted to feature Myles more and have a little fun with it, so we drew upon our secondary strength, the vintage dances. We have been casually dancing Lindy Hop since 2003, and shortly after became involved in the organization of the Canadian Swing Championships, a multi-Swing event in Montreal, Quebec. We quickly fell in love with Lindy, Balboa, Bal-Swing, Rockabilly Jive, and Blues, and have been harbouring them all this time. We searched long and hard for a song that would allow us to showcase some of them, yet still appeal to younger audiences, and we were aiming for Electro-Swing. But when the Fergie video “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” came on, we stopped all conversation and were riveted by the music and the costumes. We couldn’t find a better fit!
We jumped on the Great Gatsby theme and started honing our Balboa, Charleston, and Lindy, with the fine tuning of Ben Morris and legend Sylvia Sykes. Our goal was to be authentic – we wanted to avoid blending styles, but instead feature each on its own, and make it accurate and badass, not cliche and half-assed. We knew that the Balboa would look silly in anything but heels, so Tessa declared them necessary. This would require practice and attention to leg lines, so she taught and danced in heels almost consistently for 2 months to build the balance and muscles necessary to pull it off. The lifts also had to be reconsidered. Most of the lifts in our repertoire are sustained, either static or spinning. But the faster music called for quicker, more explosive lifts, which require a higher degree of difficulty not because of strength, but because of speed and timing. We spend dozens of hours in the studio working on variations of lifts until we found the ones that offered the maximum bang for our buck. Slight problem: most of them scared the s**t out of us. Thrilling for the audience, but our chiropractor was not happy. We overcame alot of doubt and fear in creating this routine. Even the choreography was a challenge – because we started so long in advance, we had time to plan strategically and formulate the ideal game plan – a routine that would show a mature, professional balance of musicality, character, difficulty, pacing, partner interaction, audience interaction, photo moments, and authenticity. We fought over every 8-count. I think we re-choreographed the slow section 8 times. We took all the advice we had ever been given over the years as well as our observations (good and bad) from watching our peers and applied it to make sure we were giving the audience what they needed and wanted while still giving the judges what they needed and wanted. The sheer number of factors we considered in creating every second of choreo is mind-boggling. Ironically, Swing content was not one of them! Didn’t have to worry about that one.
The costume of course, was Tessa’s design. We needed something that would look good in Balboa heels, but still modern enough to carry the contemporary song. She took inspiration from fashion and planned on the pleather leggings and peplum/skirt very early on. The top was based on a fashion magazine photo, sewn painstakingly by Myles’ mom, Mickey Munroe. It was very difficult to get just the right tailoring around the keyholes and sleeves. The sleeves were designed to give the look of a cap-sleeve but with the flexibility necessary for raising arms. The art deco design was of course a nod to the vintage 20s fashion, and happens to be one of Tessa’s favourite design elements, but the metallic studs kept the look modern. She drafted over a dozen pages of design trials in order to find the perfect arrangement of shapes and lines to offer the best balance, symmetry and proportion for her figure. Tessa spent 4 full days hand-painting the design first, then rhinestoning.
We were aiming to shock and surprise people – we knew we were taking alot of risks: 1. fast, non-lyrical music, 2. explosive lifts, 3. vintage dances, and 4. heels! We were so relieved and thrilled that all our insanely hard work paid off. We were so exhausted by the time we performed – we kinda shocked ourselves that it all came together. But we made sure we danced from the heart! Even though we planned our “wow” moments, we forgot about them until the audience started reacting to them! The audience was loud and supportive, not just cheering but viscerally, involuntarily reacting and this energy urged us on. We were fired up to hear the response when each trick worked! It seemed to escalate, and by the end when we were out of gas, the audience exploded and generously gave us the standing ovation of our dreams. It was very remniscient of the ovation we received after Rolling in The Deep, but with completely different emotions. It was very empowering to have the affirmation that we as artists can move an audience to respond so primally.
After the division, we were absolutely flying. It took us an hour and a half to leave the ballroom, because so many people were stopping to congratulate us. The most memorable comments of the weekend, the most special moments for us, were the ones who were rendered speechless, and simply and emphatically gasped, “Thank You”. Next it was those who loudly and uncharacteristically exclaimed profanities. Then of course were the long conversations – the peers, judges, and spectators who commented on our self-reinvention, evolution, respect for our history, risk-taking, and insane degree of difficulty. This feedback combined with the standing ovations both after our performance and our award announcement mean more to us than any trophy. We are so honoured to continue to represent Canada as the highest-ever-placing international couple at the US Open!
We look forward to fine tuning and growing this routine all year. So grateful for all the help and support we received and for the appreciation for our hard work! Thanks everyone!
Finally! After years of waiting for the technology to be available and affordable, we are now proud to offer our full-length instructional DVDs by digital download! The traditional DVD discs will still be available for purchase, but now there is a download option – you can download your selected DVD right to your computer within seconds of purchasing it! We know it has been difficult for overseas dancers to order DVDs due to extra taxes, shipping, and import fees, so this is the perfect solution you have been waiting for! Check out the VIDEOS page to order!