“So You Think You Can Dance” has provided a wonderful opportunity for dancers and choreographers to showcase their talents to a mass television audience. In North America, just the mere mention of “Benji”, “Nico”, “Mia”, “Blake”, “Jean-Marc”, “France”, “Mary”, “Melanie”, and “Tony” almost brings about the same type of first name recognition as “Cher”, “Michael”, or “Madonna”.
Last Sunday, Beverley and I attended the filming of So You Think You Can Dance (Canada) in downtown Toronto. This was arranged by choreographer extraordinaire and former United States Professional Latin Champion, Melanie (LaPatin). We’ve been long-time fans of Melanie and her partner Tony, and loved watching them throughout their illustrious career at various championship events in North America and Europe, as well as on PBS television’s “Championship Ballroom Dancing”. They have a beautiful dance studio in the heart of New York City called Dance Times Square.
Over the years, we had kept in touch, and had even referred various US Television inquires to her studio, when they were looking for dancers in the New York City area. In 2004, when Melanie was featured on TLC’s “What Not To Wear”, she was kind enough to provide VIP access to one of our danceScape members so that he could take photos of her makeover reveal by the show’s hosts, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London.
When we learned that she was starring in new movie called “Leading Ladies”, we arranged to do a one-on-one danceScape Podcast interview. After the interview, Melanie indicated that she and Tony were going to be in Toronto in August and September to do some choreography for Season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance (Canada). She asked if we were interested in coming to the show, and offered to try to arrange for some VIP tickets if we were.
Melanie kept true to her word and this past Sunday, September 20th, we received word that VIP tickets were waiting for us at Showline Harbourside Studios in downtown Toronto.
When we arrived at the studio at about 4:40 p.m., there was already a lineup of people making their way into the building. After passing through security and being “wanded”, we checked in at the reception desk. We were then directed to the VIP waiting room, which had a long table set up with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages. There were lots of people already there, including dancers from the “Rockettes” who were in town to promote their upcoming show. There were no cameras in sight, so we guessed that there might be some policy that did not allow the taking of photographs. At one point, however, we discreetly pulled out our cell phone and took some quick snapshots. The wonders of technology. It felt like we were in a James Bond movie, and that we were sent on some secret mission to infiltrate the So You Think You Can Dance organization!
As 5:15 p.m. approached, we made our way into the main studio area to find our seats. I asked the usher whether we were allowed to take photos, and he said unfortunately, no.
The stage was very impressive. Former contestants Taylor, Danny, and Natalie were seated a few rows from us. At about 5:45 p.m., Blake (McGrath) arrived, followed by France (Mousseau-Genereux). There were not enough seats for them, so some of the ushers rechecked for tickets. Apparently, a lot more people from the National Ballet of Canada came than expected. After a bit of shuffling, everyone was then seated. France sat in the row in front of us and we were able to say hello before the start of show. Melanie and Tony finally arrived closer to 6:00 p.m. and we all exchanged a quick smile and hello. Melanie looked absolutely glamorous!
Beyond our seating area, and towards the front of the stage was the “Mosh Pit”. This area was packed with teens and youth, all excited to be at the event! Josh and Janet, two members of the show’s production team, introduced themselves to the audience.
Josh reminded us of “Ross the Intern” from the Tonight Show with a similar sense of humour, enthusiasm and mannerisms. He brought two cute kids from the Mosh Pit up onto the stage, and asked them to dance. These kids had no inhibitions whatsoever, and received a loud round of applause.
Janet explained to the audience that they were going to film all the “audience” shots, which would be inserted into the various segments throughout show. Both Josh and Janet took turns directing the audience to clap at differing volumes, some with cheers, and others without. They had also previously distributed signs that supported various dancers and teams. We always thought that the signs were brought in by real fans, but apparently not! It’s too bad because it does raise issues of authenticity of audience reactions. But hey, that’s the nature of “reality” television!
After all the audience shots were completed, it was on with the show. The competition segment itself was filmed sequentially with short breaks in between each dance. There were so many memorable moments, all of which will be aired on television. The last dancers, Vincent and Amy, performed a wonderful jive, choreographed by Tony and Melanie.
After the show, we were able to catch up with Melanie and Tony. We thanked them for arranging the VIP tickets. I still didn’t see anyone else with a camera, other than the official photographers. I then asked Melanie whether it was OK if I took some photos of her and Tony. She began to pose and I “discreetly” snapped away! She looked absolutely stunning, and it showed in the photos. She then asked one of the production people to take a group photo of all of us; we now had an insider working for us!
Melanie then took us over to meet the Executive Producer as well as the Media Relations Manager so that we could obtain authorization to blog about our experiences. And hence, this blog with photos!
Jean-Marc Genereux was in the middle of a photo session with the other judges, but happened to see and then wave to us. We shook hands and congratulated him on his success with the show. He has so much charisma, personality, and positive energy … and with France, deserves all the success that they have today. Their daughter, Francesca, suffers from Rett Syndrome and both of them have worked passionately to raise awareness and money around this rare neurological condition. It’s no wonder that so many people are inspired by their personal story and that they have developed a huge fan base beyond the Ballroom Dance world!
We gave Melanie a final hug. If you ever get an opportunity to hug her, go for it! She gives great hugs! We thanked her again for the opportunity to come out to the show and to be part of the behind-the-scenes filming. She even offered to get us VIP tickets for the finale show!
Stay tuned for Beverley’s new blog and her danceScape Podcast interview with Melanie, to be released in October. In the interview, Melanie shares the challenges and triumphs of her career as dance champion, entrepreneur, and actress. She will make her acting debut in “Leading Ladies” which will also star Benji Schwimmer, winner of Season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance (USA).