Photo Credit: Dance With Me Studios
On January 26, I was lucky enough to be a part of a dance show in New York and I didn’t even have to put in one hour of rehearsal time! From the moment Dance With Me’s “Dancing in the Crowd” began, the audience was invited to be part of the production. The show’s narrative explored what would happen if we looked a little closer at the people around us. Ultimately, we would discover that the experiences and emotions we all share weave us together in ways we never thought. As audience members, we were asked to watch the characters’ different stories and pick the person we identified with the most. Since the diversity of characters was expertly crafted by show creator David Thomas Moore, I easily picked the person that I aspired to reflect in my daily life.
During the show, the dancers portrayed many different life lessons through a variety of dance genres, but I found my character in the crowd in Act One as soon as “Finest Hour” (choreographed by Emily Crouch) began. Featured dancer, Adel Lami, moved through a range of emotions that felt all too familiar. Sometimes people underestimate you, or question your talent, but Lami’s character in this piece was strong, fierce, and determined to not let anything stand in her way. “Finest Hour is very personal to me; it’s literally my life. Since I was very young, people told me maybe I wouldn’t be a great dancer because I wasn’t pretty enough, but I knew my value and worked hard. This piece showcases that power that everyone has inside of them, and I want to inspire people to show it more,” commented Lami. As a woman, I related to every single emotion Lami explored in this piece, which is why her character hit so close to home.
Photo Credit: Dance With Me Studios (Adel Lami in "Finest Hour")
In addition to the talented cast of Dance With Me instructors, So You Think You Can Dance season 14 finalists Kiki Nyemchek and Koko Iwasaki danced in the show and served as guest choreographers. Perhaps the most noticeable addition to this second run of “Dancing in the Crowd” though was a guest appearance by two-time Dancing with the Stars and World Latin Champion Valentin Chmerkovskiy. Moore set scenes for two different numbers in the show that explored Chmerkovskiy’s celebrity life and connected it to a more personal side of the dancer.
Chmerkovskiy’s second routine, “The Men That Drive Me Places,” was actually the first routine Moore created for him. “This was the unexpected piece that showcased Val’s depth as an actor and a person. He has an enormous heart and cares deeply about not letting his material success blind him from the things that really matter in life,” said Moore. From there, Moore created another number to link Chmerkovskiy’s personal life to his public persona.
“Perm,” Chmerkovskiy’s first number, showed more of his life in the spotlight. “Perm was a more over-the-top flashy performance that showcased Val’s larger than life personality and his more commonly perceived persona as a celebrity figure. I think it made for the perfect counterpoint to his story-driven moment in Act Two,” commented Moore.
Photo Credit: Dance With Me Studios (Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Koko Iwasaki)
As you can imagine, working with the versatile Chmerkovskiy is any choreographer’s dream, especially for “Perm” choreographer, Serge Onik, who has known Chmerkovskiy for two decades. “Working with Val is always a fantastic experience for me because just being in his vicinity, it makes you pull up and do better, otherwise you can’t hang. This man is a chameleon. He can do anything and fit in everywhere,” commented Onik. In my opinion, this was one of the most dynamic numbers in the show, which makes it unbelievable to know that Onik was not able to create with his whole cast. Even though the piece was completely taught over separate rehearsals and video, Onik had total faith in his dancers. “I knew I had a group of individuals that each brought their own amazing talent to the group and I wanted to showcase them all. That’s why the number had a Broadway story with hip-hop grooves and a Latin breakdown, topped off with a dose of sex appeal,” said Onik.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this show and encourage more dance fans to attend Dance With Me events in the future. Because this show was staged in an intimate setting, it allowed me to really dive into the thoughtful story line and realize how much top-notch talent is within this group. Aside from that, I always enjoy watching Valentin Chmerkovskiy dance, but trust me when I tell you that he has an extra spark when dancing in Dance With Me productions.