Sonya Tayeh. Photo credit: Shervin Lainez.
For decades, choreographers have traversed the line between television, film, and Broadway. Recently, though, many of the biggest choreographers who’ve made household names for themselves on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ have either come from Broadway or taken their talents to the Great White Way.
We put together a list of eight of our favorite dance creators who’ve split their time between the screen and the stage.
1. Sonya Tayeh
Nigel Lythgoe and Sonya Tayeh on Fox’s ‘SYTYCD’. Photo courtesy: Fox.
With ‘Moulin Rouge’ continuing to take Broadway by storm this season, two-time Emmy nominee Sonya Tayeh is posed to lead herself right to a Tony nomination next summer.
Tayeh, who made a name for herself on eight seasons of ‘SYTYCD’ has also created some highly respected work here on the stages of New York City. The choreographer, who created the musical staging for the 2019 television production of ‘Rent LIVE!’ on Fox, has won two Lucille Lortel Awards for her stage work; first for creating the movement to David Henry Hwang’s dance play ‘Kung-Fu’ in 2014, and again in 2018 for ‘The Lucky Ones’ — the latter for which she was also nominated for a Chita Rivera Award.
'Moulin Rouge’ on Broadway. Video courtesy: 'Moulin Rouge’ Broadway.
2. Travis Wall
The cast of ‘The Wrong Man’ at MCC. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy.
Don’t get it twisted, two-time Emmy winner Travis Wall isn’t new to the theatre — at all. The ‘SYTYCD’ superstar, who just choreographed one of New York’s hottest musicals, ‘The Wrong Man’, actually made his Broadway debut back in the 2001 Susan Stroman helmed revival of ‘The Music Man’. The choreographer, who recently made headlines for advocating for the #BoysDanceToo demonstration in Times Square, also choreographed the 2012 Off-Broadway production of ‘Bare’.
‘The Wrong Man’, which opened at MCC October 7th, just received an extension into November. The new musical, written by pop music writing sensation Ross Golan, teams up Wall with ‘Hamilton’ Tony winners Thomas Kail as director and Alex Laxamoire as music supervisor — and is led by Tony nominee Joshua Henry.
3. Andy Blankenbuehler
While three-time Tony winner Andy Blakenbuehler is arguably the biggest name in Broadway choreographers at the moment, it's fun to look back and remember that the ‘Hamilton’ choreographer also created a few numbers in the Broadway category on ‘SYTYCD’.
Along with ‘Hamilton’, Blankenbuehler has won Tony awards for his work choreographing 2017’s ‘Bandstand’ as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway musical, ‘In The Heights’ in 2008.
Thayne Jasperson and Comfort Fedoke performing the Andy Blankenbuehler choreographed "Cool" from 'West Side Story'. Video courtesy: Fox.
4. Spencer Liff
The cast of ‘Head Over Heels’ on Broadway with choreography by Spencer Liff. Video courtesy: Broadway.com
Spencer Liff, who has been nominated twice for a Prime Time Emmy Award for his work on ‘SYTYCD’, has always had a spot for Broadway in his heart. In fact, Liff, who made his Broadway debut back in 1996's ‘Big,’ has actually been working on The Great White Way sporadically ever since.
Liff, who most recently choreographed the Go-Go’s musical ‘Head Over Heels’ on Broadway last year, also choreographed the 2016 revival of ‘Falsettos’, the 2015 revival of ‘Spring Awakening’, and the 2014 hit revival of ‘Hedwig And The Angry Inch’.
5. Mia Michaels
Diane Paulus (left) and Mia Michaels (right) rehearsing ‘Finding Neverland’ in Boston before its transfer to Broadway. Photo credit: Jimmy Ryan/A.R.T.
Three-time Emmy award-winning dance creator and author Mia Michaels has both choreographed and judged for ‘SYTYCD’, but she’s also the Astaire nominated choreographer behind the 2015 Broadway production of ‘Finding Neverland’.
Michaels is also the choreographer behind the 2016 Radio City Rockettes springtime ‘New York Spectacular.’
6. Warren Carlyle
'Dancin' Fool', choreographed by Warren Carlyle from season 15 of 'SYTYCD'. Video courtesy: Fox.
Tony-winning choreographer Warren Carlyle is very well known in the theatre world, but with all on his Broadway plate, it's easy to forget that Carlyle choreographed on five seasons of ‘SYTYCD’! Not only did he bring all three judges to a standing ovation after he set ‘Sing, Sing Sing’ on Rudy Abreu and Tanisha Belnap on season 11, but also, he created the choreo to the epic cane dance with Kiki Nyemchek and Jenna Johnson in season 15.
Carlyle, who won a Tony for Best Choreography for ‘After Midnight’ in 2014, is slated to choreograph both the upcoming revival of ‘The Music Man’ starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in the fall of 2020 and Barry Manilow’s musical, ‘Harmony’, opening Off-Broadway next spring.
7. Tyce Diorio
Emmy winner Tyce Diorio is certainly well known for his work on ‘SYTYCD’ having been a staple as a choreographer in the show’s storied success, but Diorio is a native New Yorker and has spent some time in the theatre himself.
Along with his long list of television, commercial, and film choreography, Diorio also served as the associate choreographer on the 2005 Broadway musical, ‘Good Vibrations,’ based on the music of the Beach Boys.
Diorio performed in the Tony award-winning production of ‘Fosse’ on Broadway as well as having toured with the famed revival of ‘Chicago’s road company.
8. Al Blackstone
Melanie Moore in Al Blackstone’s ‘Freddie Falls In Love’. Video courtesy: Al Blackstone/Marc Cardarelli.
Al Blackstone, who has choreographed on ‘SYTYCD’ from season 12 through the recently wrapped season 16, was nominated for a 2018 Emmy award for his work creating ‘L-O-V-E’ (aka ‘The Pizza Dance’) in season 14.
Blackstone, who before he transitioned into choreography performed in the ensemble of ‘Wicked’ on Broadway, is not only a widely sought-out teacher in New York City, but he’s also the choreographer behind the recent theatrical dance musical, ‘Freddie Falls In Love’ at The Joyce Theatre.
Serving as an associate for Sonya Tayeh on numerous projects, Blackstone — an award-winning theatrical choreographer in his own right — also built the movement to ‘The View Upstairs’ Off-Broadway. He’s also spent a lot of time creating work in the name of charity, too —having choreographed for many Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS events as well as for Dancers Responding to AIDS at the Fire Island Dance Festival.
‘L-O-V-E' (The Pizza Dance) from ‘SYTYCD’. Video courtesy: Fox.
Michael Mahany serves as Dance Network’s New York correspondent. He is also a professional actor, singer, dancer who appears nightly in the 10th Anniversary production of Rock Of Ages in New York City. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.