Saturday night, the Dizzy Feet Foundation presented its fourth annual Celebration of Dance Gala at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown Los Angeles. Nigel Lythgoe (executive producer of “So You Think You Can Dance“) and Adam Shankman (director, and guest judge on SYTYCD) founded the Dizzy Feet Foundation in 2009 to increase access to dance education, especially to underprivileged and at-risk children. It’s a wonderful cause, and their fundraising gala brought in almost $500,000.
What an impressive celebration of dance it was, with lots of SYTYCD alumni. The two-hour-plus program featured dancers of different levels, from school groups to professionals to current SYTYCD contestants. Two of the routines from SYTYCD’s Top 20 performances encored: Ricky Ubeda and Jessica Richens danced Sonya Tayeh’s majestic contemporary piece, and Valerie Rockey and Zack Everhart blew up Anthony Morigerato’s stair routine, which was even more terrifyingly exciting live (and somehow seemed faster). Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies also tapped to Beyonce’s “Flawless,” and the winner of “So You Think You Can Dance Australia,” Michael Dameski, performed his quick but explosive solo.
Travis Wall returned with his company, Shaping Sound, to perform his brilliant interpretation of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” for seven dancers (including Wall). A smart routine, with a clever representation of the music and the story, including the de rigeur head-banging section.
Three groups of young dancers were featured, including a 60-member ensemble who paid their own way to perform in a Mandy Moore-choreographed work to Whitney Houston’s “Wanna Dance with Somebody,” remixed by District 78. The Drug Enforcement Administration Youth Dance program, started by Jill Roberts in 1999 to give kids an alternative to drugs, performed in honor of “Glee”’s Cory Monteith, who tragically died of an overdose last July. Though not the most accomplished dancers, it’s clear that they’re fully enjoying what they’re doing while also learning self-confidence, discipline, and joy of life.
Blowing everyone away with the last number of the evening, Diavolo’s dark, powerful, and breathtaking “D2R” featured dancers climbing up and sliding down a life-size Plinko-like peg board. Such athleticism and power, the audience feared for the dancers’ lives as they climbed up and fell backwards off the board, safely caught by others below. Mesmerizing, and unlike anything we’d seen before.
A Louis Van Amstel Ballroom dance with “Dancing With the Stars” pros, a traditional Hawaiian dance, a ballet number with the Joffrey Ballet’s Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani, a fun contemporary piece by Bodytraffic, an impressive solo choreographed and performed by Cirque Du Soleil’s Jean Sok, who only has one leg, and two hip-hop routines, one by the company of “Step Up – All In” and one featuring 9-year old Miles “Baby Boogaloo” Brown (along with SYTYCD’s Stephen “tWitch” Boss and Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer) rounded out the impressive program.
Nigel and Adam were the hosts of the evening, and a slew of presenters, including Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) and Jenna Elfman (“Growing Up Fisher”) introduced the performances. Other guest presenters accomplished the primary purpose of the evening (other than raising money): the giving of awards. Patricia Ward Kelly, wife of Gene Kelly, presented the Legacy Award in his honor to ballroom dance couple Pierre Dulaine and Yvonne Marceau for their work with Dancing Classrooms, a program that has brought ballroom dance to over 410 thousand students in 31 countries. Toni Basil presented the Impact Award to Red Bull for its BC One breakdancing competitions, and Paula Abdul presented the Inspiration Award to Debbie Allen for her years of service as a dance performer, educator, and ambassador.
The Dizzy Feet Foundation gives grants to community organizations that provide dance education programs, and offers scholarships to young dancers who may not otherwise have a chance at dance education. This is very important work, especially given the terrible fact that only 3 percent of elementary and secondary schools offer movement in their curriculum. Please consider making a donation at their website.
Click the images below for larger views. All photos by Renée Camus.