Conversation With Mia Michaels

Well known in dance circles for many years, contemporary choreographer Mia Michaels’s work has graced such productions as Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium and Celine Dion’s Las Vegas show. But it’s her involvement during the past three years as a choreographer and judge on Fox’s hit reality dance competition, So You Think You Can Dance, that has made Michaels a household name. The show wrapped in August, and this fall the top-ten finalists are touring the nation, performing several of Michaels’s dances. See listing on page 48 for details.

 

When So You Think You Can Dance began in 2005, did you think it would catch on the way it has? No, I had no idea. When they called me I was like, “Oh, a reality show. I don’t know.” Then I realized the producers also did American Idol and have a good track record. I had no idea it was going to take off, and it’s been absolutely amazing.

Dance shows and dance movies (Hairspray and High School Musical) are taking the ratings and box office by storm. Why do you think dance has made such a comeback? I think everything comes around in time, and I think it’s dance’s time again. It used to be so popular back in the day in the old musicals with old Hollywood. The show is helping to open the eyes of the American public in that there’s so many genres of dance that appeal commercially as well. So many tastes and styles. It doesn’t have to be one thing.

What qualities are you looking for in dancers when you cast the show? Versatility, of course, is so important. They have to be able to do more than what they do. I love a dancer who brings what they have and are able to adapt to other styles. They’re not going to perfect them, but as long as they can grasp them then we’re great. They have to have a great work ethic and no diva attitude. And they have to be smart. As soon as they’re a little ditzy, it all goes to crack because you can’t problem solve.

Have you had a favorite dancer or someone who has stood out? This season Danny [Tidwell] really stuck out. He wasn’t the easiest to work with because I wanted more from him. I wanted more and more and more. I feel like he grew a lot emotionally. He grew tremendously. He opened up a lot, and my frustration with him was that he is so brilliant and I wanted more out of him. I loved Dominic [Sandoval] but I never got to work with him. I really wanted to work with him. I loved Travis [Wahl] and Blake [McGrath] from seasons one and two. This year was by far my favorite.

What can audiences expect to see in the touring show? A lot of my work will be on tour this year, and you really get a sense of each dancer as a person. They really allow their personalities to come through. You walk away knowing them a lot more, not only as dancers but as people. If you’re a die-hard fan of the show, you’ll love the tour. Some of the stuff gets developed more. The routines are longer than the minute and a half you see on TV.

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