New Choreographers on So You Think You Can Dance Canada

I was so excited to see Season 1 winner Nico Archambault, along with his fiancée Wynne Holmes, choreograph this week. Their routine was jazz funk and took place in a “classroom” complete with desks and Everett Smith as a “nerd” Also this week Sabrina Matthews a classically-trained contemporary choreographer, created a lyrical contemporary duet.

Lindsay Zier-Vogel, from sat down with Nico, Wynn and Sabrina and asked them about their choreographic processes — their vision, the challenges they faced and of course, their very favourite moments….

What is the concept behind your choreography?

Wynn: Our choreography takes place in a classroom. There’s the preppy, quiet boy who has a liking for the bad girl at school. The dance takes place on the day he decides to approach her and it turns out he gets more than what he wanted. He would have even been content if she had just said ‘hi’ back!

Sabrina: My piece is about a guy who desperately wants a second chance in a relationship, but she just can’t give it to him. The inspiration for it came from the Coldplay song that everyone’s cried to it at some point in time or another!

Walk us through your choreographic process.

Nico: It really happens naturally between the two of us. We started with the song and then started thinking about the concept and evolved from there.

Wynn: We had a completely different concept at first, but it was going to be too difficult. With the limited time we had, we decided to this classroom thing would work and I’m glad we chose it instead!

Nico: We got the idea for the desks and they’re perfect. Everything fell into place from there — the desks, the dancers, everything!

Sabrina: Music is one of the most important elements when I start a creation. I usually listen to the music over and over again and movements pop into my mind. For this piece, I knew the time restraints were quite extreme from what I’m used to working with, so I had a lot prepared beforehand.

I’d been watching the show for weeks to get a feel for all the dancers so that when I got my dancers, I knew what their strengths and weaknesses were. They’re both technically strong dancers and I wanted to accentuate that with leaps and jumps and dynamic upper body movements. I really catered to the dancers’ bodies.

What were the challenges during the rehearsal process?

Wynn: The desks! Besides working with the dancers, we also had to work with two things that don’t take corrections!

Nico: Props in general always add in an element of surprise. The desks are solid, but they’re not made to stand on, so if you stand too far forward, the whole thing tips. They can be dangerous and the dancers really had to be safe about where they put their weight.

They were also really sticky on the bottom and wouldn’t move the way we wanted them to, so we had to adapt and find something to make them more slippery. But even then, they couldn’t be too slippery. It was all about finding the right balance.

Sabrina: The biggest challenge was for the dancers to master the technical components of the work with strong feet and lines while also being completely engaged with the emotional aspect of the piece. You can’t have technique without emotion and you can’t have emotion without technique.

In rehearsal, we talked about approaching the piece differently every time, so in one run through they’d focus on connecting with one another, the next time on paying attention to the in between steps. They were just suggestions, but it’s important to keep the dance from getting stale.

How would you define your choreographic style?

Nico: It’s hard to describe. It’s a jazz funk vibe, but we have a lot of contemporary influences and hip-hop mixed in. A lot of other people use these elements, but then there’s our own flavour we add in.

It’s a lot of release and sharpness, but you really need to know when to release. If you only hit the sharp movements, it becomes square and small. It’s more about the release between the hits.

Wynn: It’s all about breathing through the moments in between the movement.

Sabrina: I always use a certain element of classical ballet, but I like to take it to an extreme and always put my own style into the movement. I like using the upper body a lot and using a large range of dynamics is huge for me. It’s so important to me for the dancers to really play with speeds to keep it from becoming monotonous.

What is your favourite moment of the piece?

Wynn: It’s not a big choreographic moment, or a big epic jump, but I love the look on the preppy guy’s face when he approaches the bad girl. It just works. It sets the whole tone.

Nico: I like the last pose. The girl kind of bullies the guy around and I love when she stands over top of him at the end and there’s a big shower of light that comes down. I think that’s a really strong image.

Sabrina: Definitely the ending. It’s the end of a chapter.