Talent: We Haz It

The following was started August 17th, but completed today . . .

So . . . I did this thing. Just helping some friends, really. Back in June. I didn't write about it. But it invaded my every thought for a while there, so it was weird to not write about it. I sort of wrote around it a bit (see 6/25/09) and contented myself with the knowledge that someday I would be allowed to write about it. The trouble was, I wouldn't know when exactly, until it happened. In fact, as I begin this post, I don't know when it "happened," or in fact what happened to allow me to publish about it, but I hope and hope and hope that what happened was something along the lines of my friends blowing away the competition and their lives changing for the better, forever and ever.

Anyway: such are the promises of TV.

America's Got Talent is not my favorite show. In fact, that's putting it rather mildly. I put it mildly, however, because the show has provided Friends Zoe and Dave -- of Paradizo Dance fame -- with a tremendous platform for their unique work. Dave and Zoe have combined Dave's background in competitive salsa with Zoe's in modern dance and circus skills to create stunning, fairly stunt-oriented choreography, the likes of which no one has ever really seen before. I met Zoe through Kate Magram while working together in Kirkos, was there for one of her first collaborations with Dave, in Cirque Boom's Madness & Joy!, and thereafter shared an apartment with Zoe in 2006. They're great people; you may remember my write-up of their incredible wedding last October (see 9/15/08). For all that, I never saw us working together. Their emphasis is so on dance, and mine on theatre, that the commonalities seemed few and unlikely to bring us together.

So thank you, America's Got Talent, for scaring Dave and Zoe enough to ask for feedback from this crazy clown. To be specific, I worked with Paradizo Dance for a total of six hours, over three days. We would have worked more, but I had to be off to Italy, and those two . . . well. Those of you who think I keep busy have no idea. Really. They're pretty amazing offstage as well as on. So what on earth would compel them to ask me for help? I mean, Zoe can lift Dave off the ground, and Dave can practically balance Zoe on his fingers! ("Come on!", I often find myself involuntarily shouting in disbelief when I watch one of their acts.) Well, turning in several unique acts over the course of a summer television season requires one to stretch one's versatility a bit, and one such stretch that they wanted to perform was into the area of stage comedy.

I'm going to assume at this point that I'm not posting this until the season has ended, for them, or in its entirety (for me, the latter will coincide with the former, regardless). As I'm writing, I have no way of knowing how their comic act went, or if they even had a chance to perform it -- though all signs I have now indicate that they will. In fact, I don't know a thing about the act itself. It will be as much a surprise to me as to the rest of the viewing audience. When I left their process, we had established a lot, but choreographed very little, and one of my imperatives to them was to throw out anything we "established" when it ceased to work for them. I know they were working with other people on this particular piece, and I hope they consulted someone else as they were actually building it. Most of my time, you see, was spent workshopping with them on how we collaborate to create a narrative, physical comedy.

It's one of my favorite subjects, it's what Zuppa del Giorno is all about, and somehow I'd never had the opportunity to explore it the way I did with Zoe and Dave. Here were two people with tons of performance experience, tons of physical ability, and even a little theatre background, but very little experience with physical comedy. I had a really excellent time working to explain ideas that make comedy work for me, as well as working to refine a functional dynamic in which they could collaborate to create something unlike anything else they've ever made. We were thinking on our feet, and discussing big ideas, and man -- I'd love to do it again.

* * *

Well: Hell. America, what is wrong with you?

I'm kidding, of course. It was an awful disappointment to witness my friends voted off the show last night, but I'm not bitter about it. (Okay, I'm only mildly bitter about it. [Okay, I burned all my Hasselhoff CDs.]) There's a lot I could write about the contributing factors to the elimination, but it's all a little pointless, and I have to remind myself that Paradizo Dance got a pretty wonderful second prize in all this -- the kind of exposure that changes their professional position for the better. America's Got Talent was never going to change the fact that they're incredibly entertaining and talented performers, win or "lose," and I just hope they are walking away from it with chins held high. They did a magnificent job, and the whole thing was more a fortunate accident than it was their ultimate goal, anyway.

Not that a cool million and headlining in Vegas would have been unwelcome, of course. But anyway.

There's a small but persistent part of me that feels really, really terrible and anxious that I may have steered them wrong. Logically, I know that the work was out of my influence for two months before they performed it and we only worked on ideas and a few beats of choreography. I certainly can't claim any credit for their work! I also know that what they ended up performing was beautifully done, and that the judgment of the audience was as much a matter of taste as of anything objective. Still, I have this little bit within; it is kissing cousins with my general sense of responsibility, and makes me want to take it all on myself. I would like to say to America: "America, blame me for all the parts you didn't like. Let's give these crazy kids another chance!" And so, America, if I have your ear, there you have it.

It's not my place of course to go into any detail here about what I did and didn't see from our time working together in the piece. That's a private discussion that Zoe and Dave and I will have sometime soon (I hope!). Regardless of the outcome, I loved working with them, especially on this kind of thing. I hope we get to do it again someday, whatever the context. Even if we don't, I have no doubt that Dave and Zoe will continue to succeed more and more in what they do best: Creating breath-taking choreography and performing it with love, together.

Oh yeah, and Piers Morgan: What. Ever. Dude. Zoe lifting Dave is flash -- the two of them holding up one another is the heart of their act.
 
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