The Olympics may have kicked off Friday in "So You Think You Can Dance" producer Nigel Lythgoe's native Britain, but the following day in America, there was another athletic celebration going on: National Dance Day, a Saturday filled with flashmob-style dance events across the country, capped off by the second-ever Dizzy Feet Gala at the historic Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles.
Held July 28 to benefit the Dizzy Feet Foundation (a non-profit organization established by Nigel, "SYTYCD" judge Adam Shankman, "Dancing With The Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba, and actress Katie Holmes to advance dance education in under-served areas), the gala was a dream come true for avid viewers of dance reality shows like myself. Featuring allstar performances by dancers from programs like "SYTYCD" and "DWTS"--including reprises of famous routines from episodes past--the gala was not only an amazing celebration of dance as an art form, but of the many television shows that have helped introduce that art form to an entire new mainstream audience.
The gala kicked off with a high-energy number set to the late, great Donna Summer's "Last Dance" (although, ironically, this was far from the last dance of the night), featuring cameo appearances by "SYTYCD" cast members Mary Murphy, Mandy Moore, Tyce Diorio, Twitch Boss, and Season 8 "SYTYCD" champion Melanie Moore--all of whom elicited howls of delight from the Pavilion audience. And from that point on, there was no need to cue music, as Nigel might say, because the music never stopped.
Highlights of the thrilling evening included a positively Gene Kelly-esque tap solo by "America's Got Talent" tapper Anthony Morigerato (the man who holds the world record for most taps in a minute); a fiery and fang-baring paso doble by "DWTS" pro Derek Hough and his former winning partner Maria Menounos; a cheeky same-sex tango by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, the stars of Nigel's forthcoming Ovation Network reality series "A Chance To Dance"; and a characteristically jaw-dropping number by Lil' C's LXD.
Many "SYTYCD" favorites were on hand as well, recreating some of their most beloved "SYTYCD" performances. Melanie Moore returned to the stage with her Season 8 partner Marko Germar for their Ingrid Michaelson-soundtracked "Turn To Stone" contemporary routine, choreographed by "SYTYCD" alum and "All The Right Moves" star Travis Wall. Twitch Boss reunited with Alex Wong, the former frontrunner who had to bow out of Season 7 due to injury, for their iconic Nappytabs hip-hop number, "Outta Your Mind." And ballerina Melissa Sandvig and "SYTYCD" allstar Ade Obayomi reprised one of the most memorable "SYTYCD" routines ever, their tear-jerking "This Woman's Work" cancer-dance created by Tyce Diorio. All three dances were as stunning in person as they originally had been on TV.
A trio of fan-favorite contestants from this current "SYTYCD" season also wowed the crowd. Top 14 finalists Chehon Wespi-Tschopp and Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer stunned with their solos, but it was a solo by early standout and Vegas Week dropout Hampton "The Exorcist" Williams that made the most magnificent impression. I seriously hope Hampton considers trying out again for "SYTYCD" in Season 10. He is simply brilliant.
Genius "SYTYCD" choreographer Desmond Richardson also astounded with his solo "Moonlight" routine, and Axis Dance, a company featuring differently abled dancers whose "wheelchair dance" was a results-show highlight in Season 8, impressed with a powerful routine called "The Narrowing."
Aside from TV stars of the dance world, the Dizzy Feet Gala featured incredible performances by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as by several young Dizzy Feet scholarship recipients and other talented children helped by the Foundation. Legends of the arts were also honored: The Gene Kelly Legacy Award was presented to dancer/director/producer Damian Woetzel by Gene's widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, and, quite thrillingly, the wonderful Debbie Allen bestowed the Dizzy Feet Inspiration Award to Shirley MacLaine, who in her acceptance speech amusingly described dance as a "vertical expression of a horizontal desire, made legitimate by music."
The gala ended with a big, brash finale number by the cast of "Step Up Revolution"--starring "SYTYCD" alums Twitch, Kathryn McCormick, and Tony Bellissimo--followed by a VIP dinner party and auction, at which guests bid hundreds or even thousands of dollars to dance with Twitch Boss, Cyrus Spencer, Adam Shankman, "SYTYCD" allstar Allison Holker, "Glee's" Harry Shum, Desmond Richardson, Derek Hough, and former "DWTS" celebrity contestants Ricki Lake and Maria Menounos.
By the end of the evening, the gala had raised more than $500,000 for the Dizzy Feet Foundation's very worthy cause. Congratulations to everyone involved for pulling off such a fantastic event, and to the Dizzy Feet Foundation for making America a much more dance-tastic place.
ALL PHOTOS BY CHARLEY GALLAY/WIREIMAGE