Four years ago, "So You Think You Can Dance" producer/judge Nigel Lythgoe created National Dance Day, a holiday recognized by an Official Act of Congress to promote healthy lifestyles through movement and dance. National Dance Day takes place on the last Saturday of every July via flashmob-style dance and fitness events across the country, but the holiday's main event has to be Nigel's Dizzy Feet Gala.
Held 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 is always 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 is an amazing celebration of not only dance as an art form, but of the many television shows that have helped introduce that art form to an entire new mainstream audience. And this year's "Celebration of Dance," held at the historic Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, did not disappoint.
"DWTS" was well-represented by a spirited jive by Mark Ballas and Peta Murgatroyd, but the night really belonged to "SYTYCD," which recently scooped up seven Emmy nominations. Among the familiar "SYTYCD" faces who wowed the crowd were Season 3 runner-up Neil Haskell and Season 8 winner Melanie Moore, who performed their famous Mandy Moore-choreographed "Total Eclipse of the Heart;" Season 2 runner-up-turned-star-choreographer Travis Wall's Shaping Sound dance company, which featured alums Neil and Melanie, Nick Lazzarini, Allison Holker, Ade Obayomi, Jaime Goodwin, Channing Cookie, Noelle Marsh, and Chantel Aguirre; Season 9 winner Chehon Wespi-Tschopp doing a sexy Twyla Tharp routine with his partner, Marcia Moreno; a high-energy Bollywood number by Alex Wong and Caitlin Kinney; Stephen "Twitch" Boss and Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer reuniting for their famous Christopher Scott duo dance from last year; a fantastic, Spencer Liff-choreographed tribute to Tony-winning theater and film legend Chita Rivera featuring Kayla Radomski, Ryan Ramirez, and Sasha Mallory; a fiery rhumba by ballroom veterans Dmitry Chaplin and Anya Garnis; and an allstar-studded finale by Christopher Scott's LXD.
And from this current "SYTYCD" season, tap-dancing contestants Aaron Turner, Alexis Juliano, and Curtis Holland thrillingly reprised their "Meet the Top 20" routine from earlier this year, and memorable beatboxing Boston auditioners John Tesoriero and Gene Shinozaki delighted the crowd with an inventive a cappella dance-off.
However, one of the absolute standout numbers was "The Way You Make Me Feel Inside," a Stacey Tookey-choreographed love triangle/tap routine during which Stacey's brother Kevin and "America's Got Talent" contestant-turned-"SYTYCD" choreographer Anthony Morigerato (the man who holds the world record for most taps in a minute) tapped for Melanie Moore's affection, and not only won over Melanie but received a standing ovation from the audience. Another highlight was an intense animation tour de force by Cyrus's friends in the famous Dragon House crew, featuring past "SYTYCD" auditioners Boris Penton, Andre Rucker, and beloved Bryan Gaynor (the robot dancer whose severe scoliosis has never hindered his amazing dancing).
Aside from TV stars of the dance world, the Dizzy Feet Gala featured incredible performances by the San Francisco Ballet, the Philadelphia Dance Company, and the Los Angeles Ballet, as well as by several young Dizzy Feet scholarship recipients and other talented children helped by the Foundation. "Change the World," a routine done not by professionals but by children with Down's syndrome from Alabama's Merrimack Academy for the Performing Arts, particularly had the audience in tears and on their feet, and it reminded everyone of the reason for this event in the first place.
Legends of the arts were also honored: The Gene Kelly Legacy Award was bestowed by Gene's widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, to the Dance Theatre of Harlem's Arthur Mitchell; actress Anna Kendrick presented the DFF Impact Award to Eric Feig, president of Step Up franchise movie company Lionsgate; and fan-favorite "SYTYCD" guest judge Christina Applegate presented the DFF Inspiration Award recipient to the above-mentioned Chita Rivera.
Among the other presenters were hosts Nigel Lythgoe and Adam Shankman, along with Cat Deeley, Paula Abdul, Jenna Elfman, Wayne Brady (who also surprisingly pulled off an old-school hip-hop dance routine), and "Glee's" Jane Lynch, Darren Criss, and Jenna Ushkowitz.
The dancing didn't end once the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage went dark. The festivities continued with a VIP dinner party and auction, at which guests bid thousands of dollars for the opportunity to dance with the night's celebrities. And well into the wee hours, everyone was still dancing, just for fun.
Congratulations to everyone involved for pulling off another fantastic event, and to the Dizzy Feet Foundation for making America a much more dance-tastic place!