In a nutshell: Original music selected by ballroom dance royalty Melanie LaPatin.
Every instructor knows the difficulties of drawing inspiration from a piece of overused music. Even world-champion Latin ballroom dancer and “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Melanie LaPatin has felt the fruitless effect of the same old sambas, tangos and jives. So she teamed up with songwriters Charlie Mason, Richard Hymas and Ricardo Autobahn to create this 22-track album with young up-and-coming artists like Kyle Brylin, Jill Helena and Jeronimo, who all put a current spin on ballroom class. The songs are versatile enough for freestylers, hustlers and even contemporary dancers. “As choreographers, we’re always looking for new music that has a punch to it,” says LaPatin.
The album’s website offers suggestions from LaPatin for specific songs to pair with classic ballroom dances. Including everything from East Coast swing to an electro-pop cha-cha, LaPatin’s suggestions provide the flare to make each original music number a sensation in the classroom or onstage.
For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Dianna Jones, owner and director of the Jean Leigh Academy of Dance in Denham Springs, LA, has developed a fundraising project to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to injured military personnel. Jones came up with the idea for “Freedom Dances” last September after watching a television program commemorating that fateful day. “I started thinking about the dance community,” she says, “and I knew we could do something we’d be proud of, especially teachers, who can get students involved in something bigger than dance—giving back.”
Through Freedom Dances, Jones encourages members of the dance community to create events, such as recitals or raffles, to collect contributions and raise money and awareness for Wounded Warrior Project. And direct donations will be accepted through her site until Veterans Day, November 11. “The outreach and support from our local community has been incredible,” Jones says. “More people than I expected are willing to jump on board for a good cause.”
Jones stresses how grateful the dance community should be for those who defend our freedom. “We have an added layer of gratitude as artists,” she says. “The ability to create is everything.” Info: freedomdances.net
Photo: Claire Albert of The Dance Refinery in Indianapolis, IN, raised $466 by setting up a Freedom Dances booth at her studio’s recital. (courtesy of Dianna Jones)