EXCLUSIVE: American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance creator Simon Fuller, High School Musical director and Michael Jackson choreographer Kenny Ortega and buyers including ABC’s Rob Mills were among the crowd for a new dance competition format pitch in Hollywood last night.
Fremantle, the production company behind Idol and America’s Got Talent, put together a live pitch event at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood last night for its latest project – Live from Los Angeles (w/t).
The show is a live dance competition format that aims to take advantage of social media’s insatiable appetite for dance challenges. It features 16 up and coming LA dancers, who will work to impress three celebrity captains with their ability to stand out, while at the same time fitting in.
Over multiple rounds of the one-hour competition, including freestyling and learning choreography on-the-fly, dancers are narrowed down. One show-stopping performance with a shocking twist, will determine the night’s big winner.
The event, which attracted a couple of hundred people, including members of the dance community, was a new twist on finding a buyer for the show, an interesting way to pitch the idea after the last 18 months largely spent pitching over Zoom.
Live from Los Angeles was created by Tony Selznick, who has been in the business of dance and choreography for over 30 years. Selznick previously worked with Fuller as a judge on NBC’s Superstars of Dance and he was a consultant on the Magical Elves-produced series Step It Up and Dance for Bravo and CBS’ Live to Dance with Paula Abdul.
He told Deadline, “I’ve probably been involved in every dance show that’s been on air for the past 20 years and I’ve been waiting to find a spot where I think I can add value and bring a new format to a new dance competition that maybe hasn’t been seen before.”
“The dance community is really the driving force in pop culture, that the style of dances that you see dancers doing is what you see on TikTok, on YouTube, on TV, and in the clubs and streets. There’s a new breed of dancer that has come out because of social media so I thought it’s time for a dance competition / gameshow that really caters for this new generation of dancers,” he added.
Social media, and TikTok in particular, have been creating stars out of youngsters dancing in their bedrooms such as Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. Selznick said superstars are now searching online to find people to work with and he wanted to create a show that recognizes this. “This is how artists are finding their choreographers now. Managers are not calling agents and saying send me ten video tapes of choreographers for Britney anymore, Madonna finds her choreographers on YouTube, everybody does.”
He started workshopping the idea at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood with friends from the dance community, which is where Fremantle’s SVP, Alternative Programming Joni Day first saw the format.
Day told Deadline that she was “immediately swept away and sucked in” and the American Idol and AGT production company agreed to become the producer on the show. “I immediately felt the show in my bones and knew it was something special. It was about the access, getting an inside look to be in a dance audition. The point of view was exhilarating. The play along was important; I’m not a dance expert but there I was judging everybody and picking my favorites, being happy and sad, going on this rollercoaster ride of emotions as the format progressed. Not only are you being entertained by these amazing dances, which you expect from a dance show, but there’s a gameshow element where you’re playing along,” she added.
The judges for last night’s show were Jamie King, who has worked with the likes of Madonna and the Spice Girls, Laurie Ann Gibson, who has worked with stars such as Lady Gaga, Megan Thee Stallion and Britney Spears and was previously a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, and Luther Brown, who has worked with the likes of Janet Jackson and Alicia Keys and has also featured on So You Think You Can Dance. Cultura, who has worked with the likes of Will.I.Am and J Balvin, was a guest choreographer, and it was hosted by Aliya Janell, a choreographer and social media star who has worked with the likes of Nicki Minaj, and DJ Brynn Taylor.
Day and her team have developed the idea and last night, with the help of CAA, began pitching it to a room of execs from the linear broadcasters and streamers. She said given the pandemic, it’s been a long time where it’s been appropriate to hold such an event and admitted it was “nerve wracking” and “exhilarating”. “When you find an idea or format that is so solid that you have the confidence to put it on its feet live and not have the luxury of post-production to hide the bumps and bruises, that’s when you know you have something special. We haven’t been able to do this in a very long time and I think the buyers have missed these types of events too,” she said.
Selznick added, “I’m fortunate to have lived in the dance world for a while now, this is a real proof of concept. If the likes of Kenny Ortego come and watch this and love it, we’re on to something very special.”
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