December 14, 2015

Jordan and Tatiana's Last Routine

Taking their "Final Bow:
Jordan and Tatiana at the 2015 US Open
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. -Thomas Jefferson


Before you read the article I wrote today, I want to clear away some cobwebs first so that you can see it clearly.

Look. Talking about Jordan and Tatiana is a very difficult thing to do.

It's like talking about gun control. People lose their minds and talk nonsense no matter what side of the matter they fall on.

But here I am, trying to voice my feelings and an opinion about - basically - Tom Cruise to a crowd that either defected from or most decidedly belongs to Scientology.

But I caught things in the routine you most likely missed. I did grow up with them. They were my "childhood friends" so to speak. And though what they've done to the dance of swing may crush me...

... and though watching a routine that's only 15% swing again sickens me, like a punch to the stomach again... I loved it. I loved it for what it was. And that's what I talk about in my article today.

That may be a hard thing to understand or hear from me depending on where you stand today. So today I'm asking you to take a step back and just... hear me. Listen to me. Hear me out. Thank you.


Jordan and Tatiana performed a new routine at the US Open this year. When I watched the video of it on Friday, just on the fly, I stopped it halfway through and said out loud, "Wait. What?" and called my husband.

I played the song and asked if I was crazy. "No," he said, "I'm hearing the same thing."

So I hit rewind and watched the routine from the start. I watched the whole thing. And then I saw it all. And there was a lot to see.

Basically they did a song that very much seemed like a huge goodbye to the dance community. Then, after performing that routine, they gave a sort of retirement speech at the awards ceremony. I wasn't involved in any of it. I was just an observer, but... the end, I thought they did right by themselves.

Let's take a look at this Last Routine of theirs, shall we?

Their Song

Jordan and Tatiana used Kygo's Stole the Show, a beautiful song that's perfect for Abstract and seemingly written for Jordan and Tatiana's themselves... in fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think Kygo had personally written the song just for them and this situation. It certainly sounded like it.

The song speaks of a brilliant debut, large performances, playing to full houses, stages full of roses and then... the roses start to wilt. The thrill is gone. The show- it can't go on. It's time for our curtain call. Let's take our final bow.

But.... "at least we stole the show."

Didn't they ever! Isn't that exactly what they did? Well, they didn't just steal the show, they broke records, changed the dance, changed the sport, changed the game, created a whole different universe and wiped out another one. For better or for worse, they stole the freakin' show. That's exactly what they did. Amen.

But now they're ready to move on. That's good. Healthy. Long overdue, but still. They deserve an exit. We all do. But what I love the most is how they used this routine to do it.

What I Loved

It was an hommage. A perfect, beautiful and well done hommage to who they were and all that they had done.
In this light, I loved it. 

It was the hommage part of it that inspired me to write this article, not the fact that they are heading out the door. So let me point out my favorites.

First, Jordan and Tatiana were much more relaxed in this performance than I've ever seen them. And I can understand why. When you choreograph a routine to win or stay on top, that's one thing, but this was different.

It was a love letter instead. 
And love letters are easier to write and perform.

As a result, I felt like I saw more of them this time - the parts of them I loved growing up, and I saw more of the joy that comes with maturity and adulthood. There was strength and peace in that. I loved seeing 'reality' come out of them, instead of domination. They simply enjoyed themselves more this time around - they seemed to savor the performance and savor each other a lot more. Time felt like it was on rewind. We haven't seen those two in a long time.

Second, I loved their nods to the past. It's as though they wrote them in for those of us who were there for all of them. Here are some of my very favorites:

"Our debut was a masterpiece"

US Open/Partnership Debut:
Juniors 2001
#1. My number one favorite moment was at 1:27, when the song lyrics say "our debut was a masterpiece." Then Jordan and Tatiana illustrated that expertly by performing one of the "masterpieces" from their actual US Open "debut" by dancing their signature move from their Juniors Division routine. (They first entered Classic in 2001, when they finally met the age requirements, but their real debut was actually in the year 2000 when the hotel moved us over the room this second picture was taken in.)

That move has a lot of history for those of us who were there. Brilliant reminder. Brilliant hommage. Perfect for them.

#2. The next time the lyrics say "our debut was a masterpiece," they do the ever famous hip hitches in parallel second positions towards the audience at an angle - another move uniquely their own that debuted in their Strictly Swings long before it debuted in their More routine in 2011.

The parallel jackson featured in this routine was a throwback.
a classic move of theirs from Strictly Swings and demos
#3. Their beginning pose and shoulder movements in this routine referenced their famous Viva la Vida routine and its beginning "puppet on a string" shoulder movements that were meme'd so often. I did not love Viva la Vida, but I did love this reference simply because 1. it let everyone know at the very start that things were different this time and 2. they did it beautifully in sync and with greater control than I've seen from them for a first performance in a while. It was striking, poignant and relevant... for them. I loved it.

There were other things I loved, from the level of difficulty, to their return to a quiet start - rising to a spinning climax format - from their acknowledgement of their fans to their excellent acknowledgement of each other - it was a beautiful hommage beautifully done.

Their Own Dance

I'll be honest though. I also felt this was a fitting hommage for them because they didn't try to do West Coast Swing. I only saw 15%, which is pretty much where they were at before I started writing and you demanded more.

Instead, they did the dance they themselves created. They didn't do Club WCS or Pure WCS - they did their own version of Abstract Improvisation which they created themselves. Not only that - but they did it Oh so well!!! Oh, that was a really good thing to see - their grown up control, precision and grace. I was grateful for that.

So even though it wasn't swing - it was their own dance they developed to stay on top, killing swing in the process - still... I sincerely tip my hat to them for dancing it. There's an honesty in it that I appreciated, especially in a goodbye letter.

I have said for a long time that the dance Tatiana and Jordan do in their routines is one that only they themselves can do... and them alone. You can't learn their dance - you'd have to be remade with the same length of muscles as Tat has in her legs, to the same height as Jordan to the same centimeters in her heel... Get it?

This dance is them, and them alone.

Skippy scrapped her entire WCS syllabus and started over after Jordan and Tatiana came around. We never learned footwork that collides with one another - we were never taught that men go down the slot all the time and women get out of the way before... We went from syllabi that made sense and helped us grow into Champion dancers if we worked hard enough... into gyrating clones gyrating sadly and bumping, crashing, landing lumps on the floor. It's insanity.

But it makes sense when you realize that they were just trying to figure out how to duplicate Jordan & Tat's unique connection--- everyone is still trying to be them - but that's something only they can do.

Gone are the days of a syllabus that works. In are the days of cloning sub-par versions of the real thing. As such, it's terrifying to think of what the cult will become without its two idols to worship... because once they are gone, then BAM! All the ugliness will be unveiled.

Jordan and Tatiana made Abstract look good. They are the club which the bullies that make up the cult use to bash everyone and anyone they can get their hands on that thinks clearly or freely.

But who will be their club now? They hate anything old. They crave everything new. Who can possibly replace them? Because even J&T will admit their champion WCS training provided the basis for the dance they created. They needed the skill of control and tight connections first. And who has that nowadays?

But don't worry. The cult will survive. Scientology will survive the loss of Tom Cruise, if that ever comes to pass, and so will the cult in WCS, after losing Jordan and Tatiana.

What's Next?

At the awards ceremony Jordan and Tatiana took to the microphone to say that yes, they are retiring from the Classic Division, but that no, they are not going anywhere. They said that they'd been attending the US Open for 20 years, and that they plan on spending the weekend with this "family" of theirs for the rest of their lives.

Well. Here's what I think.

I think I've been in this community a long, long time. I think I know the way things are done and the way they play out. And so far, I haven't been wrong.

So I have no qualms about saying this:

I think they did say goodbye with this routine, and I think they did it well. I think they really aren't coming back - retirement speech or not. I think they'll be with us for a while... but they are slowly working their way out... starting now. 

I think we won't see another routine from them, and soon we won't see them at all.

That's a hard pill to swallow, especially for the "abstract/ convention" crowd, but I also want to point out that I have an eerily perfect track record on predictions about swing. They simply come to fruition. Freaky, but true.

So it may be sad, but it still is true: they are leaving us.

But I thought they gave us the perfect farewell gift: a routine that painted a portrait of who they were for future dancers, mirrored moments that we've loved from the beginning, gave moments of new inspiration for their followers and said that they loved us as much as we loved them.

I can see them ending in no better way.