Ballroom partners Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith (DT, June 2008) have a history of pushing the envelope. The duo, who represented the U.S. in World Latin American Dance Championships for more than a decade, have never been content with the strictly ballroom scene. During their training, they often researched outside of the ballroom industry. “We were in the music store, trying to find new and different stuff that wasn’t typical for the jive or the cha-cha or the rumba,” says LaPatin. She and Meredith used to go into the empty studio late at night and put their favorite music on—“completely nonballroom music, like hip hop and rap and R&B”—and use the way they moved to it to inject their ballroom moves with a new flavor.
That boundary-pushing approach has paid dividends for Meredith and LaPatin, now in demand as choreographers for popular television shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and as freelance coaches, choreographers and judges. It’s not always easy to introduce people to ballroom, whether they’re complete beginners or dancers of other genres. LaPatin says that for “So You Think You Can Dance,” she and Meredith must not only develop choreography but teach the dancers they’re paired with the very basics of ballroom over the course of five and a half hours. Their reward is seeing the newfound love they’ve cultivated in their students. “They find a whole new respect,” says LaPatin. “Even the krumpers!” says Meredith. “They take it very seriously.” DT
“This is a slow cha-cha for beginners, or if you’re practicing and you really want to get into the cha-cha.” —LaPatin
“This was our favorite rumba. It’s not a typical Latin rumba, but it’s so moving, and it just eats you up.” —LaPatin
“It’s so deep. Deep, passionate, earthy, heartfelt. There’s no question about what to do: The body just does what the music says.” —Meredith
“This is a quirky little project that I worked on [LaPatin served as producer]—it’s got my favorite stuff, some swing, fox-trot, waltzes.” —LaPatin
“She’s so passionate—her voice! She’s an oldie but goodie. There’s something so soulful about her.” —Meredith
Photo (top) by Dan Howell