A question came in today at another site I run. A thoughtful response required more than a couple sentences, and thus, it is published here, as this WordPress site is more suitable for a lengthy post. Also, please complete the poll and choose up to three cities you’d like to see SWAY perform, should there be a tour*. Last, links to other SWAY show reviews, for those inclined to read more are at the bottom of this page.
* I have ZERO input into any aspect of SWAY, I’m just a happy supporter of this wonderful production and was curious as to what people wanted.
“Hi. You are lucky you got to go to so many Sway shows. Respect your opinion. You saw Maks and Meryl dance and Maks and Peta dance. What were the differences? Haven’t really heard any commentary on this. Believe both danced the rumba. My impression from watching clips is that while Peta is the better dancer technically (and Maks and Peta’s dances looked great), Meryl and Maks just have something extra special that is not explainable. Based on what you saw in person, do you agree about Maks and Meryl’s chemistry on the dance floor? Did your colleagues have the same opinion? Thanks.”
Indeed, I enjoyed good fortune being able to see so many SWAY shows and hope the pattern continues for subsequent ‘editions’ of SWAY! I also thank you for your kind words. The performances by both ladies with Maks were outstanding. Not sure about the utility in comparing them. To me, when someone can perform at the level of both women, an audience is in for an excellent experience. Judging by the response, the audiences were thrilled every night with all of the performances.
Essentially, the differences specific to Scene III, the Latin segment of the show, between December 17 featuring Olympic Gold Medalist in Ice Dance and Mirror Ball Trophy winner from Season 18, Meryl Davis, and the other days featuring DWTS Professional Dancer and ‘Burn the Floor’ Global and Broadway performer, Peta Murgatroyd, boils down to two factors:
- Meryl’s performances were not created for SWAY. They were DWTS S18 performances revived for SWAY. They are purely solo pieces, with no supporting cast on stage and no staging effects, props and even the backdrop was a solid color. Additionally, the musical selections were more emotional, deeper, and in contrast with the Scene III setting of a Miami Club set in the 50’s
- Starting with Thursdays performance, the two solos performed by Meryl were omitted. Instead, the two feature numbers with Maks and Peta replaced them. These numbers were designed for SWAY and fit musically and thematically into the overarching setting for the Scene. Thus, while both women did a rumba, it wasn’t the same rumba, and thus, defies direct comparison.
As far as dancing ability and performance quality, it’s impossible, to me, to compare the ladies. Both are enormously talented and every dancer in SWAY has their own special ‘something’ which makes them unique and wonderful to watch. Below, are my thoughts on Meryl and Peta’s noteworthy performance abilities.
What Meryl has been able to bring to a dance floor, when her undisputed expertise is executing impossibly difficult, perfect moves on ice as reigning OGM in Ice Dance, is nothing short of mind-boggling. First, the technical difficulty in their Argentine Tango is extremely high. Emma Slater, DWTS pro who filled in for camera blocking when Meryl was on tour during Season 18, noted the enormously challenging backward leap into a hold by Maks. His choreography brilliantly plays to her strengths, one of which are legs so strong, she can propel herself up and back in a way few can. Second is her astounding ability to convey an emotional and dramatic depth in a performance. This is her ‘it factor’ which sets her apart and Maks, again, choreographed numbers which emphasize her remarkable ability. Finally, partnering skills puts Meryl and Maks in a unique category and is a huge factor in their performances. It’s not just one or the other, it is both, together. While it is an exceptional strength of Meryl’s, with Maks it just works and I’ve never seen another ballroom/Latin dancing pair with this level of magic.
In the ‘Making of SWAY’ video Maks said he was the ‘plus 1’ in their performances and Meryl quickly contradicted him. I’d have to agree with Meryl. While he might not always be dancing in a way that draws equal or more attention to himself in most of their numbers from Season 18, with a fantastic exception of his ‘Elvis’ Jive, it is the two of them, together, ‘dancing as one’ as Carrie Ann Inaba phrased it, which takes their performances to the highest level. In that same video, Maks said they weren’t going to worry about miniscule technical details, which is remarkable in itself as he’s known for being driven to perfection in the fine details of dance. They know what they have as a performing pair: a chemistry and connectivity that leaves audiences mesmerized and wanting more.
Peta’s unique talents extend beyond flawless technique. Her extension and lines are staggeringly beautiful and her ability to present a broad range of expression is remarkable. The latter of which spans from a delicate grace as seen in her music box dance in Season 19 with Tommy Chong to a sassy fierceness which most could only hope to achieve, notable in her Season 19 freestyle with James Maslow and Mirror Ball winning finale with Donald Driver. Her sassy fierceness is on full display in Act III with Maks and together they make a dynamic pair on the stage. Their dance to ‘El Watusi/Ran Kan Kan’ , in particular, draws the eye, even though the cast was on stage at times. From the moment the cast parted on stage, as Peta emerged from the back, with a flirty presence that commanded attention, the performance was nothing less than spectacular. Additionally, the level of intensity, speed, and expression of movement throughout the dance from both was equally matched and beyond most Pro performances outside of the SWAY production.
Maks is a big, powerful dancer. While he says younger brother Val is the better dancer, Val has stated that Maks commands attention by raising an eyebrow, while he has to do all sorts of tricks and flips to draw the audience. Peta is fully able to match that power and presence with speed and precision. Her sassy flirty presentation is a perfect compliment for Maks’ unique way of reaching an audience, sharing a joy of dance and inviting the audience to experience it with them. This pair know what they bring to the stage few others can: charm and FUN!
Ideally, going forward, my wish would be for Maks continuing to perform with both Peta and Meryl as they bring their own individual talents to the show. Additionally, time permitting, choreography created specifically for Meryl and Maks in SWAY and possible inclusion of Meryl in a group number, would be of great appeal. Of course, I’d like both to perform a full set in all performances. Which means Maks will be dancing a whole lot more and Scene III will become longer. I see zero problems with this scenario at least for those in attendance at SWAY show performances. After all, Maks did say to ‘give the audience what they want.’ If the public clamors for this, he may regret that comment!
Beyond the aforementioned, ALL of the performances were outstanding and captivating to watch. While you didn’t ask, a comparison between SWAY versions 1 and 2 might be of interest. It should be noted by what has been said publicly by Maks and others involved in SWAY via conversations I had the pleasure to enjoy, SWAY is a labor of love and the performances are reflective of this happy circumstance. SWAY 1.0 was, in the majority, a performance by highly talented DWM instructors, enhanced by performances by key DWM/DWTS principals. The DWM instructors put their heart and soul into turning out a superb experience for the audience, working incredibly long hours in rehearsal after their full, normal work day. As a first run, it was amazing what they were able to accomplish: they created a hit production.
For SWAY 2.0, it was if they turned the volume up to 11, to use the old Spinal Tap reference. The choreography was fine tuned and the cast was enhanced by the addition of Sharna, Artem, Henry, Jenna, Serge and his dance partner, Alla. Additionally, fewer DWM instructional staff performed in the second version, permitting the studios to continue to run smoothly and DWM performers the time to focus on rehearsals. Thus, SWAY 2.0 was extra heavy on powerhouse professional performers. Although there were slight modifications to the choreography, much of it was hardwired by 2.0 by the 1.0 performers, making for a stronger, more polished performance. The addition of so many additional headliners was key for an additional spark as they all have a special presence which reaches the audience. I cannot emphasize enough, that while I loved 1.0 and thought it brilliant, 2.0 surpassed 1.0, in a way I didn’t think possible. Tweaks to choreography, set/staging, refinement of the DWM cast participants, and addition of so many incredibly talented headliners, combined to take the production to new heights.
As the entire DWM ‘family’ appears congenitally allergic to resting on their laurels, I cannot even begin to imagine what they will produce for subsequent SWAY productions. All I can say is anyone and everyone will enjoy SWAY 3.0, even if they aren’t dance aficionados. This is because SWAY is far, far more than the ‘usual’ dance show, although those productions are wonderfully fun. Key to the difference between SWAY and other productions, besides being a labor of love by an extended family, is SWAY is theater as opposed to a dance show.
Seeing a cohesive and fascinating story, which speaks to the evolution of American Social Dance though cultural influences, shaped by successive waves of immigrants, told through dance, is unique and fascinating to experience.
Want to read or see more?
Past SWAY reviews of the 2014 performances: 12/18 with Meryl Davis, 12/19 performance without Meryl Davis, and the first run of SWAY on 7/26. Info on ticketing and VIP benefits for the June 2015 SWAY production run. There are additional posts listed elsewhere on this page.
For more details on SWAY, including a series of delightful ‘Making of SWAY’ videos, go to: SWAYshow.com
Follow SWAY: A Dance Trilogy:
To learn more about Dance With Me dance studios and how to learn to dance, go to: Dance With Me USA
There’s something about moving, something about interpreting yourself to the music, that’s attractive, that’s interesting, that’s intriguing, and everyone wishes they could do that. ~ Maksim Chmerkovskiy