An Open Letter to Melinda Atwood of DanceBreak 2007

(and to anyone who was a Semi-Finalist in DanceBreak 2007)

Dear Melinda,

Thank you for your time this afternoon in offering feedback to me regarding the selection process for the finalists in DanceBreak 2007.  I was very excited to enter the program and even more excited to be a semi-finalist.  This industry is, as you know, very difficult to catch a "break" in and DanceBreak does seem to offer entry and mid-level choreographers like myself a chance to be seen.

On further review of our conversation, however, I do have some thoughts about this year's selection process.

In our conversation, you mentioned that due to the unusually high number of semi-finalists this year and, the number of "distinguished directors, producers and choreographers,” you felt you didn't have time to show all of the 36 semi-finalists videos.  So you "edited" down the list of videos to the 15 you felt the committee/judges would most respond to. I believe the selective showing of what you think the committee would like tarnishes the spirit and compromises the integrity of the DanceBreak program. The more I thought about that, the more I realized that by "editing" the group of semi-finalists from 36 to 15, you nullified my participation in the program, along with 20 other semi-finalists. 

Nowhere on the DanceBreak website does it say that as a semi-finalist my materials "might" be reviewed.   It says the distinguished selection committee will review them. 

"The semi-finalist materials will be reviewed by a Selection Committee composed of distinguished directors and choreographers.  The Selection Committee will choose the DanceBreak choreographers based on skill, promise, theatricality, story-telling ability, professional maturity and commitment to a career in choreography."  

In our phone call you mentioned to me that you edited the list of semi-finalists to be reviewed based on your feeling that you “knew what the committee would respond to.” However, you contradict yourself in your email to those not chosen by saying:

“Even I, after looking at all of them many times and being quite sure what the outcome would be, did not accurately predict what that room full of people would decide.”

So while you believed you knew what the committee would like, in truth, you weren’t quite as accurate as you thought you would be.

From my perspective, becoming a finalist isn't the only opportunity in DanceBreak.  As you made a point of stating in your email to those of us who were not selected:

"The one good thing I can tell you is that many of your reels were seen by just about everybody who counts in the B'way community and there was much lively discussion about many of you."

Unfortunately, I didn't even get that opportunity at DanceBreak.  While the main opportunity here was to get to the DanceBreak presentation in February, it's possible that one of the committee might have seen my or another semi-finalist’s work and been intrigued.  Even if not chosen by the majority, a Hal Luftig, Walter Bobbie or Kevin McCollum might have seen something they liked and remembered our name for future opportunities.  

Please know I'm not attacking you.  I don't believe that you intended to injure 21 of the semi-finalists.  In my heart, I can imagine it being quite exhilarating to have so many industry leaders respond and want to come to your selection committee night.  And that being the case, the more of those heavy hitters that become involved, the more attention the program gains and the program can help more choreographers in the future.  It must have been quite "heady" to receive all those RSVPs.  And I can imagine you didn't want the evening to become too long for these esteemed theater artists, and you wanted their support for following years.  So you made the decision to limit the videos so the evening would not go on forever. 

But.  It is my understanding that this program is here for the choreographers, not the judges.  I have been a judge for many singing/talent/dance competitions.  When I accept the responsibility to judge, I know it's my responsibility to view and judge all of the applicants.  Not a representative group edited for time management.  If it takes two hours, that's the gig.  If it takes five, that's the gig.  Doing the math, 36 five-minute videos comes out to 180 minutes or three hours.  With entrances and exits and some discussion, I don't believe approximately four hours is too much to spend on the semi-finalists who invested their heart, hope, talent and finances.

The majority of semi-finalists materials were not even taken into consideration by the committee of distinguished experts.

I hope this letter is read in the spirit with which it is written.  I'm writing this to help all the other choreographers who might apply in the future to what can be a great program. I feel that it's important for me to speak up and address what I feel is an unfortunate injustice on the part of 21 semi-finalists.

Perhaps in the future, if time management is such a strong consideration for the judges, you might find it better to limit the number of semi-finalists to a more manageable number. I realize you didn’t know that you would receive so many RSVPs to the selection night this year, but in looking out for the committee’s time you undercut those who you set out to help. Once you made the decision to have 36 semi-finalists, I feel you made a commitment to all 36.

Picture, perhaps, an applicant to the Miss Iowa pageant winning her state pageant, but upon arriving at the Miss America pageant being told by the administrative staff “We don’t think you can win and we’re short on time, so we’re not going to allow you to be seen.” Can you imagine how that would go down?

I appreciate you reading this email. I hope you understand the points I raise and I look forward to hearing from you.

And if you are reading this and were a semi-finalist this year, feel free to contact me at

I would very much like as many of the 20 other disfranchised semi-finalists to know that their talent had nothing to do with not being chosen. It was the unilateral decision of one person who didn't allow their materials to be seen.


Randy Slovacek

From the DanceBreak 2007 application:

Application/Selection Process

There will be a four-phase application/selection process:

1. Interested choreographers may apply by submitting this application form, a resume and $25 application fee.
2. From the pool of applicants, a group of semi-finalists will be chosen based on the depth and breadth of their professional experience. Semi-finalists will be announced in October.
3. The semi-finalists will be asked to submit additional materials: two letters of reference, two complete performance reviews and a short video sample of work (5 minutes maximum).
4. The semi-finalist materials will be reviewed by a Selection Committee composed of distinguished directors and choreographers. The Selection Committee will choose the DanceBreak choreographers based on skill, promise, theatricality, story-telling ability, professional maturity and commitment to a career in choreography. The choreographers selected will be notified and their names will be announced in November.