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Holker brings 'crazy ideas' to dance choreography

Acclaimed 'So You Think You Can Dance' alumna collaborates with Weaver, Poje

Allison Holker has incorporated modern dance choreography into Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje's 2012-13 free dance.
Allison Holker has incorporated modern dance choreography into Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje's 2012-13 free dance. (courtesy of Mathieu Young/FOX)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(08/23/2012) - Highly acclaimed contemporary dancer Allison Holker, who has appeared on the FOX hit show So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) as both a contestant and an all-star, described working with Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje as one of the best choreography jobs she's ever had.

"It made me fall out of my habits as a choreographer," Holker said. "As a choreographer, you kind of know what you do best and you start to fall into a rhythm of how your choreography looks. This did not allow me to do that. It pushed me out of my element. I had to push myself to be a better choreographer.

"It also gave me so much more material than I ever thought that I would be able to do on the floor," she added. "Even though it was frustrating at times, it was the best gift I could have ever had."

Determined to present an innovative free dance for 2012-13 based on contemporary dance, Weaver and Poje reached out to Holker, who they'd both enjoyed watching on television. At first, it appeared the collaboration wouldn't happen because Holker's schedule was booked until the end of the year. A last-minute cancellation freed up some time, and within three days she was in Detroit working with the duo.

Although Holker did not don skates while working with Weaver and Poje, she does have a solid connection to the ice. Before moving to Utah when she was 9, Holker's family lived in Minnesota, where every winter her dad created a homemade rink in the backyard.

"I learned very young how to ice skate," Holker, 24, said. "I even took a few figure skating classes. I played hockey a lot with my brothers in our backyard."

Shortly after moving to Utah, Holker discovered dance, and skating was put on the shelf. But her dancing did put her in close proximity to the ice when she performed in the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. She also performed with other dancers at a couple of the Olympic venues: the speed skating oval and the bobsled run.

When Weaver and Poje reached out to Holker, they admired her dancing, but they didn't know how much experience she had with choreography. In fact, she'd been dabbling in choreography since she was a teenager. After having daughter Weslie, now 4, Holker said she viewed life differently and began taking on choreography projects about two years ago. Her work has included SYTYCD promotional videos, dance segments on Ellen and a piece for Dancing with the Stars. She's appearing on a new series on the Ovation network called A Chance to Dance as a choreographer as well as returning to SYTYCD as an all-star.

Although Holker had never worked with skaters before, she found herself immediately inspired.

"As a choreographer, all those crazy ideas you have about cool tricks or cool lifts or 'I wish this could glide across the whole floor' will never work, so you kind of laugh them off," Holker noted. "So all those ideas I've always wanted to do, I actually could put on Kaitlyn and Andrew, which was like the most incredible thing ever."

One of Weaver and Poje's coaches, Pasquale Camerlengo, helped translate some of Holker's ideas to the ice.

"It was a little hard for me to figure out certain transitions, but when I figured out how they move, it helped me to choreograph better," she said.

International judging system rules frustrated her a bit, and some ideas had to be tossed out because they wouldn't fit the requirements, but by the end of her four days with the ice dancers, Holker proudly spoke about how she created decidedly unique looks for some required elements.

"It was like putting together a puzzle. I had to find what elements went in what areas," she said. "We got the layout done. Then we almost circled our way to the center of it."

As Weaver and Poje now practice the free dance, they've been sending Holker video clips to correct and critique. They anticipate working with her again as the season progresses. Holker hopes to go to Skate America to watch them compete.

Holker may work up her nerve to wear skates for their next sessions, but the one thing she thinks she'll pass on is spinning. Poje picked her up and put her into a dance spin, which left her dizzy for more than 20 minutes. Despite that hands-on demonstration, she's ready for more ice time.

"I want to be part of their team," Holker said. "It would be an honor. I hope I'm on board for more."