Spencer Liff’s Crunchtime Choreography

By Jordan Moncada 9-23-2012

Spencer Liff choreographs against the clock. This year, Liff received his first Emmy nomination for his choreography on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” (SYTYCD). But Liff’s Emmy nomination didn’t happen overnight.He auditioned for the dance competition show four years ago. And three months after Liff’s audition, he went from being a fan to star. The choreographer had 6 days notice before working on his first episode. The Broadway-trained dancer was used to longer rehearsals to perfect a stand-out routine. But on SYTYCD, Liff quickly learned that he would be up against the clock.

“It all is so much quicker than you’d want it to be. It spans over three or four days but you only get a minimal amount of time to actually work the contestants,” Liff told WEBN in Los Angeles. “And because it’s a game show where they’re winning money it has to be very fair so there’s a clock that ticks down the time and when it’s done, you’re done.”

But Liff can’t help but love the time constraint. “It’s such a different experience every week that it keeps it fresh. It keeps you constantly nervous and on your toes and an adrenaline rush,” Liff explains.

Liff received nominations for his routines “Whatever Lola Wants, “Please Mr. Jailor” and “Where Do I begin.” “Please Mr. Jailor” is one of Liff’s favorite pieces he’s choreographed on the show. The routine required a jail bar. This became one of the most complex props the show has ever had.

“I had the first visions of arms and hands and legs coming through the bar. And what it would be like to have chemistry but have something separating you,” Liff explained to WEBN. “But I had to figure out how to film it because I didn’t want the bars to move. And I realized that if I could three-sixty around them with a camera it would become this matrix-style shot.”

But Liff does more than choreograph. He’s a triple threat. He has performed on the Tony Awards six times along with every major award show with the exception of the Emmys. He has also performed in several movies including “Footloose,” “Across the Universe,” and “Hairspray.” But the project Liff dances on now is NBC’s musical show “Smash.”

“It’s such a great honor to have a TV show about a Broadway show filmed in New York City using Broadway dancers.”

Liff enjoys having the best of both his world- choreography and dancing. But he wouldn’t mind having the two worlds collide on SYTYCD.

“I love to dance my choreo and I would love to be able to do it on the show,” Liff told WEBN. “I’ve always said they should do choreographers week and let us dance with the contestants instead of the All-stars.”