Ellenore Scott: From 'So You Think You Can Dance' to Broadway
It's hard to believe that Season 5 and 6 of So You Think You Can Dance are celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2019. Dance Dish will be taking a look back this year with some of the contestants from both seasons to see where they are 10 years later.
Season 5 was a summer series, but Season 6 was the only season FOX scheduled during the fall. The two shows ran back-to-back that year. Season 6 was the last time it was solely a Top 20 without All-Stars (They were introduced in Season 7) and they also did not have a tour at the end of the season.
We spoke with Season 6 finalist Ellenore Scott about her journey from SYTYCD to a rising choreographer in the musical theatre world. Her last few years have included assisting Broadway choreographers Andy Blakenbuehler, Drew McOnie and Spencer Liff on shows like Falsettos, Cats, King Kong and Head Over Heels. Get ready because she's making some big moves in 2019.
Dance Dish: Other than getting on the show and making it to the SYTYCD finale, what was the highlight for you during the season?
Ellenore Scott: It is a comment Nigel Lythgoe gave me. I thought, at the time, it was almost a dig, but I completely took it a different way. He told me I was the sharpest tool in the toolbox for all of the choreographers because he had heard that I was good at picking up the choreography, I was easy to work with and I had great energy.
That comment was well-received because it made me feel good — not only was I performing well, but I was getting recognition from the choreographers outside of TV. Nigel said it could be a bad thing, though, because America wouldn't know who I was; I was such a chameleon. He thought that they wouldn't understand who I was, but I think that's the point. [She laughed.]
DD: What was your most challenging time on the show?
Ellenore: The week right before the finale, I was learned Travis Wall's "Machine Gun" piece with Legacy Perez. It was a Mr. & Mrs. Smith-type of piece. It was an aggressive contemporary jazz number.
I was sitting in a chair and he was supposed to grab me by the neck and flip me to the ground. I was so tired and so young, I wanted to be full out, so I kept slamming into my right shoulder during rehearsals. I woke up the next morning and couldn't move my arm.
The doctor told me I was getting a tear between my collarbone and shoulder. He gave me some cortisone and freeze spray and sent me out there. At 19 years old, I did the show that week and made it through. I did have shoulder surgery a few months after the show was over.
We were all so tired during the finale, they were giving us B12 shots in our butt to make it through the show.
DD: How did SYTYCD serve you well in your professional career?
Ellenore: The comment Nigel made about me is exactly what helped me later on. I paid attention to the choreographers because I knew this show would only last two months. The relationships I made with the producers and choreographers could last much longer if I was networking. It opened a lot of doors for me later on.
Because we didn't tour after the show, I was able to work immediately after the finale. Adam Shankman invited me to perform at the Oscars and Mia Michaels asked me to perform at The Trevor Project event. If I did my job right when I was a contestant, I knew I could perform outside the realm of the show in a professional setting with these choreographers.
DD: It was SYTYCD that set up your working relationship with choreographer Spencer Liff, right?
Ellenore: I was his second routine ever on the show. His first routine the week before was a disaster. So I was a part of his redemption piece. It was so crazy that I worked with him then and now I am his associate choreographer.
DD: What is it about you and Spencer that clicks?
Ellenore: We had a similar upbringing when it comes to training. He is classically trained and his technique is flawless. I trained in ballet and Graham-based modern. We both clicked into commercial musical theatre styles and our styles mesh well together. I can often sense what he needs.
When we were in pre-production for Head Over Heels, he would have an idea and I would be to pick up on that idea and find the movement for it.
DD: How did your professional collaboration come together?
Ellenore: He was working on Neil Patrick Harris' Best Time Ever and he needed a few dancers for a few episodes. I played a pop-locking zombie ghost.
At the time, I was the assistant choreographer to Andy Blakenbuehler for the Broadway revival of Cats. I always make sure to drop hints to people letting them know what I am up to and put that energy out there. Once Spencer made the connection with Cats and he got Falsettos, he asked me to join him on that show.
What's funny is that I just finished with staging the National Tour of Cats this week and I start staging the National Tour of Falsettos on Monday. I've come full circle with both projects.
DD: What have you learned from working with Andy Blakenbuehler?
Ellenore: With Andy, the specific thing I've learned from him is that every move has an intention. He does all of his homework. He will break down songs and movement so the dancers are moving the narrative forward.
The intention behind each movement is influencing how I create steps. Am I doing it because I am excited or because I am finding abandon?
DD: What have you learned from working with Spencer Liff?
Ellenore: He works well with directors. He can talk to the director and ask them what they need from the scene and the ensemble. Spencer showcases his dancers the best.
When I work with a new cast I want to make sure I get to know them personally dance-wise. I want to highlight the best of their abilities. I want to work with them and showcase their strengths.
DD: You've also been working with director/choreographer Drew McOnie on King Kong. Tell us about that experience.
Ellenore: Drew was looking for an associate choreographer, so we did a Skype interview and we hit it off. Drew is a tiny ball of energy and genius. He is explosive and athletic in his movements. Creating with Drew was so awesome. He knows the body well and how the movement should flow. He had the challenge to make the movement as big as possible next to a 2000-pound, 20-foot gorilla.
Because he was both the director and choreographer, sometimes he would have to step into the directorial position so he would hand over the baton to me for choreography. It was nice to have that power shift with him. He always trusted me, he was always on my side and I was happy to help him, especially through the difficult tech period for the show.
DD: What are the next steps for you in your career?
Ellenore: This has been a long process, but I recognize what I want to do is to choreograph. I knew it was going to take lots of little steps. At 22, I started my own dance company called ELSCO Dance. It was a way for me to be creative and discover my choreographic voice with dancers. It was also a way to show my work so I could start booking choreography jobs.
So from doing small jobs like a choreographing a commercial on my own to assisting Andy, Spencer and Drew on Broadway, 2019 is the year I am tackling a show by myself. This is what I have been waiting for. It will be happening this spring at a regional theatre. Then later this year, I will be flying to Sweden to choreograph Beauty and the Beast at the Malmö Opera.
It's been five years since the time I said I wanted to be a choreographer to getting my own show. I knew I couldn't rush it and I couldn't do a job I wasn't ready for, but that time is finally here.
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