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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

The Nomination Process For An Outstanding Choreography Emmy Isn’t As Easy As You Think

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

When the Emmy® nominations were announced on July 12, there were a lot of questions surrounding the process of getting nominated for an Emmy Award. In the Outstanding Choreography category, it’s not as simple as one might think. In fact, there are many variable factors in Round 1, which determine the nominees, and Round 2, which determines the winner or winners, which make each voting year very unique. 

Mandy Moore and Eboni Nichols, Governors of the Choreography Peer Group at the Television Academy connected Dance Dish with Julie Shore, Vice President of the Television Academy’s Awards Department. She explained the process – from submissions to the final vote for the Emmys.

For each year’s Emmy Awards competition, the eligibility period is June 1 of the previous year through May 31 of the current year. So this year’s competition focuses on the work that aired June 1, 2017 – May 31, 2018. Dances have to be created “specifically and originally for television,” so dance routines cannot be adapted from another TV program or film nor can they be recreated from a stage piece. 

The rules as they are published on the Television Academy’s website state:  

“Entries must originally air on television (which encompasses network, basic cable, pay cable, pay television, interactive cable and broadband). 

Choreography must be original and created specifically for the television program that is being submitted. 

The original airing of a routine is eligible. Encores, derivations, adaptations and/or recreations (television, concerts and tours, videos, movies, stage productions, etc.) of prior choreography are NOT eligible."

This year, all Emmy submissions were due April 27. While that seems to eliminate the possibility of entering work on live shows — like Dancing With the Stars — which run through mid-May, there is an opportunity to submit a piece from what the Academy calls a “hanging episode.”

A “hanging episode” is one that airs after the submission deadline. It’s key that the episode(s) is part of a season that began before the deadline for submissions. Entrants need to anticipate ahead of time if they wish to submit a dance number that will air after the original submission deadline. 

As long as a submission for the choreographer has been entered, the specific routine or routines may change, and be added after they have aired. Entrants fill out the online entry form and write T.B.D [To Be Determined] for the routine(s). 

“Once the episode airs, the choreographer can revise the entry and upload the video of the chosen routine or routines. It is not considered late because there is a ‘reserved’ space’,” explained Shore.

Only the members of the Choreography Peer Group -- creative directors, dancers, assistant and associate choreographers and choreographers -- may judge and vote on the work of their peers to determine who receives an Emmy recognizing outstanding work in dance. There are two rounds of voting, and while all members may vote in Round 1, only members who work as choreographers are eligible to vote in the final round.

In Round 1, if a choreographer has submitted their work for consideration, they are not eligible to vote. The remaining members of the peer group are allowed to vote on the submissions. They come together at the Academy to watch all of the pieces submitted. 

“There were 81 submissions this season. Anyone in the peer group who is not a part of those 81 submissions is eligible to vote in Round 1,” added Moore. “Because we are a recently created peer group, our pool of people is small compared to the number who submit. You have to sign up and show up to watch 81 submissions back-to-back-to-back and be able to vote.”

From those 81 submissions for the 2017-2018 television season, come the five nominees for Outstanding Choreography.

Round 2 voting panels are comprised of Choreography Peer Group members who are not nominated. However, if a panelist is involved with one of the shows nominated or has a conflict of interest as defined by the Academy, they are not eligible to judge or vote on the panel. This year’s panel is particularly challenging because there are four nominations for choreographers on So You Think You Can Dance.

“Anyone who is affiliated with that show [SYTYCD] can’t judge in Round 2 because they have a conflict of interest and wouldn’t be able to vote for anything,” Nichols said. “The Round 2 panel will be a diverse group of choreographers who really don’t have any affiliation to any of the nominees or shows.”

The names of the judges remain confidential and each year the judging panel has a fluctuating number of people. 

“The people [who serve on the panel] are held in high regard because they are taking the time to decide something that is really a big deal for our community,” added Moore. “We are incredibly thankful for people who are giving their time.”

For those awards watchers who are wondering if the Outstanding Choreography Emmy will split into two categories — live and scripted shows— it’s going to take some time before they can even consider taking the idea to the awards committee.

“Like anything else, it’s not that easy. There are rules that apply here. You can’t just go to the Academy and ask for more categories,” Moore disclosed. “The Academy is looking to us to build our numbers, to show that we have community, to show that we have the support and that we have the talent and variety of work to justify multiple categories. At this point, we have to be patient, but it’s definitely a goal that is on our radar.”

[Editor’s Note: Mandy Moore was acting in an official capacity as a Governor for the Television Academy for this interview, she was not speaking in any way as a 2018 Emmy nominee for Outstanding Choreography.]


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