An accumilation of reviews from my performance of “Don’t hate the Player, Hate the Game” by Kristen McNallly at Cloud Dance Festival 2011
Retox Magazine – M. Andre
“Tommy Franzen, as expected, gave a blasting performance to close the show – the best saved for the last.
Tommy Franzen turns the stage into a serious sizzler
The versatile hip-hop sensation Tommy Franzen, the first ever hip-hop dancer who was nominated for a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award earlier this year gave a heated performance effortlessly accelerating into top gear with his breaks, as always, in tact.
As we know, Tommy Franzen was an aerialist in the opening ceremony for the Asian Games, and in the closing ceremony Tommy played a lead character as an actor. Tommy Franzen also has a strong background in musical theatre and has previously taken dance classes in a variety of styles. Defining Tommy as a hip-hop dancer would therefore be a bit of an understatement. Much of what we saw during the So You Think You Can Dance series last year and even on Saturday night at Cloud Dance Festival where Tommy Franzen stepped into the role created by the Royal Ballet’s soloist Thomas Whitehead in Kristen McNally’s famous choreographed piece “Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game”, which he very much made it his own, not only shows Tommy’s passion for different forms of dance but continues to exhibit skill and talent. No wonder Urdang Academy offered Tommy a scholarship back in 2000.”
Thepublicreviews.com – Tony Stotts-Rates
“Festival headliner Kristen McNally’s enjoyable Don’t hate the player, Hate the game, was a worthy close to the night and hip hop dancer Tommy Franzen a very engaging performer. McNally is known for her use of pop culture music and references mixed with some exciting choreography to create fresh cutting edge pieces. In this she successfully merges various dance styles from breaking to contemporary ballet movement which is effectively explored and performed by b-boy Franzen. What makes this piece stand out for me was how palpably the dancer enjoyed dancing it, it was sexy and dangerous, humorous and fun, dancer and movement interacting with the music and lighting, bringing to mind James Bond, Cowboys, and suave and dapper gentleman partners at formal dances.”
Londondance.com – Libbo Costello
“Bringing Firefly to a close on Saturday was perhaps the most anticipated artist of the evening. Tommy Franzen, of So You Think You Can Dance fame, performed Royal Ballet soloist, Kristen McNally’s Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game. It was originally choreographed to Kanye West’s latest album, in the Apple Store, Covent Garden earlier this year. With the audience helping to create the work, this was probably one of the first dance pieces to be made interactively in a shop.
Franzen took the place of Royal Ballet soloist Thomas Whitehead in this reworked solo and used his unique hip hop based style to ease through the movements. At least part of the joy of watching Franzen is down to the sheer happiness he radiates when on stage. McNally’s choreography saw him, with the help of the music, transform from gentry to city slicker in a few brief movements.”
“Highlights of the evening included Kristen McNally’s work, Don’t hate the player, Hate the game, danced exquisitely by Tommy Franzen. The music, moves and charisma had the audience laughing for the mere joy of it.”
The Londonist – Lindsey Clarke
“Star billing goes to all round ace and SYTYCD star, Tommy Franzen dancing a solo by Royal Ballet soloist and groovy mix it up with hip hop choreography cat, Kristen McNally. Tommy is – as always – awesome”
“Known for her small-scale ‘indie ballets’ with modern cultural references, Kristen McNally’s choreography fuses numerous dance styles to varied sound accompaniment – from music to the spoken word. Don’t hate the player, Hate the game was an utterly engaging piece and a comment on people’s need to conform rather than dare to be original. Hip-hop dancer Tommy Franzén was exquisite, especially in robotic body isolations where he moved minute body parts with the utmost precision. He seemed to be testing out different identities in order to find one that fitted, always moving with a tangible pleasure and allure. At times bouncy, at others poignant and everything in between, Don’t hate the player rounded off the evening with a punch.”
” Sunday evening concluded with a second showing of Kristen McNally’s Don’t hate the player, Hate the game. Again performed exceptionally by Tommy Franzén, this rounded off Cloud Dance Festival’s weekend of choreographic treats wonderfully.”
“Kristen McNally’s Don’t hate the player, Hate the game performed by Tommy Franzen left no dance genre unturned. Franzén sauntered from popping, to breaking , mime and contemporary seamlessly. However, writing this made me question: why is this noteworthy? If a breaking move fits in the music alongside contemporary, why should it be out of context? It’s all dance, isn’t it? Although McNally will admit: ‘it was based on my interest in the Stanford prison experiment and our nature to conform to a perceived ideal. As always it ended up a million miles from this!’ I’ll forgive a tangent when it’s this enjoyable to watch!”
Kim Lofthouse (Cultiv8 Arts)
“The night culminated with Kristen McNally’s “Don’t hate the player, Hate the game”, an edgy indie ballet performed by hip-hop dancer Tommy Franzén. The exquisite choreography is peppered with pop culture references from Reservoir Dogs to Michael Jackson and this is reflected in the modern score and the urban edge that Franzén brings to the classical ballet movements within the piece. The themes of conformity & control that inspired McNally quickly become evident as the dancer shifts seamlessly between conforming to and resisting the demands of the music. Franzén personifies this character wonderfully, engaging the audience throughout and leading us on the same adrenaline-filled journey that he is going through on stage. The blending of the classical and the modern is the true genius of this piece, making it endlessly engaging to a modern audience of dance lovers and dance first timers.”
“The climax of the night was Kristen McNally’s “Don’t hate the player, Hate the game”, an edgy indie ballet performed by hip-hop dancer, Tommy Franzén. Normally, I struggle to watch dance pieces more than once and still feel the same sense of excitement as I do the first time, but this was definitely not the case for this one. The pop culture references and blend of humanity & urban edginess that Franzén brings to this piece resonated as loudly the second time as it had the first, enthralling the audience. It was truly a joy to be able to watch this piece a second time and pick up on the subtler nuances of McNally’s choreography that underpin the tangible energy of this piece and its dynamic blend of old and new, urban and classical. It is this mixture that sets the piece apart from its rivals as something truly original. A wonderfully high-octane end to a fantastic weekend of dance.”
“Closing the show with a work that in contrast brought some light relief to the evenings more serious offerings was Firefly’s festival headliner Kristen McNally. A soloist for the Royal Ballet, McNally presented Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game, a quirky animated solo, reworked for the BBC’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finalist and ZooNation’s star Tommy Franzén. Although originally based on McNally’s interest in the Stanford prison experiment, it’s not this narrative that ultimately shines through during the dance, but Franzen himself, with an absorbing and charismatic performance.
Whether a debonair hero, cowboy or enthusiastic Elvis impersonator, Franzén struts, body pops, leaps and windmills his way through the material, gloriously imitating the melo-dramatic intro to Michael Bubles’ ‘Cry Me A River’ and then a beaty, up-tempo electronic track. A fusion of Street Dance, Contemporary and Balletic styles, McNally’s witty, cutting edge choreography sits well on Franzen, effectively showcasing his talent for versatility and musicality. If there’s one criticism for McNally it’s that this enjoyable escapade seems to end too soon.”
“The evening drew to a close with an outstanding performance by Swedish-born dancer Tommy Franzén, with choreography by Royal Ballet soloist Kristen McNally. Don’t hate the player, Hate the game was truly worth the wait as Franzén plays out numerous styles from classical ballet to body popping and hip-hop, a style Franzén is renowned for, which was utterly superb. There has been a buzz of excitement surrounding Cloud Dance Festival this year like no other Festival before it, and for me, this performance was the reason. McNally’s unique choreography and Franzén’s mesmerising performance was breathtaking.”
© Jonathan Hughes