With all the repetitions performed in practice, Utah’s gymnasts normally don’t go out of their way to see one another’s routines, but that wasn’t the case this preseason when the gymnasts were working on their floor routines with new choreographer BJ Das.
“I remember Kari [Lee] was one of the first ones to work with her and we snuck into the Huntsman Center to watch and we were like, ‘Dang this is good,’” junior MyKayla Skinner said.
That is probably the sentiment of many Utah fans, thanks to Das’ touch on the floor. The former Washington gymnast is now based in Los Angeles, where she works with several TV shows and musicians including “The Ellen Show,” the Oscars, Beyonce, Pink, Usher and others.
She was enlisted by the Utes this year as a volunteer coach through her connections to Carly Dockendorf, who is in her first year as the director of recruiting and player development after serving as the volunteer coach and choreographer past year.
Her main goal was to bring more individual personality to the Utes’ routines.
“We wanted a high quality of performance, confidence and style to give them an edge,” she said. “It has been a work in progress, but as I’ve gotten to know their personalities, we have been able to make each one better and better.”
The variety in the routines is noticeable. For instance, Skinner’s goal was to show her command of gymnastics skills and confidence while freshman Adrienne Randall wanted to show her ability to do more intricate moves. Others, such as Missy Reinstadtler and Lee, focus on their more elegant moves.
The Utes have had other choreographers in the past, including Mary Wright, who owns Olympus School of Gymnastics, and former Utah gymnasts Corrie Lothrop and Nicolle Ford, but Das brings a different element, the Utes said.
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“She is very meticulous in how she likes things,” Lee said. “She is really good about matching your personality to the music you want to what your body can do.”
Choreography seems to come to Das naturally. She dabbled in choreography when she was a gymnast at the club level, then choreographed her own routine as well as some of her teammates’ routines when she competed for Washington (2003-04), She has been in Los Angeles since 2007 working professionally as a choreographer.
“I have a passion for it and it feels like I have come full circle with it,” she said. “I’m lucky I have a different skill that has brought me back to gymnastics.”
While tumbling is the main component in scoring the floor exercise, choreography does count for something in the way the routines are composed. It also doesn’t hurt to have a packed Huntsman Center cheering loudly for a routine, considering gymnastics is a subjective sport.
“It’s one of those things that can help when you are on the biggest stage at the end of the season and you are going up against other teams that use professional choreographers,” Utah coach Megan Marsden said. “You want routines that are pleasing to the eye and have so many different styles.”
The Utes hope Das’ work can give them an edge when the time comes.
“I’ve never had a floor routine choreographed by someone like her,” Skinner said. “It has changed a lot already since I first got it and was watching videos of it and tweaking things. We were already good on the floor, but it is nice to have floor routines that fit our personality.”
THE TOP 25
Ranking Team Average
1. Oklahoma 197.94
2. UCLA 197.48
3. Florida 197.3
4. Utah 197.2
5. LSU 196.53
6. BYU 196.48
7. Boise St. 196.4
8. Denver 196.24
9. Michigan 196.04
10. Georgia and Missouri 195.95
12. California 195.86
13. Auburn 195.76
14. Arkansas 195.69
15. Nebraska 195.63
16. Kentucky 195.54
17. Ohio St. and Alabama 195.46
19. Arizona St. 195.34
20. Washington 195.25
21. Oregon St. 195.23
22. Western Mich. and Central Mich. 195.08
24. Stanford 194.91
25. Minnesota 194.88