Sonya Tayeh

January 31, 2014

(Photo by Adam Rose/FOX)

Sail, with Tiffany Maher and Audrey Case on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Season 9, was about showing that athleticism can be beautiful. I’ve often heard that my choreography is strong—as if it’s a surprise. People call my work androgynous. But androgynous, to me, sounds like a woman trying to be masculine. Instead, I call my work genderless.”


(Courtesy Sonya Tayeh)



“Erica Wilson-Perkins (second from left) and Diane Mancinelli, my professors at Wayne State University, shifted my world completely. They had their own voices and taught full-bodied movement. The first piece I choreographed was in a college class. Then I couldn’t stop.”


(Photo via


“Björk is my go-to lady. She’s my ultimate hero, who embraces her unique creativity. When I requested her music for my Possibly Maybe duet on ‘SYTYCD’ Season 9, Björk asked me to write what the song meant to me. So I broke it down, lyric by lyric. That was the first time she allowed her music to be used on the show.”



(Courtesy FOX)


“Allison Holker and Cole Horibe execute movement in this really stunning way—an urgent, eager way. Being in a room with them during Season 9 was inspiring. They made me want to do better for them. I’m excited to incorporate Cole’s martial-arts background while choreographing Kung Fu, which opens off-Broadway February 4.”


(Courtesy Sonya Tayeh)



“My mother was my date to the Emmys. She’s a religious Muslim woman, who raised three girls. She’s always embraced us and been open to who we are. She’s had many struggles in her life, and she’s definitely the one who inspired my strength.”



(Photo by Mike Yarish/FOX)


“Whenever I do a piece for ‘SYTYCD,’ like for the Top 6 on Season 9, I start by just talking to the dancers. Then we move together so I can see what their instincts are, instead of just demanding what I want. I reach for the root of my dancers first before I build on it myself.”

(Photo by Matthew Murphy)



The Last Goodbye is a rock musical set to Jeff Buckley’s music that played in San Diego last fall. The inspiration for the movement came from Jeff’s music, which I’ve been a fan of since the ’90s. The show retells Romeo and Juliet, the ultimate love story, which is so honest and heart-wrenchingly beautiful.


(Photo by Kevin Sandlow)




“I met my father for the first time while he was dying. I was 12. That’s where the excessive emotion in my work comes from—my sense of urgency, my speed. There’s an underlying angst in my choreography that stems from experiencing death at a really young age.”