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Navarro, Bommentre work with DWTS pro

U.S. bronze medalists turn to Dancing with the Stars choreographers

Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre
Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre (Becca Staed)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/15/2008) - Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre will try anything once.

Last season, they worked with Michael Velez of the Koresh Dance Company to create an African harvest dance so authentic it had Bommentre, a handsome boy-next-door type, don a skirt.

Still anxious to expand their horizons -- "You can only bring to the table the experiences you have," Navarro said -- the couple again ventured outside the traditional world of ice dance for their 2008/2009 programs.

"Our plan is to challenge ourselves using off-ice choreographers, and we couldn't have found two better people to work with," Bommentre said.

In May, the adventuresome duo teamed with Emmy-nominated Barry Lather -- who has worked with musical giants Michael Jackson, Prince and Usher and recently directed a Dancing with the Stars live tour -- to create a new free dance set to the electronic dance music of big beat musician Fatboy Slim.

Lather, in turn, led Navarro and Bommentre to ballroom world champion Louis van Amstel, who has partnered celebrity contestants in four seasons of DWTS and also choreographed many of the show's group numbers.

"We feel really lucky," Navarro said. "It would have been foolish to pass up the chance to work with these two artists."

The free program is "quirky and fun," Bommentre said. "It's kind of street dance, but we're not going to come out dressed like hip-hoppers or anything."

"It's playful, dancey and happy, so we wanted something different for the original dance (OD)," Navarro said. "We decided on slower, sexier music."

For that, they turned to Van Amstel, who worked with them for four days at Ice Station in Valencia, Calif., outside of Los Angeles.

"Both Barry and Louis are knowledgeable about all kinds of dance," Navarro said. "Fosse, tap, you name it. And Louis also knows a lot about ice dance and different skaters; he worked with [Israeli ice dancers] Galit Chait and Sergei Sahknovsky toward the end of their career, and with Oksana Baiul at some point."

"He knew about the Bulgarians [Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski], and Tanith [Belbin] and Ben [Agosto]," Bommentre added. "He really follows the sport."

Immediately, Amstel -- a demanding teacher with his DWTS celebrity partners Trista Sutter of Bachelorette fame; High School Musical's Monique Coleman; soap opera star Lisa Rinna; and Priscilla Presley -- voiced strong opinions.

"It was cool that he was coming from a place outside [of ice dance]; he was not in awe of it," Bommentre said. "He knows enough about ice dance to work in it, but he always wants more from it. He was so thorough about the music."

"Louis thinks ice dancers should show more musicality and connection with their partners," Navarro added. "He had great tips, from how to be more expressive to how to be a better partner."

For the upcoming season's OD, the International Skating Union prescribed music and dances from the 1920's, '30s and '40s -- a broad potpourri that could include anything from the frenetic Charleston to the stately Peabody.

Van Amstel selected a slow foxtrot for the first and third sections of the program, with swing music from the motion picture soundtrack Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in the program's middle section.

"The music is sexier, more down and dirty, as opposed to young and light," Navarro explained.

Working with Van Amstel was both rewarding and exhausting.

"He's super competitive," Bommentre laughed. "We'd break out the rulebook and say, 'We need four different features to get a Level 4 spin.' He would say, 'Well, how about we do seven? Would that win worlds?' We said maybe, but it would kill us."

"He's really focused, really experienced," Navarro added. "He pushed us. But at the same time I was surprised how nice and kind he was."

The daring skaters did make one concession to tradition.

"We decided to put Brent back in pants," Navarro said. "No skirt this year."

Navarro and Bommentre plan to debut both programs at The Philadelphia Skating and Humane Society Challenge Cup hosted at their home rink in Ardmore, Pa., in early September.