Sonya Tayeh

(14 April 1977)

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Sonya Tayeh is a dance teacher and jazz and contemporary choreographer from Detroit, Michigan best known for being a choreographer on the television series So You Think You Can Dance. In 2013, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on season nine.

Tayeh was a house dancer during her teenage years and she did not start any formal dance training until she was 18 and a student at Wayne State University. After graduating in 2002, she moved to California and ran a dance company in San Francisco where she developed her own style of choreography which she calls combat jazz. In 2007, she was discovered by a talent agent from McDonald Selznick Associates who saw a performance she choreographed for “The Carnival: Choreographer’s Ball”. Three months after being signed, she booked a job on So You Think You Can Dance.

Tayeh describes her choreography style as combat jazz because in her words “[i]t’s staccato, aggressive, and engaged, even when it’s slow. SanJose.com characterized it as “fearless, provocative and unique.” She has several influences which include two of her former college professors Diane Mancinelli and Erica Wilson-Perkins, Broadway choreographers Twyla Tharp and Bill T. Jones, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, her favorite choreographer Jiří Kylián, and her family. In addition, she calls competitive hip-hop dancer Salah her “idol” and Icelandic singer Björk her “ultimate hero”.

Since gaining mainstream exposure, Tayeh has choreographed for Madonna, Florence and the Machine, Kylie Minogue, the Los Angeles Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company and the San Jose Repertory Theater. Aside from theater and tours, she stays active teaching jazz and contemporary classes at dance conventions.