Sonya Tayeh

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Sonya Tayeh
Born1977/1978 (age 44–45)[1]
New York City, New York
EducationDance (BS/BFA)
Alma materWayne State University
Years active2002–present

Sonya Tayeh is a New York City-based choreographer. She has worked nationally and internationally across the worlds of dance and theater.

She has earned several accolades for her work, including the Tony award for her choreography work on the Broadway production of Moulin Rouge!, Emmy nominations for Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, and the Lucille Lortel and Obie Awards for “Outstanding Choreography” for her work on David Henry Hwang's dance-play Kung Fu, for which she also received a Drama Desk nomination.

Life and career[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Tayeh was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of a Lebanese mother and Palestinian father.[2] She has two sisters and one half-brother.[3] Tayeh started dancing at age 15 when she began frequenting hip-hop and house dance parties with her sister.[4] She started studying ballet and modern dance—as a subject—at age 17 when she was a student at Henry Ford Community College.[5] Although Tayeh was a freestyle house dancer in her youth, she didn't take any formal dance classes until she was 18 and a student at Wayne State University.[6] Before starting her training, she was denied by six dance studios who wouldn't let her take classes because they felt she was too old.[7] In addition to her classes, Tayeh was a member of Counter Groove[5] and Full Circle[8] dance companies.

During her time at Wayne State, Tayeh drew on dance history, anatomy, and performance to develop a style that is built on core strength, aggressive partner interaction, quirky, and stylized movements.[9] She graduated Wayne State in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in Dance.[10]

Dance career and mainstream exposure[edit]

Since gaining mainstream exposure, Tayeh has choreographed tours and/or live events for Madonna, Florence and the Machine, Kylie Minogue, Kerli, and Miley Cyrus.[11] She has also choreographed for Steed Lord and spent three years in residence with the Los Angeles Ballet.[12] In 2010, she choreographed indie singer Lucy Schwartz' music video "Graveyard".[13]

Tayeh choreographed the rock musical The Last Goodbye which is based on Romeo and Juliet and set to a soundtrack of music by Jeff Buckley. It premiered in 2010, but a revised version of the show with a new cast opened in September 2013 at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California.[6][14] In 2011, she choreographed San Jose Repertory Theatre's production of Spring Awakening.[6] In 2014, she choreographed an off-Broadway play based on Bruce Lee's life called Kung Fu.[15] It premiered February 24 with So You Think You Can Dance alumnus Cole Horibe playing the lead role.[16]

In 2015 Martha Graham Dance Company commissioned a new work by Sonya Tayeh which she set to the music of Meredith Monk. It premiered in the company's New York season at The Joyce, Spring 2015 and has been performed by the company while on tour.

Sonya earned a Tony award for her choreography of the Broadway musical, "Moulin Rouge".

Choreography for So You Think You Can Dance[edit]

Season Week Dancers Style Song Note
4 3 Kourtni Lind
Matt Dorame
Contemporary "Wrestlers (Sticky, Dirty Pop Mix)"—Hot Chip
6 Chelsie Hightower
Gev Manoukian
"These Arms of Mine"—Otis Redding
8 Courtney Galiano
Mark Kanemura
Jazz "The Garden"—Mirah
5 LVW All Dancers "Great DJ (Calvin Harris Remix)"—The Ting Tings
2 Melissa Sandvig
Ade Obayomi
"24 Hours" (The Aston Shuffle A-Bomb Remix)—Terry Poison
4 Kayla Radomski
Kūpono Aweau
Contemporary "Eyes On Fire"—Blue Foundation
7 Janette Manrara
Evan Kasprzak
Jazz "Move" (Metronomy Remix)—CSS
8 Top 3 male "True Romance"—She Wants Revenge
Top 3 female "Kick It (Stereoheroes Remix)"—Nina Martine
9 Jeanine Mason
Evan Kasprzak
"Heartbreaker"—MSTRKRFT featuring John Legend
Talia Fowler "Shot You Down"—Audio Bullys Guest Dancer
Result Show
6 MT20 Mollee Gray
Pauline Mata
Ellenore Scott
"On a Cloud"—Platinum Pied Pipers
1 Ellenore Scott
Ryan Di Lello
Contemporary Jazz "Arcadia"—Apparat
5 Kathryn McCormick
Jonathan "Legacy" Perez
Jazz "So Deep"—Hot Chip
Ashleigh Di Lello
Jakob Karr
Lyrical Jazz "Time Flies"—Lykke Li
6 Ellenore Scott
Jakob Karr
Contemporary Jazz "Tore My Heart"—OONA and Dave Tweedie
7 Top 8 Jazz "Pon de Floor" (Samantha Ronson remix)—Major Lazer feat. Vybz Kartel (Jazz Result Show
8 Ashleigh Di Lello
Russell Ferguson
Lyrical Jazz "Angel Standing By"—Jewel
7 MT11 Courtney Galiano
Ashley Galvan
Neil Haskell
Robert Roldan
AdéChiké Torbert
Jazz "Freak"—Estelle feat. Kardinal Offishall
1 Mark Kanemura
Cristina Santana
Allison Holker
Alex Wong
Contemporary "Hallelujah"—Jeff Buckley
2 Top 10 Jazz Royal T"—Crookers feat. Róisín Murphy (Jazz Resul Show
3 Courtney Galiano
Robert Roldan
6 Allison Holker
Jose Ruiz
Contemporary Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind theme—Jon Brion
Kent Boyd
Kathryn McCormick
Jazz "Tightrope"—Janelle Monáe
8 MT20 Jordan Casanova
Marko Germar
Missy Morelli
Clarice Ordaz
"Vanguardian"—Steed Lord
Top 10 girls "Pop Drop & Roll"—Chonique Sneed & Lisette Bustamante
1 Caitlynn Lawson
Robert Roldan2
"In For the Kill" (Skream's Let's Get Ravey Remix)—La Roux
Top 20 "XR2"—M.I.A. Result Show
3 Ashley Rich
Chris Koehl
"Lights Go Down" (District 78 remix)—Telepathe
Ryan Ramirez
Ricky Jaime
Contemporary "With Every Heartbeat" (Acoustic)—Robyn
6 Allison Holker
Marko Germar
"I Know It's Over"—Jeff Buckley
Melanie Moore
Sasha Mallory
Jazz Game On—District 78
7 Tadd Gadduang
Ellenore Scott
"The Gulag Orkestar"—Beirut
Marko Germar
Caitlynn Lawson
Lyrical Jazz "Heavy in Your Arms"—Florence and the Machine
8 Sasha Mallory
Mark Kanemura
Jazz "Raise Your Weapon"—Deadmau5
9 LVW All Dancers "Freak Out (Gold Chains Panique Mix)"—My Brightest Diamond
MT20 Audrey Case
Tiffany Maher
Janelle Issis*
Top 10 guys "Precognition" (Steed Lord Machine Mix)—Steed Lord
1 Tiffany Maher
George Lawrence Jr.
Contemporary "Turning Page"—Sleeping At Last
2 Amelia Lowe
Will Thomas
"3326"—Ólafur Arnalds
Audrey Case
Matthew Kazmierczak
Jazz "Hear Me Now" (Dri, Lind and Likka Mix)—Steed Lord
6 Allison Holker
Cole Horibe
Contemporary "Possibly Maybe" (Instrumental)—Björk
Lindsay Arnold
Alex Wong
Jazz "Somebody That I Used to Know"—Gotye feat. Kimbra
7 Top 6 "Scream"—Kelis
8 Tiffany Maher
William Wingfield
"Time is Now"—Moloko
Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp
"Fangs" (District 78 remix)—Little Red Lung
9 Tiffany Maher
William Wingfield
"Time is Now"—Moloko
Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp
"Fangs" (District 78 remix)—Little Red Lung
Top 20 Contemporary/Hip-hop "Torn"—Nathan Lanier Sonya Tayeh
Christopher Scott
10 LVW All Dancers Jazz "Latch"—Disclosure (band)
MT20 Jasmine Mason
Amy Yakima
Top 20 "Ghost of Sky" (Epic Dub)—Steed Lord
1 Jasmine Harper
Aaron Turner
"Bottom of the River"—Delta Rae
Amy Yakima
Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall
Contemporary "Elsa"—The Valerie Project
3 Top 18 Jazz "Pretty Face" (Nathan Lanier remix)—Sóley Christopher Scott
Sonya Tayeh
Malece Miller
Marko Germar*
Contemporary "In the Embers"—Sleeping at Last
5 Top 14 Jazz "Dimman Kryper Sakta In"—District 78 Dmitry Chaplin
Sonya Tayeh
Alexis Juliano
Nico Greetham
Contemporary "Ashes"—The Bengsons
Makenzie Dustman
Paul Karmiryan
Jazz "You'll Find a Way" (Switch & Sinden Remix)—Santigold
11 LVW All Dancers "F for You"—Disclosure feat. Mary J. Blige
MT20 Top 20 "Stalker Ha"—Kingdom
Jessica Richens
Ricky Ubeda
Contemporary "Vow"—Meredith Monk
1 Tanisha Belnap
Rudy Abreu
Jazz "You Need"—Bengsons
Carly Blaney
Serge Onik
Contemporary "Latch (Acoustic)"—Sam Smith
3 Jacque LeWarne
Zack Everhart Jr.
Jazz "Back to Black"—Beyoncé feat. André 3000
Brooklyn Fullmer
Casey Askew
Emilio Dosal
Emily James
Serge Onik
Tanisha Belnap
Valerie Rockey
Zack Everhart Jr.
Contemporary "So Broken" (Live)—Björk
5 Zack Everhart Jr.
Amy Yakima
"Europe, After The Rain"—Max Richter
10 Top 10
Contemporary/Hip-Hop "Sweet Disposition"—The Temper Trap Sonya Tayeh
Christopher Scott

^2 Due to a shoulder injury, Mitchell Kelly was barred from performing in his routine. He was replaced for the evening by season 7's Robert Roldan and was automatically in danger of going home.


Tayeh is a faculty member at the Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles.[17] She has also taught classes at The Hip Drop Dance Complex,[18] Monsters of Contemporary,[19] Broadway Dance Center,[11] 24 Seven Dance,[12] Hall of Fame Dance Challenge, Loyola Marymount University, NUVO, and Spotlight Dance Works.[5]

Style and influences[edit]

Tayeh describes her choreography style as combat jazz because in her words "[i]t’s staccato, aggressive, and engaged, even when it’s slow."[19] characterized it as "fearless, provocative and unique."[6] 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.[4][5] In addition, she calls competitive hip-hop dancer Salah her "idol"[4] and Icelandic singer Björk her "ultimate hero".[20]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In January 2009, Tayeh was named one of Dance magazine's "25 to Watch".[19] In 2010, she was honored by the Detroit Arts Council[17] and she made the December cover of Dance Teacher magazine.[21] At Wayne State University there is a scholarship named after her called the Sonya Tayeh Endowment Fund that is awarded to students who want to pursue a degree in dance.[17]

In July 2013, Tayeh was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for "Possibly Maybe", "Turning Page", and "Sail"—three routines she choreographed on season nine of So You Think You Can Dance.[22] At the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, she joined the other seven choreography nominees and created a routine honoring dance that was performed just before the Outstanding Choreography award was presented. 2013 was the first year the Outstanding Choreography award was presented at the Primetime Emmys telecast rather than at the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony which takes place a week prior.[23]

At the 74th Tonys, Tayeh received the Tony Award for Best Choreography for her work in Moulin Rouge!.[24]


  1. ^ Montemurri, Patricia (March 20, 2014). "Choreographer Sonya Tayeh rockets to top of dance world". USA Today. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  2. ^ Green, Jesse; Bugbee, Stella; Salam, Maya; Bahr, Sarah; Coleman, Nancy (September 27, 2021). "The Best and Worst of the 74th Tony Awards". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Television's Hottest Choreographer, Sonya weiners Tayeh, Brings it to the El Portal Stage". October 28, 2009. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Interviews: Sonya Tayeh". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Jones, Jen (December 1, 2012). "Combat Force". Dance Teacher. Archived from the original on September 22, 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d Smith, Tony (September 8, 2011). "In-Depth with Sonya Tayeh". Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  7. ^ Camus, Renee (September 16, 2013). "Choreographer Sonya Tayeh's Passionate Honesty". Los Angeles Magazine. Archived from the original on September 22, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
  8. ^ "Sonya Tayeh". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  9. ^ "Sonya Tayeh". Archived from the original on July 25, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  10. ^ "Choreographer Profile - Sonya Tayeh". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2009.
  11. ^ a b "Sonya Tayeh". Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Sonya Tayeh". Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  13. ^ McQ, Jeff (August 26, 2013). "The MIMO Interview: Lucy Schwartz Talks about "Timekeeper"". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  14. ^ Gordon, David (April 10, 2013). "The Last Goodbye, a New Musical Fusing Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet With Songs of Jeff Buckley, Will Open Old Globe Season". Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  15. ^ Serchuk, Barnett (September 6, 2013). "BWW Interview: SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE's Sonya Tayeh Talks THE LAST GOODBYE & More!". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  16. ^ Thompson, Candance. "Quick Q&A: Sonya Tayeh". Dance Magazine. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  17. ^ a b c "Sonya Tayeh - Contemporary Jazz". Archived from the original on August 14, 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  18. ^ "Faculty". Archived from the original on September 15, 2013. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  19. ^ a b c "25 to Watch". Dance Magazine. January 2009. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  20. ^ Nguyen, Hahn (September 17, 2013). "SYTYCD Vets Sonya Tayeh, Allison Holker on Creating Emmys' Big Dance Number". TV Guide. Archived from the original on September 22, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
  21. ^ "December 2010". Dance Teacher. December 1, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  22. ^ Lara, Maria Mercedes (July 18, 2013). "Announcing the 2013 Primetime Emmy Nominees!". Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  23. ^ Garron, Barry (September 20, 2013). "Breaking Bad, Modern Family Are Top Shows at 65th Primetime Emmys". Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  24. ^ McPhee, Ryan (October 15, 2020). "2020 Tony Award Nominations: Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge!, Slave Play Lead the Pack". Playbill. Retrieved October 17, 2020.