Meet the Jewish dancer choreographing Simone Biles’ Olympic floor routine
This article originally appeared on Alma.
There are quite a few athletes who have been called the GOAT, or the greatest of all time: quarterback Tom Brady, basketball player Michael Jordan and swimmer Michael Phelps, to name a few. .
But gymnast Simone Biles? She might just be the best of the bunch. I mean, come on, when was the last time one of them flew through the air, do a double backflip with three twists?
This level of athletic skill and magnificence is what made her a breathtaking seven-time United States National Champion, five-time World Champion and five-time Olympic medalist. This is also what is making its return to the Olympic scene this year for one of the most anticipated sporting competitions of the year.
To make her comeback even more special, Simone brought in a new choreographer for her Olympic floor exercise routine: Jewish dancer and choreographer Sasha Farber.
Farber was born into a Soviet Jewish family in a town near Belarus in 1984. The town was also near Chernobyl. After the nuclear disaster of 1986, and the fact that, as Sasha told the Arizona Jewish Post, “we had to keep quiet that we were Jews,” the Farbers emigrated to Australia. There, Sasha began to dance. Two weeks before his bar mitzvah, he put on a show and then began practicing ballroom dancing with Professor Marta Kan.
At 17, Farber had twice won the Australian Latin Youth Championships, represented Australia at the Latin World Championships, and was a star dancer at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. A little later, he became an original actor for the Broadway production of “Burn the Floor”, a show about the ballroom.
In 2013, Farber got the role of professional dancer in the 17th season of “Dancing with the Stars”. Throughout his run on the series, Farber has been associated with celebrities like Snooki, Tonya Harding, Mary Lou Retton, and, yes, Simone Biles.
Although Biles and Farber placed fourth on “DWTS”, the pair are aiming higher this time around; With routine, the hope is not only to defend Simone’s gold medal in the floor exercise, but also her all-around and team titles. For the GOAT, choosing Farber to accomplish this monumental task took years.
“Usually I have a different choreographer, but this year I feel like we have to be a little different – spice things up,” Biles said. “Even every time I worked with Sasha on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ we would always say, ‘Oh my God, if we could do a floor routine, would that be really cool?'”
Farber’s selection and their collaborative back and forth are part of Simone’s autonomy over her routines. “You know, you know yourself better than anyone at this point,” she explained.
For his part, Farber is endowed with an expertise, a respect and a freshness which, we hope, will bring out a new side of Simone. “She moves like a dancer, no one has seen her yet,” Farber revealed.
You can watch Simone and Sasha collaborate on her new floor routine in the fifth episode of the Facebook Watch docuseries “Simone vs. Herself” – and you can watch GOAT in Olympic action starting July 24 on NBC.