I’m a huge fan of TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Not the whole show, just the dancing. The dancing is so terrific that I find myself choking up two or three times in every broadcast because I’ve just seen something that so seamlessly blends movement, emotion and intellectual content that it’s like a crash course in esthetics.
It’s just so damn…beautiful.
The show itself gives me a bit of an ass pain. I’m not terrifically interested in SYTYCD as an “American Idol”-type competition that begins with weeks of tryouts in cities across the country and starts properly with 20 elite dancers, two of whom (one man, one woman) are eliminated each week until we end up with a season champion.
I don’t like the voting process and never participate.
As with “Idol,” TV viewers cast their ballots by phone or text at the end of each episode. The following week the dancers receiving the least votes must perform a solo “dance for your life” routine before the judges. Each show ends with two of these kids going home.
I dislike the voting process because most Americans have the all taste of a Busch Lite. They vote less for talent than for cuteness. They’re almost as bad as the studio audience, who are encouraged to cheer particularly spectacular steps and lifts as if they’d just seen a singularly violent hit during an NFL game. Dance as spectator sport.
And then there’s the fact that some very good dancers have been eliminated because that week they drew a choreographer and a style of dance (hip hop, waltz, whatever) that just wasn’t simpatico with their their abilities.
By this time I’m sick of thin, blonde hostess Cat Deeley’s self-congratulatory laughter and huggie-huggie camaraderie with the contestants. (Although I doubt I’ll ever get sick of her legs. The show’s costumer will see to that.)
And God bless those judges, who have already said everything there is to be said about dance and yet still have to come up with pithy analyses of each number. Englishman Nigel Lythgoe is the professorial type; cohort Mary whoops and yells about her “Hot Tamale Train” (which sounds like a cabaret sex performance in Tijuana). Some of the guest judges — frequently an actor or actress who has starred in a Broadway musical — are little more than cliche recyclers.
Given my antipathy for so much of the show, why do I keep coming back, week after week?
Because during the dance numbers themselves it’s like mainlining high art.
“So You Think You Can Dance” hires the best choreographers in America to come up with original dance numbers — in the early stages of the competition at least 10 a week.
That’s a staggering amount of creativity, and the surprise is not that sometimes their ideas don’t work but that they so overwhelming work spectacularly.
Sonia Tayeh (who a few seasons back kept me perennially amused with her classic punk Mohawk), Travis Wall, Mia Michaels, Tyce Diorio, Stacey Took, Mandy Moore, married couple Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo — these are the true stars of the show. After several seasons you understand where each is coming from and anticipate what magic they’ll produce — but they always surprise you.
They’ve created dances about cancer, about abusive relationships, about bullying that tear your heart out. But they’ve also come up with toe-tapping Broadway-type numbers that make you glad you’re alive.
Here’s how I prefer to watch the show. I DVR each episode, and then fast forward so that ALL I watch are the routines themselves.
If I see a dance number that particularly moves me I sometimes watch the judges’ comments…because there’s something fascinating about watching these experienced dance professionals caught so off guard by a routine that they can barely talk through their tears.
Seriously, folks, this is the weepiest show on television. But, hell, the talent on display merits every salty drop.