I know I just promised a slew of current movie reviews, but after finishing last week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, I’m feeling compelled to sidestep (no pun intended) those briefly for a shout-out to a summer show you should be watching. Before I continue, I should note that, aside from a 3-4 year devotion to Survivor back when reality TV first broke onto the scene, I am NOT a big reality TV fan. I tend to gravitate towards more scripted programming when it comes to TV. However, upon being introduced to this show a few years back, I was instantly hooked and haven’t missed an episode since! If you’re not already watching it, this is a great time to start, as the “good stuff” is just getting underway and you’ll have managed to miss the sometimes overly drawn out and tedious (though still addicting) audition episodes, during which the Top 20 finalists (10 girls and 10 guys) are whittled down from the multitudes across the country who audition for the show (which is shot here in Los Angeles). So the actual competition has only just begun. If you have any appreciation whatsoever for dance ~ of any kind! ~ I defy you not to get hooked on this show!
The format is similar to most talent competition-based reality series: Candidates are chosen by a panel of judges after a series of auditions and proceed to perform week to week. America has a chance to weigh in by voting for their favorites and then one (or two) contestants are eliminated each week until we’re left with the finalists. It is essentially
American Idol for dance (which makes sense as Idol is also produced by So You Think You Can Dance standing judge and producer Nigel Lythgoe). Only for whatever reason, I enjoy (and respect) this show far more than I ever have Idol. (And I grew up both singing and dancing, so it’s not a matter of appreciating one form of talent over the other.) The show is for the most part clean, tight and moves along at a nice clip, making it’s two-hour running time fly by. This is the first year they’ve eliminated a separate results show, which should tighten up the show even more, as well as free up another hour in the week.
The young dancers (no one over the ripe old age of 30 is eligible) are extraordinarily talented. One gets the sense that they are there not to become famous by being on TV, but rather because they genuinely love ~ and live ~ to dance. You can see and feel their passion for the art. It comes through in their performances, very often moving me to tears or injecting me with a jolt of energy, causing my jaw to drop at their astonishing abilities and an inspiring reminder of the beauty and power of movement as artistic expression.
Each dancer is paired every week with a fellow contestant. They are taught a routine in a particular genre choreographed by one of an extremely talented group of choreographers from a broad range of dance styles ~ everything from hip-hop to ballroom to Broadway to lyrical (and many many more). It is fascinating and exciting to watch these dancers expand their repertoire…to see B-boys (breakdancers, for those who aren’t familiar with the term) doing Ballroom, ballet dancers doing hip-hop, tappers doing Bollywood. This season alone includes a belly dancer, an “animator” (something I’d never heard of before in regards to dance!) and a dancer who incorporates martial arts into his dance style. There truly is a wonderfully vast representation of dance styles, ethnicities and backgrounds represented by the dancers on the show.
It’s also worth noting that an added bonus to watching So You Think You Can Dance is the inevitable discovery of fantastic new (or previously unbeknownst to me) music…each season has produced a SYTYCD Season X playlist, which I love!
The show is hosted by the delightfully personable (and stunning) Cat Deeley, a British import who is clearly loved by all ~ judges, dancers and audiences alike (not to mention the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, who nominated her for an Emmy last year for her hosting prowess). The judges are comprised of the previously mentioned producer, Nigel Lythgoe, former ballroom dancer Mary Murphy (who is loud and occasionally grating, but entirely sincere and sweet) and a third rotating guest judge, which sometimes works ~ as when the hilariously witty Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family guest hosts (hands-down my favorite) ~ and sometimes doesn’t (I’ll remain mum in this regard). Overall, the judges have generally intelligent, thoughtful, seemingly on-the-mark commentary which also helps to lend the show credence.
At the end of the day, SYTYCD is a reality show about true, raw, unbridled talent ~ young dancers giving it their all because they simply LOVE to dance (and appear to be born to). It’s nearly impossible not to feel the pain and disappointment when some of the dancers get cut as the show winds down, but it’s also impossible not to feel the sheer joy and elation for those who make it to the finish, which, for the first time ever, will include TWO winners ~ one male, one female ~ rather than only one as it has been until now.
Give it a try if you don’t if you don’t already watch it. I think you’ll find it hard to resist. It airs Wednesday nights on FOX from 8:00-10:00pm (7:00-9:00 for you Central Time Zoners). Let me know what you think and who you’re rooting for if you’re watching!