SYTYCD: A Love Letter

MOLLY SCHOEMANN:  I’m not a big fan of reality television, because I don’t generally like social drama, and I’m not fond of competitions.  But I will argue passionately to anyone who listens that So You Think You Can Dance is a different kind of show altogether.

For one thing, it showcases an artistic skill that is does not receive very much attention in our society from people who do not practice it.  Think about it; when was the last time you went to a dance performance, if you are not a dancer yourself, or otherwise directly interested in dance?  Case in point: the only dance performances I have ever attended have been when friends of mine were dancing in them.  Even though I love to watch dance, it is not something I seek out especially.  Although making a living in the arts isn’t easy for anyone, it has to be especially hard to make a living as a dancer.

So—not only does this show feature dance numbers that are breathtaking to watch, and attractive young dancers who do astonishing things with their beautiful bodies, but it is also bringing a wide variety of styles and types of dance into millions of American households during prime time.  I love this.

I’m not ashamed to admit that during every episode of SYTYCD, there is a dance or two (or three) that moves me to tears.  If it’s not the choreography of the piece that does it, then it’s the passion that these dancers bring to their work.  They love what they are doing—they would be doing it on or off television, and this love of dance is obvious and inspiring.  I am often left in awe watching the things that these dancers are able to do with their bodies.  I even find myself gasping out loud when I see a particularly great move or a striking pose.

Watching SYTYCD is an immensely satisfying experience; not only because of the dancing, but because it is a show that knows not to take itself too seriously.  The judges judge, but they have fun.  They have goofy celebrity judges who don’t know anything about dance, but they mean well.  The host, Cat Deeley, is amazingly tall and just adorable.

I have to admit, I don’t always catch the results show.  I don’t like seeing any of the dancers voted off.  And I usually don’t even have a favorite contestant (usually I just have one or two dancers I don’t particularly like), so I never vote.  I watch the show because I love the dancing, and the dancers, and the very fact that an American television show, during prime-time, is showcasing young, unknown dancers.  They’re not celebrities, they’re not trying for their fifteen minutes.  I love how much I have learned from watching; more than I ever knew about ballroom, the waltz, the fox trot, and modern dance, among many, many other styles.

During one of the recent results shows, they had a visiting dance troupe, and one of the dancers was in a wheelchair.  The partnered dance he did was one of the most interesting and genuinely moving things I think I’ve ever seen on television.

The season is half over, but I think this is the kind of show you can just jump in on.  I have gotten at least two of my skeptical friends addicted to it over the years.  This Wednesday at 8pm, why not give it a try? 

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