The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: The Art of So You Think You Can Dance

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageIf the mere thought of reading an article about a reality TV competition show induces dry heaving in you, you may not want to read on. But don’t say I didn’t warn you! I confessed last week that I watch all kinds of television programming and though I am not a fan of the Foxification of scripted shows, I carry a huge torch for Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance.
Season 5 just got going with their first two weeks of live competition and I am a happy camper. My summer is saved.

I must admit I only got hooked on SYTYCD in Season 4, so I may still be more enthusiastic about it than all those of you who have witnessed it from Day One. Add to this the fact we don’t have any competition show similarly as good as SYTYCD here in Germany and you have a first entry into the explanation of why I love watching Fox Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The reasons go deeper though and begin and end with the innovation and genuine creativity this format has room for. On no other show of this kind will you find as much diversity and artistry. Whether you can appreciate this art is another matter. Dance is not for everybody and even if you like freestyling, you may not be able to connect with a beautiful Pas de Deux or a Viennese Waltz. But just because not everyone likes the motifs Van Gogh painted doesn’t mean it isn’t art, right?

The beauty of SYTYCD is that it created a forum for dancers and choreographers to show their craft and gain exposure and at the same time opened the general public up to styles of dance they may have previously been unaware or dismissive of. While shows like American Idol present the viewer with the same chart-topping numbers (of past and present) every season, only sung by a different mainstreamed individual, SYTYCD is all about showcasing people who have worked incredibly hard all their life to be good at what they do, only to have it taken away once they reach a certain age. There is a distinct tragedy to being a dancer as good as the ones you can watch dance on your TV every week right now.


I am edgy – look at my spiky hair!

Let me dive deeper into the diversity issue here: you may argue that even AI tries to incorporate different genres with their motto shows, but AI never genuinely “creates” anything. What the contestants sing are always cover versions of something someone has done before. You always have a version to compare it to. Not so on SYTYCD. The choreographies presented every week are unique, designed and crafted for that very special occasion, sometimes even fitted to a particular dancer’s needs and abilities. The choreographers working on the show are among the best in the world (along with the ones from all the other versions of the program in Canada, Australia etc) and what those dancers do on the show not a lot of other people could do. Whether you connect with a piece a couple dances is as subjective as any art form, but I believe dance is one of the most universal forms of art there is.

The contestants on SYTYCD reveal a lot more about themselves dancing on national television than a contestant on AI ever could. This is in part because of the short, skin tight or otherwise fanciful outfits the dancers wear, but also because they get to dance solos, meaning they create a sequence of movements of their own choosing to let us see who they are. They are not singing someone else’s words to a song, they create themselves. This elevates them from performers to artists, at least in the best case scenario.

ImageAs an added bonus I also think SYTYCD has the most entertaining and most qualified judges of all the competition programs I have seen. Nigel Lythgoe is the perfect antidote to grumpy and pretentious Simon Cowell and Mary Murphy is so endearing in her firecracker ways, you can’t help but love her. The guest judges are equally lovable and qualified, from Li’l C with his eloquent metaphors to the always too emotional Adam Shankman to the skeptic appreciator of innovation Mia Michaels.

Special mention should also go to the wonderful host of the show, Cat Deeley, who makes the show so much more watchable by being real, connecting with the dancers and looking fantastic every week. Take that, Ryan Seacrest!

Who would not love a beautifully wrapped piece of art? Seriously, there is nothing wrong with this program. Of course you get the usual rhetoric that “this is the best season we have ever had”, but heck, that is just the rule in television. Every season of Lost tries to be more spectacular than the one before, the Big Bad in Buffy got older and meaner every season, so why shouldn’t reality shows adhere to the same principle?

Now, since Season 4 of SYTYCD is my personal Season 1, I don’t think anything will ever compare to my favorite dancers and routines from that season, but hey, I am willing to give everybody a chance and I am loving Broadway dancer Evan this summer. Should he not become America’s Favorite Dancer in a few weeks time, his tap-dancing brother Chris will have a shot to reclaim the family’s glory in the fall, when SYTYCD runs its first season within the regular schedule. My fall just got a whole lot better!


Recommended Collisions with your Television

(combine at will, all times EST, only new programming listed)



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