So You Think You Can Dance? by Deb Jenny

I’m in a state of television deprivation. My favorite show–So You Think You Can Dance?–is over and I don’t know what to do with myself each Wednesday and Thursday night now. I’ve grown to miss judge Nigel Lithgoe–despite his mesmerizingly oversized dental caps–and his spot-on critiques of the dancing wunderkind contestants. And crazy judge Mary Murphy, once a staid, unassuming ballroom dance instructor and now a borderline wildwoman you could almost imagine tucking tenners into a male stripper’s g-string. I miss the towering (I swear she had two feet on some of those little dancers) and stunning hostess Cat Deeley, whose bastardization of the word judges (“Let’s see what the jidges think,” she’d say again and again each episode) sort of grew on me, like mold on bread. Poor Cat, who donned a succession of increasingly fabulous gowns throughout the show, unwisely capped the season with a brown confection that looked like it had been assembled by a team of weaver birds building a home in which to incubate their eggs.

While I may enjoy poking a little bit of fun at the “jidges”, I absolutely loved the show. Nowhere else on television (arguably not even on ESPN) could one find a more impressive display of athleticism. Week in and week out, phenomenally talented dancers vyed for primacy–and defied gravity–all for a relatively meager prize, as far as reality programs go.

SYTYCD? is about the best show on television, in my humble opinion, though I’ve yet to meet another soul who watches it. This stands in sharp contrast to that other dancing show that somehow transfixes Americans–you know the one with has-been celebrities desperate to administer CPR, stat, to their flagging careers (I know, I know, it’s called Dancing with the Stars). I understand those contestants do actually learn to dance, but it’s nothing like SYTYCD?, which is more like a weekly award-winning Broadway production for free in your living room, as opposed to watching an Arthur Murray lesson on TV.

I must admit I am just about the worst dancer ever born. Elaine’s spastic dance mockery on Seinfeld would look good next to me on a dance floor. It doesn’t help that when paired up with a partner I have this overriding need to lead. So I probably get an extra added fix by watching SYTYCD?, appreciating all the more the talent those dancers have: I get my vicarious thrill with the lithe-limbed dancing machines who populate the show. And in addition to the extraordinary skills of the participants, I am spellbound by the phenomenal talent of the choreographers, costume designers and make-up artists. It’s just so much more uplifting, the whole ensemble, than, say, yet another episode of CSI: Miami.

Perhaps the end of the show is a good thing after all. Instead of parking myself in front of the television two nights a week, I will park myself in front of my computer and write. And in light of my two left feet and the rhythm of a three-toed sloth, I feel especially fortunate that I was invited to dance at this Ball: one that values creativity on the page above that on the dance floor.

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18 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Dance? by Deb Jenny

  1. Jenny, I haven’t seen your show, but I think I would love it.
    I’m in mourning this summer because there was no Rock Star. I ridiculed my husband when he started watching Rock Star Supernova last summer, but all it took was half and episode and I was totally hooked. I LOVED THAT SHOW! (And where is it this year? Where?!)
    For me, talent is the key to these shows, I love to see people with huge talent, especially an artistic/performance related talent, fight for a prize, a role, a job, etc. When the stakes are so high and the talent so great, people give incredible performances and that gives me chills every time.

  2. See, yet another person who didn’t see it! You will have to look for it next summer. I’m bummed b/c they’re going on tour and they’re not coming to my town (even though the American Idol tour is, and the shows share producers/creators).
    I think you’re right–the stakes are high and these people know their chances otherwise of breaking out are so slim, that they give it their all. Lord knows the extent of injuries sustained during the show!
    Was that the same Rock Star as the one two years ago with INXS looking for a new lead singer? That show was pretty awesome.

  3. I admit that I rarely watch reality TV. I did get sucked into Gene Simmons’ show the other night before my husband grabbed the clicker from the hands to find baseball. I can dance circa 1985. I fear that on today’s dance floor I’d look like I was doing the Virginia Reel. I can not master that front to back humpty thing the young people (LOL!) do today. I feel like I should be draped over a sofa leg when I try that….. Woof.

  4. Woof LOL
    Virginia Reel–you’d fit right in in my neck of the woods. I can picture you with a powdered wig…That whalebone corset would be another thing altogether…

    I know the whole reality TV thing has such negative connotations–how could it not with the Foxifcation of it all. And yes, this show is on Fox. But SYTYCD? really rises about the muck–trust me on this. (says Jen who happened upon one of the more pitiful reality shows the other night because her daughter left the TV on MTV so when she turned it on to see the weather forecast, the first thing on was P. Diddy and Making the Band 4. The patent omission of verbs made me crazy!!!)

  5. I’ve never seen or heard of that show, Jenny, but I love watching dance and dancing, but, like you, I like the dance we do here best of all.

  6. From what I understand Jenny, Dancing with the Stars requires their contestants to perform a waltz, so maybe you can catch one show and get some tips for your year at the Ball?

    As for reality TV, CBS may have lowered the bar on FOX with their upcoming and extremely controversial Kid Nation. TV fame — or at least instant national recognition — appears the easy way to success, talent or not.

    OTOH, there is The Amazing Race!

  7. Larramie–I love your optimism! But alas, years ago ballroom dancing classes failed to bring out the fleet of foot in me…Thank goodness I can e-dance instead!
    That CBS show is ghastly, isn’t it? And I wonder who is worse–the network execs who dreamed up this fiasco, or the parents who willingly shoved their kids into it?
    Ooooh, I do love that Amazing Race (although it makes me yearn to be wherever they are), though I must say the “family” season of it sorta bored me. Is that coming back on this year? If so, I’ll have something to look forward to!

  8. You know, for the last five years I’ve seen perfectly sane friends of mine turned into Idol-ites. I think there should be a twelve-step program for American Idol addicts, but I still love my friends and have done a few interventions. LOL to no avail. I give up. deep within us must lie dormant some reality tv gene.
    And if you Jenny tell me that SYTYCD is a notch above, I will believe you and mourn it’s passing. I have to admit that my husband and I have watched Ballroom Dancing shows for years and thought them amazing. Much like watching dog shows. As a matter of fact the movie Strictly Ballroom is one of our all-time faves.
    My husband is the male Elaine, and it took me a long time to figure out how to tell him. But the kids enjoy his antics. I just avoid him at those conventions and hand him off to whatever lonely female attorney seems to want to boogie till it’s 1989 again. He actually took modern dance in college (to meet chicks) which only serves to further pollute his dance steps, believe me.

    My father owned a dance studio in Albuquerque NM- The Starlight Dance Studio. I’m not kidding. My mother taught dancing there. Isn’t that romantic? It was the Fred and Ginger era. But for some reason I did not inherit their skills. I’m not Elaine, but my show has definately been canceled LOLOL.

    I think I mourned for half a year when Thirty Something went off the air. So we shall raise our cups and toast a sad farewell to SYTYCD!!! Suz

  9. Love it! Weaver birds…hehehe. I never saw SYTYCD, but I got totally sucked into ROCK STAR last year. (I always liked INXS.)

    And I’m laughing at everyone’s fabulous rhythmically-challenged analogies. I’ve got a few in Riding with Larry, so I won’t repeat myself here, but let’s just say when it comes to cutting a rug, the instrument God gave me is a blunt and rusty pinking shears.

  10. I watched SYTYCD? each night it was on, for the last two seasons.

    I agree. That was hands down the best reality show on TV… and I’d like to think of myself as a reality TV show connoisseur seeing as I have watched just about all of them at least one episode.

  11. Ooooh, DCChick–a reality show connoisseur…Then you may recall Pleasure Island–oh, was that what it was called? That dreadful show on Fox where bimbettes were supposed to lure guys away from their betrotheds? A ghastly show, but one I simply couldn’t not watch, though sorta had to do it with hands covering eyes with a teensy finger slot exposed he he

    Jess–love that dance description!

    And Suz–you had dancing folks and it didn’t pass on to you? Sounds like the beginnings of a book…and that lawyer swoops down and teaches you how to dance and you, ah, never mind…
    I did miss Thirty Something and then My So-Called Life, because the guy who starred in that was the brother of my unrequited high school lust. So each week I could tune in to see Phillip Conrad’s brother and it was almost like having Phil in my living room 😉

  12. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that show. All the episodes from this season are still saved on my digital recorder and yes, I do replay favourite dances. Much Music (think MTV) in Canada is replaying last year and I just watched Allison and Ivan’s first contemporary routine last night. I replayed it 3 times. Lovely. Broke my heart.

    There is not enough (any) real dance on TV — or anywhere in mainstream modern culture, really… So this show’s success is so wonderful.

    I love how they’ve made stars of some really funky and creative choreographers, too. Come on over to Drunk Writer Talk, Jenny. We talked about SYTYCD all summer long… (okay, a few times… but it did creep into the comments on several unrelated posts as well as being the main topic at least once.

  13. My best friend keeps sying the same thing – that SYTYCD is THE best show. She actually called me from Algonquin Park when she heard the show was coming to Toronto and made me order tickets for her. I told her she could probably show up the night of and score as many seats as she wanted, but, forty-five minutes of automated Ticketmaster ordering later, I discovered the thing was already sold out! SYTYCGo? Apparently not.

  14. Good grief, Jen, I had no idea you were a SYTYCD? watcher. (Sounds better than fan.) My daughters all laughed and pointed fingers at me, and my husband would watch the first few minutes and then shake his head and leave the room. Due to other obligations I missed the last couple of weeks this year and grieved about it. What I love is the astounding improvement the contestants make from the tryouts through the weeks of work, and I think the occasional strapped ankles, etc. make it clear that we’re talking serious effort and athletic output. Having zero dancing skills myself (in spite of the cotillion dance course that all my eighth grade buddies and I were subjected to thousands of years ago), I loved a TV show Come Dancing when we lived in England, where they take ballroom dancing Very Seriously. I want you to know my soul whirls gracefully around magnificent ballrooms, dressed in yards of floating tulle. Me, not the ballroom.

  15. This all reminds me of dance scenes I love and have put in my books. There was an old movie called “Picnic” which was this really odd combination of dark and quirky and funny comedy. Kim Novak did this dance scene with some guy (who remembers who, because she was incredibly sexy and stole the scene–oh wait it was William Holden. The music was “Moonglow” which you really don’t know if you are under 45. LOL I used the entire scene in my book Talk of the Town I think. Actually I’ve probably used that scene three times to represent a dance sequence. How repetitive of me!

    Of course I’m a huge Fred and Ginger fan, or Fred and Anyone fan~ I just don’t belong in this era.

    Yes- new book ===dancing parents, klutzy daughter LOL. My daughter is pretty good though, she’s a theater gal and she has a real talent for memorizing routines. You go girl! Maybe it skipped a generation!
    Suz

  16. I love to see people with huge talent, especially an artistic/performance related talent, fight for a prize, a role, a job, etc. When the stakes are so high and the talent so great, people give incredible performances and that gives me chills every time.

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