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When SYTYCD (thankfully) Falls Short

July 14, 2011

I have watched So You Think You Can Dance since its second season. I’ve cheered on Benji and Donyelle, Chelsie and Mark, Jeanine and Brandon, Ellenore and Ryan, Robert and Lauren, and Marko and Melanie. I happen to also love Cat Deeley and am delighted to hear she finally got an Emmy nod! I’m not much of a dancer and can’t critique as well as some could. (In fact, I think this is why I enjoy it more than, say, American Idol, where I can critique with a limited bit of expertise from a nearly a decade of voice lessons.) I simply adore watching dance and watching skilled dancers succeed.

In each wonderful season, there always seems to be one dancer that grates my nerves. (Do you guys remember Nathan? Oh dear.) This season it’s Jess. His entitled jackassery makes me want to punch puppies.  Also, could he please just shut his ever-gaping mouth? And when Jess and Clarice were paired up last night to do a Christopher Scott lyrical hip-hop routine about a young woman’s insecurities (video here), I had to pause the DVR to express my contempt.

Firstly, I was immediately disappointed by the fact a male choreographer would attempt to conceptualize through dance the nuances of a woman’s struggle with self-acceptance and body image.  Secondly, I was increasingly turned off by the storyline that revolved around a man leading a woman to self-acceptance. Thirdly, I was incredibly irritated by the fact that that man was Jess.  How many times does this story play out in pop culture: Stunning woman is insecure, meets arrogant dude who convinces her she’s pretty and worthy (of his affection), they live happily ever after. How boring.

Thankfully, this routine didn’t scratch the surface of the issues women face in relation to their bodies. (Which lends credence to the fact that a female choreographer would have been more apt to breathe life into this concept.) And, much to my chagrin, Jess didn’t fail horribly in his attempt at hip-hop. So, surprisingly, I didn’t hate it, though the Bruno Mars cover was questionable. In fact, what was most surprising was how much I didn’t hate it.

But it left me wanting more.  Specifically, I want to see this concept choreographed by Mia Michaels and performed by Melanie and Marko.  Mia is brilliant when it comes to reaching to something profound (so is Travis Wall, but I don’t think he could do the concept the justice it deserves) and I believe her own public acknowledgment of body image issues makes her the ultimate candidate to produce something emotionally convincing, moving, and insightful. (Which begs the question, where the hell has she been this season????)

The issues of self-acceptance and body image run rampant in the dance community.  What better place to begin a conversation?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2011 11:54 am

    Mia has been absent due to some behind-the-scenes problems/drama. I agree completely in that I was disappointed by how little I hated this routine, because I can’t stand that kid. I have to concede that he is actually a solid dancer (unlike Clarice who is both boring and nowhere near as good as any other girl on the show) but I can’t get around how much I want to punch his stupid smug face. (but he has definitely carried Clarice this far in the competition, without a doubt)

  2. July 14, 2011 12:12 pm

    I HATE JESS! I didn’t watch last night’s episode yet, but something about his mouth makes me want to punch him. Right in his mouth. Arielle and I also have express hatred for that chick Ryan. Something about her face bugs me .. and also the fact that she smiles throughout almost EVERY DANCE.

    I’m team Melanie/Marko-Tadd/Jordan all the way.

    I realize this comment had nothing to do with your actual blog post, but I love SYTYCD.

  3. July 14, 2011 4:18 pm

    I’m so glad someone else felt the same thing—I was so righteously angry the whole time, simply because I hate this notion that we’re fed all the time that as soon as a man/partner/person loves you and/or finds you attractive, you can find your self esteem. Barf. Plus, I hate Jess and Bruno Mars, so it was basically a shit storm of hatred.

    I miss Mia Michaels fiercely every week—though I was happy to see Sonya at the judges table last night.

  4. July 15, 2011 4:40 pm

    Hi Renee – I’ve been following you since Stratejoy but I don’t think I’ve ever commented yet! But, I AM a dancer, sooooo of course I have to this time! Ha!

    I haven’t watched this episode yet (darn Fox.com/dance/ and their week-behind schedule), and I do tend to like Clarice & Jess (but Cat Deely?!! Totally makes me want to vomit. She’s so insincere!!), but I did just watch the video you linked to.

    Anyway, you’re right, the concept was WEAK – I think the choreographer was just trying to tie into the lyrics of a song he happens to like. And that’s my problem with SYTYCD overall. There are WAY too many ‘romantic’-esque ‘storylines.’ I know that captures America’s attention most easily, but I’m wondering what you all non-dancer audience members would think about more abstract dancing (that hip hop choreography without the set or mirror-gazing, for example), or even something that is unrelated to the fact that one gal and one guy happen to both be dancing together – maybe they’re animals, or planets, or machines!

  5. July 17, 2011 2:19 am

    I think Jess is an amazing dancer; when he and Clarice dance together, I can only watch him. However, I do find him to be extremely arrogant, which is why I am not in favor of him winning.

    I saw the “women’s insecurities” routine and I think you make a lot of valid points about the piece. I wonder how much a piece with the same concept choreographed by an actual woman would differ from the piece that was shown this past week? I also think that a contemporary dance style would be better fitting for such a concept, rather than lyrical hip-hop. Mia Michaels really needs to make this happen.

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