So I Think I’m Glad I’m Not A Dancer

4 Jun

so_you_think_you_can_dance…and for reasons other than the fact that I have no coordination, am way too tall, and have about a six-inch vertical.  No, I’m glad I’m not a dancer because, after watching the first night of So You Think You Can Dance‘s Las Vegas eliminations last night, I just don’t think that I’d have the emotional fortitude for it.  I’ve never seen such an emotionally brutal night of judgment and critical evisceration in my life. Dozens of dancers gave it their all, hearts on sleeves, flying around the room in the most beautiful ways, only to be laid LOW by the judges, told straight to their crying faces that they were a disappointment, not good enough, going home.

I really like this show – I started watching last year, tuning in a couple of weeks after the open-call auditions and subsequent “Vegas Week” of cuts.  By the time I started watching, there were only around 18 contestants, 9 guys and 9 girls, and they were all paired off and doing duo dances each week.  It was such a blast to watch – first of all, the contestants were really, really good, and secondly, the judges critiqued mainly in terms of technique, which is something that I’ve often found to be lamentably lacking on the comparable American Idol. Lots of times, I’d think that two dancers looked great, and then the judges would all just blast the routine, all in agreement that it was severely lacking in several respects.  They’d then explain why, using slow-mo replays to demonstrate poor technique and missed moves. It was really cool, very interesting.  And when the dancers were really on their game, it was some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve seen on TV.  No joke.

But boy, last year I tuned in after the big cuts got made, and I now know what I was missing. Though similar in concept, American Idol’s “Hollywood Week” of cuts has nothing on SYTYCD.  This year, they started with 175 dancers, and by the end of a single 2-hour block of time, they’d cut it down to 32.  Tonight, they cut another 12.  It was so fucking merciless – “You are a disappointment, go home.”  “It’s the end for you, please work harder and come again next year.”  “You are not performing as you need to. Go home.”  “All five of you are done.  Good-bye.”


A cutter, in the best way possible.

Uber-Badass Mia Michaels started out a round by looking a big group of dancers dead in the eye and saying (I’m paraphrasing a bit) – “I’m a cutter.  I love to cut, because I love it when people who aren’t good enough get sent home.”  Damn.  And that’s not to mention when they gave a dancer a second chance to perform a solo for them, then cut his ass anyway. Or made the dancers team up and choreograph on their own all through the night, making them dance the following morning with no sleep. Or just mercilessly split up two sisters they’d spent the entire hour building our attachment to… and in a cutting-montage, with no warning!  Wow.  Harsh.  It never let up for the entire two hours – there was, like, a ten-second bit where people were at the pool, and then… bam, back to the cutting.  It was bracing, it was shocking, and it was wicked-entertaining.

And my lord, I’m glad I’m not a dancer.  There just seem to be so many of them, and they’re all so good, full of energy and life, in absolute peak physical condition, capable of movements I couldn’t imagine pulling off… and then they spend their lives going to cattle-calls and getting sent home. It’s a world that, as a freelance musician, I never, ever have to see – the world of open-call auditions and empaneled adjudication, of crazy-high standards, insane competition, and pitiless, impatient honesty. It’s still very much the way that classical auditions go – many of the classical players I know have to face that sort of critique (and rejection) all the time.  But even then, it’s not the same.  I couldn’t imagine 175 trumpet players showing up for a philharmonic audition, forced to sit on stage with one another, then cut, cut, cut, cut, until there are 30 amazing trumpet players left, then cut, cut, cut again, until you start to wonder where is the rhyme? Where is the reason?  And then more cuts, and more.



It explains a lot – why the contestants on this show are so great, why it’s such a fun show to watch. Unlike Idol, the judges actually seem to take their jobs seriously! They are at their best when they’re being hyper-critical, and over the course of their various careers, they have gone through thousands of fantastic dancers like so much paper mache, so they’re really good at it. There are no vague, Idol-esque “It worked a’ight for me” comments here – these judges are all of the Simon Cowell School of Judging: eagle-eyed, specific, and tough in their feedback.  As a result, the contestants who make it through are all really good, and the judges, having already invested so much time and effort simply whittling the numbers down to those final dancers, have even higher standards for them.

I’m pumped for this season. It’s not even a guilty pleasure, really – I’m sure that once it finds some ratings success (and it will, particularly with the move to the fall), it’ll lose some of its edge and charm, but for the moment, SYTYCD is just damn good television. Plus, Cat Deeley is a mega-babe.


2 Responses to “So I Think I’m Glad I’m Not A Dancer”

  1. thesoniashow June 4, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    I watched the show last year, and I agree that some of the dance routines were just awesome! I was blown away!

    I have been missing most of this season, because I’m switching apartments. However, I fully intend to start watching it after the move, because I heart the show so much.

    And, I also think Cat Deely is a babe and a really fantastic host to boot.

  2. darci June 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    I agree, last night was an especially harsh night from the judges. I was shocked that they dismissed Natalie Reid, especially after Sonja had handpicked her to demonstrate her choreography with Brandon to everyone. Crazy.

    One thing I was glad about was hearing “Dance With Me” by Old 97s play during the end credits. I really hope a competitor gets to dance to this song sometime soon! I can totally picture Nathan Trasoras tearing it up to this tune. The song’s music video is at

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