Last posting, I listed some of the many positives of the Fox TV network show SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE (SYTYCD). But not all is perfect.
1- The best dancer does not necessarily win – dance talent alone is not always enough. First, the women I feel are at a biased disadvantage in the voting. I am assuming that a majority of the voters are young women who I believe tend to vote more for the men – the attraction of the opposite sex. I also think that the voting can be more a popularity contest in terms of who is cutest and who has the most sex appeal and off-stage personality, which is not the equivalent to who is the best dancer. Last season was no exception. Jeanette in my opinion was clearly the best dancer and should have won or at least made it to the final show. She was a fireball on stage, able to do anything. It was obvious that the judges too were unanimously surprised and disappointed when Janette was eliminated. Evan on the other hand should not have gone so far, but he was cute, the boy next door and male.
2- At times, I find the judges hold a limited viewpoint as to what makes a good performer. The men must always be masculine, the women feminine and everyone must always be passionate and emotive. While the show is great at honoring a full range of dance styles, it does have a more singular performance aesthetic. I believe performers must be true to their personality, which means that they don’t always have to be smiling stereotypes.
3- The early auditions can be way too harsh. Obviously some who audition shouldn’t. They have neither the talent nor ability. The show tends to single out these contestants and I feel humiliate them. We are dealing with human beings who are putting themselves in a vulnerable position, regardless of how they present themselves. Dance is vulnerable in that the material of the art form is the body itself, placed front and center for others to judge. I’ll admit, there is a fascination seeing these people audition, but it’s a bit like watching a train wreck. It shouldn’t be seen as being there simply for our entertainment; there may be more serious and personal consequences and issues involved.
4- The dance numbers on SYTYCD cater to our limited attention spans, equivalent to the 30-second sound byte. Particularly when approached as an art form, dances often require more time to develop and achieve substance/significance. The dances on SYTYCD rely primarily on entertainment value and technical tricks, but there’s more to dance than this. The show in fact treads a fine line between art and entertainment. The dances are often presented as high art while in fact they really lie purely in the realm of entertainment. The show works best when it presents dance simply as dance, without labels other than stylistic identification. This allows the dances to be seen for what they are and allows the audience to see them how they will.
5- Finally, as with all reality TV, SYTYCD is far from real life. Everything we see on the show is highly staged, pre-planned and edited to garner ratings. I guess this is unavoidable. It is TV after all.
Follow the New Season of SYTYCD with Stephen Koester, Choreographer & University Professor of Dance
The first fall season of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” is underway. Happily for RedThread blogheads, Stephen Koester is watching, commenting, and answering questions about the show—its dancers, choreography, judges, costumes, lighting, and anything else you’re dying to talk about. Koester, who is the director of graduate studies in the Department of Modern Dance, has a long list of accomplishments: He was the co-artistic director of Creach/Koester, an all-male dance company based in New York City; he has received five consecutive choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts; his recent work has appeared in the repertories of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Repertory Dance Theatre, Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, Dance Forum, Taipei, among others, including his own company Dance Koester Dance, which has presented several Salt Lake City seasons. Koester regularly choreographs and teaches improvisation, composition, technique, and graduate seminars at the U. In 2002, he received the College of Fine Arts Faculty Excellence Award for creative research.