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SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE (SYTYCD) – Boston. Egos on Parade.

In dance, I want personality and stage presence in a performer. For me, presence is when someone is so fully and honesty involved and invested that he or she heightens my experiencing of the movement, the person dancing, and myself as viewer to such a degree that I understand all three in a new way. The dancer transcends, goes beyond everyday existence, and is able to captivate to the point where I can lose sense of time and place. But personality and presence are two very different things than ego, which I don’t want to see in the dancer (or judge). We saw ego in abundance last week on SYTYCD. Ego on stage says look at me at the expense of being able to see the dance. It’s a defense mechanism for a lack of talent and insecurities about oneself. What we see is a false, bloated sense of self worth and a social neediness.

First there was the Latin male dancer with the roving eyebrows and facial expressions who thought he was sexy beyond words. While the guy could dance, it was hard to get beyond his ego. I’m glad all of the judges called him on this. We need to see the dancer, but also need to trust that the dance and dancing alone is enough to deliver its message. Latin dancing is sexy when the sexiness is not simply a veneer as thick as greasepaint. I love the hyper-speed and sharpness of Latin ballroom dancing with its fancy foot flicks, focal changes and arm undulations. I also love its excessive flamboyance. It doesn’t need anything else to excite. Certainly not eyebrows, which think they are worthy of an Oscar award for acting.

Then there was the 46-year old contemporary male dancer. His ego and need to dance (to be seen) made him delusional, allowing him to think that he had talent or something to say. It makes me embarrassed and angry as a dancer myself to be associated with what he did on the show. It supports society’s general notion that dancers are weird, and if you were led to believe that what he did was dancing, why would you ever go see dance again, including my dances. When the judges stopped his routine, the dancer’s eyes said it all, ready to pop out of their sockets in total disbelief that anyone would have to nerve to interrupt such artistry.

Finally, there’s Tyce Diorio. Not a good judge. Compared to Nigel and Mary his comments seemed intellectually trivial, unhelpful and less articulate. As he didn’t have anything meaningful to say, he substituted it by saying something mean. His unnecessarily cruel comments put the spotlight on him not the dancer. What purpose did his comments serve other than to humiliate the one auditioning and to cover Tyce’s own insecurities and shortcomings?

The evening’s best was the male break-dancer. Some of the moves were beyond imagining though at times I cringed watching. The demands placed on the body and the extremeness of distortion and joint use look like they just hurt or will in a few years. As a dancer our goal is to dance as long as we can, not cut our longevity short by abusing the body. Our bodies are our tools; we need to respect and protect them.

  • joan

    This gets to something that I have felt watching the show: some of the dancers put so much feeling into their movements that you start to feel a transcendent quality that just goes straight to your heart. It’s really powerful stuff. I know for other arts that that is what separates the good from the great. I would assume it’s the same for dance, yet I wonder if somehow in dance if being technically brilliant doesn’t translate into feeling, as it were. I mean, when you think of ballet (and this is just my impression) it seems to be the technique, the perfection, that is awe-inspiring. I do like how Mary and Nigel reward those dancers who bring a certain personal quality to what they are doing that comes from a “larger place”. In fact, I think that they are sometimes willing to overlook “technique” for authenticity of expression…although I might be wrong about that.

  • Stephen Koester

    @joan
    Thanks for your comments. I do think it is possible to become
    transcendent through technique – either that you are so brilliant at
    it (which very few are) or you are so invested in it that it becomes
    who you are in that moment. Simply showing off technique is not
    enough. Showing off technique is ego and doesn’t allow the movement
    to speak for itself. Those who have great technique and who capture
    me usually also have something else going on. I think Mary and Nigel
    want both technique and an authenticity of expression, and beyond
    that, a full integration of the two.