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So You Think You CAN’T Dance?

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Clever title that, as the gorgeous Cat Deeley, host of  “So You Think You Can Dance,” might say of the U’s modern dance class for nonmajors. A nod to the popularity, even influence, of the show, the class brings hip hop, gangsta, and other edgy, contemporary forms into the academy. Now in its fifth season, “…Dance” offers all of that plus—FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER—last week’s pas de “duh.”

An “American Idol” spinoff, “So You Think You Can Dance” auditions wanna bes from around the country, gives them weekly routines—in wildly divergent genres—to find “America’s best dancer.” Picture a “popper” doing Russian folkdance, and you can imagine how inspired or painful those deep knee bends can be.

Since entertainment is the show’s guiding principle, I wondered what people who teach and study dance think of it. Donna White, U modern dance professor, performer, and choreographer, has seen only two or three episodes but says there’s no doubt of its effect on the department. “We see a lot of influence and many positives—including getting people excited about dance.”

I think it’s particularly exciting that two of the current 12 finalists—“a boy and a girl” hail from Utah. “It speaks to how much dance there is here,” Donna says. No doubt it also speaks to how much quality dance there is here.  The U’s dance department is, in fact, one of the best in the nation. But, as with wine tasting, I’m no expert. In the next couple of weeks, I hope to talk with other members of the department about their perceptions of the show.

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I’m curious: Is the choreography as outrageous and provocative as it appears to me? Are these hopefuls really that talented when you put them up against, say, a chorus line on Broadway? What about the judges? Does “you’re one hot tamale TONIGHT, yes you are!” make experts want to hurl or do they laugh along with me? And why, oh why, are there so many English accents involved in America’s best whatever? Stay tuned.