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What’s right with the tv show, So You Think You Can Dance


View all of Stephen Koester’s SYTYCD posts.
I am an avid viewer, fan and supporter of the Fox TV network show SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE (SYTYCD). There is much to admire in this show. Dance as an art form has been struggling recently in terms of audience attendance, financial support and public interest. There’s a general lack of understanding for most as to what it’s all about, particularly since dance is no longer a part of our education, upbringing or daily life experience as we become more sedentary as a population and more specialized in our careers and interests. With sports, movies, the Internet and other entertainment possibilities, there’s a lot of competition for our attention. Therefore, any show that can expose a greater segment of the general public to dance, can excite and educate people, and popularize dance, can only help those of us in the dance profession. Aided by SYTYCD, people are becoming more aware of and interested in dance. Those who may have never thought of attending a live dance concert may now want to do so; SYTYCD viewers may be our future audiences/supporters.

The show may even excite people enough to get them to dance themselves or think of dance as a viable career option. As a professor in the Department of Modern Dance and an active choreographer, I believe I’m already starting to see this happen. The numbers of students auditioning to enter our dance program has grown in the past few years, particularly the number of men who want to study dance. SYTYCD has certainly helped to legitimize men in dance just by showing so many talented young males dancing. It is often the men who capture the most attention on SYTYCD (fairly or unfairly), having won the title of America’s favorite dancer more times than women. I have real respect for the dancers on SYTYCD, who I see as incredibly talented and gifted, and whose work ethic, motivation and dedication are simply off the chart. I am weekly astounded by the versatility of the dancers who must constantly adapt to new, alien styles of dance, and do so with enthusiasm and appetite. These dancers can serve as real role models for students in our own department.

I also have great respect for the judges, particularly the regulars, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy. They obviously take dance serious. They see their roles as not only judges but also educators. Their comments are meant to provide insight into dance for those who are unfamiliar with the particularities of each dance form or style, and most often they succeed. They help make dance more understandable. I also appreciate the judges’ relationship to the dancers. They are honest (which at times can feel a bit brutal), but their comments are always given with a genuine desire for each dancer to succeed and grow. Though we get a manicured version of reality, the dancers, judges and Cat Deeley as host, all seem to be real people. Cat appears to have a genuine caring, warm and supportive concern for all the dancers and the dancers themselves all seem humble and fairly chilled given all the pressures placed upon them.

Next week, before the 6th season kicks off September 9, I’ll comment on what I see as perhaps some negatives of the show.


Follow the New Season of SYTYCD with Stephen Koester, Choreographer & University Professor of Dance

“So You Think You Can Dance” launches its first fall season next Wednesday on Fox. Happily for RedThread blogheads, Stephen Koester will be 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.

  • joan

    It’s going to be great to get your comments about the show. I have one question already. Last season some powerful choreography centered around “topics” such as breast cancer or physical abuse. Watching, I wondered how much of my response to these pieces was due to having them “framed” as it were within a context. I personally liked following the story but have always thought of dance as being more intellectual, appreciated for the sheer beauty of movement or physicality. What do you think about this kind of narrative dance? Thanks!

    • Stephen Koester

      Dear Joan, Thank you for your comments and question. There are so
      many ways in which to enter a dance, via the movement, story or
      conceptional idea(s). That is part of what makes watching dance hard,
      and intimidating for audience members, as it is up to each viewer and
      also their responsibility as to how to interact and respond to a
      dance. There is no one right way. This goes against our norm which
      often wants the correct answer. I am fine and appreciate dances with
      a narrative. There is a slight danger though. It is our human nature
      to want to make narrative sense out of everything we see. People can
      therefore get too involved with looking for the narrative when that
      may not have been the choreographer’s intent and one can then become
      frustrated if they cannot interpret a dance via this means. They then
      don’t get it.

      Steve Koester

  • Tour de U

    I’m really looking forward to your posts. I’m a big fan of the show, but I’ve often wanted an outside person to evaluate it from a technical perspective (the judges do a nice job, but hey, their job is to make money for the show). If I had it my way, they would toss off that horrible judge “Li’l C” and put you on the panel.

  • FargoUT

    So You Think You Can Dance is about the only competition show I can stand to watch. The reason is because the focus is on talent, and not making a mockery of the contestants. While American Idol is more entertaining during the auditions, SYTYCD is far more entertaining when it gets into the meat of dance.

    And I’m not a dancer, nor have any real concept of what makes good dancing. I know what I like and I know it when I’m watching if it’s good, but I can’t explain why. It’s usually just the energy that exudes from the performance.

    Sadly, with work and school, I rarely get to see this show lately. I do hope to catch them online–if Fox actually airs them online.

  • Shefali Dandekar

    I just wonder if u have any article about AIPMT Result

  • William Hildreth

    Happy to hear that people are taking dance as career and choosing it as subject to study also.