Summer's here and that means one of my favorite shows (which does happen to be a reality show) is back on the air and surprisingly, the word "Jersey" is no where in the title. So You Think You Can Dance is another one of the talent competitions that was born out of the success of American Idol and while I have on-and-off always watched Idol, I kind of hate it. I just loathe the product placement and pretty much everything the judges say. The entire show is just a joke that seems stuck in time. No matter what they do to try and “freshen it up,” Idol just seems stale.
I'm always surprised to remember that SYTYCD springs from the same minds that created Idol when the reason I love the show so much is that it's actually the anti-Idol. The show is void of product placement and branding. They drink their water out of normal brand-free cups and there are no cheesy car commercials (which are tiresome even when I fast-forward over them). Plus, SYTYCD has such a modern feel. From the use of contemporary music (Boy, do they love Gaga) to slang (sometimes I just want to go all Regina George on Lil C and snap “Stop trying to make ‘buck’ happen! It’s not going to happen”) to dealing with real life issues like war, sickness, death, and racism, SYTYCD is firmly grounded in contemporary society.
Compared to Idol, which seems so self-indulgent and even vain, SYTYCD has an integrity that I haven't seen on any other reality show. The audition episodes aren't there to showcase and mock the delusional. Even when they show contestants who are, how shall we say this as gracefully as Nigel Lithgow, “not up to par” with the show's standards, they are treated with respect and given more constructive criticism than harsh and insulting metaphors. And even SYTYCD's versions of Simon and Paula (aka Nigel and Mary Murphy) are well-rounded and not just their to be cranky and crazy respectively. Though Mary is known for her high-pitched "hot tamale train" screams, even she can actually give informed critiques, unlike Paula who prefers to get drunk and just babble on until someone stops her.
One of the reasons the SYTYCD judges completely out-do Idol’s is that they all actually have a reason to be there! They're all dancers or choreographers and have been on the other side of the ordeal. They empathize with the contestants in a way people like Ellen DeGeneres just can’t understand. Plus, since they are all dancers themselves they actually know what they’re talking about (what an idea!). Since the show has such high standards for both their contestants and their judges, the show also has a level of professionalism and respectability that is incomparable to any other reality show.
It also helps that the point of SYTYCD isn’t really about gaining fame or mainstream success. Instead, contestants flock to the auditions to show off what they can do in hopes that the show will help them do more. SYTYCD is about testing your limits, learning and experiencing all kinds of dance that one otherwise might never have gotten the chance to do. Plus, unlike most of the contestants on Idol, the contestants on SYTYCD have to display their own personally artistry. (I say most for a reason because while I don't count just taking a rap song and performing it as an acoustic ballad as artistry, there have been exceptions. The most recent being my glamor diva, Adam Lambert.) Each SYTYCD contestant not only has to be an incredible dancer, but also has to be able to create their own breathtaking solos. Eliminations on SYTYCD rest more on the dancers solos while they “dance for their life” than the choreographed routines. This puts more responsibility on the dancer's own creativity and connection to dance, which is how a competition like this should be run.
I'm sorry if I sound preachy and am rambling. I want all you skeptics out there to give this show a chance. I've recently turned Sarah onto it, but I'm shooting for the whole world! It’s truly an amazing experience to watch these dancers grow each week and put everything they got on the stage night after night. Unlike other performance competitions, SYTYCD isn’t about trying to find the most talented contestant as much as it is about creating the most well-rounded contestant in an experiment that benefits all involved, from those who make it to the finals to those cut after the first round of choreography.
Plus, have I mentioned the surplus of hotties that usually sprinkle the SYTYCD cast? My heart still swells for Season 4 winner Joshua more than any other. I mean, look at how cute he is (and talented, but that comes second).
And did you also not just fall a little bit in love with Katee too? I can’t decide if I want to be her friend or just be her! This show has given me almost as many girl crushes as it has boy crushes. But no SYTYCD girl do I love more than the host Cat Deeley. She is the only Brit than can pull off hosting an American show without coming off as annoying. She’s charming and you can tell she actually cares about the contestants and isn’t just putting on a fake front (cough Ryan Seacrest cough). Plus, she wears some ridonkulous clothes! It's rare that I see someone else who loves glitter and sequins as much as me.
Why yes, that is a sequined tiger on her dress! Truly a girl after my own heart.
But more importantly than the fact that it’s full of top-grade hotties, SYTYCD just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It's insanely inspirational by the way it features and embraces dancers who have often been told dancing just wasn't in the cards for them. I have seen incredible performances from dancers who would traditionally be considered too tall, too short, or too big to perform professionally along with dancers who are blind, deaf, and physically handicapped. I mean, it's been four seasons since we first saw Bryan Graynor and there he was last night performing again. For those of you not familiar with SYTYCD, Bryan suffers from scoliosis and auditioned in season three. Everyone was so moved by his audition that he was asked to perform at the finale.
It also moves me (an embarrassing amount, I might add) just to watch these people explore the potential of the human body. This show gives me more tears and chills than the Grey’s Anatomy season finale! These people truly love what they do and put everything out there for us to see. I could never be that brave (or that flexible). What these dancers are able to do and express with nothing more than their own bodies and some music constantly amazes me, especially that they do so on a basic cable reality show. SYTYCD brings something to mainstream America that isn't an easy sell. Just in the past day, my roommates (yes, it's plural now) kept chuckling and mocking the show as they caught snippets. A lot of people can't get over the fact that its a reality show and others just cant get over what they see as the "silly" content. And you know what I say to these people? You can have your opinions and are free to express them--just not while I'm watching my goddamn show.
I'm very protective of SYTYCD, even more so than Lost, in fact, and I'll argue to the death about how it's the greatest thing to happen to reality tv ever and a great addition to tv in general as well. But if you ever try to mock the show while I'm watching it and distract me from the awesomeness, I will kill you. So just wait until Mary gives her last squeal to begin your hating and then I will school you on SYTYCD and how wrong you are.