I didn’t watch the first two seasons of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). I regret that. Robbin at work got me interested, and from interested I pretty quickly became hooked. Where in American Idol they spend an unconscionable amount of time in the auditions phase on the tin-throated idiots who turn up, SYTYCD gives relatively little time to the morons. Where in Hell’s Kitchen they pass over nice people who can do what the show’s supposed to be about – cook, under pressure – for asshats who might be able to cook if they had help with the chopping and the turning on of the oven: the idiots will make for better television – – on SYTYCD, these people CAN dance.
On other shows, the judges and judging are more aligned with money and saleability than any kind of art. Hell’s Kitchen: who can cook while being cussed out. American Idol: who will sell bajillions of albums. Et cetera. The judges on SYTYCD are dancers, are choreographers, and care more about the dance than they do about the show’s ratings, or about how many tickets will sell for the tour. They honestly love the dance world, honestly want the best choreographers and dancers on the show, are honestly delighted by the show’s success and the awareness that’s bringing to dance. It’s a good atmosphere – unlike so many other shows.
So I started watching last fall, and there were some truly great moments. No, seriously – I mean it: great. Joshua and Katee and “No Air”; Twitch and Katee and “The Door”; Twitch and Kherington and the Bed; and, most of all, Mark and Chelsie in “Bleeding Love”. The very first Bollywood routine (woo). And so many more. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. I kind of resented the idea that this season could be better.
It is, though.
Tonight … Tonight was the reason there is television. Tonight justified owning a television. Tonight was astounding.
I’ve been moved by dances on this show before. My emotions tend to flow close to the surface, granted – but I’m familiar enough with gymnastics, ice dance, and to some degree dance that it takes a little more to get me in a performance. Last season I got got by Twitch and Kherington’s Viennese waltz – it was exquisite, there was an emotional story behind it, and I was so flipping proud of Twitch every week that I was easy prey for that one. “Bleeding Love” was surprisingly wrenching. I fell in love with several other dances, and I’m coming very near beginning a one-woman (two: Robbin will help) letter-writing campaign to make Fox release the DVD.
This year there have been some beauties too. Romeo and Juliet was pretty as anything. The Addiction routine was gripping. There’s been some great stuff. But after tonight they could easily close the books and say “Thanks very much – that will never be topped, so there we are then, goodbye.” Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi and Tyce DiOrio came together and produced something that should be on every reel of “Great Moments in Television” till the end of days.
Tyce DiOrio is one of the most accessible, memorable, reliably amazing choreographers on the show. The couple was a reunion of two dancers who were paired up for the first half of the show, and came together by chance in this one: they know each other, and they trust each other. I don’t much like either of them in and of themselves – Ade likes to go about with a pick in his hair, which irritates me no end, and Melissa’s personality in the little behind-the-scenes things has irritated me a bit too. Their dancing, however, is always wonderful.
Tonight, their second routine: “This Woman’s Work” was the song; the theme, we were told at the beginning of the segment, is of a woman fighting breast cancer, and a friend offering support. I groaned; this could so easily be overwrought. It could so easily be a manipulative tear-jerker. Just because my emotions are easily accessible it doesn’t mean that while I’m wiping away a tear I won’t be hating the fact that I was herded toward the tissue box. It could easily have been all of that.
My mouth fell open a few seconds in. The tears welled up shortly after – thankfully, not enough to obscure vision. By the end of it I was a wreck. And then they went to Nigel Lithgoe for his reaction … I’ve never seen anything like it on television. He literally couldn’t speak. The studio was silent as he struggled to get a handle on his emotions, and … if it meant that much to me, I can only imagine how he, a dancer and the producer of a show for dancers, felt. Nigel was in tears; Melissa’s husband was in tears; Tyce was in tears; Mary was in tears; Mia put her head down on her arms and wept; I had to sit on the floor with the dog… My God. It was superlative.
Anyone who isn’t watching this show should be. Anyone who doesn’t *want to* … should. Mark at work has a bumper sticker: “Kill your TV”. There are a lot of reasons he’s right. Tonight was one very large, very powerful reason be in front of a television on Wednesday and Thursday nights.