Friday, August 12, 2011

Summertime Heat, the SYTYCD Way!

by Tamara Hogan

I'm a complete hoor for reality shows showcasing the creative process: Project Runway and Top Chef in all their incarnations. No Reservations. And summertime is THE time for the hottest competitive reality show of them all: So You Think You Can Dance, which aired its season finale last night. After 60 performances (!) contemporary dancer Melanie Moore was named the winner.

For those of you who don't watch, the country's top aspiring dancers audition for the show, with 10 guys and 10 girls being selected to compete for the title of "America's Favorite Dancer." I admit that most seasons I don't particularly care who wins. I don't even vote once they open the judging up to viewers. I tune in twice a week, through the humid dog days of summer, to watch talented (hardbodied, flexible) dancers challenge  themselves with new and unfamilar genres, and work with some of America's most innovative choreographers.

Did I mention hardbardied? And flexible? Ahem. Here are some of the dancers and numbers that are on my personal "Hot Tamale Train."

Lacey Schwimmer and Danny Tisdale pair up for a hot samba choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin. Yes, yes, we're all watching their hips! But for me, it's Danny's facial expressions that make this dance special - that, and Lacey's killer shoes.

SYTYCD doesn't shy away from same-sex pairs. Below, Danny Tisdale and Neil Haskell perform choreographer Mia Michaels' "Two Princes."  Tight leggings. Swaggering testosterone. Black eyeliner. DANCE DUEL! Come on, what more do you want?   

The dude on the right, Alex Wong, gave up a spot in the Miami City Ballet to compete on SYTYCD last season. A superb contemporary dancer, Wong was completely out of his element the week he pulled 'Hip Hop' as his challenge genre. Teamed up with SYTYCD All Star Steven "Twitch" Boss, and with choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo inspired by his obvious discomfort, Wong threw down this performance, considered by SYTYCD fans to be one of the show's finest:  

Sadly, Wong tore his Achilles tendon soon after this performance and could not continue on in the competition. Plans to bring him back as a Season 8 All Star were scuttled when he blew out the OTHER Achilles a week before the show started. ;-(

Sometimes it's the early round performances that touch the most passionate emotional nerve. Here are two of my favorites:

Judge Adam Shankman has "a moment" watching contemporary dancer Billy Bell:  

Unfortunately Bell, another Season 7 favorite, tore a knee ligament and withdrew from the competition. The "Wong vs. Bell" final that so many dance fans anticipated never materialized. 

Melanie Moore, named Season 8's winner last night, was my favorite from the first episode. After this audition, judge Lil' C told Moore that Zeus himself would invite her to dance on Mount Olympus.

Did you know that dance has genres, just like fiction does? Here's a contemporary group number choreographed by the amazing Wade Robson. With bonus steampunk zombies.   

The guy getting most of the camera time is Robson himself (in the white Puffy Shirt), who couldn't resist stepping in.  Dance fans went WILD once they realized who the extra dancer was.    

So, SYTYCD definitely brings the summertime heat - but we CasaBabes have definitely been known to write some hot scenes ourselves!    

If you had to pitch a reality show for novelists called, oh, "So You Think You Can Write," what might the rules be? Which kind of challenges would the competitors have to undertake to demonstrate their writing chops? There would have to be a Love Scene and Fight Scene Challenge, right? And a Genre Challenge. How about a Purple Prose Challenge, just for fun?  POV Wars.  I know, how about Skewer the (Negative) Reviewer?  

Break out the sweatpants, bunny slippers and a hot cup of coffee, and let 'er rip.


  1. SYTYCW. Sounds like you need to do this for a workshop at RWA next year, Miz Tamara! Okay, I've got paper and pen...first line, music is starting. First page, two dancers meeet. Idea in mind for the end, grand finale choreographed. Middle...oops! I'm out of breath and my legs are rubber and if that feller tries to swing me out one more time I'm not stopping until I fly plumb off the planet. Guess I'd better work on that middle slump some more before the show goes on or the SYTYCW workshop begins!

  2. --> Sounds like you need to do this for a workshop at RWA next year, Miz Tamara!

    Funny you should mention that! ;-) I'm working on it.

    Apologies to everyone for my rampant video embedding enthusiasm. Please don't feel like you have to watch all the videos!

  3. I haven't been watching this, so thanks for bringing me up to speed. SYTYCW reminds me of teaching writing in middle school--torture. Maybe if it was speed writing!

  4. This was a wonderful. I accompanied dance classes to pay my way through college, and it seems to me the dancers work the hardest, suffer the most, get paid the least and have the shortest career spans as any artist. To see them gaining such popular appeal is marvelous.

    Maybe the novelists should compete in a category "Most Angst in 500 words or fewer."

    Dancers can made wrenching statements in less than 30 seconds without saying a word. Wonder how we'd stack up?

  5. Shana - I never taught middle-school writing, only took it. Remembering some of the hijinks some of my classmates got up to - always the boys! - I definitely feel for you.

    Grace - I think bringing dance to the masses is going to be this show's gift to posterity. As people might be able to tell from my favorite selections, I have a definite preference for contemporary, but it's been so entertaining to see Bollywood, stepping, disco, and even Russian folk dance represented on the show.

  6. I'm a hardcore DWTS fan, and avoided this show because I know me, and time is so precious. However, I just spent 30 or so minutes (that I'd alloted for something else) watching these videos). You sold me, girlfriend! Hubble's going to so hate this. *G*

    I think your idea is fabulous, BTW.

  7. Tamara, I love the show! I love "Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and the chef programs, too. I missed So you think you can Dance from time to time but I enjoyed that they danced so much last night. And to me they are all winners, because those kids can dance!

  8. Hi Gwynlyn! One of the reasons I like SYTYCD more than DWTS is that the SYTYCD dancers are poised right at the beginning of their dance careers. (You probably recognize Lacey Schwimmer from the first video, who parlayed a Top 6 SYTYCD finish to a pro career.)

    Re: idea. Are you in? ;-)

  9. Amelia - one of the cool things about the finale show is that all of the judges choose a favorite number from the season. That means we all get to watch the strongest numbers of the season all over again. The show had a very strong field this year. I would have been perfectly satisfied if any of the Top 3 had been named the winner. It's all good.