Evangelizing Dance

E here, wanting to share a few thoughts before the first night of the So You Think You Can Dance finale.

First, a word about the title. SYTYCD is a world wide evangelist of dance, says Debbie Allen (who should know). Nigel Lithgoe speaks of it as promoting talent which so often goes no where. One thing that moves me about the show is the genuine passion it inspires in participants and its staff; Lithgoe left American Idol, the biggest show in America if not (counting all it’s iterations) the world to build up a show about an artistic discipline that promises neither fortune nor fame. Almost every little girl dances, but how many adults can you name who are famous just because they dance?

Well. Anyway. Sorry. Not that dance is as important as most of the other things one could evangelize about, obviously, but I don’t think that promoting true beauty and thought and human understanding through Art is unimportant, either. Sermon over.

If you watch the show, you know that the four finalist are Brandon, Evan, Jeanine and Kayla. Not exactly the team you might have guessed from the start, but it’s still good. It’s kind of hilarious that the two shortest guys are the last ones left. A big deal has been made this season over Evan’s height, but Brandon is only the tiniest bit taller, and neither girl is on the short side. Interesting. Both guys are strong enough to do lifts, but when Brandon and Kayla did their disco last week, you could see that even powerhouse “I don’t lift weights, I just lift girls” Brandon had to slow down during the turns. It’ll be interesting to see Jeanine and Evan dance together – I think they may the most expressive dancers in the competition – or maybe what I mean is that they’re both hams – and they could come up with something interesting.

I think it’s incredibly difficult when the show gets down to this level. It was incredibly difficult to see Melissa and Ade eliminated last week; they’re terrific dancers, really terrific. I’ve been hoping since the partner switch-ups began to see Kayla dance with Ade – he’s the only guy on her level who was actually taller than her – and now I won’t. I really liked every dancer in the top ten and have been sorry to see any of them go, but it gets a lot harder each week. I’m thrilled for the people who made it through, of course, especially Jeanine; I really enjoy what we see of her personality and she seems to have some serious self-esteem issues, at least as far as understanding how good she is. AND she didn’t get one minute of time during the audition process (unlike Kayla, Brandon and Evan) and you know that she really earned her place. No one was selling her beforehand. She’s a finalist because of her talent and charm.

It pains me to say it – I don’t even want to write it down – but I wish Evan had gone home instead of Ade. I’ve been sold on Evan since the auditions of last season, where he (and Brandon and Janette) just failed to make the top twenty. His solos are so sharp, so effortlessly brilliant, so evocative of Gene Kelly and the movie musicals I adore. They thrill me. And he’s got this marvelous Midwestern innocence and charm; he seems like such a genuinely good guy you just want to eat him up.

BUT.

I cannot figure it out, but his partner dances are never as good as his solos. His work in the group dances is often a stand out, but even when the producers throw him choreography right in his wheelhouse (ie Broadway and Jazz), he’s never as crisp, never as exciting. What is UP with that? I’m completely baffled by it. And Ade is a terrific partner. I’m happy for Evan as a person – it hate hate hate saying anything bad about him, and I hate that the judges have been down on him so much – but I do not think the audience is voting for his work in the dances, and that’s sort of a shame. Not for nothing do they call it the search for America’s favorite dancer; the judges are quick to say that people don’t always vote for what is the most technically brilliant dancing.

And I think that Evan will be the one to win. Perhaps it will depend on his choreography (though he’s been choreography proof all season); maybe in the end voters will go for his more versatile competitors, Brandon or Kayla, or the similarly charming Jeanine. It could happen.

I don’t think so, but it could.

I actually wonder what this will do to his career; will it get a boost because of his popularity, or will choreographers not want to work with him because he’s demonstrated he can’t dance anyone’s work nearly as well as what his equally adorable brother Ryan makes up for him? Does that matter?

I’m not sure who I’ll vote for, or who I think ought to win. I’ll definitely be watching, though, and I’ll be back here tomorrow with thoughts on who I think should win and also what routines from the season I most want to see performed again during Thursday night’s results show (my favorite tradition). I hope you’ll be watching. For the American Idol winners, the finale marks the start of their careers. For the SYTYCDancers, it probably is the high point.

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