Wow, two posts in 1 week! This odd productivity brought to you by So You Think You Can Dance and extreme frustration. Let me preface this post by saying that I love SYTYCD. I’ve been an avid viewer since way back in Season 3 and continue watching up to this day. But this post is not a love-story. It’s a hate story. Specifically, a letter of hatred to my dearest friend Mr. Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe SIRRRR, who created one of the greatest reality shows ever shown on TV, and systematically ground it into a sticky, schticky, pulp. Saying this is the most important blog post ever written would be an understatement.
2015 was the year that SYTYCD was going to reinvent itself, wasn’t it? It was the year that you would reinvigorate a show suffering from failing ratings, diminishing audiences, and general dance ennui. Then a brilliant idea sprung into being behind your fabulous blond mop. You’d split the show into two teams: Street and Stage, and like any competitive show suddenly made needlessly more competitive, you were certain that the added drama would rake in the ratings. But what went wrong? How could this brilliant idea have turned SYTYCD into a mockery of its former glory? Well, let me draw your wandering eye to a few tiny details…
- Stage vs. Street was doomed from the beginning. I was initially excited by this new format because I thought that it might give a whole new group of dancers their chance to shine on SYTYCD. Historically on the show, the majority of the stage dancers (ballet, contemporary, jazz, ballroom,tap) have been white or asian, and the street dancers (hip-hop/ untrained) mostly black. Now I’m not trying to make this about race, because SYTYCD is actually a very diverse and welcoming show, but I can’t ignore that the stage dancers have always out-competed the street dancers because they were more technically trained, which gave them an advantage in almost any style. Having trained in dance for 10 years, I know first-hand that while hip-hop can be very challenging, it’s much easier for a trained stage dancer to do hip-hop than for a street dancer to tackle ballroom with no training. So this year I thought that having Street vs. Stage might give the more untrained dancers a chance to win and show-off their own styles, and thus ensure having a more diverse winner. However, this was not the case. To make up for having half the show be mostly untrained street dancers, you have had to cut out almost all of the ballroom routines. Ballroom has been an integral part of SYTYCD since the first season and was by far the most exciting and beautiful style to watch. Cutting this style out to make the show easier for street dancers did a disservice to the quality of the show and a disservice to the dancers themselves, who could have benefited from the training.
- The choreography is weak and uninspired. If I have to watch one more Pharside and Phoenix contrived hip-hop story, I will personally rip out every last one of Phoenix’s blue locks. For a show which has dramatically increased it’s focus on hip-hop styles, your routine quality has diminished to embarrassing levels. Where are the krump routines and the animation routines and the emotionally complex routines? Every hip-hop routine now is generic and unchallenging, which is almost offensive considering you filled up half the contestants with street dancers specifically for this purpose. But it’s not just hip-hop. Week after week it’s like I’m seeing the same sob-story contemporary routines. “This routine is about a husband returning home from war with his legs blasted off and finding out that his dead zombie wife ate his dog and unborn child. I really think this is an emotional piece that will really test the dancers.” SHUT UP!SHUT UP, Stacey Tookey! SHUT UP, Tessandra Chavez, whoever the hell you are! Where’s Mia? Where’s Mandy Moore and Sonya Tayeh? I don’t care if they’re busy with real work! Make them come back to SYTYCD or stop doing contemporary! I’m even getting tired of Travis Wall (I’m sorry Trav!) I don’t know why the usual stellar choreographers (Nappy-Tabs. Sonyah, Jean-Marc, Tyce DiOrio, etc) are not on the SYTYCD regulars list, but I’m not having any more of this. Without these artists, the routines look cheap, and when the routines are cheap, the show becomes cheap too.
- The producer’s subtle sabotage is not that subtle. There were times when I used to wonder if producers set up contestants on SYTYCD, but I no longer wonder. I’m certain that’s the case. How else is it possible that someone like JaJa, who I genuinely like but am suspicious of her good fortune, gets hip-hop every week or easy african jazz or Bollywood AND contemporary with Alex (which is basically like being given the golden ticket of dance), but people like Megz have the freaking Paso Doble, the 2nd ballroom routine this entire season, or badly choreographed jazz? The producers have used ballroom like a weapon this season, doling it out to contestants they want gone. Club Salsa for Asaf and Marissa was a clear set-up, just as Paso-Doble was for Megz. And don’t even get me started on the Burlesque fish routine, which was a death sentence for both Ariana and Alexia ( I think that was her name?) or the silly sailor broadway for Kate. The final four of Gaby, Virgil, JaJa, and Hailey have been given styles in their wheel-house since the very beginning, gotten easier critiques, and have the producer’s clear backing. It’s tragic to see that a fantastic ballet dancer like Jim (or Baby Alex as I call him) was repeatedly given awful hip-hop routines and Broadway as an attempt to kick him out. He lasted until Top 6 at least, but if this show was America’s Best Dancer instead of America’s Favorite Dancer, he would have won. You should be ashamed, producers!
- The team captains are useless. I like Travis and I love Twitch, but being a team captain has done them no favors. Their role as “mentors” is kind of useless in this context because they have no chance to teach the dancers or save them from losing. Their little bits between routines seem fake, and while I’m sure they’ve connected with all of their underlings, their heart-to-hearts are awkward. And the “competition” between Street and Stage is inherently useless, because unlike on The Voice where the judges get bragging creds for winning because they mentor the contestants, Travis or Twitch can’t truthfully claim a win, as their actions have had no effect on the contestant’s performance.
- The “judges” are abominable. I don’t so much watch SYTYCD anymore as fast-forward over every minute of the show that isn’t dancing. That’s because what used to sound like intelligent dance critique has turned into a grotesque show of favoritism and half-formed unintelligible sentences (I’m talking about YOU Jason Derulo!) What godforsaken cross promotion placed Jason Derulo in the SYTYCD judges chair? Every comment he makes comes with a leer, and none of it is insightful or even that related to dance. I’m not bashing him as an entertainer, but as a dance judge he’s like a cat trying to ice skate (I wish cats could ice-skate). Jason DeRuuuuuulo (Beluca Heights), you need to leave this show ASAP. Too bad Jordin Sparks can’t drive you home (oooh burn!)As for Paula, she can give decent critiques, but she’s so glaringly NOT Mary Murphy, Ballroom Extraordinaire, that it don’t even matter. And she talks so slowly that I want to shake her. Nigel, I used to respect you, but you’ve become a caricature of your former self. You can’t even keep the bias out of your critiques anymore. You basically told Neptune he had lost before the results were even read! He deserves more than that, he had one of the best routines of this whole season. THIS WHOLE DAMN SEASON, NIGEL! And why in all that’s holy did you make Asaf come into replace that other guy when you knew he couldn’t dance, you’d chewed him out for his behavior, and you were only raising him like Harry Potter to be sacrificed at the right time? Was all this stupid drama worth ending the dreams of a more deserving and qualified dancer? You think you’re so sneaky, but I see all your conniving. Sending Burim to the wolves and keeping DEREK OVER EDSON is not okay Nigel! IT’S NOT SENSIBLE!In conclusion, dearest Nigel, it doesn’t matter who wins anymore. You’ve ruined one of the best ever reality TV shows for nothing more than a little extra drama. Whether you get renewed or not is probably out of your hands, but if you think this little Street vs. Stage thing would work in your favor, I think you’ll be disappointed. And if by some amnesia induced miracle SYTYCD is renewed, please, please, for your viewers and your dancers and the poor little boy in Ohio who just wants to do ballet, DAD, ditch this tired format and return to the old SYTYCD. No more Twitch vs. Travis, no more Jason Derulo, and no more Pharside and Phoenix. We want hip-hop, but we also want ballroom. We want a fair competition, but we also want difficult routines. I’m sure your dancers feel the same way. Because for people like me, people who love to watch dance, the fall of this show has been painful to watch. We want you to succeed because we love you. But like any loved one, we’ll tell you when you suck. You suck, So You Think You Can Dance. But I believe you can become great again.