So You Think You Can Dance is back for a second season.
I'm not usually big into reality television. I've never seen an episode of Amerian Idol or Survivor and I don't generally care about the kind of show where people get voted off each week. Even though I like the dancing, I didn't watch Dancing with the Stars.
But something about SYTYCD, with its every-gypsy's-casting-call writ large across the screens of America, is utterly compelling. Sure, the early audition stages bear witness to people who really do only think they can dance, and you have to cringe in embarassment for them -- and the network makes good use of that. (Tonight's opening episode started with one of the most fantastic examples of reality-TV gape-inducing horrors that they could have possibly hope to find if they'd grown it in a lab.)
However, once they get the group down to the top 20, it's really something.
These people may or may not have rigorous dance training backgrounds, but by the time they get to the heart of the show, it doesn't matter -- trained or not, the choreographers put them through the paces. They are paired up with different people and taught a different choreographed dance style each week. Last year, the top contestants had to perform ballroom, lyrical, hip-hop, Latin, salsa, tango, disco, and I can't remember what else. Not everyone is good at everything, and some pairings are more successful than others, of course, but each week, I find that it's almost impossible to tear my eyes away once I start watching.
I'm constantly commenting to Jim when an auditioner (or, later, a contestant) has a clear dance background. They are the dancers who combine passion with technique, who just make you want to watch more. I like this show because, for all the trappings of reality television that should put it squarely in the cateogry of "fake," it is, at least in part, very real. It's not about pairing up B- and C-list television personalities with unknown but top-ranked ballroom competitors to sell ad time. These kids -- and for the most part, the ones who go far are still kids -- are dancing their butts off on national television not just for the money and the exposure, but because they can't bear to do anything else.
Maybe somewhere deep down I watch this because I know the winner actually has to have talent, ambition, drive, and an ability to do something I cannot do (unlike, say, the people on Deal or No Deal, which...really, why is that show even on?). A tiny little part of me always wanted to give in to my desire to dance and actually try to hack it -- or hoof it, I guess -- as a Broadway gypsy. I have decent turn-out, weirdly enough, and although I have some of the world's flattest feet, I can point with some of the best of them. Despite all the on-and-off years of dance, though, I could never quite manage to learn to spot, so as soon as we got to any kind of turning, I tend to wind up on my ass.
Although, at least in the first open auditions, landing on your ass does seem to get you on the air. I know I could at least do that much. Maybe I should give it a go, eh?
Then again...probably not.