I know that I'm a week behind, with the finals of "So You Think You Can Dance" being last week and all, but I'm just catching up on my recorded shows. So, I'm going to say it: I love "So You Think You Can Dance." I just do. I love the show the way I love and respect "Mad Men" and "The Wire." Is it "commercial" and sometimes cheesy, and does it often try to be a little too much like "American Idol?" Perhaps. But, I think it has done some very important things for the art of dance, as well as the arts in general. In lieu of my post yesterday about developing future audiences, SYTYCD is a great case study-- it's success has proven that it is possible to enterain today's audiences without compromising the art form.
How does it do that, and what can the rest of us artists/producers/investors learn from it?
1.) It doesn't underestimate its audience. And its target audience is big and wide. SYTYCD challenges their audiences with dance pieces and music that range from the most middle brow to the most high brow/avant garde, with an occasional dip in the low brow waters. In one night you can see an off-the-charts Hip Hop routine, a bittersweet contemporary piece, a classic Quick Step, a quirky modern piece, and a rousing Disco number. Some of it is just pure entertainment and some of it makes me (and all the judges) sob or get tingles down our spines. That's exciting.
2.) It's giving choreographers in all forms a place to shine and share their art. There are some brilliant choreographers doing some fantastic, important, moving, chill-inducing work on the show, and the art they are creating is being broadcast to millions of people every week.
3.) It's the Olympics for artsy people. There is something so thrilling about watching insanely good dancers be pushed out of their comfort zone when asked to dance in a style they haven't trained in. Some nights they win the gold medal, some nights they don't even take home the bronze, but it's always inspiring to watch such a feat.
4.) It's inspirational and sends a positive message about making your dreams come true. It demonstrates that while you may need raw talent, charm, an interesting back story, and a telegenic personality to win the show; you also need the training, discipline, skills and technique that can only come from lots of hard work and determination.
5.) The judges actually educate the audience about dance and performance in general. They talk about the merits of the choreography, the need to fully commit to a piece, how to bring yourself to the material, how to completely execute a move, and introduce us to specific dance vocabulary. They school us in the basics of dance. (Especially now that rambling Lil' C and screaming Mary Murphy aren't on the panel.)
Now if only we musical theatre people could do better than "Grease: You're the One That I Want."
To see everything I've written in this blog negated in a single You Tube clip, watch this: