So You Think You Can Dance? Well, no.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I am not a dancer. At times, I feel like I can dance, but these moments are fleeting. This is not to say I don't like it. I dance all the time, but there is usually no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes I dance while I'm taking my pants off before bed. Sometimes I toe-tap my way out of a restaurant after a particularly satiating meal. Sometimes I do a little victory jig after performing a successful parallel park. Point is, I tend to cut a rug frequently, although in an amateur-ish fashion. Given this information, one would think I'd be able to differentiate between the good performances and the bad ones on a show like So You Think You Can Dance.
On AMERICAN IDOL, every viewer acts as their own judge; a singing voice is something familiar to all of us. We can easily note the power, the pitch, the style, and the range of someone's voice without being an expert of vocal ability. Everyone has grown up listening to great singers. The same is not the case for dancing. Granted, we've all seen dancing, but it is rarely the main attraction. It is decoration, window dressing, added for a little flavor, like in the background of Broadway show or an MTV music video.
This is why So You Think You Can Dance can be a little frustrating at times. The vast majority of the TV audience cannot tell the difference in quality between the performers. They're all so damn good. We are only capable of making qualitative judgments when something truly atrocious occurs, like a dancer falling and breaking their clavicle. Sure, some performances have more flair and energy, but that's largely because of the style of dance they've been given. Obviously, Hip/Hop is going to be more exciting than the Foxtrot.
On American Idol, the contestants bring their individual style and voice to each of their performances. On So You Think You Can Dance the contestants are required to adapt to the different types of dances, which masks the dancers' personal verve.
Is this a problem? Actually, not at all. Who wants to see ten couples all performing the same routine for two hours (though that would be the only "fair" way to judge them)? We want to see all kinds of routines. What is sacrificed, however, is the audience's feeling of participation. While the expert judges make keen and insightful critiques, we're sitting on the couch trying to think of something that made that performance any more or less spectacular than the last one.
What to do? Well, here's what I've decided on: give up trying to pick a favorite and stop being critical. Now, I just sit back and enjoy the show, treating So You Think You Can Dance like a concert. Not only do I feel less ignorant, I'm peaceful. In the right mindset, So You Think You Can Dance can be treated as the Switzerland of reality TV, a show where neutrality on the observers part leads to an optimal viewing experience.