CriticalDance Forum

So You Think You Can Dance 2007
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Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 11:42 am ]
Post subject:  So You Think You Can Dance 2007

I'm obsessively watching this show, I hat to admit. It's become my new guilty pleasure.

A few thoughts:

1. I am fascinated by the auditions featuring delusional civilians whove never had any training who think they can be a dancer. I am baffled by them. There has got to be a whole psychology thesis in these people.

2. It has been stated elsewhere on the www that a "real" dancer (i.e. a pro ballet or modern dancer) would not be able to win or even go that far in this TV contest because the judges don't know a "real" dancer when they see one. I agree completely, but not because of the quality of the judges, but because of the stated goals of the show. They are looking for an employable versatile dancer. Someone who can do Broadway and Vegas and music videos. That has never been nor ever will be a pro ballet dancer.

3. Who is that female judge? She professes to be a modern dance choerographer, but I've never heard of her, and I am fairly well informed on the dance world. How great can she possibly be if she doesn't have a company or hasn't presented any work significant enought to be mentioned in any major metropolitan newspaper?

4. My favorite dancer so far is that Latino girl from Chicago who moved so well and rocked her ample body. I hope she gets past the next round. It would be really great for all those trying to make it with a "less than perfect" body type.

Author:  ksneds [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:51 pm ]
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I won't get to the show on this side of the Atlantic, but Matt Murphy (ABT corps dancer) reports in his blog that he spotted former ABT corps member Danny Tidwell in one of the audition shows. So we might get to test the 'ballet dancer' thesis.

Last year a couple of the RDB corps members entered a similar show in Denmark and were knocked out early on. I have to agree with comments elsewhere that it wasn't a good PR move - the dancers were clearly a class apart from most of the other competitors, but I do think that some of these judges really don't have a clue and/or often focus on the glitz rather than substance (the voting audiences certainly do!!). But it didn't look good for the company to have their dancers beaten by unknowns - if they wanted PR, there were better ways - like having them dance as part of the show when principal dancer Kenneth Greve won a nationwide celebrity singing contest (which probably singly handedly increased the number of boys auditioning for the school and certainly raised his 'street cred' with the kids in the school! :o) )

But I wouldn't say that a pro ballet dancer isn't a person who can do Broadway or music videos or Vegas - these days ballet dancers have to be incredibly versatile - Giselle one day, West Side Story the next and dancing to Rock and Roll the next. Many a ballet dancer has transitioned to Broadway (the combined cast of Movin' Out had a ballet resume that would make most ballet company directors drool) like Charlotte D'Amboise and Robert LaFosse and there are former pro ballet dancers in other Broadway musicals.

A decade or two ago, I suspect that few dancers could have made the transition because there was much less cross-over in ballet, but these days many companies perform Broadway or Broadway style pieces - including a few with singing - and the range of ballets is so wide, that dancers may well dance to rock music as well as to classical. And once you have the discipline, muscles, strength and ability to learn choreography at a professional level, it's often (but not always) not a stretch to switch genres.

And more than a few who appear in music videos - British posters may recognize the name Kip Gamblin from the BBC show Casualty. Gamblin danced with the Australian Ballet (he being the dancer who was involved with the sexual harrasment claims against Stanton Welch), before going into showbiz - danced in one of Barbra Streisand's stage shows - and then to TV in 'Home and Away', a big Aussie soap. The last transition probably was not so wise, as he's not a great actor and I'd love to see him dance. Apparently he was barred from the Australian version of 'Strictly Come Dancing' because he had been a professional dancer.

As to the judge - is it Mia Michaels you are talking about? Her bio suggests that she does have quite a bit of experience. A lot of these type of judges tend to have what is often termed as 'industrial choreography' experience - i.e. doing choreography for music videos, stage shows, commercials etc. Often their on-air bios are twisted by writers who are clueless to the material (which happens not infrequently in the ballet world as well, since most press reps have a PR background, not a dance background).

Here is her bio:

Mia Michaels’ choreographic genius and passionate dance moves currently grace the stage of Cirque du Soleil’s live music concert tour, “Delirium,” and also in the long-running Las Vegas theatrical production of “Celine Dion: A New Day” at Caesars Palace. The televised opening night of Celine’s show earned Michaels an Emmy nomination for “Celine in Las Vegas: Opening Night Live.” Michaels has also worked with such stars as Madonna, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and Prince.

Michaels recently choreographed Paper Mill Playhouse’s production of “Hello, Dolly!” and continues to direct music extravaganzas for Greek superstar Anna Vissi throughout Europe. She is the founder, artistic director and choreographer for RAW, the acclaimed New York-based dance company; and she has been commissioned to create works for Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal, Jazz Dance Chicago and Oslo Dance Ensemble. Michaels is also the Artistic Director of The Pulse dance conventions, and has held faculty positions with such prestigious dance institutions as Alvin Ailey and The Joffrey Ballet. She continues to teach master classes around the world.


Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:42 pm ]
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With that bio I would hardly call her a modern dance choreographer, but more of a Broadway dance choreographer. In that case she is perfect as a judge for this show, though I tend not to agree with her taste in dancers. She tends to be a little rigid in her "old school" ideas of body acceptability.

This conjecture about whether a ballet dancer could be succesful on a show like this is just like conjecture about whether a well established singer like Beyonce Knowles or Juill Scott could win American Idol. My answer is the same though. The rules are set up in such a way as to discourage someone already established from winning.

I agree the general voting public has NO CLUE what great dancers really are, though I have to admit there are in fact some great dancers in the pool of semi-finalists they've chosen so far. Just very few classically trained ones.

Author:  JaneH [ Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:08 am ]
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Just caught the repeat of the Atlanta audition program last night, as well as the first Las Vegas semifinal, and I have to say I am very confused. While I appreciated it when the judges lauded performers who truly entertained (like the fellow with sciolosis), there were several cases I just didn't get. Like the well-endowed spray-on-tan-addict whom they praised for her "beautifully controlled dancing" and passed her straight on to Vegas -- I thought her dancing and her appearance were borderline obscene. But the ex-Marine cowboy -- a beginner to be sure, but how did they not see the potential there? At least enough to let him try the choreography challenge? Still addictive good viewing, but confusing at times.

Author:  LMCtech [ Thu Jun 07, 2007 10:38 am ]
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I totally agree with the confusion. I missed the Atlanta auditions, but caught the end of the Vegas semis last night.

I knew it would happen eventually. There is a dancer described as a "ballet dancer out of his element". His name is Dallas Blagg. I know this kid. Worked with him at SF Ballet School. Really talented, but never struck me as convinced he wanted to be a ballet dancer. Now I see he didn't. Anyway, he passed on to the next round and we'll see how he did on tonight's show.

Other choices were more obvious. I felt really bad for that Asian modern dancer with the sprained ankle. They were kind of mean to her, giving her no slack even though she was injured. The judges are striking me as quite inconsistent and mean-spirited. It could be argued that they are simply reflections of the real dance world

I also wonder how much of our confusion is caused by editing.

Author:  loribay [ Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:23 pm ]
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Jane and LMC-- I completely agree about the inconsistency of the judges! Sometimes the spot true talent and real entertainers, then other times (like with the borderline obscene girl) they applaud someone who is mediocre at best. It will be interesting to see who makes it into the top 20 tonight.

As for the earlier comments about professional dancers not being able to win...I totally agree, the show definitely shoots for versatility. They're clearly looking for someone who can do well with all forms of dance, from ballroom to hip hop. So for someone who has excelled to the point of being a professional in one genre -- like ballet, for example -- I'd imagine that most individuals would have focused their training on that one genre, and might have trouble switching styles from week to week.

I recall Amanda Schull's (SFB corps member, and star of the movie "Center Stage") comment that when they were filming the salsa scene for the film, they had a really hard time picking up the style because ballet was so ingrained into their bodies. By the same token, some of the really entertaining hip hoppers and breakers from the auditions, who are clearly at the top of their own game, will have a really hard time making it far into the competition when they have to learn a foxtrot or a lyrical piece.

Author:  Andre Yew [ Thu Jun 07, 2007 9:23 pm ]
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I've watched the show since the first season, and one noticeable change they've made this year is that it's gone from the search for "America's best dancer" to "America's favorite dancer".

The rumors are that there are at least two ballet-trained dancers in the final 20, so it will be interesting to see how they do. The two ballet dancers last year got fairly far, and could do all the different steps, but were asked to leave because they didn't have much variety of expression and kind of left the audience cold.

Some people I know who are familiar with the show's inner workings say that it's mostly an audition for commercial dancers (for videos, concerts, etc.), so the artsy dancers may not get very far.

The individual solos are all 1 minute long, and I keep hoping for a ballet-trained guy to do the Giselle Act 2 male variation, which is exactly 1 minute long. Instead we get generic modern, arm-waving emoting.


Author:  JaneH [ Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:46 am ]
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Well, we got to see Danny Tidwell at long last. And, based on what we saw, I can't decide if he really is Ego Incarnate, the way the judges would have us believe, or if the judges really have a prejudice against classical ballet dancers. Probably it's a little bit of both, but I found their criticisms of his attitude -- without proof being shown or him being allowed to truly defend himself -- to be pretty darn close to slander. Very irresponsible on the part of the producers.

But all that said, I can also see where the strong "backbone" of the classical dancer is very, very different from the uber-mobility of most of the other dancers. Obviously this program's ideal dancer has to have a mixture of control and flexibility...and if you're a girl, at least a C-cup. :twisted:

Author:  Andre Yew [ Fri Jun 08, 2007 12:20 pm ]
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I don't think they have a bias against ballet dancers, and if anything they may be biased towards them in some respects: during an audition last year they sent a ballet-trained girl straight through because they thought ballet was a great foundation for other forms of dance and that she could pick anything up. Nigel's also a bit of a bunhead --- he's mentioned classical pieces in some of his critiques.

Not sure what to think of Tidwell, and I could see the judges' POV, but editing may have exaggerated it as well. Dancers' personalities do come out over the course of the show, so we'll see.


Author:  LMCtech [ Fri Jun 08, 2007 1:43 pm ]
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Having talked to Danny personally on the phone in my capacity of staff member at a major ballet school, I can say that the judges definitely were appropriate in their warnings to him. He does have a huge ego. He is simply extremely rude and has a BIG problem with authority. "Attitude problem" doesn't even begin to describe it. On the other hand, he is EXTREMELY talented and probably does have the "goods" to win if he can come off as likeable to the SYTYCD voting block.

I look forward to watcing him. I think he'll spark some fireworks, and we all know that makes for great TV.

My other boy, Dallas Blagg, didn't make it into the top 20, which disappoints me. It does make me happy that he went as far as he did.

There is a blond boy whose name escapes me right now, that seems as though he may be ballet trained...

I thought the choices they made were mostly accurate with the boys, but some of the girls baffled me, like that Anya ballroom girl. She didn't really seem any better than any of the other girls who were cut. She just has bigger boobs.

Author:  JaneH [ Thu Jun 14, 2007 12:05 pm ]
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OK, reactions to last night? I voted for Danny and Anya out of loyalty to the cause of ballet (although calling him a contemporary dancer seems a disservice to his clearly evident classical training, and he does noticeably transition between the classical and non-classical postures). But, all in all, I thought they did a very nice job (though I chuckled to recall LMCtech's testimonial when Danny complained about Anya being bossy). And I voted for Jesus and his partner because my 8-year-old son ordered me to: Jesus's background struck him hard which is cool. And their number was very intriguing, I thought.

Neil has clearly had classical ballet training: wish we could find out more about that. Poor Ricky. I do hope his partner is sent packing tonight (as well as the choreographer). Something about Lacey is very off-putting. Perhaps competition-honed phoniness?

Author:  Andre Yew [ Thu Jun 14, 2007 12:57 pm ]
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I loved the Mia Michaels and Wade Robson pieces last night.


Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:51 am ]
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OOOh, I agree about Lacey. That girl has had too many competition coachings.

I missed it last week due to being out of town. Hopefully I'll see it this week.

Author:  JaneH [ Mon Jun 18, 2007 7:13 pm ]
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ah, then you missed the tragedy that was Ricky's elimination. Just. Not. Fair. And I'm sorry, but that big tall guy's solo was little more than a Salute to Marfan Syndrome.


Author:  Lucy [ Mon Jun 18, 2007 10:20 pm ]
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Such a shame that Ricky is gone. Ashley made a bad choice in music. It really matters what music you choose to "dance for your life". Cry me a River was not the best choice in my mind. It did not matter if it was Streisand or not.

Did anyone else think that Benji reminded them of Donald O'Connor?

I admit I love this show.

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