Review: So You Think You Can Dance 2014 Tour

Okay, so, yeah, I like So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD).

I’m not sure how we got started watching it. I think that was back when I paid attention to American Idol and since it was the same producers we just kind of left it on.

Now, I am not a “dance guy” – I am as much a dance guy as I am a folk singer (can’t sing, can’t play guitar, do it anyway). In part is it due to the fact that I don’t speak its language. I live on a farm, have a pickup truck and (currently) three tractors. Not much call for dance around here.

When I was in college I took a class called “Film and the Novel”. I thought we would read a book and then see a film adaptation, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, the course taught us conventions used in film that have parallels to those in a novel, and by learning those conventions I developed a greater understanding for the more avant garde cinema.

I’ve never had that opportunity with dance. But, the people on the show have talent, low body fat, and as I once described it, the women are all hot and the men … non-threatening.

All joking aside, I found myself really enjoying the two hours I watched the show each week. Most often my reaction was “cool” but on a couple of occasions I was moved to tears. Not really sure why, but something spoke to me.

Anyway, a couple of years ago the Season 9 SYTYCD tour came to Durham and I scored third row seats. We had a great time. We missed last year’s show due in part to non-interest but I was motivated to return because of the strong group of contestants in Season 11. Every show I watch that comes out once a year proclaims “This is the best season evah!” but they kind of meant it this year. Every one of the Top 20 dancers was solid, although I didn’t see a break out star like Travis Wall or Twitch they worked well as an ensemble.

The show was at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and we were about 20 rows back from the stage. The tickets weren’t cheap so I was surprised that we were the only two people sitting in a line of eight seats. It really did make the experience enjoyable not sitting cheek to jowl with your neighbor. It started at 7:40pm, ran for an hour, and then there was a twenty minute intermission followed by another hour to end promptly at 10pm.

These kids work hard in this show. While the producers, judges and choreographers are presented via taped segments on a large screen behind the stage, the dancing is pretty much non-stop, with one number blending into the next. Quite frequently the dancers have to manage their own props as well, moving them off and on stage. It’s a lot of dancing and a lot of costume changes.

Speaking of hard work, this show the dancer Tanisha Belnap seemed to be in nearly every piece, especially in the first half. While not my favorite dancer of the group, she did a solid job and it became almost comical as a new number would start and there she was. I almost wonder if one of the other dancers was hurt and she was standing in to help so they could limit the stress to their body.

I also liked the music. In the television show they will display the song and artist being played but not here, so I decided to use Sound Search for Google Play on my phone. After going zero for three I switched to Shazam and it did much better. I’m not sure if it was the loudness or the occasional cheers but Shazam seemed to have a much easier time tagging the tracks, so it is my new default app for that.

While I had a great time, I did find myself obsessing over the dancers’ feet. A lot of the numbers are in bare feet, and if you have ever been on a stage you’ll remember that they ain’t the cleanest. So after a short time you could see the dirt on their feet clearly. I couldn’t help but laugh and think to myself “Welcome to the Tarheel state”.

I only saw one blatant mistake (a small fall) and the only numbers I really didn’t care for were the ones from the “Michael Jackson” night. Back when I was active on Twitter my crowning achievement was getting called an asshole by the executive producer of the show on the occasion of Michael Jackson’s death. He didn’t get the rights to perform to Jackson’s music so there was no “special” back then but they did get them this year, although the songs they used were definitely B-list.

I even think I’m beginning to understand this whole dance thing. There was one number with two pairs of dancers where the two women danced together as did the two men. They were wearing formal wear and the whole thing suggested a commentary on marriage equality. It wasn’t sexual – it just seemed to celebrate the happiness two people can feel with each other. Later, when a taped segment by Travis Wall was played, he called the piece “Equality” so I think I nailed it. Granted, it had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer but I still liked it.

Contrast this to when we went to the Sydney Opera House. Since it was my first trip to the city, I wanted to say I’d seen a performance in that building. Unfortunately, the only show we could make was a modern dance performance. All I can remember is that I liked one piece involving large ribbons, but the rest of it was lost on me. Toward the end the stage was covered in a white powder, so I started making up dialog in my head that it was a massive amount of cocaine and riffing from there.

I did love seeing my favorite dancer from this season, Valerie, as well as the one who beat her our for the prize, Ricky. Ricky is an amazing dancer and deserved to win but it would have been nice to see a tapper take the top prize.

The only other criticism I have is that while only the top 10 of the initial 20 contestants were introduced, they actually had the top 14 performers from the show. Would it have really hurt to introduce them as well? You could hear people in the audience going “wait, there are twelve up there” etc.

The final number had the whole cast (all 14) dressed up as cheerleaders dancing to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off“. Even though it was the last number, I found myself grinning. It was just plain ol’ fun, and I while I probably get more than my fair share I can always use more.