A Love Letter to So You Think You Can Dance

I’m not a big TV watcher. But there is one show I have watched without fail for the past eight seasons (I missed their first), and I’m so addicted to it that in those rare downtime moments when someone else might be playing solitaire, I’m searching for YouTube videos of scenes from it, and watching them over and over.


There are two reasons I love this show and the people responsible for it.  #1) they produce heart-stoppingly beautiful art for me and millions of other ordinary folks to enjoy in our living rooms, and #2) they do this by combing the country for young people of all kinds who have huge raw talent and raging passion for dance, and they nurture them, turning a few of them into stars, and all of them into better people.


I wish that every teacher and every parent could see this wonderful example of teaching, of mentorship. The adults involved in the show are dance and theater professionals, people with talent and passion who not only survived but managed to thrive in a culture that values achievement over learning, money over art. And we, lucky viewers, get to watch as they impart their vision and wisdom to the hopefuls, and then to be moved to tears watching them perform. What these adults teach these young things is to believe in their own capacity for excellence, to work very hard in cooperation with others, and to discover and express in movement their own deepest emotions.


Art is born only of deep emotion, from the searing fullness of love to the wrenching ache of loss. Art is made only when the artist is able to tap and to express the purest of what they feel, so that we can feel it, and experience our shared humanity.


On the show, before each performance, we’re given a glimpse of the rehearsal and a backstage moment with the contestants. Over the seasons, I’ve noticed a recurrent theme. Asked how the came to study dance, many described themselves as having been “hyper,” full of energy, too much energy.  Well, what do you know about that. These beautiful dancers were the kids in their classrooms who couldn’t sit still, who wanted to, needed to, move. It makes my heart ache to think of all the children squirming in their seats today who are given medication, so that they can be better at sitting still, instead of encouragement to become the artists and athletes they were born to be.


So, to all you folks at SYTYCD, thank you for what you have done for these young people, for dance, and for squirmy little kids everywhere.