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“So You Think You Can Dance”: The judges not doing their happy dance

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While the judges on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ tend to be more straightforward, optimistic and knowledgeable about the subject matter than those on that other, more famous reality competition on Fox, it doesn’t mean that they don’t get crabby from time to time, and plenty of dancers on Wednesday night’s audition episode tested their patience. Subpar dancers with subpar attitudes were accused of wasting everyone’s time, of not really dancing, of executing a joke merely by being there. And on ‘SYTYCD’ it’s not just the British chap who delivers the bad news: Mary Murphy was quite sharp-tongued on the episode, even having to be covered up by the censor’s blue button.

It seems like there are a great deal fewer contestants who try out for ‘SYTYCD’ than for ‘American Idol’ and even a smaller percentage of joke contestants, so why the bluntness and exasperation? Perhaps it’s not just because the judges don’t feel like watching inferior dancing, but also it’s out of respect for the other, serious dancers, dancers who try out not just because it ‘might be fun.’ Even the best singers on ‘Idol’ don’t strain themselves the way the majority of the contestants do on ‘SYTYCD,’ so the Sexes of the world truly do waste the time of those dancers such Gev Manoukian, the ice-skating hip-hop dancer who tried out two seasons ago and came back for a second shot. The judges even gave Paige Jones, the eerie ‘Stepford dancer’ beauty contestant, a hard time for not putting her heart out on the stage, and she actually did have some talent and clearly took competition seriously. It’s for seriously serious performers like Joshua Allen, the hip-hop dancer who clearly has a few other genres inside him who made it through after auditions (like Jones).

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Plus, Nigel Lythgoe, Murphy and the guest judge, unlike Simon, Randy and Paula, all have hands-on dancing and choreographing experience, so perhaps it does pain them, too, to have to sit through bad, halfhearted dancing.

While the bad auditions on ‘Idol’ have something of a freak-show quality to them, the TV isn’t as good when the losers appear on ‘SYTYCD.’ It’s better, more compelling viewing when a dancer with potential and a professional attitude just doesn’t make the cut for whatever reason, like John Dix, the skilled, strong partner of the gymnastic Arielle Coker. Here’s hoping that Thursday night’s episode will provide more dance and less duds.

-- Claire Zulkey


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