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Tonya Plank Headshot

Early Fate of Poppers and Tappers Shows Weakness of So You Think You Can Dance

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I don't know about anyone else but I was absolutely bedazzled on last night's show by the pop & locker named Robert, the one who withdrew in Las Vegas because he felt he couldn't pick up the contemporary choreography. The man was like a rubber band. I've never seen anyone that elastic before. He really blew me away. But it makes perfect sense that someone like that, who's spent so much time practicing one specific dance form, wouldn't fit easily into another, completely different style.

Same with the tap dancers. Bianca and Liz were both booted, though they were some of the finest tap dancers, with speed, rhythm, clarity, and personality, I've seen. And they were eliminated for shady reasons: Bianca because she was supposedly selfish for being the only contestant to dance tap during a group routine, and Liz for "talking too much" during the judges' criticism of her, even after her admirable job in the contemporary. Is this show about dancing or talking? I think the judges eliminated the two because they had no place for tap dancers on the show and felt they couldn't compete with the rest. It's curious to me why they even allowed contestants in those styles to try out then.

One contestant, Kelly, said when leaving, "I just want to thank you for making a show like this where we finally get to showcase what we do." But does this show actually do that? So You Think You Can Dance is based on American Idol, but vocal technique can transfer much more easily to different styles of song than can dance. Proper dance technique varies widely with each dance form and a dancer trained well and highly proficient in a specific style is likely going to have a very difficult time with a form that uses completely different muscle groups and body parts, that has a wholly different aesthetic. It's too bad that there can't be a dance show that celebrates the diversity of dance rather than requiring everyone to do well in a range of styles, which tends to produce conformity rather than originality and creativity.

So far, the only dancer of the top 20 who caught my eye was Mark Kanemura. Of course it's very early and we haven't seen much of the final contestants yet, but Mark seemed in auditions to be a true original with a sense of humor and charm that are uniquely his. We'll see how much he can keep that throughout the show.