Increasing Standards of Competition and the Rise of the Super-Dancer

On Wednesday night, So You Think You Can Dance returned after a two-week break and got right down to business. Four contestants instead of two were sent packing, suddenly leaving the season's top 10. (I'm pleased to note my original pick for winner, Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, is still in the running!) Now, we all know the show went on hiatus during the Olympics, so maybe they really did need to make up for lost time, but I bet the upped drama of dropping four dancers at once didn't hurt ratings one bit, either. 


Season 1 winner Nick Lazzarini admitted he was shocked by the quadruple cut, and brought up the fact that when the show first started, dancers weren't expected to be nearly as expertly versatile as they are today. It's clearly a whole new ballgame and becoming more extreme by the season.


The way I see it, this can pan out one of two ways: The expecations will become so extreme and the stakes so high that dancers will crumble under the pressure and the program will implode on itself or (and this is what I'm hoping) the bar will continue to rise ever so slightly with each new season, and, just as evolution will one day cause humans to be born with cell phones growing out of their skulls, SYTYCD will begin breeding mutant, super-human dancers who will dominate all forms of choreography—from Kathak to krumping—and eventually take over the world. Much better than a zombie apocalypse, I think. And better for ratings.



Photo courtesty of FOX



Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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