So You Think You Can Dance? is gut partnering at its highest level of trust.

It was several years ago that I began watching the reality show. I must admit from the title, and the little I knew about it, I hadn’t been interested. There just didn’t seem to be very much for me in the series. However, that July, several years ago, at a family reunion in coastal North Carolina, I was hooked. I was astounded by the level of dance (and of course, I was watching the final shows leading up to the finale, wherein the dancers are giving it their all). Where had these dancers been hiding? Further, I was ashamed not having heard of these choreographers. Where had I been hiding (in the opera house)? The performance level of both dancers and dance was, well, sickSo You Think You Can Dance? Doesn’t always get it right (the highly competitive prepubescent dancer season did little for me, actually zero), but when it does, it really does.

The reality-show piece aside – the glossy backstories, the competitive cash prize, the voting, the judges – this is a program that elevates all kinds of dance. This is achieved primarily through the work of the top choreographers of all genres selected to set pieces, the production elements (costumes, lights, make-up, scenic design) that enhance the dance, the exceptional dancers. The dancers develop as artists, actors (in fact, one part of the top prize is often a spot in a Broadway show). To me, this all is a magnificent synergy to often (not always) create an unparalleled viewer experience. Especially, when viewed live. On November 26, 2017, I had the happy opportunity to do just that.

I was not alone. The Fifth Avenue Theater was packed with loyal fans – each entrance of each dancer resulted in riotous, delirious screams. Obviously these people in the audience had TV-lived with the 10+ dancers on their long journey to this tour.

That night, the soulful Logan Hernandez entered first, one of my favorites. A lanky I-can-do-anything technique-wise dancer, he was everyone’s season favorite. Lex Ishimoto, however, was the season “winner.” He seemed like a taller Logan, who had developed style, and learned to deliver charisma and emotive performances more and more as the weeks progressed. Both Logan and Lex had technique and control, they could pretty much do any aerial trick tossed at them. The most astounding moment for me in the past season, tricks-wise, was Lex performing a triple tour and landing on a dime, softly, beautifully turned-out.

Kiki Nyemchek, a multi-talented ballroom dancer, performed a jazzy season favorite with past-season superstar Jasmine Harper. Dassy Lee dazzled with her brilliantly suave moves, as well as her animation. Lex and second-runner-up and real-life partner Taylor Sieve delivered a consummate articulation, to be interrupted by gumby Logan with the smoothest of adagios. Past superstar Marko Germar and first runner-up Koine Iwasaki performed a gorgeous animalistic dance. Logan turned with his back leg flexed and foot held high at his face. Taylor leaped into Lex’s arms in a second position second position, legs split wide, seemingly forever.

There’s more. Arabesque held in a handstand. A dozen pirouettes a pop. The maniac Logan leaping onto his hands. Barrel turns with Lex’s head touching his feet. Splits in every possible direction, 270 degrees, more.

SYTYCD features displays of flexibility and strength, abdominal control to the max, a load of emotion that creates an intimacy, among the dancers, that is almost too personal to watch. These dancers are young (half the dancers were teens). To survive the grueling schedule, their training begins with the “Academy,” when, in the competition, over a 100 dancers are dwindled down to 20, then 10.

The choreographers are the stars. Christopher Scott, Mandy Moore, Luther Brown, Spencer Liff Travis Wall, Val Chmerkovskiy, Sean Cheesman, Tyce Diorio, Warren Carlyle, Dmitri Chaplin, Ray Leeper, Stacey Tookey, more. Perhaps the show will be renewed for a Season 15 is underway. If so, then the dancers have auditioned, and now they are competing at the “Academy” for top spots on the show. This is a young sport for young dancers, they could not survive the injuries and stress if this wasn’t true. I can only imagine.

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