Guilty Pleasures

Barb here. Last night I attended the concert tour for So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD for those in the know), the Fox network show that is the poorer cousin/summer replacement for American Idol. It’s the 6th time I’ve attended the roughly annual tour.

This is largely my daughter’s fault.  She got me hooked on the second season and we bought tickets for the tour.  Then she moved to New York before the show actually occurred and I ended up going with three of her friends and single-handedly raising the average age of the audience by several years.

The next year, I discovered my friend Lisa Philpott was similarly addicted (or afflicted) and the tour has been a fall ritual for us ever since. Now we’ve added Jen Gurrie Malkovich and Marilyn Sandison to our entourage.  While the audience is still full of squealing (but very cute), dancing-school-attending pre-adolescents, every year the show’s secret adult and secret male demographics have been more in evidence.

For the uninitiated: Twenty dancers are selected from the usually hyper-siloed world of dance—jazz, modern, ballet, tap, broadway, all the forms of ballroom, as well as street dancing styles like hip hop and b-boying.  They’re asked to partner up and dance, usually outside their genres, and two are eliminated every week.  It’s competitive, but it’s not vicious, largely because dance is a company activity and the stakes are so small.  If you make it into the top ten, you’re guaranteed a slot on the 32 city tour, which will almost certainly be the highlight of your career.  After that, if you don’t sing or act, the pinnacle of success will be an injury-plagued, ten-or-so year career dancing behind Lady Gaga.

For the aficionados: The performance was fantastic.  No jokes or patter, just dance, dance, dance with some new choreography.  They faked us out by telling us Marko was still injured, but he showed to dance in the second half of the show, cheating a couple of moves but generally strong.

So what is it about SYTYCD?  I’ve never watched five minutes of Idol, or Survivor and I’d rather be flayed than watch Donald Trump do anything.  I don’t even watch any of the other dancing shows.  I do watch Top Chef and loved Project Runway before Lifetime and Bunim/Murray destroyed it. (The best part of watching Runway is reading Tom and Lorenzo’s recaps, anyway, so now I skip right to that.) There’s something about creative people working under intense pressure that fascinates.  And I’ve always loved dance, thanks to my mother.

My Mom

SYTYCD emphasizes that it’s about finding America’s favorite dancer, not the most technically proficient.  To win, the contestants are urged to understand and inhabit the characters they portray in the dances, to make the roles their own and leave a piece of themselves on the stage.

Wise counsel, also for us writers.  And I like to remind myself that dancers, particularly classically trained ones, take a class every day of their lives.  So life in any art is about constantly learning new skills and honing old ones.

It’s amazing how often people who find out I write (and read!) assume I must be some kind of intellectual.  (Of course there are those who find out I write and read mysteries and therefore assume I must be no kind of intellectual—but that’s another blog post for another day.)

But I certainly have my Guilty Pleasures.  What are yours?

More photos are here.

If I hadn't taken these photos for the blog, I never would have learned about that setting on my camera with the teeny, tiny ballet dancer on it.


About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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2 Responses to Guilty Pleasures

  1. MCWriTers says:

    Wow. This sounds like so much fun, Barb. And that’s a great picture of your mother!

    I don’t think I have any guilty pleasures, although perhaps this week’s two ecstatic swims in kettle ponds in Wellfleet, Massachusetts might count. Almost deserted. Still warm enough to swim. And there was the interesting sighting of the guy coming out of the water wearing nothing but a hat…

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