So You Think You Can Dance: The Rare Reality Show That Makes Life Better

Categories: Dance, TV

​How many people do you know who can do the splits? We don't know any.

It's quite possible that we're just not hanging out with a bendy enough crowd, but, frankly, this wasn't something we ever thought about until So You Think You Can Dance came along and convinced us that if you're not constantly throwing your legs over your head in perfect lines and dropping to the ground, legs splayed, every three minutes, you're utterly useless as a human machine. It all makes our legs feel a little remedial.

Regardless, season eight of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance has found its Top 20 dancers and is now in full swing. Certain elements remain as annoying as ever: most notably, judge and queen of the caterwaulers, Mary Murphy, whose voice resembles a cat being murdered when she's at her most excited.

Neither are we fond of the fact that the show, every single season without fail, designs the auditions episodes to get us attached to dancers who aren't going to make it into the Top 20. And don't even get us started on Nigel Lythgoe's hair.

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​But, even if you don't like the format, the judges or the relentlessly cheery demeanor of all of the contestants, there's no getting away from the fact that So You Think You Can Dance is incredibly important for the art form. Unlike the celebrity-focused Dancing with the Stars, SYTYCD hunts down the most talented dancers in the country, puts them through the wringer, helps them to improve their craft, and then spits them out into the world, profiles raised and career opportunities waiting.

But this isn't just about giving young dancers big opportunities. The show takes a huge variety of dance genres -- ballroom, contemporary, African jazz, Bollywood, and hip-hop -- and beams them into the homes of people across the nation who didn't even know they cared one iota about dance before watching. It's like a crash course in dance that can be absorbed in easy-to-digest chunks.

Possibly the strongest example to date was season five's routine about living with breast cancer. It took contemporary dance -- a genre that could easily be dismissed by nondance enthusiasts as pretentious -- and made it, not just relatable, but incredibly moving. Its effect was enormous.

Also, because of the intermingling of the genres on the show, guys watching it to see krumping might end up with a newfound respect for the quickstep, too. Ballet dancers might fall in love with hip-hop. It simply broadens everybody's horizons.

Most importantly, when people are allowed to fall in love with dance in their own living rooms, they are more likely to buy tickets to watch it in theaters. When children see how exciting dance can be, they are more likely to pursue it. And when the nation sees how grueling it is as an art form, dancers gain more respect for the incredible work they do.

So, let's hear it for So You Think You Can Dance -- it might be a reality competition show, but it's the smartest one you're ever likely to see.

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