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So You Think You Can Dance

Posted on May 24, 2011

webby sytycd

webby_sytycdThey say TV isn’t glamorous, and sitting on the cold pavement outside White City’s Television Centre certainly proved this to me. However, my patient queuing was for a worthy cause, as I had tickets to be in the audience for the BBC’s flagship Saturday night show “So You Think You Can Dance”. 

On May 7 at around 4.30pm the 500-strong audience packed into Television Centre’s biggest studio, and home of “Strictly Come Dancing” in the winter months, TC1. I quickly notice the seating allocated to the week’s choreographers. They make an illustrious reading list, including Karen Hardy, Karen Bruce, Bill Deamer and hip hop choreographer Sean Chessman.

The audience buzzes with excitement. The majority here is made up of friends and family of the dancers, all competing for that priceless contract, giving them the opportunity to dance in Hollywood, and the small matter of £100,000 to spend. “Strictly” is all well and good, but speaking to the families of the various dance hopefuls it is clear that the promise of a career ensures that the “SYTYCD” results show is an emotionally charged affair. 

The dream lies in the hands of Nigel Lythgoe, Arlene Phillips, Louise Redknapp and Sisco Gomez whose heated off-camera discussions regarding who should leave the show could fill a programme of its own. 

webby_-judgesNothing breaks down that magical fourth wall of television like going to see one of your favourite shows recorded live. I rapidly learned that the true secret of looking good on the small screen is not natural beauty but having your own personal make-up artist at your beck and call between every performance à la Sisco, or having your hair doused in a fresh coat of hairspray between every carefully composed line on the autocue as Cat Deeley does (though her self-deprecating studio chatter to the audience meant you couldn’t help but like her). 

Despite all this, the show’s heart lies with the dancing, which certainly didn’t disappoint. Opening with a dramatic paso doble performed by Danielle Cato and Luke Jackson, the standard rarely dipped throughout. Each of the dancers shines for their own reason, from Bethany Rose Harrison’s unbelievably precise technique to Charlotte Scally’s exuberant personality, everyone is there for a reason. 

My studio audience experience ended with the live results show. Up to this point the show seemed a rather lovely affair and great entertainment. It’s only when you see that, for the week’s dance casualties, the tears keep falling after the cameras stop rolling. Unlike the “Strictly” celebs, dancers on “SYTYCD” are after more than a few weeks’ exposure to lift a fading career; for these hopefuls, “SYTYCD” can be just the start of the professional success that may await them.



Dancers: BBC/Adrian Myers 

Judges: BBC/Todd Antony



Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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