The Chronicle asked me to check out the live tour of the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance?” Friday, and I gamely obliged:
“It was an astonishing sight Friday: Oakland’s Oracle Arena packed with screaming fans who had shelled out handsomely to see not the latest Disney tween machine or some overproduced pop starlet, but dance. Just dance.
Or rather, the U.S. tour of “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Fox show that, unlike “Dancing With the Stars,” boasts not a single celebrity yet regularly draws upward of 10 million viewers. The show that, alongside the inferior parade of ballroom B-listers on “Dancing With the Stars,” is being embraced by anyone who cares about dance – sometimes reluctantly, sometimes excitedly – as marking a new Golden Age of dance in popular culture, and a great hope for drawing new audiences to dance as high culture, too.
And so, among the unceasing stage fog, the preshow “American Idol” alumni videos, the $4 Pepsis, and, oh yes, plenty of truly impressive dancing Friday from Season 3’s top 10 finalists plus a few special guests, the question remained: Is “So You Think You Can Dance” God’s gift to the dance world?
One thing you couldn’t question Friday was whether these are talented dancers. The high points of last season’s competition look even more impressive live: Sabra Johnson and Neil Haskell cold-staring through the table dance set to the Eurythmics; Pasha Kovalev and Sara VonGillern lightly quickstepping to Fat Boy Slim; Pasha and Lauren Gottlieb popping their way through that fabulous Shane Sparks robot routine; Danny Tidwell doing absolutely anything.
Sure, ragged jumps, circus extensions and melodramatic flailing sometimes count more than control and line. And sure, a few contestants have allowed themselves to become trick ponies, especially Bay Area local Shauna Noland, who whipped out her patented turn-with-one-leg-overhead at every opportunity. But whether it was Dominic Sandoval spinning through B-boy head spins or Anya Garnis flinging herself across the stage in yet another Mia Michaels three-hankie special, these are dancers who move with precision and professionalism, not slickly produced reality TV personalities.
As to whether they might inspire crowds to check out less commercial choreography, a highly unscientific crowd poll yields uncertain results.”
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