Okay, I admit it: I cried when So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lithgow announced that contestant Alex Wong was going to have to leave the show due to an injury.
I’m sure I was in good company. Like most viewers, I replayed the stunning hip hop routine Alex did with Twitch at least half a dozen times. Wow. Besides, there isn’t another reality show on television that provides so many sobfests. Whether it’s in homage to a fluid contemporary dance routine or in solidarity with a gushing contestant, I can count on judge Adam Shankman (who I want to be my very own BFF) to get the waterworks going. In fact, I imagine people in living rooms around the country grabbing for tissues as soon as Adam tears up.
Like Adam, I’ve always been a weep-aholic. I used to lie under the coffee table during certain TV shows because my brother always teased me if I cried. I’d try to hide the sniffles, but my dad would always catch me sliding away and yell, “Holly’s leaving us now!” as I belly-snaked along the floor to my Cave of Sorrow beneath the coffee table.
Now that I’m adult, and a mother besides, I cry even more easily: over the newspaper’s headlines of doom, during NPR’s even gloomier reports, whenever friends admit scary medical problems or divorces, during certain songs on the radio. Now it’s my children who throw me under the bus, rolling their eyes at each other and saying, “Mom’s crying again!” as I’m trying to choke down a sob in their dry-eyed company. I couldn’t even sit through ten minutes of Up without grabbing for the hankies, and I’m afraid to see Toy Story 3 because I know that seeing Andy leave for college will really push me over the edge.
Which brings me back to So You Think You Can Dance. I’m a newbie to reality TV shows. I started watching this show last year, and like any other creeping addiction, this one had me by the throat before I noticed the needle in my arm. I followed it right to the end, rooting for Jakob and Catherine without knowing anything about how, or why, they were better dancers than the others.
I don’t feel the least bit guilty for watching. Unlike most reality TV shows, this one is actually instructive. I had dance lessons as a child, but quit (like many) because it was hard work and people kept trying to tell me what to do. Later, I signed up for a jazz dance class in high school – friends talked me into it – and all I remember from that was this monotonous series of steps to Van Morrison’s “It’s a Marvelous Night for a Moonbeam,” a song I still can’t hear without side-stepping and lifting my arms.
Watching So You Think You Can Dance, I’ve learned about fluidity and toe pointing, partnering and extensions, different dance styles, why the Quickstep is the Kiss of Death, and the importance of conveying character through dance – sometimes by making your gestures “small” instead of large and overwrought, as Adam taught contestant Kent Boyd, the sweet jug-eared boy from Ohio, last week. (Was that kiss between him and Lauren for real? Sure looked like it to me. You’re a long way from Wapakoneta, Kent.) I have even started attending live dance performances in my area because of the show.
I wish I could dance. Instead, I can only marvel: How do these incredible athletes perform such feats of strength – while pretending to be dolls trapped in boxes, hunters and jaguars, Ninja assassins or lovers at a prom? And how do they make me cry almost every time?
I’m going to sit right here with my box of tissues until I figure it out.