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'So You Think You Can Dance': The show behind the show

July 23, 2008 | 11:34 pm

Judges_d2y7720 “This is the sad part,” sighs stage manager Debbie Williams before Monday’s “So You Think You Can Dance” taping begins. Then, she lists all of the dancers, one by one, and asks the audience to hold up signs if they have them.  When she calls out “Comfort,” nobody moves.

Most of the dancers have at least a sign or two. Will Wingfield, wonderboy, is particularly well-represented. And as always, Mark Kanemura’s family came prepared.  “They’re very artistic, those Hawaiians,” remarks Debbie. “Very colorful signs.”

There is about one man per row, and the rest of the seats are packed with very, very giddy girls. “Dance” titan Nigel Lythgoe takes advantage of the situation, kissing the hands of various swooning teens as he mounts his throne. “We actually have more brunettes tonight,” announces Debbie, as she surveys the room.  “It’s usually all blonds.” 

A few famous brunettes are among the masses, namely Lisa Edelstein, who plays Dr. Cuddy on “House,” and Shar Jackson, Kevin Federline’s ex-girlfriend. But you aren’t here to hear about random celebrity sightings, so on to the show!

An uncomfortable statementMarkcomfortfoxtrot_u1h8445

In her video, resuscitated contestant Comfort Fedoke says her dad tricked her into attending performing arts school by telling her hip-hop was part of the curriculum. Now, I will support Comfort to the end, however, hearing her say that got me thinking: Perhaps it’s that attitude that turns off viewers. Comfort’s admitted aversion to other dance styles could come off as pompous.

Don’t let the door hit you

When Katee Shean and Twitch Boss team up for Mia Michaels' door-slamming contemporary routine, the judges rain on the praise.  Nigel calls it “one of the most interesting” routines ever on the show, and Toni Basil announces: “I didn’t take any notes on this one either.” 

Sure, Katee, Twitch and Mia are awesome, but Jay the warm-up guy makes sure to recognize the great unsung hero of the routine. “Give it up for the door!” he exclaims, as the crew removes the cumbersome prop.

Prepare to boo me

I’m not sure where I stand on Will Wingfield’s James Brown impersonation.  The judges give it a standing ovation and a reporter behind me announces “I could watch that for hours,” but could the naturally serious Will be trying too hard to show personality? 

Comfortmarkhiophop_u1h7288 Unnecessary attack

After Comfort and Mark’s hip-hop routine, which earns unequivocal respect from the judges, Nigel throws in an irrelevant insult.  He tells Comfort that she is much better when choreographed, and that her self-choreographed solo was sorely lacking.

Why throw in this random attack when he should be critiquing her couple-dance? No wonder Comfort is constantly repeating, “I’m a fighter.” She has to be a fighter when the cards are unfairly stacked against her.

Eight stars are born

When the season started, there was a starry disbelief in the eyes of the contestants. Tonight, however, while Chelsie Hightower blows kisses to the audience, I realize that a shift has occurred.

When the audience screams, “I love you,” the dancers no longer turn around to see if somebody famous is standing behind them. Instead, they reply, “I love you too.” Or, in Chelsie’s case, they blow a gentle kiss or two. 

Mark’s solo

Weird.

Mary Murphy: It never gets oldWillcourtnyhiphop_u1h7815

After Courtney Galiano and Will Wingfield’s hip-hop number tonight, Mary Murphy gives what might be the longest fakeout in “Dance” history. After a meandering introduction, Mary finally asserts: “You didn’t meet my expectations. You blew my expectations right out of the water!” I am ashamed to say that I actually fell for it.

Happy Birthday, dear Chelsie…

Can you believe Chelsie Hightower is only 19?  Monday was her birthday.  Which makes her a tenacious and loyal Cancer, in case you were wondering.

Chelsie’s solo

I accused Chelsie of failure to connect during her solo last week, but she remedies the issue this week, focusing on specific faces in the audience while she dances.  She must read my blog.

What a cutie!

I love Joshua Allen, so naturally, I expect everybody else to love him too. Thus, I am surprised when his adorable baby pictures don’t receive the “awwws” they deserve. 

Smart move

After his solo, Joshua does a nice job of sucking up to “Dance” producers by announcing, “When we come to your city, we’re gonna be for real, for real.” Nigel is delighted.  Never hurts to plug the “Dance” tour. 

Cat_u1h6632'A long fall'

During “Dance” and “American Idol” tapings, it’s not unusual for people in the mosh pit to pass out. Debbie often reminds guests to bend their knees to avoid fainting. “You too, Cat,” Debbie points out tonight. "'Cause in those shoes, something could happen. You go over, it’s a long fall.”

‘Is there a doctor in the house?’

Despite Debbie’s warnings, however, somebody faints in the middle of the taping. “Is there a doctor in the house?” inquires Nigel. TV doctor Lisa Edelstein raises her hand.  “Not you, Lisa,” chides Nigel, in a rare moment of seriousness. “We’ve had a fan that passed out."  Then, Nigel can’t help but add: “She saw me, and …”

If you say so

Sometimes, it feels like they choreograph the dance first, and then slap a story onto it. In the case of Comfort and Mark’s foxtrot, for instance, I can’t really tell what the number has to do with Lady Luck. 

Okay, I’ll just come right out and say itChelsiejoshuadisco_u1h8644_2

As much as I adore Joshua and Chelsie, I would be perfectly fine if I never saw another disco routine on the show. Or anywhere else for that matter. 

Will you marry me, Will?

For three little girls across the aisle from me, that stage is populated by Will Wingfield and his seven backup dancers. After extended planning, the threesome finally builds up the courage to bellow, “We love you, Will!” “I love you too,” Will replies calmly. Cue squeals and blushing. 

Farewell song

After the show comes to a close, we seal off the evening by singing "Happy Birthday" to Chelsie Hightower. Chelsie is happy to soak up the attention, and we’re more than happy to lavish it on her, but as soon as we get to the end of the song, Debbie Williams put an end to the love-fest. She shoos the dancers off the stage, then turns to us and orders: “Audience, go home!”

And so we do. Another performance night behind us.  Since the observations from the judges’ table were almost all positive tonight, voters will really have to think for themselves. Whose performance stuck out as the best of the best? And who left you wanting less?

Leave your answer in the comments section, or come tell me what you think Thursday at 1 p.m., when I lead another juicy “Dance”-chat with fellow “Dance”-addict Claire Zulkey. (Just try not to mention G-E-V. Claire is still in mourning.)

Till then!

-- Stephanie Lysaght

Photo credits: Fox

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