So You Think You Can Dance? True Confessions of a Former Liturgical Dancer

by Kim Grams

OK, confession time. In 8th grade, I did a liturgical dance number (cringe) for Easter Sunday (double cringe) up by the altar (oh no, she DIDn’t!!!). Ran right up the aisle doing something swoopy. 

Before I married my husband, now an LCMS pastor, I took adult instruction. As I studied Lutheran doctrine, I learned about worship. It’s not about MY performance, but about God giving and me receiving His gifts. Looking back, I’m horribly embarrassed. Now I let my church just be church and my entertainment be entertainment. (As my husband says regarding the trend of turning church into an entertainment showcase: “I can’t find the ‘Jesus of Entertainment’ in the Bible”).

But while we don’t need to “get jiggy with it” (yes, I’m THAT old) in church, it’s nice to see the current resurgence of dance shows, and other programs that are “throw backs” to the old variety shows (and no, I’m not THAT old). I can watch them with my tween daughters and share my love of dance. “Dancing with the Stars” brought Ballroom back, but “So You Think You Can Dance” (henceforth referred to as SYTYCD) is even better. Here’s why . . .

Standard of excellence: In every couple, both dancers vying to be “America’s Favorite Dancer” have experience in at least one dance genre, and sometimes training in several. While I enjoy watching celebrities learn a new skill, some are not cut out to be dancers. That awkwardness can impede my enjoyment of the dancing. Generally, I hate the slow stuff like Waltz and Fox Trot. But when the dancers have experience, the choreographers can go beyond the basics, tell a story – or at least keep me from using the skip button. On SYTYCD, I know the dancing will be amazing.

It’s uplifting:  Seeing a B-girl like Sara strutting her ballroom stuff in heels or hearing Cedric’s speech about the importance of street dancers studying the craft if they truly want to be dancers? Watching Debbie Allen offering him a place in her dance academy with a scholarship? Wicked cool. How about Sabra, who walked away the winner, but has only danced for 4 years? Pasha, the Russian Ballroom dancer, is nailing Hip-Hop and ‘80’s Jazz. Witnessing a group of people striving for excellence in any field is always a positive thing. It bugged me that the judges kept Cedric at the expense of better, trained dancers. But, watching him strive beyond his comfort zone? Inspirational.

You learn something: I’m a decent dancer. I took tap, ballet, and jazz for years, and do choreography for community stuff. I can watch a tape, learn it, and teach it to beginners. I’m competent in the basics and have more experience than the average arm-chair critic. But I’m always hungry to learn more. I don’t have Ballroom experience, but I learned about dancing down into the floor. A break-dancer is called a B-boy or B-girl (although I don’t really get the difference between Krump and Hip-Hop). Everybody knows about Jazz hands, but what about African Jazz? And wasn’t it nice to learn the Hustle isn’t just the line dance that we thought it was? For the rest of America, a door to the Arts has been fan-kicked wide open.

Huge variety and excitement: The chemistry of the couples.   Changing partners. More dance styles than “Dancing with the Stars”. Rotating choreographers. Dominic and Sabra doing “soft” Hip-Hop – a romantic routine by Shane Sparks set to Ne-Yo’s “Make it Work”. And Wade Robson always does something jaw-droppingly original, like this season’s Jaimie/Hok Flower-Butterfly dance and the Sara/Jesus “Bums at 3 a.m.” number. How about a Latin-style Vienesse Waltz? Ok, hated that, but it WAS original. Icing on the cake: the lifts! Danny and Lauren were the bomb in the final 6 with their daring disco lifts. If you missed the ending of Neil and Sabra’s Paso Doble you need to go online and try to find it because it was killer. Lacey and Pasha’s mannequin Hip-Hop and Sabra and Neil’s boardroom table Jazz numbers were unforgettable. (Judge) Nigel conveyed his hope that the finale could live up to the excitement of that show. I agree.

Depicting faith on TV: So often, the portrayal of faith on TV is offensive to me. Not to bum you out, but my Dad just died in July. My sister and I sang “Amazing Grace” while he was dying, and then it was sung again at his funeral. SYTYCD is not a Christian show, but one of the choreographers used “Amazing Grace” this season. To see that song used on TV meant double to me this year. Then there was Mia Michael’s stunning routine based on the death of her father – it enacted their reunion in heaven. I don’t know if she’s a Christian, but for a mainstream show to acknowledge anything remotely Christian is cause for celebration in my book. Those dances touched me personally. I already know I’ll see my Dad in heaven, but it was nice to see that message portrayed on prime time TV.

By the end of the week, maybe by the time you read this article, there will be no more dance on TV until a new season premieres. I’ll be happy no matter who wins this season. Lacey, Sabra, Danny, and Neil – I love them all. They are ultra-talented and fun to watch. Although it might be nice to for a girl win sometime.  :-)

Reality TV is a mixed bag. Some of is wonderful; some is atrocious and makes me want to hurl. SYTYCD is one of the good ones. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are really missing out. Next season, set your TiVo for the top 20 dancers – that’s the meat of the show where the best dancers are combined with outrageously good choreography. Unlike my foray into dancing in church, you won’t regret it.

Kim Grams is a writer and pastor’s wife who lives in Scottsbluff, NE. She debuted in myHT with her article Diary of An American Idol Junkie.

Created: August 20th, 2007