The Gospel and “So You Think You Can Dance”

by Kim Grams

Best. Season. Ever. There are a number of things that made Season 4 of Fox Network’s “So You Think You Can Dance” (henceforth, SYTYCD) the best season ever. Cat Deely solidified her status as THE best show host with her charm, wit, genuine caring, non-snarkiness (hello, Ryan Seacrest) and her willingness to wear Twitch’s grill, “spit and all”.

From the first episode there were no train wrecks, the bar was raised, and there were many standout performances. Many of the dances were driven by emotion that was felt even through the TV. The level of God-given, natural talent was so high that it led to some wicked cool choreography. A few routines were not just dance, they were ART – living, moving, breathing art – like sculptures come to brilliant life. For the first time we had three favorites, which caused a voting dilemma (solved by each of us getting the phone and five minutes to vote like crazy and let the chips fall where they may). But perhaps the number one reason that this season came together so well in this time and place was the success of “untrained” dancers, particularly Joshua and Twitch.

It’s striking how many of this season’s themes could actually parallel our spiritual life (why does this suddenly feel like a “compare and contrast” essay)? Gotta say, this isn’t my strong suit. I’m good at interpreting pop culture and deconstructing shows – what I like about them and why – hopefully in a somewhat entertaining way, and then saying how it relates to us as Christians in little bits and pieces. But let’s have a go at trying something a bit meatier and see where it goes, shall we? There are many kinds of strength (both in the Bible and in life) and I found some interesting match-ups between some Biblical truths and my favorite dance show. (When “Dancing with the Stars” starts it’s new season, THAT will be my favorite dance show – thank goodness they don’t run at the same time!)

Much ado was made this season about “untrained” street dancers. What exactly IS an untrained dancer? I’d classify it as someone who has LITTLE or no formal training in technique and the foundations of dance, such as ballet. Joshua and Twitch both fit in this category. Yes, Joshua had SOME ballet lessons, but sporadically, and certainly not to the level of those who’ve had multiple classes in many genres over several years. (Having 10 years of ballet and tap, and 5 years of jazz, all before High School, I’d classify myself as a partially trained dancer; I have the basics, but never took it beyond the intermediate level). For both Joshua and Twitch, their main form of dance is street-style – hip-hop, popping, etc.

Every season the question comes up: can an untrained dancer make the final four? Top two? Could they win? And this year, Joshua and Twitch stood as the final two, with Joshua taking home the prize.

Host Cat Deeley summed it up moments before the results. “In four seasons a street dancer has never made it to the end of the finale, and now it comes down to the pair of you – two untrained street dancers.” Judge Nigel Lythgoe also stated, “…you’re inspirational for a lot of other people who didn’t have the opportunity of getting trained as dancers.”

Proverbs 22:6 pops into my head. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Many of us grew up in the church, were brought to Sunday School every week, and had the opportunity to learn of God’s grace from an early age. But just as many did NOT have that same opportunity. The prize is available to anyone, not just those who “grew up in” the faith.

Training is a good thing, but it’s not what ultimately what wins us the prize. As Pastor Heinz put it in suggesting this topic to me: “It doesn’t matter how hard we work or train at being good Christians – it all comes back to the Lord doing His work in us. We can’t train and practice to get into heaven; but the Lord gifts that victory to us.”

Another SYCYCD theme this year was physical strength. Both finalists were extremely strong, enabling them to do spectacular lifts and tricks that had previously been unattainable. This too brought some verses, such as Isaiah 40:31 to mind. “…But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.”

The dancers are competing in hope of soaring like eagles and winning the ultimate prize – the title of America’s Favorite Dancer, among other things. They know they will need to renew their strength, so as not to grow weary. Our ultimate prize is heaven, but like the dancer we hope to soar like eagles in this life before our bodies give out. God is the source of ALL strength and “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phillippians 4:13.)

I think Joshua would understand that. When asked if there was anything he’d like to say moments after his victory, he said, “Never let anybody tell you (that) you can’t do anything because no matter what you do you can always go forward – the sky’s the limit. Don’t let anybody tell you (that) you can’t do something because God is in control and with God you can do anything.”

Even more comforting than God being “in control” is the comfort of His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. As He gives these gifts, He can work anything. Perhaps Joshua meant to remind America of what Jesus assures us in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” To that I say, Amen, brother!

Kimberly Grams is a writer and pastor’s wife who lives in Scottsbluff, NE. A dancer and an avid reality TV viewer, she has also written over a dozen articles featured in the Pop. Culture & the Arts section of HigherThings.org.

 

Created: August 15th, 2008