REVIEW: “So You Think You Can Dance” Tour

By Paulette Safdieh

The dance competition show is better on TV than it is live.

so you think you can dance at the beacon theatre

 The top ten finalists from Fox’s reality dance competition “So You Think You Can Dance” took a leap from the television screen to the theater stage this month for their live national tour. The two-hour show of repeat performances from season nine performances provided nostalgia for loyal fans, but failed to reach a professional level worthy of a night at the Beacon Theater.

On the annual summer television show, viewers vote to advance and eliminate the dancers based on the their weekly performances both in and out of their respective genres. Emmy-award winning choreographers including Mia Michaels, Travis Wall and NappyTabs (Napolean and Tabitha D’umo) train the contestants in couple and group routines. Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe leads the judges’ table next to the outspoken ballroom dancer Mary Murphy.  But at the live performance, it was just the dancers- introduced with pre-recorded Lythgoe voiceovers- under the spotlight.

Season nine’s winners, ballet dancers Eliana Girard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, both ballet dancers, carried the night. Girard’s endless extensions and engaging stage presence paled next to Stacey Tookey’s ‘Bang Bang’ routine, which catapulted her to the finals. Wespi-Tschopp’s smooth pirouettes and softness of the feet reinforced why guest judges Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt had offered him a job with their dance company on live television.

But for the other eight dancers, dropped props and half-mast lifts made the performance feel more like a tired dress rehearsal than a night out on a national tour. Production glitches didn’t help. A faulty backdrop screen went blank mid-show, the 20+ routines failed to include some of the most spectacular of the season and runner-up Cyrus ‘Glitch’ Spencer — the first animator on the show— had the least stage time of all the performers, even though he is the strongest hip-hop dancer of the 10. His dubstep solo was one of the only acts to get a standing ovation from the live audience.

Spencer and Girard perform to ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears

The night was split between solo acts, duets and group routines — but the performance lacked focus and flow. Dances that stood powerfully on their own on television, like Tyce Diorio’s contemporary routine about the Holocaust, lost impact when immediately followed on stage by a disco number. The strobe lights in the theater did nothing more than project a color to match the costumes. And when the backdrop did work, it took away from the dances with distracting images unrelated to the routines or the choreographer’s intentions.

The show included highlight performances from the season, from a group jazz routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh to a high-energy samba performed by Wespi-Tschopp and 18-year-old ballroom dancer Witney Carson. But it also included too many routines not original to the cast, like Mia Michaels’s Emmy-award winning routine from season two (originally choreographed for Travis Wall and Heidi Groskreutz). The dances originally choreographed specifically for the 10 dancers on stage were ultimately the best of the night — especially a girls-only contemporary number by Stacey Tookey.

The night included a fair amount of contemporary, but only three hip-hop routines. A NappyTabs routine featured dancers Will Thomas and Amelia Lowe — a routine that Lythgoe bemoaned on the show this summer for its lack of hard-hitting hip-hop moves. Their performance confirmed its weakness. The only East Coast hip-hop featured was the last routine of the night choreographed by Luther Brown, originally performed by Carson and season five’s runner-up, tWitch. But contemporary dancer George Lawrence’s substitution for the hip-hop pro fell short. Why not have Spencer, the only hip-hop dancer of the ten, fill his shoes?

In addition, where was wildly popular choreographer Christopher Scott? None of his dances were performed, including his lyrical hip-hop routine to ‘Dance My Pain Away’ and the show’s first animation routine– both of which received standing ovations on the show this summer.

The performance did have viewers on their feet, cheering and clapping throughout the night despite the dance selection and several mishaps. While the show has yet to get renewed for a 10th season, the tour carried a lot of hope for the producers. Will they have succeeded in getting these audiences to tune in next summer? Probably. Because people watch to connect with the personalities and see a variety of dances -dances that were never meant to be performed as one cohesive unit.

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