So, no, I don’t think I can dance. But I’m cool with that.

June 1, 2007

For those of you who have known me for any length of time, well you know that I can’t do much of anything by half measures. Intensity. That’s good, right? And if said intensity spills over into…oh, I don’t know…obsession? Addiction? Hey, it happens.

So I won’t apologize for being sucked into reality TV. Why do I think I’m better just because I’ve never been pulled into American Idol, Project Runway or Survivor?

But So You Think You Can Dance?

Oh, sister friend.

The premise of the show – for any newbies to the oeuvre of reality shows – is that dancers from all over the country audition for a chance to be in the top twenty dancers that appear on the show. Once the top twenty is settled, they are (somewhat) randomly partnered up and made to learn new choreography and dance styles from week to week, usually out of their areas of speciality. America votes (yes, yes last summer I voted , okay?) and two dancers – a guy and a girl – are eliminated week by week until the group is whittled down to a final four who compete for the top prize. Which this year is 250,000. And oh yeah, last year’s prize included a contract to work for a year as a dancer on Celine Dion’s Las Vegas show, “A New Day.” Even I find that part funny, as I have for a long time suspected that Celine Dion is not actually human, but merely a computer-generated hologram programmed to sing treacly ballads. Anywhooo…

Why, I ask myself? Why did I, a 39 year-old mother, become emotionally invested in a group of twenty dancing kids (I think the oldest was an ancient 26, while most were around 18 or 19)? Why did I care so much that I scoured internet boards and devoured hilarious re-caps of everything from the judges’ comments to the hosts’ fashion faux pas? (Um, yeah, I know I could have been writing.) As I said, no half measures for me.

Forgoing the very real possibility that I’m simply an idiot, I would like to try to answer these questions. First, competition is fun. Perhaps as humans we are programmed somehow to root for others, to care about how they and we measure up when compared to others. Watching others compete has long been a pastime for sports fans, so why not for dance fans? And the voyeuristic nature of reality TV allows one to pick favorites and become emotionally involved in the stories of these people’s lives. Like Ivan’s dad finally supporting his dancing after years of being reluctant. Or Martha losing her mother to a sudden heart attack last year. Or Donyelle’s struggle to be accepted as a full-figured size 10 (perish the thought!), as opposed to the more typical size 00 seen in dancers.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve always loved dance. I took ballet for 5 years and devotedly read every piece of dance fiction I could find as a pre-teen. I had elaborate fantasies centered around being a ballerina, which may seem strange for a 5’11” woman with size 11 feet. I had neither the opportunity, nor the talent to pursue a career in dance. So there’s a certain melancholy, an “if only” feeling, like snow melting and slipping through my warm fingers.

And as I approach 40, I realize that many aspects of life are simply past me — I will never be a ballerina, I will never be a physician, I will never be a famous Hollywood starlet…I will never have another first marriage or bear another child. I will never be 18 again with all the big decisions in front of me. And heaven knows, I don’t want to be 18 again. I am overall so happy with the life choices I’ve made, and I have some small level of confidence in myself that has been won only by life experience. But I see these dancers and I can’t help but project myself into their circumstances, if even for a fleeting moment. What would it be like to be Allison of the gorgeous curly hair (the first time I have perhaps ever understood the term girl-crush) and the lithe and elegant lines? To be able to pick up choreography in a matter of moments and have my body obey my mind’s directive? Because I have to say – middle age? Sometimes I feel like I’m lumbering around in a stranger’s ill-fitting clothes. Things hurt in the morning now. And parts that used to be perky have lost just a bit of their…well, perkiness.

Since it’s time for true confessions (for the three of you still reading after that perkiness visual): I let the kids miss school last fall so we could see the SYTYCD live tour in Cincinnati. And I bought a tee-shirt, which I didn’t realize had the phrase, “I KNOW I can dance!” on the back until my friend Kathryn read it when I was going up her stairs, and she spent the next ten minutes doubled over in hysterical (at me, not with me, mind you) laughter. So now I only wear the shirt at home.

So while the rest of you are busy intellectualizing over Lost (which I love too, by the way!) and Heroes, I’ll be glued to Fox on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Shhhh. I have to hear what the judges say.



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