Fox announced a 13th season of its long-dancing, if not just long-running competition. It’s been a marathon. I don’t know how I feel about that, by which I mean know exactly how I feel about it. I just don’t know how I feel about how I feel about it. SYTYCD is one of my favorite shows and I’m unconditionally psyched, which may be a condition in itself. With that said, however, it’s bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s back. Is it the back that broke the camel’s straw?
On the other, it’s the 13th season, which is thought to be unlucky by triskaidecaphobiacs, if not triskaidecagons. Maybe they should skip it and go to 14 like those elevators that miss the 13th floor. This doesn’t hold water for me. What’s the point of having a 13th floor if you’re just going to skip it? Even if thirteen is unlucky, SYTYCD has outlasted virtually every other show that started around the same time.
In fact, many of the contestants this year were probably not even born when the show, if not the season, started! That’s because “The Next Generation” is comprised of 8 to 13 year-olds. They are literally the next generation. Skip all the numbers and just go right to Z. Instead of calling it season 13, they should call it season 8-13. In turn, SYTYCD takes on a new meaning. Whereas most aged a year since last time, these contestants are actually younger.
In previous and older seasons, everyone was old enough to dance in some capacity. I’m not saying every audition was great. However badly, however, they did it. The question was, rhetorically, “So You Think You Can Dance Well?” With this age category, you have to ask whether they can actually do it at all. They’re barely old enough to think for themselves, let alone about whether they can dance. Some say the best dancing is thoughtless. Instinctive.
You let your body do the talking, if not thinking. If this is true, younger dancers may have an advantage insofar as they don’t think as much, if not just as well. Some also say children have a more active imagination. There’s something to be said for saying nothing. There’s also something to be said for saying something. In that sense, 13 year-olds have an advantage because they are generally more adept at talking than the near infantile 8s.
The former also have an advantage because they are more adept at puberty. That is, they have it. This is especially true of girls, who typically start earlier. The difference between 8 and 13 is far more than 18-30, despite the numerical inconsistency. Where things get awkward, if not gangly, is the implementation of the All-Stars. Each contestant is paired with an excellent SYTYCD alum who serves as a mentor until elimination.
Moreover, the All-Stars will allegedly dance with the children. The problem isn’t finding talent. If you have watched any of Sia’s music videos, you are familiar with wunderkind Maddie Ziegler, who has been no more than 13. Admittedly, not everyone is going to be like Maddie, but they could still be better. SYTYCD trades in exceptional choreography and performance, even if they don’t always come together. Movement is usually on point, if not en pointe.
If anything, you marvel at how the 18 year-olds are able to harness evocative maturity or even fail completely. It’s a greater mystery in 13 because those very same borderline, if not just young adults will have turned back the clock and become that age. All the kids waiting to be 18 so they could try out are basically too old now. Anyway, what’s weird is having the uniformly seasoned All-Stars doing evocative, if not provocative routines.
Why? Of course, these epic dancers have been in physically emotive numbers. They are actually called All-Stars inasmuch as they are known for doing precisely that and having intangibles. Furthermore, each of them has been 8-13 years old sometimes twice over. The problem is that the younger contestants haven’t been adults yet. Where are they going to draw experience? On the stage? That hasn’t happened yet.
It’s conceivable that an 8 year-old hasn’t even experienced a certain emotion yet. This is ultimately about the age old question of whether it’s better to be young or old. To be old and wise or young and a wiseass? Are they going to have the contestants doing involved lifting and partnering with adults? Try to imagine some of the famous dances with kids: “Gravity,” the addiction dance, any Paso Doble, or “Hip Hip Chin Chin,” for example.
You’re basically going to have them doing Bollywood, Disco, and Broadway. That actually wouldn’t be so bad. Everything else, however, is watered down. A sprout, if not sprightly. The show is going back to 10 finalists. This wasn’t especially popular when they introduced a top 11 in Season 7. That said, it puts less pressure on the producers to find 20 good kids because they only have to find 10. It makes each of the 10 look better because there are 10 fewer to compare.
Yet it also puts more pressure on them to make sure the 10 they select are actually good. In Season 7, we missed out on some of the chemistry that comes from two people getting to know how much they’ve been allotted the quickstep this week while somebody else got a Christopher Scott piece. There was something sterile about how exceptional the All-Stars were already. You like to see a couple get better because it makes you think you can, too.
Get better at getting better. The other problem with All-Stars is they can help you with their specialty, but might be worse in a different style. They might even be worse than you. I suppose the idea is All-Stars have had a chance to train and become well-rounded, but do you really want Comfort for a Viennese Waltz? Do you really want Chehon for hip-hop? All-Stars are supposed to challenge you to elevate your level, not theirs.
SYTYCD is mixing two of my favorite shows for TNG and it’s not Star Trek. It’s Masterchef Junior and So You Think You Can Dance. They had to try something new and the kids are new in that they haven’t existed for very long. I’m looking forward to this in the same way that the kids can’t look back very far because they have more future than past ahead of them. It’s exciting because they’ve got their whole careers ahead of them since they haven’t had one.
Surely the planet is crawling, perhaps literally, with amazing little people. Isn’t “Tiny Dancer” about that? It’s prodigious or vertically challenged, but could go either way. Whenever you experiment, you run the risk of blowing up in your face or having others do it. It’s also possible to have both, but many would rather get out of the blast radius. This is why you get haters belittling things they don’t know about. They justify departure saying the departed is just that––D.O.A.
I expect less belittling this time because the dancers will already be little. You never really condemn young children, but not because they don’t know any better. It’s because they often don’t know anything. I know a little something about knowing nothing, which is that I know nothing about a little something. I don’t know who is going to win this season, in part, because I haven’t seen any of the episodes. The show premieres on May 30.
I’m glad to have Paula and Jason returning, the latter of whose comments continued to grow on me every week. Hopefully said comments will grow on the contestants so they can age a little faster and be all around better dancers. I expect them to grow by leaps and bounds insofar as those measures are required by the choreographer. It should be a good season if for no other reason than anything should aspire to be a good version of itself.