Friday, August 8, 2008

Congratulations, Joshua Allen!

So You Think You Can Dance is over once again, boo hoo. I’m so excited that Joshua won it, mainly because he is a Texan and went to a public school. Good things come from Texas public schools! Actually, I could have just watched the Top 20 dance all summer, regardless of the contest, but the prize money and perks always rev up the entertainment factors. The finale shows this week were amazing. I’ve never danced. Never taken a class. Barely learned enough to participate in school dances. But, I’m a musician and a teacher and I know a great opportunity artistically when I see it.

The learning opportunities with SYTYCD are endless. Each week the dancers get the equivalent of a live master class, and by the way, it’s televised. They spend 5 hours with these amazing, famous choreographers, stretching themselves brain, body, and spirit, then perform for the public and a television audience. Afterward, the “critique” is live and in color, in front of a mere 10 million people or so. The critique is in the form of judging, but these judges make some very constructive comments. I personally think it’s too bad that the public votes, but that’s how they keep viewers. That tends to make a person thick-skinned or they get out of the arts, one or the other. Each week the choreography is more challenging, the routines more demanding and more numerous. As the competition shrinks in number, it increases in demand—pressure, new types of dances, physical fatigue.

But in the arts, that’s real life. On one show, Nigel Lithgowe, the producer and judge, commented that "it was tough this year. And too bad, because that’s a dancer’s life—tough. And the audience doesn’t really care. It’s never printed in the program that the dancers, choreographers, producers had a week of illness, or difficulty, and the audience wouldn’t care anyway. They want to see a peak performance. " Or something like that.

He speaks the truth. In over 40 years of performing, I’ve played concerts, rehearsals, and recitals characterized by trouble—illness (played with 102 fever and flu at one performance; eyes almost wouldn’t blink), injury (pinched nerves in neck or back, wearing a Tens to block pain from severely injured wrists, knee in immobilizer and walking onstage with crutches), pain (migraine, the aforementioned wrists, surgery only days before a performance, childbirth one week before a rehearsal and performance series, etc. etc.). And difficulty: well that’s a category in itself. Twice I played with guest artists who never rehearsed with the orchestra due to missed flights or inclement weather. We rehearsed with the director, who then rehearsed with the artist, and we prayed and watched without looking at the music, almost. The audience never knew.

The only excuse ever publicized to the audience was absolutely the worst concert of my life. Our orchestra is in a small town and we were then known as a “pick up” orchestra, playing with only a small core of local musicians and “picking up” players from other cities who drove in on Thursday evenings for 2 ½ days of rehearsal before a Saturday concert. It was in the winter and we had some bad weather, but not terrible. Three fine players, all graduate students on visas from other nations, were hit head on by a driver on the wrong side of the interstate. They died instantly on the way to rehearsal. One of them had a brother in another car and he saw it all. It was halfway into rehearsal when we learned the truth about why they were missing (one was a section leader), and that ended the rehearsal. The following three rehearsals were almost useless. The only thing we performed well was the Faure “Pavane”, which was done as a memorial to them. We cried silently as we played. I still cannot perform the Pavane, or even hear it, without profound sadness, and it was almost ten years ago. But, the point is that the orchestra performed. We performed the Saturday following September 11, 2001—without our conductor,at that time, because all planes were grounded and he lived in New York. A local conductor stepped in, picked up the slack and we helped several thousand audience members forget about the tragedy of five days earlier for just a few hours.

SYTYCD is more than a TV show. It is a life lesson for 20 dancers, and all other artists who care to learn from watching.

1 comment:

Sunni at The Flying Mum said...

Yay, Joshua! We just caught up on the last two weeks of SYTYCD yesterday! We were hoping he'd win!