Inside the Making of Fox TV's "So You Think You Can Dance"
Chances are, you’ve been watching “So You Think You Can Dance” since its premiere July 20 on Fox, but DS has the inside scoop on what it really took for these dancers to make it to Hollywood. Producers saw more than 2,000 hopefuls in eight U.S. cities, and invited dancers to callbacks in NYC, L.A. and Chicago, where open auditions were also held.
In NYC, DS sat in on a Broadway Dance Center private audition, where students performed solos in their chosen dance form. Only 150 dancers out of about a thousand, both from the BDC audition and the NYC open call, were asked to return to the callback.
According to dancer Amy Ryerson, who performed a contemporary/modern solo, the callback lasted for 16 grueling hours, during which judges whittled the group to 20 finalists. Dancers had to freestyle to hip-hop music for the first cut. Because Ryerson heard that judges weren’t impressed by high kicks and leaps in the freestyle round, she danced like she was in a club. “It was funny, because I had a lyrical costume on,” she says. “Somehow, I stayed to the next round.”
Next, dancers performed prepared solos and were interviewed. They didn’t begin learning choreography until nearly 10 pm (the day began at 8:30 am), at which point they learned one salsa dance and one hip-hop routine, Ryerson says. She was put on a “short list” of about 20 potential finalists, pending results of L.A. auditions. Only eight dancers from the NYC short list (Ryerson was not one of them) were eventually selected to join winners from L.A. and Chicago to comprise the 50-person cast.
Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe, who also produces “American Idol,” explains that the final 50 were not simply the best dancers in the country. “They [were] cast so that [we had] breakers, hip-hop dancers, ballet dancers, lyrical jazz dancers, Irish dancers and tap dancers,” he says. “It’s a question of, so you think you can dance? Well, let’s try you out with other styles.”
The original 50 split into groups of 10 to work with each of the five choreographers/judges—Brian Friedman, Dan Karaty, Alex Da Silva, Mary Murphy and Mia Michaels. Former DS cover boy Friedman doled out a sampling of his most intricate choreography. “I’m a very demanding teacher,” he says. “I like everything to be clean, precise and detail-oriented. If [a dancer’s] eyebrow is supposed to be up, it better be up.”Friedman was impressed with the diversity and talent on the show: He plans to hire some of the dancers for future projects, but declined to name names.
For the finale slated to air September 28, the final four dancers (two boys and two girls) must perform alone, with each other and as a group, in addition to improvising. Lythgoe is looking for “America’s most versatile dancer, with personality” to receive the grand prize of $100,000 and an apartment in NYC for one year, though it’s not up to him. The decision ultimately lies with the viewers, whose only chance to vote is on the final episode.
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.