Canada Gets Rhythm
So You Think You Can Dance comes north

By Amy Kuzyk

 While American dancers auditioned by the thousands and viewers voted in the millions, Canadians could only tap their toes to the music and watch while Americans chose their favourite dancer.  But the wait is over.  Come fall, So You Think You Can Dance heads north.

  Audiences have already been exposed to the American show, which is entering its fourth season and is broadcast across Canada.  So You Think You Can Dance pits dancers against each other in weekly performances, allowing audience members to vote for their favourite. 

 George Randolph is the founder and president of the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts in Toronto.  A former dancer, Randolph recognizes the prospective benefits the show could have for the Canadian dance community. 
“Judging by the response to the U.S. show, I definitely think it will heighten the popularity of dance in this country as well,” Randolph says.

So You Think You Can Dance has proven to be a highly lucrative and successful franchise, garnering millions of viewers each summer and making way for international versions in Australia, Greece, Germany, Denmark, Malaysia, Norway, and Poland.  The show averages 1.25 million Canadian viewers each night, making it one of the top three summer television programs.  The American original already stops in Toronto along its 50-city tour, and following in the vein of Canadian Idol, Deal or No Deal Canada, and Are You Smarter Than a Canadian Fifth Grader?, a Canadian So You Think You Can Dance seems the natural step.

“I have had a fabulous relationship with CTV over the years with a number of shows including Canadian Idol and American Idol,” says series creator Simon Fuller in a released statement.  “So You Think You Can Dance is a strong and proven TV brand.  We have a simple formula that kids and TV audiences love.  I am hoping that our partnership [with CTV] continues for many more years to come.”

The show will benefit not only the local television industry, but will also promote Canadian dancers. 

“Anything that pushes dance to the forefront is a positive,” says James Croker, creative director of Motus O Dance Company in Toronto.  “Television puts an advertising spin on dance, but it also pushes dance to the front of people’s minds, and that’s a positive.”
Not since the golden age of American cinema has dance been so prevalent in popular culture.  Performers like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced their way into people’s hearts in the 1930s, but dance was only one aspect of their movies – it was a part of the larger spectacle of song, acting and showmanship.  Today, dance is the main feature of many other popular programs such as Dancing with the Stars, while Take the Lead is a movie about dance.  Popular dance has moved away from musical fantasies and now allows professional dancers to showcase their art for its own sake.

Alex Da Silva is a salsa dancer, and a recurring guest choreographer on the American So You Think You Can Dance.  He has seen the show grow in popularity from its humble beginnings.  Da Silva notes that the contestants’ natural abilities as well as their personalities draw fan support from the audience.  Blake McGrath, a Mississauga dancer who finished top 10 in the show’s first season, sticks out in Da Silva’s mind.

“Blake was definitely my favourite dancer from any season,” he says.  “He was full of himself, he was cocky, but he made you notice him.  And he was an amazing talent.”

Julia Cratchley, 22, of Toronto, has danced since she was three years old, and intends to audition for the Canadian show.  She fits the typical demographic of those who audition: dancers who have been studio trained, but have branched out creatively in their commitment to dance.  While some dancers who audition have little formal training, it is those like Cratchley who are in passionate pursuit of a career in dance.  In order to find work as a dancer, Cratchley recognizes that she must try all avenues.

“I definitely want dance to be a part of my life through performance, by getting into a company, but also through choreography,” she says.  “I always want dance in my life in some way, either as a teacher, coach, studio owner, or rehearsal director.  But ultimately as a dancer.”

Cratchley says the show would be an ideal place to get noticed by the dance world.

“I want to audition for the experience of working with so many different people and choreographers,” she says.  “In this field, contacts are the most important thing.”

Da Silva was pleased with the way his choreography was received on the show.  However, preparation for the performances was limited, which was difficult for newcomers to his style of dance.

“It was exciting to see my work filmed in front of a live audience,” he says.  “We only had three days to prepare, and sometimes it was a rush to get everything perfect in time.”

Dancers and choreographers are co-dependent, for each artist’s ability is best accentuated by the talents of the other artist.  The audience has become accustomed to a high level of talent, and Da Silva says he had to work hard to be consistently creative.

“The fans always go crazy, but everything has to be better than last week.  They expect that as the number of dancers gets smaller, the quality of the dances get better.”

CTV has just announced that So You Think You Can Dance Canada will air this fall, with auditions to be held in five cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax will all host tryouts.  While the timing is not ideal, since Canada’s version will air immediately following the American summer original, CTV has high hopes for the show given its past success.  Last year’s finale drew over 2 million viewers.

So You Think You Can Dance will be great for dancers in this country,” says Randolph.  “There are thousands of trained dancers in Canada, and now they will have a televised outlet to express themselves.”


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