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A whole new world of dance

Every summer, I look forward to the return of So You Think You Can Dance.  I love to see the different styles and the choreography that comes out of the show.  Not to mention the talent.

So I was thrilled when NBC announced its World of Dance with Jennifer Lopez, singer Ne-Yo, and Emmy-winning choreographer and dancer Derek Hough on the judging panel.  Promoted as the biggest in the world, it’s been called the “Olympics of dance.”  After all, they are going to name the world’s greatest dancer.

But will they?  Dance is subjective.  No single “world’s greatest” title can cover every type of dance.  That’s like comparing a marathon runner and a sprinter.  We’re talking very different skill sets.

Regardless, I was intrigued.  There are three categories: juniors, adults, and teams.  And the performers who have made it this far are the best of the best.  Now, they must be the best of the best of the best.

Viewers are treated with jaw-dropping performances on a circular stage.  However, for all its noise and flash, producers should have talked to the crew at SYTYCD dance first.  There’s a reason Nigel Lithgow’s show has been nominated for 55 Emmys including for directing and lighting. 

WOD’s busy, colourful backdrop above what seems a rather small audience distracts from the performances.  But at least we can see the dancers at home.  The live audience is forced to stand below the stage.

Unfortunately for home viewers, the editor kept cutting away from the dancers to the judges throughout the routines – as though we need to see Ne-Yo’s reaction to decide if we like it.  Ironically, Lopez’s first critique of the night was that she didn’t want to take her eyes off the dancers for fear she’d miss something.  Apparently, the editor didn’t get that note.

But this is Lopez’s production and she (and her fellow judges) are as much the stars of the show as the dancers themselves.  And while SYTYCD judges give critiques on form and technique, thus far, WOD judges are just cheerleaders.

Supposedly, any kind of dance is welcome.  However, hip-hop and contemporary dance appear to dominate.  A group of cloggers (who already have their own popular full-length live show) had their routine brutally chopped in editing before getting the boot.  Their performance was fabulous.  However, the judges, in their so-enlightened wisdom, felt clogging would get repetitive in future shows.  Apparently, they’re not only ignorant of tap, but also clairvoyant.

WOD should be a source of happiness and light this summer.  But with all the glitz and flash, it’s hard to connect with the dance or the dancers.  Even the eleven-year-old who wowed everyone before getting a hug from Lopez left me a little flat.  I’d much rather watch last season’s SYTYCD little girl who was so overcome that she threw up on Paula Abdul.

That’s what I want from WOD next week: performances so overwhelming that I could puke.  After all, happiness comes from the inside.