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Robots dance

June 26, 2010

Featured Article, Video

Next to “Friday Night Lights,” my second-most favorite show on TV is “So you Think You Can Dance.” Don’t confuse this remarkable show with “Dancing With the Stars,” whose B, C and D-list celebrities tackle Vegas-cheesy dancing and which features such unedifying spectacles as disgraced Congressman Tom Delay busting a move (“My eyes! My eyes!”). SYTYCD is remarkable for a host of reasons, not the least that it is a spectacle of what some of the countries most amazing young human bodies are capable of doing: flying, leaping, twisting, contorting and sliding through the air and across the floor. The show is flat-out the best reality program on TV, mostly because of its serious judges, the aim of its mission and because its entry bar is so high. There is just no way you can fake being a brilliant dancer.

The preliminary rounds of each season are spectacular because you see such a wide range of dance styles, from ballroom to tap, crumping to hip-hop, classically trained to totally self-taught. But the show has a high bar awaiting those who get through to the Vegas rounds: you are then required, week after week, to take on new styles and ace them. It might be the rumba, it might be Bollywood. A hip-hop dancer from the streets of Harlem may be required to pull-off the tango. Better yet, each week features a new, original piece of choreography by a family of superb choreographers, from contemporary to classic. The judges are great, too, all of them dancers and choreographers whose advice is specific and to the point and worlds beyond the tired repetitions of “American Idol” (“Dude, I liked it OK, but it was pitchy in places..”).

The show can also be extremely moving, as dancers are pushed to the edge of their ability to take on new styles — and then push through to interpret not only the style but to become the characters envisioned in the original choreography. But there’s another component to the show that is also moving: sometimes in the initial rounds they get competitors who are brilliant and unique but who have no hope of going on to the semi-finals, which involves significant partnering. Brian Gaynor was one such entrant who

Brian Gaynor

showed up in auditions last year. He has some kind of growth defect and stands not much higher than four-feet tall. But, oh, how he has adapted, coming up with this robotic dance style in which he is able to isolate each of a host of body parts.

When he first auditioned, the judges — who can be very emotional — were flattened. They loved him. But they couldn’t pass him on the the later rounds. This year, Gaynor showed up again in auditions. Again, amazing. Again, as show producer and judge Nigel Lithgow told him, it wouldn’t be possible to pass him through to the partnering rounds. But Lithgow asked him what was new since the show had seem him last. Gaynor reported that he had a “a new crew,” called Remote Control. Lithgow, who I like a lot — he’s a serious judge who lacks the cruel streak that runs through Simon Cowell — was glad to hear that. He promised Gaynor he’d put his crew on as a featured act on SYTYCD. The video above features Steve Gaynor and Remote Control on the show earlier this week, as Lithgow promised. I’ve concluded something about Gaynor: he’s not from Earth. His two buddies are also ex-pats from another solar system. Nobody human moves like that.

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