So You Think You Can Tell They Can Dance

So we’re down to the Vegas round of SYTYCD. Much more likelihood of actual dancing instead of gyrating, arm waving and whatever it was that Shakira thought he was doing.

Watching this show has made me think (quite hard) about how strange it is that even an untrained human being who can’t dance can tell whether another human being’s dancing is good or not. Why is that? I don’t know, exactly but I have some ideas…

Physical Expertise. If it’s something I physically would be unable to do, then I am impressed. Tricks, lifts, jumps, pointwork, these always get a huge reaction from studio audiences on dance shows. That’s because they’re the easiest things to identify as “difficult” and as such, they’re exhilarating to watch.

There was some research done which suggested that even untrained dancers, when watching professionals dance would mimic the movements they saw on stage in tiny muscular reactions, this was the brain’s method of reading and interpreting what it was seeing. Maybe, when the brain sees something which would be difficult or dangerous to do, the audience gets a rush from it too.

Technique. There are some things you pick up about technique just from watching dancers compared against one another. Some of it is common sense too. For example, unison work is difficult to do well, stumbling is bad, hunched shoulders restrict movement. These are all quite obvious for the arm chair critic.

Emotional Connection. Dance can be a non-verbal communication between people. When it’s done well, what is being communicated is so obvious that a child or even an untrained dancer could pick it up.

Bearing these things in mind it’s actually astounding that there should have been so many non-dancers in the preliminary rounds of So You Think You Can Dance, I know I wouldn’t put myself on that stage.


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