Pop Life: Dance Fever

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Ever wonder what happened to that crying girl from American Idol? The one who sobbed hysterically while Sanjaya serenaded her with his braces-melting, pigtail-untangling rendition of "You Really Got Me"? For a couple of days there, she was the most famous crying girl in the universe. What happened? She in rehab yet? I think of her sometimes while watching So You Think You Can Dance. Now this is a TV talent show where losing your shit is the whole point. The dancers work so hard, suffer so much physical pain, putting their bodies through the most intricately choreographed forms of torture, believing all the while that America can tell a well-above-average Viennese waltz from a slightly-below-par pasodoble. It's a swirl of fox-trot frottage and silly feathery costumes, yet underneath the vaguely creepy and indestructible yowsah-yowsah smiles, there's a real whiff of emotional desperation that makes the show special. These flash dancers need to be loved so bad, it's scary. What a feelin'!

So You Think You Can Dance comes on as a high-minded leap up the evolutionary ladder from other reality shows — on this one, you're supposed to learn something, and the guest judges are fellow dance professionals rather than actual celebrities. We're supposed to feel sophisticated for watching a contest about real talent, not a silly dog-and-pony show like America's Got Talent, The Singing Bee or Bounty Girls Miami. We're supposed to feel the burn, even though we're watching at home with a bag of Utz Crab Chips. Like most fans of So You Think You Can Dance, I wouldn't know a pasodoble if it beat me with a rake. But I love how they lecture about the art of the dance in such lofty terms, and then send Lauren out to solo to Kevin Federline's "PopoZao." That's entertainment!

Like any other reali-talent show, So You Think You Can Dance makes you identify with your favorite contestant -- gawky Cedric! Sassy Pasha! Lusty Lauren! Lacey, the hustle queen! Hok, the Japanese break dancer! It even hints at budding romances between the dancers, in the classic, shameless Ice Castles tradition. But they blend into a big chorus line of eager-to-please dementia. This show really reminds you how dancers are different from other showbiz types. The singers who show up seem calm and well adjusted by comparison. Yes, even Hilary Duff. (Hillz! Way to dodge those seminal bullets from the Good Charlotte guy who fertilized Nicole Richie!) All the dancers are this close to a breakdown, and they get jumpier every week. Me, I'm just disappointed that Hok couldn't hold on. Because now I'll never see this man clog.

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