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So I Thought I Could Dance: My Turnt-Up Day With Nappytabs

Earlier this year, I willingly made a fool of myself by participating in Randy Jackson’s American Idol boot camp — an experience which literally ended in tears, when I got just a little too emotional during my workshop performance of “True Colors.”

This week, ready once again to prove true the old adage “those who can’t compete on TV talent shows, blog about them” — and perhaps emboldened by Taylor Swift’s fearless dorky dancing in her self-deprecating “Shake It Off” video — I signed up for a hop-hop dance lesson with So You Think You Can Dance choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo (aka “Nappytabs”). This time, there were no tears… but there was definitely a lot of literal sweat and some proverbial blood on the dance floor.

Yes, I was intimidated by Nappytabs’s SYTYCD pedigree (these are the people who choreographed last season’s Emmy-winning “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” after all, not to mention “No Air,” “Bleeding Love,” and “Outta Your Mind“). And it didn’t help that my fellow classmates were a girl who’d danced competitively for years and a guy who literally used to flip for Cirque du Soleil. But I still excitedly prepared to get bucc, crunk, ratchet, turnt-up, and any other adjective from The Unabridged Lil C Dictionary that might apply.

And then just when I thought I was getting the hang of it and might even score a ticket (albeit a coach-class one) on the Hot Tamale Train, Napoleon let it slip that this was a routine he usually teaches in his JUNIORS classes — as in, classes for KIDS. Ouch.

And then Tabitha excitedly told me I’d “turned dowwwwwn.” She said she meant to say “turned up,” but I think it was a Freudian slip… to go with the many times I almost slipped and fell on that slick studio floor. (Side note: At one point, Tabitha tried to high-five me, and I missed her hand. I needed more than one lesson.)

However, along the way, I learned a few cool moves and a few important lessons about the dance world. Such as:

Dancing outside one’s genre is hard, y’all – I’ve been taking ballet for a couple years (full disclosure: Season 5’s Melissa Sandvig and Season 9’s Eliana Girard inspired me), but that in no way prepared me to get down ‘n’ dirty with Nappytabs to a grimy “Turn Down for What” megamix. Now I have new respect for current SYTYCD finalists Zack Everhart and Valerie Rockey, tap dancers by trade who’ve had to dance outside their specialty style almost every week this season.

Booty-popping is hard, y’all – In what was probably the most awkward moment of my Nappytabs tutorial, Tabitha got right behind me in an attempt to help me work on my twerking skills. Seeing I was clearly a lost cause, she quickly excused herself to grind up on one of my looser-hipped, more able-bootied classmates instead. I have new respect for Miley and Nicki now. Seriously.

Singing and dancing at the same time is hard, y’all – Napoleon had us sing the words to “Turn Down for What” while we rehearsed, which he explained would make it easier for us to remember the steps than traditional counting. Maybe so… but by the time we were done with our second run-through, I was winded. Now I see why so many dancing pop stars choose to lip-synch. Britney, Ashlee, Milli, Vanilli, all is forgiven… well, not quite, but almost.

Music clearance is hard, y’all – While DJ Snake and Lil Jon are clearly thrilled to lend their music to SYTYCD (and many rising musicians have actually launched their careers on the show), not all recording artists are on board. According to Tabitha and Napoleon, Justin Timberlake won’t give Fox the greenlight because his songs are so associated with his own iconic dance moves, and Eminem has turned down (no pun intended) SYTYCD repeatedly because he insanely says his music is “not made for dancing.” How shady of him!

The So You Think You Can Dance Season 11 finale airs Wednesday night on Fox. My audition for So You Think You Can Dance Season 12 will air at a later date TBD.

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