Jazz Curse | SYTYCD | Inside Dance

Jazz Curse | SYTYCD | Inside Dance

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By Kristyn Burtt

There’s always a theme that emerges during a season of So You Think You Can Dance. Fans joked for years of the “Ballroom Curse” when the ballroom contestants were picked off one by one during a season — it’s possibly why we’ve never seen a ballroom dancer win the show. (Season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer considers himself the first “partner dancer” to win.) Well, this season, it’s all about the jazz curse. If you are assigned that style for the week, it seems to be a guarantee that you’ll be in the bottom four contestants. 

The major change in voting likely affects why this is happening. With only the studio audience voting, which excludes the press, contestants’ parents, guests of Fox network, etc., they are voting on how a dance makes them feel in the moment on that soundstage. It’s wildly different from the TV audience voting because they get the close-up angles, and often vote on technique and training. Neither is wrong — it’s just a big change from what longtime fans are used to. 

Choreographer Jonathan Redavid, who worked with Ralyn Johnson and Beau Harmon on the July 13 episode, sees the “Jazz Curse” theme happening this season. “I think when you do something more pop, especially with the music, it can grab the audience in different ways,” he said. “Jazz is more for veteran dancers, and for people who really know what dance is.” However, Redavid sees this as an opportunity to educate people on the dance style. “I like that, though, because we try to push them and challenge them as audience members,” he explained enthusiastically. ”Jazz changes all of the time, there are different styles.”

The education process is also happening for the contestants, many of whom have never trained in the classic jazz style since much of what is now taught at the studio level is jazz fusion. Waverly Fredericks and his partner Anna Miller went to YouTube to watch Paula Abdul videos to prep for their Sean Cheesman piece. “We were getting all the research we could to execute those movements because the 80s are such an iconic era [for jazz],” Fredericks shared. “It’s super-stylized.”

The contestants are also feeling the pressure when they are assigned the style because they know how the audience reacts. It makes the end of each episode even more nerve-wracking. Alexis Warr knows the stress all too well after performing a musical theatre jazz piece by Al Blackstone with partner Thiago Pacheco on the June 29 episode. “It’s hard because it’s not in our control. I am proud of what we did, which is what we had control over,” she said. “We had fun with it, it’s unfortunate that it didn’t fully read.” The audience put her in the bottom four, and Pacheco was one of the contestants sent home that week. 

It’s hard to predict if producers will have the opportunity to bring TV viewers’ voting option back in future seasons. The show hasn’t been picked up yet for Season 18, but they are running audition submission promos at the end of the program in the latter half of the season. However, it doesn’t solve the “Jazz Curse” problem because this style is finding itself falling out of vogue on the studio level and in TV and film. Let’s hope it sees a resurgence soon. 

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Photo: Michael Becker/FOX

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