I always wondered about the contentious name of this show. Surely when, in another life, I worked as a dance critic, I found that those who auditioned dancers were never this acerbic. They certainly didn't have the time for someone who'd never attended a dance class, but they were always willing to find that good spark in everyone. A producer never knew when he was going to find a brilliant new talent hiding under hip-hop attire.
So, I was pleased to see that season seven, billed as the "Toughest Season Ever," was not something a drill sergeant put together. Traveling from New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Dallas, the judges audition dancers to send to Las Vegas. There they will all gather for a super showdown at the series end. At none of these auditions are the judges snarky, nasty, irritating or arrogant. I think the closest they get is when they stare down a guy who never met a dance class in his life. He's been wasting their time, and their faces show it.
There was a bit of theme to the two-hour premiere on Wednesday on FOX. It began with Sarah Brinson, 22 of Philadelphia, who worries that she's too heavy to dance. She's worked that worry away for several years and finally gets enough confidence to perform a contemporary number to wow the judges.
They brushed away the weight issue as just so much rubbish, but it has always been a concern in dance. It's not the sickness that it is in modeling. There is a real need to be thin, lean, and muscular in dance, for the dancer must leap, be carried by another, and in the case of ballet, perform on toe. None of these things is easy if the performer is heavy. As early as the 19th century, when toe dancing was invented, dancers discovered that the currently fashionable padded look didn't work on stage. There is still too much overzealous dieting, but thin is not in to suit neurotic designers.