“I love you, Audrina!”
There’s this little girl sitting behind me at the Monday taping of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, maybe nine, ten at most. As we wait for the actual show to begin, she shouts that out maybe once every two minutes. Audrina? Who’s Audrina? I have to go through my mental Rolodex of names and nothing is coming up; I can think of no dancer tonight named Audrina, no judge…
And then, one time when the little girl yells it, a face turns around, an early twentysomething, and I finally figure it out: she is yelling at Audrina Patridge of The Hills, who is in the audience tonight. I don’t watch The Hills regularly, even though I am technically Torontoist’s TV critic—my “life is too short to watch crap you really don’t like” philosophy kicks in and keeps me from doing such things.
But that little girl loves Audrina. And when the assistant floor director comes over with a microphone to interview her for the crowd, it’s clear the mass of tween girls is solidly in lockstep with that little girl on all matters Audrina-related. It’s a jarring reminder that no matter how much I might personally love So You Think You Can Dance (and I do, despite all the mockery of my adult male heterosexuality that I have endured as a result), that I am NTD. I am Not the Target Demographic. It’s kind of humbling.
Of course, Colin Mochrie is even more NTD than I am, and he’s sitting right in front of me. And man, is his head shiny.
“Okay, this one’s always a bit louder…” The primary floor director’s been guiding the audience through applause takes for about five minutes now, getting stock footage of the audience cheering (and booing). Now she’s asking people to hold up the homemade signs they brought along so they can get shots of them before the show starts. (They take the signs away afterwards so they don’t get in the way of the cameramen. Attending a reality show taping is kind of like watching the sausage being made.)
She goes through the dancers in alphabetical order, and as each dancer’s signs get held up, the fans in attendance cheer reasonably loudly, but then she gets to Nicolas “Nico” Archambault’s turn, and oh god all of a sudden eardrums they are bleeding. This begins a trend that lasts the entire night. Nico shows up, girls scream. Nico dances, girls scream. Nico smiles as he receives compliments gracefully, girls scream.
They instructed the audience not to give away spoilers of the taping (“I don’t want to see results posted on your MySpaces and your Facebooks, people!”), but this hardly counts as a spoiler: Nico is going to win this show in a walk. Maybe something weird happens, like he gets hit by a meteor, or his entire enormous fanbase all call simultaneously on the night of the finale and crash the phone banks, but more likely than not he’s your champion already. Everybody on the show knows it, too.
And why shouldn’t they? This is a show that favours male contestants for very obvious reasons, and Nico isn’t like previous male favourites: he’s not a boyish, safe clown like Benji Schwimmer or Stephen “Twitch” Boss, not a pretty gay pretend-boyfriend like Nick Lazzarini or Danny Tidwell. Nico is a goddamned smoldering wall of testosterone, a creator of girl-boners, Elvis reincarnated as a rugged-looking Quebecois with the Rock’s eyebrows. The comment Nico keeps receiving, week after week, is how he dances “like a man,” how he doesn’t get trapped in his contemporary technique and let it feminize him.
If anybody has cause to be bitter about this, it’s Vincent-Olivier Noiseaux, Nico’s fellow Quebecois and competitor. Poor Vincent has the same manly, aggressive style of dancing, and he’s arguably an even stronger dancer than Nico. Unfortunately for Vincent, whereas Nico is a pierced, tattooed bad boy obviously in need of a good woman to soothe his tortured heart, Vincent is balding, has a dorky grin, and kind of looks like that one guy in your office who collects Lego. Vincent is doomed to be Oates to Nico’s Hall.
Still, Nico would probably be well advised to look into meteor insurance. No sense in tempting fate.
Don’t feel bad for the girls on this show, though. The tween set love the girls very nearly as much as they do the boys. I-Love-You-Audrina makes that clear throughout the night. “I love you, Allie!” “Lisa, you’re so great!” “Arassay! Arassay!”
Mia Michaels, guest-judging tonight, gets tons of adoration. A girl sitting next to me explains to her mother, “I can’t believe Mia Michaels is our guest judge! She won awards for her choreographing! We’re so lucky!” (One of the more welcome things about the So You Think You Can Dance phenomenon: the elevation of lowly choreographers to the level of rock stars.) The crowd explodes with titillated awe when Mia drops the F-bomb while critiquing Izaak Smith, and without missing a beat Mia grins and says “the censors will get that one, don’t worry.” Mia is the proxy crazy aunt for half the audience in attendance and she loves every minute of it.
Of course, if the girls love Mia, then they adore Leah Miller. This is where the generational and gender divide really makes itself evident, because while one can totally understand worshipping Mia, the affection for Leah Miller? Not getting it. (Come on, this is a person who claims that reading Tuesdays With Morrie changed her life.)
In fairness, Miller has stopped trying to imitate Cat Deeley, the massively popular host of the American Dance. Deeley’s pseudomaternal role on that show is natural; she’s older than all of the contestants and her Amazonian tallness lends her a natural motherly authority. When Leah Miller—who is younger than some of the Dance contestants and who is approximately three apples tall—tried the same thing, it came off as a bad joke.
Now, Miller instead gushes over everything the dancers do regardless of actual performance and acts generally starstruck by people who, three months ago, were nigh-anonymous. Miller is hard-selling the product like her professional life depends on it—and at 27, she’s starting to approach the well-known MuchMusic Zone Of Intolerance for on-air “old people,” so her professional life probably does depend on her transitioning out of hosting Much on Demand, lest she suffer the fate of Lance Chilton (hosting local news in Barrie) or Monika Deol (killed and eaten by rabid grizzly bears in 2002).
The good news for Miller is that although it’s not working on me, it’s definitely working on the crowd. Girls yell out from all over the audience about how they love her dress and her shoes, and she shyly raises a five-inch heel so they can better see what she’s wearing. She’s become the pretend big sister for a generation of girls who want to grow up glamorous, but not so glamorous that they lose sight of how lucky they are to have such a wonderful job, where they get to wear pretty dresses for a living and go home at the end of the day to read some Mitch Albom.
“I have been lucky enough to judge not only So You Think You Can Dance in America, but all over the world,” says Dan Karaty, super-famous choreographer and guest judge, “and I’ve got to say that the dancing here in Canada—that this show is second to none.”
The crowd goes wild as you might expect, because there’s nothing a crowd of Canadians likes being told more than how we’re better than everybody else, especially because it means we don’t have to say it. That would be bragging. But Canadians—even young tweenage Canadians—love to be validated by external authority, be it the United Nations saying how wonderful we are or Dan Karaty saying how we can boogie like nobody’s business.
Of course, the wonderful thing about Karaty’s line is that it isn’t just a line. The talent on So You Think You Can Dance Canada is incredibly rich; after a bit of a stumbling start, the dancing on this show has been off the hook in comparison to just about any other Dance anywhere else in the world.
As an enormous fan of the show, I’ve seen not only all four years of the American version, but the Australian, Dutch, and Scandinavian versions, and even a few episodes of the Malaysian version. (Yes, there really is a So You Think You Can Dance Malaysia.) It isn’t hyperbole in the slightest to say that the Canadian dance roster on our show is likely more talented and has definitely been cranking out better performances than any of them.
We’re really quite privileged to get such a level of quality, and So You Think You Can Dance Canada deserves better treatment by both the viewing public and CTV, the latter of whom seems to consider the show to be only as important as Criminal Minds or any of the six thousand other crappy criminal-procedural shows they air.
So give it a shot, if only to say that you finally have something in common with a thirteen-year-old girl that won’t get you arrested.
Photos courtesy of CTV Media.