Stars in Their Eyes: The Latest Influence of Television and Other Trends

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Soaring leaps, high-speed turns, Fast and Furious partnering--contestants and judges can expect a burst of bravura when the competition season kicks off this year. Students are watching hit television shows like Fox Broadcasting's So You Think You Can Dance, and so are their teachers. As more competition choreography reflects their influence, the bar is rising on gasp-inducing moves.

"The whole current media Focus on dance gives everyone great ideas. I'm seeing steps that come directly From shows like So You Think You Can Dance," says Nancy Stone, vice president of Dance Olympus/Dance America and International Dance Challenge. Other trends are surFacing too, including an increased emphasis on technique, an upsurge in the modern/contemporary category, and a blossoming of crossover choreography that blends steps From various genres. All of these elements should factor in when teachers think about how to prepare their students.

Nothing, however, rivals So You Think You Can Dance for sheer impact. Wannabees who watch it dream of topping their favorites in pyrotechnics and showmanship. "Dance shows like SYTYCD have motivated kids to try more athletic moves in general," says Randy Kalis, vice president of Showbiz and PrimeTime. "They see someone on TV do it, and suddenly they think, 'Let me try that too.'" There are downsides to putting too many show-stopping moves in a routine, however. "I don't want to see something filled with more tricks than dance," says Stone.

Technique still counts, and perhaps in reaction to the infatuation with flashier steps, many competition presenters are putting a bigger emphasis on basics. "I'm asking all of my guest teachers to go back and make corrections, to encourage technique first and foremost," says Doug Shaffer, DanceMaker, Inc. president and owner. "I am also encouraging my judges to compliment kids who have good technique."

Luckily, competition judging hasn't succumbed to the attitude laced SYTYCD influence "Kids get constructive criticism," says Stone. 'A good judge doesn't rip people apart, but gives insight on how to improve. I'm a big advocate of the Oreo cookie approach a sweet thing first, then a little complaint in the center, then a real affirmative ending."

Making a positive impression on judges involves suitability of material, and nearly every presenter brings up the ongoing issue of what is appropriate in a routine. "I see dance studios dressing young children as adults and giving them adult moves," says Shaffer. …