So You've Changed Your Mind About Gender Roles In Dance (Great!)
September 13, 2018 11:30 AM   Subscribe

So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe has come a long way in Season 15. Nine years after he made homophobic comments about two men dancing together, enforcing his very strict views on gender roles in dancing (previously), Nigel was quietly applauded for not freaking out when Miss Estranja danced and showed off her signature death drop, though he he referred to Laganja by her performer’s first name, “Jay.” But perhaps more impressive was Nigel's pick for favorite dance number for the season: Taylor & Darius performing to "It Takes A Lot To Know A Man" by Damien Rice (extended clip). Choreographer Travis Wall talked about the dance, wanting SYTYCD to tackle gender and masculinity, and getting Rice to approve of the use of the song.

Versatile in dance styles and gender, Miss Estranja was asked to continue, but performed as Jay Jackson, though he didn't make it to the top 20.
posted by filthy light thief (29 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
watches Taylor and Darius

(O_O) (^_^) (T_T)

Worth the post just for that, thank you much, flt. I don't watch this show, and I'm really glad to get the chance to see some of the stuff that's good.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 11:53 AM on September 13 [5 favorites]


I remember Nigel saying all kinds of irritating things back in the day, always berating dancers who he didn't perceive as being masculine enough. I have to say that I'm genuinely impressed with how far he's seemed to come over the years. He's not just tolerant of difference, he actually enjoys it now as part of the vast array of ways that human bodies move. It's been heartening to watch his mind open.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:56 AM on September 13 [10 favorites]


This reminds me that I got completely off-track keeping up with this season! I will rectify that ASAP!
posted by rtha at 11:56 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


Wow. It suddenly got very dusty in here. that's not just 'dance' - that's ballet!
posted by dbmcd at 12:00 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


watches Taylor and Darius

(O_O) (^_^) (T_T)

Worth the post just for that, thank you much, flt.


I've watched that number a few times, and I lurve it. Really, I wanted to post only that, but when Nigel said it was his pick of the season, and likened it to Mia Michaels' "Addiction" from *cough* some past season *cough*, I was quite impressed.

Then I looked for some articles for someone else to quote him saying that, but instead found the top article about his response to Laganja Estranja's performance, which I had forgotten.

And here we are :)
posted by filthy light thief at 12:18 PM on September 13 [5 favorites]


SYTYCD has gotten a bit stale in the last few years, but it's still one of the few places on broadcast TV where you can occasionally see art that is risk-taking and has such a strong point of view. I will always love it for bringing this weird little thing to prime-time TV. Loved this Travis Wall piece.

It's neat to watch someone, especially someone with so much power and privilege (such that he could easily just wall himself off from criticism) go through a transformation like this. It doesn't take away from the fact that he was a bullying asshole to men who didn't conform to his ideal of masculinity in the past, but it's still inspiring to see that someone like this can change.

I give a lot of credit to the people around him, who probably did a TON of intellectual and emotional labor to get him there.
posted by lunasol at 12:33 PM on September 13 [12 favorites]


That audition was filmed at my work and I watched it. After Laganja left Nigel turned to the audience and ask if they do cast them whether they should come on as Jay or as Laganja and the crowd almost universally yelled back that they should be cast as whatever Jay wanted. Nigel took it under advisement really well. It was very heartening. Sometimes the future is good.
posted by Uncle at 12:39 PM on September 13 [12 favorites]


AGREED filthy light thief... "Addiction" is phenomenal. I re-watched it a few weeks ago and it had lots none of its power; in fact, it seemed even stronger. Kupono was not my fave contestant ever, but damn, he nailed that number.

This season was not my favorite for several reasons, but I loved the Taylor & Darius piece. It was amazing, and I am happy it will find many more viewers on tour.

Thanks for posting!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:45 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


It's dusty in here too.
posted by bilabial at 1:00 PM on September 13


Mark Kanemura, the dancer in lunasol's video above, has been doing god's work on Instagram, especially with his Cut to the Feeling Friday (nsfw-ish, maybe) video, which I recommend you all bookmark and watch anytime you need a boost.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:25 PM on September 13 [7 favorites]


I discovered many seasons ago that the show is much more enjoyable if you let the DVR record it, because then you can just watch the dancing, and you can skip over Nigel and Mary Murphy. Unless it's ballroom - then you just skip over Nigel, because Mary often has very interesting commentary on ballroom.

I love dance, and I love dancing, and this show puts such wonderful dancing in front of me. Mia, and Sonya Tayeh, and Wade Robson (when he was around), and Travis, and Tyce, and so many other choreographers put together such amazing things. I have never liked Nigel, though. Can't stand him. He leers at the girls, and makes comments that are inappropriate, and he scoffs at boys that aren't boyish enough, and girls that are too boyish, and he's goes off on tangents at odd moments about how wonderful the show is. I'm glad he's making progress, but I still don't want to watch him, because he creeps me out.
posted by curiousgene at 1:45 PM on September 13 [4 favorites]


curiousgene: he's also stopped making inappropriate comments at the girls. He's a study in what it's like when a gross and lechy old dude learns how to act properly, and proof that it's capable for a person to learn. He does still pat himself on the back about how great his show is, but I mean, it's pretty great. That said, yeah totally, we only listen to the judge commentary on the routines we loved or hated, and skip it on the mediocre stuff.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:30 PM on September 13 [12 favorites]


curiousgene: you can skip over Nigel and Mary Murphy

Skip over Mary Murphy? Then you miss invitations to ride the Hot Tamale Train!

Yeah, I zone out for the judges' commentary, though I've caught enough to pay attention to the presence or lack of pointy toes and fluid movements, when stylistically appropriate and all that.

Also, I agree with BuddhaInABucket that Nigel is way less creepy than he used to be. To be honest, watching this season, I kind of forgot about how awful he was in the past, because he doesn't do that here. Instead, he's kind of charming, in a "damn, you're so white" way.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on September 13 [4 favorites]


No, it wasn't ballet. Travis is a spectacular contemporary choreographer, and this was really really great.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:16 PM on September 13


Skip over Mary Murphy? Then you miss invitations to ride the Hot Tamale Train!

Stop that. I can hear her in my head now.

Sometimes, when she does that cackle, I have a vision of her voice slowly dropping slowly down into a deep, infernal register, and her mouth expanding, as her eyes turn black, and a multitude of dark creatures swarm from her laughing mouth to devour the souls of the audience.

Maybe that's just me, though.
posted by curiousgene at 3:33 PM on September 13 [8 favorites]



Sometimes, when she does that cackle, I have a vision of her voice slowly dropping slowly down into a deep, infernal register, and her mouth expanding, as her eyes turn black, and a multitude of dark creatures swarm from her laughing mouth to devour the souls of the audience.


At least Nigel and Mary have deep, decades-long serious dance chops and background. You know. Experts.

Vanessa Hudgens. GAH! A sop to the teenies in the audience.

Can someone replace her with twitch, or anyone with some goddamn experience and knowledge.
posted by lalochezia at 4:38 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


I hadn't watched this show for years. The "It Takes a Lot to Know a Man" and "Addiction" pieces remind me why I used to enjoy it. They were so powerful. This post has encouraged me to watch season 15 on Hulu, although I'm skipping the auditions and going straight to the first academy week.
posted by Kris10_b at 5:18 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]


So, this is a bit of a sideways comment, but I've been to contra dances where gender neutrality was created by using that colored plastic ribbon used for surveying stakes for people to tie around their bicep, thereby rendering the different roles "armband" or "barearm". This was something like 25 years ago. It felt entirely natural, and I wish it were more widely practiced for all kinds of called dancing.
posted by hippybear at 7:04 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


I haven't watched the show in a couple of years, since I started feeling like a lot of the routines started getting very same-y and bland, and I also reached my limit with Nigel's grossness. It's heartening to see that he's improved! This routine is lovely, as are most of Travis Wall's pieces. I loved him when he was a competing dancer on the show, but I love him so much more as a choreographer. Maybe I'll catch up on the last couple seasons I've missed now!

My favorite routine of the entire run of the show remains the Wade Robson choreographed Hummingbird and the Flower, with Jaimie and Hok. Just absolutely stunning, with the music, choreography, dancers, and camera work all coming together to create a minute and a half of pure artistry.
posted by yasaman at 7:20 PM on September 13 [6 favorites]


hippybear, my experience at Contra dances in the recent past has been that they are incredibly inclusive and everyone just dances the role they want. You learn to look out for who you're neighbor will be and not just assume it's the apparent xx to your xy (or whatever metric may have held int he past). I've also found that to be likewise very true in the local swing, latin and west african partner dance communities here. And while it is less true at larger events and congresses I think the general trend is really positive in this regard. I don't do ballroom so I don't know how stuck in the past they might be, but the social dance community is just too excited to grow and invite in new people to let little things like performative gender roles get too much in the way.
posted by meinvt at 7:21 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I'm not even thinking about performative gender. I'm just thinking "oh, I'd like to dance with him, let's talk about who is dancing which" and going with that. Is there much gender performance in called dances unless you're swishing your clothing or whatever? *shrug*
posted by hippybear at 7:25 PM on September 13


wow. just wow

I haven't seen more than a few hours of modern dance. Really touching. Thanks for intro'ing me to something entirely new.
posted by Twang at 9:03 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


Darius also did my other favorite piece this year: Heart of Glass Concerto, also by Travis Wall. He was spectacular all season.
posted by mochapickle at 11:40 PM on September 13 [4 favorites]


Speaking of Laganja/Jay, here's a video of them teaching a room full of people the death drop, which made me appreciate them even more.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:25 AM on September 14 [5 favorites]


At least Nigel and Mary have deep, decades-long serious dance chops and background. You know. Experts. Vanessa Hudgens. GAH! A sop to the teenies in the audience. Can someone replace her with twitch, or anyone with some goddamn experience and knowledge.

Twitch was the 4th judge this year, so... she STILL needs replaced. Whither Adam Shankman? Or ANYONE else, really? Ellen, perhaps, for the "non-dancer, but someone who can offer a decent level of everyman-esque commentary that's not utterly idiotic on every level?"

I definitely appreciate Mary's comments on ballroom numbers; she may be annoying at times but she does know her stuff.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:00 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]


And yes- Darius was robbed.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:00 AM on September 14 [1 favorite]


OH! Yasaman. Hummingbird and Flower is AMAZING. Jamie is one of the most beautiful dancers ever on the show. I got to see that tour live, and I am so happy for that.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:01 AM on September 14


Twitch was the 4th judge this year, so... she STILL needs replaced. Whither Adam Shankman?

Or Neil Patrick Harris. He had one guest judge spot a few years ago, and I thought he was wonderful. Also, I always love Lil' C's guest judge spots.
posted by curiousgene at 9:39 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


The bands and bare-arms convention was almost exclusively an LGBT thing. Mainstream contra dances continued to associate dance role with gender for decades after gender-neutral dancing became common in LGBT circles.

Contra has an unusual difficulty when it comes to switching roles: it's a choreographed social dance. The instruction may be, "gent one and lady two change places" and those two people have to end up in each other's places or else the rest of the dance becomes physically impossible. So when contra dancers started switching roles, an entire generation of dancers had to stop orienting themselves with gender markers.

Over the last few years, there was also a fiercely contested push to relabel the roles in a gender-neutral way. This is a difficult proposition, because contra dancers don't memorize the choreography. Instead, a "caller" prompts them over the music, two bars ahead of time. So in addition to being gender-neutral, intuitive, and mnemonic, the new language had to be phonetically distinct, have ideally the same or fewer syllables, and have similar prosody. Spreadsheets were made.

You might wonder why the mainstream dances didn't adopt the existing bands and bare-arms convention. What I've heard is that by the time mainstream dances started going gender neutral, some skilled dancers were switching "on the progression," i.e., every 32 bars during the dance. It was hard to pass the band back and forth when they switched.

I unfortunately don't know how the LGBT dancers reconciled switching on the progression with bands and bare-arms. A concurrent trend in contra over the last few decades has been a growth toward more difficult dances and more skillful dancers, and switching on the progression is definitely an advanced skill. It's possible that the LGBT dances didn't back then have the critical mass of people who switched on the progression.

A funny story: one year, a prominent southern contra dance festival featured both gender-neutral role names and gender-balanced registration. So they were willing to experiment with the language, but they still assumed that people would partner with the other gender. (In this context, it seems safe to assume that non-binary gender was not an issue.) I no longer know any major contra dance events that gender-balance the registration.

The English and Scottish dancers (these are traditions, not ethnicities) have their own history with gender-neutral dancing, which I'm happy to talk about if anyone's interested. I'm fascinated by this stuff because it's a corner of folk history that I suspect nobody will ever write, and many of the witnesses are going to die soon.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:06 AM on September 15 [6 favorites]


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