15 Reasons why dancers do not like So You Think You Can Dance

To be fair, there are many dancers that do like So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). The hit reality dance show has become hugely popular among the general public, with many dancers themselves included in the dedicated viewership, following every performance and every elimination. While such a liking for a dance show may be expected from dancers, it is also understandable that many other dancers lie at the other end of the spectrum. Just as some doctors don’t like House and probably most lawyers hate Judge Judy, a show’s overall popularity does not mean that its own community is on board. As a dancer myself, I know there are many grievances to be had with SYTYCD. (I have sat through plenty of episodes with my mother, grimacing and eye-rolling on the other end of the couch.) And so, with the show nearing the end of its 7th season, I feel it is fitting to shed some light on why some dancers do not actually like So You Think You Can Dance.

1)  Perhaps the biggest beef to be had with SYTYCD is that it focuses on commercial dance and fails to educate the world about concert dance. Yes, there are the few guest performers from American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey and so on, but for the most part the show highlights dance that is entertaining and crowd-pleasing, not necessarily artistic. Especially for those within concert dance, it can be difficult to see millions of people watching dance but not actually knowing its full potential or appreciating it as a valuable art form.

2)  Poor tapping Melinda – she didn’t stand a chance. But you don’t have to be a tapper to be annoyed at the gross amount of dance styles not included on the show. If they have to learn Bollywood or ballroom dancing for the first time, why not ballet, or African, or modern release technique?

3)  Even the genres of dance that they perform on the show are often stunted. For example, the hip hop could draw from many more styles of hip hop. And I’m sure ballroom enthusiasts get frustrated with watered-down routines. In general, the dances could be more thorough, authentic, and advanced.

4)  When the judges say technique, they really mean ballet technique, and that’s just not fair. Because then they say that someone (like Jose in season 7) does not have technique, when the reality is that the dancer has technique, it’s just not in the style of dance that the judges prefer. This limited view of technique could ruffle many a dancers’ feathers.

5)  This technical preference for ballet lines and fluidity is just one of many annoying aesthetic preferences of the show. Dancing on SYTYCD favors 180-degree extensions, dramatic drops to the floor, speed, athleticism/gymnastics, and crazy partnering lifts, among other things. Certainly a crowd-pleasing list, but not always necessary for great dancing, and often choreographed to the exclusion of other interesting movement aesthetics and nuances.

6)  Not all good dancers are young, pretty, and skinny. Unfortunately it’s still television, and the aesthetic preferences extend well beyond the movement on the stage.

7)  It is hard not to be annoyed at times by the judges. Whether they are picking favorites, or swaying the viewers too much toward lesser dancers, or rambling on ad nauseam about how great a dancer is, it is hard to not want to slap them across the face at times (or at least hit the mute button). Dancers are informed and able to fairly judge the contestants, so it can be frustrating when the judges disagree with their opinions, especially when the voting audience seems to follow what the judges say.

8)  Putting some of the voting power into the hands of average Americans means that sometimes they get it wrong. Thankfully the judges get the last say on who goes home each week, but often the voting public bases their judgment on personality or skewed aesthetic preferences, landing stronger dancers in the bottom 3 spots where they should not be.

9)  People only see the popularity, the glitz and glam that the show receives. What they don’t learn is the harsh reality of actually making it as a dancer, in either the commercial or concert dance worlds. Why do you think so many “All Stars” are eager to come back and rejoin the show?

10)  And yet, is it fair for dancers that have already gotten professional gigs to compete on the show? Perhaps this is just me and my tendency to root for the underdog, but I can see how other dancers would be miffed to award such an opportunity to a contestant who doesn’t need it.

11)  Too campy. Too cheesy. Too schmaltzy.

12)  It’s great that SYTYCD portrays dance as a valid career, but not great that it promotes dancers skipping college and not getting a higher education. We certainly don’t need any reinforcement of the dumb dancer stereotype.

13)  The show hasn’t thought of a better prize than money. Just dropping a boat-load of cash to jumpstart a dance career shows that even the show’s producers don’t really understand dance, or at least don’t really care much about the contestants’ futures.

14)  Because of the show’s focus on successfully performing all varieties of dance styles, dancers watching can feel pressure to master every style shown (and feel inadequate as a dancer if they don’t).

15)  Last on the list is jealousy. If for no other reason, dancers may not watch SYTYCD because they wish they were on it themselves.


So You Think You Can Dance is not entirely bad; in fact it has plenty of positive aspects that I plan on discussing in my next post. But there are also several legitimate reasons why dancers might have issues with the show and not like to watch it. Though certainly not exhaustive of all the possible complaints, hopefully this list provides some insight into the minds of many dancers. For it should be known, that not everyone is a fan of So You Think You Can Dance.

Leave a comment


  1. Jennie

     /  August 1, 2010

    As a choreographer and dance teacher I thank you for this! I am a bit fed up w/the commercial aspect of what is happening to dance… this includes dance competitions. If I see one more high extension, trillion turns and tricks in a dance piece when it doesn’t even really flow w/the music and choreography I just may scream. I also don’t watch the show… one of the biggest reasons is it messes w/my creativity. I want to create a piece in a way I think I should… how the music moves me and what I “see” being performed – not based off of what is “in” for tricks and turns. Thank you for speaking for those of us that are not huge fans of the show.

  2. You’re welcome, Jennie. I certainly feel your pain. I’m sure your dances that focus on music & movement are infinitely more interesting than those based on tricks. Keep the creativity going and keep up the good work!

  3. Meagan,

    Great post. I find myself conflicted with the show. I watched season 5 religiously because a friend who had performed with us was competing. It was also the first season they had a ballerina rise pretty high in the competition. I found myself appreciative of the effort that they put in to at least be a tiny bit educated and interested in educating the general public.

    I was also impressed with the Dizzy Feet Foundation and that they have a mission to “give back” to children who might not be exposed to dance.

    Looking into history, some of the most celebrated dance on TV was the Bell Telephone Hour that hosted top classical ballet artists of the time. It opened people up to the genre and broadened the audience. I think SYTYCD is, in it’s own way, doing the same.

    I agree with most of your points. I think it highlights the flashiness of it all, and doesn’t pay respect to the artistry that one gains in working with a special choreographer, in a special role, or in researching a character. BUT, I think the viewing audience might get bored with content like this.

    I also think that all the injuries on the show highlight the training, conditioning and care it takes to be a dancer.

    All in all, I would like to see more of the artistic side of dance and less of the competition side. The minute I start understanding a pieces intention on the show, BAM someone is doing a flashy trick or showing off flexibility.

    They have pushed the envelope in the past, but I think when they did they lost viewers. I give them props for the eyes they have brought to our art, and think it is up to us to take those eyes and keep them interested.

    Great post, all-in-all. :)

    • I really like your last point, Roman. The question of how concert dance responds to the show will definitely be part of an upcoming post. And I certainly understand your conflicted feelings about the show. Thank you for your added insights.

  4. worldin1450

     /  August 2, 2010

    Great post, you are absolutely right about everything!

    Only rarely on the show did the judges emphasize how difficult it is to do any of the dances. I think they forget that most of the viewers at home are not dancer and do not appreciate how hard the contestants work. I mean, commercial dance or not, those people have to learn a routine of a dance form they had no exposure before in two days, it’s doesn’t matter how skilled your are in your own area, it’s hard.

    And while there are better dancers on the show than others, I think the voting community forget that ALL of them are GREAT dancers nontheless. Just because Billy Bell is amazing doesn’t mean that everyone else suck. I think after watching the show for a while people take good dancing for granted.

  5. So glad you enjoyed the post, Worldin1450. And honestly, I can’t believe I myself did not include this frustration in my list. You and Roman bring up this important point of remembering just how hard it is to dance and be a dancer. I completely agree that the show, and therefore many viewers, take for granted just how hard the routines are. I mean, if Kent is doing back flips every week, doesn’t that mean every good dancer should be able to do a back flip? Thank you for the comment.

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  8. ben

     /  January 8, 2014

    well they arent competing for americas best dancer it has been said many time that they are competing to be americas FAVORITE dancer

  9. Alley

     /  August 29, 2014

    To be honest I had these grievances too, but for some reason this season has drastically improved. For instance, they have made a point to provide not only prize-money but a spot on Broadway. Someone must have told them that giving the money wasn’t enough, but also a good paying job. You also failed to mention that they also have a SYTYCD tour. This definitely keeps the dancers employed. What the show does which I appreciate as a business major is that it’s keeping an employable business. The other thing is that BECAUSE it’s in the summer, you can still do the show and go immediately back to school in the fall. Many of the dancers have done it, though some choose to ultimately move to LA and New York and full time pursue their dancing careers. Also, the age limit is actually 29 so a lot of the dancers are past college years.

    All of the other points I completely agree

  10. Alley

     /  August 29, 2014

    Wait, I think it does give appropriate insight into how hard this is. VEGAS WEEK is grueling and they don’t pull any punches. They even say the numbers. Thousands try out, maybe 400-500 get to Vegas Week, and only 20 remain. Just because the rest of the show is a celebration of the top 20 doesn’t mean that you don’t get a clue about how hard it is to deal with being a dancer.

  1. Why Some Dancers Don’t Like SYTYCD | All Around Dance Blog
  2. Assessment of American concert dance world: Needs Improvement « The Hidden Language of the Soul
  3. The Media & Dance | danceindustryintorontoblog

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  • Meagan Bruskewicz

  • Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
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