Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dance Show Says Black Contestant is Too African

Jose Ruiz during audition.

Jose break-dancing.

If you didn’t already know, reality-television isn’t real. Instead it’s theater, and often bad theater. In the case of Fox’s ninth season of dance competition So You Think You Can Dance, it’s bad theater.

The judges on SYTYCD, namely the show’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, are trying to manufacture a winner. They’re trying to influence voters by making terrible comments about contestants with clearly more talent than the one contestant they’re trying to make a winner. That contestant is the baby-faced b-boy dancer Jose Ruiz.

Looking like a slightly lighter-skinned, corn-rowed version of singer Chris Brown, Jose Ruiz doesn’t do any other dancing except break-dancing, yet the judges are trying to make him the favorite to win SYTYCD. Jose along with tap dancer Melinda Sullivan were the two odd choices to make the Top 11 because their dancing is so different than than the other dances on SYTYCD, like ballet. Break-dancing and tap dancing is limited when it comes to performing other styles of dance. It's one thing to have a dominant style of dance like last year's SYTYCD winner Russell Ferguson (a hip-hop dancer), but Russell could perform other types of dancing. Jose can barely do hip-hop choreography smoothly. You would think with his break-dancing that he would be able to do hip-hop choreography, but he often comes off as stiff. Despite receiving the worst comments from the judges, Melinda wasn’t eliminated until the third week. Meanwhile, Jose is treated differently than his fellow contestants because he’s not trained in other dances, and although giving him good comments (for a b-boy dancer), Nigel Lythgoe went as far to say that Ruiz is not a good dancer, but he’s got a pretty face and solid acting skills.

 Last week, Jose performed a Bollywood routine that judge Mia Michaels said was “so wrong,” but he made it work because of personality and positive attitude. Follow that with this week’s episode where African-American contestant Adechike Torbert performed a Bollywood routine and was told that he made the Indian dance too “African.” The judges implied the race relation, but they didn’t say it directly. When host Cat Deeley pointed out to the judges that they had told Jose that his Bollywood routine had a groove to it (read: African, since apparently all black people can dance), similar to what they told Adechike, and Mia responded that Jose had more emotion. Adechike was on the verge of tears, but kept it in like a champ. It’s clear that the judges want Jose to win no matter what, and are willing to stomp all over people’s feelings in the process.

Adechike Torbert

Other than Jose there aren’t any favorites to win SYTYCD. The gifted ballet dancer Alex Wong, who made headlines with his excellent hip-hop routine, last week, was a favorite, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon (on his foot) and it’s not certain if he’ll be able to continue competing on the show. Sadly, I doubt he will. So that leaves just Jose. Along with Adechike, some of the other contestants the scheming judges are trying to sabotage include the soft-spoken Billy Bell. The judges don’t seem to be too enthusiastic about the wholesome cheerleader Lauren Froderman and the handsome, yet quirky Robert Roldan. They seem to like Ashley Galvan and the adorable farm boy Kent Boyd. Speaking of Kent, the judges are trying to market him to the tween audiences by getting him to say he’s single and that he’d likes girls who are like his mother. Aww, how sweet, right? Funny enough, he follows that with saying he wants a woman who’s like Beyonce. Suki Suki now!

At the end of day, the winner of So You Think You Can Dance is determined by the voters, so if Jose Ruiz can’t get the votes then he won’t be the winner. However, I wouldn’t put it past the judges to rig the voting since Nigel Lythgoe has a lot of power. Tonight is the voting results show, so let’s see which contestant goes home tonight.

Watch the show on the Fox channel at 9pm. Eastern

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