Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for August 13th, 2010

Narrative fail: why Lauren Froderman from SYTYCD is no “sex bomb.”

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Full disclosure:  I have watched the reality TV program “So You Think You Can Dance” for several years now — since season two.  Which is why I believe an attempted framing of the narrative failed this season.

Lauren Froderman is eighteen years of age, a recent high school graduate, and is from Phoenix, Arizona.  She also is the season seven winner of “So You Think You Can Dance,” and was extolled as “a perfect female dancer” time and time again by Mia Michaels, choreographer and judge.  She also was told again and again by Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer and judge, and Adam Shankman, well-known producer and judge, that she had “become a woman” on the show and was the epitome of sexiness when she danced.  She also was told that she was the “best female dancer” they’ve “ever had on the show” time and time again.

Um, excuse me.  No.  She.  Wasn’t.

Look.  I’ve watched SYTYCD every season since Benji Schwimmer’s year and win (season two), and I know what dancers have been through there.   Alison Holker, one of this year’s All-Stars (dancers from previous seasons who did not win, but impressed the judges, and were brought back to dance with this season’s eleven finalists), was probably the best all-around female dancer they’ve ever had — and she was in season two’s cast.  Other excellent female dancers have included Heidi Groskreutz (season two), Lacey Schwimmer, younger sister of Benji (season three), Chelsie Hightower (season four), Katee Shean (season five), and this season’s Ashley Galvan.  All of them, without fail, were more mature as dancers than Lauren Froderman, and projected more sexuality and sass, perhaps because nearly all of them were older than Lauren Froderman.

This doesn’t mean Lauren Froderman can’t dance.  She can.  She’s very good, but she’s also rather juvenile — she has almost no figure because she’s so young and she’s danced herself to under two percent body fat, no doubt — and she looks like she’s maybe fourteen years of age no matter how much makeup they put on the poor girl.

Now, did she work hard enough to win SYTYCD?  Of course she did.  SYTYCD is brutal, as shown by the fact that two dancers this season came up with severe injuries (Alex Wong, Ashley Galvan) and two more had injuries which, while not season-ending, didn’t help them (Lauren Froderman was injured two or three weeks from the end with a concussion and severe dehydration but danced anyway, while Billy Bell had to take a week off due to a knee problem). 

Lauren Froderman is as deserving as anyone who survived this year’s SYCYTD ; the problem is, why was it that there were no female dancers available who were up to the weight of Alison Holker, Lacey Schwimmer, et. al.?  And why was it, with the exception of Alex Wong and Billy Bell, that so few male dancers were up to the weight of past male contestants such as Travis Wall (runner-up, season 2), Danny Tidwell (runner-up, season 3), Will Wingfield (season four), or Ade Obayomi (season five), one of this year’s All-Stars?

The main problem I had with this year’s SYTYCD was the blatant manipulation by the judges Lythgoe, Michaels and Shankman.  We knew from the first they wanted Alex Wong, which didn’t bother me so much as he was excellent; then after he was injured, they hitched their wagon to Kent Boyd, who was charming and likable but also extremely young at eighteen years of age, but they obviously were also rooting for Lauren — especially as she was the only female contestant left standing around the top seven dancer mark. 

I don’t mind rooting, but I do mind blatant favoritism, and it gets old to hear “you are everything,” as Michaels said over and over again.  Because when that’s all a judge can say, it means someone isn’t doing their job to give constructive critiques to help these young dancers —  it means instead that someone is attempting to frame the narrative.

At any rate, Lauren Froderman is a very good, highly competent dancer.  She’s not great at ballroom, but she was good at everything, and was exceptional in her own specialty, contemporary dancing.  (AKA “fall, roll, fall, flail.”  That’s all it looks like to the uninitiated.)  She didn’t need the judges to tell her she was the sexiest woman who ever walked, or need the judges to tell her that her butt was the best part of the season (this happened again and again) — all she needed was for the judges to praise her dancing for its consistency, not all that other stuff.

I consider what judges Lythgoe, Michaels and Shankman did in extolling thin-as-a-board Lauren Froderman as the epitome of female sexuality a failure to frame the narrative, because while Lauren Froderman was a deserving winner, she did not exude sexuality or maturity as a dancer — she’s far too young for any of that — and the judges telling her that she did was a major disservice to the poor girl.

One final thought on this subject.   Season Three’s winner was a gal named Sabra Johnson, who was spunky and cute and a good dancer in a wide variety of styles.  But she hasn’t made a mark on the dance world since then, partly because she probably won too early in her development.   It’s possible Sabra listened to the hype, which was similar to the hype Lauren has been dealing with for the past several weeks — it’s also possible that Sabra’s development as an artist stopped because the competition messed with her head.  (As a former competitive musician, I understand this aspect.)  I can only hope that Lauren will realize as she matures that SYTYCD is only part of her life, part of her eventual career, and come to a more realistic self-image: that of an outstanding dancer, but one on the spunky and cute side rather than a “sex bomb” like Anya Garnis (yet another of this season’s All-Stars, from season four).

— Note: Dancers are athletes.  Even Gatorade has recognized this.  Which is why this post ended up in sports figures and sports marketing as well as the others.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 13, 2010 at 3:14 am