Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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

with 25 comments

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

25 Responses

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  1. Note that Chelsie Hightower and Lacey Schwimmer have become regulars on “Dancing with the Stars” since their “So You Think You Can Dance” days. So you don’t have to win this show in order to make an impression — you just have to be on it.

    That being said, I get annoyed when judges show blatant favoritism time and time again. Even when I think the dancing and dancers are competent or better, I would rather watch the dances and hear far less from the judges. Please!

    Barb Caffrey

    August 13, 2010 at 3:22 am

  2. I’ll go out on a limb and complain about Will’s treatment because he was a Debbie Allen prodigy. He wasn’t that good, but the judges kept gushing about how great he was. Even when he blew a lift they ignored it and said the dance was flawless. Thankfully the fans voted him off (Mark’s reaction was priceless when they said he was safe that week), though they screwed up and got rid of Gev too early.

    I thought the judges last season were too forgiving of Russell, but he turned it up the last few weeks. I had no idea what they saw in Jose. Alex and Kent were my two picks after week one to go all the way, but Alex’s injury derailed it. Lauren is good, very good, but not the best they ever have. Heck, I’d take Courtney over her and Courtney wasn’t nearly as good as Katee.


    August 13, 2010 at 3:50 am

  3. Jason, I agree with you — Will wasn’t the “best evah” by far and he did get what sure seemed to me to be favoritism due to his status as a Debbie Allen protegé. But I think he was better than Kent, because Kent also blew a lift this week and they blew it off, same as they did with Will. (I liked Gev a great deal, too. I thought he went out too early.)

    My brother and I chatted about José and Lauren and all the others from this season last evening — he didn’t think much of José either (I assuredly didn’t) but he was really astonished at the way Lauren was portrayed — which is probably why I decided to write this post, come to think of it. (Originally I’d planned to write something else. But this just came out.)

    Do you remember Lauren Gottlieb? She was one of the All-Stars this season and has always been a choreographer favorite (I think she’s a friend of Tyce DiOrio’s), but her attitude always turned me off. (I wasn’t initially a fan of Lacey’s, either, but she grew on me. I saw she had skill. And once I factored her family into it, I realized that was probably the only way she knew to call any positive attention to herself, thus I could discount how abrasive she could be at times. She’s also matured since her SYTYCD year.) What did you think of her?

    Anyway, I would’ve been a bit happier with a Kent win even though I think he’s young and looks rather immature. (Benji also had that thin, dancer’s body but he’d been on a two-year mission to Central America. I knew he was mature no matter what he looked like. And I loved Donyelle Jones, his partner — one of the better female all-around dancers they’ve ever had on this show IMO and I forgot entirely to mention her before.) But I think overall, once Alex was out, Billy was the best athlete and dancer available even though his ballroom was horrible.

    Barb Caffrey

    August 13, 2010 at 4:24 am

    • All I have to say, Barb, is… I was rooting for Alex until he injured himself, then I was rooting for Robert. Couldn’t vote for him last night — tried calling every 10 seconds for a full half hour, then had to give up and go to bed (6:30AM comes early). I always got a busy signal.

      Personally, I thought Kent should’ve been knocked out way early on due to his immaturity and his inability to stop playing with the faces — the “ooo” and “aaah” (say them out loud and you’ll know what I’m talking about, what with the way the lips move). They kept telling him to stop it with the faces, every week, and yet, because he was never in the bottom three (the teen girl vote, I suspect), they couldn’t get rid of him.

      In the final two I was hoping more for Kent to lose than I was for Lauren to win, especially because Robert was knocked out. Had it come down to Kent/Robert or Lauren/Robert, I’d’ve been for Robert all the way. However, and this is a nasty thing to say, If I had had my pick of someone to knock out due to injury instead of Alex, I’d’ve picked Kent to take his place in an instant.

      On a lighter note, what did you think of Ellen — I loved it and got a great laugh.

      William Katzell

      August 13, 2010 at 5:48 am

      • William, Ellen was excellent. I loved it — I could see where they’d had to slow down and dumb down the routine, but it was amazing how well she danced that. Loved her and Twitch. Excellent all the way around. And it was great to see Alex again.

        I agree with you regarding Kent. I think they saw Kent in the same fashion as Benji Schwimmer from season two — but Benji was far more mature due to his two-year Mormon mission to Central America. (He has a charity to help dancers, and helps with a number of Central American charities, too, I believe. Very mature guy, Benji.) Benji also had the nonthreatening vibe going on and that really thin dancer’s body — but because he was a ballroom specialist, he _had_ sex appeal (I almost hate saying that, since he’s young enough to be my son if I had one) and yet it was because he was an outstanding partner — he wasn’t all about himself. Kent had some partnering skills, but mostly seemed all about himself because of his youth, inexperience, and yes, those faces. (Benji had some, too, but once again, in ballroom those faces are necessary. In contemporary dancing and/or jazz dancing, etc., they aren’t.)

        Of the final three, I liked Robert the best, too. He was a bit more mature. And his dancing was more versatile.

        Barb Caffrey

        August 13, 2010 at 8:29 am

    • I don’t remember her from when she was on the show, but as an all-star she’s pretty solid. There were times when her male partner outdanced her (I think it was Alex, maybe Billy… not sure which one) but all in all she wasn’t bad.

      I’ll admit I tuned the show out once Alex was injured. After his hip hop routine with Twitch I thought he had it won.


      August 13, 2010 at 7:06 am

      • I’d agree with you, Jason. Lauren Gottlieb is a versatile dancer but she was outdanced a few times this season — once by Kent, once by Adechike? Or was it Billy?

        At any rate, I agree with you — that hip hop routine with Twitch was excellent. Considering Alex is a ballet dancer by trade, what he did there was astonishing. What a shame he got injured to the point he can’t even tour — another few months of rehab, I believe, before he can even attempt to dance.

        Barb Caffrey

        August 13, 2010 at 8:24 am

  4. BTW, SYTYCD Canada is starting Sunday night, and given the ads, it may well have a bit of a cyberpunk edge to it. Then again, the ads for the Canadian version have always been MUCH edgier than the tame US version. 🙂

    Guess we’re just ahead of the game. >:>

    William Katzell

    August 13, 2010 at 5:51 am

    • I wish we could get SYTYCD Canada here, William. I’ve never figured out a way to watch it regularly — I can follow it here and there by picking up You Tube and the like, but . . . :sigh:

      Does the show air later in the evening in Canada than it does in the US? Because that’s one reason I felt the whole sex appeal thing for Lauren angle was inappropriate — all these pre-teen girls out there who saw Lauren, wanted to _be_ her, and probably wanted to be told they’re the sexiest thing that ever walked without even knowing what they’re asking for or about!

      At any rate, you enjoy SYTYCD Canada. 😉

      Barb Caffrey

      August 13, 2010 at 8:31 am

      • Sunday night at 8pm on CTV (which I can watch in HD), and the auditions are going to be shown every night for the first week and a half:

        * Sunday, August 15 at 9 p.m. ET (two hour premiere) – Toronto Auditions
        * Monday, August 16 at 9 p.m. ET (two hours) – Calgary and Halifax Auditions
        * Tuesday, August 17 at 8 p.m. ET (one hour) – Vancouver Auditions
        * Wednesday, August 18 at 9 p.m. ET (two hours) – Montreal Auditions
        * Thursday, August 19 at 9 p.m. ET (two hours) – Finals Week
        * Sunday, August 22 at 9 p.m. ET (one hour) – Top 20 Reveal
        * Monday, August 23 at 9 p.m. ET (two hours) – Top 20 Performance
        * Tuesday, August 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET (half hour) – Top 20 Results
        CTV Website, Hope this HTML link works, if not, here’s the direct one —

        William Katzell

        August 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm

  5. I have not noticed the ads for SYTYCD Canada yet, but I imagine they are edgier; the programme has always been that bit more so than the US version. It does not normally air at a later hour than the US, at least not here in Ontario, but the audience is more relied on to self-select, IMHO, and little kids would not be encouraged to watch. Looking forward to this year.

    B. Ross Ashley

    August 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    • I am glad that people are aware of the type of program it is, Ross. Here in the US, the lines are more blurred because the contestants are so young (have been the past few years), most of the viewers are very young also, and that’s one of the reasons hearing an 18 year old girl with no real feminine development being the epitome of sexuality is such a failure to define the narrative. Any narrative that makes me by definition suppress what I think makes a real woman (which has nothing to do with how someone looks, mind!) is a major FAIL.

      Barb Caffrey

      August 14, 2010 at 6:30 am

  6. So You Think You Can Dance Canada:

    Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli made it to the end of the Theatre round (third round) in the finals week, and even though he kicked ass, they didn’t let him go on to the 4th round because he’s have to partner someone, and it wouldn’t be fair to either of them.

    I hope they bring him back as a performer during the show proper, as he is a major inspiration.

    William Katzell

    August 20, 2010 at 3:01 am

    • I hope they do, too, William. There have been a few guys like that in the US show who have made it on — Cedric in season two was one, and Ivan in season two was another — though they both could partner adequately. (Just not up to the standards of the others.) What tends to happen to folks like that from the limited sample of six or seven performers (five men, two women by my count since season two of SYTYCD in the US) is that while they become audience favorites for their solos, they don’t last very long due to their lack of ability to partner. (Melinda, the tapper in this past season of SYTYCD in the US, was another such casualty, though if she hadn’t drawn ballroom for both weeks she was on the show she might well have fared better. Not having a ballroom judge was truly detrimental to her — Mary Murphy, had she been on the panel as she usually is, would’ve had a great deal to say about how difficult it is to learn something like that for a tap dancer and would’ve had constructive comments to make as well as the negative ones — more specific negative ones, too — which would’ve assuredly helped Melinda out in the audience vote.)

      Please let me know what happens to Luca. (But since I don’t know what he’s an “inspiration” about, I’d appreciate enlightenment about that, too, if you don’t mind.)

      Barb Caffrey

      August 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      • check out his website for a great deal more information. 🙂

        William Katzell

        August 24, 2010 at 5:36 am

  7. Would help if I type the URL correctly, now wouldn’t. Too mad there’s no edit function here, or a preview function.</a&lt;

    There, that should work better.

    William Katzell

    August 24, 2010 at 5:38 am

  8. Bugger. The system appears to not like me, so i’ll plaintext it and it can choke on it for all I care!

    William Katzell

    August 24, 2010 at 5:39 am

  9. In my opinion, Courney Galliano is the best. Maybe she doesn’t have the profesional like Katee, but she’s atractive which is really enjoy to watch her.
    Love “The Garden” so much! Greatest routine! It’s more rythymcal than contemporary, yet sexier than hiphop

    Linh Trang

    March 22, 2011 at 5:41 am

    • Linh, I like Courtney also. I thought she was a gifted all-around dancer in her season and I’m glad that she’s been one of the “returning favorites” because it’s nice to see her dance some more.

      Barb Caffrey

      August 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

  10. Lauren Froderman earned every win and every fantastic comment. The judges may comment but the callers votes say she was the best of those in the competition. Lauren is humble and she is a peer to her competitors not superior. Everyone has an opinion. Opinions are heard when they don’t involve bringing negative comments to a situation . Appreciation without malice has a much louder voice. And rings true to eternity.


    August 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    • Erica, I don’t think I’ve ever said that Lauren Froderman can’t dance. She can. And she won SYTYCD in her season for the reason that she danced well and had enough votes to win. Nothing wrong with that.

      What bothers me is that the judging panel — something far beyond Lauren F.’s control, to be sure — kept saying that she was the sexiest thing that’s ever walked. That is not true; Lauren F., at the time, was barely 18 if I remember right, and certainly did not have the adult body she’s likely to have once she hits 25. (Or perhaps a bit earlier. This is not new to Lauren F., either. Think about where Lacey Schwimmer’s body was at 18, and where it is now that she’s grown up; Lacey’s body is closer to what I’d call “sexy” because she now has curves. I believe Lacey is a size 6, compared to Lauren F.’s size 0 or perhaps size 2 in her season of SYTYCD.)

      Now, is it Lauren’s fault that she was straight up and down during SYTYCD’s season? Of course not. She was being worked harder than she may have ever worked; she danced for umpteen hours, and that happens.

      Ultimately, Lauren is a worthy winner of her season because she danced well in every discipline she was asked to dance in, and she was popular with the SYTYCD voters. So my argument certainly is not with her — it’s with the SYTYCD judges, who didn’t seem to think her superlative dancing was enough, so instead they had to keep harping on how sexy Lauren supposedly was. (Maybe Lauren’s one of those really charismatic sorts in person, but I’d rather hear that — “Oh, Lauren, your charisma is so exciting to watch!” — than nonsense about how Lauren F., at 18, is supposedly sexier than Tallulah Bankhead or Marilyn Monroe.)

      Barb Caffrey

      August 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm

  11. A few things that really bother me:
    “she’s danced herself to under two percent body fat, no doubt”
    – Do you know what 2% body fat on a female looks like? I’ll give you a hint – most female bodybuilders operate around 8%. Most MEN can’t even get under 4%. She looks like a very fit, athletic, healthy 12 – 15%.

    “she looks like she’s maybe fourteen years of age”
    – If that’s true, then when I was 14, I looked 10. And it took me until I was 21 to look 14. Wow, at 25, I probably still only look 18. She’s 18 and she looks it.

    Yes, the judges went overboard with their praise. But you went WAY overboard with your critique. If your intent is to criticize the judges then do so, but don’t extend that to this young woman’s HEALTHY body. There have been FAR thinner dancers on the show – let Lauren be.


    September 3, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    • I’m aware of what 8% body fat looks like in person. I’ve seen some female athletes with 6% . . . 2% is a bit of an exaggeration, yes, or hyperbole. But my goodness, the way those dancers must work themselves to the bone on SYTYCD — usually there’s a progression of how the dancers look over time. Dancers are already highly tuned athletes, the vast majority of them, especially if they’re aspiring professional dancers or better (as Lauren is; so far she’s gone on to have a good career, and more power to her). But SYTYCD takes it out of you; dancers who are already thin enough lose weight and gain muscle mass. It’s because of the extremely heavy workload.

      I hope you agree with me on that score, at least, that these dancers must work way too hard on SYTYCD. The end result is often breathtaking. But to get there, there’s a lot of pain involved (Lauren got injured in her season and danced through it; fortunately she didn’t have as catastrophic an injury as Alex Wong).

      As for how someone looks on TV — some of that has to do with make-up. Some of it has to do with lighting. And possibly some of it has to do with costuming, too . . . .

      My intent in writing this post was definitely to criticize the judges, yes. (Most definitely.)

      As for anything else, I wrote this over two years ago. Lauren’s gone on to have a good career thus far post-SYTYCD. (Good for her. Some winners don’t; I still don’t know what happened to Sabra Johnson.) She’s working in her field and seems quite happy in it; that’s great, ’cause many creative people work way under what they’re able to do (in art, music, writing, and more), especially in a down economy like this one.

      The important thing for Lauren, if she ever reads this blog (can’t imagine why she would), is to remember that I was upset with the judges. Their hyperbole turned me off, to the point that Lauren’s season was the last time I regularly watched SYTYCD. (I actually voted for Lauren, several times over, because I enjoyed her dancing so much. It was the judges comments I didn’t enjoy. And I think that’s going to be the last thing I say on this particular subject.)

      Barb Caffrey

      September 4, 2012 at 1:30 am

  12. […] course, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I wrote a blog about how I disliked the way the judges framed her win.  (One of my most popular blogs I’ve […]

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    Car News

    November 17, 2012 at 8:35 am

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