Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Musing about Three Former SYTYCD Champions

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I thought tonight, especially as I’m under the weather (see previous blog post), I’d look up a few former “So You Think You Can Dance” champions and see what’s going on with them.

First, I looked up season seven winner Lauren Froderman.  She’s been extremely active in the dance world with convention appearances (she dances and teaches), is a student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and was an All-Star dancer during season eight of SYTYCD.

If you put Lauren Froderman’s name into any search engine, you’ll find all sorts of notes about her, from YouTube videos to convention appearances.  One thing’s for certain — she’s energetic, she loves to dance, and she is a great ambassador for the sport.

As for season two winner Benji Schwimmer, I’ve seen him pop up from time to time on television, mostly due to guest appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” (with his sister and DWTS pro, Lacey).  But he, too, has remained active; one of his most high-profile performances was in Washington, D.C., in 2011 with the United States Air Force Band, along with season three winner Sabra Johnson and season one finalist Jamile McGee.  And like Ms. Froderman, it’s very easy to see Mr. Schwimmer in action; just put his name into any search engine, and all sorts of videos of his dancing will show up.**

Season three winner Sabra Johnson is a bit harder for a non-dancer like myself to find out information about, but she also appears to have remained active in the sport and continues to dance and teach.

More about these champions is available at this link . . . that should give you some idea as to what these dancers have been up to lately.


Now to the personal observations.  I enjoyed watching season two of SYTYCD mostly because Benji Schwimmer’s story was extremely compelling; here’s this guy who came back from a two-year Mormon mission, nearly didn’t make the show, then wins the whole, frickin’ thing because of his excellent ballroom dancing skills and his obvious joy whenever he danced.  Astonishing.  (And his sweet friendship with fellow contestant Donyelle Jones certainly didn’t hurt, either.)

Season three was interesting to me mostly because I enjoyed watching Lacey Schwimmer and Danny Tidwell (both finalists; Danny T. came in second), but I also enjoyed Sabra Johnson’s dancing and personal story.  Sabra didn’t start dancing until age sixteen; she took to it like a house on fire, and her joy and expressive movement was contagious.

As for season eight, I really liked Alex Wong, but he got injured.  Lauren Froderman was the last female contestant standing, and she outlasted all of the men to win; she’s enthusiastic, bubbly, and mastered all the dance styles she was assigned.

Of 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 ever written for a strange reason; most of the commentators, especially the recent ones, think I was way too harsh when it came to Lauren Froderman.)  It’s important to note that I never disliked her or her dancing.  (How could I?  I’m astonished by what all of these dancers can do, as dance is decidedly not my talent.)  But I definitely disliked the judges.

Mostly, I follow dance because it’s a creative art, it’s a good way for extremely athletic, talented sorts to express themselves, and as a musician, I enjoy seeing what visual artists like dancers can do to bring out the music.  I think all three of these winners are creative, talented, and worked very hard for their respective wins.

It’s good to know that they’ve all continued in the sport — granted, it’s been longer since Benji Schwimmer won (six years), or Sabra Johnson won (five years), than Lauren Froderman (two years).  But to see all the different references to the conventions Lauren F. has danced/taught at, or all of the videos available on YouTube that feature her, it’s obvious that she deeply enjoys dance and is very, very good at it; she appears to have the energy of any three other dancers, and seems like the type of person who is likely to succeed at anything she tries.

It’s far easier for me to empathize with someone like Benji Schwimmer, who had some ups and downs before he finally hit it big, or Sabra Johnson, due to her late start and compelling personal story, than it is with Lauren Froderman — I’ll readily admit that.  But every dancer has to audition; that means every dancer must face rejection no matter how good he or she is or how well he or she knows the choreography.

And that part I can empathize with Lauren F. about, because as a musician, I’ve been there.  (Many times.)  While musicians don’t have to worry about choreography, we do have to worry about interpretation, how well we sight-read new music, and how quickly we can pick up parts, so there’s at least some cognates there to how quickly any given dancer can pick up the choreography for any given piece.

See, that’s what every SYTYCD winner or finalist has shown he or she can do — these people have the ability to pick up choreography fast, then learn the pieces so well that it seems like they’ve been dancing them all their lives.  That’s a rare and special talent, one that very few people have, and it should be embraced.

That’s why it’s good to know that all three of these former champions have continued on with their dancing.  They’re doing what they can to give others some of the infectious joy they have when they dance by teaching, choreographing other dance routines, or performing.  And that’s great.

In other words — they know they’re talented.  They’re using their talents accordingly.  And they’re still in demand.

To quote Lawrence Welk: “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!”  (Though of course it sounded like “wunnerful, wunnerful, wunnerful.”)

**And yes, before anyone asks, I know that Benji Schwimmer came out as gay earlier this year.  (So what?  This impacts his dancing how, again?  But I do feel for him and his struggles as a gay man who was raised as a Mormon.  He’s since left that faith.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 23, 2012 at 12:31 am

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