The Surprising Appeal of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

I still, to this day, have never seen an episode of “American Idol.” Not even a third of an episode. Not even a five-minute segment while channel-surfing. This has left me out of many a water cooler conversation over the past decade. But no matter: Despite the perverse schadenfreude of watching people fail on television, I simply could never bring myself to sit through any reality show, competition or otherwise.

That is, until my better half introduced me to the Fox phenomenon “So You Think You Can Dance,” whose national tour arrives at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday. When I interviewed the show’s co-creator and chief judge, Nigel Lythgoe, this past January, he acknowledged that my conversion was not uncommon: Men get into “So You Think You Can Dance” largely through wives and girlfriends, he said.

I began to watch the show begrudgingly, my karmic payback for forcing my girlfriend to sit through any number of pretentious, impenetrable European art films. But it wasn’t long until I was hooked: Trying to predict outcomes, crying foul over judges’ erroneous calls, sinking my head when a top performer disappoints, even scouring the show’s Facebook page for reactions. What had I become?

It would be a drastic overstatement to claim that “So You Think You Can Dance” is a competition show for people who hate competition shows. But, despite its inordinately large fan base of adolescent girls, I’d like to think the show is more highbrow than its kin – like “America’s Got Talent” or “Dancing With the (Semi) Stars.” There is much to admire in this series beyond the race to “America’s favorite dancer:” The outstanding dance routines, created by professional choreographers, regularly score Emmy nominations and wins for their wit, originality and often tear-stained emotional impact, and the panel of judges provide lucid, informed, comical and sometimes compellingly bizarre commentary and feedback (Not to mention the show has always been kind to South Florida. The winner of season five, Jeanine Mason, hails from Miami, and season seven boasted two top South Florida performers: Lantana contemporary dancer Billy Bell and Miami b-boy Jose Ruiz).

To most “intellectuals,” my love for “So You Think You Can Dance” would be the definition of a guilty pleasure, something of which I should not speak at theater openings and gallery parties. Perhaps there was a time when I’d be so concerned about my perceived hipness that I would heed this advice. Now I shout it to the rafters: “So You Think You Can Dance” is a great show.

But no, I still don’t plan on ever watching “American Idol.” Unless my girlfriend gets into it.

The “So You Think You Can Dance” live tour will be at the AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $37.50 to $55. Call 786/777-1250.