I’ve been a dancer all my life – I even have a rather useless degree in it (useless for me, not useless in general)! I’ve experienced coaches putting bottle caps in the heels of my shoes point-end up to ensure I would stay on my toes; I knew girls who had rulers or Popsicle sticks taped to the back of their legs so they stayed straight, and suffered their ballet teacher marking the knees of their (expensive!) tights with a giant red ‘X’ in Sharpie when they didn’t have enough turnout. Being a child dancer is hard, but most kids have no issue putting up with the borderline abusive coaches if it means they not only get to dance but constantly be pushed to reach their potential… and then some.
That’s why I have such mad respect for child dancers, and that’s why I was so stoked to learn this season of So You Think You Can Dance was only auditioning children from ages 8-13.
Since the burst of Dance Moms (which I’ve never watched – the ads alone are too shrill to sit through), I craved a show that highlighted the positives of the dance world over the negatives. Yes, “dance moms” are a real thing, but so are crazy talented kids that stun you with their raw talent every time they take the stage. Unlike what I’ve seen of the repellent Dance Moms, dancers have a strong sense of community I’ve never found anywhere else, perhaps because we all know what it takes to get to where we want to go. That intense feeling of camaraderie and friendly competition has always been very prevalent on SYTYCD, but now it seems the perfect antidote to the poison of Dance Moms has arrived with The Next Generation.
Putting obvious skills aside – anyone can kick their leg behind their head or nail a triple pirouette with hard work and practice – these young dancers have poise and stage presence in a way that cannot be taught; it really is a natural talent. When you find yourself unable to tear your eyes away from a performance, it’s not the technical moves keeping you entranced, it’s the personality and focus of the dancer, and that’s not something you’re going to get through practice alone.
It’s important to remember some of these kids are feeling their first taste of rejection, their first obstacle to achieving their dreams in an industry that is full of ‘no’ more than ‘yes’, which makes getting through to the The Academy – this season’s version of Las Vegas training camp – that much more special.
After 12 seasons of producing All-Stars, I cannot wait to watch the likes of Robert and last year’s winner, Gabbi, team up with, mentor, and dance with these young talents. While I’ll never tire of watching Travis Wall choreograph for already developed dancers, I must say it’s going to be a breath of fresh air to watch him mold and transform kids with so much talent still yet to be discovered.
I sat down with hip-hop superstar, dancer and SYTYCD judge Jason Derulo to chat about the new season:
Sling: Tell me about the new season of So You Think You Can Dance.
Jason Derulo: This season is called ‘Next Generation’, so it’s kids this time. At first, I was a little nervous about it because I felt like I was finally sinking my teeth into last season. I was like, ‘Oh, sh-t, I got this! I’m here now, I’m good!’ but then they switched it up on me. I started to see these kids perform and it was unbelievable – literally jaw-dropping. I danced as a kid but, like, this is some whole other sh-t.
S: This is like angry Russian ballet teacher-level.
JD: 100. But, I think shows like So You Think You Can Dance – actually, So You Think You Can Dance has been one of the reasons why kids are starting super-duper young at an aggressive pace. It’s not the same pace I remember as a dancer as a kid. It’s jaw-dropping, it’s shocking, it’s professional, if not more professional, than a lot dancers I’ve seen in my life. I think people are going to be absolutely shocked when they see it – I know I was.
S: I’m really looking forward to it.
JD: Another great part of the show is a lot of all-stars are coming back and they get to choose who they want to be a part of their team, so it’s going to be a bunch of all-stars going against each other and they’ll get to dance with their team.