"SYTYCD" Season 9: A Ballet Update

It's been a dramatic ride for the ballet dancers on this season of "So You Think You Can Dance" so far. I was thrilled when three—three!—ballet specialists made the Top 20 a few weeks ago: former San Francisco Ballet dancer Daniel Baker, former Los Angeles ballet dancer and Come Fly Away cast member Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, and Joffrey Ballet School-trained Eliana Girard. They were even showcased together in a highly technical piece by Complexions  Contemporary Ballet's Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden. (It wasn't my personal favorite, but anything that gets pointework on national television is fine by me.)

Initially, then, things were looking up for the ballet crew. But from that point on, the men, especially, struggled, and both Daniel and Chehon ended up in the bottom 6 at the end of this week's show. Chehon was saved by the judges; Daniel was sent packing.

With the exception of the phenomenon that is Alex Wong, ballet dancers have always had trouble on "SYTYCD." I think that's partly because audiences just expect more of contestants with strong technical training. Ballet dancers' failures on the show are more pronounced, and their successes less impressive, because audiences set higher standards for them. To be fair, ballet dancers do tend to have a hard time relaxing into other styles. But they're cut a lot less slack in hip hop routines than hip hop dancers are in contemporary routines, for example.

I'll miss Daniel, but here's hoping that Eliana and, in particular, Chehon, make it all the way this season. There's a reason the judges saved Chehon: Not only is a beautiful technician, but I think he also has that ineffable "it" factor. He just needs to stick around long enough (and stay away from the samba long enough!) for everyone to realize it.

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Join Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet for Its 2020 Virtual Symposium

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