A reporter I used to work with had a theory: In every story, there's a Wisconsin connection. That wisdom held true Tuesday night during the Milwaukee stop of "So You Think You Can Dance" tour at the Bradley Center.
The show opened with a video montage of the past season's auditions, as well as a recorded message from show executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe, who identified his "top five" favorite auditions.
You guessed it; two of them were from Milwaukee. One was the quirky and unpolished Ashley, the other a "mystery contestant" who performed to "It's Raining Men." Milwaukee always makes its mark.
The live show continued as a translation of the weekly TV show -- without the competition element -- replete with "fan favorite" numbers and solos. Live is always better, right? Not in this case. A few things worked against the effort to bring the small screen to a live venue.
First, there's a certain momentum you expect in a live show. Typically, there's a warm-up, a build-up and a climax. "So You Think You Can Dance," with its "variety show" style of featuring dances ranging from the foxtrot to Bollywood ensemble numbers, offers no real beginning, middle or end. It's a series of numbers strung together.
Additionally, the cavernous Bradley Center stole the intimacy a viewer enjoyed from the TV show. Yes, I said intimacy from TV. Watching dance on TV brings the dancers directly in front of the viewers' eyes. You see emotion on faces, details of technique. On a massive stage, the details get lost. There was no better example than the "Adam & Eve" number performed by Jessica and Will. It smoldered on the TV show; it fizzled at the B.C.
Also, some of the dancers seemed to be lacking a "fire in the belly." Perhaps the grueling nature of a national tour is to blame. Perhaps it's the lack of competition and the hunger it fosters; these dancers already duked it out during the previous season, after all.
The missing fire, however, worked to the advantage of the true performers who really delivered during the live show, including Gev, Chelsie, Comfort and Twitch.
Speaking of competition, the top female dancer, Katee, was unable to perform in the Milwaukee show because of an injury. Her presence was missed, especially in the Bollywood number where she shined during the TV season.
Despite any "lost in translation" issues, the live show seemed to be a crowd pleaser. The "Nutcracker" routine from Top Male Dancer Joshua and Twitch brought most of the B.C. audience to its feet. Favorite dancers earned roaring applause and a few shouts of "I love you, insert dancer's name here." And the merch table in the lobby became swarmed by ‘tweens eager to scoop up "SYTYCD" hoodies and wristbands.
The tour continues with about 20 more shows, wrapping up in mid-November in Florida.
Velia Tarnoff counts among the loves of her life her daughter, her husband, her friends, writing, developing theories, dancing, live music, Southern California, black coffee and red wine. She's happiest when she can put as many of those together as possible. WWith more than 20 years of experience as a radio reporter and public relations professional, Velia is a natural communicator who loves to hear stories, to share stories and to tell it like it is.
Velia earned her B.A. from the UW School of Journalism and is thankful for every moment she spent on that wonderfully wacky campus.
And, in the interest of full disclosure, Velia is the wife of OnMilwaukee.com Publisher Andy Tarnoff.