Last night concluded what I often jokingly (perhaps not so jokingly) refer to as my “summer life.” So You Think You Can Dance is a program that just finished up its fifth season last night, and I’ve been watching ever since day one all the way back in 2005. Sometimes, it feels strange that it’s already been that long. Many people, myself included, applaud and credit Mr. Nigel Lythgoe on his amazing vision and bringing the world of dance into the modern American household. So You Think You Can Dance now airs as a “spin-off” in many countries, including Norway, Malaysia, Australia, and Germany.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, So You Think You Can Dance began in July of 2005. It has a similar premise to that of American Idol. In fact, at first glance, the two seem almost a bit too much alike. However, where American Idol brings a lifestyle of glamor and riches to the next “big star” as chosen by mass voting across the country, So You Think You Can Dance winners are not often such wealthy or well-known after their season ends. These winners are dancers, and the life of a dancer is not long-lived or often well-known outside of their own world. Producer Nigel Lythgoe is slowly but surely changing all of that. In five years, the show has already come away with three Emmy awards for “Outstanding Choreography.”
I must admit that season 4 of the show was fairly disappointing to me. I didn’t find that passion, that drive, that sense of wonder that I usually feel in watching the show much at all last year. So I was slightly skeptical about this season. Little did I know what was in store for me. a 29-year-old ballerina named Melissa Sandvig stole my heart. Without going into too much detail, I used to dance myself, though I am no longer able. I always have a soft spot for ballerinas and for tap-dancers. And Melissa’s dancing was absolutely beautiful. I was extremely disheartened when she was eliminated one week before the finale.
However, another woman, much younger than Mrs. Sandvig, sneaked up on me this year. Her name: Jeanine Mason. And last night, Jeanine Mason, at the tender age of eighteen years old, was crowned “America’s Favorite Dancer” in a landslide record-breaker of a finale taking in over 21 million votes.
Jeanine Mason was born on January 14th, 1991 in Miami, Florida. She has been dancing since the tender age of three, and has admitted that when she was younger, it was her mother that had to push her to dance. She often rebelled against that push, but last night, with tears in her eyes, she thanked her mother for pushing her so hard. It was a very tender moment, one that made the fangirlish squeal that erupted from my lungs at the announcement of her victory seem completely worthwhile. She began her training in ballet and lyrical and has moved on to receive formal training in hip-hop, contemporary, modern, jazz, and acrobatics. Mason previously had plans to attend the University of California in Los Angelos to study Journalism. (Though perhaps after last night, she’ll be adjusting her thinking just a hair.)
Looking back, Jeanine was a rocket right out of the gate. Her first performance was a hip-hop routine that blew me out of the water the second time I saw it in action. Over the season, she only improved, pushing herself to new heights. She fought out of the bottom two couples a number of times, pushing harder and higher each time she was faced with defeat.
From the bottom of my heart, I congratulate you, Jeanine Mason. If by some remote chance you read this someday, you can never fully understand how deeply you touch my heart and soul when you dance. (I should probably stop now before I get myself crying…)