During the summer, the only show I watch is So You Think You Can Dance (on Fox). I love the show for two reasons, 1) it feeds my fantasy about being dancer and 2) it gives me the opportunity to cheer on the underdog. Every season, the person who wins is not the person who had years of training in a prestigious school with a prestigious teacher. Nope. The winner is someone who 1) has sparkling personality, 2) has grown the most over the season, and 3) dances almost at the same caliber as the prestigious dancer.
The well trained dancers receive contracts (I have no doubts), but they don’t win votes from the studio or viewing audience. Why? Maybe we don’t like well trained dancers? Nah, that can’t be it. People pay big money to see Broadway productions. Maybe people can’t tell the difference between the classically trained and the newbie? Nah, that ain’t it either. All of my friends see the difference. It is SO obvious. Maybe people just feel sorry for them? No. Typically all of the contestants have a sad story . . . or at least the producers spin a sad story. So WHY do people run to the phone and vote for the person who is just a shade (or two) imperfect? Come a little closer and I will give you my humble opinion. I believe there is a fundamental difference between the two. That difference is VERY real and impacts how consumers feel and how they vote and what they buy. The difference? The TYPE of connection they make with the audience.
When I watch the well trained dancers, I “oh” and “ah” and applaud. I feel satisfied, breathless even. They transport me to another time and place. Yet, they’re an object to admire from afar, an agent for escape. I think about the height of a jump, the fluidity of movement, the position of a foot. In short, I notice the brilliance of the work. When I watch the polished person with a smidge of imperfection I notice all those things I mentioned above and something else. Something unique. I notice THEM and ME. I see them in the dance. I imagine what it feels like to move like them. I imagine what it feels like to stand on point. I am entertained and participate in the experience. The person is real. I am real. The connection feels real.
My brilliant friend says one is an expert the other an entertainer. If you use those two words, the meaning of the prefix to each word, affirms the difference: ex = out, from; en = entry. One is exclusive, the other inclusive. I am Not saying the entertainer can never be an expert. After years of dancing, they most certainly will know the craft, be an expert. However, I argue they will maintain a roughness, a rawness because that is what captured attention. And people will always want to see it.
I believe the parallel can be seen in the writing world. Some writers are brilliant story tellers. Their words practically float from the page and curl into your soul. You notice the story and the elements creating it. You admire. And there are writers who are brilliant story tellers with a hint of imperfection. They take you along for the ride. You remember your first kiss. You remember the time your car broke down on the side of the road. You participate. You feel connected.
Neither type of dancer or writer is better than the other. There is a place for both. There is a reason for both. And you can learn from both.