happy birthday sytycd.

Tonight is the 10th anniversary special celebrating the very first episode of So You Think You Can Dance, which aired on July 21, 2005. While Gilmore Girls and Harry Potter defined my childhood (like every 20 year old smart girl, blah blah) So You Think You Can Dance  defined my teen summers.

I actually have VHS tapes somewhere of episodes that aired before DVR was a thing in my town, and for a few years religiously attended the live dance concert that the top ten contestants from each season toured around the country.

However intensely I followed the show for years, the second season (and the first one I watched) has always been my favorite. Here are my top five dances from that year, which I can’t believe was nine years ago now:

Ramalama Bang Bang

The Bench Dance

Cell Block Tango

Sexyback

Bye Bye Blackbird

rip mr. reed.

Today I found out that one of my old tap teachers, Prof. Robert L. Reed, has passed away. I haven’t been a part of the dance world in years – a catastrophic ankle injury at 15 meant it was easier to quit than do the level of PT and training necessary to ever get back to where I was before I was injured – but his passing hit me really hard today.

Mr. Reed and I in class when I was 11 or 12, me in the yellow tank top (I thought I was really fat here).
Mr. Reed and I in class when I was 11 or 12, me in the yellow tank top (I thought I was really fat here).

Mr. Reed’s St. Louis Tap Festival was a life line for me and other hoofers from Missouri to the best tap training in the country and access to first hand tap history from the founders of the art form. I got to meet people like Dr. Jimmy Slyde and take class from Marion Coles, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Dr. Ernest Brown, Bril Barrett, Karen Callaway-Williams, Avi Miller and Ofer Ben, Mr. Reed himself, and countless others who have shaped the tap world, all because of Mr. Reed’s commitment to sharing the history and living legacy of tap with the next generation.

Mr. Reed taught me the shim sham, how to do wings, how to “respect the dance” as he always put it. He never put up with any bullshit in class, and would call you out on your mistakes, so when he pointed out something you did well you knew he really meant it. I think the St. Louis Tap Festival was the most valuable dance training I got as a young person trying to make it in the dance world.

And one more story. Mr. Reed always wore this really distinctive smelling cologne, and by the end of the week at Tap Fest, both classrooms and the lobby area always totally smelled like this scent he wore. I don’t know how to describe the smell at all, but even though it permeated through everything it wasn’t strong or overbearing at all. Every so often now I’ll be on the train or walking through a crowd and will catch a whiff of some man wearing that same cologne, and am instantly taken back to the hours and hours I spent dancing and watching others dance in those freezing cold rooms at St. Louis Tap Festival.

Rest in power, rest in rhythm, rest in peace, Mr. Reed.

“May the tap gods be with you, and always remember RESPECT THE DANCE. Go in rhythm.”

Mr. Reed’s family is asking for donations through GoFundMe to help pay for his funeral costs.