So we thought she could dance

The last word about dads on Father's Day

Ah, Ryan, you left us too soon! Yes, sadly, on the July 14
elimination edition of FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” Top 12
dancer and Morgan Hill’s hometown girl, Ryan Ramirez, was the
judges’ pick to leave the competition.
Ah, Ryan, you left us too soon! Yes, sadly, on the July 14 elimination edition of FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” Top 12 dancer and Morgan Hill’s hometown girl, Ryan Ramirez, was the judges’ pick to leave the competition.

Could you believe how fast those judges reversed their opinions? I mean, in the beginning this girl had them at “Hello!” Formerly marveling at her abilities, the judging landscape certainly changed on her last competition night. Producer and regular judge Nigel Lythgoe said Ryan was “overdoing” her second routine (a cha-cha) while ballroom dance expert Mary Murphy indicated the routine was too fast (umm…she was in time with the music) and that Ryan’s feet were “sloppy.” 

WHAT? Was this the same leggy, 19-year-old beauty that had been the judges’ darling? Where was the love? Alas, the judges’ collective memories had faded, apparently, and Ryan and SYTYCD parted company.

When I learned that Ryan had come “this close” to making it on the show last year, I prayed she’d be back. And she was. She danced her heart out, and I was glued to the screen, watching her star rise.

I love it that these days there is a venue for aspiring young performers. Like FOX’s “American Idol,” the opportunity to be “discovered” is out there for the taking. If you’ve got the talent, it no longer requires a move to Los Angeles or New York and years of living on a shoestring, hoping for that “big break.”

Ryan’s love for dance is, for me, a dejà vu kind of thing. Like Ryan, I was a dancer. At age 4, way before SYTYCD took auditions on the road all over the United States, my mother propelled me into dance classes. By the time I was 12, I was assisting a busy and talented dance instructor in my hometown. And by age 16, I’d opened my own studio in the basement of our home. In between teaching I studied dance. My specialties were jazz and tap. And although I loved ballet and pointe, they didn’t love me back. I sustained serious knee injuries that plague me to this day.

The thing about dance is that it gets you at a cellular level. Hear a number with a rocking beat or ethereal beauty, and a dancer has to move. Therefore, SYTYCD brings to me the emotion and passion for dance that I felt as a kid. To let your body move with the kind of abandon that shuts out everything else – that’s what dance is. Along with some aches and pains of course. Bloody feet. Strained muscles. The whole shebang.

It seems that a lot more kids are dancing today than when I was their age. And thankfully the old stigmas are gone that accompanied dancing with no inhibition. Back in the day, jazz was a little too, well … sexy. And if you were dancing jazz in high school, it could lead to – egad! – a “reputation.” As an inherently shy girl, I was horrified that my public performances in summer theater and talent shows were getting me noticed – but not always in a good way. In my Colorado hometown in the ’60s, I had raised a few eyebrows.

Then, in my junior year, two new dance instructors came to town that very nearly changed my life. Retired from Broadway, they were incredible dancers – and a bit of a scandal. Keith Willis and Marjorie Dean, a couple living together with different last names, caused quite a buzz among our prim-and-proper mothers. And when Mr. Willis appeared before our moms bare-chested in body-hugging tights and led our class through some rather intriguing jungle movement interpretations … well, you can imagine the gossip.

But one magical weekend, the couple brought to our city a famous friend they knew professionally. He was coming to observe the dance students at the studio as well as providing a day of instruction for us. Nico Charisse was the former husband and dance instructor of mega-dancer-celebrity Cyd Charisse. Mr. Charisse spotted me that weekend, and he let it be known that he would mentor me if I moved to the West Coast when I turned 18.

I’d like to be able to say I took him up on that offer, but I did not. Although I did land in California at 18, I moved here because I wanted to marry a young Navy man I’d met from San Francisco. As an 18-year-old girl, I was woefully shortsighted in terms of my future and the natural talent with which I’d been blessed. Therefore, I let that gift go forever.

So, Ryan, I hope we’ll see you dancing again soon. Keep working, and remember you’ve been blessed with the rarest of gifts. Alas, a dancer’s career is brief; for you, I hope it’ll be a brilliant one.

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