For those of you who've never watched “So You Think You Can Dance,” you will probably not know who Mary Murphy is. And for those who have watched the show in the past, you might wonder why I choose to endorse a woman who is sometimes so loud and abrasive that her fellow judges must cover their ears for fear of losing their eardrums. Well, the answer is very simple…she has a passion for dance that is infectious.
And that is coming from someone who hated having to sit through Ballets and Dance Concerts when I was growing up. Not that I didn’t like to dance myself, but I didn’t really have an appreciation for the kind of control and strength a real dancer must have to perform such feats. In fact, it wasn’t until I started seriously working out and lifting weights in my twenties that I began to realize that dancers were sometimes more athletic in their movements than the more macho football and baseball players.
And that is what I find so fascinating about “So You Think You Can Dance.” The dancers are constantly thrown curveballs and new dance styles, and difficult choreographers (like Mia Michaels), and to see them succeed against unimaginable odds is like watching a really good Olympic competition. And some of the dance pieces are quite awe-inspiring. (And again, this from someone who never really appreciated the art of dance until a few years ago.)
Which brings us back to Mary Murphy. When I first caught the show while flipping channels several years ago, I thought it was just another pointless talent competition without much merit or credibility. Then, the next year I happened to catch another episode during the audition process, and was suddenly sucked into the behind-the-scenes stories of the dancers—their tragedies, hopes, dreams, etc. What can I say? I was hooked after that. And yet I still found one of the judges, Mary Murphy, to be quite obnoxious with all her yelling and cheering and constant use of catch phrases.
But as I began watching the show on a more regular basis, I began to warm up to Ms. Murphy because I realized how much she really cares about the people she is judging. Unlike some of the other guest judges on the show, who seem to get off on putting people down or showing off their arrogant intelligence, Mary has compassion and empathy for the dancers. She cries when she is emotionally touched by a dance number, or cheers when she is excited about a dancer’s progress. And you can see from the dancer’s faces how much they value her opinion and favor. She is like a big Mother Hen who coaches and cajoles her little offspring so they can eventually fly off on their own, as prepared as they can be for the cruel reality of a career in the arts.
And just when you think you can’t be shocked any more by the things that come out of her mouth, she suddenly blurted out a few weeks ago that “I can’t look surprised any more because the botox took care of that.” It was such an honest and revealing statement that I think it even caught her by surprise…as evidenced by how hard she laughed for the next few minutes (As did everyone else in the audience). But that’s how Mary is. She can be a tough critic when she thinks a dancer isn’t trying hard enough, or living up to their potential. But when someone succeeds with a genre they’ve never done before, or makes incredible progress as a dancer from week to week, she is the first to offer her praise and congratulations. And that’s why I love Mary Murphy. She’s a cheerleader for the underdog as well as the professional. As long as someone steps up to the plate, she is there to cheer you on. And don’t we all need a little more of that these days?
But that’s just me. What’s your take on Mary Murphy or “So You Think You Can Dance”?