From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Writing Lessons from Melanie and Sasha: The SYTYCD Finale

So, in case you didn't already know, I'm a little bit (meaning a lot) into So You Think You Can Dance. While last nights finale wasn't as stellar as it could have been, Sasha and Melanie are still incredible, brilliant and inspiring. And therefore, I think worthy of learning from.

I watch these girls and can't help but wish I could do what they're doing, and want to be able to develop the dances like some of the ones these incredible choreographers create. However else you want to put it, they are telling stories. Since I'm obviously not a dancer or choreographer, I have to take that spark and put it in another direction. Like writing. Both of them are so emotionally invested in every move they make that I don't think the audience can help but feel inspired.

Last week Christina Applegate said of Sasha that while many dancers are technically perfect, she doesn't care, whereas Sasha puts a hand against a wall and it breaks our hearts. Doesn't that apply to writing? We can know all the stylistic rules, have perfect grammar, and still leave our reader feeling cold. There's a reason we have the expression "bleeding onto the page." If we don't put our whole selves into every word, the reader can tell. Even if the words are picked perfectly, if they can tell that we don't care, they won't either. Both Melanie and Sasha care. Boy do they care.

Both girls talk a lot about drawing on experience to really reach that emotional connection too. Even if you haven't gone through anything close to what your characters have or are going through, we still all have experience with a huge range of emotions that enables us to understand. And we have to be willing to draw on that, even if it's painful and we feel vulnerable.

I talk about being vulnerable a lot on this blog, but these girls prove that it is key. Not only does it allow the emotional connection any good art requires, but I think it helps us increase in variety as well. Because both Melanie and Sasha are willing to reach into their deepest selves and hide nothing, they are able to create everything from vultures and moving statues to fifties housewives. We can do that in our writing too, if we're willing to dig and be honest.

So I'm going to leave you with my favorite Sasha dance and favorite Melanie dance. The one from Sasha I posted here not too long ago, but it's more than worth posting again (and the old video got removed anyway). The Melanie one is about a friend coming to the support of another friend who got abandoned at the altar and is finally realizing that the person they love has been there for them the whole time. And it is...well, just watch.

First Sasha and Twitch:

And Melanie and Marko:

I'm just now realizing that these are both lyrical hip-hop from Napoleon and Tabitha...probably not a coincidence. Now that we've lost Mia Michaels (grrrrr), they and Travis Wall are becoming my favorites. Anyway, I hope you'll forgive the dance talk and I hope you will soak in the emotional lessons these girls are giving. Thoughts?

Sarah Allen


  1. I'm right there with you. Every time I see Melanie dance, I wish I could write like that. Every movement, every breath matters. Nothing seems extraneous or over the top. It's so genuine and emotional, and I love the story she takes us on every time she dances.

  2. I've never watched the show, although I hear it's pretty good! What I love about dance (or any form of art) is that you can't just do the moves. You have to have emotions and passion behind it for the story to have real meaning. I guess this applies to writing too, huh?

    Writing Through College

  3. I'm with you all the way. I felt so inspired after last weeks performance I rushed into the office and wrote 2000 words. Haven't watched the finale yet since I was out all night...

  4. Great post. I totally agree with you. I was so inspired by Sasha and Melanie throughout the season and am thrilled that one of them won. :)


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