Their entertainment niche used to have as much public prestige as the inconspicuous “best boy” at the end of a movie’s credits.
But now, choreographers are becoming recognized celebrities.
Attribute it largely to “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Fox reality TV competition that recently entered its fifth season.
The show, which aims to find ‘America’s Favorite Dancer’, is riding a wave of popularity strong enough to make producers order an unprecedented fall season.
The draw? There’s the entertainment value, combined with how the show introduces viewers to new music and attracts guest stars. (Actress Katie Holmes is rumored to perform this season.)
Just as important, however, is the fact that “SYTYCD” spotlights its choreographers just as much as its dancers.
The competition has generated a fascination with the minds behind the movement.
Need proof? On the night of the show’s season five debut, Sonya Tayeh — an edgy “SYTYCD” choreographer who flaunts a mohawk — was one of the most searched names on Google.
Hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks, who returned to “SYTYCD” this season after a brief absence, said the competition has potential to draw mainstream attention to faces formerly unseen outside the dance world.
“I think ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ is probably the most innovative show to show the creativity of a choreographer,” said Sparks, who also judges “America’s Best Dance Crew” on MTV.
Thanks to the show’s influence, Sparks envisions a future reality series that will focus entirely on a competition between choreographers. It’s hard to attract that interest in, say, the vocal coaches on “American Idol.”
In addition to Sparks and Tayeh, the show features choreographers like Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo, the lyrical hip-hop duo some fans collectively call “NapTab.” Last summer, the pair hosted TLC’s “Rock the Reception,” a reality show where they taught engaged couples dances to surprise their wedding guests.
“SYTYCD” also includes well-known choreographers like Mandy Moore, Wade Robson, Tyce Diorio and Mia Michaels — who is known for her eclectic contemporary routines, as well as her often harsh criticism.
This season, “Dancing with the Stars” pro Louis van Amstel joined the “SYTYCD” choreographers’ lineup.
“SYTYCD” holds an advantage over rivals like “Dancing with the Stars” since its performers are experienced dancers and featured genres extend beyond ballroom.
Most of the show’s dances tell stories, even weird ones like a Tim Burton-inspired wedding. They can attract a strong emotional audience response, sometimes tears.
“That’s magic and that’s beauty and it needs to be respected,” Sparks said of the show’s artistic power.
Then, there is the other common audience response: a newfound interest in dancing.
The reality TV dance phenomenon’s focus on expert choreography offers instant instruction to people who want to enter the entertainment industry.
“They’re getting free dance lessons,” Sparks said.