This week you have seen a lot of headlines about Channing Tatum and whether he is dumb and whether he likes gazing into the eyes of Matt Bomer and whether his hot be-sweatpanted action is a force for cultural good (it is), but you have not heard enough about the wonder that is Stephen “tWitch” Boss.
Let me tell you about Stephen “tWitch” Boss. tWitch is like if there was a show about Coach Erik Taylor in his youth, except instead of a football player Eric Taylor was a street dancer and instead of a show it was THE ACTUAL WORLD. tWitch is like you’re twelve and you’re on the bus to summer camp and one of the grown up dude counselors is really really nice to you, but not in a gross lechy way. tWitch is like if your boyfriend is Jimmy Page and Jimmy is totally not above learning Indigo Girls songs so he can play them for you. tWitch would dance with your grandmother, even if he didn’t know you or your grandmother. tWitch is not even your boyfriend, probably, but his beating heart makes your beating heart go thump thump thump.
tWitch was, six years ago, a finalist on a show called So You Think You Can Dance, a show that sets out to find “America’s Favorite Dancer.” tWitch was not America’s favorite dancer. He was America’s second favorite dancer, which if I’m honest seems about right. I’m not sure that tWitch is even my favorite dancer. He is just: my favorite.
Here is him losing:
Now think about a world in which you’re Stephen “tWitch” Boss and you don’t win the bad TV show, but you keep at it, and you keep at it, and you do a lot of random dance things and you dance with Ellen and reappear as a SYTYCD “All Star” and you keep just being a straight up solid guy, who is hot and talented, and then six years later you’re the like not quite central dancer in Magic Mike XXL. Six years later, you’re still not the favorite. But you are still dancing.
PEOPLE: this is the actual world in which we live, in which this good good stuff has happened to this good good guy.
tWitch became my favorite in the SYTYCD season four audition process. Here’s why: the camera caught him in an exhausted post-performance moment and he said, pantingly, “If I didn’t make this I was going to join the Navy.”
Now, this may or may not have been true, but it struck me with a kind of awful force. It’s not that joining the Navy is a bad thing to do — I’m from the rural Midwest, and I know that the military is a solid, ambitious option; also, I mean, the navy is hot — but what a statement about the world, about dance, that you could be this talented, this hard working, this charismatic, and just have to put it all away to go march in a line.
Dance isn’t very forgiving. Even when you win, you don’t go very far. But it is very wonderful to me, very magical, that Stephen “tWitch” Boss has persisted in being talented and hard working and warm, and made a life of that.
So in honor of tWitch’s MAJOR MOTION PICTURE weekend, I would like to revisit some of my favorite tWitch SYTYCD moments. They are hard to capture if you don’t watch the show, because SYTYCD is, like all reality TV, a profoundly narrative driven experience: what’s important to the dance routines is not just the dancing itself, but watching the dancers evolve as characters; watching them do the thing they couldn’t do last week, watching them connect with this dancer the way they couldn’t with that other one. But here we go anyway.
1: Here is tWitch auditioning. This is brilliant. In a show that really fetishized, still but particularly in its early seasons, an aggressive mode of black masculinity, tWitch distinguished himself by heart, and by humor. Note also his baby face and that he is wearing these baggy clothes! Now he’s all abs and shoulders.
2: Here is Mia Michaels, the most awesome of SYTYCD’s early choreographers, lying on a pillow with tWitch asking him to be vulnerable. This is kind of gross but it is also so so smart of Mia, who liked tWitch I am sure and knew how much people would eat this shit up. This is, to my mind, a major entry into the long standing literary genre (think Last of the Mohicans, think Hobomok, think Hancock) of thwarted cross-racial love.
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