Danc­ing lessons

Dance judge Matt Lee reck­ons view­ers are fi­nally get­ting the hang of things, writes Sally Ben­nett

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WHEN there’s one per­son left stand­ing at the end of So You Think You Can Dance, fans of the show can give them­selves a pat on the back.

Judge Matt Lee says the view­ers, now so much wiser about the tech­ni­cal as­pects of dance, will have made the right de­ci­sion.

Last year, ap­par­ently, we didn’t have a clue and kept vot­ing to boot off supreme tal­ent.

‘‘I was shocked each week. I couldn’t be­lieve it,’’ Lee says.

‘‘There was one point where the best three girls in the com­pe­ti­tion were in the bot­tom and us judges had to pick one to leave.

‘‘This year, I think the Aus­tralian pub­lic have def­i­nitely got it right.

‘‘They’ve re­ally got them­selves ed­u­cated on dance. They’ve taken our com­ments on board, they’ve learnt from the first se­ries and they’ve been pretty spot-on.’’

As the real ex­pert, Lee’s money is on Char­lie Bart­ley (hip hop) or Talia Fowler (bal­let) to take first prize in Sun­day’s fi­nale.

They’re up against Ben Veitch So You Think You Can Dance Aus­tralia, PG Chan­nel 10, Sun­day, 7.30pm Dance con­test, fi­nal Du­ra­tion: 2 hours (jazz) and Amy Camp­bell (con­tem­po­rary) — the last four sur­vivors from an orig­i­nal field of 20 fi­nal­ists.

The Fab Four gave their last per­for­mances on Sun­day night and will be tor­tur­ously cut from four to one dur­ing the fi­nal show. Vot­ing lines are open all week.

‘‘There’s a lot of ex­cite­ment and nerves,’’ Lee says.

‘‘All of the top four have done out­stand­ing work. I couldn’t be hap­pier with who’s stand­ing there.

‘‘I think it will prob­a­bly be be­tween Char­lie and Talia. Char­lie’s pop­u­lar­ity is out of con­trol and he has the tal­ent as well.

‘‘And I think Talia be­cause she’s prob­a­bly shown the most ver­sa­til­ity — from be­ing a bal­let dancer to stretch her­self across all those other dance gen­res.’’

It’s been a wild ride for Lee, who’s be­come a re­al­ity TV-favourite since land­ing a key role on SYTYCD.

At 28, he brings youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance to the job, adopt­ing a pumpthem-up ap­proach to his cri­tiques.

‘‘I think Aus­tralians are bored with see­ing tal­ent torn to shreds on TV,’’ he says.

‘‘The nov­elty is over. It’s all about cel­e­brat­ing tal­ent now. I think peo­ple are in awe of what th­ese kids can do. They know how hard it is and they know they’ve worked their butts off to be there.’’

Lee’s come a long way since his days of be­ing picked on in the school­yard. He was the boy dancer ridiculed for his ‘‘fairy’’ ways and ‘‘bal­let tights’’.

Not that it made a dent— danc­ing con­sumed him. By age six, Lee was in dance classes, at 13 he had his first paid job with Opera Aus­tralia, and at 19 var­i­ous projects had taken him around the world.

Along the way he’s danced in Hot Shoe Shuf­fle, Hugh Jack­man’s The Boy From Oz, Miss Saigon, Rent and Grease — The Arena Spec­tac­u­lar.

Lee also danced for the sup­port band for Brit­ney Spears’ world tour, chore­ographed for the likes of Guy Se­bas­tian and Mar­cia Hines, and is now work­ing as a chore­og­ra­pher on the se­quel to Os­car-winning an­i­mated fea­ture film Happy Feet, due out in 2011.

‘‘I think I was just very lucky to have found what I re­ally wanted to do for the rest of my life at a young age,’’ he says. ‘‘I couldn’t imag­ine go­ing to work and do­ing some­thing that’s not my pas­sion.

‘‘There was no way any­one was go­ing to tell me I couldn’t dance or couldn’t per­form. It was in my blood.’’

From here, Lee hopes to be back for a third sea­son of SYTYCD (yet to be con­firmed) and will con­tinue danc­ing and chore­ograph­ing.

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