The Cancer Envelops Us Whole, But We Don’t Die Alone by Christina Coba

The contemporary dance scene on the hit television show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” choreographed by Tyce Diorio and performed by professional dancers, Melissa and Ade, addresses the serious topic of breast cancer.  The piece tells a story of a woman that has been diagnosed with cancer and how her husband helps her deal with it.

It starts with Melissa crouched down with Ade standing over her.  A soft, melodic piece of music begins and the audience can see the angst in Melissa’s face.  The choreography includes many movements, such as bringing her hands to her face, which would lead the viewers to believe that she is just hearing the news that she has cancer.  Throughout this whole section, the male is connected to her in some way, feeling what she’s feeling.  All of this introductory movement leads into the woman trust falling into the man’s arms.  Ade then physically shows his support by holding Melissa in his arms like a baby.  As he brings her gracefully to her feet, they both show how stressed and overwhelmed they are by the situation.  Through a flawless lift, Melissa jumps on Ade’s back and rolls over his body smoothly to the ground where she writhes with frustration and anguish.  Just as the music says “I know you have a lot of strength left”, the dancers perform a powerful lift in which Ade lifts Melissa high into the air purely by grabbing her wrists.  She contracts into Ade’s arms with a face of pain and agony.  He dances across the stage; she runs and dives into the air head first, trusting that he will catch her.  Ade is there to seize her out of the air and pulls her in towards his body. The pair dances together for a few seconds and then Ade takes a massive hop backwards reaching for Melissa. This motion seems as if he wants to be there for her but he’s losing her.  She makes stumbling movements across the stage towards him, showing that she is losing her physical strength, and cries as she pounds on his chest and tries to push him away, incapable of dealing with the stress anymore.  He embraces her into a hug.  She does a weak jump, and then straddles his shoulder.   He slowly carries her into the light.

Not only did their movements tell a story, the choices of the clothing went along with it.  The head covering wrapped around Melissa’s head is that of an actual cancer patient that would have lost their hair after undergoing chemotherapy.  Her light colored, flowing gown could represent the lack of color often seen in patients or possibly a hospital gown.  The way that Ade was dressed in lighter colors could be to emphasize the way that he is looking over her like a guardian angel.

The lighting on the stage of “So You Think You Can Dance” is often showy and bright, overpowering almost, but not for this piece.  The lights were dimmed, only a bluish tint shown across the stage.  The blues that melded into a dark glow set the stage for a sad and mellow piece.  The spotlights were soft, rather than a harsh, noticeable focus.  The darkness prepared the audience for a somber, serious tone to the choreography.  At the very end of the piece, when Ade is walking with Melissa on his shoulder, the stage goes dark except the light that they are headed towards.  The final light represents death.  Ade even supports her as she “goes towards the light” in her final moments.

The musical choice to use “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell was perfect.  The song was actually written “about being forced to suddenly confront reality and adulthood in times of crisis” (Wikipedia).  This concept could not fit the premise of the dance more perfectly.  Melissa is faced with the ultimate crisis: an untimely death.  Both dancers had to step up and deal with it together.  The lyrics match perfectly to the storyline of the choreography. In one line, it says, “I know you got a little life in you yet, I know you have a lot of strength left”.  The battle against cancer drains the life from its victims, but she still has enough strength to push through and fight for her life.  Another line, “I should be crying but I just can’t let it show”, correlates more to what Ade is going through.  He is so upset about losing Melissa and should be crying, but he has to stay strong for her because if he allows himself to show how upset and scared he is, she might lose faith in him telling her that everything will turn out alright.

The style of the music fits the dance very well and vice versa.  The style of dancing is modern and somewhat lyrical.  The music is slow, but full of life, as is the dance.  Though there are not many hits in the music, the dancers make the movement strong and powerful via their actions.  They move smoothly throughout the whole routine which fits well with the music.  The ballad makes the choreography really stand out because the music isn’t overpowering the movements.  There is a harp-like quality to the song which is yet another reference to dying.  When people think of death, they think of angels holding harps in heaven and this is a perfect representation.  Had the music been different, there would have been an entirely different effect.  The style and the lyrics fit the choreography and concept of the dance.  The softness of the song led to a sensual feel between Melissa and Ade which gives the audience a glimpse of how they feel.

The movement and music melded together to get to the audience’s emotions.  By the end of the piece, the judges and many members of the crowd were moved to tears.  The overall story of the dance obviously was strong in emotional appeal.  The show uses celebrity testimony seeing as the dancers chosen to perform this piece were some of “America’s favorite” dancers. The audience already respected them as quality dancers and performers.  This just increased their reputation.

The facts of the piece include the fact that Melissa has cancer and Ade supports her through life and death.  They prove this through their costuming and movements.  They show their point through the fact that they are reputable dancers in the top eight of “So You Think You Can Dance”.  They use their proper dance technique to show their credentials.

The audience is expected to know at least a little about dance to appreciate the message it sends.  They already respect Melissa and Ade as dancers because if they didn’t like them, they would’ve voted the pair off of the show much earlier in the season.  The writing addresses anyone that can relate to the situation presented of having to stay strong for a loved one in a time of hardship.  The audience is supposed to be moved and touched emotionally after experiencing the performance given.

This piece not only tells a story, but it raises breast cancer awareness.  Many people suffer from the disease.  Since the television show is so popular, millions of viewers watched as Melissa and Ade portrayed a couple undergoing the anxiety of having cancer.

Works Cited

“This Woman’s Work.” Web. <>.

“This Woman’s Work.” Web. 18 Oct 2010. <>.