Friday Fact: Judging Mary Murphy

Confession: I have never watched So You Think You Can Dance until this year.

I know, you're thinking, "Are you an American or what?"

I had seen dances, even an episode here and there - but I had never followed the show until now. The reason I started? My Mom and Dad's simple suggestion that they would like to get us as hooked and obsessed as they are.

I became intrigued. I watched. I was delighted. I am blown away by the talent - and have experienced the turmoil as the judges irrevocably cut my favorite dancers from the show. SNIP!

But even more than the incredible dancing, I am intrigued by these judges. I think their job is heartbreakingly difficult. I was amazed that they were able to glean just 20 dancers from the thousands that auditioned. An impossible feat! And when they were done in Vegas, it seemed to me that they indulged in far more lighthearted banter with the dancers. In my ignorance of the show, it seemed to me that the hard part for them was over, and now they could just enjoy the show and offer critique/praise as warranted.

Boy, I was a fool.

Sure, America is responsible for which couples end up in the dangerous 'bottom three' bracket - but those poor judges are responsible for which of those three will go home.

After all the work they have seen it take those dancers to get to there. After they have developed relationships with the dancers. Friendships.

And even when they believe that America's choice was wrong wrong wrong.

All 20 dancers will go on to do something great with their talent thanks to their exposure on the show. Getting cut is not the end of their career - in a lot of ways it's just the beginning! So, to me, the judges are the real tragic heroes, here.

So I've been doing some reading about Nigel and Mary, indulging in my intrigue. Which brings me to:

Today's Friday Fact: Just Who Is Mary Murphy?
Or: Did You Think She Was From Texas, Too?

I must admit - at first I wasn't a big fan of Mary. She was loud.

She was goofy.

She wore giant carnations on her shoulder.

But I have seen Mary in her more quiet moments. I have seen her weep for the beauty of the dances or the anguish of the stories they tell that hit a bit too close to home - and I suspect she may be one of those secret wells.

Allow me to introduce you.

Mary wasn't born in Texas (where everything is bigger and louder). No, she was born in Ohio. And she didn't grow up with an affinity for the rinestones and glitter of the ballroom world. No. She grew up the only girl in an Irish family of boys. She didn't salsa, she soft-balled. She didn't waltz, she wrestled.

After Mary graduated from Ohio University (with a degree in Physical Education and a minor in Modern Dance) she followed her family in their move to Washington DC. She was just looking for a summer job when she answered that ad in the paper - a local studio was recruiting trainees to become instructors - but the owner of the studio invited her to attend the US Ballroom Championship in New York, and that was the turning point for Mary.

Mary's ballroom career is impressive. She opened an academy in southern California, danced several professional competitions, won the National Open Nine Dance (The 9-dance division consists of American-style smooth waltz, tango, foxtrot, Viennese waltz and rhythm cha cha, rumba, East Coast swing, bolero, and mambo). After that, she quetily left the competitive world and focused on her academy (which she adores!) and her summer work as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance.

Mary has been married 3 times. She was a victim of abuse with her first husband, and has come forward in an effort to help other women in similar situations find the strength to move beyond such an ordeal. Her second husband succumbed to cancer just last month. On her blog, Mary said, "As we said goodbye to the [SYTYCD] contestants, I’m also saying goodbye to my ex-husband today, as cancer has taken another special person from my life. Even though our marriage did not work out, we became good friends. I will miss him and I will always love him." Mary divorced amicably with her third husband, who still works at her studio.

Mary herself is a victim of cancer. Just this year, when it was announced that she would be returning as a permanent judge for this season of SYTYCD, it was revealed that she had undergone treatments for Thyroid cancer. There was a chance she would never be able to speak again (which if you watch the show or know Mary at all - you know is a very big deal!) - but today she is cancer-free, with vocal chords intact.

And I'm glad - because the SYTYCD experience would not be the same without her laughter, her tears, and all her screaming!


Tarynia said...

I love this post! SYTYCD is one of my all time favorite shows. I love Mary Murphy Too.

Jake & Megan said...

I love this show! It's always been one of my favorites. I love your post - it's interesting to learn more about her. The show wouldn't be the same without her!