So it turns out Benji can dance

July 27, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 9:42 am   Category: Life

I have five brothers and one little sister. On top of that, my mom had a massive stroke when most of us were little kids (9 or younger) so my dad had to step in and do a lot of the things that moms normally are responsible for. Franky, with all of the dudes in my family and all the man-ness around the homestead my upbringing was only a few steps away from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Fast foward 27 years and I’m the dad in a house with a strong yet decidedly feminine wife/mom and three daughters and one son. In other words, the dudes are outnumbered 2-1 around here.

I LOVE it. Seriously. Girls rule. They smell better, they’re nicer, they clean up after themselves better, they are less tolerant of grime and filth, and they babysit siblings better. Ok, maybe not all girls are that way, but Kristen is that way so my children are being well trained and I love it.

All of this is a setup to explain that one of the other things that happens when a dude is blessed with a house full of girls is he is exposed to media that he might not otherwise have ever seen. Case in point is season two of a reality show on this summer called So You Think You Can Dance. Have any of you seen it? My girls can’t get enough of this show and now I’m hooked too.

It is a pretty standard talent show format — basically American Idol for dancers. The male and female contestants get randomly paired together and they select dance styles from a hat then learn a routine over the week and perform the following Wednesday. As with any talent show, sometimes they rock it and sometimes they chunk it. You get the idea.

Anyway, the other reason I bring this up here at the Thang is that one of the contestants is a 22 year old kid named Benji who they said early on is a returned Mormon missionary (I think he said he served in the Oaxaca Mexico mission). Now it is not uncommon for a Mormon to show up in reality TV — Survivor had its share, the Real World had an embarrassing one, American Idol has had a few — and I usually root for my fellow Mormons to one degree or another in these things. For instance, I pulled for that goofy/amusing kid from Idaho on American Idol a few seasons back. (What was his name again? Jon-Paul or something? You know — the one that looked like Alfred E. Newman…) But that kid never really had much of a chance. As the pressure mounted he sort of faded. Not so with Benji in this dance competition. Every week this Benji kid has been going out there and just blowing the doors off of his competition. He is seriously killing it out there. It has been a thing of beauty really. Right now I’d say he has to be the hands down favorite to win the competition. His dancing is clean and energetic and yet not too feminine. He has a great self-deprecating sense of humor and lights up the screen both in the performances and when he is cracking jokes during the practice vignettes. He has been nailing his routines in every genre they throw at him. At this point I’d be very surprised if he does not win.

But you never know — people were handing old Chris the crown on American Idol this year and he didn’t even make the top three. So here is the first bloggernacle post on dancin’ Benji. Have any of the rest of you seen this show or do you not have enough girls in the house? If you haven’t I recommend it — it is great fun and Benji gives y’all Morms someone to be proud of. (And on top of that, you’ll get to hear the British host chick introduce the judges as “The Jidges”)

[Associated song: Sly and the Family Stone – Dance to the Music]


  1. Having grown up with four boys in the house, this type of media and entertainment is foreign to me. If there aren’t any explosions, car chase scenes, or intense drama with edge-of-your-seat, dig-your-fingernails-into-your-thighs plot twists, then I spend my time elsewhere.

    Thank heavens for Jack Bauer.

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 27, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  2. Thanks for the tip, I hadn’t heard about this show at all.

    I found a video montage of stills of Benji dancing with Donyelle on the show.

    Comment by motherofAll — July 27, 2006 @ 11:07 am

  3. Thanks for the link moA. It got me a-lookin’ around the Web and I found this video with Benji and his cousin Heidi (who is also in the TV competition and who Benji partnered with last night). I knew they were cousins but I didn’t know they had competed together already. That helps explain why they were so awesome last night together. In fact they used some of the cool moves from this video in the performance last night.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2006 @ 11:40 am

  4. BTW – Does anyone know if Heidi is LDS too?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  5. Hey don’t get Geoff wrong, there is plenty of sports, Battlestar Gallactica, and the like. In fact every March during the “Big Dance” the women around here can get to feeling a little crabby.

    Another reason we love Benji in this competition is because he was an underdog, or dark horse, if you will. If there’s one thing we understand here in our house it’s that UNDERDOGS ROCK!

    Comment by Kristen J — July 27, 2006 @ 11:46 am

  6. I’ve been watching this show all summer (and watched it last year, too). I love dancing shows. My husband is just as hooked as I am on it (and will routinely say something like “just kill me now” after he makes a comment along the lines of “look at that footwork!” or “he’s technically good but there’s no feeling there”).

    Benji was my favorite from the beginning. Heidi is my second favorite.

    Alison is also an amazing dancer, though. I wish all three could win.

    Comment by Susan M — July 27, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  7. I know just how your husband feels, Susan. Yet I can’t stop watching…

    I forgot to mention that the video I linked to is from the 2005 Swing Dance Championships. The descriptions on the video reads:

    Benji Schwimmer & Heidi Groskreutz’s First Place West Coast Swing performance in the Showcase Division at the 2005 US Open Swing Dance Championships

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2006 @ 11:54 am

  8. My husband is also often heard to say, “What have you done to me?!”

    (I looked up that dance routine a long time ago, it’s a show stopper.)

    Comment by Susan M — July 27, 2006 @ 12:01 pm

  9. I’m pretty curious if they both went to BYU. (Heidi is Mormon also, BTW) BYU has a tremendously strong dance department and its ballroom team is pretty dominant in competitions. I had quite a few friends who danced on the ballroom team. I think most people take a least a few 100 level dance classes (I did for instance). But if Benji was a dance major or even minor he probably was exposed to quite a variety of dance forms and thus his abilities on the show.

    Of course if he just recently got off a mission then he probably only did 1 – 2 years at BYU, which makes his achievements even more impressive.

    BTW, according to this Trib article he has an amazing story of being attacked by a Mexican gang and challenging them, Michael Jackson style, to a dance off to save his and his companion’s life.

    Interestingly Allison who was eliminated tonight (which I thought was robbery) is also Mormon and went to Timpview as did Jamyz (who was eliminated earlier). In fact they went to homecoming together. Kind of interesting, no?

    I think that Mormon culture might be one of the few cultures outside of the hip hop community where one can really love dancing and not be gay. (grin) Makes me want to relearn my ballroom with my wife once she recovers from her C-section.

    Comment by clark — July 27, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  10. BTW – that video link was interesting Geoff. I noticed that several of the moves they used in that Black Mamba routine last night they used in their championship West Coast Swing routine. I wonder how much they were involved in the choreography?

    Comment by clark — July 27, 2006 @ 10:09 pm

  11. We’re totally hooked on the show. I knew Benji was a member, and figured Heidi might be, but I didn’t know about Alison and Jamyz.

    According to Wikipedia, Benji is also related to David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends) I wonder if he’s a member as well.

    Comment by Hyrum — July 28, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

  12. According to Wikipedia, Benji is also related to David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends) I wonder if he’s a member as well.

    Yeah of course Ross from Friends is Mormon… Along with Bono, Lionel Richie, David Bowie, etc etc etc.

    I assume you were kidding about Benji being anywhere in Wikipedia too right?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

  13. I was fairly involved in ballroom dance at BYU and I know Benji’s dad Buddy—he’s a legend. Here are some recent pictures of him and, I’m telling you, you wouldn’t believe how this guy can move! (He was leaner when he was dubbed the King of [West Coast] Swing, but I guess you learn to account for bodily changes as you age….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 5:50 pm

  14. Well, on the Wikipedia talk page I asked if anyone knew more about the rumor that Ross Schwimmer is his cousin and, sure enough, someone said they saw it on Access Hollywood. Here’s a link to the clip (it’s 2-3 minutes into the clip…).

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

  15. BTW, my favorite part of the clip which came before the David—not Ross, sorry—comment, was when Benji said his dream was to be bigger than Celine Dion. Now I can expect that many more once-overs looking for signs of repressed sexuality next time my wife brags to someone that I was on the (Backup Tour) team at BYU….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 28, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

  16. There are actually lots of actors who are Mormon. It’s just that most aren’t exactly active.

    Comment by clark — July 28, 2006 @ 10:10 pm

  17. Wow… there really is a wiki about ol’ Benji.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2006 @ 12:26 am

  18. Oh, I just read the Trib article Clark linked to in #9 (hilarious story!). I guess the winner of the show gets to dance with Celine Dion or something, so I was reading Benji’s Celine comment a bit out of context….

    Comment by Robert C. — July 29, 2006 @ 5:52 am

  19. I just listened to that interview with the Celine comment and he said that he wanted to be bigger than Celine Dion, to sell more records than Celine Dion. Than he says,”Oh wait, I’m a dancer not a singer!” So don’t worry, it was all in fun.

    Comment by Kristen J — July 29, 2006 @ 6:02 am

  20. Yeah, you’d be surprised about who’s got a Wiki article.

    Comment by Hyrum — July 29, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

  21. (Kristen J #19: I took it all in fun, I just thought Benji bringing up Celine “out of the blue” was pretty funny—b/c she’s such an iconic figure in the gay world—but then realized it wasn’t really “out of the blue” b/c she was directly related to the competition….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 30, 2006 @ 5:20 am

  22. Related to the competition? Huh?

    Comment by Clark — July 30, 2006 @ 8:39 pm

  23. Clark,

    The winner of the competition gets a contract to dance in her (Celine Dingdong’s) show so she is “related” to the show/competition in that way.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 30, 2006 @ 9:17 pm

  24. Geoff is very manly in his dislike for Celine Dion. If he ever hears any of her songs he slaps his hands to his ears and runs screaming from the room, “My ears, they’re burning!”

    We don’t listen to her much at our house.

    Comment by Kristen J — July 30, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

  25. Oh. I thought you meant related as in family relations.

    Comment by clark — July 30, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

  26. BTW – what do you think about the speculation Allison lost only because she’s from Utah so “popularity” votes tend to favor people from larger areas? I honestly thought she was among the best female dancers and as shocked she lost. Admittedly among the final four all the women are pretty strong. (I don’t think that true of the men where Benji and Travis seem to be the best and I think all expect Benji to win)

    Comment by clark — July 30, 2006 @ 11:26 pm

  27. So I was told this weekend that I look like Benji. I don’t see it…

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 31, 2006 @ 6:26 am

  28. Clark – I think Allison probably simply fell victim to talented/popular competition among the women dancers. As you said, the remaining women are all strong. It is only a popularity contest at this point so my guess is that the final two will be Benji and someone else… probably one of the girls but I can’t tell who. I suspect it could be Donyell though.

    Connor – I’d say it’s only a slight similarity. You advantage is you have Poway Power going for you!

    Comment by Geoff J — July 31, 2006 @ 9:01 am

  29. Am totally embarrassed to admit that I watch this show, but I do. I’m actually totally into it. I agree with Clark that Travis and Benji are by far the strongest male dancers. I don’t know which will win, but surely one of these two will.

    Aaron B

    Comment by Aaron Brown — August 3, 2006 @ 11:40 pm

  30. As I predicted, Benji takes it! Congratulations to him.

    And y’all were right picking Travis as the runner up. Good for both of them.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 16, 2006 @ 9:05 pm

  31. FYI — Here are a couple of links I saw in the post-show thread over at M*:
    A Benji interview with TV Guide (apparently he has all kinds of TV, Broadway, and other offers already), and a site with a Benji podcast.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 22, 2006 @ 9:47 am