“We always say it takes bravery to come out here and perform on the stage in front of the judges,” producer and lead judge Nigel Lythgoe said Monday on So You Think You Can Dance. “When you have something like Lauren has, a disease that stops you breathing, it wouldn’t stop her dancing. That’s real bravery.”
Nigel was referring to 19-year-old contemporary dancer Lauren Luteran, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant and has been dancing since age 5. The prognosis for cystic fibrosis patients is damning — most do not live past their thirties, and there is no cure — but that has never stopped Lauren from pursuing her dream. “Dance helps my condition a lot. It’s a good thing I’m dancing,” she told host Cat Deeley with a smile. “I get out of breath faster, so it’s harder to sometimes keep up, but I’ve managed to do it for 14 years.”
“Lauren is our inspiration,” Lauren’s mother, Maribel, said through tears as she sat next to Lauren’s stoic father, Donald. “Watching her every day get up and have a big old smile and saying, ‘I want to live now, because I may not be able to do it later.’ Just recently she’s really embracing the idea that she may not outlive us, so this has been like a dream for her.”
Lauren’s audition, to Nashville electronic band Makeup & Vanity Set’s ethereal track “Obsidian,” was literally death-defying. While it wasn’t quite as advanced as other contemporary routines we’ve seen over the past three talent-packed weeks — which a concerned Nigel noted — her technique and elevation were impressive (that final backbend/leg-lift combo! that mid-air split!), and she exuded both mental and physical raw strength.
“I believe that you are here with a purpose,” declared judge Laurieann Gibson, who saw a Martha Graham-esque quality to Lauren’s expressive and athletic dancing. Said judge Dominic Sandoval, “Nigel made a comment about how your ability may not be strong enough to what we had seen [this season]. I actually think you’re stronger than most people in life in general. … I commend you on you coming out here and being a representation for anyone who might have limited time. You still get to live, and I find that beautiful.”
In the end, all four judges decided to put Lauren through, even the conflicted Nigel. “I have got to judge you not only with my heart but my head also — and it’s a yes from me,” he said. It remains the be seen if Lauren, with her constricted airways, will be able to go the distance on this show — and even aside from any health considerations, she does face stiff competition this season. But it is fantastic has she’d been given the chance to compete, and really, she’s already won SYTYCD Season 16. Lauren’s goal, she said, was to “leave my mark and do what I need to do, and hopefully people love me,” and that definitely happened Monday.
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