Sunday, June 21, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 18 (5x08, 5x09)

Welcome to So You Think You Can Rant!

A lot of outrage has popped up (does it ever abate? Again, read Momo for an ever-welcome corrective) over the elimination of Makx -- remember him, the low-down dirty rat from Ratville on the way to Rat Town? People are flabbergasted that the sole male ballroom partner (conveniently ignoring Jonathan) is gone so early -- but he actually lasted one week longer than season 4's sole male ballroom partner, Jamie Bayard, who, if you do the math, was the very first cut. I shouldn't expect people to remember him because he was such an obscured blip on the SYTYCD radar (he might've scored a brief highlight during an audition montage, for instance), but the show has clearly demonstrated its precedence to deviate from its generic quota system early and often, and what's more, it survived for virtually an entire season without a ballroom-trained male partner. (Having dancers as versatile as Mark and Joshua definitely helped, of course.)

To address the concerns about Makx missing out on the top 10 tour, and while I obviously can't state anything with certainty at this slightly premature stage, if he sufficiently impressed Nigel with his work ethic and cooking, then he could always be added as an alternate. (Remember, Jesús was a season 3 alternate despite being the third guy cut, though admittedly, Makx doesn't quite share Chuy's jack-of-all-trades profile and I doubt the tour would have a ballroom specialist as an alternate.)

Although I'm bothered by the bitter tenor that accompanies every week of this show, it's an unavoidable part of reality programs like SYTYCD. We're encouraged to side with certain contestants against other contestants because in the zero-sum world of competitive reality tv, one contestant prospers at another contestant's expense. So, with hardly any room to spare and any reason to find fault with unfavored contestants, audience investment in a reality program often entails us to police the morality on the show, especially the behavior of the show's figures we most dislike, so that we can redeploy their various ethical faults to prove that our favorites are better both objectively and metaphysically.

And since our morals are involved, we're going to reach a pretty choleric pitch, as, apparently, our moral surveillance extends to contestants even a couple years after they've last been on the show in a competitive capacity. A more current example would be the reaction to Kayla's transparent shock at finding out she was in the bottom 3 (about which, later). And you know what? All this ire is usually incited by trivial matters. SYTYCD doesn't show much if any unfiltered behind-the-scenes behavior, so, in order to exercise our moral project, we sniff around like moral detectives for the slightest misstep.

So, to sum up: reality tv is a field in which our morals actively reveal themselves in the little artificial dramas that constitute the genre. (And now you know the thesis of my conference paper, so no need to CLICK ON THAT LINK and READ THAT PIECE of disappointment.)

My new thesis: When we're this wrapped up in something, we tend to do crazy things like pointing out conspiracy theories in places inhabited only by our mental shadows.

Reversing the End of History through Russian silent film, kung-fu kittens, and another obfuscated Simpsons allusion after the jump.

Hey, so a couple people were eliminated this week. I don't have strong enough feelings about Makx or Kupono (or even Jason) to have an opinion on the guys' elimination, but for me, Ashley was a slam dunk to stay over Caitlin. First, Ashley's got wonderfully expressive face with eyes as big as Jolly Ranchers (my go-to cliche, how I've missed you) -- and she's not afraid to use them, either!


Second, I actually enjoyed her solo a lot more than the solos fromthe other two girls; Ashley brought a more coherent and refined performance quality -- a sultry little story in 30 seconds, as opposed to a string of your usual, anonymous girl-contemporary moves, which was how Caitlin's solo (and in utter frankness, Kayla's) appeared to me. Plus, she danced to CocoRosie, who are stylistic cousins (labelmates, really) to my dear Mirah.

Third -- and here I wave goodbye to my credibility, considering my recent kvetching on the caliber of SYTYCD hip hop -- I really liked Ashley and Kupono's routine for Shane Sparks. Shane's shadow conceit is big pimping, and I was seriously digging it and bummed that he abandoned it for half of the number. I hold that Ashley looked great in it (despite some more perceptive criticisms elsewhere of her performance), enough so that I never even notice Kupono's struggles.


What's more, Ashley obviously handles hip hop better than Caitlin (which might not be much praise, you'd say, to which I'd retort, BLEH); Caitlin actually got a solo in her Shane Sparks routine and turned it into a staggering terror. Combined with her noticeable problems in an otherwise great Bollywood number, Caitlin looked like such a better candidate to be going home.

Lastly, Ashley spewed all over her classmates. Awesome!

Let it be known that despite my indifference to his dancing, Hausfrau Makx provided me with ^_^!

I always love the little peeks we get into the small leisure time the dancers get, and Makx's "What Ameriker doesn't know about him" package was cute, and his "Happy faces. Happy family" line is kind of heartwarming. But what's hilarious is that everyone's gracious and all smiles when he sets the dishes on the table, but the second he turns around, Kayla and Ashley are like:

Janette, though, is a big corny ball of gratitude and love -- or else she just wants any chance she can get to show off her new non-busted teeth. (And here she is pointing and laughing when Kayla and Makx found out they were doing solos. Big corny ball of gratitude and love!)

By the way, in that first picture, who is that standing in the yellow jacket? It doesn't look like any of the brunettes with long hair (Karla, Jeanine, or Melissa, a married woman who shouldn't be consorting with other men omg), so is it someone from the other side of his life? Or a production person? Here's a better look at her.

But back to Makx, whom Nigel compared to a "young Kevin Spacey."

"Young" apparently meaning "marginally less bald."

During rehearsals, Kayla said that she liked being a princess, and she definitely wears imperiousness like a glove:

Of course, Kayla scored a lot of brand new haters in that second pic, though I was enormously entertained by her moment of honest emotion which counterpoints Paris' naked heartbreak from in week 1, both of which are part of the reality tv idiom in a more genre-wide basis, one of which I don't particularly enjoy, the other I do because it heralds delicious karmic retribution in typical cases.

In Kayla's case, though, her hauteur marked another break in the managed obedience enforced on the show -- all those cheerily quaint video packages have all the life and spontaneity of rotting fish (Cat Deeley can only do so much on her own) and even the tiniest hint of swagger and arrogance have been suffocated out of the dancers. Kayla, in that split second, cut through all the circumscribed, bourgeois-safe artificiality with a refreshingly snotty sneer, or, PUNK ROCK LIVES AGAIN.

Kayla had some crazy-trashy styling in Brian "World B." Friedman's pop-jazz gig (which was sort of Friedman's answer to Mia's "Two Princes" routine from season 3) -- those lashes grab my attention the most. I don't know if I'm repulsed or tantalized by them, yet here I remain, transfixed entirely by them, which is what I think they're supposed to do out in the wild where zoologists would call them "false eyes."

Twenty-nine, eh? After seeing that screengrab, I immediately ran to the mirror to see if I had the same amount of seasoning. (Answer: not yet.)

Put me down as a fan of Lil C's extravagantly baroque lexicon, because his brand of linguistic torture, in the annals of this show, is far more entertaining than Mary Murphy's (whose position as female ballroom "veteran" (polite term for "old"), I affirm, could be expertly and less shrilly filled by Melanie LaPatin, who apparently isn't busy choreographing the show anymore but is apparently shooting an indie film) (cheers, Margot).

Back to the King of Krump, the "Lil C's Dictionary of Dance" segment was a minor hoot, and, interestingly enough, a great illustration of Sergei Eisenstein's montage theory. The main thrust of montage theory asserts that cinematic images can combine to create meaning, a theory which was borne out an experiment where a filmmaker showed the face of an actor variously juxtaposed against other images (like a bowl of soup, a girl in a coffin, etc.). (You can watch it here -- it's only 45 seconds.) The audience was asked to describe the actor's expression for each shot -- he was hungry after the shot of the soup, sad after the shot of the coffin, and so on. The kicker is that "the footage of [the actor] was the same shot repeated over and over again."

This phenomenon (called the Kuleshov Effect) explains why the "Dictionary of Dance" was so funny, but also demystifies how that little segment got edited together. The blank looks on the dancers' faces weren't the same expressions they wore while listening to Lil C's critiques in the performance show; instead, the editors picked out and juxtaposed shots of the dancers, choreographers, and judges when they had relatively blank expressions on their faces (plus one awesome deadpan from Shane) after shots of C going on about fulcrums, divinity, dominant submission (kinky), vernacular, et al (hey, Nigel said "esoteric" and no one raised so much as a saucy eyebrow -- the benefits of being an executive producer, I suppose). Consequently, C's reputation for dense impenetrability combines with the Kuleshov Effect to create the sense that he's befuddling everyone all the time.

And if you're keeping score at home, that's dialectic, and now you've been turned into a Marxist. Welcome, Comrade!

Like, what did you expect? He was saying stuff like "the primary focus of all obstacles is to induce labor, so progression can be born." I bet that's straight out of Capital!

On the subject of fancy words, Karla described the contemporary aesthetic as about finding a routine's "pedestrian" quality. Did she misspeak, or is contemporary actually interested in mining the mundane?

Honestly, I thought Randi and Evan (Ravan? REEK?) were outdone by notoriously dance-shy Cat, who must be understating her dance skills.



Supply your own sound effects to great effect!

In the spirit of Project Runway (finally returning in August), was Deeley's pantsuit tuxedo she sported on result night not the cat's meow? Fierce with a capital Tyra?

(That said, what exactly is the difference between a pantsuit and a tuxedo?)

I forgot to note Cat's bedazzled mic last week, but this week she went back to a plain (read: grown-up's) mic -- maybe less fetch, but it has added sophistication. Another explanation for the boring mic could be that the recession has hit our kitten hard -- she could afford neither sparkly gewgaws with which to bedazzle, nor shoes upon which to tower over the show's assorted shorties:

Last Cat bit: here's a video interview EW with did with her in which she mentions that she went to a Radiohead concert -- so yeah, she continues to show her signature lack of standards for which we all adore her.

For unhelpful exlanation, click the picture.

Melissa's hair -- an obvious callback to Katee's hair in that Mia number.

He flirted with elimination this week but that won't prevent him from bringing you PONO'S POMO CORNER.

And because he spent so much time (2 hours!) working on something that he ended up scribbling his list on and shrunk to an illegible size (if that's not pomo, etc.!), here's the closeup:

Thus concludes PONO'S POMO CORNER.

(Exeunt omnes)

Indie rating: Sleater-Kinney - "One More Hour"


momo said...

Who spotted the pic of Janette pointing? talk about schadenfreude! She must not have gotten the memo about clutching her hands and turning down the corners of her mouth when people get B3.
It's :( not :D, girl!

momo said...

PS: wOOt! montage and the Kuleshov effect! Pono's Pomo corner! what will we do when the cut him? :(

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure that the girl in the yellow jacket is Caitlin. The hair is closer to blonde than brunette and the bangs are unmistakable.

geeky Heather said...

I have no idea/opinion about Maks's and Kupono's morals. But Maks totally carried Kayla through the ballroom last week (when the judges were all praisebombing her...she would NOT have looked that good without his partnering. And the fringe.) And tho' I like Kupono, his hip hop was FAILish.

Agree that I am already missing Ashley's facez. Le sigh!

Still not a Marxist, sorree. =)

Anonymous said...

I assume that Janette is :D-ing at Asuka and Vitolio's shock at having their (gorgeous) waltz well-received. I did so myself -- I was really happy for them. I haven't made up my mind about Asuka yet, but I really like Vitolio.

Makszxcz did the Footloose dance better than Kevin Bacon did. I loved it and will watch it again and again, since there will be nothing else of him to watch. *sob!*

And I adore the fabulous spectacle that is Brian Friedman. Welcome back, my sparkly freak darling. That is all.

Natalie said...

Every time Cat or anyone makes a vertically challenge comment, I expect Randy Newman's "Short People" to start playing in the background.