I didn't notice it, but apparently SYTYCD is again trying to paint one of its hip-hop dancers as an untrained savant when in fact he's actually had training. Hear straight from Russell's mouth that he's had a frankly catholic range of dance education:
The show has a history of saying certain street dancers (a term I use loosely) haven't had training when in fact they have (see also Sara and Joshua), I suppose because of two related myths: the American myth where you can reach a certain goal simply through your intense desire for it, and second, the founding reality television myth that anybody can participate at a televisable level if they want it enough. Such myths are powerful in our culture because they provide us with motivational inspiration -- "Hey, I can do that too!" -- (and keep us docile beneath the thumb of institutional hegemony oops my Gramsci is showing), but in the end, they remain myths that elide the amount of hard, technical work that depends fundamentally on innate ability.
(And on the subject of institutional hegemony, you can't blame Russell for playing along with such an edit because he is at this point on the show at the pleasure of the producers, and to try to challenge the narrative they want to tell would jeopardize his standing on the show. To me, the affair is much ado about nothing.)
Finally, has the show redeemed how it failed to showcase its top 20 during the auditions? Of the top 20, we've seen the full solos (i.e. I didn't count solos shown in montages) of at least the following people (either in their audition cities or in Vegas): Phillip, Billy, Channing, Ashleigh, Ryan, Russell, Mollee, Karen, Kevin, Jakob, Legacy, Bianca, Ellenore, Victor, Nathan. That's 15 out of the top 20, a pretty decent number, which could be bumped up to 16 if we count Peter's audition in season 5, so the criticisms that we haven't seen anything of these kids is, strictly speaking, overblown this time around. By comparison, my quick and dirty count has season 5 showing only 11 solos prior to the start of competition.
Furthermore, ignoring Paula, only three (though I might be very wrong here) of the top 20 have been showcased to any extent prior to this season: Peter, Nathan (Petrelli alert??), and Bianca. In short, this is the "cleanest" and/or "fairest" top 20 we've seen since, I don't know, the third season?
Ariana, "Who, Me?"
As clean/fair as this top 20 is, Ariana is probably already facing long odds. I don't believe we've seen her at all, so she'll need to bust out some craziness in the
Bianca, "First Tap Dancer"
Sandra Colton is spinning in her grave; girl gets no respect. However, Bianca has a pretty sterling personality, so I'm not going to hold too much of a grudge for her killing Sandra.
Billy, "Captain Acne"
Channing, "Vanilla Ice Cream"
The competition for wholesome apple-cheeked blonde is between Channing and Mollee, so this is the one competition where I'll be rooting for Channing.
Jakob, "Mysterious Island Inhabitant"
So, expect him to be... but I shan't spoil that!
The voice and manner of a grande dame. And she's from Santa Cruz, not Goth at all.
Karen, "Doogie Hauer"
Mad swag: I loved how she celebrated right in front of a grieving Ryan when she announced she made top 20.
Krythryn's weepiness started off as annoying, but then I realized that she is reality gold, Jerry. GOLD! (It's like every time she talks she's actually being filled up with helium.)
Why doesn't he just go by K-Hunte?
Legacy, "A: An Irishman."
Q: What's the most useless thing on a woman?
Mollee, "You Got It, Dude"
I think the reason I'm already resenting her isn't so much because of her adolescent bearing and her lack of gravitas, but instead that she seems to embody all the corniest '80s cliches that should've gone the way of shoulder pads and big, crimped hair.
Noelle, "The Other One"
Because there are two Olsen twins, right?
Nathan, "2008 NL Cy Young Award Winner"
There are worse ways of keeping in shape during the offseason. If he wins this competition, he can buy himself another puppy, or better yet, a cat.
Pauline, "What's A Mata You?"
Her ankle is!
Peter, "Folk You"
I predict that in the third week, he'll form a harmonious folk trio with Pauline and Mary.
Phillip, "Laser Gun"
It cuts through everything!
Russell, "Sensitive Krumper"
Ryan, "What Has Thumbs Pointing At The Gun Show?"
Trying to catch up on the show's flagging Ryan Quota (third Ryan in six seasons).
Ashleigh, "Kate Gosselin"
Ryan & Ashleigh Plus 18 (thanks to the unidentified top 20 dancer who made this remark).
Victor, "The Hair That Wouldn't Die"
He tried to cut off that bad haircut, but it seems to be growing, with a vengeance.
Some tricksy editing at the end there with the way Paula seemed to be thanking the judges for putting her on the show when she was probably thanking them as an apology -- I'm betting that they performed some radical surgery on her words, removing this explanation here after her thanks there.
And let's not forget the uncomfortable situation that this bit of chicanery led to:
Aren't the fakeouts a little unfair and cruel, not to the people who get faked out, but to those who aren't ultimately picked who might otherwise be waiting for a fakeout?
Her ribs may have healed, but Jessica King is still sore about how she left the competition, so she tried out for the show again! But to no avail, sister.
It's not enough that he's in the Canadian finals, but Vincent was out to conquer the US as well. Where's your modesty, ya hoser?
Looks like I was pleasantly wrong about the "Meet the Top 20" episode, which I predicted would be made up entirely of solos; from the looks of the previews, we're actually getting choreographed routines (which makes me wonder if the breakdown of styles among this group of dancers -- three hip hoppers, three jazz dancers (but is there a major stylistic difference between jazz and contemporary?), three ballroom dancers -- was dictated by these choreography concerns, like the producers didn't want any single genre to have fewer than three so that the choreographers could avoid doing a routine for pairs).
Indie rating: Lori Scacco – "XX"