Sunday, November 15, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 16 (6x13, 6x14)

Being an unrefined glutton, I really enjoyed this week's performances, even though if I do the math, the parts don't add up to an overwhelming sum:

Hustle - tolerable
Jazz - quite good
Quickstep - fun
Broadway - :D :D :D
Contemporary - yawn
Hip Hop - enjoyable
Salsa - my eyes, the goggles do nothing, etc.
Afro-Jazz - acceptable

I should note, though, that even when a routine was horrible, such as Nathan and Mollee's number, it was entertainingly gruesome, and so the top 16 show still comes out ahead.

Kathryn and Legacy's Broadway, choreographed by Andy "Thank God It Wasn't Tasty Oreo" Blankenbuehler, was fun from beginning to end, and even provided a genuine laugh-out-loud moment when Legacy lunged for his hat on the ground but Kathryn pulled him back. The judges were right that Kathryn wasn't a vivacious, headstrong mama, but that didn't bother me because the spunk she brought was too entertaining to think of such trivial minutiae. Throw in Legacy's awesome tricks, and the Broadway was easily the routine of the night.

In fact, the thing that's probably sustaining my interest so far this season is this duo, who, to my eyes, are the most well-balanced couple on the show and who have for three weeks running surprised and astonished me. The surprise factor directly leads to my fondness for them -- Legacy getting positioned as a limited street dancer, along with all of the internet's pre-Top 20 negativity, set expectations for him at a low level, as was the case with Kathryn, with whom we weren't familiar until she was portrayed as an emotional spoof, a punchline. But then, when they've succeeded as strongly as they have thus far, they bring an exciting sense of wonder and magic, which is hard to capture on this or any show and thus is the vital essence that helps push a reality program above the usual dross.

The Janette and Brandon juggernaut didn't spark this sort of magic last season, but that's because you could see them as contenders from miles away, notwithstanding certain anomalous voting patterns that shall go unmentioned. Instead, I'd have to go back to Katee and Joshua to find the same kind of wide-eyed astonishment that Legacy and Kathryn have thus far provided, though I remain a little wary of proclaiming Team Cries-A-Lot this year's power couple (especially since I condemned premature proclamations as recently as last week), but the parallels are seductive (if simplistic and kind of inaccurate): hip-hop guys known to shed tears, a contemporary girl who alienated viewers with her actions/personality during the Top 20 reveal, debuting with a highlight hip-hop number in the first week of competition, and a highly potent, inarguable squee!!! shippiness factor ("Joshua is my boo"/Legacy pointing to Kathryn when he was being praised for his growth (it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment)).

The big fuss kicked up this week -- there's one every week, golly, who'd have thought it -- was over Nathan's "I felt hot, yeah!" outburst. I tend to think that Nathan wasn't being arrogant when he said that he felt hot; I certainly don't believe he was on a cocky jag -- his confidence was already shaken by the first two judges, and he was visibly crushed during Nigel's critiques:

Instead, if I'm allowed to play armchair telepath, he was probably trying to vamp and be funny and show that he's coming out of his shell by coming up with a humorous zinger, not unlike Jakob's riposte earlier in the program (i.e. playing dumb brilliantly when Cat asked where in his routine he and Ashleigh messed up) -- except Nathan's not very good at it and so his efforts came out all awkward and aesthetically deformed, falling as flat as a could-be tween idol can fall.

If my reading is the least bit accurate, then Nigel's reaction on the results show was motivated more by aesthetics than any real moral impetus, though he conflated the two qualities since aesthetics and morality are hard to disentangle from one another on reality tv and in the eyes of the viewers, especially on a show that defines individual worth in an artistic medium. Nevertheless, Nigel's response felt too harshly moralistic and inappropriate given the aesthetic nature of Nathan's crimes, and Nigel should probably have been best dealt with the situation more diplomatically or behind the scenes. (The latter alternative again illustrates my queasiness when it comes to televised drama/confrontation on this type of reality programming, maybe because I'm so focused on its artistic surfaces and not the personal untidiness.)

The Nigel/Nathan kerfuffle re-centers attention onto a tension that's always been implicit on this show (and some other reality programs): the putative difference between "best" and "favorite," which in turn addresses ideas about art. I side with the "if it looks good, it is good, all other concerns are extraneous" standard -- "go with your gut," in other words -- which means I tend to think that art exists on its surfaces. In practical terms, I'm not tied up in demanding proper technique as long as the performance brings some other quality in spades (though I've noticed that the longer I've watched SYTYCD, the more I notice deficient technique that detracts from a performance). At the same, my preferences should carry over to our favorite dancers and the act of voting for them -- can I in good conscience make fun of the tweens who propelled Nathan and Mollee to safety when I'm so committed to immediate and visceral responses to art and to art's surfaces?

The way I'd rationalize my position is that for Nathan and Mollee, even the surface of their salsa performance was terrible. Nothing about it was appealing unless I'm going towards Ironyville. To paraphrase Nigel, their/Nathan's fans were reacting to a set of values that had very little to do with the art on display -- instead, the voters responded to cultural factors (e.g. dimples, shined-apple cheeks) rather than the art, at which point we get into some nasty ideas that I'd rather leave in a dark corner with the question, "What are the odds that Nigel will crack wise next week about the show being a search for Ameriker's favourite dancer, not Ameriker's favourite heartthrob"?

I liked Ellenore and Ryan's outfits because the white was unexpected, and if their costumes were black, people would've complained that they couldn't be seen against the background. As a matter of fact, I wondered if Ellenore's styling was supposed to be a kind of mirror-universe homage to the revamped Catwoman, especially those goggles.


As much as I find her Martian personality endearing as hell, I can't muster the same enthusiasm for her dancing, though, which isn't so much quirky as debilitatingly awkward, mostly in her solos which strike me as overly precious, or her heretofore underwhelming choreographed routines.

If the Hot Tamale Train hasn't jumped its shark yet, then it did this week. First, Mary put Kevin aboard while giving Karen a first-class ticket, which implicitly relegates Kevin to second-class rider and all of the uncomfortable racial overtones that that entails. Second, that she's bestowing the "honor" onto people right from the start of the season -- and didn't she do it during the auditions as well? -- dilutes its... I don't want to say "importance," but the scare quotes take care of that, I feel, and thus, hardly any meaning is attached to it now.

Wait, did I just spend any time at all parsing the semiotics of the Hot Tamale Train?

Is Channing's dad from Arlen, TX, or something? Because that lawnmower-racing in New Hampshire ain't right.

On the subject of Channing, though, she really hasn't brought any personality to the program, a lack of which I'm quickly obsessing over.

To my eye, she rarely seems to enjoy her time on the show, and I'm only too happy to try to help send her home, if I voted.

The Random Audience Hotties have been enormously attractive this season.

Wasn't such a fan of the Aileys' pas de trois -- too abstruse for me.

New choreographers!

I do wish we got last names for JT and Tomas, though some digging produced JT Thomas (which I'm sure led to some of my confusion) and Tomas Mielnicki. A really lovely quickstep routine, that if too difficult for Peter and Pauline (RIP my folk supergroup) to execute well, still drew an enormously joyous performance out of the couple.

JT is quite fetching, besides.

When Adam praised Jakob's psoas muscle, I was all, "Is he allowed to say that on broadcast tv?"

All kidding aside, Nigel pre-empted any joke I could've made about Jakob's The Prisoner jacket, but at least I have the satisfaction of having noticed it the first time when Ryan wore it, which is what really matters with us trainspotting hipsters.


And before I forget, Jakob deserves credit for dancing with two props.

Another real-life thing I don't like encroaching onto SYTYCD is politics; Ashleigh mentioned that she interned for a congressman, keeping it relatively vague and innocuous, but since she's from Utah, I can reasonably guess the contours of her ideological disposition.

Russell: dancer, singer, artist... and haute-couture philosopher.

Before he made it onto the show, Miami-boy Victor could've been an internet star: Goths In Hot Weather.

Ultimate Warrior, Jr.

The face paint, the things tied around his arms that we all thought would kill the original Ultimate Warrior, it's all there.

"When I think African Princess, the first person I think of is Noelle!" Adam, you are a treasure.

Pauline is tiny.

The camera practically decapitates her just to fit her into the frame next to that English giantess.

FOX synergy blah blah blah, but is that Yeardley Smith sitting next to the girl in the Homer shirt?

While my attention is on the audience, do you remember that kid from last season in the Holden Caulfield hunting cap? I think he's back, and he's as pierced and frightening-to-bourgeois-squares like me as ever (to the right of fan-favorite Melisser):


Indie rating: Apparat - "Over and Over"


Margot said...

LOL! Pas de trois... You passed up a "Popo's Corner" opportunity? ;-) Adam IS a treasure! The falling off the chair was priceless. Yep Legz is a pleasant surprise. I still don't "know" what Kathryn looks like, but I'm working on it. I agree with your HTT comments - whether it's too early in the season or not, putting him on it for that performance made me go huh??? It's like Mary writes her own script days ahead and sticks to it no matter how completely off base it seems. Off topic - be sure to watch the AMAs! NappyTabs is doing J-Lo's choreo, Courtney is performing with Adam Lambert, and there may be other familiar faces that night :) Oh! And Mark is touring with Lady Gaga!!! [/advertisements]

momo said...

Great Cat moments! I didn't like her hair and outfit at first (change bad! no!) but now I'm quite fond of it.

I'm on the Legacy/Kathryn train, even though I know it is more likely that Team Jakob and Ryan/Ellenore will have more devotees. Actually all three of these couples have delivered primo dancing this season. The others haven't been bad so much as they have reminded us how truly difficult these challenges are. Seeing the limits makes me respect them as dancers even more.

Anonymous said...

I think that guy in the audience is Tucker Barkley and that he's been a choreographer's assistant in the past. Maybe to Sonya?

Anonymous said...


shayera said...

Can I just say that, for reasons even I don't really fathom, Karen sharing that her secret was that she got divorced after auditions bothered me?
I don't really know what it added to my knowledge of her. It's true that she's never been anywhere near my personal top 10 favorite dancers this season. It just seemed wrong to me somehow.

Leee said...

Shayera, I agree. I hope Karen was comfortable with her admission because it sure made me uncomfortable.