Sunday, November 08, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 18 (6x12)

Wrong person going home this week, business as usual, but strangely the top 18 show rose above the usual because of a development which, depending on how you incline, was sort of unexpected: Legacy and Kathryn's routine.

I'm not sure where and why the kneejerk hate for Legacy arose, but I am delighted that he has so far forced his doubters to reconsider. (I'm not ready to call him the season's savant, at least not until we see him in a genre as technically circumscribed as ballroom is, but he and Kathryn have brought my favorite routines these two weeks so they're early Power Couple candidates.)

Stacey Tookey's routine for him and Kathryn could've been an eye-rolling exercise in narrative literalism -- a piece where one of the dancers personifies an abstraction is dangerously close to being distracted by the allegorical trainspotting or descending into outright cheese, which is all Mia's fault because the addiction dance set the bar so high. But none the matter, who cares anyway, Kathryn and Legacy nailed it.

That is so. To wit, I've been appreciating the polyglot b-boy's explosiveness lately -- he gets into and out of power moves with startling ease, which was clearly a boon for this routine. And lest Kathryn gets obscured in Legacy's rise: she was clearly graceful throughout, but that grace is held up by a hidden strength -- she froze herself when Legacy picked her up, and she didn't even flinch when Legacy jumped on her or buckle under his weight. That her strength never compromises her elegance embodies the message of the dance of the woman finding her courage in the end: the routine encodes her resolve within the narrative parameters of the dance without explicitly calling attention to it -- if Mia were still around, she'd call that organic storytelling. Kudos then to Stacey Tookey for giving the female partner the chance to perform a physically spectacular act, and props to Kathryn for pulling it off.

(I still think the part where Legacy dives to the ground and grabs Kathryn's ankles is incredibly dorky.)

I also have to commend Legacy and Kathryn's chemistry. They seem to relate to each other much more naturally and easily than most of the other couples (see their teasing back-and-forth about her elbow hitting him in the mouth, Legacy's empathy in appreciating how emotional she is because he's the same) -- they're so cute together they make me want to write fan fiction.

ALL THAT SAID, Legacy, through no fault of his own, is at one of the centers of something I find laughable this season: the judges are talking about narrative peaks when we're only in the second week of competition. SYTYCD has certain boilerplate narratives that it leans on season after season and that have by now become cliche, such as maturation and reaching the milestone of the top 10; this season, they're announcing that the dancers involved in these narratives have reached the climaxes already. Legacy's getting praised for his growth already and we haven't seen him in ballroom yet; Mollee has already grown up from a drooling tween (which I wish were true, because so far she is irredeemably annoying); and, according Mary, Jakob is getting closer to the top 10 (which is, first, no duh, and second, says nothing). The judges are, in a way, dispensing spoilers, giving out the payoffs while we've just started on the text, or else they're being critically lazy in relying on these cliches so early in the competition.

Yet, to their credit, the judges were surprisingly constructive in some of their feedback -- Shankman in particular, and I wonder if his rededication to helpful critiques impelled Mary and Nigel to attempt the same to lesser degrees -- although, like the story about Mollee's maturation, saying that they've turned a corner is overstating the case.

I'll buy that story if it continues over the weeks.

And though Shankman deserves credit for calling out Tony and Melanie's Waltz choreography, we've seen choreographers taken to the mat before, as recently as the top 4 episode of season 5 when Nigel called out Melanie and Tony's top 4 ill-advised cockroach-stomping Country-and-Western flavored jive, which, incidentally, Adam Shankman stood up for. (I'm also amused that the show has at long last found its on-air whipping-boy/couple in Tony and Melanie, who've been throwing up some inexplicable routines lately.)


Add your own circus music here.

The first time I watched Russell and Noelle's hip hop, I actually tried to follow the "ball," which was the worst thing about the routine, other than Noelle herself. (More like No!elle, am I right?) It was a good if not memorable routine, otherwise, because Russell is shaping up to be this season's serial killer with the way he murders numbers.

I didn't much care for the other hip-hop routine, however, even if it did feature a quick Soulja Boy riff:

The funny thing about recent Wade works is that they tend to leave me scratching my head the first time I experience them -- maybe that's what Shankers meant by calling the Van Gogh number potentially controversial -- but they age extraordinarily well, and quickly. So: now I like this latest piece, though it's far from a masterpiece because I don't think that Peter and Pauline were the dancers to pull it off. Pauline didn't embody her character so much, and was mostly just her cute self for the majority of the routine; Peter had more conviction, but I thought he was too mean when the choreography called for impish mischief, and honestly, I would've loved to see Wade dance this one because he was giving the right face for it, like so:

Still, Wade shows he's ahead of the pack by being the first to exploit the new stage: using the giant screen at the back of the stage so that the characters could "repaint" "The Starry Night," and some multi-dimensional interaction with the set when the characters jumped up and grabbed the hanging stars. The loss of the stairs is a door that opens up other possibilities.

I don't want to be too hard on Peter and Pauline, though; we're now two-thirds of the way to my vision of a reconstituted folk trio.

In the samba, did Channing's head hit the floor in one of the final tricks? She didn't seem fazed afterward and neither the judges nor Cat remarked upon it, but the drop looked awfully close when I watch it. Here's a frame-by-frame snapshot:


Couldn't have mangled the phrase better myself. (That's a verbatim quote, if you're wondering, or else a Zen word game.)

After Bianca and Victor's Broadway, Nigel said, "All Tyce can do as a choreographer is explain to you what it's about. You then have to put your performance on top of the choreography." I found what he said interesting because it partly defines the contours of the roles of the dancers and the choreographers. By those comments, choreographers don't spend that much time with the dancers, not necessarily long enough to dive into the aesthetic/interpretive minutiae of a performance, which instead falls to the dancers. So, the show doesn't just test the physical aspect of dance or how well they perform the steps, but it also tests their artistic impulses and how well they interpret choreography beyond the guidance of the choreographer.

Since I am irrationally biased against Noelle, I would've disagreed with any elimination that kept her around, but I believe that Bianca showed personality that would've served the show perfectly and that her solo showcased her charisma: in the middle of her dance, she threw in the season's trademark heart-gesture to her fellow dancers, the levity and playfulness of which I felt was enormously cute.

Bianca also likes to make faces, which is a great trove of materials from which I can make funneh pikchurs, save for the fact that I've been unable to think of anything to do with them.

Of the many things I forgot to say last week, I meant to note that among the top 20, Russell also has tap experience -- remember, Nigel made a tap + krump = krap "joke" during Russell's audition -- but now with Bianca gone, that experience is moot until he squares off against Peter in the final four.

And as though the guy couldn't be more winning, he might be a fan of The Clash (though I'm ambivalent about them):

Channing has been morose and disengaged from the camera, a figure that contrasts considerably against from the East Coast beach bunny/ice cream scooper we saw in the Boston auditions. The contrast begs the question if everything is all right in her life, especially in light of Philip's admission that his dad passed just a couple weeks ago.

For the Argentine tango, Ellenore doesn't have the footspeed to nail those kicks -- which the internet tells me are called ganchos -- though Ryan looked very strong and sharp, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Still, I find myself thinking how this routine would've looked if Janette were dancing it with Ryan instead, which speaks to how this tango failed to hook me.

But let me be clear: I want to adopt Ellenore because I love her gorgeously uninhibited weirdness and delight in how speaking Japanese has in American consciousnesses become synonymous with being an alien.


All the same, I must proceed cautiously, as I've recently learned that beauty, especially in a fetchingly short haircut, may be only skin deep so as to hide a very terrible remake of an '80s sci-fi show.

Cat hasn't been over-the-top with her dresses so far, but those shoes are classic wtf. Welcome back, Cat Deeley.


Indie rating: Julien Neto - "V (Rivers)"


Anonymous said...

I totally agree that I would have like to see Wade's routine danced by Wade. I found the moving picture on the HUGE screen behind the dancers very distracting but maybe it was because the dancers weren't strong enough to overcome it. I also totally agree with your analysis of Kat and Legacy routine. And, unfortunately, I think we're going to see Noelle around for at least another week. I don't think Russell's fans will allow him to be in the bottom this coming week.

Anonymous said...

yeah, I have to agree about the screen. I don't think it's necessary and potentially very distracting. Not a huge fan of the Wade piece. It tried too hard.

momo said...

Leee, this is one of the best recaps! First, because I totally agree with everything you say. Second because I had to scroll back and look at all the LolCatDeeleys and Ryan pics multiple times. The final four valentine invitation is priceless! Third, because your description of the Kathryn/Legacy dance is just a straight-up great piece of dance writing, especially in how you described Kathryn's part.
Chapeau! comme diraient les fran├žais.

Leee said...

Wow, momo, thanks! I'm always surprised which posts/insights are the ones that are fondly received.

Anon 7:38, you're probably right about Noelle, not just because Russell's going to save her bacon, but because we've seen how certain contemporary females always defy elimination.

Margot said...

My first comment about top 18 is always, "Of course Wade would be the first one to figure out how to use the gawd awful stage to his advantage!" I too thought the number aged incredibly well and quickly.

Kate said...

Great post as always. The only think I don't like about your posts is that they are never long enough ;)

I must say I don't love the new set, it just seems to wide and sterile, but I agree Wade at least used it to his advantage.

yingchung said...

I'm glad that i'm not the only one rooting for a Kathryn Legacy romance!! They look so compatible. That said i adore the way your recaps ooze a quirky sense of humor and a tendency for prolixity (in a good way). I also like the way you adopt a tongue in cheek tone in your writing, perfectly complementing the hilarious pics! You have the best recaps by far. Far more entertaining than those on squareeyes and buddytv