Monday, June 21, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance - Top Eleven (7x06, 7x07)

If I have to suffer through another Lakers championship, then I'm not going to feel guilty about taking slight pleasure in a Laker Girl getting eliminated from SYTYCD -- which I had some small part in (i.e. by not voting)! Kudos to me for getting something done in this life, especially after a week of performances that did not come close to melting my face.

Other people's faces, apparently, but not mine.

In Cat's case, I think her face-melting tendency can be explained thusly:

Anyway, even excepting her past employment for a second, I never warmed to Alexie because she constantly acted like she was in an over-earnest musical, and that wore on me from the beginning. (And I know that it's nigh impossible to tell how old Asians are, or more accurately, to tell how old they aren't, but no way is Alexie 26. Twelve seems reasonable.) There; I'm no longer obliged to speak of her.

My only comment on Sonya's snake choreography: Mark needs to work on his drag (Adechike did a lot better in his routine). Meanwhile, Adechike was a thorough afterthought to Kathryn, who in the space of half a year is, like, woah; I hereby deem the way her hips moved when she was pushing the chair too hot for broadcast tv.

Oh FOX, always so lax with the censoring!

The way the ballroom routines have gone so far, I may have to retract my prediction that the was going to be a smash hit under the All-Stars format; having an experienced partner like Pasha can count for a lot, but he couldn't do much to help Melinda with her lack of Jive bounce. That said, I'm puzzled that the judges gave her a backhanded compliment for her performance quality while tripping over themselves to praise Kent for his.

Funny thing about Melinda is that aspires to be a wide-ranging performer, but when she's not "on" (in the actorly sense), she has very little affect which contributes to her lack of warmth: she speaks in an even monotone, and the upper half of her face lacks expressiveness (kind of ironic since she's got a role in a melodrama of all things). Hopefully, Cat can give some lessons on how to open up in front of a live studio audience.

See, it's almost working:

One last thing about Melinda (because with abs like these, I have a hard time not thinking about her?):

Her mask broke down momentarily here -- paradoxical considering how I was just complaining about her stoicism -- which leads me to wonder if she can last long emotionally on the show.

OK, real last thing about Melinda: I loved her vintage JB slide at the end of her solo -- I'm a huge sucker for Mr. Dynamite's dance moves -- even if the majority of it did nothing to change my feeling that I'm never going to care for tap.

You know, at first Sonya's routine for Alex bored me -- the overwroughtness was too unrelenting, the emotional arc wasn't dynamic enough i.e. it didn't have an arc, but most of all, their costumes were ugly and cheap. (I may have been spoiled with SYTYCD Australia, which has such an extraordinarily creative costume department that the producers see fit to give them non-trivial screen time each week just to see what wonders they're fashioning as they're putting them together. In fact, these costume segments were like bonus mini-episodes of Project Runway rolled up inside of SYTYCD.) Anyway, it was better on rewatching, but nowhere near what I'd call best whatever. I'm even hesitant to call it the best of the night. (Alex cries more than Joshua, Legacy, and Kathryn combined, by the way. If only his voice comically rises up several octaves, then I'd find it endearing.)

The honor of the best of the night, dear readers, would go to Jose's routine. I am completely serious.

Except, not really. Seeing it for the first time, it was the closest thing to face-melting; here was the freshest, least contrived TabbyNaps routine after 2.5 seasons' worth of their boreography -- even if Shakira's "She Wolf," complete with corny wolf howls, would've been a better song -- and it even had two good hip-hop dancers Comfort killing it. Loved the opening stalking with Jose on all fours and Comfort on his back, loved Comfort skipping backwards with haute-couture elbows... I guess I'm just loving seeing her dance on the show now unfettered and living up, at last, to the "best female hip hopper" label from back when. As for Jose, he, again, fell behind the beat again on several occasions, his b-boy power moves were merely acceptable, and in the little parterning that he had, he could've handled Comfort much more, uhhh, comfortably.

(One tangential point here: seeing that Jose is into yoga, I'm glad that someone else -- an actual b-boy for one -- recognizes the similarity between it and b-boying, which in truth is part of the reason why I took up yoga in the first place. The other reason.)

The Gump from Yoknapatawpha is a tremendously strange being -- I'm inclined to hate all of his gurning tics if they're taken individually, but poured into a single gawky package (not to mention being blessed by Cat's approval), the little bastard makes me laugh with him. However, I'm a serious person, and unlike the judges, I'm happy to point out that his routine featured very little partnering (as opposed to Melinda's), and the hand holds were sloppy. I will commend young Gump on his hips, though, and having the guilelessness that led to this:

Interestingly enough, after the judges at last finished plotzing over the Cha-cha, Cat teased Ashley's performance coming up after the break, I'd forgotten who she was again. Poor Ashley, if she were a human I'm sure she'd be feeling neglected.

The two things that bug me about Robert: his sideburns, and the face-pulling that comes off as a seriously desperate attempt to audition for Wade's next zombie-themed routine.

I think of myself as a connoisseur of mugging and feel it's within my jurisdiction to say that Robert's mugging was worse than Dominic's in every way, who at the least was funny about it. This is yet another lesson Cat can impart, as she has turned face-pulling into an art:

Nevertheless, Robert did kill Shortney, albeit not in the way he was afraid of during rehearsals; he was the only contestant who categorically outdanced his all-star partner, though to be honest -- and let me say that I love her pluck and determination and her happiness to jump with both feet into trifling bagatelle -- Shortney as an All-Star is kind of a joke.

I hear that Lauren's technique was splendid, but of course I was mostly engrossed in just how empty her performance was; every chance she got, she made sure to have a perma-grin chiseled into her face.

Speaking of Lauren:

Oh, wait.

The thing with reality tv that I don't mind and, in fact, appreciate is its theater and ritual. (The bits that I consider reality tv ritual: the procedures that occur every week (standing before the judges to receive criticism), the catch phrases ("welcome your... JIDGES") that often go with the procedures, the general ceremonial pomp and glitz.) As theatrical and wild as the genre can be, the ritual aspects of resituate the spectacle into a context of familiarity and safety so that the wildness, or the rawness is contained and doesn't threaten us.

The ritual I'm thinking about on SYTYCD is specifically the critiques; the judges comment on a dancer, and if the comments are good, the dancer is supposed to nod and smile, while if the comments are bad, the dancer is supposed to nod and smile. That's the unspoken ritual as I see it. Yet, when the contestants upset the convention of stoically and humbly accepting the judges' criticism -- I primarily have Lauren in mind, but also Ashley and, to a lesser degree, Melinda -- it's very unsettling and uncomfortable. In fact, these breaches of convention almost feel voyeuristic or perverse.

During Lauren's critique, for example, she nodded and grinned as she was supposed to, and even thanked the judges, which Shankman suddenly decided to stick her for. To use a baseball analogy, it's as if the umpire decided to start calling a letter-high strike, which is a textbook strike but in the current game would be nothing short of revolutionary. If Adam wasn't going to judge by the conventional rules, then a lot of (my) assumptions about the show and how it operates come into question, not to mention it also refocuses attention on convention as opposed to more dynamic issues.

The Adam-Lauren exchange is the perverse, while the voyeuristic involved Ashley. When Nigel asked Ashley if she had ever been in love before (after yet another treacly contemporary number for which I had even less time since it was choreographed) -- we veered rapidly into TMI territory. I'm watching a dance show for the dancing and the generic effects of reality tv; I for one did not want to hear much about the private life and confusions of a teenager, but that's me.

At one point when the judges were horsing around, Mia screamed, and it's a measure of how much more I like her as a judge -- in spite of the other issues I have with her -- than you-know-who that it didn't bother me one bit.

And I'd be remiss if I failed to mention what a babe Shankman was in the day:

Cue groans.

I never knew that a castrato could become a pop culture phenomenon in America. It's inspiring.

To all my Whovian peeps:

I know that production wizardry isn't what the show is about, but Ashley's Galvatron segment?


There, that's better.

Angry Nerd out.

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