Monday, August 09, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance - Top Four (7x20, 7x21)

The worst thing that can visit upon a reality television, for all of its reductive narrative abilities, is predictability. You would think that a genre that routinely strips its contestants of complexity would consistently and invariably result in the predictable, but somehow, the unexpected tends to occur anyway. That said, SYTYCD has been running on the flatly expected this season (I mean, injuries aside, which actually became a perversely predictable element among these contestants -- and anyway, Alex seemed like the runaway favorite to win before he destroyed his Achilles), especially as it coalesces around the final kids still in the running towards becoming America's next favorite dancer. Which is a way to lead up to the elephant in the room that I've avoided this whole season, but I can't really put it off any longer without this turning into some cute post-modern exercise in prose virtuosity: Kent's seemingly all-but-assured reign of dorkfaced terror.

Notwithstanding Nigel's assertion that we've had different vote-leaders each week, this season has played out as a way of giving reason to crowning Kent, though with anything that has the air of the preordained, there Lauren has an outside chance of pulling off a reactionary insurgency against him. Simply put, the season is Kent's to lose, Lauren's to steal.

All this talk of who might win season 7 is played out, though. Instead, a far more gripping competition... AFTER THE JUMP.


Getting back to the topic I broach in the intro: Predictability doesn't necessarily mean "dull" if the reality series continues to produce high quality art, which has been the case this year. For all of the season's other shortcomings, you have to admit the dances have been excellent and thus have been able to compensate for the personality deficiencies.

For example, Kent's routine with Neil. I loathe both dancers, and I'm not generally a fan of Travis' work, but this one is pretty good (damned with faint praise, for sure -- the ballet parts are exceptionally lovely, though), and I'd argue the first routine on SYTYCD about a gay relationship falling apart, which is where the strongest pathos comes from.

While that routine is all well and good, Kent's disco is the utter dregs. His performance belongs to the early parts of the season -- he's dances one segment, takes a moment to gather himself, then dances the next segment, and so on -- and this late into competition, he should've at least transitioned better.

So, given that his two routines this week average out to BLEH, the sole, rational conclusion is that he sucks, amirite?

Lauren had a decent night, too, though neither of her routines reaches the extremities that Kent reaches. I didn't love her Argentine tango, which has a lot of negative space in it (making for an unusually mature routine by the show's standard), but I'm not sure that that's what keeps me from loving it. My favorite Argentine tangos depend entirely on a ballroom-experienced female partner -- think Janette or Karen -- over a ballroom-experienced male lead, which I know is kind of an upside-down opinion, but what can I say. (Strangely enough, I wasn't terribly moved by Robert's Argentine with Anya earlier this season, either, so apparently there's more to my tango tastes.)

On the other hand, Lauren's jazz with Ade is almost unbeatably awesome. Like the judges, I thought she could've sunk her teeth into her persona more. Don't get me wrong -- she's fierce in it (that lift, you know the one, is crazy), but there's fierce, and there's FIIIIIERCE.

Between the bottom two guys, I preferred Adechike to Robert, but the judges have been so presold on Robert and so critical of Adechike (I hasten to add that on both occasions, the judges have valid points) that nobody believed that Sweet Cheeks was moving onto the finale.

Robert's Viennese Waltz is like all the other Viennese Waltzes on SYTYCD -- floaty and unremarkable -- though I think seeing a Viennese in person is altogether a different experience, quite breathtaking, since it's basically a waltz danced at breakneck speeds. (Incidentally, I am so sick of Anouk's "Lost," which I may have only ever heard on this show.) As for the sole hip hop of the night, well, the highlight for me is when Cat teases it before a commercial break...

... and I thought that Billy had somehow returned to the competition, and in his best finery to boot. Instead, what I get is Robert doing a passable hip hop. I'll add that Dominic is mighty generous to play along with the judges and pretend that he gets outdanced in it when in fact he's sharper and more on-beat than Robert in a routine that involves two of the most face-pulling contestants ever to grace SYTYCD.

If only Benji had been included, this could've been an apocalypse of mugging.

Finally, Adechike.

 Although the criticism of his rigid back still holds, his African jazz engages me with its energy and intricacy, especially once the Afro-Caribbean portion starts, and I'd take it over either of Robert's dances.

His contemporary, however... I don't know how the choreography responsibilities break down between Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, but all of their routines for the students seem like little more than sugared juvenilia. Of course, when Desmond gets the his chance to perform, the choreography is infinitely more mature (just take for example his preening, sneering, seething channeling of the Mickster on the results episode). Still, I like having R & R come in once a year to choreograph because they inject a little bit of class and legitimacy to the show's insularity, even if I find their routines to be more forgettable than not.

(On a musical note, I've never really listened much to Melissa Etheridge -- does she always sound like the female answer to Bruce Springsteen?)

Where his part in the duets have have been of mixed quality, Adechike's solos have been mesmerizing, not the least of which is his final one, which resumes Billy's program to expand the vocabulary and texture of male contemporary soloists with an emphatic UNGH. (Robert tried to effect the same level of cool, but he's too fettered by his classicism to get there.) The two of them alone raised the quality of the solos to easily my favorite on SYTYCD; Brandon Bryant stands out for the immensity of his virtuosic power, but Billy and Adechike both perform with extremely coherent aesthetics. (I actually wish that both of them danced more hip hop on the show -- first, because in his two hip hops, Adechike is excellent, and second, because I'd like to have seen Billy's take on a straight hip-hop number, i.e. no krump, no stepping, given his pleather all-boy hip hop beginnings, as inspired by Legacy.)

Since he's got the Yoknapatawpha crowd (AKA "Real America") and the all-important tween vote all but locked up, I have a feeling that the GOP is going to field Kent as its 2012 presidential nominee in hopes of becoming the first person ever to ride DialIdol all the way to the White House.

Apologies for the lack of lulz this week -- rather than admit that I procrastinated to an unprecedented degree this last weekend, I'll just say that the top four week just wasn't all that funny.


Anonymous said...

I really hope that America dumps the gump. That should be our rallying cry: Dump the Gump! He was so staggeringly inarticulate in his little onstage interview on performance night that I literally cringed. Also, his mother looks like an even uglier Sarah Palin, or maybe a man in cheap Mama Grizzly drag. Also, his creepy youth pastor (cult indoctrinator) brother. Also, his face. So, so gross. Artichok√©'s votes will most likely go to Lauren, since there probably isn't much overlap between his and the Gump's fanbases, for obvious reasons. I secretly want Robert to win just to see his reaction. Initially, I found his mugging and personality way obnoxious, but now he's the only contestant who makes me laugh in a way that isn't derisive.

Anonymous said...

Really awesome tix giveaway on Yahoo! omg! for the SYTYCD Live Tour! I hope I win!!

Anonymous said...

You are fantastic. How do I nominate you to replace Mia as a judge? (Love her choreography, but her judging makes me almost miss Mary Murphy)

Michele said...

Billy was sent home after his best night of performing.

But for me, this has been, dance-wise, an unmemorable season.

Now, injury-wise, it will take the cake but only because I'm convinced that Jose's mama was doing some Santaria or some brouharia on one poppet each week. How else could you explain the injuries AND Jose's staying power?