Thank you, Mallory sisters, for making my job that much easier.
Also, thank you to Nigel for revealing the finalists and immediately showing them in action so that viewers aren't left in the lurch. However, no thanks for giving me less time to make fun of the top 20 on superficial reasons and forcing me to skip recapping the "VEAGS Callbacks" so that I can focus on the dancing right away. Enough administrative issues, let's get on with the show, shall we?
For all the talk about how the girls are beasts this season (which I'm positive the show is asserting because they're all contemporary, and we all know how the unofficial motto of SYTYCD is "Contempory über alles"), I was on the whole left unmoved throughout the entire "Meet the Top 20" episode.
I'm not going to dwell on this ambivalence at the moment; instead, I'm wondering about the wisdom of a casting such deep talent (if Nigel et al are to believed). If the girls pan out as well as the show says they are, that means a lot of worthy dancers are going to get left out of the top 10. So as much as I've complained about so-and-so becoming a finalist over other dancers, cannon fodder helps spread talent out between seasons to let the season's would-be stars reach an arbitrary milestone (which used to be getting onto the tour, but we know how that's working out lately). (Of course, there are weird exceptions, such as Noelle getting paired with Russell, a partnership that defied a lot of my expectations.) A thought exercise: imagine a season that featured this guys' lineup: Will Wingfield, Travis, Pasha, Legacy, Russell, Brandon Bryant, Jakob, Danny, Benji, and Joshua. A lot of somebodies with genuine skills would get left out in the cold in this hypothetical lineup, so what happens when we get BEASTS like the current crop (stable?) of ladies? I suppose we're going to find out.
Now, a rundown of the group performances... after the jump!
Contemporary (chor. Stacey Tookey): Ricky, Miranda, Sasha, Melanie
The moment where Ricky picks up Miranda and spins her around resonated with me deeply -- its innocence and abandon took me to a place I haven't been in a long while. The rest of the routine was very good -- airy and light and pretty -- but this one part is sublime.
Smoke machine didn't hurt, either.
Hip Hop (chor. Dave Scott): Wadi, Tadd, Chris, Robert
The best part of the first hip-hop routine unfortunately came after all the dancing is done:
Keep styling, diva!
Even then, Robert has to spoil the effect by wooing incessantly, so I'm glad that his annoyingness can't be conveyed in a gif. At least, not in that particular gif:
Great idea, costume people! Put the most aggravating contestant in an Urkel get-up, nothing bad could result from that!
Paso Doble (chor. Jason Gilkison): Iveta (and Pasha)
I prefer my pasos to be angrier -- I guess I have a fetish for flared nostrils and loud foot-stomping, but my primal scene involves a horse show. (TMI?) Anyway, I think Jason threw in some cha cha in the final third of the number, which isn't quite as engaging as the paso. But isn't it something to see two world-class ballroomers doing their thing, and without a useless third wheel getting in the way? (I kid -- Anya and Pasha are clearly on a different level from Christina, but Christina also shouldn't have been eliminated after her paso last season.)
Jazz (chor. Sonya Tayeh): Jordan, Marko, Missy, Clarice
This was one long blond wig and three deaths short of a rousing Dothraki wedding. Even the song is performed by a group called Steed Lord, which sounds like a GRRM tribute band. In other words, Sonya is apparently watching Game of Thrones, which is a step up from the twinkling or whatever Twilight vampires from season 5.
Since he gets the plum role, Marko should've mastered the girls like a stallion mounting the world, but instead the girls practically dominate him. I suppose that's more in line with the source material, but still. I have a hard time saying which of the ladies does well, since Sonya keeps the spotlight on Marko (though Jordan gets a brief shine) and they move together mostly as a group, too. The tableau that they create at the end is dope, though.
Broadway/Tap (chor. Christopher Scott): Jess, Nick
Let me say that I am stunned that a tap number is hands-down my favorite routine of the night, especially ironic since I was thinking, as we saw Jess heading up the Green Mile and Cat asking rhetorically if there would be room for tap among the finalists this season, that I didn't care if I never saw tap on SYTYCD again.
I'm sure the number benefits from being choreographed to a great song (vive Nina Simone), but it still features delightful humor and Jess getting clowned on (if I never hear his thick-tongued adenoidal voice again, I'll be happy). I'm further amused by about the "coincidence" of having Jess play the stuck-up snob in the same episode where we get a fat, juicy clip of Nigel calling him arrogant. Synergy!
But that still doesn't mean I'll be looking forward to tap duet Nigel is threatening us with.
Contemporary (chor. Travis Wall): Alexander, Mitchell, Caitlynn, Ashley, Ryan
Interestingly, this routine has a move between Alexander and Caitlynn similar to the one I love from Stacy's, except Travis' remix doesn't move me at all. In fact, the routine's general joy feels emotionally trivial, but maybe I've been in a dark mood lately.
Hip Hop (chor. Christopher Scott): Top 10 Boys
Aside from the big mistake (five guys are trying to single-file backwards through a door, but Wadi's arm catches and shuts it before Tadd and two other guys have the chance to enter it for another Three Stooge's moment; so much for retakes, this is why they call it live, people, etc.), this number is hot. I mean, it's so ridiculously butch that it becomes gay before returning to straight-dude territory, which is my MO, all the way.
Jazz (chor. Sonya Tayeh): Top 10 Girls
Ugh. Can we stop with the Orientalism?
Jazz (chor. Tasty Oreo): Top 20
Ugh. Can we stop with giving Tasty Oreo a platform to exhibit mediocrity?
Initial impressions of some of the individual dancers:
Cue a thousand bad Silence of the Lambs jokes. Also?
Which dancer from another season would be your dream dance partner?Nooooooooooooo :(
The Mark Kanemura of b-boys: other dudes have crisper technique, but if we're to go by his audition solo, he's going to get by on thought-out, left-field choreographic weirdness.
Such effortless flips, but he seems to suffer from the same stiff back/shoulders as Adechike did, which doesn't bode well for other styles, especially considering Wadi is supposedly largely self-taught. Still, PARKOUR.
Did I call Ashley making the show or what? Not that that took any real analytic skill because ASHLEY RULE.
She's got ballet training -- pointed toes, see??
I'm gobsmacked and maybe a little impressed that she's been expressly aiming hard to get on the show for the past two years when her ballroom bona fides are so impeccable. If anyone's slumming on this show, I'd have to say it's her.
I'm getting an indeterminately Asian/Poor Man's Alex Wong vibe out of him. I'm also anxious to hear about, and more to the point, witness his possible b-boy talents -- I'm not letting go of that shot of him windmilling in his audition package.
Now, a special section devoted to Robert Taylor, Jr. (apparently, we have to differentiate him from his pops every time we mention him).
It's early, but I'm already over Robert Taylor, Jr., making it to the top 20, mainly for his instantly, profoundly annoying catchphrase, which reminds me of "sha-wam" from seasons past, but more viscerally offensive. I almost hope that he was desperate and shallow enough to have come up "woo" just to get on the show, because if it's an integral part of his real life, then he deserves a kick to the groin for every time he's uttered this catchphrase, and I use the term loosely.
On the other catchphrase hand: Indubitably! For whatever reason, the second those syllables flowed mellifluously out of the mouth of Bryce "Professor Lock" Johnson, I was enamored. His natty catchphrase has the advantage of being a real word and rolls off his tongue like he's tenured (all while both an Englishman and the Philosopher of Verbiage stumbled when they tried to say "indubitably"). Moreover:
In pitting Robert Taylor, Jr., against the good Professor, the show is asking us to compare the two of them; in that Youtube, Prof. Lock is just messing around, but I still prefer it to the audition solo of Robert Taylor, Jr., which was no great shakes. And the fact that we never got to see the Prof. do his thing is more reason (albeit irrational) to hold a grudge against Robert Taylor, Jr.
I should probably also mention that my dislike for Robert Taylor, Jr., is also tied up with how I'm disappointed that we didn't see what happened to BBoy Machine.
Is Shortney Galliano sneaking back onto the show?
Before I forget, seriously, NINE classical girls? SYTYCD had already been trending slowly towards a disproportionate number of contemporary women, but I didn't expect it to get as blatant as nine out of 10 girls belonging to the same general style. The show is essentially ceding, for example, hip hop as a male genre, while fixing contemporary as the One True and Proper Dance For Young Ladies, when there are tons of great female hip hoppers, some of whom tried out this year. I am dumbfounded, hten, that both Hiro and Princess Lockerooo got cut in the hip-hop round; given their profiles, I was convinced that they were ringers (well, at least Hiro, who with her crew won ABDC a couple seasons ago). Consequently, the message that the show is giving is that women don't hip hop as well as guys, which is patently false:
(Any excuse to post Rino getting fresh.)
I'll give the show props for sending four hip-hop guys to the top 20 (and if I'm not mistaken, three whole b-boys) and a musical thee-ater guy and a tapper, but still, I don't think having such a stylistically homogenous group of women is good long-term look.
Cat is doing which of the following:
- Checking the effectiveness of her anti-perspirant.
- Demonstrating finger yoga.
- Offering a touching tribute to the late, great Randy "Macho Man" Savage.
- Exhorting the dancers of the world to unite, overthrow their producer-oppressors and seize control of the means of production.
I may be the only person in the world who kind of likes having Robin Antin, genius svengali behind the Pussycat Dolls, one of the brightest musical lights of this decade, skulking around on the show.
She's looking like JLo's aunt who happens to be on the prowl there.
Yet, here's a pearl of wisdom she graciously imparted during the course of the night: "The way that you girls worked him, my god, it was like, Whoo! It was! It was hot. This'll be the second time I've said it tonight, but it was sexy. Like, SEX-Y. Sex. Sex, sex, sex. Sexy." That's some Tasty Oreo-level discourse. So in that light, here's Robin looking like a drunken Fergie:
A family whose reunions I'd kill to see: