Sunday, July 17, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 12 (8x14, 8x15)

This week's performances have left me excited, for what reason I don't know; the number of dances I enjoyed is the same as most weeks. Am I that jazzed psyched to see Sasha dance with a different partner?

Well, put it like that, kind of, but the real reason is because I have a special guest contributor to help me rate the dances: none other than the finally Emmy-nominated Cat Deeley!

We all know that her nomination is long past due, and truth be told, I think her best work -- everything from season 2 through 5 -- is behind her, and that in the past two seasons, there were times when I, gasp, actually found her less than the spirited, beautiful, and unimpeachable reality goddess that's been a fixture on the show, even, horrors, mildly annoying, an admission that makes me feel mildly leprous. BAD LEEE. But then, when people such as Jesse Tyler Ferguson accurately point out her abiding awesomeness, the way she gets so honestly embarrassed about the attention she's getting (look how red/redder she is after JTF compliments her!) ...

... is just so adorable that I feel even more of a schmendrick.

And on the performance episode where she just about begs JTF to come back for the results show, that dig at Carmen Electra is just delicious.

Now, without further ado, Cat, get to work!

Sasha and Alexander - Paso Doble (chors. Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin)
As you'd expect, their frames are busted when they get into a closed hold, and they fumble their hand connections a lot, especially in the first third... but it gives Sasha the chance to be voracious, so hoorah. And speaking of voraciousness, here's Alexander's angryfiercepasoface:

So for all the judges saying that he broke through finally and held his own against Sasha on stage, his performance still lacks. (Although to be fair, Sasha doesn't sport an angryfiercepasoface either, so either the blankness is by design, or I have to criticize Sasha as well, and you have one guess how I'm going to decide.) He shows more charisma and personality when Sasha, pretending to be a bull, mock-gores him in the chest than he does in the paso itself.

Cat's rating:

Tadd and Jordan - Contemporary (chor. Travis Wall)
Travis proves that he reads my blog and specifically my entreaty for maturer fare:
the parade of routines with comforting or sentimental prejudices wears down on me. I want to be unsettled and challenged and provoked once in a while
... because this was like woah. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but in a season of star-eyed goopiness, I'll embrace it without reservation. The one thing I wanted to say about this -- that Jordan could've given off more EVIL -- is only half-true: she gives fairly intense face towards the end of the number, though I'll say that she has a remaining bit of predatory thirst for blood that could otherwise push this routine into classic territory.

Cat's rating:

Ricky and Ryan - Broadway (chor. Spencer Liff)
Ricky surprises me with his acting here -- especially the part where he eats his hat -- because I'd kind of pegged him for an introvert and he shines just a little bit in an otherwise muted number.

Cat's rating:

Melanie and Marko - Tango (chor. Louis van Intensité)
Obviously someone at the show is listening to me because not a week has gone by since my plea for a tango routine, and yet, I get this number instead. Marko's frame bugs me a lot -- his shoulders aren't back far enough and his chest isn't extended up high enough, which gives the appearance that he's dancing very heavily. Mary and Nigel say that their performance compared to their dress rehearsal is like night and day -- which of course is a legitimate and relevant critique to make because the audience gets to see the dress rehearsal too oh wait.

Cat's rating:

Clarice and Jess - Lyrical Hip Hop (chor. Christopher Scott)

(Idea stolen shamelessly from here.)

I was expecting this to be a disaster of Evan and Randi proportions, but Jess and Clarice aren't bad at all. You wouldn't have expected Evan to execute b-boy tricks, but Jess pulls them off with... well, not aplomb, but he does them without falling on his face, and, uhh... faint praise anyone? Seriously, he shows more power in some of these moves than you'd expect with someone who has such trouble with lifts. (Serious question: Did Melanie paint that portrait of Clarice?)

Cat's rating:

Sasha and Alexander - Jazz (chor. Tasty Oreo)

Maybe that's why Sasha doesn't like Alexander? He certainly dances much more relaxed and free than he has in the past.

Cat's rating:

Tadd and Jordan - Broadway (chor. Spencer Liff)
From the moment that Tadd struts out and does a Binaca check, I was all set to say that this is how you do cheesy... but then it falls flat the rest of the way. I'm going to say that it's to do with the fact that the routine is basically Jordan's to carry, and, well, you know.

Cat's rating:

Ricky and Ryan - Cha cha (chor. Louis Van Intensité)
That death drop looks uncomfortable as hell, but then I suppose all death drops do.

Cat's rating:

Bonus Cat's raiting:

Mitchell and Caitlynn - Jazz (chor. Travis Wall)
I think it was around this time that I started daydreaming about Megan Rapinoe's hair, because Travis's second number doesn't hold my attention at all, even despite Caitlynn looking like she just came back from shopping at Frederick's of Hollywood. She gets to show off her athleticism again, but, really, who cares when MEGAN RAPINOE'S HAIR.

Cat's rating:

Melanie and Marko - Contemporary (chor. Dee Caspary)
Melanie and Marko get another contemporary?

Cat's rating:

Clarice and Jess - Jive (chors. Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin)
Right when it begins, I keep hoping dearly that the music is Jimi Hendrix, but instead we got something that references "Foxy Lady" (although it seems to supply the farfisa for Janelle Monae's "Many Moons"). Note to choreographers: Don't put lifts in for Jess unless you want everyone to hear "HRNH!" over the music. And blah blah blah they start off grounded but then blah blah blah tentative blah blah blah.

Cat's rating:

Group Broadway (chor. Kelley Abbey)
The camera-work is atrocious, even when it's not cutting off dancers mid-move. Anyway, the Oz version again is superior (ta Sara again, and yes, I do expect you to link everything), not least because the Oz girls have way (and I mean way) more snap than the Yankee girls. Also, it has the benefit of a preamble en pointe. ♥ ballet.

I wonder what makes this solo so much more remarkable than the other girls' solos, and in fact her solo from two weeks ago.

The guy version of frantic desperation, i.e. a sloppy parade of technical moves, though Mitchell gets points for paying attention to the music.

Yeah, what the judges said.

A better version of Mitchell's solo, with a little bit of cockiness thrown in.

After this solo, I think I've finally figured out why I like Sasha's movement so much -- she dances with her entire body, with great control.

I don't see what the judges point out as jacked up technique, but yay ballet!

Which brings me to the point I made last week (and which I reiterate in this post) about the show's contemporary and modernism: "a lot of the choreography on SYTYCD makes me think they want to create in a dance world where modernism never happened." I realize the irony of the statement, since contemporary is influenced by modern dance, which itself is part of the general modernist program that reacted against 19th-century classicism. The way I'd argue my way out is that forms, techniques, and subjects that once were considered radical get co-opted by convention (the most obvious example is the non-narrative, non-linear quality of avant garde film of the '60s, '70s, and '80s supplying the vernacular for modern-day music videos). Clearly, that's happened and is happening on SYTYCD, which has been bending technique to safely bourgeois ends with ferocious intensity and frequency. In short, I'm in the clear.

To elaborate on Mary's brief summary of different tango styles, what Marko and Melanie dance is the American tango, a smooth dance, which means it's cousin to the waltz and the foxtrot. The qualities that make it smooth (as opposed to a Latin/rhythm) is that it principally travels around the floor. (Though they do have patterns that cover progressive parts of the floor, Latin styles fundamentally involve marching in place -- think about a salsa club in which its dance floor is far too packed to travel anywhere -- and lots of hips, i.e. Cuban motion. And, again, American tango doesn't have Cuban motion.) Where tango differs from foxtrot and waltz of course is that the latter two styles have rise and fall, while tango features staccato steps where you (or in my case, try and fail to) keep your head on an even plane.

Argentine tango, which I believe is in fact the original tango from which the other variations are derived, is almost an inversion of the American style (though I should say that the American style inverts the Argentine). Traveling seems to be almost incidental in Argentine (whereas in American, traveling is essential), and the timing is less strict and is more a matter of interpreting the music. It's far smoother than the American version, too.

Argentine has its own culture separate from ballroom and Latin (the competitions you might see on American Ballroom Challenge do not include Argentine rounds, as far as I know, and neither is Argentine a 10 dance), and an authentic Argentine tango snob purist could delineate the unique elements far better than I can.

The new judge trend seems to involve a fourth real judge to balance out all the nothing spewed by the celebrity judges, in some cases a success (Travis) but this week, not so much. Because since when did Sonya become the mohawked lovechild of Mia ("intuitive" touchy-feely nonsense dance-speak) and Lil C (polysyllabic abstractions), except, ten times worse?


Marko's not the only one in love with Tadd:

Scoop from the taping is that there's a mirror offstage.

I don't think I'm too good for Mary Murphy botox jokes yet:


Sara said...

I gotta say, I'm loving the Tadd/Marko bromance pics. So funny.

What I think makes the SYTYCD Australia dancers and routines so captivating is that, generally, the dancers are older. It's not just bug-eyed, breast milk-smelling tweens. They had the oldest competitors. Dancers on their 30s got on the show and I believe that brings a level of maturity and performance that will only come with age.

Re: Emmy for Cat. I might've shed a tear when the nominations came up.

Amanda said...

You are the BEST blogger. Never stop. I want everyone to read your insightful SYTYCD critique -- you should publish it as a monograph with a university press oh wait.

momo said...

Cat's reaction shots: priceless!

re: tango--Marko did not have his feet under him all the time (too many toe leads) in the tango which is why his posture was off, I think. Whether one is doing Argentine, and leaning into the embrace or American ballroom and making a martini glass shape, the forward steps should involve a heel lead and rolling through the foot not being on your toes. Try it both ways, and you'll see the difference.