Sunday, July 10, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 14 (8x12, 8x13)

I hasten to note that this two-pane does not reflect the views and opinions of this blogger (i.e. I suppose I'm pandering to an outspoken segment of viewers) -- the show's sundry faults do not constitute an existential threat to my happiness. Even if I disagree with some (many) of its inclinations, they're not morally outrageous, i.e. it's their show, and they have a fundamental right to pimp contemporary if they choose to. The alternative, after all, would be no show at all, and I'd have to watch Dancing With the Stars or something, and we can't have that happen, can we?

Boys - Contemporary (chor. Justin Giles)
I don't remember when I officially had my fill of angst-ridden numbers, but it's gotten to a point where a routine such as this one makes no impression on me.

Melanie and Marko - Jazz (chor. Ray Leeper)

I can't help but notice certain awkwardness in the Melanie and Marko's connection here, but that may be because their partnership is at a level that prompts me to nitpick. For example: Melanie outperforms Marko here. But honestly, all that's to avoid saying "whatever" to this number.

Sasha and Alexander - Hip Hop (chor. Shaun Evaristo)
I'll go a little farther than Travis did and say that I positively liked this one, if only to continue my crush on Sasha. The routine has a laid-back groove that Sasha rides to the end, which is cute without being NappyTabs cloying (notwithstanding Alexander's weak fist pump).

Relatedly, Sasha really needs to get a new partner, not so much because Alexander is bad, but they've hardly any chemistry together if we're to take their stilted interactions in the rehearsal packages as any indication. At times, watching them when they're not dancing is a little painful. Don't let this CUET portrait fool you:

I suppose I'll get my wish in the top 10 (crossing my fingers).

Tadd and Jordan - Waltz (chor. Toni Redpath)
The first time I watched this routine, I thought it was excellent though it had a number of hiccups. But when I watched it again, I couldn't find those hiccups -- I must've succumbed to the sirensong. The rise-and-fall and some of the lifts are perhaps less smooth than their Viennese, but then, the truism in dance is that the slower the tempo, the more difficult the routine, so the relative roughness in this number shouldn't surprise. Another first impression that I had was that this routine has more closed-position partnering, but that seems to have vanished as well. Talk about sirensong. The juice is in the styling, really, and I love seeing Tadd give himself over to it, and maybe that's why I focus on him so much more in their partnership.

Progressive twinkles, by the way. (I've done them! Not well, but I've done them.)

Clarice and Jess - Contemporary (chor. Justin Giles)
I don't feel the anger and heat that Giles describes in rehearsals -- I'm not sure if that's because of the choreography or because Clarice's stock of emotions doesn't go deeper than wooden.

Chris and Ashley - Salsa (chor. Liz Lira)
Boy, that shimmy of Chris's -- NAGL. He can actually move pretty well -- by "pretty well," I'm excluding his hips, which move about as much as a block of ice does -- but his performance is so frightened and tight that it drags down the routine.

Ricky and Ryan - Jazz (chor. Chucky Klapow)
Let me bust out another SYTYCDAU video:

Voguing! In keeping with the overall trend, the Oz version is more FABULOUS, but Chucky's version remains awfully fun (even if I'm not much of a Bowie fan). Ryan seems to struggle, however -- where Ricky dances lightly, she's in an unfortunate, tepid medium, neither very grounded nor very airborne. Adam B. Vary probably puts it best when he calls her dancing labored.

Mitchell and Caitlynn - Contemporary (chor. Mandy Moore)
An entertaining shlock-fest (not something I'm given to loving -- i.e. come on, Celine Dion for crying out loud). It's athletically demanding, which lets Caitlynn channel her energy more fruitfully than usual, but the emotional narrative is pitched high from the start -- it starts at 11, and stays there and doesn't offer any contrast.

Girls - Jazz (chor. Ray Leeper)
I'm of the opinion that once you've seen a jazz/contemporary on this show, you've seen them all. I like Sasha's outfit, though.

Like a chocolate Betty Boop.

Group - Bollywood (chor. Nakul)

Much better musicality than her previous solo.

He's surprisingly flexible, and very strong, but not explosively so -- he's got more of a lean power.

She danced slutty as a third grader too.

His body looks like a different type from other b-boys -- very stout, thick, and doesn't have the same lines.

Manic and desperate.

He's got very tasteful musicality, if not quite exquisite technique.

Travis Wall for permanent judge? I wouldn't be too sad if he didn't choreograph for the show since I've never been much of a fan of his routines, but the level of his critiques is refreshingly concrete, and he avoids the slavishly ambiguous praise that makes up the judges' vocabulary lately. The precision of his comments also seems to have raised the games of all the other judges -- Mary even took a break from her usual screeching aggravation and offered a concise history lesson on the waltz: it used to be a scandalous style because of SO MUCH TOUCHING, which I believe is partly because it comes from Eastern Europe (decadent and foreign!) and a folk dance (rude!).

On the other hand, the fourth judge is so pointless and insubstantial that she evaporates into nothing by the time of the results episode. I wish that Travis could've ghost-written notes for her to read out loud (which presumes that she can read) because her gasping elocution makes Mary's rambling sound like she's reciting Cicero. An utter waste of time who doesn't deserve to be called a Pussycat Doll.

(Given the trend of celebrity judges, I wonder if we can expect to hear the Situation, who seems to suddenly be free to pursue other opportunities, explaining on SYTYCD that he studied ballet at Juilliard and was in the corps de ballet at NYCB.)

I don't know whether or not the style choices over the weeks is evidence of producer manipulation or genuine randomness. For example, Marko and Melanie have performed contemporary, jazz, lyrical hip hop, and jazz. If the producers are in fact feeding them this sequence of styles, then they're audacious for repeating jazz in such a short period of time, like, "Ok, you did your one non-classical routine (even though it's kind of related anyway), now we can get back to what this show is about." But I can't see what deliberate purpose they have with giving Tadd and Jordan two smooth dances in the space of three weeks, which doesn't strike me as part of the producers' nefarious master plan. Like, waltz, you know? But I do believe that Melanie and Marko's example betrays the show's orientation around contemporary as its central style of dance.

What is it with Jordan and calling attention to exactly one boob?

Also, is she BFFs with Kim Kardashian or something?

Jess's dad looks an awful lot like Benjamin Netanyahu, the once and current Prime Minister of Israel, doesn't he?

Hearing Florence + The Machine perform live gives me an appreciation for the production on Lungs -- as much as I wanted to get lost in a deluge of gigantic drums and Florence's voice, they sounded like they had to hold back on the volume to avoid overwhelming the sound system.

The dream lives on.

The segments with the contestants' families seemed to take place in apartments with remarkably similar furnishing -- at least those contestants who don't live in Southern California -- so I figure that since the families also attended the taping, they were brought to LA to celebrate the holidays with the dancers.

In Ryan's package, the Oakland auditions are called "Bay Area" auditions instead of "San Francisco," so that's a bit of redressing.

Nigel: "The whole idea of this show is to do styles you're not accustomed to." Funny man, him.

He also doesn't say much to Ryan when she's in the bottom 3, only that the judges love her and she had the benefit of a good routine. That's worth mentioning because he doesn't rhetorically ask her, "Why doesn't the audience like you?" He does obliquely include her when he says to Ricky, "Some how, you and your partner are not connecting with America," but it's rather tiresome how stubborn they are with her.

Another entry for the Way To Make Me Feel Old file: Alexander has never heard of TJ Hooker, Barney Miller, or Hill Street Blues.

They've styled Ryan in a way that she looks exactly like Elizabeth Banks now:

Another week where the guest dancers -- Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet -- put the juvenilia on the show to shame: arresting, powerful, stylish.

In contrast, a lot of the choreography on SYTYCD makes me think they want to create in a dance world where modernism never happened. I don't mean that I necessarily want to see butoh on the show (although that would be epic and awesome if a probable train wreck), but 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 (and Mia almost can do that, though I feel she injects certain bourgeois half-measures into even her edgier routines). For example, they could at least get Garry Stewart and/or Larissa McGowan to do one of those sleek contemporaries if the show has so many contemporary dancers.

As the end credits of the results show start rolling and the remaining contestants come onto the stage to comfort Chris and Ashley, Chris actually collapses onto the floor. Before we see the reactions of everyone else, though, we cut to the 19 Entertainment screen. He seems fine in this backstage interview, so he's probably overwhelmed with emotion right after he gets cut. In light of that, Travis' comments (about an eliminee's thinking that not being on the show is a dramatic end to their career) resonates a little more deeply now, and may actually be directed at Chris.


Sara said...

THANK YOU! Clarice's frozen face bugs me tremendously. She doesn't even show emotion in the pretaped segments! It's dead eyes straight ahead.

Is Mary sharing the botox again?

momo said...

It sure makes a difference to one's understanding of the dances to have done some progressive twinkles or something, doesn't it? Tadd just makes every move completely, so even if he has just learned the waltz two days ago, he's able to communicate the character of the dance. Chris, on the other hand, never really believed he could do that mambo and it was sad to watch it defeat him.
I think Sasha just hates Alexander.

Leee said...

Is Mary sharing the botox again?


Oooh, I don't do nearly enough waltz to get a good sense of the difficulty of the routine -- especially since the show's ballroom numbers have so little partnering -- at least for the patterns. Hopefully we'll finally get a rumba or a tango sooner than later, which are the two styles I'm concentrating on.

The styling is a completely different matter, it's what separates people who've got the dance deeply in them (Tadd) from people who are afraid of looking bad or failing (Chris, me).

I don't get hate from Sasha directed to Alex, but I do agree that they're not BFFs IRL. In fact, I think there's a lot more forced smiling in these partnerships than ever before -- Sasha/Alex, Chris/Ashley, Tadd/Jordan, and possibly more.

Talia said...

Now you have me scouring the web looking for a local butoh performance. It's been too many years and I can't remember the name of the fantastic troupe I last saw.

Leee said...

Talia: Sankai Juku? (The only butoh troupe I know off the top of my head.)

Ana said...

*cough* Central Europe :D .

My judging panel of dreams: Shankman, Travis, Ferguson.

You and the other commenters have covered some of the main stuff:

- Cat's long overdue Emmy nom and the fact that her best work was in the seasons past.

- The new judges can say something to the choreographers, hurrah! It was stupid watching dancers dance beautifully, but to a boring, lackluster choreo with an awful soundtrack... and then for them to be scolded while the choreographer is being not just excused, but lauded O_o >:[ .

- The last few seasons feel more talented (erm, yeah), but they leave me wanting... more. Of something.
If I forget the unfortunate season 5 with Jeanine, I was okay with all the winners, but in the last few I was okay with most of the Top 10 as well. There'll always be a Kensington (she got a main role in a movie? I thought she was completely unrelatable!), Evan, Mollee or Kent in there, but eh, what can ya do.