Several seasons ago, I felt that the narrative aspects of the show didn't matter and that the most important (perhaps the only) factor in appreciating the show is the dancing. Now, time (read: senility) has prompted me to reconsider my stance, as has the paucity of contestants whom I can sink my teeth into (sorry, I've been watching The Walking Dead). Actually, another factor in changing my mind is being able to see more performances from foreign editions of the show. More often than not, I only view isolated performances without investing in the whole rigamarole of the rehearsals and getting to know the dancers, to whom, I notice, I'm consequently far less emotionally attached, and the performances likewise lack emotional pungency.
This attachment is, I'm sure, a product of the reality television portion of SYTYCD, wherein the kids and their personalities are foregrounded through the pre-rehearsal getting-to-know-you packages. I want to avoid validating the "growth" narratives that get sloshed about like cheap wine, which is a lot of hokum. (For starters, how much lasting personal development can occur in the two months that the kids spend on a high-stress, high-scrutiny, physically demanding television show with a great fondness for stage-managed morality? My feeling: not much, or at least not much that's as cut-and-dried positive and settled as the show makes out. Moreover, I have to question the motives (read: sanity) of anyone who goes onto a reality program in the hopes of some personal catharsis (a statement which risks casting me as a hypocrite when it comes to my love for ANTM.)
In lieu of "growth" then, the secret emotional sauce is more elusively defined but is potent nonetheless. If I find so-and-so to be likeable, then, when they perform well, they're not just succeeding on the show, they're helping to reinforce certain parts of my moral worldview. But when that emotional connection isn't quite there, I find myself struggling to give myself over performances that seem to be consensus favorites.
Take Marko and Melanie. They're clearly a power couple. Not just because the judges are calling them the team to beat every chance they get -- they have the best chemistry and after their hip hop this last week, I feel ok with saying that they've rocked their three routines so far... and yet they're not my power couple. Clearly, the reason I'm not photoshopping pretend wedding invitations in their names isn't to do with a shortfall of dancing ability, it's something more ineffable -- for the purposes of this specific discussion, the exact reason doesn't matter because personality and charisma exist in nebulous and subjective territory. The most I can say about Melanie and Marko is that they lack a certain SQUEE factor for me (putting all my years of schooling to good use here, my profs would be so proud).
So this is my roundabout way of saying...
Just when Robert was doing so well. I didn't give this much thought, but we should've known that his exit package would be packed with woo, which means that we should've been rooting for him to win the competition.
One curiosity: as Nigel is about to let one of the boys go, all of his words of encouragement for Chris sounded like they should've been spoken to Robert. Obviously, Nigel misattributes the woodpecker routine to Chris, but also, the passion and urgency he describes in Chris's solo seems much more evident in Robert's.
Group routine 1 - Broadway (chor. Tasty)
I guess boring Tasty is better than awful Tasty?
Sasha and Alexander - Contemporary (chor. Dee Caspary)
Sasha is just extraordinary -- I'm not sure what about her movement hypnotizes me, but here I am,
Mitchell and Caitlynn - Samba (chor. Jean-Marc Généreux)
Honestly, I'm unable to pay much attention to this one because it's like someone was scheming since auditions to put Mitchell in a pair of Latin pants.
Jeez! He can put eyes out with junk like that.
Miranda and Robert - Broadway (chor. Tasty)
Yawn. The most interesting thing about this one happens in the rehearsal...
... which led me to think that Robert was going to play that kind of musician in an unusually gritty Broadway number. Hahah joke's on me.
Melanie and Marko - Lyrical Hip Hop (chor. NappyTabs)
SappyTabs in full effect... and I can't help but buy into all of its sentimentality. It's such obvious teenage wish-fulfillment but Marko and Melanie's earnestness and madskillz kind of make this classic. When Marko realizes that Melanie is his true love?
Translation: I'm a 12-year-old girl.
Chris and Ashley - Jazz (chor. Sonya Tayeh)
Or, ersatz Wade. Nigel offers his one useful piece of the evening (or, indeed, the whole season thus far) when he says that everything, from the choreography to the performance, should've been more MORE (i.e. exaggerated, cartoonish, etc.); otherwise, this number makes Wade's absence that much more acute.
Jess and Clarice - Foxtrot (chor. Jean-Marc Généreux)
I hated... Jess's ill-fitting jacket -- it's cut too long and distorts his leg shapes. I also don't care for the whole big-band/crooner vibe, musically, dance-wise, etc., so big whatever for me.
Ricky and Ryan - Contemporary (chor. Sonya Tayeh)
The first time watching this, I was mostly wondering how starkly weird Robyn's voice sounded when it doesn't have massive production around it.
Tadd and Jordan - Hip Hop (chor. NappyTabs)
It gets intricate in the middle, but it's a lot of effort spent kind of running in place.
Group routine 2 - Contemporary (chor. Dee Caspary)
You'd think I'd be more interested in something that gives me the slightest chance to reference Game of Thrones again, but my mind wanders from this one pretty easily.
One of those solos that prompts the question, "That's dancing for your life?"
Not sure if Chris projects well out to the audience, least of all me -- he seems a little closed off and disengaged, i.e. dancing for himself.
Typical contemporary stuff, but better than Ashley's.
The best thing he's done on the show.
Kind of wild and uncontrolled?
Pretty good, though uncontrolled (strangely, like his partner Caitlynn).
After Tadd and Jordan's hip hop, we see NappyTabs start to embrace, and then the camera suddenly cuts away to a random shot of the audience, as if the earlier spate of kissing made the producers extra-paranoid.
Jordan danced to "Spice Up Your Life" in the first grade? Way to make me feel old.
Oh hey, how cute.
I've finally figured out that Alexander is actually drawn by Paul Pope.
The first special guest -- AXIS Dance Company -- is remarkable, and honestly, the highlight of the week. The two dancers brought artistic maturity that becomes a rarity when the show casts such young contestants.
Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian, on the other hand, deal in physical spectacle -- their performance isn't so much dance as a series of staggering lifts.
Cat Deeley: fashion model, television presenter, and now...
... post-apocalyptic warrior. She may be our only hope against the coming femmebot invasion (which includes her cyborg clones, let's not forget).