Welcome to So You Think Dance is An amorphous Mass of Star-Struck Eyes, Longing Gazes, and Heteronormativity!
Although the performances this week aren't a patch on those of the top 10, the results are far more judicious, so take your pick of the two that appeals more to you (good art, or a functional ethical system).
Since last week is like so last week, I'm more interested in talking about the results, particularly the combined elimination of the judges' pet and of what seemed to be the consensus tween pick. With all those consecutive weeks Jess avoided the bottom (from week 1 to week 7) and my getting fooled by the petty enthusiasms of posters on various message board sects who seemed all set on praising his "personality" and "star quality," my head got turned around and thought he had secured the two-fisted landline/cell-phone dialing prowess of the tween voting bloc, forgetting even what I wrote in the first week (it's been almost two months, cut me some slack) and the likelihood that Melanie is still the tween favorite.
Jordan's elimination is a lot more puzzling and surprising, since the judges had to overcome seasons of habit stubbornly keeping dancers that the voters keep sending to the bottom, and what's more, let the voters dictate their course of action even though they still retained the ultimate decision-making. (Possibly, the judges simply never became as devoted to her as they were to, say, Nathan.) It's almost inexplicable. (And if I bother to think about the matter, Jordan should've stayed over Caitlynn, since Ms. Casanova has both better technique and expressiveness than Junior Miss Caitlynn over here, but in the scope of the finale, it won't matter -- hopefully. However, one wonders why we saw this offbeat quirkiness out of Jordan only as she's about to vanish from the SYTYCD stage.)
Sasha and All-Star Pasha - Quickstep (chor. Jonathan Roberts)
Psasha! Sasha rattles loosely around in Pasha's frame, which I think goes towards the stiff critique, but the one little bit where they switch lead and follow is delightful. After she gives Pasha an underarm turn, the tone in her arms looks a weak, though, and you can see their arms dip, but still! Charming as hell. The rest, I could take or leave.
Caitlynn and All-Star Ivan - Hip Hop (chor. Marty Kudelka)
Sasha and Alexander and Shaun Evaristo got panned for a routine that's been deemed "Hip Hop 101," but did Caitlynn get any hip-hop choreography? I'm not sure that she's challenged all that much here. Gaga makes a good point about Caitlynn -- "you sort of rely on your center in a very... certain way, like you actually stop" -- that also applies to her solos as well.
I'm also dead tired of all these old white people saying which dancers do and do not have swag. Can we stop that yet? Or, at least put a moratorium on the word "swag"?
Jordan and one All-Star Ade (geddit?) - Jazz (chor. Tasty Oreo)
Boy, this is a waste of everybody's time.
Melanie and "All-Star" Neil - Contemporary (chor. Mandy Moore)
How can I take this Mandy routine seriously? I can't. (By the way, is this the original song? Gods, Bonnie Tyler's voice is mangled, and the song sounds more like an earnest karaoke attempt than a Billboard Hot 100 number 1.)
Ricky and All-Star Anya - Jive (chor. Jason Gilkison)
The thing about contemporary dancers doing ballroom (and this goes for Sasha as much as anyone else) is that they have this hard-to-describe looseness when they dance that's maybe a little more apparent when you compare them against the compactness of ballroom vets like Anya or Pasha. It's probably a matter of knowing where to put your body parts and how to move/shake them properly. So, yeah, Ricky's holding himself too high, and I'll accept how Gaga would say I'm being old-fashioned.
Also, why the hell did Jason Gilkison go with a Celine Dion cover (melismatic pap) over the Ike & Tina Turner original (stone cold classic), especially when there's already another Ike & Tina song earlier in the show? Actually, that's probably the answer right there, but, still, come on!
Jess and All-Star Misha Chan - Hip Hop (chor. NappyTabs)
Hey, there's a move in here that I (me!) actually do with one of the teachers at my studio!
Granted, we do it more as a "see ya later" high five, and we dial up the dorkiness (and by "we," I mean "me"), but still, it's weird seeing something this familiar in a solid but unremarkable number. By that calculus, this is my favorite routine of the night. (Note: it's not.)
Tadd and All-Star Lauren Frogurtman - Jazz (chor. Mandy Moore)
Notice how I can actually pay attention to a Mandy number that isn't set to an execrable '80s relic? Two big hiccups, of course, the first being Tadd losing his lid, the second him getting clobbered on the nose:
At the very least, I didn't notice it till I re-watched it with an eye towards looking for it specifically, so good on Tadd and Lauren, and for Mandy for bringing some funk to the game instead of the usual flimsy romance.
It's also perhaps more than a little telling that in a season that's been bludgeoning hip hop's corpse with jazz, Melanie LaPatin mistakes this jazz routine for hip hop. All said, this is probably my favorite routine of the night.
Marko and All-Star Allison - Contemporary (chor. Sonya Tayeh)
I didn't like this last year when Alex danced it, and I still don't like it this year with Marko.
Tadd and Caitlynn - Foxtrot (chor. Jonathan Roberts)
Tadd's shoulders get really hunched up when he gets into closed position. Darling Caitlynn's dress is to die for, utterly. By the way, Gaga's advice to Caitlynn here -- "Just work that flower" -- seems like heh heh heh heh.
Marko and Ricky - Hip Hop (chor. NappyTabs)
Running out of ways to say, "It's aight," so: It's aight. If Tabitha's expression right after they finish is any indication:
Maybe she knows that Gaga is about to lay into them: "It's the interpretation of hip hop that I thought was a little bit contrived." Gaga adds, "I did find it to be modern in your approach. It's just all the props and things, I don't know. You know me, I love a prop. I love a prop. But I think again that it was you guys that made it special, that it was your energy that made it fly." Here's an interesting development: lately, some of these celebrity judges whom we initially bemoaned have the standing (and maybe enough arrogance) to openly if quietly criticize some of the most played-out choreographers. In other words, the most important quality in a celeb judge is that they should be someone whose fame and renown does not depend on appeasing the likes of Tasty Oreo.
Jess and Jordan - Rumba (chor. Jason Gilkison)
I have a hard time concentrating on this routine because the song doesn't fit a rumba at all. It's the right tempo, but it's got a weird quality that I can't put my finger on that makes it an awkward rumba. Not that it matters, because I barely saw any closed holds. (Alternative joke: Mary calls the routine International Rumba, but I'm not sure how she could tell, because NO CLOSED HOLDS.) Maybe that's the difference between the rumba and the "rhumba" (the show's spelling). With what he's given, though, Jess has shown he's better than Evan in non-classical genres. Low bar, I know.
(If I concentrate on the guy during ballroom performances, it's because honestly, that's the part I feel better commenting on. Although I get a pretty close view of what a follow's part is supposed to look like, I'm usually more occupied with little things like keeping time and such.)
Sasha and Melanie - Jazz (chor. Sonya Tayeh)
It's aight. For me, it's mostly composed of isolated tableaux of iconic poses (the last image particularly), but it doesn't add up to a coherent whole for me. The trifling music certainly doesn't help, either. (I'm kind of peeved that other choreographers in addition to NappyTabs are starting to lean on District 78.)
Group contemporary (chor. Tasty Oreo)
At first, I was trying to figure out if this was a Mia routine that I didn't care for or a Sonya routine that I didn't care for, but instead, it was the millionth Tasty number that I forget the second it's over. Not that it's the usual offal he pisses out, it just doesn't engage me. The lighting and costume are great, however -- I mean, they gave Tadd a Keith Flint!
Going back to what she knows. And we are all the worse for it.
I liked his solo from the previous week better, on account of the more dancing.
She must know something we don't about the judges' decisions, because this is a lot of nothing.
Not bad, but tonally not my thing. I think it's worth busting out my "Mark Kanemura of b-boys" comparison again.
So, the LXD.
The choreography has a widescreen sensibility, there's a lot of styling straight out of wuxia films and anime by way of The Matrix, comme ça:
I wish Christopher Scott would do something like this for the duets rather than the drippy lyricism favored by NappyTabs, though maybe a routine with this tone is less monumental with just two people (and odds would be that those two people couldn't pull off half the moves -- damn, those are some sick b-boys).
But even if that's not your thing, the unison stuff is stunning, and of course...
Pandora! And damn, she's looking all glam and fine. (I wonder if she's gotten her braces off yet.) (Her name pops up among the LXD credits on LXD Inspired, so I'ma guess they know what they're talking about. They also list Ashley Galvan from season 7, too, and I believe she's the one in the yellow skirt.)
I only wish the actual LXD webisodes, which are disappointingly concrete, literal, and mundane, were as cinematically minded as its performances on SYTYCD.
Jeez! Is he unwell? He looks like Christian Bale in The Machinist.
Hey, this could come straight out from the opening title sequence of a James Bond film, except MORE CONTEMPORARY.
He's smiling on the outside, but you know he's thinking about his Bathroom Bro.
You know, I'm surprised Madonna hasn't put in a turn as a guest judge yet, since Lady Gaga doesn't do anything Madge hasn't already done.
Nigel's right about one thing: Lauren does look different. Taller, specifically.
Look, she matches up with Tadd, and Tadd is not some short, sawed-off—
... or maybe he is.
Put another way:
OK, I'm on a "lol dancers are short" kick this week, I guess: