So, with three contestants whom any viewer could have pegged as finalists in the opening weeks of the competition, I've been thinking about an argument that I occasionally hear about how it hardly matters when certain dancers are eliminated because they weren't going to win anyway. It's not an argument that I particularly like, though for reasons that I can't entirely explain. For one, it's a diss, even though I've employed the same argument by calling certain dancers "cannon fodder" (and I believe that I can identify cannon fodder fairly accurately, as most people can). For another, it's unproductively cynical.
Shows like SYTYCD depend a lot on process, that is, well-defined rules on how contestants are winnowed away. When that process gets disrupted, unexpected things can happen. For example, if a contestant is lucky enough to draw demographics-shifting choreography that moves a lot of people, then Janette gets cut. (That's for those of you playing T!YBE Bingo.) And just this season, we saw what happened when nobody was cut in the first week -- the season's only tap specialist and the season's only ballroom expert got shafted. In short, process might completely alter the trajectory of a season, in some cases for the worse. To dredge up a hoary sports cliche, it's why we play the game.
I suspect that there are better and deeper reasons than "anything can happen," but for the moment, that's the best I can offer.
Melanie and All-Star Twitch - Hip Hop (chor. NappyTabs)
At times Melanie hits the choreography with just the right hunger (the head rolls while in the splits), but just as often she looks lost trying to gather up some spazziness to simulate the raw voraciousness that Lil' C talks about. The other, lesser judges tiptoe around her deficiencies and talk up her general performance on the show, presumably because they don't want to sink her chances of getting to next week, but could there have been any possible way that her fans -- and I'm convinced that Melanie's captured the largest voting bloc that would've voted hard for her especially if they felt that the judges had slighted her.
Sasha and All-Star Kent (ugh) - Contemporary (chor. Tasty Oreo)
I feel kind of crass and provincial, but this really didn't move me. In fact, I feel more when I see how emotional Sasha is afterwards. It is interesting, though, for how it's the first time Sasha has danced a role so vulnerable and open -- she's always been in control otherwise, prompting her partner to react to her.
Best part sadly is when during the rehearsal package when Marko REALLY WANTS TO GO GET THAT BULL. Janette looks great in this (though of course I'd say that she looks great in anything), but she's got all the snap that Marko doesn't. It does give Christina Applegate the chance to say that Marko's crotch should be lower and deeper, so, uh, there's that.
Not bad, he mixes it up differently and his musicality is as good as it's been, but he does fall out of that turn towards the end.
Tadd and All-Star Ellenore - Jazz (chor. Sonya Tayeh)
This is almsot a great routine -- great feel, great music (and I'm not generally a Beirut fan) -- but the lusty smolder is toned down and inconsistent, and Sonya's emphasis on the chandelier probably cost the routine 20% in potential dance. And having Tadd spin around while hanging from it? Not dance. The fault lies squarely on her, in my opinion, but when he and Ellenore get some actual choreography to sink their teeth into, the number scratches at the face of greatness, or something.
Isn't modern dance's agenda about opening up ballet's closed repertoire of technique so that any movement can potentially become dance? Yet every time Caitlynn takes the stage by herself, she does the exact same thing: turn, jump, etc.
Ricky and All-Star Jaimie - Contemporary (chor. Dee Caspary)
I tried to appreciate this routine, but I probably reached my saturation point for contemporary 3 weeks ago.
On the whole, one of the better solos Tadd's performed, if only for the opening duck walk (can't figure out what its proper b-boy name is).
Pretty good -- she stays away from the cliche tricks, but she also has a couple of hiccups where she pauses like she's off-balance or has to think about what to do next.
Caitlynn and All-Star Pasha - Samba (chor. Dmitry Chaplin)
See, her solos stick out so poorly in my mind that I sometimes forget that she's still a very pliable dancer who can manage a decent facsimile of some (for her) exotic genres. A lot of faking-it-until-making-it is in the styling, and she embraces that quite well, so I actually enjoyed the samba. No, the performance is by no means clean (I'm not sure whom to blame for that nonstarter spin/lift), but a nice bit of fluff.
Getting kind of generic, too, though that last flip shows some incredible ease.
Woah. Best female solo on the show, I think: athletic, musical, spectacular, menacing. Billy Bell saved boys' contemporary solos last season, and Melanie responds right here. Selfishly, I'd have liked to see her solo more often (well, also because I find all her giggling annoyingly reminiscent of Molly from season 6).
Sasha and Ricky - Wacking (I really don't like the way SYTYCD spells some genres) (chor. Kumari Suraj)
Subtitle: Everything I know about wacking I learned from Princess Lockerooo Youtubes. (Also, a passing reference on one episode of ABDC.)
Wacking obviously has a retro vibe, and when done right, a preening, funky disco diva quality. Unfortunately, neither Sasha nor Ricky really articulate their arms well enough, and so all their moves feel unfinished and slow. (Lil' C's comments I believe are quite instructive.) Still, I like it simply for bringing funk in an otherwise funk-free season. (Sasha and Ricky's phone mugging is charming in a nice way, but their chumminess throws in profoundly stark relief how poorly she and Alexander got along.)
But you know what's unadulterated fierce? Kumari Suraj's outfit:
I wish we got a look at her whole ensemble.
Tadd and Melanie - Broadway (chor. Spencer Liff)
When Cat is about to announce the choreographer for this performance, I (and I'm certain everyone else) held my breath, hoping for Anyone But Tasty, and heaved such a tremendous sigh when the now-dulcet syllables of "Spencer Liff" flow from her lips. Anyway, love the delicious cruelty, though I'm not sure that the camera blocking does Tadd any favors: twice, he's so far into the foreground -- with his back towards us -- that the only thing we can tell that he's doing is nicely framing Melanie, i.e. I call shenanigans! He's a little stiff, I think, but he also has this one move where he leaps out until he's horizontal in the air and still manages to land on his hands... of course, that move got no reaction from the audience (i.e. the fix is in! Shenanigans!), so I was a bit surprised when he prevails over Ricky.
Marko and Caitlynn - Lyrical Jazz (chor. Sonya Tayeh)
Sonya's routine had me petrified that it would put Caitlynn over Sasha, because it's that good, and it's an athletic routine which she excels at. However, despite what the judges say, it's also Marko's spotlight, and he dominates it, convincing me that in a contemporary context (let's be honest, "lyrical jazz" is at least on this show another way to say "contemporary"), he is at his best when he's playing evil. (Much more watchable and engrossing than his solo, for instance.)
Group contemporary (chor. Justin Giles)
An enchanting mix of lyricism and isolations. I also noticed right at the beginning that Tadd has surprisingly good turnout (no doubt a product of his martial arts background).
Much better than her previous solo. As musical and fluid as ever, but this time her wild abandon is better focused (which I guess means it's not quite so wild abandon). I think what she goes for is a never-ceasing flow of movement, so when she has pauses, her solo suffers for it.
Do I really need to watch this for the eighth time?
Showing off the power in her legs. Not quite as gangbusters as the previous one.
My favorite solo of his, maybe just because he dances to some proper funk and really works on showing off his downrock.
Much better than his first solo, but definitely not one to remember when you have...
Way to not hold back. I wonder if he had done this solo during the performance night if he would've pulled more votes than Tadd, because he's unleashing some dramatic fire here.
Two things I discovered thanks to the dance guest. First, a girl can be a bad boy, at least when we're talking about the Bad Boys of Dance. Second, more ballet should be set to house, because their performance is rad. Demi-pointe and Daft Punk go together like Cat Deeley and So You Think You Can Dance.
Performances like this make me wish I knew more ballet terms, because the only move I recognize is the Running Man.
Nigel's shoulders are riding terribly high here, he needs to pull them back and stick out his chest to have better carriage. With form this bad, though, I honestly wonder he can judge on this show.
Speaking of poor technique:
Leee and His Teacher - Tango (chor. His Teacher)
Having watched SYTYCD, I can tell what I need to work on, my frame and attack/conviction most obviously. You know, I thought I was dancing a lot bigger, but unless you've already performed a lot, your brain tends to magnify your moves when in fact you're doing relatively little. Big ups to my teacher, of course, though I take full credit for the song choice.
Special multiple choice LOLCATDEELEY.
To whom is Cat talking?
Man, what is it with me and animated gifs of SYTYCDers eating things out of the air?