Monday, May 28, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance - 9x01 "New York City/Dallas Auditions"

Even though I believe that her days of sublimity have peaked, by the gods have I missed Cat. (Her brief cameo on ANTM is an utter waste of would-be crossover genius.) But even her residual awesomeness (still potent) couldn't save me from the enervation that shrouded my mood the very second the judges begin their tiresome shenanigans and attention-seeking (though of course the show's more pathological impulses also contributed to my continuing malaise). Clearly, the judges consider themselves an integral focus of the program -- otherwise, why would the cameras ever cut to them in the middle of an audition?

Long story short: for the sake of my mental health and my enjoyment (which has been for some time more uncertain than I'd like, and I mean my enjoyment), I'm going to focus far less on the abuses of power relations or the perpetuation of retrograde attitudes, because first, I've pushed that boulder long enough, and second, plenty of my other fellow loudmouth holier-than-thou bloggers are willing to pick up the slack.

What brought me to this defeatist acquiescence is the tumult caused by the b-boy/furry Von Kipper, who almost has a defensible point about the show's exploitative auditions except that he has to go and make the "OH NOES MAINSTREAM" canard that you'd expect from a 22-year-old guy who thinks he's the only person with enough integrity and courage to speak truth to power, when in fact the vibe he gives off is more, "Dude, I just read this book that CHANGED THE WAY I SEE THE WORLD, it's called Atlas Shrugged."

But then the counter-tumult, in which people alternately see Nigel's Machiavellian fingers behind the confrontation (and they do have a compelling argument -- all but spoiling for a fight, Nigel likely knows of Von's opinions before taking the stage, and so he's using Von to insulate himself against charges of exploitation), and of the ironic possibility that, considering his garbled and insular argument, Von himself may have Asperger's, and thus, again, bad on Nigel and all that. It's an endless cycle of recrimination and doubt, when all I want to do is make fun of people in order to make myself feel better without having to grapple with sensations of guilt or moral confusion.

Anyway. This season is set to feature two extensive changes: obviously, the elimination of the results show, and the crowning of two winners, one male and one female. I've seen a few people note that this latter arrangement "makes things a lot fairer for the girls, who can’t do some of the crazy, crowd-pleasing stunts that their much bigger male counterparts can," but longtime readers can anticipate my response: if anything, having two winners is a boon to the guys, who have had trouble disrupting the near-stranglehold that young female contemporary dancers have held on the show, especially in the  past couple seasons.

Will one of the guys whom we see (and really, this first episode is a veritable sausagefest) be that lucky winner? I doubt it, but some of them warrant a few comments.

Amelia Lowe
Wait, a girl? And one who's already proven polarizing. I love her hair and her affection for flapper style, but affection turns to affectation very quickly in the hands of the dilettante. Maybe having more than 24 frames per second ruins the effect, but this Louise Brooks–wannabe doesn't come close to mimicking silent era–movement. Neither am I entirely taken with her audition, though you might not have guessed it from the standing ovation she receives. I'd like to imagine that the crowd is irreversibly exhausted with the hair-flipping tumblers and thus admired the novelty of her choreography, which has a point of view beyond a tumbling run.

Another good thing to come out of her schtick is that it affords a chance for the editors to replace Tasty Oreo's braying ejaculations with much more innocuous intertitles, which would be an unequivocally brilliant third change to this season if applied to, oh, all of the judges.

Shafeek Westbrook
We've seen great b-boys before, and the best ones all have tremendous physical strength, but Mighty Mouse serves up a different profile of control and, most interestingly, subtlety. Notice how seldom he "winds up" in preparation for his power moves? He's in the middle of one move and BAM, he pulls off another one, except that the transitions never feel abrupt -- you can't see any of the seams. (And, for what it's worth, I'm surprised that the internet has reacted so negatively to his admission that the performance is inspired by 9/11 -- his audition is strong enough to stand on its own, whatever its provenance.)

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp
Instead of the rote, artlessly executed extensions-for-extensions-sake contemporary bollocks we've grown accustomed to, Chehon busts out a ballet solo with a concrete aesthetic angle (as opposed to the desperate flailings of the artistically challenged, i.e. what typically passes for classical styles on SYTYCD).

(To a lesser degree, I also admire Bree Hafen's audition for similar reasons, in that it avoids the trite juvenilia that has concentrated on SYTYCD -- not to suggest that she's reached a pinnacle of artistic expression, but at this point, I'm grasping at anything that doesn't reek of Justin Bieber posters on their bedroom walls.) (Oops, showing my age: People don't have posters anymore, just desktop wallpaper now, right?)

Stepheon Stewart / Hampton Williams
Great synchronicity that we get two poppers in the Dallas audition who share a similar conceit and both have a very similar style of stop-motion popping. I'll admit that I thought we're in for a pair of disastrous auditions during the pre-audition interviews, but man, these two guys bring it hard. Stepheon is a little rougher (he has some trouble getting into some poses), while Hampton seems to leave some improvisational room in what looks like a pretty well-choreographed performance.

Internet-Caliber Evidence That This Is The Final Season Of SYTYCD

When toddler Stella throws her head back in an exquisite parody of the average contemporary solo, she's all but begging for Nigel to remark about how he expects to see her in 16 years, but NO, he doesn't SAY that, because he KNOWS this is the LAST SEASON EVER! Consider yourself forewarned!

Update: And if you insist on a picture of Cat speaking in Internet, well, everything's spelled correctly and grammatically proper here, but you get the idea.

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