Monday, July 02, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance - 9x06 "Meet the Top 20"

So, that Zooey Deschanel, huh? Considering how the producers of SYTYCD are so fond of pitting family members or best friends against each other, they should've brought Emily onto the panel as well so that, based on their performances, the powers-that-be could decide which of their FOX series would remain on air. Whichever show is cancelled will be replaced midseason by the Cat Deeley Cross Cultural Comedy Hour.

Despite yet another deadweight judge (where does Nigel find them?) and being unmoved by a majority of the routines, and worst of all, the total lack of Ashleys (though I think we can institute a new Janaya Rule -- i.e. anyone named Janaya who tries out for SYTYCD will make it), I'm excited about the upcoming competition more than I've been in a long time, the reason being, understandably and predictably, Eliana. Am I smitten (imo unlikely, I never develop crushes on SYTYCD), or is the brief montage of her in all her antsy, twitchy anxiety waiting to hear if she's in the top 20 or not kind of charming?

I am also provisionally hopeful about the quality of the season's hip hop -- I believe quite a few of the dancers have trained in it -- but only time will tell if they'll surpass the moves we see in the Magic Mike trailer. (Incidentally, the movie is choreographed by Alison Faulk AKA the Beat Freak that wasn't on ABDC.)

Contemporary I: Alexa, Amber, Will, George
Contemporary II: Amelia, Janaya, Dareian, Matthew
I die a little bit having to use numbers to specify which contemporary group I'm referring to. The good news is that neither of them registered in the least bit with me, though, particularly if their choreographers aim for a mellifluous, flowy, and/or pretty tone. That's good news because I was afraid that the contemporary well had been irreversibly poisoned, but instead it's simply filled with sand. Congratulations, season 8, you've rendered an entire genre inert to me! The second contemporary routine did make some impression, namely the awful Idol reject singing off-key on top of some Glass-esque arpeggios.

Despite his Labrador-like affability, Will Thomas has "cannon fodder" written so boldly across his jiggling moobs that I'm surprised his last name isn't Jarosz.

Oh, and Cole better watch himself.

Guys who wear shorts AND bow ties aren't to be messed with.

Ballroom: Lindsay, Witney, Nick

I lol'ed when all three of them get into the closed-position sandwich, but otherwise, I don't find this cha cha sufficiently charged to alter my apathy towards fast Latin dances (though I don't know if I particularly like most of the smooth dances that much more). I'm probably still sore about Iveta, and Lindsay and Witney certainly aren't Iveta, and I'm not roused to find much to distinguish between this year's crop beyond noting that Lindsay's shaping catches my eye more than Witney's. (I'm almost hoping that she turns out to be an idiot so that I can call her Witless.) Nick? I figure the producers needed someone to partner with the two girls and Pasha wasn't available this time. I guess America isn't ready for same-sex ballroom yet.

Ballet: Eliana, Chehon, Daniel
Gods, I love this, if not so much for the choreography or music, both of which start out fine, but once the song turns into the soundtrack for the tribal rave scene in The Matrix: Reloaded, it's up to the magnetism of the dancers (and by the dancers I mean Eliana) to pull off the routine. (All due respect to Desmond and Dwight, though -- I lay the fault mostly on the music.) I have barely any interest in watching the two guys, and when I do, it's to notice that Chehon's fallen behind the music. I'm exaggerating, though, the guys are splendid, but the spotlight is clearly on Eliana.

As a potentially TMI tangent, ballet, out of all dances, seems most to be the most eroticized in an embodied sense, if only to me. Even when a woman's booty-popping and the guy is (pantomiming) spanking her in a hip-hop performance, or a female Latin dancer is moving sinuously in a fringed bikini while her partner's hips thrust "suggestively" at her, they're all enacting eros, with an emphasis on act -- it's all performance and role-play, with discernible daylight between the signifiers and the signifieds. Ballet, on the other hand, is desire embodied in the dancers themselves, always immediate and present, even when they perform something as genteel and abstract as a Balanchine variation. Again, the emphasis is on the body -- the mere presence of ballet dancers is so physical and virtuosic that, as disciplined and regimented as the style typically is, it represents raw sensuality, the human body burned of everything that does impedes (the illusion of) unbridled and sometimes staggeringly beautiful physical movement, whether they're in form-fitting costumes (though certainly when they are in tights, uh, hahah, wow). I won't go so far as to say that this eroticized appeal is inherent to ballet, since, as I understand it, historical choices and artistic prejudices are responsible for the body types that dominate today's ballet companies. But in the meantime -- what bodies.

Jazz: Audrey, Tiffany, Janelle
A non-starter, unfortunately. The producers lump all the petite brunettes together, but one of them gets sick and (thus?) the other two struggle visibly throughout the performance.

Hip Hop: Cyrus, Brandon, and Cole
Chilling, and an example of what Chris Scott can do with dancers who can actually execute hip hop. Cole looks a little too tightly wound, but otherwise, all three of them handle the number with aplomb.

One note of caution I want to sound is that I'm a little wary of routines that reach for a timelessly nostalgic atmosphere simply through the use of orchestral arrangements, which is something that Scott's done on SYTYCD at least twice now (though the other time that I can think of is an LXD exhibition) and which strikes me as a bit of a cheat. It's a small point and I won't dwell on it long. (The announcer is far too literal, however, and painfully unnecessary.)

And by the way, does this look familiar to anyone?

As compared to this:

Translation: Holy butts, Brandon's from Strikers All-Stars! I.e. a stepping crew that competed on ABDC season 3 (or as I like to call it, the good season). And here I've been turning all my attention to Hiro as the potential ABDC-to-SYTYCD crossover. (We've already seen a bunch of dancers go the other way, i.e. from SYTYCD (either the US or Canadian editions) to ABDC.) Anyway, I've seen some concern about Brandon getting ghettoized as some stepper taken raw off the streets (as Nigel is wont to do with African-American hip-hop dancers) as opposed to an excellent hip-hop dancer full-stop, so it's useful to remember that Strikers' stepping gradually diminished over the course of their ABDC season in favor of straight hip hop, and what's more, Brandon can certainly groove (and pop and glide and you get the picture). And? Brandon has a Bachelor's in Computer Information Systems. THUG. (This is only the second-most surprising thing that I've gleaned from the FOX bios, and I'll get to the most surprising revelation later because I first want to clarify that Brandon's computer engineering skills aren't notable because he's black, it's because this show tends not to recruit the most shall we say technically minded people (Chbeeb being the only other contestant in a STEM field that comes t mind).)

Update: And here's confirmation, straight from the source:

One final hip-hop topic before moving on: I forgot to mention in the last episode but after seeing Twitch and Comfort leading the VEAGS choreography round, I realized that I really, really want to see either or both of them return not simply as All-Stars, but as choreographers, because the stuff they teach is so damn funky. But as a proverbial beggar, I con't be picky: I just want to see them back in any capacity as often as possible.

Contemporary: Top 10 Girls
The same music that George uses in his audition piece, which leads me to wonder if Travis choreographed his solo. Per my global contemporary anesthetization, I get almost nothing else from this performance -- though not so Alexa! Dead face? Gone! In its stead:

Thus terrifying the other girls!
Need a closer look?

Jazz: Top 10 Boys
I liked Sonya's number the first time I watched it, but the second time lacked novelty, as if I'd suddenly gotten used to the pants.

Contemporary: Top 20
It takes a long time to really get going -- when some of the dancers split off and begin to lap the stage, Mia's sense of spacing comes out best -- but at that point, the routine is nearly over.

OK, so the most wtf thing I found on the FOX bios is that something like three-quarters of the dancers say that the choreographer they most want to work with is "NOMINALLY" TASTY OREO (BUT WE KNOW BETTER). That includes Cyrus and Brandon. (Brandon also mentions NappyTabs, but I figure that's because he's worked with them when he was on ABDC.)

Did I do that right? (I'm just glad I didn't type "Ryan Phillippe.")

Nice to see Melanie's grandma in the audience.

More ABDC connections: Cole's sister Cara is a member of Fanny Pak.

Interesting tidbit I discovered is that Alexa choreographed Megan Branch's audition solo! Seems I'm obliged to like Alexa now simply for her musical taste, if not for an inventive routine.

The Cat Deeley Cross Cultural Comedy Hour will feature special guests, including this gangsta:

Keep your eyes peeled for more news about Phase II of Cat Deeley's plan to take over Ameriker!


Ana said...

Thanks for sharing Yuan Yuan's video with us, she is ... wow!

I also like Alexa a bit more after Megan's solo. A promise of non-boring contemp solos?

It's too early, especially since the competition hasn't started yet, but I'm calling Eliana as the winner.

The change to two winners is great, I'm just sad because it feel a bit unfair to previous seasons contestant (season's 4 Katee, in particular, then Brandon (Jeanine didn't deserve to win in the first place) and Kathryn).

Only 8 contemporary dancers?
We're getting diverse.

Chehon and Cyrus are the not-consistent-in-choreography-but-extraordinary-solos picks and... they're not on the beat and they're not in synch with their partners.
Too bad.

Leee said...

I tend to think that I can't spot tell a good ballerina from a great ballerina, but Yuan Yuan is so blindingly brilliant -- she looks lighter than air! I really need to head up to SF to catch her performance.

re: Alexa, I'm stunned that her own solo seems so generic.

I had something about Eliana and versatility within the context of this show, but eventually nixed it. But yeah, she's your, my, and everyone else's pre-season pick to win.

Hah, I can't tell if your "diverse" is sarcastic or not! SYTYCD has messed up my perceptions.

Ana said...

It was sarcastic there - I thought there weren't that many of them.
But after the contemp onslaught of the previous couple of seasons, I guess this could be called diversity and I'll take what I can get.

I can't believe they'd actually post something as obvious as those wishes in the bios.
Well, while we're wishing...
More Jason Gilkinson, less Sonya.
More Twitch and Comfort, less Tasty.
More Wade, less Travis's taste in music.

AU version spoiled me:
- Who does Cole Horibe's makeup?
He looks like a Twilight extra.
- Did they really congratulate their costume department? Really?

Chris K. said...

A highlight for me was the Step Up Revolution commercial. Kathryn McCormick falls for a Miami street dancer? Are we sure this script didn't start life as Season 6 fanfic? (Like 50 Shades of Gray was once Twilight fan fic.)

Leee said...

irl lols, Chris.

Amanda said...

Ditto, Chris. Lest we forget: