Monday, August 20, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance - 9x10 "Top 14 Perform"

I'd heard rather early on that the show (meaning Nigel) was planning on an all-Mia week after the Olympic hiatus, but I'd dismissed the notion immediately as crazy rumor- mongering because it seemed like such a bad idea (not the least reason being that it'd devote a whole week entirely to contemporary). Then it turned out to be real, and, as expected, dull! Good thing Mia herself wasn't in the audience, though for whatever reason the cameras kept cutting to a young Rod Stewart who somehow time-traveled from the '70s and decided, for whatever reason, to attend a taping of a dance program.


Conceptually, the appeal of having the current cast reprising old classics ("classics") is right there on the surface, kind of like a fantasizing about your dream SYTYCD top 20 (or 14, as is the case this week). Moreover, I'm sure Nigel couldn't resist another opportunity for the show to celebrate itself -- and this time, before the finale!

The actual consequences aren't dream-like, nor even nightmarish, but indulgently unmemorable. If you're like me (read: contemporary-damaged), then you either didn't want to watch stuff you didn't like much in the first place, or didn't want to watch some old favorites (just "Hometown Glory," lolbutts, and "Gravity") get mangled by Damned Kids™, and you find this episode a rather dull affair.

The judges, amazingly, agree -- not so much that they aren't enthralled by the product, but that they'd admit to being so underwhelmed. I figure that they're as honest as they are because they genuinely admire and respect Mia too much to regurgitate their usual pablum. Another possibility for their forthrightness is that everyone, from viewers to the judges, has a concrete standard against which to assess the routines (which is far more than we can say when everyone's looking for different things in a hip-hop routine, for example), so it's harder to dance around (haw) the shortcomings of a performance.

The night isn't entirely a shambles, though, if I'm really diligent about sifting through the turds: "Mercy," which I didn't dig originally, but Cyrus and Eliana's version is delightfully sassy and with moments of real humor.

Steam is practically shooting from her nose!

Both of them have problems in the beginning -- Eliana is too airy and light for such an earthy number, and Cyrus starts off stiff, as happens with most of his performances, but as with most of his performances, he warms up and eventually finds a groove that he rides all the way to the end with Eliana.

"Gravity" is notable for how different it is from Kayla and Kupono's rendition; Kupono, who is famously intense (and infamously limited, technique-wise), strikes a potent figure of overwhelming malevolence, whereas Cole adopts a inhuman guise that becomes brutal in its indifferent coldness. His performance is much subtler than Kupono's, and in fact I initially mistook the inspiration for his movement to be Edward Scissorhands. (Cole's studious mannerisms have tried my patience more and more in the previous weeks ("studious" because he's Asian), but here, his affect works for such an allegorical piece.) Alas, Lindsay is the weak point; as strong and memorable as Kupono is, Kayla is the heartbeat of the original, which is probably her best work on the show. Technically proficient as ever (legs, extensions, blah blah blah), but what sets this above the rest of her routines is the raw power of her emotion.

The rest of the numbers might have their moments but are otherwise overshadowed by their predecessors. George has clean lines that Joshua doesn't have, but that only takes George through the first half of "Hometown Glory," and the eruptions of angst don't have Joshua's power.

Meanwhile, in a more lascivious corner of Mia's world, Will's affable slobbering doesn't work in lolbutts, and as derided as Evan was, his musical theater chops let him inhabit the character a lot more smoothly. I'm also deeply disappointed that the costume team didn't recycle Evan's oversized outift, because I wanted to see if Will would still be hilariously too big for them.

Wait, maybe they are hand-me-downs after all!

Similarly, I'm disappointed that Amelia Audrey didn't put a flower in her mouth and spit it out when Cat reads off her phone number after Dear Dead Daddy, which still suffers from awful music.

Speaking of routines set to horrible songs, I never much liked the bed number, either, though I want to note two things: first, considering this show's biases, you wouldn't expect the contemporary guy to be given the chance to do a b-boy swipe, and while the hip-hop guy does not. Second, the camera-work in the original is, gasp, much better than it is in the reprise, partly because we're mostly spared closeups of Kherington trying to emote, whereas now, with HD and everything, we see with painful clarity Janelle's face and the real hurt she has (a bit too real for my tastes, especially when listening to John Mayer's faux sensitivity).

A trend that's become apparent in reviewing my thoughts on the new performances makes me realize how much I miss some of the old dancers, and I appreciate them all the more, a difference most striking with the bench. I still think of it as juvenilia (ah gods, that links to my recap for the week Janette is eliminated! NEVER FORGET! BECAUSE I NEVER WILL!), but Chehon blunts the edges from what's already a sentimental creampuff. The bit where the guy slides down the bench demonstrates the qualitative diference between him and Travis, though in partial defense, Chehon looks much taller than Travis which means that he'd have greater difficulty throwing his head back and forth to the same degree.

I'm glad that Eliana and Cyrus have reached the top 10 but at the same time I'm relieved that they're no longer going to be a partnership -- not because I don't find them to be sincerely fond and supportive of each other (which I do), but because the judges and various commentators are so wrapped up in promoting Eliana by diminishing Cyrus's skills that I've never been able to fully enjoy their camaraderie.

(Similarly, I wonder how many people, during the opening dancer introductions, see the two of them skipping arm-in-arm in a circle because CYRUS CAN'T DANCE, THAT BIG HIP-HOP BRUTE, NO, I'M NOT RACIALIZING, WHY DO YOU ASK.)

And while I suppose I should be happy that two ballroom dancers have also reached the top 10, I can't help but think that Witney + Lindsay <<<<<<<<<<<<< Iveta. (Yes, something else I'm never going to get over. No, I will not Deal With It™, no matter what the clever gifs say.)

So, George solos to Explosions in the Sky, which the show doesn't know how to mix properly (anything short of "So blisteringly loud that paint peels off of the walls" shortchanges them, and his solo is the quietest I've ever heard them). I'm beginning to think he's indie, though if he is, he should make like Mogwai and steal a page from the Pixies playbook: loud seems more LOUD when it's surrounded by quiet (meaning that I wish some of his movement weren't so exaggeratedly grand all the time).

At least she's getting the chance to work on her German?

Of all the eliminated dancers, Amelia takes hers the worst. From the moment when she hears that she's in the bottom, when she looks like she just found out that she and her favorite kitty will no longer be together...

... to when she hears the fateful news...

... until the final goodbyes as the end credits roll...

... she has one of the rawest, unfiltered reactions to elimination we've seen since perhaps Mollee's shell-shock. (Sorry if that last one is a little bit morbid!)


In less heart-breaking Amelia observations:

Cute sign, but the cartoon version of her has more color than she does.

And for something I think that only one other reader (two, if Cat somehow stumbles upon this) will appreciate:

Chehon seems to have a bunch of these tees:

I smell a licensing opportunity:

Why would anyone wears suspenders with an unbuttoned shirt? (Rhetorical question, obviously.)


Daniel said...

You know, there was a germ of a good idea here, in that seeing everyone dance the same style in the same week allows us to see who can really rise to the occasion and who can't. For example, while she may have fell short of Kayla's performance quality, I thought Lindsay did a highly admirable job with the technical aspects of the dance, especially considering that Kayla was one of the most technically advanced dancers (a fact which I concede, because I never much liked her outside of "Gravity") on the show and Lindsay is a ballroom girl. Where it fell apart was doing all old routines. It only begs comparison to the original performances, which makes it incredibly difficult for any of the new performances to stand out and all but guarantees they'll pale in comprison.

The other advantage to having everyone dance in the same style every week would be that there would be none of this "Well of course he/she won, he/she was a contemporary dancer and only danced contemporary or contemporary-adjacent styles!" ranting by the end of the season - assuming, that is, that they varied the weeks between contemporary-adjacent and more hard-hitting/ballroom stuff, and had ballroom weeks when there were still actual ballroom dancers on the show.

But yeah, this week was depressing. All the more so since they had two weeks to put it together. By rights, given that extra time, it should have been ZOMGAMAZING! and instead, it was way below mediocre.

Leee said...

Daniel, I agree with your two main points, but I wasn't feeling very generous at the time of writing and so I wouldn't be surprised if I shortchanged Lindsay. (And, IIRC, I wasn't a die-hard Kayla fan generally, either.) But as for the idea of devoting each week to a single style, which is great on its surface, but I have no faith in this particular program in executing it. (Though I need to add that if instead of Mia Week we'd have gotten Wade Week, I'd have been excited going in before the inevitable disappointment.)

Ana said...

Team Amelia sez: :( .

I want Wade back.

Tyra needs to judge sometime. She'll be better than Ortega, at least.