Tuesday, August 28, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance - 9x11 "Top 12 Perform"

Aside form sending home its most versatile male dancer, this week doesn't offer a whole lot of theoretical grist to mill. George is the first guy on the show in a long time -- maybe since Brandon Bryant? -- who isn't labelled a hip-hop dancer but who can actually, seriously grind, and who has shown an ability to handle, if not excel at, the contemporary and contemporary-disguised choreography that's the staple of SYTYCD. And of course, he gets eliminated in favor of an Adonis who has continuously struggled behind the curve despite being a ballet dancer (though in his defense, danseurs have had trouble on this program as much as they've succeeded, and Chehon has been more of an Alex Fost than an Alex Wong in this regard).

Putting aside the motivations for keeping Chehon over George, I do find our Swiss ballet dancer to form an interesting mirror image to Cyrus, especially this week when he pulls a hip-hop routine. Both of them come from styles to some degree outside of the mainstream of the show*, and when performing unfamiliar styles they will never be mistaken as experienced practitioners of those styles but who are otherwise bringing as much else as they can (technical or not, tangible or not) to their performances, and for the judges to praise them on their intangibles while allowing for their technical shortcomings is, I think, warranted.

* Even though it's a progenitor of contemporary, jazz, ballroom, and fake hip hop, you'll rarely see ballet as a partner style on the show unless at least one of them is an actual ballet dancer (e.g. Melissa and Ade), just like you'll not see b-boying as a partner style unless both are b-boys (Jose and Dominic, or Dominic, Hok, and Sara during the season 3 tour).

And as Chehon mentions in the rehearsal package, hip hop and ballet are separated by a wide gulf, so, all else being equal, allowances made to Cyrus in his classical routines should likewise be extended to Chehon when he crosses over to hip hop.

(And, for the ladies and gentlemen who may be so inclined, feel free to submit an adequately filthy caption to that picture, as I, in my courtly refinement, cannot bear to vulgarize this space with dick jokes on the order of, "Actually, THIS long," which is material more suited for the comments section anyway.)

But of course all else is not equal as we keep in mind the inherent advantage one has over the other on the show, and definitely the radically different reactions they elicit from the internet. In fact, I'm willing to wager Mitt Romney money that the volume and volume of reactions to any of Cyrus's performances is overwhelmingly more negative than the reactions to Chehon's hip hop. So even though I mean to give Chehon the benefit of the doubt and accord him the same respect and defense that I've given to Cyrus, the stylistic bias he enjoys and the ill-tempered responses of the hip-hop skeptics means that I'm obliged to approach the two differently within discussions about this show.

Tiffany and Brandon - Disco
Not so much a dance number as an exasperatingly fast acrobatic performance, and yet I like it within those narrow specifications. Nonetheless, as dance? What a waste of Brandon's talents.

Witney and Nick - Jazz
From the pasty makeup, period costumes, and Roisin Murphy accompaniment, Travis veers dangerously close to "Rama Lama"-lite. (Fortunately, no broken-jointed lines.)

Cole and Anya - Cha Cha
I enjoyed this! Mostly because I haven't seen this much hip action from a guy on this show who wasn't already a ballroom d00d, though Cole is something of an exception.

Lindsay and Jakob - Broadway
I forgot to mention last week after her solo, but she has staggeringly long arms, which made for some awkward, gangly Latin styling.

Will and Kathryn - Bollywood
In spite all of his unrestrained mugging, Will is incidental, as Kathryn makes choreography that to my eyes look like one of Nakul's best offerings since... his effort for Billy Bell and Robert Roldan in season 7?

Cyrus and Jaimie - Contemporary
In which Travis flips his script and begins with the crescendo and ends with the quiet parts. It's taken me some time to warm up to this, but letting M83 wash over me helps, and focusing on how well he throws himself into the physical sensuality that's one of Travis' defining qualities. Didn't Mia (or is it Mia's character in Step Up: Revolution?) say that technique is of little consequence if the passion isn't there?

Chehon and Misha - Hip Hop
I hope that anyone who complains about Cyrus not pointing his toes also makes sure to note how dreadful Chehon's isolations are. That said, on subsequent viewings, he isn't as horrendous as I had initially believed, since he's helped out loads by Dave Scott's smoothest, most lyrical piece to date (unless I'm forgetting a season 7 routine), though the nice bits (e.g. the "pretty wings" section) don't entirely wash out the ugly images.

But then, this has been brought to my attention, so s'all good.

One last word: Misha Chan? Really? They couldn't get Comfort this week? I know that I'm permanently biased against her for, you know, Misha Chan, but I still think that the show needs to take a good look at itself if the second-best female hip-hop dancer is her.

George and Allison - Jazz
Nigel makes a fuss about George's characterization, though I think he's leaning too hard on Tasty's explanation from the rehearsal package. In terms of the persona and why George may be lacking, I figure part of the reason is Tasty doesn't lay the characterization on very thick like he does with his typical Broadway dreck, so it's up to George to go above and beyond the choreography... and since we're talking Tasty, I'm not bothered to give that much thought to it.

Eliana and Alex - Contemporary
I tried my best, but I don't get the love for this. I'm burned out on this kind of contemporary (meaning a variation on heternormative relations), and I'm finding a triteness to Stacey Tookey's choreography that I can't get past. Maybe in a few years I'll be able to appreciate this, but for now...

Audrey and Twitch - Hip Hop
She definitely isn't as gawky Chehon, but still, as she fears, Twitch grabs our attention. To be fair, she makes a game effort at getting into the spotlight in a delightfully funny Dave Scott jam, which, all else considered, ends up being my favorite of the night. That's mostly due to the great choreography and Twitch's awesome as usual performance, but Audrey does a commendable job not dragging it down, too.

In keeping with my hip-hop agitation, though, I wonder if the people who complain about Cyrus getting used primarily as a forklift similarly note how Dave completely hides Audrey from view in portions of this routine, and I would've loved to see Tiffany rocking the Dave Scott number (there's one sentence that at the beginning of the season I would never have expected to type).

Witney's solo
Wikipedia sez she dances samba (in which case I think she chooses a song whose tempo is far too slow, even for the sex panther persona she puts on, which itself feels trite to me ever since Arielle Coker's audition to the same song), but considering the amount of floorwork she does, I almost want to speculate that the bulk of her dance training is in jazz, and that she tried out as a Latin dancer to improve her odds of making the show. But as I don't go in for tin-hatted grassy knollery, I won't!

Audrey's solo
I have to admit that Audrey has more depth than I ever expected, a product of this solo specifically, since the rest of her partner dances suffer from immaturity. This solo, bafflingly enough, has so little of the kiddie overexcitement that's endemic to her most excessive performances (especially the Titanic routine).

Chehon's solo
Some gorgeous leaps, but his choice of song also comes into question for me because once the drill 'n bass beats kick in, he doesn't really use them, which makes his musicality look a lot worse.

George's solo
Where Chehon brings the technique but leaves his musicality at home, George combines both. Moreover, he resolves my complaint last week -- too many grand gestures, which cheapens the really Big Moments -- because this time he channels his intensity at different levels, sometimes focusing his energy (and our attention) on his fingers, and other times exploding out with power.

If I had the chance to take a picture with Eliana, I would look exactly like Alex.

Minus the muscles, of course.

And the hair.


Since I have an inexplicable distaste for Alex's routines, old and new, I decided to at least amuse myself and recast one of his "classics" in a more German direction:

Finger-wagging like that could only have been learned in the fiercest of drag queen competitions. W3RK!

(By the way, is Will wearing a Hawaiian shirt?)

Apropos of the glut of routines devoted to male/female relationships, what strikes me as the most grievously unforgivable oversight, representing nothing less than the total death of choreographic imagination, is the lack of sci-fi-themed routines on this program, or more accurately, the lack of good SF routines. (As usual, Australia has the US beat.)


Megan said...

Ah, I have only been waiting for a sci-fi themed dance for a long time (I mean I suppose we got the ballerina/robot this season and in season 5 there was the alien looking to get impregnated) but I really don't think it would be too much to ask for a paso doble choreographed to Battlestar Galactica and convey the theme of a Cylon/Human war but at the same time showing the grey morality between all the characters. Haha. But I really liked the Dr. Who Tango! And that group routine from Australia is probably one of my absolute favorite group routines.

Ana said...

Team George agrees with Team Amelia: Nooooooooooooooooo!

At the start of the episode I thought he might be one the top guy if only he lets his personality from the packages, dances and solos come out more than the bow-tie one.

The judges are lauding Chehon's whatever it was, and criticizing Cole and George? I liked them both, especially the latter's characterization in the package.

I don't like this new format.
With it, they know A, B and C are in danger.
They want to keep A, so they hype their performance or narrative, even if their dance is just okay, while criticizing B and C, even though they might have been actually good.
Okay, for that week only, but I think it influences the vote for the next week/further narrative.

You don't like Alex?
You monster!

Jacob should always be called in Robert's stead.

Audrey's solo surprised me, too.

Now I'm left with no guy to root for for the top spot. Boo.
Will is a great dancer and a loveable person, but I think his goofiness takes away from some performances.

On the girls' side I'm Tiffany's.