First, a cheap lol.
Coed bathrooms? I thought the callbacks are held in VEAGS, not a Berkeley dormitory.
Lest anyone forget, SYTYCD is a reality tv program.
A time-honored strategy for shows that sequester their contestants is to limit the amount of food they have access to while maximizing their alcohol consumption in the name of drama. Of course, SYTYCD is only exceeded by Kid Nation for the number of under-21 contestants, which means booze is obviously out of the question. (And the number of Mormon contestants it attracts!) (And yes, Kid Nation isn't/wasn't the only show that starred children -- Brat Camp, that one about high school kids competing for scholarships (which Google reveals was called The Scholar and part of which I actually watched).) So, the next best thing to booze is sleep deprivation (also a reliable standby for grown-up shows), which I've complained about for a while. I'm heartened to see that other viewers are also questioning the wisdom in burning up these kids so soon.
I don't complain about sleep deprivation solely because of a disdain for reality drama. The show doesn't need manufactured tension sown among its dancers -- conflict will naturally arise among perennially underpaid people competing for a finite number of roles that will raise their profiles above and beyond what they normally achieve within their own professions. (Besides, the only time the claws come out on SYTYCD is during the callbacks -- the competition portion is always scrubbed to an inoffensive PG-rated shininess.) More fundamentally, I'm worried about the health of the dancers, most pointedly illustrated when Armen Way drops Malece Miller on her head, and this incident has repercussions not simply for the immediate challenge of the VEAGS choreography rounds, but throughout the competition. After all, the show's injury history (Alex Wong, Ashley Galvan, Jessica King, Billy Bell, Natalie Fotopoulos, etc.) fairly damns the way SYTYCD pushes its dancers, even considering the physically demanding nature of dance itself. (Here, I may be way off-base, and experienced dancers can attest to the rigors or not.)
A more philosophical approach would be to critique how cynically the show exploits the talents of its contestants who are giving up so much of their labor to what you might call the owners of the means of production -- i.e. the Marxist critique -- but what I tend to find more exciting ("exciting") is the ethical aspects of the show. That is to say, SYTYCD has developed a stringent sense of how people should behave on it (with the added bonus of tacitly showing the viewers at home how to behave, too, or at the least what values they should hold dear).
Armen Way, who IMO should've freestyled in Russian when asked to explain what he brings that the other semifinalists don't, figures into the moral arena as well. After getting chewed out by the judges for his role in Malece's injury, he says that the show has changed him as a person, implying that he's learned humility, or something; cut to his elimination, after which he says that the judges are going to regret letting him go. I figure that Nigel means to set him up as an object lesson in false growth. Anyone who watches the show realize that the judges want to hear, "Oh, thank you for putting me on blast, judges, now I know to turn myself into a better person," and yet, it's another thing entirely to actually become a better person, requiring inner humility instead of mere words and bowed heads. "Kids," Nigel's implying, "this is how not to be."
That's the SYTYCD fairytale, because, as I rarely tire of saying, I'm skeptical about this or any reality program serving as a suitable vehicle for the kind of personal growth that makes a sustained difference in life. What Nigel is really implying goes more like, "Kids, you can't be humble just on the outside, you have to be humble on the inside too, but if you can't manage that, at least be humble on the outside for your entire duration on the show." In this regard, Armen is not a cautionary tale but in fact overtly embodies the spirit of superficial self-improvement. Change and growth in the space of 13 weeks -- that's a fiction we tell ourselves to varying degrees, never more so than on this program.
That Armen knows about the moralistic kabuki indicates the pervasiveness of epiphanic redemption narratives on SYTYCD
(or more likely, all reality tv shows ever), which in turn is, I think,
a sign of how reality programs mature over time. The moralistic impulse
is always present from the start, though at that stage, they're
probably more concerned with getting the season finished without
contestants dying, and then getting renewed. However, the moralism
subtly influences the direction of the eliminations, which the editors
retroactively reinforce in the way they put together the show (which has
somewhat less of an impact on SYTYCD, though). Future
contestants pick up on the hints of these moral guidelines and internalize for later seasons, repeating and
reinforcing the process until it becomes a de facto law of the
And further on the subject of unfortunate reality conventions, Nigel persistently prodding Jasmine Harper for Cryus-related gossip is beyond the pale -- obvious to anyone with the faintest shred of moral decency -- but, regrettably, it's another unavoidable part byproduct of the show's reality genre roots. SYTYCD can put on all the airs it likes about being a public service for the arts, but it will always remain bound to its reality conventions. ("Always"? Perhaps a better way to put it is "for this and the next season or two that it has left on the air.") Still, this line of questioning, stretching back to Jasmine's audition, reaches a new low of intrusiveness in an already long history of heavy-handed editorial manipulation.
A last bugaboo of mine is the sight of young white women, many of
whom I assume come from privileged backgrounds, saying that they
"deserve" to be on the show -- such a sense of entitlement is the very reflection of Not A Good Look. Or maybe they have it right after all,
considering the feminine ideal that the show pushes. Subject for another
Notice how I haven't weighed in on the higher-profile controversies presented in the show itself, that is, the brouhaha between Mariia Lebedeva and her group (though we only really see her butting heads with Jennifer Jones), and I-Want-A-New-Partner-gate. Part of the reason for my reluctance to get in on this action is because of the editing games that Nigel could be playing here, and my newly minted belief that there are no victims or victimizers, only jerks arguing with each other.
Also? The fact that Sydney Miller is stunning and gorgeous may explain why I'm inclined to cut her some slack. The same principle applies with Mariia and Jennifer Jones, except the two of them are both hot as hell, so now I'm really confused about whose side to take. My mind is so complicated!!
But to be serious for the moment again (though I'm only half joking up there), there's something quite fishy about Nigel excusing Sydney for not wanting to dance with Jade -- is Lythgoe getting an early start on diminishing hip hoppers? Probably. But perhaps he and Sydney have a point, and here I have to defer to people who have experience with lift-heavy partnering and the concerns with safety. Caveats about not publicly calling out your partner apply to the above, of course. Without more knowledge, either of the dynamics of partnering or footage of what really went down, I'll defer judgment on these matters.
And notice how I'm not even going near the "OMG TOO MUCH ATTENTION ON HIP HOPPERS, THEY SUCK @ DANCING, ALSO, LIFE" business. Time enough for that during the competition itself.
A point that I've been meaning to make for a few weeks now is when certain viewers wonder about dancers who get tickets straight to VEAGS being "one-trick ponies" and who aren't otherwise vetted during the choreography round, leaving open the likelihood that they're not necessarily real dancers. These are complaints we're familiar with by now, but the interesting wrinkle is when the object of such skepticism is a ballroom dancer, and the people voicing such concerns are also ballroom dancers. I don't necessarily think that they're engaging in some kind of self-loathing mindset, and more likely they're exhibiting nitpicky connoisseur's discrimination, i.e. they know from experience that a practiced routine can just be smoke and mirrors and doesn't necessarily translate to essential dancing skills.
Onto the proceedings themselves.
The Boston Marathon group performance is precisely the kind of topical heart-string–pulling routine that I sneer at and which would fall under the the rubric of blithely sentimental engagement with current events and social issues that Sarah Blackwood describes in her article on SYTYCD. I swear I'm not a cold-hearted cynic -- I am a huge sap when it comes to routines about motherhood, baby animals, or mothers and baby animals -- but this had me rolling my eyes from the one (which suggests that I was never going to give this number a fair shake).
I've been slightly spoiled, so I won't bother venturing too many guesses about who I think is going to make the top 20 (are we getting a top 20?), so I'll just remark on the people who've made an impression on me.
Fik-Shun? Good god, the kid is a talent. Not bad in other styles, though his gregariousness definitely helps paper over his deficiencies there (what we saw of him in the ballroom round -- scrunched up shoulders, oy -- is decidedly not pretty). His popping is unreal though. When you can make Twitch (Twitch!!!!!) take notice like this (!!!!!!!!!!!)...
... you're pretty good. There's no way he's not making the top 20.
Also unreal? BluPrint. My favorite hip-hop style to watch is b-boying, but popping is right up there, and yet, animation doesn't send me into ecstatic eyeball-stabbing sprees like some other people. But! I can't get enough of watching BluPrint. I've read some suggestions that he's got a particularly novel take on animation which only deepens the intrigue. PS: he completely smokes Jade in the battle, and if I'd been in Stacey Tookey's seat, he'd have been the one I sent through. (Not that it isn't obvious that the neither of them were in any danger of actually being cut.)
I like Malece Miller, too, though that seems to put me in the minority. Most people seem to be Shankman here, while I'm Twitch:
The comparisons to her and Melanie Moore are, to my eyes, based
on rather superficial similarities, namely, their short pixie haircuts.
I'd be more impressed if the similarities were drawn on the basis of their shared initials. Otherwise, their
styles are fairly distinct: as much as I disliked her, Melanie is a rare
combination of power and grace, while Malece is all extension and
lightness (though that's not to say that she doesn't whip out some moves
that require genuine strength -- she does a smooth jackknife
handstand that's impressive, but Melanie is an overwhelming bundle of
power). In non-dance terms, we've only seen a little from Malece that
didn't involve her getting dropped on her head, but I'm hoping that she
has more of the "deaf in one ear" deadpan in her than the ever-giggling
Those three are really the only ones who've made a lasting positive impression on me. Jenna Johnson's already getting some pre-season love from the judges and die-hard SYTYCD fans alike, but when this is the worst she's looked so far...
... I have to admire her. (And even that dork face is endearing.)
Waitasec, new info coming in suggesting that she's a ringer. First, here she is, as part of Stacey Tookey's company (front row, second or third from the left -- click for the higher-res version):
Now, here she is in another cast photo:
In fact, she's tried out for the show before:
Synergy! (Girl is clearly a star.)
Something I've noticed this go-around is that the show is depending on a lot of continuity with auditioners from previous seasons -- we've seen fleeting glimpses of ninth-season audition notables Amber Williams, Jasmine Mason, Mariah Spears, and Megan Branch, for instance, without any other indication of who they are.
Speaking of Megan, if she makes the show and dances to Bjork and keeps making weird faces, I think I'm going to be in love.
That's for you pointed-toe fetishists.
I think the person who's most disappointed with Mariia's departure is going to be Cat. It's not like she'd be able to borrow leopard-print pants from the 18- and 19-year-olds we're about to get on the show.
I hope that life brings Curtis Holland nothing but happiness, as I cannot stand to see him cry.
Here are some prettier criers instead.