Some interesting demographic trivia:
- You're going to tell me that this season has a grand total of zero Ashleys/Ashlees/Ashleighs/Ashlés/Aislings/Auxlays but two Jasmines? Worst season ever.
- Only three blondes this year! I don't think that's a record for the show in and of itself, though what's especially notable is that two of the blondes are hip hoppers. Worst season ever!
- The most crazypants demographic item I've read this past week is that we haven't had a hip-hop woman on the show since Comfort (during which interim ABDC was on the air) (trainspotters will point out that Karla Garcia in season 5 is/was a member of the Boogie Bots, but SYTYCD prefers to de-emphasize hip hop with women especially if they're white and/or have contemporary in their repertoire). Moreover, Mariah is the first hip-hop woman who's white, meaning that every one of her predecessors (not that many to begin with!) is a woman of color. Like I've argued before, SYTYCD codes hip hop as male and black, and situates contemporary as the most appropriate form of dance for women.
- My initial assumption that women of color are disproportionately early boots is, on the whole, not quite accurate, but three of the last four seasons (6, 7, and 9) are trending in this direction, which is a worrisome development.
- All the girls -- and really, they deserve the appellation this season because read on -- are all 18 or 19 years old. Is Nigel giving up all pretenses about maturity? Considering some of his comments during the showcase, not entirely, but with this lineup, he's not making it easy for the tween voters to decide who to root for. Or, is this a last gasp à la ABDC with Iconic Boyz/8 Flavahz? Or, is Nigel, in tipping his hand so egregiously, in complete malfunction?
Hip Hop: Mariah and Fik-Shun
Sadly, the choreography feels inert -- possibly because of Emilio's absence -- and so as rugged as she gets in it, Mariah doesn't do much for me. Neither does Fik-Shun, though I do think that Luther choreographs away from his strengths (we see only brief moments of the waving and popping that make Fik-Shun's solos so amazing).
Contemporary 1: Nico, Tucker, Jasmine Harper, Makenzie
Here's a surprise: I like this piece! I've been down on Stacey for several seasons now, as well as the show's contemporary overkill, but some how, I turned off all my usual grievances and at some point I'm able to simply appreciate its movement.
Tucker's breakdown has prompted a backlash that I'm taken aback by. I don't know if gender expectations are at work, but how else do you explain as vociferous a reaction against a man crying so openly? Or, maybe I've watched so much reality tv where crying is a veritable staple (SYTYCD, Project Runway, and above all, ANTM) that I'm completely inured to it. That's for his crying, anyway -- only the SYTYCD stylists can address that limp mop of curls on his head.
Finally, I wish I knew more about Alice Coltrane, because then I could make all sorts of "Jazz Harp" jokes.
Tap: Alexis, Curtis, Aaron
I don't think I'm turning a corner or anything, but I wasn't completely shut off from a tap routine! But, hush, I have a reputation to uphold.
Animation: BluPrint, Jade
I guess I enjoy this, though I'm not ecstatic about it because Chris Scott gives both BluPrint and Jade bog-standard animation to do, a style that neither of them do on their own. (For what it's worth, I think that Jade pulls off the choreography better.)
Is BluPrint so outside the box that Christopher doesn't know what to do with him? Because what BluPrint does is so alien, and in this and the top 10 routine, Christopher makes him use a familiar vocabulary.
Contemporary 2: Malece, Carlos, Hayley
Mad Men meets Big Love. Good Mia makes her annual appearance (/trolling), and what separates this from all the other showcase routines is its unvarnished emotional violence: when Carlos tips the chair onto its back with Hayley in it -- such a creepy power play dripping with menace (Carlos) and vulnerability (Hayley) -- and of course Hayley's stylized slap (complete with an action-movie freeze).
Afterwards, Cat says that Malece and Hayley have become Alice Cooper, referring to the streaks of eyeliner dripping down their cheeks.
Oh and to the Malece haters: MALECE'S MOM DID NOT CLEAN ALL OF THE HOUSES FOR INTERNETS TO WISH MALICE ON HER DAUGHTER.
Ballroom: Paul, Alan, Jenna, Brittany
I have to make an effort to enjoy this routine, because it's my favorite style, cha-cha. Among the guys, I probably prefer Alan because he has a better body for articulating lines and maintaining his frame than Paul does. Jenna and Brittany are a lot more evenly matched, and the only real thing I notice between the two of them is that Jenna has a bit more flair and styling at points.
The show has on balance been a hard nut to crack for male ballroomers, but the one reason I'm confident that Alan and Paul will last longer than, say, Max or Jamie (Bayard, that is) or Jonathan (Platero, that is) is because the show has two male tappers to get rid of first. So Paul and Alan: pre-congratulations for making it to the third and fourth weeks!
By the way: How do you make a ballroom sandwich?
Afterward the number, Mary Murphy, ballroom champ and ballroom instructor, offers the following feedback to the ballroom dancers who just danced a ballroom routine:
- Thanks Louis
- Paul has stage-presence in face, could use more intensity in his movement
- Alan: Gene will be proud
- Girls: holy smokes, on fire, she loves, dominant, strong, fabulous feet, etc.
PS to Jenna -- THEY SO ARE TASSELS.
She should've stuck with the ballroom sandwich.
Jazz: Jasmine Mason, Amy
Remember when I said, "if [Megan Branch] makes the show and dances to Bjork and keeps making weird faces, I think I'm going to be in love"? Normally, this is where you'd say something like, "One out of three isn't bad," but in this case, that one is the least of the three. Ah well.
What's quite touching is the fondness that she has with Jasmine Mason, which is this delightfully goofy thing they have going.
(That isn't a Creed T-shirt, I hope!)
But if she and Jasmine were playing the proverbial three-dimensional chess, then the two of them probably should've hidden their friendship from the cameras because otherwise, the editors are going to use it as a wedge at the Green Mile.
Oh, there was a routine! And a pretty good one, too! I'll go so far as to say that of the three female duets choreographed by Sonya, this is by far the best one, owing largely to having much more exquisite dancers in Jasmine M. and Amy. The previous couples either lacked in extension (lol tiny Tiffany and Audrey) or differed so much in style on top of the fatigue (Melanie and Sasha) or used lousy music (Melanie and Sasha) or had tired choreography (Melanie and Sasha), and Jasmine and Amy together have the sheer physicality to bring Sonya's vision to the fore. Jasmine is splendid, but to echo Shankman, Amy is the truth.
Top 10 Boys
Eh, can't get into this. My complaints about the animation number apply here, as well. More in a bit...
Top 10 Girls
Never trust someone who's still rocking a soul patch in 2013.
Diverting, but whatever. More in a bit...
Now we can talk. Christopher Scott has done two top 10 boys routines now, both with the same sci-fi sleekness, and I really wish that he'd get a chance to set a women's routine in a futuristic corporate dystopia -- and the thing is, he can absolutely choreograph women in his brand of widescreen performances. Notice how in his top 20 routine from season 9 (particularly Eliana), the roles aren't so starkly defined along gender (which is something that even Sonya does on occasion, especially since she employs more partnering work than Christopher). Instead, femininity has such a narrow scope on this show that either the women can only flaunt their sexuality or emphasize their fragility (h/t totes), and the Action Chick phenomenon that is still sort of a thing in film and television today has been unable to penetrate the SYTYCD bubble. And considering Nigel's casting choices (read: young, bubbly), we'll never get to see a bunch of Trinities indulging their bad selves and getting the audience hyped and insane. (One more note to Chris Scott's credit: all too seldom do choreographers give the female dancers chances to exert raw physicality, but he gives space to them when warranted, like Sasha's kip-up to unassisted back-bend. Though, I will note, he's not exactly challenging heteronormativiy -- he still works within its ascribed gender roles.)
PS -- Goth looks great on her!
But of course Sonya and her taste for the martial is the lone exception, and I commend her with my entire heart for letting her women broaden the acceptable bounds of femininity. (I should point out that Mia's isn't always beholden to gender norms, either.) She doesn't always hit the mark (see my comments for her jazz number above), but in an environment that offers such limited opportunities to women, every effort made holds back the tide of heteronormativity a little bit. (I hasten to add that I am not dismissing girlishness and frivolity and sensuality and the usual palette of SYTYCD femininity -- but when those are really the only choices allotted to women on the show, I feel compelled to try to open a space, at least in discourse, for under-examined modalities. You know?) So kudos for her and this Dune-esque number.
Oh noes! Smiling is not Goth anymore!
The top 20 routine also brings me new appreciation for Amy Yakima, summed up here in this gif of some dynamic Russian kicks:
In spite of the kneejerk comparison of Malece to the season 8 winner, Amy seems poised to assume the mantle of the season's pasty powerhouse.
But do you all know what I'm most excited for? Yes it is the return of the AWKWARD DANCE.
Thanks, Fik-Shun! Don't believe me? Peep Nico: