Monday, August 26, 2013

So You Think You Can Dance - 10x15 "Top Eight Perform"

Ever since their stint as VEAGS choreographers, I've been yearning for Comfort and/or Twitch to get their chance to put routines together, but not even in my wildest dreams did I expect the benefit of their choreography and seeing dance in their routines as well. This is the best idea that SYTYCD has had since the introduction of the All Stars themselves.

Not that every routine is a success; the night starts off with a Jive from Aaron and Chelsie, where the awkwardness builds and builds -- through the belabored transitions (which I'm surprised Aaron has trouble with), or the embarrassing air-guitar styling (which Chelsie should be ashamed of) -- until the routine collapses under its own weight. Mary says Chelsie throws in some West Coast Swing, but I believe that the section she's referring to -- a sugar push to a swing-out to a Texas Tommy -- is as much Lindy Hop (sez the wannabe Lindy Hopper). (And if you're curious, it doesn't look good because Aaron doesn't look like he's leading any of the moves.)

(Considering the difficulty he has in the Jive, and the fact that he's not in the opening group number, you have to wonder if Aaron isn't at full health, and if not, then why no mention of injury was made on the show.)

Where Chelsie's routine has a decent amount of Latin partnering (perhaps to its detriment), Dmitry's routine with Hayley is performed well but in my eyes mostly belongs to that amorphous style of jazz that's the default used for contestants who are dancing out of style. I counted about 6 measures' worth of rumba, near the beginning, and then some swivels later, but after the halfway point (which to me happens when her role gets relegated to the ground), she doesn't have much dancing to do, Latin or otherwise. Even when she's back on her feet, the rest of the routine asks her only to do some moody running to and away from Dmitry, which doesn't exactly give her the chance to show off any Cuban motion (which I didn't see -- but the tails of the men's shirt she's wearing could definitely have masked it). (To be fair, one of my favorite rumbas from is Janette's (with Evan) which has marginally more rumba in it.)

The night also bulges in the middle with the contemporary and jazz routines -- and I do mean routine.
Fortunately, none of these are as hobbled as the Jive or as fulsomely angsty or sentimental as my least favorite examples of contemporary and jazz. Shortney's number threatens to go in the latter direction when she says that her piece is inspired by Romeo and Juliet (I have a sneaking suspicion it's actually Romeo + Juliet that she has in mind), but thankfully, it's not weighed down by convulsive backstory (or regurgitated emotion) (or giant props) and the movement can become the focus. I particularly like the moments where she and Tucker are dancing solo but in sync, which, as I've mentioned previously, is an incredibly pretty vision. Still, a part of me wonders if having so much side-by-side synchronization is sign of choreographic unsophistication (like I haven't thought about what you should do right now, so just mirror what I'm doing = half the choreographic work). 

(But what's up with SYTYCD alums and apparently being crushed beneath the heel of Fate lately?)

Allison's number with Fik-Shun also occupies an inoffensive middle ground with Shortney's. Despite her rehearsal explanation that she would be tackling Prejudice, the ensuing result is amiably modest, and is a chance for Fik-Shun to show again that he can do gentle, lyrical vulnerability in addition to the earnestness he brings regularly. On the choreography front, Allison seems to get unmoored from the music from time to time, like during the slower passages in the song, she and Fik-Shun are still doing busy moves.

Something ancillary to the dance but which is tangentially brought up during the rehearsal and Nigel's critiques is the way the show tiptoes around examples of human ugliness (though Nigel exempts himself when the subject lies near his crotch heart). Usually it's the love that dare not speak its name (Tucker, for example, saying that his tough-guy sports-loving dad inspires him because he's fully supportive of his dancing son -- which is a roundabout way of saying his dad isn't ashamed of a gay son) (i.e. when has any contestant on the US show plainly said that he or she is gay?), but this time it sounds like Allison has been getting some paleolithic contempt for her engagement to Twitch. Another example is during the rehearsals of "Gravity," in which Kupono explains the potency of the routine on him because one of his friends battled addiction to "drugs" -- it's a context-less ambiguity that seems striking in how it tries to sanitize the ugly. I think that's what's motivating Nigel here: a paternalistic desire to shield viewers from our worst impulses, I think largely because this image sums up just who it is that he's protecting (and I don't mean Cat):

Anyway, all that brings me to my long hoped-for Twitch routine, which seems to have underwhelmed the blogosphere but which I enjoyed. I can understand the lack of enthusiasm for the skit-like nature of routine, which results in some dead-air and forces Jasmine to act and thus rely on her biggest deficiency as a performer, which is her inability to project much farther than the edge of the stage. Follow her eyes -- they usually don't seek the outer edges of the audience (certainly not in this number), and consequently I'm surprised that she's made it this deep into the competition with so little trouble. That said, Jasmine is an accomplished hip-hop dancer (NSFW lyrics), so when Twitch is challenging her with dance (he throws in some bone-breaking for her!), she excels with the kind dense, gravity-loving groove that hip hop often requires.

And to the undisputed champs of the week. I've never been much of a fan of Mark Kanemura, but the awesomeness of his jazz with Jenna is unmistakable. What really makes this number rise is that Mark drags up the routine to the gills with all the voguing in here. And Jenna is sharp and in full diva mode, and she takes turns with Mark at out-fiercing one another as the HBIC of the routine. How crazy is that?

But if I were to chose a single favorite, I have to nod to Comfort's routine with Paul, in part because I have a hard time seeing anything that she does as less than gold. I don't know about the moves themselves are vintage old school, but I think Comfort is an a historical mood with the emphasis on graffiti, one of the principal elements of classical hip-hop culture. In any event, there's not much to this number except GULLINESS. Paul gets on the ground like he BELONGS (OK, he does one freeze against the wall, WHATEVER).

And Comfort's Lucy moment at the end?

A-a-and Comfort looking flyer than ever?

I don't think anything's going to surpass this in terms of sheer ballsy fun.

Oh, there's a Travis routine, which is very Travis. Kathryn sums up my reaction:

Looks like SYTYCD is introducing new styles for menswear. We've had different knots for ties before (Full and Half Windsors, for instance), now Aaron has given us this:

PS - I actually own a bow-tie just like that.

Well, we know that uniqueness isn't especially prized here, though you can make the case that nerve is an omnipresent characteristic among our dancers (thinking mainly of the mainstay lifts and drops that flirt with death, not to mention the ever-looming threat of serious injury).

Jenna Elfman -- first $cien4010g1st judge we've had?

Something that the show has struggled with inexplicably this season are the questionable and weekly costuming and lighting that lead to the dancers wearing dark clothing against a dark backdrop. These kinds of decisions should be elementary, no?


Sara said...

What is it with Travis and his obsession with punching dancers in the stomach?

Daniel said...

I actually really liked Shortney's routine (although that might have just been residual "OMG what happened to HER? I LOVED her!" feelings, combined with the seriously awesome, risky lifts). As to the synchronization, it can be a crutch for unimaginative choreographers, but I thought she used it at points in the song/dance that were effective, and considering how difficult it is to be TRULY in sync with a partner you've only been dancing with for a week (or less), I have even less of a problem with it (don't get me started on that slowed-down replay of Travis & Amy's routine that showed they were a quarter-turn out of sync on the pirouettes).

Comfort's routine was THA REALNESS. I was shocked that Paul had that in him.