Monday, September 09, 2013

So You Think You Can Dance - 10x17 "Top Four Perform"

My gut reaction for this week was surprise that we'd finally gotten a performance finale that lived up to the idea that these four are the best (favorite, if you prefer) dancers of the season. In most seasons, by this time the remaining dancers have been so overworked and fatigue-bedraggled that the last week of performances rarely yields much worth remembering. (Off the top of my head, I can only think of Wade's fox piece for Lacey and Sabra, which might be my favorite Wade duet, in terms of choreography and execution.) But the evening in question starts off so forcefully that the entire night has been propped up in my imagination by two great numbers, with some mediocre routines that still manage to offer some pleasing luster, and then the chaff that gets consigned into oblivion.

Aaron and Amy - Jazz (chor. Ray Leeper)
Ray Leeper likes to for sassy/sultry/slutty (choose one) (or more, if you're the polysemous type), which is not a mood that Amy is able to project. That said, the beginning sets a high athletic bar for her, and she's one of the most physically gifted women this season.

Fik-Shun and Jasmine - Contemporary (chor. Travis Wall)
I'm not entirely sure if the improvement in Fik-Shun's technique meets the judges' praise -- the handful of parts where he has an opportunity, yes, he does point his feet, but he doesn't quite manage full extension with his legs, and his shoulders wander upwards at least once (however, the first two are matters of flexibility and to expect rapid improvement over 10 weeks is a fanciful thought) -- but this is still a beautiful piece, with the choreography living up to Travis' hype this time (and not holding back or being cute with his music geek bonafides and going full in with Arvo Pärt's Post-Minimalist realness), and Jasmine and Fik-Shun both executing it so gracefully, and where the grace stumbles, the performance never falters.

Mary tells Fik-Shun, "When I heard that the two of you were paired together, I honestly thought this would just not work out. Boy was I wrong." I'm tempted to ask when she's ever right about these things.

Aaron and Melinda - Tap (chor. Anthony Morigerato)
I dare say that this is the anti-Curtis routine, all soulful and deeply felt. I still wouldn't say that I get tap -- the complex rhythms continue to elude me in a way that's not the case with clogging, for instance, and Aaron's later solo still doesn't resonate for me -- but the performance of it carries me away. I don't get it at all, but I feel it.

Jasmine and All-Star Comfort - Hip Hop (chor. NappyTabs)
And Jasmine proves me wrong about her problems projecting and serves nearly everything. She's doesn't quite match Comfort, but Comfort's just the best female hip-hop dancer this show has had and will ever have, so Jazz Harp is just going to have to content herself being in videos for some Ciara chick, and it's not like Ciara videos are reservoirs of great dancing or anything.

What's more, NappyTabs have been on a winning streak lately, foregoing the tepid, gooey Kenny G hip hop that nearly derailed the style for a few seasons, and offering some uncompromising teeth-baring, soul-shattering hardness that even outdoes Luther Brown's offering the same night. It all comes down to the personnel (NappyTabs did present "Lovecats" just last season, after all), and with two fierce divas, D'umos give them the chance to both sexy and strong, and not a caricature of female sexual objecthood that gets hauled out too often. (In fact, NappyTabs describe the routine during the rehearsal package as strong, hot, empowering, and feminine, which is something we hear about often but seldom see.)

Twitch gets the lion's share of adulation, and well-earned as it is -- and believe me, he has hustled hard for that love -- I'd say that Comfort has been burnishing her star since her All-Star run began.

Aaron and Jasmine - Samba
I liked this samba! And I don't normally care for them! It definitely wobbles on the precipice -- it's a bit wild and almost spastic, especially from Jasmine, but I find the energy infectious.

Aaron and Fik-Shun - Broadway
Believe it or not, this isn't terrible! It's a combo-breaker to Tasty's proud tradition of undermining contestants with flimsy, adolescent frivolity during the week of the top four. However, what high spots are cooked into this routine are mostly for Fik-Shun, who gets to show off his agility and power while Aaron can't catch a break and is on forklift duty even in an all-guy routine.

Fik-Shun and Amy - Argentine Tango / Paso Doble
Most of this is Paso, and done at a very slow pace -- my least favorite Miriam/Leonardo number in a long time. 

Jasmine and Amy - Jazz

Mark pretty confirms that he's trying to turn SYTYCD into RuPaul's Drag Race, now. (Interesting aside: Travis and Nick Lazzarini are guests on a fifth-season episode of RPDR.) I wouldn't say this compares well the raw, draggy fierceness of his routine with Jenna (who is an exceptional, and exceptionally versatile, dancer), but Amy has a tight, compact aggression that suits this style and which is harder for Jasmine to match.

With the solos, Jasmine blows me away. It edges on uncontrolled and even desperate, but then right when everything is about to go to hell, she pulls everything in; the emotions recede a bit and you see plainly the contours of her skill and talent.

Fik-Shun's solo in another time, danced by another person might've been cause for Nigel to yell at him -- it's the final four, and you're going to approximate a faded year-old fad dance, wasting valuable time to exhibit your peerless popping? -- but the kid will have to take a squat on the judges desk for Nigel to say a cross word at him at this point.

He knows he's got this in the bag.

Amy's solo is all right up until her final, triumphant, cringe-worthy pose, which instantly makes me question her taste-level. (Project Runway note: yet another All-Stars iteration, this time featuring my favorite feral Ukranian crazypants.) Go Jasmine.

The human celebrity prop known as Gabby Douglas, dispensing nothing of critical worth and being overshadowed by Paula Abdul (but Gabby is there for her star wattage anyhow), isn't completely without noteworthy remarks:

(For reference.)

In fact:

And? She's not even that short?

I mean, we are comparing her against judges who are also (former) dancers.

Or Gabby happens to be standing on her immense gymnastic talents / her stack of gold medals behind the judges' table, or all of the above.

What was up with asking viewers to vote on which Travis routine people want to see again? One that was received lukewarmly by dancers no one remembers at this point, or a routine that was instantly celebrated in a hagiographic hail of hosannas for Golden Boy Travis? I mean, it wasn't a real question, so I wonder what their agenda was -- are they doing some social media testing?

Anyway, I voted for the Jade/Malece number.

Continuing the proud tradition of political statements made via casualwear.


Anonymous said...

Why no commentary on the excellent Luther Brown routine?

Leee said...

I have nothing to say about it?