Previously: SYTYCD offers me nothing. This week: WOAH. The episode is especially rich with beautiful leg-lines, and as an added bonus, we saw TWO guest judges who know from dance, which, in this era of Wayne Brady and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, has taken on epic importance. (Fabrice Calmels stays well within the confines of SYTYCD judging -- critique in generalities and superlatives, overlook the dancer's shortcomings -- but he's fully engaged with what's going on; I was impressed particularly with how he handled being put on the spot when Nigel asked him if he remembered seeing the trainee during his time at Joffrey.)
Notably, though, most of the episode centers on women -- situation normal, in other words -- but what differentiates this episode from the previous is that it rambles farther across the stylistic landscape than usual: even if we remained mostly within Western balletic traditions, this episode touches down on classical ballet and modern and a few stops in between so that we got something more than a factory line of competition girls. Where I complained last week about the show defining Dance according to its very limited parameters, this week sees SYTYCD acknowledging the breadth of dance out in the real world, to magically revitalizing effect.
Franchesca Bass, i.e. her with alopecia, has amazing extension -- long arms, long legs -- and a movement vocabulary that is leagues away from the typical competition-circuit girls (which is one reason I was surprised to hear Mary say that she's going to be "so commericial").
Jenna Scaccia, i.e. the Joffrey trainee, i.e. yay ballet, is as airy as you'd expect a ballet dancer to be. But though I appreciate her delicate musicality (which in my experience tends to get obscured in ballet), she doesn't quite capture the emotion of Clint Mansell and Kronos Quartet's "Lux Aeterna," which is such a relentlessly dark piece that the standard SYTYCD smile she sports during her performance might've sunk it if her technique wasn't as good as it is. She'll need to work on finding and expressing the right emotional register to fit the occasion.
That's more like it.
Jessica Richens, i.e. dorky-in-real-life-but-sexy-in-dance, seems to be an ur-SYTYCD contestant: dorkily relatable to young tween girls offstage, but sexed up onstage. If she reaches the green mile, I'd expect her to be a shoo-in to make the top 20.
Yaya, i.e. the redhead from i.aM.mE, is a wicked popper -- the krump I found less convincing -- and if the show is smart, they'll fit in a battle between her and Marie Poppins somewhere.
Kyle Taylor, i.e. grandpa who pops, is pretty good for a living-room dancer, but what really sets him apart from the rest of the show is the underused poignancy of his story: the old guy who for the past 8 years was a scene unto himself, suddenly getting his chance to experience What Might Have Been. (I'm thinking of the Moonlight Graham thread in Field of Dreams.) The show is leaving an entire vein of similar stories untapped in favor of finding the next young thing whose family has had to hustle to get them to dance practice. (Of course, the reality genre doesn't know about "too much of a good thing" and we'd eventually get a surfeit of clones following Kyle's footsteps, but for the moment, let's bask in his glow.) (And your blogger, a late-starting old-man dancer, definitely appreciates Kyle's time in the spotlight.)
Speaking of geezers:
Grampa Legacy needs a touchup.
Justine Lutz is a genius of legs and feet; her lower-body dexterity bowls me over.
With her partner Mauricio Vera, Deise Mendonca performs the exact style of ballet that I have no time for (Nigel is right in saying that Mauricio could've chosen a different piece that might showcase the man's role), but when SYTYCD has someone in pointe shoes, I'm going to bathe in the lines and grace.
Sebastian Serra nearly flies out of the auditorium, though when he's not showing off his raw athleticism, his choreography dips deep into cheese.
Marie Poppins' audition doesn't hit me like it has with other people -- in all honesty I'd have preferred not seeing Fik-Shun parachute in -- so instead, here's a battle in which she and longtime favorite Pandora murder: