Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance - 11x03 "Auditions #3"

Maybe I should voice my disillusionment more often because for the second week in a row, the show has attracted and/or shown a caliber of dancer that gives me cautious hope for the competition. And as far as my current hobbyhorse goes, the last two auditions seems to have complicated my belief that SYTYCD's focus on the under 20 crowd solely serves Nigel's commercial purposes rather than any higher artistic aspirations (for the sake of brevity, I'm being reductive here), since more than a handful of my favorite auditions so far have been from teenagers.

Or maybe my change in outlook results from my newfound enthusiasm for ballet, as two of the highlights from the third episode are ballet dancers. Most notable is Jourdan Epstein, who has a well-crafted knowledge of how to move through the music -- she glides through the moments of slowness (or even stillness) into swiftness in a smooth, almost tactile way, which shouldn't be a surprise since she's a part of Complexions. What's more, I didn't expect to like her dancing, though, since in her package we see her transacting in the show's grey market of selling stories of personal loss for screentime, which has typically signaled the kind of choreographic literalness that I've been objecting to lately. Thankfully, Jourdan disrupts a simple one-to-one relationship between dance and reality conventions (though of course I'm getting tired of the show's anodyne treatment of tragedy).

And for the second episode in a row, we get multiple ballet auditions (a trend that I'm perfectly happy to see continue), with Amir Sanders bringing her indelible style in pointe shoes. Nigel stops the audition right when the ballet/hip hop syncretism -- namely the swagging out with pointed feet -- seems to be realizing the untapped promise of the show's swirl of genres. (I do wonder about Nigel explicitly pointing out Misty Copeland as one of the only African-American soloists among the three leading American ballet companies, and then going out of his way to have Misty critique the African-American ballet auditioner.)

On the other end of the genre spectrum, I most enjoyed Shafeek Westbrook and James Davis, AKA "Banks." I still recall the Shafeek's sui generis audition from a few years back, which accomplishes the difficult task of making narrative b-boying look good, but who then looks like an ingrate when he flames out in the callbacks. This time, we get an exhibition on centeredness and other hip-hop styles (such as popping) and contrary to what the judges say, it's not without the kinetic wow moments that we expect from high-caliber b-boying (though I agree with Misty's concerns about the lack of performance/communication in his face). That centeredness seems to have infused other aspects of his life, though I make be taking the way he wraps himself in Buddhist prayer beads a little too literally.

Although Banks doesn't get past choreography, his audition highlights the (perhaps hidden) sensuality of krump, which at slow tempo is, to me, almost indistinguishable from popping.

Landon Anderson looks like he's getting ready for a Dumb and Dumberest audition.

Cat and Jenna renew their Cat and Jenna Present: OMG BOIZ ARE SO DUM show, with interloper special guest Landon!

And for a frame-by-frame analysis of the exact moment when his heart rips in half, check out this video.

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