Tuesday, July 01, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance - 11x05 "L.A. Callbacks / Top 20 Chosen"

Hope springs eternal, even after an initial bout of disillusionment: I'm cautiously optimistic about the coming season (ballet!), even though I'm disappointed, first, that certain dancers didn't make the top 20, and second, that this cast has a few warnings flags.

With 157 dancers to dispense with in a space of 80+ minutes and instructions to build up arcs for specific dancers, a significant number of them will get short shrift. (To put the time-crunch in perspective, if every dancer got the same amount of screentime, that'd amount to about 2 minutes per person, so every additional minute devoted to Jessica Richens' or Steven Kador's travails drains the pool of available screen time quickly.) All the same, seeing Justine Lutz buried in the episode -- well, not seeing is a more apt phrase -- makes her sudden cut an especially acute one; Amir Sanders isn't even mentioned (though we see her unmistakable 'fro at the beginning), and if Cristina Moya-Palacios got any screentime, then I must've blinked. We see Shafeek Westbrook struggling in the jazz round and then giving a much more gracious sendoff than last time; Erik "Silky" Moore is perhaps a spectral presence only until he becomes the last Green Mile cut. I don't think I've had this many would-be favorites heading into a callback before, and seeing so many of them fall by the wayside is dispiriting.

The warning flags of the cast come down to the racial composition on the girls' side: an initial glance suggests that they're all white. Racial diversity has rarely been a problem on the guys' side, and every prior season has featured at least one woman of color (though the ethnic diversity doesn't measure to the guys' side). But this development might not be all that surprising if we take stylistic representation as a proxy among the women. When women are overwhelmingly labeled as contemporary/jazz -- even when they have hip-hop backgrounds (e.g. Donyelle, Karla Garcia, and Jasmine Harper), contemporary/jazz trumps -- I don't think that the leap to an all-white cast is that far behind. I've mentioned before about such skewed representation: they give young girls a very limited scope of acceptable femininity is, certainly as far as dance goes (contemporary or gtfo).

Another warning flag is the average age of the cast, though believe it or not, the boys this year are younger, with an average of 19.9 against the girls' 20.4. Some of the boy choices are particularly glaring in this regard, especially with selecting the baby-faced Nick Garcia as a ballroom guy over a much more physically mature Armen Way. (Serge does have a more prototypical ballroom physique, though Marcquet is a lot more lean and I chalk up his inclusion because of what I hear is his facility with hip hop, also, African-American ballroom dancer.) If we assume all other dance qualities being equal, why pick Nick over Armen? The way that castings go nowadays, I doubt that Pasha -- the go-to male ballroom All-Star -- would make the cut.

On a related note, this cast does feature more Latin dancers this year than they've ever had, I think -- perhaps a belated response to DWTS encroaching on SYTYCD's territory by having non-ballroom styles on the show (particularly contemporary)?

Tanisha Belnap
She appears to be cross-trained to her eyeballs, which is the entire point of her solos and why I dislike them.

Bridget Whitman

During her audition, I misheard and initially recorded her last name as "Footman," and then in this episode I did it again before catching myself. Now I look forward to several weeks of amusing myself by referring to her thusly.

Casey Askew
His Bieber hair is going to be a source of acrimony on my part, I predict, so here's hoping that the Biebz himself sics his bodyguards on Casey for biting his style show's stylists make him see the light.

Ricky Ubeda
I was underwhelmed by his audition solo, but the one he performs this week is a tremendous display of discipline and control that evokes chaos -- I'm speculating that he's a reverse Samson and that shaving his beard granted him otherworldly dance powers.

I'm also amused that when Mary says that the decision they were facing comes down to a "casting thing" during his Green Mile verdict, he appears to be taking her seriously, like he doesn't realize he's right in the demographic sweet spot for this show.

Jourdan Epstein
Your My fantasy winner, ladies and gentlemen.

Carly Blaney
I've no impression of her yet, so the only thing related to her I can say is that I wonder if, in the group self-choreography round, the judges decided beforehand to make her group choose who amongst them would be eliminated -- as pure reality spectacle.

Stanley Glover
I neglected to mention that I like his audition. The one critique about it though is that the monster schtick is over-the-top -- all the same I'd rather that than the generic lyrical pabulum that gets way too much play on this show (see: Casey). Also? SKINNY AS HELL.

Jacque LeWarne
If I can get past the unorthodox spelling of her name (which is the nice way of putting it), then I'm excited that another ballet dancer is in the ranks, and at worst provides a buffer for Jourdan in terms of elimination and provide me my post-season ballet fix, and at best might surprise me with some grace and elegance.

Valerie Rockey
I should start warming up to tap now that I've had some personal experience with it... but I'm going to say that what Valerie offers isn't going to do much converting me any further.

Jessica Richens
Commenter Sara sees some of the Frogurtman in Jessica, which would be a good thing, of course, but which, based on nothing but a superficial resemblance to Kherington, I'm dubious about.

Malene Ostergaard
Foreign-born ballrom dancers who are out of their teens don't have a good track record on the show (#iveta #neverforget)...

Brooklyn Fullmer
... which is why I expect Brooklyn to make the top 10.

Serge Onik
The odds for American-born male ballroomers are a little better, but I don't know if his other peripherals line up in his favor.

Emily James
The only thing I remember about her is that she's a college graduate -- that audition solo must've been completely forgettable. Fodder, if I'm not mistaken.

Emilio Dosal
He may have taken some classes in the intervening year, but he badly needs to finish of his extensions if he wants to avoid a pile-on.

Marcquet Hill
Those drop-crotch pants -- enough said. #getoffmylawn

Nick Garcia
See my comments re: Armen.

Rudy Abreu
I'm split on his honesty about possibly not making it with buddy Nick making it -- graciousness is a (tacit) cardinal rule on these shows -- but at the same time, this is the exact sentiment so many of us would have if we were in his situation, and one has to admire the naivete or guts or both to ignore that convention.

Teddy Coffey
Zack Everhart, Jr.
Both completely unknowns for me, even though Zack got screentime in the callbacks.

Irina Dvorovenko
My new fantasy judge -- demanding as hell, without the histrionics, but with a hint of a dryly acerbic sense of humor. Funny that both of my SYTYCD daydreams involve ballet dancers.

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