Sunday, July 13, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance - 11x07 "The Top 20 Perform, 2 Eliminated"

When the judges talk to Serge, they usually mention how he's a hard worker, which at the time struck me as oddly conspicuous. Later I remembered that that's the same faint praise that they give to Maks/Max from season 5, who of course lasted all of two weeks. Since he landed in the bottom already, and considering his advanced age, I wouldn't be surprised if Serge doesn't last much longer.
Something else: Nigel dings Marlene for not being sufficiently flexible, but aims no such criticism at Serge, who also seems to not have the bendy parts of, say, Ricky. 

Teddy is phenomenal in his routine -- he's all brilliant elasticity and sharp, stuttering angles -- and Emily does better with her hip hop than does Footman, who flashes some of the power and confidence needed in hip hop only in between moves and is self-consciously floating the rest of the time.
Something I noticed last week but couldn't be bothered to remember till now is Teddy's resemblance to a certain glam rocker.

I hated Jourdan and Marcquet's jazz. I'm relieved that even though she impressed the judges enough to get through to next week, but I thought their performance is terribly labored and disconnected from the music (and I don't think Cheesman's choreography helps them out any). I'm likewise relieved to see that I like Jourdan not simply because she's a tremendous contemporary ballet dancer, but because she can recite pi to the same number of places that I can. 

As for the other ballet dancer, I'm chuffed to discover that Jacque is an adorable ball of impertinent energy (even if typing her name goes against everything my fingers know about spelling). Interestingly, she gets a Cheesman piece, too, but unlike Jourdan, she gets the good one. It's far from perfect -- some of the partnering is tentative, their stamina flags to at the end, Zack stumbles not just in the routine but also in answer to what his favorite blue object is (he doesn't give the obvious/best answer of the TARDIS i.e. I hate him forever). But the final product, complete with an acid-drenched Seussian take on Aladdin Sane, has the vital, exuberant energy that's missing from the rest of the show. 

(Also! I caught some moves that are shared with vernacular jazz, which you can think of as the solo repertoire of Lindy Hop.)

I was initially floored by Brooklyn and Casey's tango -- she clearly has the spotlight centered on her and she, in spite of her youth, shines with an unexpected maturity (and I think it's telling that the best tangos, which to me translates to the routines with the best ladies' ganchos, involve a female ballroom dancer) -- but on further inspection, this routine, with all of its lifts and flash, lacks a certain depth. I can easily imagine a purist asking where the actual tango is in the sense of not seeing a single, united body with four legs, but after 11 seasons I know better than to expect authenticity in what is an exotic style for this show. Miriam and Leonardo are deft choreographers -- not simply for masking their dancers' deficiencies -- but credit to them for the light punctuation that ends the performance. (Casey meanwhile benefits, in my opinion, from the long shadows that hide what I take to be his plasticine expressivity.)

Does anyone think that the bottom 6 includes a 24-, 25-, and 26-year-old by mere coincidence? Which is to say, the three oldest contestants from this year's cast all fall into danger last week. The voting public puts them in that position, and Nigel sends one of them home, but, granted, also sends an 18-year-old with her. However, a combination of factors have stacked the deck against non-teens: the puerile taste level of the audience, Nigel's pandering to this demographic, and other structural elements that define the show (the brevity of routines, the middling choreographers and the show's inability or reluctance to call them out, etc.) make serious or ambitious dance a rare occurrence on the show. Considering the poptimistic attitude that I've sported through seasons past, I guess this current batch of sentiments amounts to a reactionary argument; I'd have a hard time dismissing that notion entirely, but at the same time I have little doubt that the show is pushing against the limits of what it can or is willing to offer artistically. 

So in that light, thank Cat for Chloe Arnold's Syncopated Ladies, who could team the kids on the show something about artistic conviction. They also probably represent the first take on modern tap that I respond to well -- maybe because they give as much thought to the choreography above the waist as they do below. (An unfair criticism considering the kinds of frames that are expected in standard dances.)

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