Sunday, August 03, 2014
So You Think You Can Dance - 11x10 "The Top 14 Perform, 4 Eliminated"
Whenever I'm talking with someone new for the first time and the conversation reveals my affinity for reality tv, I'm often asked what I think about American Idol, and my witty rejoinder is always, "I don't watch Idol because I like music." I'm beginning to wonder if SYTYCD is reaching that point for me and dance, since I've been bumping uncomfortably against the show's cramped depiction of dance for multiple seasons now.
To borrow another reality program (Project Runway), my thoughts about this show have been circling around its taste level. Designers who have technical knowledge but no or ugly design flair get called mere seamstresses, and SYTYCD seems to fill its cast with the dance equivalent: kids who can turn a billion times but whose face is fixed in a plastic rictus and/or otherwise lack a distinctive point of view from which they approach their chosen art.
I'm obviously talking about Casey, whose balletic abilities, marvelous as they are, don't seem to operate on a level of emotional interpretation, from song choice to solo choreography to the performance thereof. Contrast his solo with Emily's, who seems to dance in a space where the artistic signifiers are more available: dancing to a modern classical piece (originally commissioned by my new choreographic crush!) with choreography that isn't just a series of tricks performed with greater subtlety and delicacy. (I'm trying not to place too much emphasis on choreography, which can be a product of access to choreographers as much as a sign of ineffable artistic vision-- i.e. not all dancers are choreographers, much less self-choreographers.)
Of course, this kind of a discussion has no end point beyond polemics, and I rather dislike intense arguments about what are essentially matters of taste, so I'll end there (and which is why I'm trying to use more neutral language to explain why I prefer Emily's solo to Casey's). (Furthermore, the qualities I mention can all be taken as signs of middlebrow, which can be a more offensive aesthetic allegation.)
Emilio and Bridget - Jazz
Not bad on all counts. Emilio doesn't finish his lines, but he looks very comfortable when the music gives him a pulse to work with. And thankfully, the choreography is Ray Leeper, not Ray Creeper.
Jacque and Zack - Paso Doble
I have to say that a paso set to Rob Zombie's "Dragula" was good for a laugh, though Zack hits a lot of the right paso notes. In terms of the taste discussion above, this routine is an interesting example of personal history determining reception -- having grown up on mid- to late-'90s alt rock radio, I'll react much more positively to post-Marilyn Manson horror schlock nostalgia than to the emotional schlock of a Celine Dion song.
Serge and Carley - Quickstep
I don't know what compels me to comment on this routine -- Serge doesn't seem to have spent a whole lot of time doing standard judging by this routine, though all else considered his performance is a good effort -- but I guess I've become a sucker for quicksteps that throw in vernacular jazz and Charleston elements.
Rickey and Valerie - Hip Hop
Those Academy of Villains sure like their makeup, but it's all good as far as breaths of fresh air go. And as far as prodigiously talented modern/lyrical dancers go, I'm impressed with Rickey's acquittal in hip hop -- he could dance with a heavier load in his pants (in a manner of speaking), but he gets down pretty well. And oh yeah VALERIE'S LEG WAVE??
The opening number is Stacey Tookey's best routine in a very long time, partly because she avoids dipping into the barren well of romantic entanglements, partly because she showcases Rickey.
Similarly, Travis's boys routine earns back some of the plaudits that are impulsively heaped his way, with a handful of nearly stellar moments -- the various wave formations, the scream that disturbs the equanimity of the song -- that add up to that last indelible image of the guys falling off the stage.
Finally, if we're definitely going to have Mandy Moore choreograph a group routine, just for a change of pace, I'd rather see her do something for the boys rather than an iteration of girls being ethereal sylphs.
Alas, my brilliant idea of putting Teddy in a routine set to a David Bowie song, conveyed to the brains of the show, will now never come to pass.
But on the bright side, Tanisha is now freed from Rudy.
And as far as the all-star announcements go, I'll say that I'm a bit disappointed that Comfort isn't on for this week at least -- however overused she might be, she is still a remarkable dancer -- but with Jasmine Harper, they've finally found an all-star that can carry her own weight in hip hop (unless they decide to bring Witney in as a hip-hop all-star).