Listening to the critiques last night, I was struck by the frame of reference being placed around the contestants. Were they being asked to "make it your own," the constant refrain of the AI judges? Nope. Instead they are praised (or faulted) for how they melded their strengths as dancers to the faithful interpretation of another person's artistry. I think that the cult of originality that holds sway over pop music in general gets a refreshing corrective on SYTYCD. There's a different relationship that's assumed between the work being performed and the performer. And I really like to see an acknowledgement on television that the realization of a collaborator's vision is also a creative act.
But enough of my aesthetic musings. Let's get to the rumpshaking! And the booty theme continues in the opening number, a sexy piece choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon. That stomping in the water on the tables gave me kind of a Flashdance vibe. How about the great editing and camerawork on that, too? Give it up for the crew, guys!
I wondered if the show would acknowledge Michael Jackson's death, which occurred and became known only three hours before the show went on live. Not only did Nigel eulogize Jackson, but also Ed McMahon -- pointing out that Star Search brought a number of stars into the entertainment world -- and Farrah Fawcett, whom Nigel once met. Live television, friends; sometimes it sends a chill down your spine.
Asuka and Vitolio danced to Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," and last night I thought it was just a little draggy, not energetic enough all the way through. There were oddly slack moments in the choreography. Nigel loved it, Mary had some qualms -- and they're in the bottom three. Continuing with the rock theme, Brandon and Janette had a rap/rock battle in their dance. My take: the costuming and the attitude were more interesting than the dancing, which was a bit slapdash and too big. But the judges were happy, and America was happy.
Perhaps the most interesting dance of the night was Evan and Randi's Mia Michaels routine ... the one about the butt. This one skeeved me just a tad, perhaps because Evan seems like such a boy scout. But the dancing was really great, and I loved the effect of the loose-limbed choreography on Evan's whole baggy-pants vibe. No problem, they're safe.
Phillip and Jeanine did Broadway. Not just Broadway, but "Moses Supposes." Tice didn't have them tapping, which was a constant source of distraction to me. Jeanine got praised, but Phillip was urged to push himself harder. I love Phillip, and I'm glad I get to see him continue to do different things. Yay, they're safe! Ade and Melissa did probably my favorite dance of the night -- the rhumba, and that amazing dress. No contest -- they're safe.
Jonathan and Karla not only were destined to be in the bottom three from their lack of unison in the rather Mickey Mouse hip-hop routine, but because Nigel actually offered to bet the audience that they would be. Quite a prediction, coming from a judging panel that usually doesn't indulge in Simon Cowell-style "I wouldn't be surprised if you're going home" handicapping.
I wasn't sure about Jason and Caitlin in the paso doble; Jason seemed to be playacting at the macho bit, and the whole thing seemed full of effort and getting big moves set up. But the judges liked it. And the new couple, Kayla and Kupono, got stuck with the Viennese waltz, not a dance that usually inspires memorable fireworks. Interestingly, they're the ones who get through, and Jason and Caitlin end up in the bottom three. Maybe I'm a better judge of dancing than I thought.
Let me test my prognosticating skills on the dances-for-one's-life: Asuka is one of my favorite competitors, just such a sexy little fireplug, but I didn't think she really showed herself to the very best advantage in her dance. Vitolio? Buddy, you don't have to do every jump you know in thirty seconds. Karla was quite striking in her dance and showed her uniqueness. Jonathan went all out with his tumbling, but unlike Vitolio, integrated the athleticism into a coherent routine. Caitlin probably did the best dance of the night in her final effort -- gorgeous and controlled but still with plenty of flash. And Jason? Well, it's just not the style I respond to most, I'll leave it at that. If I had to predict who would be cut, it would be Karla (though none of the girls really seemed to deserve it) and Jason.
Shocker -- Asuka has been cut, in a unanimous decision! I'm stunned and really sad, but I understand what the judges meant about her not growing. It's a split decision for the men, but again I'm proven wrong, Jason is safe -- and Jonathan, because he did so poorly in the hip hop, is gone.
Time to go back and see what else they wanted to do for a living. Thanks for the guest spot, Genevieve, and thanks for your patience, commenters!
- Sorry for the delay in posting; Noel's Burn Notice duties took precedence, so I had to watch the show an hour after it aired.
- The rotating group of guest judges are no doubt knowledgable, accomplished people, but they generally don't impress me. They always seem to be taking their cues from the regular panel. And Toni Basil, quirky and adorable as ever, is one of the more passive of the bunch.
- Guest performances this week: The Rage Boys Crew, a group of youngsters and adolescents doing hip-hop, were indeed, as Cat said, "the cutest thing evah!" And The Veronicas, a vampy girl band (with guy guitarists) that seems to trying for trying for a heroin-chic version of the Pussycat Dolls, had a few desultory dancers connecting them to the show. I'm annoyed when there are bands playing on the results show because I wish the show would book more dancers -- the pro visits are among my favorite features of the program.
- Why is Cat Deeley the best host in the business? She genuinely seems to root for every single competitor. Yet she does it without getting defensive on their behalf against the judges (I'm looking at you, Ryan Seacrest). I just want to eat her up.