It’s true that the level of talent and professionalism in this crop of finalists is extraordinary. When’s the last time you saw a reality competition where anyone in the top 8 could clearly make a career out of the activity at which they’re competing? Well -- actually we see that more and more, with competitions that skew away from amateurs and more toward people with plenty of training and experience, and with already established careers or bright prospects, like Top Chef and Project Runway. If I can fault the exquisite machine that is SYTYCD for one thing, it’s that the show has been more coy than its peers about how many of its contestants have already gone pro. There’s a lingering “we plucked them off the street, off the farm, from obscurity!” narrative, even when it’s not explicitly stated, that deflates a bit when Rob Marshall mentions that Jess has already performed on Broadway. And the show doesn’t need that American Idol wide-eyed naivete, frankly -- what we like about these people is that they are not dilettantes. They have clearly committed years to their craft, and it would be odd in the extreme if they hadn’t already achieved some successes. The show isn’t their entree to the world of professional dance -- it’s marketing for what is already an established brand trying to break out of its niche. (And it’s likely employment on the show for future seasons, tours, choreography slots, etc. -- no small matter in the world of show.)
A quick recap of last night’s action before we get to the results (just like they do on TV!). We had to wait until the very end of a long two hours for them, but thank goodness we finally got some same sex pairs -- and what pairs! Melanie slightly outdanced Sasha in that wonderful Sonya routine, I thought, but my reaction was just awe at the power they exuded. Factor in that incredible leap Melanie did during her dance with Neil -- in slow motion it was even more amazing, with her throwing her head back in complete abandon as she flew through the air toward his arms -- and Melanie wins the night. Both NappyTab numbers were weak last night, I thought, and it was good to hear a little criticism of the choreographers from Lady Gaga (she didn’t name names, but she made it clear that style and the reliance on props and story were not her bag -- of course, then Rob Marshall had to come along and praise them to the skies so we could get the happy choreos reaction shot). Double Mandy Moore 80s night, too, with “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (Nigel misidentified as “Bright Eyes”) and “Another One Bites the Dust” -- the latter being a great showcase for Tadd after he dropped his hat and had to mime his way through the rest of it. Although I loved the choreography and dancing in Marko and Allison’s justly praised Sonya contemporary, Allison’s face really distracted me; she appeared to be in the early stages of a rage virus infection.
Whom should America relegate to SYTYCD’s second division, aka the bottom four? It’s clear Ricky is being set up for elimination, and rightly so -- he is just too vertical and light in his loafers (if you’ll excuse the expression) to get down and dirty in the street dances or even in last night’s jive. (I wouldn’t be surprised if he were given these dances to showcase his weaknesses.) Jess probably ought to be there with him; NappyTab’s choreo let him down in the lyrical hip-hop number, and I didn’t even register his presence in the rhumba, so obscured was he by Jordan’s fringey Gumby business. Caitlynn and Jordan are obviously the elimination bait for the girls, and I think it’s Caitlynn’s turn to go; at least Jordan has a style, personality, and those legs that bend the wrong way, for all her vampish annoyances.
Let’s get to the big show! Our group number is all sepia-toned and circus-themed, and while the costumes were gorgeous, I felt it was a missed opportunity. I was wondering why Sonya wasn’t having them do anything acrobatic or making good use of those ropes to provide motion and different levels … and then Cat said that Tyce choreographed it. Ohhhhh … mystery solved. The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers returns with a number that starts slow but gains incredible momentum once everyone starts in with the tricks, especially that unbelievable series of spinning leaps. I’m not a big Lady Gaga fan, but I respect her commitment to performance and pop sense. The only amusing part to me was when she exhorted the SYTYCD studio audience to sing along with a new single to which nobody knows the words yet.
We have to wait through a commercial break for Cat to peel off the two endpoints of that line of girls and leave Caitlynn and Jordan in danger (was there ever less suspense?). They make us take the guy’s results in two steps, and once Jess was confirmed as a member of the bottom two, it was just a matter of waiting for Ricky’s name to be called. And it is -- but because he’s safe! What fresh hell is this? Who are the rabid Ricky voters out there organizing a mass call-in? Well, Jess goes home a week earlier than expected … unless he pulls out an amazing solo. And he does. That was certainly all he could do, but Tadd comes back with something almost as astounding in his own style. Bye-bye, Jess.
Jordan easily outdances Caitlynn in her solo, to my eyes. But Nigel berates them both for not dancing enough for their lives, and says that the judges are going with America’s choice -- by which I take him to mean that Jordan got the lowest number of votes, and is going home. Caitlynn gets one more week.
- I hate it when judges think they’re the show rather than the contestants. But even though all the business with Gaga’s boots and stuff was the kind of attention-grab I usually despise, Cat Deeley made me love it. Give that lady the Emmy.
- Speaking of Gaga, she was not at all bad despite the desperate need for attention and the almost complete lack of dance expertise. She clearly made the contestants’ days with her sincere praise, and she was quite wonderfully unpredictable going off on some of the factors she didn’t like. Here’s a judge that doesn’t need someone judging in front of her to tell her what to think.
- Rob Marshall believes that SYTYCD is the Chorus Line or Dancin’ of our generation, bringing the dancer out of the background action and into the spotlight. Not a bad analogy.
- A bit of an unfortunate bit of writing when Cat said “everybody’s getting on their feet” to participate in National Dance Day right after showing the young patient at UCLA in his wheelchair.
- Nigel springs the news on Cat that she’s going to be celebrating NDD in Valencia with him, and she responds with an adorable, shifty-eyed “I believe I’m booked that day” bit of business.
- When the girls come out for their elimination line, they are all dressed in black and silver as if they’re about to perform a group number -- but no, it’s just an uncanny coincidence of costuming for their solos. Also Jordan and Tadd embarrassingly show up with the same hairstyle.
- Also, just when it was not possible for me to love Cat any more, she beepbooped the Mario Brothers theme after Marko and Ricky’s hiphop last night. Swoon.