It takes a lot to win the So You Think You Can Dance Best Hyperbole Ever Award, but tonight Adam Shankman takes it in a walk. Was there anything this man didn’t love tonight? Every dancer was his favorite ever, he could see music in Lauren’s eyes, Kent “just became an artist,” and so on. And in the one case when he didn’t love something, he demurred—in his own over-the-top way—rather than display anything other than complete rapture over the final three.
And in a way, I get it. Lauren, Kent, and Robert are pretty evenly matched from where I’m sitting—even their personalities have settled into a sort of equilibrium of intense enthusiasm. At this point in the competition, with the decision entirely in the audience’s hands, the judges really only serve as a guide to the voters, swaying opinion slightly in one direction or another. But which way do you sway in this matchup? If you can’t decide—which I don’t think Adam, or any of the judges, can—why not just fawn upon them all and let America figure it out? So let’s see what we have to work with this week, America:
Bollywood (Kent/All-Star Lauren): The only way to make Bollywood cornier is to throw Kent into the mix. Yes, this routine was exceedingly cheesy, and nowhere near the best Bollywood this show has delivered, but it was still exciting and executed well. It wasn’t “literally perfect,” as Adam Shankman would have us believe—the movement seemed a little muddled until they ditched that damn garland—but Kent and Lauren partnered very well, staying in sync and making all their connections. If anything, I’d say it was the weird, Disney-fied hip-hop vibe to some of the choreography that kept this routine from being great.
Hip-hop (Lauren/Twitch): Many—including the judges—have commented on what a strong season NappyTab has had, but I thought this “political debate” routine displayed some troubling backslides into old habits, namely obtrusive props and overly literal choreography/music choice. It’s still no dancing with boxes on your feet, but it didn’t work nearly as well as something like “Out Of Your Mind.” It didn’t help that Lauren and Twitch seemed oddly out of sync even though they were both on beat; I’m chalking it up to the extreme difference in their size creating some visual confusion. That said, Lauren takes to hip-hop extremely well—I’m guessing it’s her cheerleading background, which has a similar emphasis on “hitting hard” on moves.
Jazz (Robert/Mark): Does SYTYCD slashfic exists? If not, I can see this routine inspiring some. However, I think pairing these two put Robert at a disadvantage. The judges kept saying how he kept up so well with Mark, but for me, seeing them together just highlighted how boring Robert is by comparison. Granted, I’d say the two are fairly evenly matched technically, but Robert can’t hold a candle to Mark in terms of being, as Mia says, “kooky bonkers.” Mark has always been great at injecting a fabulous weirdness into his face and movement—and I’m sure being one of Lady Gaga’s dancers has only heightened that ability—and Robert just couldn’t match him in that regard. It’s too bad, because I think Tyce’s choreography was far better served by Mark’s kooky-bonkers than Robert’s goofy-golly.
Contemporary (Lauren/Robert): The judges couldn’t find enough nice things to say about this routine, particularly choreographer Dee Caspary, but it was a little too roly-poly for my taste. I think contemporary is often harder for an “outsider” to understand than other genres, because what trained dancers and choreographers see as wildly emotive, expressive movement, we often see as confused flailing and rolling on the ground… there’s a very fine, blurry line between the two that’s even harder to distinguish when you’re not a dancer yourself. I don’t think this one was a complete bust, and there were some very cool moments in there—particularly the one Nigel noted, where Lauren threw the pillow into Robert’s arms and leapt into it—but overall it didn’t quite connect for me.
Jazz (Kent/Lauren): Watching this routine, I felt myself getting angry at choreographer Mandy Moore for subjecting Kent and Lauren to this. Listening to the judges critique it, however, I felt myself starting to feel sorry for her. Has there ever been such a harsh—albeit veiled—lambasting of choreography on this show? “Not challenging enough.” “Not enough dancing for me to get a hold of.” Adam basically bowed out rather than say anything about it, leaving only Kent and Lauren to defend the piece with, “It was fun!” Maybe for you guys it was, but it was pretty awful from my perspective. She had you making finger guns! There is no defense for finger-guns on SYTYCD! This was just one Running Man away from being Ross and Monica’s dance routine from Friends.
Contemporary (Kent/Allison): Now here’s a contemporary routine I can get behind, and what’s more, it features Kent dancing like an actual adult… and pulling it off! I don’t know if it was because being in his own genre allowed him to focus on his character rather than his movement, or if he actually is displaying some of that “growth” the judges are so fond of, but damn if I didn’t believe his pain in this number. The fact that Kent wasn’t able to immediately switch back over to aw-shucks mode during judging—indeed, he looked on the verge of tears—was endearing and a little startling.
Broadway (Robert/Kathryn): Spencer Liff, you cheeky devil, busting out a routine to “Cool,” an iconic number that Adam’s performed himself onstage and that is one of Nigel’s favorite songs ever, despite the fact that he doesn’t know whether or not it’s in the stage version. (It is.) This was a great number for Robert, thanks in no small part to the excellent choreography and his smoldering partner. Kathryn’s sultriness and the, well, cool choreography almost made me forget that this was the same dork who broke a chair in the rehearsal package. And then his pants split. Sigh.
Cha Cha (Lauren/Pasha): Tony and Melanie got pretty R-rated with this number—though the costume department certainly had a hand in it as well—and damn if Lauren didn’t pull it off again. Then again, she’s already done a cha cha with Pasha this season—in week four—so the moves aren’t that unfamiliar to her, and choreographers (ballroom ones, anyway) have been putting her in the sex bomb role all season, so she’s probably gotten more comfortable with it. With the contestants dancing so many more dances this season, and therefore so many more styles, it’s hard to be surprised at this point in the competition when dancers pull off a genre other than their own, because chances are, we’ve seen them do it before. The fact that they usually have an experienced All-Star guiding them certainly doesn’t hurt either. But Lauren has consistently been the most effortless when it comes to switching styles, which I’m sure is why Adam wants to hire her, and why she’s my favorite to win by a hair.
Malevos fight (Robert/Kent): Okay, forget what I said in that last paragraph about having seen every style/contestant pairing imaginable this season. How could I forget the Malevos fight? Oh right, because I’ve never heard of such a thing. (Neither, apparently, has Nigel.) But those of you who have been itching for some male-male ballroom in this very same-sex-oriented season got your wish with this weird dude-on-dude tango. (I’m not including Jose and Adechike’s paso doble a few weeks back, because nobody was wishing for that.) It was… different. While a lot of the leaps and the slow-mo segment were very cool, the footwork seemed janky, and I honestly can’t say whether it was the fault of the dancers or the nature of the style. Maybe if we had a ballroom expert on the judges’ panel she could tell us for sure (*looks around forlornly for Mary Murphy*), but I’m suspecting it was mostly on Robert and Kent. A valiant effort at diversification, SYTYCD, but I think this little experiment might have to go the way of Russian Folk.
Remember, Donna and I, along with Special Guest Judge Noel Murray, will be convening here for a livechat during the finale tomorrow. Things kick off at 8:45 ET (7:45 CT), so we can spend a little time talking about this very odd season before things kick off. Join us, won’t you?
• Tonight’s lesson: Don’t you dare outsparkle Cat, Kent.
• “This message was approved by LoFro!”
• “I hope Sarah Palin doesn’t pick this routine up,” says Nigel about NappyTab’s number. Nigel’s groan-worthy attempts and current-event references aside, I have to say I would kind of enjoy seeing Sarah Palin attempt this routine.
• Robert saying “I came into this competition a little too excited about everything” definitely earned him a few points in my book.
• Cat makes a weird kissy-face.