So You Think You Can Dance: "Top 14 Perform"
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So You Think You Can Dance: "Top 14 Perform"

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So You Think You Can Dance

"Top 14 Perform"

Season 8, Episode 12

OK, SYTYCD, I’m ready to get beyond the bad decisions and dubious reassurances of randomness, and see some dancers fight it out. Are you ready to win me back this week?

Not with Carmen Electra on the judging panel, you’re not. She protests quite charmingly about her dance background (which includes college majors in dance, being named Miss Dance Ohio, “and … Pussycat Dolls!”), but with Travis Wall right next to her, one feels that she brought her own chair and elbowed her way to the table by force. Then our first group number is introduced by its choreographer as being about the seven stages of grief, and my heart is sinking. Seven themes is a lot to get into one two-minute number, and even knowing the concept I was completely unable to discern acceptance, shock, or whatever. (Didn’t help that Chris got tangled up in his hoodie and missed several steps.) Much better is the girls’ group number that closes the show, with its caberet swagger and gangster lean -- but even that is not as sensational and show-stopping as its rundown placement indicates.

Melanie and Marko: Again with the black and red costumes -- what is with the wardrobe department this season?  And I actually thought all those frills took away from my ability to see Melanie move in this jazz routine.  (She had the frills last week, too.)  I have to say that I didn’t get this; it seemed like an imitation of fire and sexiness instead of the real thing, although the unison stomp across the stage was cool.  But my hatred of Marko’s pants and crossed suspenders may be affecting my judgment.

Sasha and Alexander: You know, Alexander’s height and leanness should be an advantage in some dance style.  But we haven’t found it yet.  His hip-hop is soft and amateurish, like a traveling troupe performing at the mall.  Sasha’s strength and self-containment are present as always, but the choreography did neither of them any favors with its teeny-bopper level emotions.

Jordan and Tadd: Good to see Toni in the choreographer’s chair for their smooth waltz.  Jordan’s facial performance annoyed me for the first time; it seemed belly-dancerish, not with the serene emotions that would be more appropriate to this style.  And the camera movements and smoke detracted from me seeing whether the dance was really going well.  Mary rightly praises the floor sweep, but there’s something wrong with the personalities on display here.

Clarice and Jess:  Justin Giles choreographs contemporary, and this is where Clarice finally emerged for me as a dancer in her own right.  This routine, with all its stillness and walking, was death for Jess.  When he was still, he wasn’t still dancing.  He was just waiting for the next move.  There was no strength in it, no purpose.  Travis thinks there was chemistry, but I completely disagree -- the reason this worked at all was because Clarice separated herself from Jess and inhabited the dance in her own way.

Ashley and Chris: Salsa! Love that nifty multi-touchdown lift.  But I didn’t feel like either of them had the bigness and speed they needed for this routine.  It lacked a certain flamboyance and fire.  And that’s without considering Chris’s breakdown in the final spin.  Chris seemed uncomfortable but game, Clarice unwilling to take it to the next level for some reason.

Ryan and Ricky: Oh no. I’m worried about this one as they cut to commercial -- crazy costumes and Ryan’s got her crazy face on. But the dance mostly proves me wrong. It’s one of the few times this zombie aesthetic works on the show. The awesome music helps, but the energy and sharp edges of the movement are what sells it. Right at the end Ryan seemed to lose her balance and her focus, but this is the rare occasion when the pairing, choreography, and performance styles meshed for this couple.

Caitlynn and Mitchell: Getting the coveted closing spot for a romantic dance about being in love bodes well for this Mandy Moore routine. And yes, it’s the kind of thing this show does well and that always brings out the voters in droves. Caitlyn really extends high into the air on many of those lifts, and while I’ve seen some of these tropes (diving through the partner’s arms, miming running while being carried across the stage), there’s still an exuberance to this that cannot be denied. It was a bit too frenetic to move me to tears like it affects Mitchell and Mary, but I agree that it’s one of the best of a rather thin night.

First time I’ve felt like there were more problematic performances than slots in the bottom three. I’ll put Ashley and Chris on the chopping block -- not a hard call since the voters seem disinclined to support them week after week.  Sasha and Alexander ought to wind up there, too, unfortunately for my beloved Sasha.  And for the third, I have to call out Clarice and Jess, but Melanie and Marko or Jordan and Tadd wouldn’t be out of place there.  It’s not a structural problem, but a lack of execution that fails to regain my love this week.

Stray observations:

  • That mandarin collar and delicate embroidery make for a delicious Cat ensemble.  Yum!
  • The dancers’ packages were about their family backgrounds, and boy do I like this better than the contestants dishing on each other.  Hey, they’re real people with interesting stories. cultures, and experiences -- not just collections of quirky traits!
  • Ladies of a certain age, heed my words: Blonde highlights, excessive tanning, and lipstick-red dresses are a bad combination.
  • Cat implies that although Marko may have had sex with a man, that doesn’t make him gay.
  • Alexander’s dad was on Barney Miller and T.J. Hooker, presumably playing random ethnic hoods!  Cool!
  • I call a moratorium on hip-hop costuming that involves rolled-up sleeves or jean cuffs.  And no, I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the clothes this week, unless it’s because they’re getting worse.
  • Nigel, if you’re going to mention progressive twinkles, you really need to explain.  Or preferably demonstrate.  
  • The backwards signs in the audience held up by those still facing forward are feeling weirder and weirder.
  • “The Patriots Blood Is The Seed Of Freedoms Tree” -- pretty violent slogan for the high school message board.
  • I’m afraid choreographer Chucky is a little too passionate in his hatred of pedestrians who don’t look for cars before they step into the street.  Or maybe it’s just that this is a sore spot for those of us who live in a college town and fight the student herd mentality (crosswalks and traffic lights, who needs ‘em?).
  • Carmen: “You know … salsa is … hot, you know … it’s … on fire.”

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