At this point in the season, the results show is starting to feel more like a variety show feel than part of a competition. Sure, there’s the drawn-out ritual to reveal who’s going home, but after the judges railroaded Adechike last night, there wasn’t much left in the way of suspense. Lauren and Kent were separated by one percent as the top vote-getter, and Robert gets to tag along to the finale despite taking part in the most terrifying routine ever danced on this show (at least if you’re a coulrophobe like me, it was). That leaves us with about 35 minutes of filler, one you take out commercials, and those 30-second solos aren’t going to cut it.
There’s always the opening number, of course. At the sound of the opening notes of “Drumming Song,” one of my favorite Florence + The Machine tracks, I was ready to love the hell out of Dee Caspary’s routine, but it ended up leaving me pretty underwhelmed. Kaspary seems to favor really syncopated, mismatched movement in his choreography, which just doesn’t work very well on that cavernous stage. A lot of the individual movement was intriguing, and the moments where they came together were powerful, but overall it was highly forgettable. “Drumming Song” deserved better than this.
Then there are the musical guests. Just a week after I bemoaned the consistently disappointing musical performances on SYTYCD, they bust out Janelle Monae, whose ArchAndroid is my front-runner for album of the year and who always brings it live. Her tuxedoed performance and fancy footwork are nothing new to those who have seen her perform before, but I was overjoyed to see it on a venue like SYTYCD. Not only is “Tightrope” a killer song, but Monae’s dancing is unlike 99 percent of what we see on this show. Flo-rida’s (or “Flo-rider,” as Cat says) performance was a little more typical, but I’ll take any excuse to watch the All-Stars dance, particularly some fun, energetic co-ed hip-hop. The best part of this thoroughly wonky season has been seeing the All-Stars week to week, and the producers are smart to bring some of them along on the tour. I can’t imagine paying to see any of this season’s dancers without an All-Star assist.
The third guest performance of the evening was Desmond Richardson, who’s choreographed before with his partner Dwight. We’ve been told over and over again by Nigel, Cat, and Adechike what a legend Desmond is, but both his choreography and his dancing have felt a little outdated. Don’t get me wrong, he’s obviously an incredibly skilled dancer, but the most intriguing part about the number he performed tonight was his half-pants. Other than that, it was a familiar-looking routine performed very well, but nothing beyond that.
Even with all this performance though, there was plenty of time to fill, which means… packages! Not only the standard flashbacks to last night’s show, but also a truckload of various promotional BS. There was Mr. Lythgoe Goes To Washington to promote National Dance Day. There was the visit to the Gatorade Performance Lab (ugh), where the dancers were put through a series of tests to determine if they are, in fact, in good shape after dancing for seven-plus hours a day. Surprise! They are. Good job, science. And of course, there was another reminder for us to all go see Step Up 3D via a trip to the premiere with the dancers, which served to pretty much erase whatever goodwill I had toward the movie after last week’s performance.
Scattered in among all that? Oh yes, the votes. The ordering of the solos and votes was especially weird tonight, to the point that even Kent was confused. (Not that it seems that hard to confuse Kent.) Without the added ceremony of the judges being sent off to deliberate, the whole elimination procedure seemed even more drawn-out and contrived than usual, which was especially frustrating considering how obvious the results were. Next week should prove more exciting, though, at least if Nigel is to be believed in his preview of the finale: Not only with Lord Featherhead himself be tap-dancing for our amusement, but a bunch of memorable routines will get a reprise, including Alex and Twitch’s NappyTab number, with another, unnamed “dance legend” filling in for poor Mr. Wong. Nigel, you tease. Not to mention that Kent and Lauren have ended up pretty neck-and-neck in the competition, leaving us with a genuine nail-biter (or as much of a nail-biter that’s possible in this thoroughly underwhelming season).
• Kent’s comment last night about how he’s “not big” got me thinking: I wonder how much the fact that all of the male contestants this season have been pretty small, comparatively, has affected things. Obviously, they’re all in great shape, but compared to an Ade or Joshua or even a Twitch, there hasn’t been nearly as much raw power onstage. Some genres suffer more than others—notably disco, as we saw with last night's nearly lift-less dance—but generally the more exciting routines are the ones with a lot of big power moves. Just a thought.
• Glad to see Cat took a couple of seconds to run a brush through her hair tonight. She looked lovely, and thank God for it… the last couple of episodes she’s been a little, uh, “deconstructed” for my taste.
• I’m not sure if it was the music choice, but Kent’s solo felt more like a cheerleading or gymnastics routine with all the tumbling and jumping. Compared to Adechike and Robert’s herky-jerky, popping-influenced solos, it really stood out, but I’m not sure if it was in a good way.
• Did Tyce or Mia talk at all tonight? Not that I mind…
• Man, there was some pretty egregious 3D trickery in those Step Up clips. “I’m just going to casually pour this neon-green slushee over this air vent and see what sort of eye-popping visuals occur!”
• In anticipation of Nigel’s performance last week, and because I love you all so much, here is an exceedingly silly clip of him dancing on a BBC show called Brits Can’t Dance.