Friends, I'm snatching the hours to watch this show and write this recap between dips in the pool, games of Rail Baron, and steaks fresh off the grill. I'm on vacation, and I have no Internet; my husband has taken my laptop from my hands and driven out of the state park where we're staying with family to the nearest wi-fi hotspot (probably a McDonald's) to post this for me. And naturally I have no DVR to pause and rewind for spellings or to see whether Nigel really said that, so please forgive any errors; I'll try to correct them when I get back to civilization.
I did manage to get a signal on my iPhone long enough to read Genevieve's recap of last night's show, and I agree with her that in a number of ways the production has managed to get its feet back underneath itself. Or maybe "got its heel untangled from its skirt" is a more apt metaphor. Here are my takes on the performances:
Adechike: I'm much more on the judges' side than my esteemed colleague's here. His hip-hop with Lauren was a breakthrough. I credit Dave Scott and his partner for his ease, but whatever the reason, he was having a blast, throwing it down with abandon, and there wasn't a hint of "overly technical" about his dancing.
Ashley: Her contemporary with Ade was another stunner. Dee Caspery delivered a really innovative routine, and one that it's hard to imagine many females dancing better. Ashley may not have much of a personality, but she nailed a very difficult concept to express -- a sense of motionlessness and imminent collapse that made the dance feel like it was always on a razor's edge.
Robert: You can certainly see Robert's strengths in his Sonya-'graphed jazz number with Courtney: power, flexibility, outsized personality. The dance does its best to turn him into another Mark. But I found the choreography strangely static at times, and compared to the first two numbers, it was run-of-the-mill Sonya fare (what with the flailing and the grasping and the scurrying). Bare-chested stubble Robert was almost likeable during the critique -- just the big genuine smile and no theatrics, thank God.
Melinda: Train wreck time. She's too tall for Pasha, the shoe malfunction was super-awkward, and he had trouble whipping her around. I appreciate that poor Pasha went for it, but she's just not light enough on her feet for this dance. It looked like she ought to be lifting him.
Lauren: Her Joey Darling Broadway number with Neil was okay and Lauren gave it her all, but there was something missing -- some hint of sizzle or danger or something. You'd think with a wardrobe malfunction I would have at least felt some suspense, but it all seemed quite tame. And "young Cyd Charisse," really, Adam?
Billy: I was totally charmed by the inspiration package where Billy named Legacy, I admit. Coolest moment since RemoteKontrol last week. As for the Stacy Tookey contemporary number, Billy danced it stunningly as always, but I thought the partnerwork was trite and by-the-numbers. And yes, it didn't seem honest -- there wasn't emotion in his movements. So I guess I'm right with the judges on that one.
Jose: OK, Billy's tagging Legacy was the coolest thing until Jose named Bruce Lee. You know, I can totally see it. And you know what else -- it changed the way I understood his samba with Anya. What's always moved me about the street dancers who've gone deep into the competition is how they regarded these often elite and rarified dance styles (like ballroom) as worth working hard at. We've seen some folks who got sent to choreography or even to Vegas claim that these styles are beneath them -- are inauthentic in some way that excuses them from trying to be good. But would Bruce Lee take that attitude? He would not. Bruce Lee would become the most magnetic samba dancer in the world if someone challenged him to do it. And so I found Jose's samba very creditable, even he didn't have to do that much actual salsaing until the end. No, it's not technically adept, but I so appreciate his can-do attitude and embrace of the challenge. And he didn't give anybody a chance to talk about Anya eating him alive.
Kent: You know, if they wanted Kent to be a man, they shouldn't have dressed him in that tuxedo shirt with the random piping straight out of the eighties. Not much to say about the Mandy Moore jazz routine except that Kent seemed to have a fantastic time and the choreography was appealingly high-energy.
Alex: I was standing up with the audience and the judges at the end, first off. And I was cackling with delight two-thirds of the way through the experimental male-male hip-hop pairing, when Alex and Twitch simultaneously threw it into fifth gear. The concept gave plenty of opportunity for comedy, but it was the pacing of the routine that floored me. I'm already looking forward to seeing this one again during the season finale.
As the results show opens tonight, Nigel announces further tweaks to the format: The contestants will do two routines next one, one with an All-Star with which they have not yet danced, and they'll be dancing with one of their competitors. Meaning (a) more hot man-on-man action, and (b) they're worried about the shape of the middle game that the new format is bringing them. If I were them, the sight of three girls stepping out against a horde of six guys at the end of the credit sequence would definitely be cause for alarm.
And I imagine either alarm or resignation was the ruling emotion during the judges' confab. Nigel made a point of saying last week that even though he had expressed concern about the rapid extinction of females in the competition, he hadn't argued in favor of sending home the only male in the group. He should have known then it would be futile; nothing the judges could do short of outright malpractice would save a reasonable gender distribution. Nigel doesn't even pretend to critique the guys, and the foreordained conclusion plays itself out. "You dance to the beat of your own drummer," he asserts. You know what the problem is? That drummer is named Acting rather than Dancing.
- If I had to remove one piece of music from the choreographer's list of choices for group numbers, it would be "O Fortuna."
- As soon as Adechike was safe, we knew there were no bottom-dwellers in the first group of four, right? Do you think Kent had a moment of doubt, either?
- The crowd gasped when both Billy and Robert were sent to the bottom three, but Noel had it pegged from the moment Lauren was sent to safety. Rationale: All three bottom slots remained to be filled. There were only four people left. They weren't going to bring the final two contestants out on stage and not rescue one of them. Ergo, both Billy and Robert had to be dancing for their lives. It's those keen analytic skills that made him the grand Rail Baron champion in the three-day marathon vacation game that just ended tonight.
- In a slight twist, Mark and Courtney step in as guest performers, reprising season 4's Sonya routine set to "The Garden." I'd be more interested in new numbers that paired All-Stars from different seasons, actually -- combos we've never gotten to see! Fantasy SYTYCD! Can we add that to the format, Nigel?
- I liked the Cirque de Soleil Elvis number, although there were fewer acrobats than I might have expected. Also nice: Seeing that a couple of SYTYCD alumni have jobs in the industry. Not so nice: The way the contestants' opening number suffered by comparison.
- No way Ne-Yo beats that kung-fu dude in a non-dancefight.