(Genevieve Koski is on vacation, so I’m covering the show for her this week. She’ll return next week. – TV)
Prior to this season of So You Think You Can Dance?, my experience with the show was mostly limited to hearing the title, responding with “Yes!” and pretending I was the first person to ever have thought of doing that. I saw a few episodes here and there (notably when a local girl made a run at the title), but I was not a stalwart follower. It didn’t help that my knowledge of dance boils down to things I picked up offhand while attending a dance recital my younger sister performed in that was held in the loft of a barn. The few times I’ve tried to dance have mostly been met with laughter. I am a sad, non-flexible man, held to Earth by too much gravity. (I suppose I should point out now that I’m nowhere near as well-versed in dance as Genevieve or many of you, so please point out when I get something blatantly, blatantly wrong, and I’ll correct as I can.)
But this season of So You Think You Can Dance? has made me a believer. There’s an effervescent quality to the show that makes it a breeze to sit through where other shows in its genre (and bigger hits) become a chore to digest. It helps that the production is generally excellent, the shots giving the dancers room to breathe and capturing the most important things in each performance, and that Cat Deeley is perhaps the greatest person on the face of the Earth. It also doesn’t hurt that literally every one of the performers is ridiculously attractive and becomes only more so when getting to do their thing. Yeah, the judges are often kind of annoying, but that seems to be the function of the judges on shows like this for whatever reason. For what it does, So You Think You Can Dance? is maybe one of the most underrated shows on TV.
This week was no different. While there were a few performances that didn’t quite gel, every one of them contained at least a few moments of adrenaline and excitement, and the best performances of the week were just terrific. The week’s theme – of the dancers revealing hidden secrets of their partners – was kind of generic and didn’t result in all that much interesting information (Kayla likes to text message; Vitolio likes motorcycles; wait … Phillip collects reptiles?!), but the dancing itself was mostly solid, if not quite up to week one’s levels.
Let’s go couple by couple …
Randi and Evan: Randi and Evan’s jive routine was, yes, fun, but I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t quite as good as it should have been, something the judges seemed in agreement with. When Evan was performing athletic leaps or the two were dancing separately, the routine was solid, but when the two were dancing together, they often seemed slightly chaotic and ahead of the beat (though that may come from the camera angle chosen to show those moments, which was not the best for viewing that sort of action). I had higher hopes for these two who seem best-defined by the word “spunk,” but it was still good enough to land in the middle of the pack.
Melissa and Ade: The judges and the rest of the Internet seemed to think this was just a great routine, but I found it perhaps too oblique and abstract. Or perhaps I was distracted by the fact that Melissa’s tight-things were SO PINK. The whole plot seemed inspired by “Uptown Girl,” and since I’m not always a fan of plots in these routines (they always seem to boil down to the same thing), the routine itself had to make up for the roteness of the idea behind it. But while it was athletic and very obviously well-rehearsed, it seemed sort of lifeless, as though neither dancer was feeling the passion. Then again, the judges loved it, Cat called the two “naughty rock and roll imps up to no good,” and I agree with general consensus that Melissa’s a serious dark horse to win this whole thing, so what do I know?
Caitlyn and Jason: Here, I can see where the judges were coming from with their critique of the performance. Both dancers seemed to be moving to different beats at times, and the routine was a little dumb. On a technique level, maybe this doesn’t quite work. But on the level of raw chemistry, I thought the two carried it through, which is why it’s disappointing that they ended up in the bottom three. Caitlyn and Jason aren’t perfect, but their bond seems maybe the strongest of any couple in the competition. They just obviously seem to enjoy being in each other’s presence and dancing together. (That said, Caitlyn’s velociraptor impression was kind of terrifying.)
Janette and Brandon: Hands down my favorite of the night and impressive from two dancers I wasn’t terribly thrilled with last week. The routine itself is so fast, athletic and invigorating that it almost wears away any objections you might have to it, even though Janette has a minor slip-up towards the end of it. It definitely helps that Brandon’s lifts seem seamless and that Janette has terrific facial expressions that sell the whole thing. It’s the kind of fun routine I watch this show hoping to see. (I also enjoy things like Lil C describing the whole routine in terms of the “birth of progression” as though he were Arthur Schopenhauer, which seemed to perplex almost everyone involved with the show.)
Asuka and Vitolio: Genevieve complained last week that the awkward chemistry between these two was holding back Asuka, who seems like a good bet to go far in the competition. And there was some slight confirmation of her theory as Asuka said in the run-up to the routine that she doesn’t find Vitolio attractive at all, which seems like the sort of thing you wouldn’t tell someone, but, again, what do I know? That said, the waltz here, while maybe not as clean and precise as it could have been, was just nicely done, full of small, emotionally tender moments that the two made the most of. Their chemistry, for once, felt real and not forced, and if they can keep that up, they might both make it a long way into the competition.
Kayla and Max: Here’s another dance that I think was probably hurt a little too much by the abstraction of the concept, which purports to tell the story of a princess and a common dude (or, Aladdin, if you’re playing along at home). There was a lot of cool stuff in it – the lengthy section where Max sort of made Kayla his puppet was neat – but the whole thing never quite gelled in the way the judges seemed to think it did. They’re also in dire danger of Adam Lambert-ing Kayla, who’s, yes, good, but not so head and shoulders above everyone else that I can see why they make such a fuss over her and seem to reduce the more-than-capable Max too often to her partner in their critiques. She’s a pretty girl, yeah, but I don’t get what makes her so special. (Apparently, none of you do either, since the couple landed in the bottom three.)
Karla and Jonathan: Here’s the second dance in a row the judges praised to high heaven that I just didn’t much care for. “Falling Slowly” is a great, great song, but it’s a song that takes a certain maturity and regret to really sell, and both dancers here just felt like timid school kids flirting with each other, rather than the soulful people bruised by love I think they were supposed to be. Karla’s a great dancer, but her facial expressions were more “Is he going to ask me to dance?” than “I’m tired of having my heart broken,” if you catch my drift. And there were parts of it that were just boring, like the long portion where the two just sorta walked around in each other’s arms.
Jeanine and Phillip: I’ve seen some hatin’ on the girl, but Jeanine might be my favorite dancer in the competition, and I think she’s the kind of dancer who might win. She’s good, but not so obviously good that she can get boring (thus giving her the “You’ve really improved!” arc that these shows love so much). She’s got a wholesome quality to her that walks the line between too naïve and trying too hard. And when she doesn’t have the technique, she sells the hell out of what she’s doing, as she did here. While Phillip was grimacing and grinding his teeth through every lift, Jeanine was pretty much just pressing forward with a dance neither clearly was good enough at just yet to make passable at a technical level. On a technical level, these two probably deserved to land in the bottom three (though apparently Phillip has a massive fan base, if Lil C’s comments are to be believed, and he’s the kind of guy who usually does well on shows like this), but I’ll agree with Mary Murphy for the first time in my life and say that the attitude – at least Jeanine’s – made this more enjoyable than it should have been. (That said, the opening vignette with Spanky the teddy bear convinced me that she would either make the greatest girlfriend in the history of Earth or she’s completely batshit crazy. I don’t think there’s a middle ground with her.)
Ashley and Kupono: For the first time in the show, the concept of the dance was so intriguing that it almost made the lackluster routine worthwhile. Shane’s choreography of these two, weird mirror images was so interesting that it made up for the fact that the dancers didn’t quite seem comfortable with it (outside of the moment when Ashley tossed her hat aside, one of my favorites in the show so far). Sadly, though, it just kind of devolved throughout until you saw that maybe the dancers weren’t quite up to the level of what they were handed. At the same time, the two showed such promise last week that I had hopes they would survive their bottom three placement.
Results Show: As always, the results show is a bit of a mixed bag. The group numbers on this show are always a lot of fun (and it's cliche to say by now, but they put American Idol's group sings to shame), and tonight's, while perhaps a bit TOO conceptual for its own good, was still a lot of fun. I've never been sold on the elimination concept on this show, though, and the solos often end up feeling kind of cramped and frantic. That said, seeing Kayla BE cramped and frantic made me finally realize what the judges see in her, which made it amusing to hear Nigel say that her trying to cram too much into her solo didn't impress them. Still, Ashley and Max were cut, and while I'll miss Ashley, I won't miss Max, especially after that flail-y, trying-too-hard solo to Footloose that seemed to consist of him dancing manically, smile plastered on his face.
Grade (Wednesday only): B
- I just want to praise Cat Deeley again. She’s honestly one of the oddest television personalities I think I’ve ever seen, vacillating between fashion model and complete and utter nerd, and when she does things like initiate chest bumps with the dancers, my heart skips a beat. I’m in serious, serious heart.
- I also like the fact that the end of every show turns into the last 20 minutes of the 1959 Oscar ceremony (see sidebar).
- Was it just me or was the deep and dirty secret of half the girls that they occasionally spoke in baby talk? I realize that the dark secrets thing isn’t designed to actually BE dark, but at least we could have had more bizarre, borderline disgusting things like Asuka’s spit bubbles. I mean, wouldn’t it have been awesome to find out that Kayla had done hard time for securities fraud or something? Sigh.
- "We need to stop being violent and just calm down and be strangers who are in love."
- I'm going to just start saying "The only thing I bench is girls" in my day-to-day life.
- Man, it's kind of weak that they don't say how the judges differed in their un-unanimous decision. Just give us the lowdown, Nigel!
- Genevieve will be back next week. Thanks for letting me hang out!