So they're taking our notes, are they? I felt a little twinge of power and the shame of visibility when I suddenly realized last night that the All-Star partners were standing with Cat and the contestants to hear the judges' critique. There was a similar moment last season when one of the judges referred to comments on the Internet -- comments that I (no doubt among others) had made. I suppose it's only fair that I allow SYTYCD the possibility of a mid-course correction, when improvement and growth is exactly what the show is hoping to see from the dancers as the weeks progress. But I wish there was more overt acknowledgement that the differences this season are a work in progress, meaning that the presentation is subject to some tweaking. It's disconcerting to see a television program with millions of viewers ... improvising. One wonders if anyone has a hand on the wheel. A little honesty along the lines of "this is a new format for us, we're continuing to work to present it in the most intuitive and clear way possible" would go along way toward assuaging my fears (and dizziness).
The closest the performance show came to acknowledging that it's trying to improve was Cat's comments to the dancers about "learning" as she walked out after the introductions. Aha -- as Genevieve noted, that seems to indicate that the trainwreck last week wasn't the fault of director or camerafolk. But you know what was weird this week? These are the four girls ... and here are your six guys. Later in the critiques Nigel let slip that he hopes the viewers won't vote off all the girls and leave them with only male contestants. You judges and producers gave us one extra guy to begin with, along with this vote-off-only-one-per-week format. If it turns out all lopsided, I would remind them that an artist never blames his tools.
On to the performances! I'll give you my quick impressions before we get to tonight's lineup of group number, special guests, and results. There was only one number that I thought was outstanding both in concept and execution, and it was Lauren's lyrical hip-hop with Dominic. Both of them were clearly and, to my eyes, sincerely emotionally involved in the dancing; seeing Dominic with tears in his eyes was quite shocking, and seeing Lauren do something other than a blinding cheerleader smile made me like her much more. (Cat's horrific single-entendre to Dominic was so tastelessly out of place given that emotion that I wanted to punch her.) Coming in a close second was the Ashley-Mark "is it jazz?" number. The lifts and floorwork were thrilling, especially the one where she dived through his arms and into a seamless bit of dual tumbling. I suppose Nigel had the right to derail the critique by raising the issue of whether the choreographer led them astray, but I was disappointed that his introduction of that theme meant that the dance didn't really get its due.
In the respectable effort category we find Jose's Bollywood; he looked game but too slow on his feet and just the slightest bit embarrassed. When Twitch and Legacy danced out of their styles, they never seemed to treat it as slumming. (By the way, what was Legacy doing sitting with the choreographers last night?) Cristina's paso doble with Pasha was wildly overpraised by the judges, I thought. She had the right attitude, but the choreographers really didn't give the pair much to do. Billy's crump was a great try, but his performance was such a put-on that I spent the whole time looking for breaks in his attitude rather than watching the dance.
And then there were the failures. Let's start with Tyce Diorio. I must respectfully disagree with my colleague Genevieve on this one: Both those routines were dreadful. The Fosse-esque number was so, so wrong -- all flash, all pizzazz, no slinking and gliding, no cool whatsoever. (It was not helped by those awful shiny-piping costumes. Adam Shankman in tight vest and tie was better dressed to perform a Fosse number than the dancers.) And Tyce has to take his share of responsibility for the eye-burning awfulness that was Kent's jazz number. Who is behind the scenes pulling the strings to force this kid to have a gender-confusion breakdown right on stage? Being asked to play sexy (which means making that face, oh Lord, that face), being put in some truly inappropriate and embarrassing choreography, and then, to top it all over, being costumed in some kind of S&M dungeon strap. Good god, people. I've been a Melinda defender for the past couple of weeks, but again, the costumer made her look like a dowdy Earth Day metaphor, and the choreography could charitably be described as stupid. And thank goodness Mia Michaels stood up to Nigel on the subject of Robert's prissy, play-acting tango. Robert's personality drives me up the wall, have I mentioned that? I can't even type the words "imbecilic sick/six joke" without triggering an involuntary eye-roll.
For the first time in a long time, the group number didn't move me, although it was energetically and competently performed. Not surprised to see it was a Sonya piece, frankly. I got myself through the plug for National Dance Day by looking at Cat's terrific leather dress with the zippers. (Although she sometimes looked like she was clutching her arms to her sides like she was uncertain about the thing falling down.) Then it's on to the recaps, during which I expect we will hear every single instance of the phrase "eat him/her alive" that was uttered last night.
Cristina goes to the bottom first, over Adam's protests. Melinda predictably follows -- I would have sent her there for the red pants she chose to dance for her life in. At this point the only consolation is that all the women can't be there at once, since there are still four of them (for one more week). But Lauren is spared, looking almost as distraught and weirdly puffy as she did last night. It's Robert in the bottom, and if you are taking notes, big R? Stop it with the creepy faces and acting out for the judges. It's your least favorite personalities, America!
In the dances-for-their-lives, Cristina does her usual thing, Melinda completely flails (which might well be her usual thing), and Robert shows how high he can jump in his Bermuda shorts. Nigel announces that the decision is not unanimous, and also that they're not cutting Robert just to keep from losing another girl, and then that he wanted Melinda to go. Overruled Nigel was right; overrulers Adam and Mia were wrong. Cristina may not have had much farther to go on this show, but Melinda is clearly done now. Enjoy your week's reprieve, hoofer, because you're living on borrowed time.
- Be sure when you go to fox.com to upload your version of the National Dance Day version, you go to Fox Dot Com Front Slash Dance. Or maybe you could see it on a You Tube!
- I assumed last week when Ashley stuttered out her condition of currently being in love, it was because she had fallen for Neil. When the judges ask the same question of Kent and he confesses that he knows love, who do you think it will be for?
- "Mucho caliente," Adam? Much hot?
- Adam, once again reading his notices, rejects the notion that the judges were too harsh last night. Y'all think he's just reading the Fox Dot Com Front Slash Dance comment boards? Or is he venturing out to independent TV coverage sites ... like this one?
- Mia Michaels seemed to be wearing two blouses cobbled together. Tonight she is wearing the giant safety pin that kept them connected.
- The guest performance is by scoliosis sufferer Brian Gaynor -- one of the only real inspirational stories of the show -- and his group RemoteKontrol, who completely live up to the opportunity of being on live nationwide television. Cool as all get out.
- Noel lives for the day when television directors will realize how terrible confetti looks in HD.
- Debi Nova's song wasn't all that catchy, but wasn't it great to see the All-Stars doing their thing? And also to see how Nova looked like she should get into Deely's purse and be carried around like a pocket dog?