OK, I wasn't wild about the whole hour of visiting the contestants (and relegating others to a phone call from a roadside diner) to tell them in or out. Tyce can go straight to hell with his whole Sally O'Malley IloveitIloveitIloveitIloveit Miami shtick. And I felt terrible for the little hints we got about how long the contestants and their families were held prisoner grouped on couches by cameramen waiting for the call or visit (six hours, one dad let slip in a confessional).
But compared to the truly appalling fake-outs attempted at the same point in the competition on Idol, these ridiculous visits turned out to be somewhat okay. After all, with only ten spots and with all the twenty-four semi-finalists being outstanding dancers, there was in fact some suspense, even to the point where I couldn't tell if it was a fake-out some of the time. (Mary got me with those tears, too. But I think Ryan ought to be furious she didn't get to be the sixth girl when Billy got to be the sixth guy. And she ought to be furious that the judges took the tapper — my prediction for first out — over her. And I'm getting ahead of myself.)
The two questionable decisions, it seems to me, were Melinda the Tapper and Jose the B-boy. But I'm glad that Jose is in it. I love having an untrained street dancer to root for. Heck, I love having a street dancer to root for, period. Because the seeming dearth of hip-hoppers in the auditions plus the smaller contestant pool has predictably resulted in a top ten that very nearly had no street at all. Have the producers learned nothing from the winners in the last few years? We love street. We tune in for it, we vote for it, we get all excited when dancers in that style prove they can stretch into other styles. It may be the single most thrilling aspect of the show. But if Jose fails us, we'll be denied it. Notice, however, that I'm not questioning the decision to put Cheerleader Lauren in the top ten. That solo that all the judges stood up and applauded? It was really delightful. And her ability to connect with her audience is simply extraordinary. If she can show that inventiveness and personality in the competition, she's going to go a long way. (I predict that ballroom will be her downfall.)
So tonight there's no competition, just an hour-long tribute to the Top 11. If it includes a little more time with the contestants we don't know as well — like just about all the girls — it will be well worth it. On the other hand, we also have to meet the All-Stars, so maybe I shouldn't expect much in the way of in-depth profiles. And yet, with that electrifying Robsons opening number showcasing just how exciting these dancers are — en masse and in the well-choreographed close-up camerawork — I remember, suddenly, what this show is all about. I still don't know how these All-Star pairings are going to work, but wow — looking at them all together, what a group! All of the sudden I can't wait to watch them week after week.
Wait, maybe I do have an intuition about how these All-Star pairings are going to work out. Because in the group numbers with All-Stars mingling with contestants, it became difficult to keep an eye on the contestants. I wanted to watch Lauren and Kent to see how they held up beside Mark and Kathryn in the Travis Wall number, but thanks to the makeup and costuming and lighting and the crowd on the stage, I couldn't always pick 'em out. Lauren, especially, faded into the hi-def trappings; Kent at least got some fantastic acrobatic moves center downstage. Looks like he's the real deal.
Alexie and Melinda did a Broadway number from Sweet Charity, and honestly, for all my griping above about Melinda's inclusion, she was the one I couldn't take my eyes off of. Maybe it's partly her height, but she also has outstanding presence. Then I finally get to see Jose do his b-boy thing — alarmingly, alongside three former dancers. And this time the choreography distinguished between the singleton and the group in a way I found helpful — and super-cool. Love that move flipping and pulling off the hoodie. Yeah, it's NapTab, so if you're waiting for those really hard hits, you're going to be disappointed. But I was able to take this one for what it was, and it delivered what I wanted from Jose. Christina had the unenviable postion of being third wheel in a Pasha and Anya Latin thingie; the problem there is that Pasha is obviously going to be at the center, so it was increasingly difficult to focus on Christina in the margins.
The less said about Mia Michaels' "Ages of Man" deal, the better; I felt like I didn't see much dancing because there was so much acting business going on. We can take it as read that Alex and Billy are remarkable. Maybe Mia didn't want to intimidate all the other dancers by showing them off at their best. Adechike, Robert, and Ashley have to fight for space with Neil and Courtney in a jazz number. My impression is that Adechike earned his underdog label here; compared to Robert and Neil, he did not have the wild excessive performance that this Sonya routine demanded. Next week we finally get to see what these All-Stars look like one-on-one with the contestants. I may quibble with the format, but I think we're going to see some breathtaking dancing.
- Cat, should you really be asking Kent what kind of woman he prefers? Way to put a dude's sexuality on the spot, girlfriend.
- Speaking of Cat, she appears to have fallen into a large vat of Neapolitan ice cream tonight.
- An intrinsic problem with a non-competition performance show is the "judging"; would the panel say the same thing if there was actually a dancer on the line? Because I hate happy talk, I was glad to see Nigel delivering an actual critique of Christina ("you've got lazy feet"). I'm even more glad to say that I noticed her feet not quite making or finishing all the moves Anya was making in the routine. There's hope for me as a dance viewer yet!