Thursday, September 6, 2012

SYTYCD Recap: Can You Dance the Phone Book?

Next week (on Tuesday night—set your DVR appropriately) is the performance finahle, and the season that started with so much promise and excitement is fairly certain to end with one of the most preordained results since Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina duked it out in the Season 10 finale of American Idol. (Wait, Nigel Lythgoe has his hands in that show, too! Go figure!)

But more on my ranting later, because trust me, I have some ranting to do!!

The show opened with an ultra-cool group routine choreographed by Sonya to Kelis' Scream. This was part ballet, part hiphop, and all awesome. The girls had masks over one eye and wore cool dresses, the guys had one eye painted and there was a lot of leaping and lifting and I just really enjoyed it. Once again, Eliana was the star of the routine. (And don't judge me, but I've finally realized after years of marveling at how quickly the dancers change costumes from the group routines to the mini-solos, that the group routine is filmed earlier. I'm quick like that.)

In the mini-solos, Cole did the robot. Cyrus kind of stood there. You know, like he has most of the season. (But did you feel his energy and his personality?)

Cat's frock was really interesting this week, kind of beige-ish with color block boxes of fall colors in rusts and silver. (I shop at Old Navy, what do you want from me?) She told us that the contestants would be performing "not once, not twice, but three times, like a lady" (a little Commodores humor goes far with me)—once with an all-star, once with another contestant, and a solo.

Christina Applegate was back on the judges' panel again. (I'm hoping they're saving Lil' C and Debbie Allen for next week.) She's a good judge, but I felt this week she was trying far, far too hard to get in good with all of the choreographers and the all-stars, and there was also a little too much "Look at me, I know dance vocabulary" going on. (I know dance words, too, but you don't see me throwing in port de bras and grand jeté everywhere, do you?)

The routines began with Tiffany teaming up with Season 2 winner Benji for a jive routine choreographed by super-hyper Jean-Marc Genereux to Lillix's cover of The Romantics' What I Like about You. (Hey!) Benji played a cool guy in a diner, and Tiffany was supposed to be hot for him. Holy wow. This routine was amazing. Benji is a frigging incredible dancer and this routine was lightning quick and jam-packed full of tricks and leaps and movements, and yet Tiffany was utterly captivating. The pair did cartwheels while interlocked, so little Tiffany was, in essence, lifting Benji, and the whole thing was fantastic. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing more ballroom dance and less contemporary (or Broadway?), especially if it could be like this.

The judges gave their first standing ovation of the night. Nigel talked about how much the pair's energy lifted the audience, called Benji "the best swing dancer ever," and said Tiffany more than kept up, pronouncing her flip kicks "fantastic" and her whole performance absolutely tremendous. He also said that despite what Adam Shankman said, he's never danced in heels, but he'd imagine it is very difficult. Mary said "there's no jive talking in this number, just jive kicking," and told Tiffany she could enter a swing championship with Benji right now and win. And Christina went on for far too long about how she takes dance classes with Benji, and how incredible he is, but then she said the routine was perfectly beautiful and a perfect jive, patting herself on the back for also noticing how fabulous the flip kicks were.

Witney was in full paso doble mode for her solo, to Malagueña by The Brian Setzer '68 Comeback Special. She danced around as if she had a bullfighter's cape. Dramatic but a little sloppy.

Cole was paired with last year's champion, Melanie, for a Sonya-choreographed jazz routine designed to show a softer side of Cole, since most of the characters he has embodied this season have been creepy and psychotic. In this routine, to the brilliant Too Close by Alex Clare, Cole desires freedom from his relationship with Melanie as it's holding him back, but she's too selfish to let him go. This also was a terrific routine (I'm sure Melanie was thrilled to dance with someone like Cole after last week's debacle with Cyrus) that actually had Melanie lifting Cole more than Cole lifting Melanie. Beautiful.

Mary said the routine was gorgeous, saying that while last week she couldn't help but be drawn to Melanie (although she insisted she couldn't take her eyes of Cyrus last week), this week, even with Melanie lifting him, Cole drew her in and commanded her attention on stage. Christina prattled on about Melanie's dancing giving her hope (do you feel my eyes rolling?) but then told Cole he was masterful and powerful. She said the routine had an "androgynous oneness," that she "didn't know where one sex ended and the other began." She said that Cole embodies every character he has played so fully. Oh, yeah, and his foot in his pirouette was sloppy, but she doesn't give a s--t because he's so good. (But remember, the dancing needs to be perfect for everyone except Cyrus.) Nigel praised Cole's vulnerability in this routine and said he adapted really well to this style. He said Cole has done extremely well in this competition because he's such a unique dancer. (Hmm, foreshadowing much?) And Cat proclaimed that "Cole isn't scary at all."

I got a little verklempt with Chehon's mother's praise of him in the intro to his solo, and was totally blown away by the twist he put on his solo itself. Dressed in a goth-like costume, dancing to District 78's Way Back Home, it was both powerful and cool. He is a brilliant dancer.

tWitch was back for another week, this time joining Eliana for a Christopher Scott hiphop routine that Christopher called his "most true-to-life routine ever." It was about an extremely hot ballet dancer who has a crush on a super studly postman, so she writes him a letter, but she won't give it to him until he dances with her. The routine, to The Marvelettes' Please Mr. Postman (albeit the District 78 remix), was cute, but seemed much more Broadway than hiphop. (And Spencer Liff Broadway at that.)

Christina didn't seem overly impressed, saying, "Would Jay-Z hire you to be next to him in a video? No," but explained that Eliana is such an amazing dancer, and she tried to find the dance equivalent of the old "you could sing the phone book" chestnut made every so popular by the Dawg on American Idol. (She came up with "I could watch you do YMCA for hours.") Nigel once again demonstrated his utter impartiality (giggle), telling Eliana once again she is his favorite girl dancer, but that this routine relied more on comedy and character than actual dancing. He called the routine "a cheap burger; there wasn't enough meat." (Cat said something about an In-and-Out Burger that I didn't catch.) Mary called Eliana a chameleon and said she was memorable every week.

Ok, kids, save up your money and submit your leave slips for the three-day SYTYCD experience in Las Vegas! Dance like your favorite contestants (unless your favorite contestant is Cyrus, and then you can just have lots of personality), meet Keith-Tyce, Nappy/Tabs, Christopher Scott, and more!

Tiffany's solo to Carmen Reece's cover of Bruno Mars' Just the Way You Are was blah.

The next routine paired Chehon with movie star Kathryn for a Keith-Tyce contemporary routine which (to be cynical for a moment) was clearly his bid for an Emmy nomination this year. It addressed what people do in the face of a catastrophic tragedy, how they live their life with all of their possessions in just one suitcase. The routine, to Sophie Millman's Eli, Eli (A Walk to Caesarea), was performed in an almost gray light, and Chehon and Kathryn looked like they had been through a tornado, with wind-blown hair and dust-streaked faces, as they passed the suitcase between the two of them. At one point Kathryn literally stood on Chehon's bent back. It was a beautiful, emotionally powerful routine, without trying too hard, as I feel some of the "very special" routines on this show can be.

The judges deservedly gave the number a standing ovation, and Keith-Tyce was crying. Nigel put in his bid for Fox renewing the show, as he thanked Fox for allowing them to spotlight routines like this one, which combined a terrific technical side with a terrific emotional one. Mary called it one of the most amazing numbers this season, a "magical moment." She told Chehon he was "so moved by your own movement," and that the routine oozed with power and passion. Christina called Keith-Tyce "a master of contemporary, so profound" (she also called him "dude"), and told Chehon that while technically he's a master, and one of the most brilliant dancers she's ever seen, it has been great watching him grow emotionally.

I loved Cole's solo, to Nox Arcana's Night of the Wolf. He started wearing a hood, and as he took it off he appeared to transform into a wolf. He was wearing a very interesting type of martial arts gi, I'd guess. Really awesome and unique.

Witney and last season's Marko (with a shaved head) paired up on a Ray Leeper lyrical jazz routine about a pair of young lovers on their wedding day who hit a snag when the bride has second thoughts at the altar. ("Just because I'm 18 doesn't mean I want to get married," Witney said, and then warned Marco, "My dad is waiting with a shotgun in the back.") I thought the routine, to No Nothing by Curtis and Reinhard featuring Blaire, was very lyrical and sweet. I've missed Marko.

Mary said that "Witney is still a star to me," that she had many moments of attack and control, and the pair danced beautifully together. Christina said that everyone knows Witney isn't just a ballroom dancer, but she's so capable of so many different styles. She did call Witney out for a lot of "hairography" in the routine (and then, of course, patted herself on the back again for "inventing" the word), saying she missed being able to see her face. Nigel mentioned that in the process of saving contestants from elimination this season, they've been able to talk to the choreographers, and all of them say Witney's a star. And while her character may not have been committed to the marriage in this routine, Witney has been committed to every step in every routine.

Good solo from Eliana, to Death Cab for Cutie's I Will Follow You into the Dark.

So, who do you think got the season's first dubstep number? Yep, Cyrus. Hasn't had a ballroom dance other than the jive the entire season. In this routine, he got to team up with Season 4's amazing Comfort for a Christopher Scott routine to Cinema by Benny Benassi featuring Gary Go. It was really cool, although the whole thing just made me angry. I just don't understand why the show has decided to throw all of their energy behind a dancer who is only strong in one style. I'd totally get it if he showed one iota of improvement or facility in other styles, but he hasn't.

The judges gave the routine a standing ovation. Christina wasn't particularly effusive, stating the obvious "We liked it a lot," followed by the "This was carved out for you, pal." Nigel called Christopher Scott a mathematical genius for the calculations he had to do in order to choreograph with such precision, and told Cyrus, "we know how good you are." And he again reminded us that Cyrus has never been in the bottom two. Mary said that "we're getting all the Twitters" about how much people love Cyrus (eye roll) because "you connect with us." And she remarked how he was "in his Comfort zone." (Get it?)

Witney and Chehon teamed up again for a cha-cha, choreographed by Jean-Marc to Rihanna's Where Have You Been, ironically, the song to which she danced her solo last week. (Yes, my mind keeps hold of stuff like this. What do you want from me?) It wasn't all that good, really. Witney was certainly in her element, but Chehon struggled, and the lifts were awkward.

Mary called the routine a big improvement over Chehon's performance in the samba, but said that Latin dance really doesn't sit well for him. (Has Cyrus had any Latin dance? No, of course not. But he's had two hiphop routines. How many ballet routines has Chehon had?) She called Witney "Lindsay," and said the routine didn't even show her off, and her "hips mean business." Christina sucked up and said, "I didn't notice anything after the deep plie at the beginning of the routine." Nigel joked that the celebrity judges don't like to give criticism (you know, like the real judges do of nearly every other contestant on the show other than Cyrus), but called the routine generally disappointing.

Cyrus did his solo to Sarah Brightman's Harem. Didn't look much different from what he did in his routine with Comfort.

Mia choreographed a contemporary routine for Cole and Eliana about hatred, which Mia said was inspired by rams and how they fight. (Not the St. Louis Rams, who haven't fought since Kurt Warner left, but actual rams.) The routine, to Adagio for Strings by the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, was magnificent, powerful, athletic, and just amazing.

The judges gave the routine a standing ovation, and Nigel joked that the routine wasn't inspired by how rams fight, it was inspired by his relationship with Mia. He told Eliana, "this is why I want you dancing," and told Cole he was brilliant. Mary called the routine absolutely mesmerizing, and praised its power and strength. Christina sucked up to Mia for a while, saying there were no words to describe her ("I have a few," joked Nigel), and then told Eliana that it seems like she almost has a light coming from her feet, and that she's the perfect dancer.

The final routine of the evening was a Spencer Liff Broadway routine for Cyrus and Tiffany, which Spencer called, "like an episode of your favorite 1950s sitcom that never aired," because it portrayed a young high school couple left alone, who get up to some mischief. The routine, to Debbie Gravitte's Treat Me Rough (Girl Crazy), was cute but messy. Cyrus couldn't get his jacket off for a while, which complicated things, and again, he just didn't do much, a few half-hearted leaps here and there, a lift, but no real chemistry. The audience clapped weakly, and even Spencer seemed underwhelmed. (But super cute.)

The judges stuck to their script. Christina called the routine sassy, and said that "Cyrus keeps up with the best of them, and Tiffany is the best of them." Nigel called Tiffany a combination of the girl next door and sexy, and, of course, said Cyrus was inspirational. (Yes, you, too, can one day unfairly win a competition show in which you did not excel, because the judges like you.) Mary called the number "the cutest ever!" (hearts and flowers all around) and said Tiffany was a superstar in both her routines.

The amazing Access Dance Company did a really cool routine that paired a dancer with one in a wheelchair. Some pretty amazing acrobatics although the constant tipping of the chair turned me into a nervous parent. I kept wanting to look away.

And then it was results time. To the surprise of no one, Witney and Cole were eliminated. (I had forgotten that Witney had braces when she auditioned.) It seems a foregone conclusion that Cyrus will win, and I'm guessing Eliana will, too, although Tiffany could surprise.

I am so frustrated that Cole was eliminated. Why did every single other dancer on the show get criticized for mistakes or weaknesses in technique but Cyrus was told, "well, this wasn't perfect, but who cares?" How many times did the judges beat up Dareian for his feet, Will for not being serious enough, Matthew for not connecting, or others for lack of emotion or chemistry? But all Cyrus has is personality and talent in his own genre. That is it. There hasn't been one non-hiphop dance he's shown any facility in, no matter what the judges told the audience.

I understand that this show is looking for "America's Favorite Dancer," not the best dancer. But if personality and mastery of one genre is all that is needed, why all the fuss about technique for everyone else? Why send all of the other b-boys and hiphop dancers and belly dancers to choreography during the auditions? Why all the melodramatic eliminations of dancers in Vegas for failure to master Broadway or hiphop or ballroom or contemporary (none of which Cyrus mastered in Vegas) when you're touting as the winner a dancer who cannot do any of this? The only thing Cyrus did well in Vegas was his solo, but he made it into the top 20 over a stronger dancer. And that has happened over and over and over again this season.

Of course, I'll watch the finahle next week, and I certainly know Cyrus won't get a ballroom dance, but he'll get to do another solo. Maybe he'll even be last for like the third show in a row. I guess I'm just glad they expanded to have a male and a female winner this season, otherwise no female dancer would get the recognition they deserve.

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn't let a television show rile me up, huh?

1 comment:

  1. Great re-cap of the episode! My band, Curtis & Reinhard was just thrilled to have Witney and Marko dance to our song "No Nothing" last night. What an honor. And now the tune is nearing the TOP 100 on today's iTunes charts! We couldn't be more excited!