Sunday, August 14, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Unsurprisingly, Melanie walked away with the title of "America's Favorite Dancer" (or, more accurately this season, "Nigel Lythgoe's Favorite Dancer") after beating Sasha (runner-up), Marko (third), and Tadd (fourth). Nothing about the way this finale played out was shocking or interesting. Melanie was the favorite from week one, and she won. It was expected, but it was the proper outcome as well. Melanie was the strongest dancer of the competition, though I (and many others) took issue with how much she was challenged to show adaptability and/or range. But she was the best of the final four, so she rightfully deserves her title.

I have to comment on the judges' picks for their favorite routines of the season. Some I agreed with (Ashley & Chris's Broadway, Melanie & Sasha's jazz, Melanie & Neil's contemporary, Caitlynn & Pasha's Argentine Tango), but some were just ridiculous: Sonya's Geisha girls? Miranda & Robert's woodpecker hip hop? Melanie & Marko's lyrical hip hop? And no one chose what was easily the season's best choreography and performance in Melanie & Marko's Dee Caspary contemporary piece with the light bulb? What a joke.

Then there was yet another Sonya routine with the entire top twenty performing. It was certainly more visually interesting than her couples routines have been lately, but it's still too much of the same. Especially in an episode where her choreography was showcased three other times.

By far the best performance of the entire episode was Matt Flint's tap number with Nick and Jess. Matt was the most recent winner of the show's UK incarnation, and after seeing him perform the US version should be ashamed of some of their past winners... because they've got nothing on this guy's talent and charisma. Matt was utterly charming, and the tapping was fantastic. It was so nice to finally see a tap routine on the show that used the music instead of fighting it, that added those elements of camp inherent in tap while still making it look timely and fresh and (of course) entertaining. Nick was especially impressive, considering how early he went home; I would've much preferred he traded spots with Jess in the competition. I mean, Nick has no training other than in tap and he was doing more consecutive turns than Jess and with just as strong a center. Craziness.

All in all, this was by far the most disappointing season of the show. I know there are people out there who think it was the best ever, but I strongly disagree. The range of genres was so limited that by the time the top ten were selected I was totally bored with the show. I don't like that the judges continued picking who would go home up until the finale (once it was top ten, the dancer with the lowest votes usually went home... hence "America's Favorite Dancer," in that America was supposed to be choosing). And I didn't like the lack of diversity among the dancers chosen for the twenty slots. There was one tapper, one ballroom dancer (both of whom were eliminated in the second week), and one Broadway dancer; the other seventeen were hip hop, jazz or contemporary. And the choreography has become stilted as well. The show lost its greatest choreographer, Mia Michaels, and overused the choreographer they hoped could take her place, Sonya Tayeh. There are plenty of working choreographers out there who would kill to have their work featured on the show; seek them out! Stop using the same ones over and over, creating the same effect and emotion week in and week out. Change it up.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Week Nine: Top Four Performances

This was one of the worst episodes I can recall of the entire series. The guest judges were uninspired and completely useless, and the performances were mind-numbingly boring. So let's get to the final cutting of the season.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Top Six Elimination Performances

Top Six Group Performance (Choreographed by Justin Giles)

I get the fantasy, the whimsy Justin Giles was going for. But it came across as more campy and ridiculous than fantastical for me. The movement was cliche, the concept confusing. I kept thinking of Fern Gully, only without the humor.

Eliminated Dancers: Caitlynn, Ricky

We all knew it was going to happen, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. I know people who think that Caitlynn has no personality, but I disagree. She may not have the "warrior princess" vibe Sasha has or the stage presence Melanie has; but Caitlynn proved herself to be adaptable. Sasha and Melanie didn't really ever have to prove that because they were constantly given genres and pieces suited to fit them, rather than having to suit the genre or piece themselves. And I think that's reward-worthy. Look at Tadd: that's exactly why he made it through to the finale, because he took on different styles and adapted well to them. He has more of a personality than Caitlynn, but Caitlynn has more inate dance talent than Tadd.

Plus there's a very small part of me that never loved Sasha because she was picked for the top twenty over her sister.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Caitlynn vs. Sasha

I've been thinking a lot about how last night's performances panned out, and I have to say I'm angry. Because Caitlynn has worked harder to prove herself on this show than Sasha has, but Sasha will undoubtedly end up in the finale with Caitlynn sent packing.

Aside from the judges all praising Sasha endlessly week in and week out, she has also not truly been challenged in the way many of the other dancers were this season. Let's look at Sasha's styles over the course of the show. Keep in mind that Sasha is a contemporary hip hop dancer, a label she gave herself (not one I'm making up to prove a point). She considers both contemporary and hip hop to be "her" genres. So let's see:

Week 1: Contemporary
Week 2: Hip Hop
Week 3: Contemporary
Week 4: Hip Hop
Week 5: Paso Doble and Jazz
Week 6: Hip Hop
Week 7: Quickstep and Jazz
Week 8: Contemporary and Waacking

Sasha has only performed 2 ballroom routines and has pulled contemporary 3 times and hip hop 3 times. So she's danced outside her comfort zone a total of 5 times in 11 performances, though that's counting jazz (close to contemporary) and waacking (close to hip hop) in those remaining 6 dances. She has never had a week where she was completely and utterly out of her comfort zone, as there was always at least one style close to her own. She clearly has hardly been challenged by new genres; and let's not forget that her partner in weeks 1-5 was weak, so she looked even better dancing next to him. Sasha has been in the bottom only once, so she only "danced for her life" one time.

Now let's look at Caitlynn, a contemporary dancer who had to fight from the very beginning when her partner was injured in the first week and unable to perform with her.

Week 1: Jazz
Week 2: Contemporary
Week 3: Samba
Week 4: Contemporary
Week 5: Hip Hop and Jazz
Week 6: Argentine Tango
Week 7: Hip Hop and Foxtrot
Week 8: Samba and Jazz

Caitlynn has performed 4 ballroom routines (twice as many as Sasha) and has pulled her own genre twice. So she has danced in a style other than her own 9 out of 11 times, including jazz (which is close to contemporary). Last week Caitlynn had two styles completely different from her own. She was in the bottom three times, having to "dance for her life" as many times.

Looking at this, Sasha was clearly given some favoritism (and not just in relation to Caitlynn, but to all the girls; Caitlynn just happens to be her direct competition tonight). The same argument can be made against Melanie, who has also rarely been challenged; she's been give her own style 3 times and only 2 ballroom routines as well. Melanie is constantly given these "storytelling" pieces, whether they are contemporary, jazz, hip hop or Broadway. Caitlynn is often given more abstract pieces and more abstract choreographers (she has never worked with Nappytabs or Tyce, two of the series' staples).

I can see the odds, over the course of the entire season, stacking up against Caitlynn, and it upsets me. In a season where the dancers and choreography were very vanilla (I don't know what else to expect when 80% of them are hip hop or contemporary dancers), I'm finally caring about a contestant; because I've seen her fighting, and I've seen her improving. I wrote one week that Caitlynn kept falling out of her turns during her solos; the next week, she stopped falling. Caitlynn has danced for her life three times now and proven herself good enough to stay each time. I see her drive and her focus and her passion, and I want all of that to be rewarded with a place in the finale.

With Sasha, we see a dancer to started strong and stayed there. There has been no real impetus to get better, because she's been called amazing and a favorite since the very first week. She hasn't really had to fight for anything while she's been on the show, and she hasn't really had to prove herself much. Because the judges think she's great and want her in the finale (and have wanted her there since the start), so that's where she'll be. And it's a shame.

Week Eight: Top Six Performances

Next week is the finale, and most of the dancers brought their A-game in preparation for it. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Top Eight Elimination Performances

Top Eight Group Performance (Choreographed by Tyce Diorio)

This was actually a very nice opening number. But I'm a little worrie about Tyce and clown thing; this is the second clown piece he's choreographed on the show, not to mention the circus piece from The Wiz he did two years ago. But the overall picture was very pretty, though a little eerie and kind of sad. There wasn't much to the choreography at all, a lot of standing around and watching the rope-ography and some very basic lifts. But it was quiet and not too over the top like the group performances tend to be, and it wasn't overchoreographed the way Tyce's group performances tend to be. A decent start to the evening.

The Bottom Four: Jordan, Caitlynn, Jess, Tadd

I hate you right now, Gaga. If she didn't say how much she loved Ricky last night, he would be in the bottom. He should've been the one going home, but he lives to dance another week. Blech.

Jordan's solo was flat-out boring; Jess's was a bunch of turns; Caitlynn's wasn't too thrilling either, though the plie attitude turn was kind of awesome; and Tadd's was insane.

It was no surprise to see Jordan going home, despite how much the judges love her. Clearly she's just not someone the audience is in love with, as she's been in the bottom more than she hasn't. I was shocked, however, that Jess was sent home. I kind of never thought it would happen, but I'm so happy it has. There was just something about him that totally turned me off, and, as awful as it may sound, I'm glad to not have to see him dance next week.

The Guest Dancers: The LXD

This group is the most entertaining to ever be featured on the show, and I enjoy watching them year after year. The fact that they do all of those tumbling passes completely in sync, those amazing isolationists, the "big picture" choreography... it's all awesome. I wish Christopher Scott would choreograph like this for the show.

Oh, but don't bother watching their web series... it doesn't make any sense.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Week Seven: Top Eight Performances

This week's performance show was a bit excessive, with two guest judges (one being the queen of excess herself, Lady Gaga) and twelve performances, three of which were hip hop and five of which were some type of contemporary or jazz. It got to be exhausting after a while, especially coming off of the long day I had, so forgive the inherent bitterness.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Top Ten Elimination Performances

Let's discuss this All-Star situation, because I'm pissed. Why did the producers get me so excited by bringing back Chelsie and Brandon, only to dump them after one episode? And are they now going to be introducing a new crop of dancers every week? Becuase they're going to run out of "all-stars" pretty quick; they're already kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel with next week's selection. So next week's all-stars will be: Ivan (season two); Jaimie, Anya, Pasha, Lauren, Neil (season three); Ade (season five); and Lauren (season seven). And no, you're not the only ones who completely forgot who Ivan is: he's a hip hop dancer who finished fifth in season two (ahead of Allison and Dmitry!), but I guess because he hasn't been in the spotlight much since then... I just kind of forgot he existed.

Top Ten Group Performance (Choreographed by Josh Bergasse)

By far the most successful Broadway group routine this show has done (not counting Mia's "One" from season five, which I didn't personally care for but I know has a following... that was contemporary, despite its music being from a Broadway show). There was never a moment of boredeom, as there tends to be for me in these group numbers, and the choreography itself managed to be both classic and modern musical theatre. I hope Josh Bergasse is brought back to choreograph for couples this season; his style is fresh and much better than Tyce Diorio's.

The Bottom Four Contestants: Clarice, Jordan, Mitchell, Ryan

I totally forgot that the bottom three of last season was done because only one dancer was eliminated each week, so I was initially surprised that four dancers would be in the bottom. But none of the four dancers surprised me. I think since there had to be two girls in the bottom, Clarice was an obvious choice next to Jordan. Mitchell got screwed with a bad routine last night, and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't really understand why Ricky is so highly praised.

It's upsetting that Mitchell is eliminated, since I think he's the strongest dancer out of the remaining men. And it's not at all upsetting or surprising that Clarice, with her inability to not smile and her seeming lack of sense of humor, is eliminated as well. Looking back, I'm shocked she even made into the top ten; but I think she got by because she was paired with Jess, who clearly has a following of tween girls.

I'm not even going to comment on the guest dancer, because it was so weird and boring that I fast-forwarded through it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Week Six: Top Ten Performances

Neil Patrick Harris is my new favorite judge from this season for two reasons:

1. He told Tyce Diorio his choreography and concept sucked (in so many words).
2. He told Jess to drop the twatty attitude and stop being so stupid (in so many words).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Top Twelve Elimination Performances

Let's talk about the Emmy nominations; the show was nominated for an amazing eight Emmys, including their first ever nomination for Outstanding Reality Competition Series. Plus three of my five favorite routines of last season were nominated for Outstanding Choreography: "Boogie Shoes" by Mandy Moore, "Mad World" by Stacey Tookey and "Outta Your Mind" by Nappytabs. Travis Wall and Mia Michaels were also nominated, and everyone's nominations were for multiple works. And let's not forget that Cat Deeley finally got her due, scoring a nomination for Outstanding Host of a Reality Series. She's the most likeable host on television, and I'm ecstatic that she was finally nominated. I'm so happy to see this show finally getting some recognition, even if it was more deserved for stronger previous seasons. But better late than never!

And how exciting are the group of all stars?! Can't wait to see season one runner-up Melody; Chelsie Hightower, my favorite from season four; and Brandon, one of the best dancers the show has ever had. The others are Allison (season two); Pasha (season three); Twitch and Comfort (season four); Kathryn (season six); and Robert (season seven). I wish they could've coerced Billy and/or Jakob, but oh well.

Top Twelve Group Performance (Choreographed by Kelly Abbey)

Despite some fantastic musicality, this performance was hideously boring. Nothing happened in the opening twenty seconds or so, and only half the dancers were dancing at any given moment. Why can't these choreographers figure out a way to use all of the dancers? They don't all have to be doing the same movement, but why are so many of them constantly just standing on the sidelines waiting for their part to begin?

The Bottom Three Couples: Caitlynn and Mitchell, Ryan and Ricky, Sasha and Alexander

No real surprises here; I know Jordan and Tadd made it through on the strength of their contemporary piece last night, even though it's said that Sasha and Alexander have ended up in the bottom in the week where they finally started to gel as a couple.

Based on solos, I too would've sent home Ryan and Alexander. It's not that either of them were bad, but the others just set the bar higher. Mitchell's solo was nothing short of amazing, and even I can't deny how good Ricky's solo was as well. Alexander's had some great moments (the aerial into an arabesque was ridiculous), but he also stumbled a bit. And Caitlynn finally danced within her limitations, not falling out of her turns for once or flailing like a mad woman across the stage. Sasha's wasnt all that impressive, but it was very strong. Ryan's was just a little confusing, and her hair was a major distraction from the movement.

So neither elimination was entirely surprising, especially given how the show has worked out so far. Ryan has constantly been in the bottom despite some strong showings, and Alexander was carried through the first four weeks by a strong partner.

The Guest Dancer: Jason Samuels Smith

Okay, did anyone else find it awkward that none of the tap sounds in the introduction were actually coming from the stage? They were on the recording. Oh, and Melinda from last season was shoved in there in the background (the one in green shoes). The dancing itself was impressive, but the sound just killed it all for me. Why, oh why, can't anyone just freaking tap? It got better as the routine went on and the sound cut out, but what was with that intro? Annoying.

Week Five: Top Twelve Performances

Two performances from each couple! Another hilarious guest judge! Awful and amazing routines! Let's start cutting!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Top Fourteen Elimination Performances

Top Fourteen Group Performance (Choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan)

As far as Bollywood routines go, this one was pretty tame. It was missing a lot of the thrill and excitement usually present in the couples Bollywood dances. The energy was great though, and no one stood out as being really good or really bad. That's a feat in and of itself considering how bad some of the guys were in their group performance last night. But even in the simple movement of walking forward, the girls were better than the guys.

The Bottom Three Couples: Ashley and Chris, Jordan and Tadd, Ryan and Ricky

Ugh, this is such a terrible group to be in danger of leaving the show. Sasha and Alexander absolutely deserved to be in the bottom over Ryan and Ricky; Jordan and Tadd were very good, but I can understand why that routine wouldn't have grabbed an audience. But Ryan and Ricky? I just don't get it. The only thing I can think of is that Ryan's story of being discovered by Mia Michaels and already having a great career in television put off voters, which is ridiculous but then again so is America.

Having said that, I hated all the solos. Tadd's was the only enjoyable one, because it was at least amusing... but it was stupid. But it was a foregone conclusion that Ashley and Chris would be eliminated, so there was no surprise there. Luckily for them, they had one of the best performances so far with their Broadway routine two weeks ago; it will likely end up being one of the best of entire season.

The Guest Dancers: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

This group is unbelievable; amazing choreography and dancers. This is what the dancers on this show should be aspiring to. But that's honestly one of the ugliest pieces of music I've ever heard.

Week Four: Top Fourteen Performances

This was such a strange episode. To start with, all but one of the choreographers was doing their first routine of the season; many of those choreographers were doing their first routines ever on the show. And what was with the styles? Six of the seven couples got a style that they had previously danced this season... and it's only the fourth week of competition. I smell a fix.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Top Sixteen Elimination Performances

Top Sixteen Group Performance (Choreographed by Michael Rooney)

This was a great melding of styles; it had the partnered aspects of ballroom, with the tecnhicality of jazz and the theatricality of Broadway. I've never heard of this choreographer, but that was definitely a refreshing take on the group performance. Not everyone was dancing all at the same time, but no one ever looked left out. There were some visually interesting moments (the assisted flips at the end, especially), and moments where people were dancing different styles all at once, but it didn't seem cluttered or overworked. One of the more memorable group routines of late.

The Bottom Three Couples: Ashley and Chris, Miranda and Robert, Caitlynn and Mitchell

I'm completely shocked by Caitlynn and Mitchell being in the bottom, but not so much the other two. In terms of the solos, I think Chris had the best... I know, and he's a street dancer! But it was emotional and unique, and I loved it. As disconnected as she seemed to be from the performance, I actually didn't mind Ashley's solo; it was technically good, and it didn't seem desperate like Miranda's did and it was more focused than Caitlynn's. I mean, Caitlynn fell out of her turns. I love Mitchell as a dancer, but he needs to stop relying so much on that held extension in his solos. And Robert's was just... stupid.

So I wasn't totally shocked by Miranda's elimination; clearly she and Robert aren't connecting with the audience, since they were voted into the bottom the first week after an amazing jive routine. And like I said, her solo wouldn't have changed their minds if they were already made up to send her home. And honestly Robert's solo was bad, so no surprise there at all.

P.S. - Dear Nigel: You need to know who danced what routines before you mention them. Chris did not dance the woodpecker piece; Robert did. Dumbass.

The Guest Dancers: Axis

This probably makes me a bad person, but I don't care: I found this to be awkward and uncomfortable. I kept waiting for the wheelchair to tip over or something; not to mention the actual routine was kind of boring. I prefer my dancing to involve feet, thank you very much. Now go ahead, call me a dick.

The Other Guest Dancers: US Theatrical Ballroom Champions

HOLY SHIT. He dead lifted that bitch from the ground with one freaking hand! He balanced her on his head while spinning! They were like watching ice skaters, but on a stage; so good! Pure athleticism and grace. Beautiful.

Week Three: Top Sixteen Performances

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Top Twenty Double Elimination Performances

Top Twenty Group Routine (Choreographed by Dave Scott)

Aside from the mannequin routine all the way back in season three, I'm always very "meh" about Dave Scott's choreography. This performance falls into that category as well. At first I couldn't figure out who had choreographed it: it seemed too boring for Sonya, too good for Tyce, too hip hop for Mandy Moore or Spencer Liff, etc. Finding out that it was Dave Scott made sense, because it was middle-of-the-road. Some fun moments, but nothing new or exciting.

The Bottom Three Couples: Missy and Wadi, Iveta and Nick, Ryan and Ricky

These couples confuse me. Obviously I think Missy and Wadi should be there, but the others I can't figure out. I can only imagine that they're there because their routines weren't particularly memorable. If it were just me, I could understand voting Ricky into the bottom, but Ryan is too good a dancer to have him as a partner to begin with. At the same time, I would've voted for them just so she didn't go home. But Iveta and Nick was a curve ball; their Bollywood routine was fun, but I guess it just got overshadowed by the better concepts and/or better all-around dancers.

I honestly think the judges made a mistake in not sending anyone home last week. I would've much rather seen Clarice and Jess be eliminated last week and just Missy and Wadi this week. Instead we lost the only ballroom dancer in the top twenty and a dancer who was just starting to find his footing. I was shocked when they announced that Ricky was staying, as I think he'll continue to drag Ryan down. But that's life, I guess.

The Guest Dancers: Rage Crew

I'm kind of tired of seeing these kids on the show. I don't like kids dancing, and I don't like breaking. Ipso facto, I don't like this group.

Week Two: Top Twenty Performances

Let me just start by saying that Debbie Reynolds is the most fabulous guest judge this show has ever had, regardless of whether or not she had anything relevant to say. Say it with me, everyone: "living legend."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top Twenty Elimination Performances

Top Twenty Group Performance (Choreographed by Sonya Tayeh)

So I may have been a little harsh on Sonya in my post earlier today, but so be it. I still do enjoy the majority of her work, especially her group numbers; this one was no exception. It was somewhat typical of Sonya in that it was very dominatrix-y, but she evolved a bit into an almost jazz-hip hop hybrid. In a way it reminded me of Mia's piece from a few seasons back, "The Dance." The movement was still disjointed and sharp, retaining classical elements but with some more sex appeal and harder hitting choreography. I loved it.

The Bottom Three Couples: Jordan and Tadd, Clarice and Jess, Miranda and Robert, Mitchell

Wow, what a joke. The only couple that makes sense to be in the bottom is Clarice and Jess; the other two couples do not deserve to be anywhere near the bottom.

Based on the solos, I would've chosen Jordan and Tadd to go home (even though Tadd's solo reminded me of how much I still love the Brian Setzer Orchestra song). Jess's solo reeked of desperation, but at least he actually showed some dance ability. Robert's solo may not have been very dance-heavy, but at least he showed some personality. Miranda was the only dancer who showed an emotional connection to her piece, and Clarice is just fierce as hell. Jordan is all about the sex, and that will only take someone so far. And Mitchell? That solo was absolutely beautiful.

But I hate when they pull this bullshit. There were absolutely dancers who deserved to go home; there still needs to be only one winner, you might as well start letting go of your early favorites. Sorry, that's what happens when you allow America, in all their stupidity, to have a say on your show: good people get eliminated.

The Musical Guest: Keri Hilson

I don't normally comment on the musical guests, but this just needs to be said... for all the flack Britney catches for lipsynching, this performance was much worse than anything I've seen her do lately. Keri didn't even try to lipsynch the chorus. Do you think we can't hear your voice on the track? Let this serve as an open letter to Laurieann Gibson: you are not as big as you think you are. Your artists still need work. And seriously, that choreography was borderline vulgar.

The Guest Dancer: A Gopak

I don't care if that's how it's supposed to be done, this Russian ballet shit is still boring.

Week One: Top Twenty Performances

I'm trying something new, adding the clips from YouTube of the individual performances. As they're inevitably taken down by Fox for copyright violations, I'll delete them so they're not taking up space. But for now, you can see the performance I'm critiquing and reference the video for specific comments I make. Have fun!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Top 20 Introduction

Before I start critiquing the performances, I need to vent a little more. So You Think You Can Dance has missed out on a teachable moment; just like Glee turned around and made Kurt a gay role model for struggling teens by teaching its audience about the effects of bullying, this show could have taught a lot of dancers who are not quite the ideal size 00 that you can still succeed in this industry. Natalia was a total inspiration for many, myself included, because she danced like it was what she was meant to do. She didn't dance like a big girl, she didn't dance like a thin girl, she just danced... and it was beautiful. SYTYCD could have showed young people that you don't need to be a stereotype in order to achieve your dreams by putting Natalia in the Top 20, but alas they did not. And so we have as vanilla a group of dancers as there ever was on this show. What a shame.

Ricky, Melinda, Melanie, Sasha (Contemporary by Stacey Tookey)

Wasn't this piece danced already? It reminded me so, so much of Mia's piece last year in the week Alex was injured (with Ade playing a central angel figure) that I couldn't get past it and enjoy myself. I also wasn't particularly impressed with any of the dancers, aside from Melanie. She was the clear standout, and Stacey must've realize the same thing when she placed Melanie front and center. Ricky just looks like a big ball of awkward to me; he's all limbs and nothing else. He was off-balance (he even fell at one point), and he traveled during his multiple pirouets. I mean, sure it's impressive that he did like six successive turns, but it would've been more impressive if he didn't move so much when he did it. Sasha and Melinda were lost in the background for me, so I guess that means they were passable: not great like Melanie, nor bad like Ricky.

Christopher, Wadi, Robert, Tad (Hip Hop by Dave Scott)

This is a joke, right? Of ten men, four of them are untrained hip hop dancers? And amazing dancers like Chase Thomas are rejected? Ugh. And let me just say that I'm hoping Robert is the first dancer sent home; he's SO. ANNOYING.

I hate B-Boys. I don't think breaking is real dancing, and there's nothing anyone can say to change my mind about that. Do you consider gymnasts dancers? Or cheerleaders? No. They're gymnasts and cheerleaders, not dancers. And this routine perfectly illustrates my point. Aside from the tricks, this choreography was so elementary that I think most people who have taken a few dance classes could probably do it. It was slow and easy and not the least bit intricate. But that's the dancing part. Clearly these guys couldn't handle much else, likely because they're not trained. Or Dave Scott is falling back into season six mode. In either case, I'm not okay with this performance. In fact, I hated it. Sure, their characters and personalities came through... but on a show called So You Think You Can Dance, I'd rather see them dancing well in addtion to having fun personalities. This is not So You Think You're Entertaining. Next!

Iveta and Pasha (Ballroom by Jason Gilkison)

I just can't believe that all of the street dancers above were stronger outside their genres than Lenny, the only male ballroom dancer vying for a spot in the Top 20. So we're left with only one ballroom dancer on the show: Iveta. And I'm fine with that for now, because she's kind of incredible. Iveta is the first contestant I've seen since Anya who can easily match Pasha in stature, talent and poise. She was never lost next to him or completely showed up by him. They worked well together. I'm not exactly sure what style this was supposed to be, since I saw some elements of Samba, Paso Doble and Cha Cha. But whatever it was, I was thoroughly impressed.

Missy, Jordan, Marko, Clarice (Jazz by Sonya Tayeh)

I really liked this routine, but I'm already finding it hard to distinguish the girls. They all look and dance the same, not just these three but the three in the first contemporary number as well. The only one who stood out as slightly lesser than the others was Missy, who looked a little tired. She wasn't quite as sharp as the other girls, and she wasn't quite as flexible either. I really liked Marko, and I hope he'll start bringing a personality to the proceedings too. Right now he's just a good dancer (by far the best male of the night up to this point), so he needs that little something extra to develop, but he's got time to do it.

Jess and Nick (Broadway Tap by Christopher Scott)

What the freaking hell was that? Other than a hot god damn mess, I mean? Where to start, where to start.... how about that heinous choice of music? It made no sense, and I'm not even sure why it was there since the hoofing didn't follow it even a little bit. The mixture of styles should've worked well; tap is a part of much of musical theatre dance. Why was it so awkward then? Not a second of this duet felt like a duet; it felt like two show off douchebags in a dance class doing improv. It was ugly, plain and simple. Jess came off as a total tool, and Nick came off as an overactor and an amateur. His tapping may have been good, but that fact was negated by the sounds not fitting any kind of rhythm. And Jess was not that great dancing his own style. I know Broadway style dancers much better than him. Christopher Scott should be ashamed of himself for allowing this to be his introduction to the world of SYTYCD. It was cheesy, in a really unappealing way; this should have been so much better than it was.

Side Note: "Theatricality" and "overacting" are not synonyms. Let's stop rewarding overacting by calling it theatrical.

Caitlynn, Ryan, Ashley, Mitchell, Alexander (Contemporary by Travis Wall)

Holy shit, there are a lot of contemporary dancers this season. But this was my favorite routine of the night. There was a childlike joy and innocence to this piece that I really liked, and the dancers came across the best of any of the routines as well. There wasn't a story or a throughline or anything, it was just great movement by great dancers. Ryan stood out the most for me, especially in the beginning with her floorwork, and Mitchell did great as well (why wasn't he shown at all during auditions or Vegas?). Overall this was probably the most emotional performance of the night, but for reasons completely different from the usual fare on this show; it wasn't wrenching or heartbreaking, it was joyful.

Top Ten Boys (Hip Hop by Christopher Scott)

The choreography and concept were both interesting for this (and much better than Scott's previous outing tonight), even though it was a little sloppy and under-rehearsed. Nick was the most inconsitent dancer, that I could pick up on anyway. One moment he can barely kick above his waist but the next he's doing foites in perfect time. I don't get it. And again I was impressed with Marko, so let's hope he can keep it up.

Top Ten Girls (Contemporary/Jazz by Sonya Tayeh)

No one does camp quite like Sonya. The concept was ridiculous and ultimately pointless, but cute nonetheless. These girls were damn strong dancers though, and each was showed in a flattering light. I didn't notice anyone who looked off, and that's saying something considering how intense Sonya's choreography is.

Top Twenty (Jazz by Tyce Diorio)

Messy, busy, unfocused. Not a fan, except for those flying leaps toward the end.

So far I've liked Marko, Melanie and Ryan. I've disliked Robert, Jess and Ricky. The verdict is still out on the others, but I'm sure I'll have opinions of them next week when the live shows start.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Season Eight Auditions: Los Angeles

What the hell were the judges so crazy about? This was the most boring of all the audition episodes, with no one impressing me much. This season is already off to an uneven start, and I hope it improves once the live shows start. For starters, the dancers being featured are completely lopsided: tonight there were only two men in the featured auditions, and only one made it through to Vegas. And it seems like everyone they're featuring and/or putting through is a contemporary or hip hop dancer. There's no variety; everyone looks and dances the same. Yawnnn.


I'm over it. The only person I really liked was Arielle Coker. That bitch was fierce. Not only was she the strongest (athletically) female I've ever seen audition for the show, you just have to love a girl who has the balls to use 10 of her 70 seconds just staring at the judges and taking one step forward. Her musicality was the best of any audition as well. She was also one of the only girls Nigel didn't hit on, probably because she could kick his ass.

I was completely bored with Jeanine's sister, as much as I wanted to like her. Same with the sisters. I was impressed with them (especially the big girl!), but ultimately bored by their routine. And while we're on the subject, let me just point out how unbelievaly sizeist this show is. Nigel basically said to Natalia Mallory that he was impressed by her because she moved really well for a fat girl. Of course, he said in British so it didn't seem so offensive... but let's be real, that was what he meant. Nevermind the fact that she's a good dancer period, because she's better than her size would imply. So here's a special shout out to Natalia Mallory, a good dancer regardless of size.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Season Eight Auditions: Salt Lake City and New York

This was a rather boring episode. The auditions so far have lacked any sort of excitement or the zaniness I've come to expect from these early episodes. The auditions used to be so energetic and fast-paced, but the first two episodes of season eight have dragged. The judges' critiques seem to go on longer than they have before, and I can't help but wonder why there were almost no bad auditions showcased; and I'm not counting the minute-long montages of dancers falling. But in two hours, we got only fifteen full auditions (including that crazy bitch who thought her dad was a Beatle). And of those fifteen auditions, all but one went through to either choreography or straight to Vegas. Where are the crazy dancers? Where's Sex when you need him to bring some entertainment to the show? Where are the ballroom dancers? Every audition is contemporary or hip hop.


- Annie Gratton: This spicy redhead pretty much ate that stage for breakfast. She was fierce and completely on-point; the jette onto her hip was the highlight. That, and the dance she shared with her father (who wasn't bad for a guy in his 50s!).

- Chase Thomas: I don't know what it was about this guy, but toward the end of his audition I found myself crying a little bit. I wasn't sobbing, or even tearing up, there were just... tears. It was weird. As awkward as the producers made it, dancing in his (very small) shorts added a level of beauty that I haven't seen since Brandon Bryant's last audition in season five. And Chase's state of undress was more effective because his movements were slower and more balanced, rather than the firecracker motion of Brandon's audition. But seeing every slowly moving bit of muscle in Chase's body made this audition stand out for me. I wish there was more actual dancing, but what was there was a strange kind of beautiful

- Princess Lockeroo: Seriously, this audition was so fantastic. It was just fun and ridiculous

- Mary Kate Sheehan: This just might be my favorite female audition ever on the show. I've always loved Irish stepdancing, but this girl took it to another level. Not only was there the unbelievable footwork associated with the style, but she used the whole stage and threw in elements of other styles as well. There were leaps and turns, and when she moved across the stage it was almost as if she were skating; her feet didn't look like they even touched the ground.

And I need to vent a little bit right now. These judges are out of their minds. I can't believe some of the people they sent straight through to Vegas (ie: street dancers, even those like Princess Lockeroo), but they made Mary Kate and several other talented dancers who aren't contemporary or hip hop go through the motions of the choreography round. What the hell? Mary Kate tells you that she's won the regional stepdancing competition three years running, plus she's top five in the nation and globally ranked in her style... yet she has to go to choreography. A beautiful Latin dancer like Kristen and a fantastically trained jazz/theatre dancer like Jess have to go through chroeography, while self-taught street dancers like Robert (the 30 year old guy) go straight through to Vegas?! It doesn't make sense. Often is the case when people get close to making the top 20 when they are told, "You're almost there, just take some more classes and get some more training." Well, you're preaching one thing but rewarding another; why does training only matter toward the end of the competition? It seems like some of these dancers are being punished for having a speciality (like Mary Kate, who has been dancing and training forever but still wasn't good enough to go right through) or for having a lot of training. It's bullshit.

- Jess LeProtto: I'll admit that I didn't think he was the best dancer (no one will ever hold a candle to Evan when dancing in this style), but he has a lot of potential. His turns were impressive, even though he was hopping a bit, but the problem was that the routine came across as very awkward. He needed someone there to say, "That looks bad, don't do it." When he was doing technical elements, he was great; it was the personality and character that didn't sell me. And seriously, lose the gloves. It's not like you were doing a song from Pippin.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Season Eight Auditions: Atlanta and San Francisco

Thank God, it's back. So You Think You Can Dance is finally back. I'll finally have something to look forward to each week.

I've always been heavily divided on the audition episodes each season; I have a love-hate relationship with them. There are so many auditions that I just love, and I immediately fall in love with these dancers. What I seem to forget is that they have not yet made it into the competition, so inevitably almost every dancer I fall in love with is cut in Vegas. That's where the hate part comes in. That, plus the fact that the bad auditions just make me uncomfortable. Just like singers can't bear to watch the American Idol auditions because horrible pitch and tone make them cringe, I can't watch people who have no rhythm or talent for movement. It makes me squirm.

Perhaps I'm not the only one with this feeling, because there were surprisingly few crappy auditions. I mean, I'm sure there were hundreds of actual auditions that sucked, but there were only a few in the episode. I'll admit that I laughed at the toothless stripper and the hobbit-footed hippie. But can I just say how uncomfortable that black guy with the skunk hair made me? I was honestly scared for the judges, like he might fucking just leap off the stage and kill them if they said the wrong thing. And then to cover up the whole thing and act like it was all a performance? Please. Your ass is CRAZY.

Early Favorites

Ryan Ramirez - I loved her so much last season as "that blonde chick with the huge hair," and I'm so glad to see she's back. She should have been on the show last year, so hopefully this is her year. Her audition was beautiful, and I don't have much else to say about it. Oh, and by the way.... she was totally the lead singer/dancer in the ghetto white girl choir in this week's season finale of Glee. Love her.

Melanie Moore - Such a unique audition, so strong and graceful and vulnerable. Her lines were superb, and she has an interesting personality on top of the talent.

"Machine" - I forget his real name and am too lazy to Google it, but all I have to say is he was the best breaker to ever audition for the show and you'll probably remember him.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Recap: Best Routines of 2010

I was really hard on last season of So You Think You Can Dance, and for good reason. There were some phenomenal dancers who got their asses handed to them by the judges just for being too good; there were some ridiculous injuries, one of which took the frontrunner out of the competition; and the change in format just didn't do the show any justice. But I know that I loved a lot of what was put on that stage.

So with the new season starting in just a few weeks, I'll recap my favorite performances from last season. Unfortunately YouTube sucks now and disables embedding frequently, so you'll have to click on links to actually view most of the videos.

5. Hallelujah
Choreographed by Sonya Tayeh
Performed by Alex and Allison (Week One)

What I originally said: "And Sonya makes up for any shortcomings in her previous outing of the night with a truly wonderful routine featuring two wonderful dancers. While I think the judges overreacted (I definitely wouldn't call it "the best thing ever danced on any SYTYCD stage anywhere" as Mia did), it was beautiful. The emotion was real, the technique was flawless. This is one example where I think the pairing of a newcomer and a veteran SYTYCD member worked well; Allison clearly pulled something out of Alex. He was more connected to this material than we've seen from him before (in solos, last week's intro episode, etc). Overall, a memorable performance, probably the best of the night."

4. Boogie Shoes
Choreographed by Mandy Moore
Performed by Billy and Lauren (Week Five)

What I originally said: "What a cute concept! This was my favorite routine of the night, thanks to Mandy Moore's adorable idea and choreography and a truly wonderful performance from Lauren and Billy. Here's an example of a routine that could easily be taken into extreme camp: two shoes that meet dancing on the street. It sounds ridiculous, but Billy and Lauren gave it enough funk and attitude and fun that it just made me happy instead of making me roll my eyes. I'm a sucker for fancy footwork, so I obviously loved what Mandy did here; although, I kind of wish they would have traded one of their shoes with each other at the end... like the shoes had fallen in love. Additionally, this should quiet all the naysayers who don't believe Billy has any personality or connection while he dances.I just can't give enough praise for this piece. From now on whenever I'm in a pissy mood, I'll watch this and smile."

3. Fame
Choreographed by Wade Robson
Performed by The Top 11 & The All Stars (Intro Week)

I never blogged about this dance originally because it was in the introduction episode, but I'll just say that it's brilliantly realized and the choreography is stunning. I'm so sad that this was Wade's only contribution to last season; his presence was missed. But luckily we got one great routine out of him with this one.

2. Mad World
Choreographed by Stacey Tookey
Performed by Billy and Ade (Week Seven)

What I originally said: "Great concept, great execution, great performances, great emotion. I'll admit that I cried... hard, and for a long time. I rewatched this piece 4 times before listening to what the judges had to say, because I didn't want their opinions to affect my viewing (just in case they were negative). Because I thought just about everything on display was brilliant. Billy's face was so perfect throughout, so beautifully heartbreaking. And his movement! Even when it was supposed to look "thrown together," it was all perfectly calculated and executed with precision. From the very beginning, everything about the choreography was perfect: the contrasting styles of dance was striking, and Billy just twitching his finger and staring at it, as if his body is the only thing he has left... just beautiful. It immediately brought you into Billy's world. Then that middle section, after the realization that they were once friends, and the two of them danced the same choreography, as if they were on the same level for just a few moments... and then it was gone, and Billy's world was all despair and Ade's all turning-a-blind-eye. Truly a wonderful piece of art. And I feel very comfortable calling this art; it wasn't just dance, it was art with a living heartbeat."

1. Outta Your Mind
Choreographed by Tabitha & Napoleon D'umo
Performed by Alex and Twitch (Week Three)

What I originally said: "Welcome back, NappyTabs. Finally they have delivered a routine worthy of following "Bleeding Love." And it was danced to the nth degree by an out-of-his-element-but-couldn't-be-better Alex. Seriously, this performance was out of this world. I was so excited to watch it and rewound three times before even listening to what the judges had to say. The concept of Alex being in therapy because he can't get past his formal ballet training was funny and just brilliant. And it was danced to perfection. Personally, I think Alex outshined Twitch. He may have been smoother and more fluid, but I prefer hip hop that's sharp and isolated but still flowing. I don't know, there just aren't enough compliments I can shower on this performance."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Live to Dance: Finals Week One

So Kendall Glover is the final act to go through... not the worst choice (that would've been Shore Thing) or the best choice (Tap Sound Underground), but a decent one.

Twitch: Does Twitch read my blog? Because they listened to every single critique I had of them during their last performance! Anthony danced more (6 pirouets!), instead of just lifting his teammates; the girls came out of their shells and were featured more; and this just looked more classical than contemporary, so it was a nice counterpoint to their previous performances. My favorite group of the night and of the competition.

White Tree Fine Art: What total schmaltzy bullshit. I really dislike this couple. I don't find them interesting; the only impressive moment of this performance was the final pose, which was more athleticism than artistry. But my biggest complaint is that neither of these two understand performance. They understand dance, even if I don't particularly like the way they do it. But they don't know how to perform, especially Ethan. His face does not move; he looks absolutely miserable throughout. This was your wedding song, for crying out loud. You couldn't find some emotion to express? And speaking of, what a cliche... "Over the Rainbow?" Really? Are you a gay man and a 9 year old?

The Vibe: Overall I liked this much more than what they did the first week, but there's just too many dancers on that stage. The ones on the extreme sides need to be cut; focus on the couples dancing in the center and those on the platform, because they were more talented. I completely agree with what Paula said, in that they would be much more interesting if not everyone was on stage at once and doing all the different styles. It just felt busy, crowded, over-the-top. They were really good recital dancers, not much more, unfortunately.

Kendall Glover: Awful costume. Awful hair. If this girl learned to slow down and relax a little, she'd be nearly perfect. But I get heart palpitations watching her; I can't imagine the energy her choreographer must have to be able to put her through these routines, and the energy she must have to do them. It's frantic and exhausting to watch, but she's immensely talented and will be a force in the next few years.

Dance Town Chaos: I was so into them... until the music changed. Then it all fell apart. They looked lost, they fell out of sync... ouch. But that first half was fantastic: athletic, graceful, powerful, beautiful. It may have been a little anachronistic (Kanye = African tribe?), but whatever... it was wonderful. But then what the hell happened at the break? I can't believe the judges responded so positively to this; I guess they must've liked the first section enough to forgive how asinine the second section was.

D'Angelo and Amanda: They're so adorable, and it's funny that they act like adults with each other. But that's really why they're so impressive: their age. Otherwise, they're fairly standard Latin dancers. Amanda will make a fantastic partner in the next few years, and hopefully D'Angelo will grow a bit more so that he can continue to partner as well (he's already a little too short for her, and he will continue to have the same problem into his teen years most likely). But with the talent displayed by Twitch, Kendall Glover and (somewhat) Dance Town Chaos, they just don't really hold a candle.

I'm rooting for Twitch, but would be fine with Kendall Glover winning as well. Which means neither will likely win. We'll find out next week in the finale!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Live to Dance: Semifinals Week Three

So excited Twitch got through to the finals! They should've been the first choice; White Tree Fine Art can suck it.

Dance Town Chaos: I didn't like the audition all that much, but male dancers are my favorite; I love their power and athletic grace, and Dance Town Chaos didn't disappoint in those areas. I could've done without the random (and distracting) tumbling pass, and the giant gold sheet confused me. But the fact that twelve men can do triple pirouets into double tours in sync is a feat on its own. I enjoyed the performance as a whole, but I wanted to be more blown away; these men are good, but not all of them are great.

Jill & Jacob: Ugh, I hated this couple's audition. It was so forced and boring, like a rejected SYTYCD routine. This was another misstep. Jill especially was weak at the start, and their few moments of synced choreography wasn't actually in sync. And I'm sorry, but weird and awkwardly long lifts are not dancing. Half that routine was spent preparing for that last thing, whatever the hell it was. And I completely agree with Travis that there was no real story and that the routine as a whole was strangely disconnected. I just felt like they were both lazy and didn't really care. And the choreography was boring.

Roosevelt Anderson: If I was on shrooms, I may have liked this. But I just don't get it.

Tap Sounds Underground: I was so excited to finally see this duo, since their audition wasn't a part of the first episode. And they did not let me down. Screw ballet and White Tree Fine Art, tapping is the real fine art of dance. It's so hard to make every movement perfect and in time and to come up with rhythms that are complementary to each other and to the music rather than those that follow and are obvious. And tap is such a joyful dance, especially when it's done this way. My favorite of the night.

Oh, and Kimberly's a douchebag.

Shore Thing: I'll never understand why this group got through in the first place; there's nothing all that special, unique, or even good about them. They're a bunch of kids doing typical cheesy recital material. But seriously, where was the dancing for the first 7/8ths of that routine? Everyone was either prepping a tumbling pass or kneeling on the ground and swaying their arms back and forth. It makes me furious that these motherfuckers are on a national stage being so ridiculously boring. Did I see something different from the judges? What a piece of shit performance. How did these little assholes get 3 gold stars and Tap Sounds Underground didn't? Awful.

Kendall Glover: She's undoubtedly the most talented soloist of the bunch of semifinalists (except maybe for Jalen). And her background graphics with the snapshots of her jumps were awesome. Her choreography was difficult and she executed it very well, if not perfectly. And she got her face under control since the audition.

Can we just take a moment to point out how dumb the judging process is? How can someone praise nearly everything and say, "You're great!" and then give this poor girl a red star just because "it's not the best you could do." But shouldn't you be judging what you just saw, not what you wanted to see? And how can you say that you want Tap Sounds Underground to modernize tap dance and then give them a red star just because you don't think they did that? How can you basically shut someone's talent down just because they haven't started a revolution with this one performance? Ridiculous.

I'm not completely thrilled with Dance Town Chaos being voted through, as I would've much preferred Tap Sounds Underground. But I'm ecstatic that they chose the men rather than those fucking little kids.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Live to Dance: Semifinals Week Two

I'm upset that Bev and Hap aren't advancing, but it wasn't unexpected. The two highest-voted acts, Jittin' Genius and D'Angelo and Amanda, were the most talented in terms of dance ability, and the latter will make a welcome addition to the finals. I just hope this doesn't show a trend for the other groups; the show isn't about the best child dancers, but I fear that may be what it comes down to.

Jalen: But if any kid should be in the finals, it is this one. His tricks are incredible, and his happy energy is infectious. The talent he put out on the stage is rivaled by the best breakers... the difference being that Jalen is likely less than half their ages.

Dance in Flight: I don't remember this duo auditioning, but I was not all that impressed with their routine tonight. Of course those aerial elements are impressive, even more so considering their ages, but the routine as a whole just didn't gel for me. Travis used the perfect word in his critique to describe why I disliked much of this pair: they were "sluggish." The whole thing just felt stilted, particularly any moment in which Kate was not being lifted; her feet looked lazy, like they were not on the same beat as the rest of her body (clunky shoes?)... and then there's the fact that Gary did not have the endurance for that last fall, as he let Kate's foot hit the stage pretty hard. I also found the whole "cat" theme to be ridiculous and age inappropriate; it would've better suited the 10 year old couple, not the 40-somethings.

Twitch: This was one of my favorite groups at the auditions. Anthony is such a brilliant dancer, so it's completely understandable that all eight of the girls in the group would be in love with him. As for the performance, I'm torn. On the one hand, it was excellent. They told a story, there was a lot of emotion, and the choreography served everyone in the group well. On the other hand, I wanted more. For whatever reason, I liked the audition piece more than this one. I wanted more real dance from Anthony and less lifts; give him some jumps, some choreography that moves him across the stage. And what was with the background graphics? Is this story set in the 80s? But I'm nitpicking because I really do love this group. Their mixture of styles is smart and not gimmicky. Right now they're my favorite.

Du-Shaunt Stegall: I didn't like his audition, and I didn't like this performance either. He's not dynamic enough to fill such a large stage all by himself. And he's not doing anything you couldn't see at any prom or drunken house party in America. Boring.

Dax & Sarah: Dax was injured. The music choice was awful. But the choreography was fast and difficult, so I have to applaud them for that. Overall though, I just don't see them going very far. Neither dancer has a very interesting personality, and the routine wasn't as over-the-top fun as a lindy hop should (and needs to) be. And Dax needs to shave the moustache, it's creeptastic.

White Tree Fine Art: Let's start with how I don't understand their name; I get that their last name is White, and they think their fine artists... where does the "Tree" part come from? And did neither of them realize that the name as a whole makes no sense? Whatever. Okay, let's rip this shit up. I was not fooled by the flashy-flashy: this just wasn't that good of a routine. The song was powerful, the aerial choreography was majestic, and they looked like a moving painting. BULLSHIT. They were hiding behind that red fabric and that beautiful rendition of the heartbreaking "Hallelujah;" take it away and what was left? Not much of anything. Some bad costumes, some mediocre ballet (mostly from Ethan, not really from Nikki). Don't be fooled by the smoke and mirrors; that was no Cirque du Soleil. The fabric served no purpose on its first entrance; I get that it must have been meant for ascension or something spiritual like that at the end, but why did Ethan need to be lifted straight up off the ground and then put back down as the fabric disappears? Because they wanted you to forget that they were mostly just running around the stage in circles and not really dancing. I can appreciate that they tried something different, but this piece reeked of pretentiousness.

I cannot believe they made it through to the finals. What a shit decision. Now I need to go vote for Twitch, the group who actually deserved to be in the finals.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Live to Dance: Semifinals Week One

The Vibe: I think there was a slight overreaction on the part of the judges for this group. Sure, they were good... and they basically choreographed three separate routines, and I know how much of a bitch it is to work with such a huge group of dancers. But I noticed a lot of sloppiness from the couples in the background, and I wasn't really sold on the whole concept of the conductor or whatever. And why was that girl the lead dancer anyway? She wasn't their strongest dancer. But they got through to the finals anyway, so what do I know?

Jittin' Genius: If I were the judges, he is who I would've sent through to the finals. I've never seen anything like this style of dance (the Detroit Jitter, I think he said?), and he owned it. The energy was high, the entire stage was used, and it was just impressive: it reminded me of a mix between hip hop and jive.

Chi-Town Finest Breakers: I was really impressed by these kids at their audition last week, but this performance put all of their flaws on display. They really only succeed at tricks (and the "awwww" factor), and unfortunately there weren't many of them in this new routine. But these kids need to be commended for their dedication and for their selflessness.

Austin Acevedo: I'm not a fan. The routine started off really well, though, with the lyrical/contemporary section. I can't believe Austin has only been dancing for a year and half, because (like Paula said) his technique is incredible; his extensions were complete, his lines were clean. But then the music changed and he started to pop and lock, and the whole thing kind of fell apart. I actually was embarassed for him while he was dancing, knowing full well that this is nowhere near the quality or excitement of the previous acts. And the poor kid ended up with 3 red stars in the end, which is a shame. I'm going to disagree with the judges though and say that he should not work on the hip hop style and "letting go;" I think he should hone his talents in contemporary dance and go as far with that as possible, because that's his strong suit.

Bev and Hap: I'll be honest: I voted for them. I just can't help myself. They certainly were not the best dancers, but they were so funny and so charming that I couldn't help but love it. Paula summed up perfectly what I was thinking while they were performing, and the reason why I love them so much: they're inspiring. It's definitely a cheesy thing to say, but they are the whole point of this show; Bev is 83 and single and still tapping, so clearly she "lives to dance." For that alone, they deserve to be in the finals.

D'Angelo and Amanda: I really enjoy watching these two dance together, as much as I dislike Latin dance. Amanda is better than D'Angelo, though he impressed me more tonight than in their first audition. Amanda looks like a professional and dances beyond her years, while with D'Angelo it is obvious that he is 9 years old (mostly due to his height and size, which are a distraction when you're used to big burly Latin dancers). I think she'd be better off with an older partner; I mean, how awkward was it to see D'Angelo pull Amanda up through his legs and she was basically his height when she was bent at the knees?! That being said, I did really like these two and would not be surprised if they are voted into the finals.

I still really like how cute this show is, and I was glad to see Paula embrace her craziness a little more now that the show is live. Her nod to the gossipers ("it feels like a beach of caramel" or whatever the fuck she said during her intro tonight) was funny, letting us know that she really isn't taking herself or this show too seriously. I wish the same could be said of Travis Payne and Kimberly Wyatt. Both of them are too caught up in the competition to realize how inherently campy this show is. Their critiques of Bev and Hap are the perfect example of this; whereas Paula realized the spirit they possess and the charm they exude and could appreciate that as enough to advance, Travis and Kimberly could not see them as the "best" dance act in America. Because they're not technically flawless? Because their choreography isn't overly intricate? That's not what it's all about.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Live to Dance: Episode One

How much fun is this show?! I never really watched American Idol, except in passing, so my only real exposure to Paula Abdul is through her music and her amazing Bravo show from a few years back, Hey Paula. She's a very entertaining brand of crazy, but who knew she was so inspiring? I can't even count the number of times she nearly made my eyes water. And I love the concept of this show that not only showcases talented dancers but those who are dedicated to it and love it, despite not being the best technically or what have you. Some of these people are just wonderful and heartwarming; anyone, especially any dancers, who didn't feel something when 90-year old Bonnie said, "Dancing gave me my life back" after her husband's death just doesn't have a soul.

So the object of the show is simple: dance. There are no choreographed routines, no Vegas bootcamp. All you have to do is show up and do whatever moves you; if you get 2 or 3 gold stars from the 3 judges, you are shortlisted to compete. The eighteen best dancers or dance acts from that shortlist get a chance to compete over the next four weeks for a prize of $500,000, and the viewers will vote for the winner.

My early favorites:

- Bev and Hap: This 83 year old woman was truly something to see. She is as limber as someone a quarter of her age, and she has a real gift for comedy as well. She and her partner were the highlight of the entire two-hour episode.

- Twitch: I loved how strange this group was. I didn't really understand the choreography or the costumes or the characters, but it was different and intriguing. But let's be honest... all of those girls are just dancing backup for Anthony, the group's sole male member. He was fantastic.

- Amanda and D'Angelo: The final couple of the night, a 10 year old girl and 9 year old boy. Now, I hate kids, especially when they're dancing. But these two were so good that I couldn't help but love it. Amanda was flawless, dancing with the technique and poise of someone twice her age. They even earned a standing ovation from the three judges.

- Chi-Town Finest Breakers: How cute are these kids?! They are a Brady Bunch or Partridge Family for 2011, except instead of bad pop songs and bell bottoms we get breakdancing. B-Girl Precious Moments is the most adorable thing, and to top it all off... they're completely selfless! If they win, they want to help other kids who may not have homes but want to learn how to dance. Stop it already, I can't handle it.

I honestly can't wait for tomorrow night's episode (it airs Wednesdays at 8:00 on CBS). Live to Dance is so entertaining and uplifting, and it's the perfect show to fill the void left by SYTYCD.