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.