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.