Thursday, July 19, 2012

Season Nine, Week Two: Top Twenty Performances/Elimination

Welcome to one of the most boring episodes of So You Think You Can Dance in memory!

There's a serious problem when the cast of Step Up Revolution, the fourth film in a series that was never very interesting or original and which has limped along for about six years without much fanfare, is better than your top twenty dancers in almost every respect: better energy, better performance, better choreography, better musicality, better presence, etc etc. So let's do some cutting!

Top Twenty Group Performance, Take Two (Choreographed by Nappytabs)

If Cat hadn't announced at the end of the performance that Nappytabs choreographed this piece, I would've gone to my grave swearing it was Sonya. It had all the markers of a Sonya group routine and even some of her signature moves, but lo and behold this gothic retread of a dance we've seen dozens of times before was created by two hip hop choreographers. That probably explains why Cyrus was featured, despite not being able to dance other people's choreography: he's the only dancer this season whose style resembles hip hop. But overall, I was relatively bored. It was jazz/hip hop Phantom of the Opera, not something I was ever expecting or needing to see.

Lindsay and Cole (Hip Hop by Christopher Scott)

I tried to like this performance, but I just couldn't. First of all, the song choice was all wrong; turning Gaga's "Teeth" into a dental appointment is just wrong and made the whole thing devolve into camp, and not the good kind... the painful kind. Lindsay looked utterly silly flaunting around the stage like slutty hygienist (see how stupid that phrase looks, Christopher Scott?), especially considering she was wearing fucking bobos. Cole at the very least tried to act the part of the nerd, but he took it a little too far in the critique with that weird voice and the lollipop. The choreography was uninspired, and the prop dental chair was far too heavy for Lindsay to move. It was repetitive and boring, and Lindsay especially lacked any sort of charm or energy.

Amelia and Will (Contemporary by Sonya Tayeh)

This was one of the evening's more successful routines. I'm really liking this softer side of Sonya; she has obviously learned a lot in between seasons and seen the flaws in how repetitive her work has become, and she's appropriately attempting to branch out. So good for her. The dancers were very good, particularly Will. I keep thinking that his height is going to be an issue, but he's proven me wrong two weeks in a row now. He actually looks good dancing next to Amelia, who also has surprised me with how strong she is. I wish she had more emotion though; I kept catching glimpses of her face early in the performance, and there wasn't much going on there. For someone so in love with silent films, I'd expect her to have a more emotive face. But overall, well done. Even if the music choice was jarring and almost totally unpleasant.

And I do have to say, I'm SO OVER the assisted walking. You know what I'm talking about: when both dancers do the simultaneous walk forward, one person's foot guiding the other. Figure out something new, choreographers.

Amber and Nick (Argentine Tango by Miriam Larici & Lenoardo Barrionuevo)

Just like Cole after his piece, Nick just creeped me out by staying in character after this one. You might think it's funny, but it's weird and off-putting. Just sayin'. Anyway, I wasn't thrilled with this performance. So much of it seemed off, from another ill-fitting jacket to some awkwardly staged lifts and a total lack of chemistry. Amber was doing her best to sell it, and she did a wonderful job with most of the choreography, but there's just no saving Nick: he's completely uninteresting.

Audrey and Matthew (Jazz by Sonya Tayeh)

Looks like I spoke too soon. Here's the Sonya I remember and don't usually enjoy watching: choppy, robotic, full of pauses. The old schtick is back! Despite getting stuck with choreography we've seen over and over again from Sonya, I liked Matthew and Audrey for the most part. He reminds me so much of Jakob Karr (season six) when he dances; it was just a shame that he was made up so ridiculously with tons of eyeliner and painted-on muscles. Audrey didn't do as much for me this week as she did last week, but I admire that she has some versatility. I wish they got some better material to work with, but both dancers did a better-than-decent job with what they were given.

Janelle and Dareian (Lyrical Hip Hop by Christopher Scott)

And then there's this. It just made me sad, the whole thing. It was a cute concept with the Motown song and the nostalgic story. But it fell so flat in every single way. If tonight's show has taught us anything, it's that Christopher Scott is a waste. There are so many talented choreographers out there, and this little bitch gets to showcase his work every week, sometimes more than once. And he produces shit like this. This sad, sad piece of wasted opportunity and talent. Dareian did an okay job of getting into character, but there's only so much you can do with such a sleepy piece. I love Janelle, and that hasn't changed despite this performance. I truly believe that were she actually given something to do, she would've been good. I don't blame her for net getting into it and acting more, because you could tell she (and Dareian) knew the piece was bad. The choreography was insipid. I don't care to say any more than that, because it's not worth my time and effort. If Christopher Scott isn't going to put the effort into choreographing something worthwhile, I'm not going to put the effort into reviewing it.

Janaya and Brandon (Broadway by Sean Cheesman)

I have to admit that I kind of liked this one, but I'm still not sure if that's because it followed something so awful or if it was actually good. The Fifty Shades of Grey concept was fun, and I was happy to see both dancers (and the choreographer) playing up the campiness to an appropriate level; this is Broadway after all. The choreography was wonderful at times, particularly the back-and-forth shifts in dominance, though I'm not sure how I feel about the end pose with Brandon literally pinning Janaya underfoot; the gender studies student in me was a bit horrified by that, but if it truly is inspired by E.L. James's heinous novel, then it makes sense because that's how the relationship plays out. Regardless, I enjoyed myself with this one, and you could tell the dancers did too.

Eliana and Cyrus (Jive by Tony Meredith & Melanie Lapatin)

If Christopher Scott's lyrical hip hop left a sad impression, this one fucking infuriated me. Someone please explain to me what Cyrus is doing on this show; this was one of the absolute worst performances I remember ever seeing. He just couldn't do the choreography. He couldn't remember it, he couldn't perform it. Let him go. And Eliana did all she could to bring it up, but even she seemed lost at times. And this was the slowest jive I think I've ever seen, so that just made the errors and the lack of energy all the more evident. What a mess. Honestly, Cyrus should have been disqualified. It's that bad. He is taking the spot of someone who could be doing a much better job, and that pisses me off.

Alexa and Daniel (Contemporary by Dee Caspary)

See, now this one confused me. I thought it started off great, and on the whole I thought the choreography was gorgeous. The use of the bathtub was great; it never seemed like a crutch, and it magnified the meaning of the movement: muted inside, more free outside. The music and the lighting were both beautiful; I really liked it. But there was such a lack of connection between the dancers themselves and between the dancers and the movement, and I wholly blame Alexa. The girl has a dead face like none of I've seen. I've accused dancers in the past of having dead face, but this girl takes the cake. There's nothing going on there. Don't ever play poker with her, she'll rob you blind. How you could dance a relationship about communication and not communicate with your partner is beyond me. The technique was there, and it was beautiful, but that's not all this show is about. She clearly learned nothing from her struggles in Vegas week, and she dragged Daniel down with her.

Tiffany and George (Foxtrot by Tony Meredith & Melanie Lapatin)

Wow, there was a lot of ballroom this week. On most levels, this was the most successful of them all. It had the most interesting and showiest choreography. I was slightly confused at times because it looked like George was doing choreography intended for Tiffany (I mean, really with all the arabesques and extensions?), and there was little actual partnering. But they pulled it off well, and it looked like pure magic compared to how lackluster so many of the performances were before it.

Witney and Chehon (Bollywood by Nakul Dev Mahajan)

There was a time when I really enjoyed the Bollywood numbers on this show, but that time has past. I mostly find them repetitive now, and this was no exception. Aside from having Witney do knee turns (typically reserved for the male dancer), this didn't introduce anything new to the fold. It was fun, I'll give it that. But it's just not as thrilling to see these routines as it once was. Chehon did a much better job this week than last, and Witney was radiant; her face is stunning, and I often found myself watching that instead of their feet or hands.


The bottom six were revealed to be Janaya, Alexa, Witney, Nick, Daniel and Chehon. I was somewhat shocked by these being the dancers with the least votes; I never expected Witney to be there, nor Daniel: the former is very obviously talented and the latter is good-looking enough that he should've sailed through to the top based solely on the fangirl vote.

Witney and Chehon were saved, and I can't say I wholeheartedly agree. I think Daniel is much better than he was able to show, thanks to Alexa. Witney and Chehon just happened to get a more entertaining routine that didn't require the level of characterization Alexa and Daniel's did. So with that, one of my early favorites (Daniel) is already gone. I can't say I'll miss any of the others though.

My Bottom Three Girls

Janelle (solely based on choreography)

My Bottom Three Guys

Dareian (again, solely based on choreography)

Oh, and just for the hell of it and so you can see what I meant about the guests being all-around better than the top twenty dancers, here's the clip of the Step Up Revolution cast's performance:

First of all, Kayla (season five) has gained weight. Kathryn (season six) is still uninteresting. Twitch (season four) still does nothing for me, really. And despite how much I hated him on the show because, a lot like Cyrus, he wasn't very good at dancing styles other than his own, Phillip (season five) is the highlight. I may actually see this move, because this performance was pretty dynamic.

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