Monday, June 16, 2008
So You Think You Can Dance Top 20
I always approach a new season of every show with a little bit of apprehension, especially when the season preceding it was, like, awesome. Thus, I turned on Season 4 of So You Think You Can Dance with more apprehension than ever, because last season was more than awesome… it was sublime and magical and everything good wrapped up in Sabra’s cute little ankle warmers. I knew from watching (and recapping) all of the audition episodes that the judges had picked up some incredible talent during their travels, but would these dancers be able to live up to my impossible standards? Somehow, I doubt it, but I’m watching anyway, because that’s what I do.
Rayven and Jamie, Hip-Hop by Tabitha and Napoleon
First up, Rayven and Jamie, or as I like to call them, who? and who again? Rayven, the mistress of superfluous y’s, is a ballet dancer, and Jamie is a practitioner and educator of West Coast Swing. Before they even dance, I know they’re in trouble. Not only have we never seen them before in any kind of context, except for maybe the smallest of reaction shots during the auditions or Vegas Week, but they are also dancing first, which is where the producers like to “thin the herd.” I suppose that drawing Hip-Hop as their first genre is a small consolation, since Hip-Hop usually fares well with the voters. Their dance is choreographed by the new Hip-Hop gurus, Tabitha and Napoleon, whom I really like so far, mostly because I think their names are catchy, like, I want to name a restaurant after them or something. Rayven and Jamie are dressed in urban-preppie ensembles, complete with argyle, trucker hat, and silk scarf (all of which are obvious ploys to destroy the little street cred they have), and are dancing to one of my new fav songs, American Boy, by Estelle.
Now, I didn’t hate this routine nearly as much as everyone else, judging by what I’ve read, but I freely admit that it wasn’t great. It was soft when it should have been hard, goofy when it should have been cheeky and all sorts of lame when it should have been cool. Some of the blame must go to Tab and Nap, I suppose, because no one can say that Rayven and Jamie didn’t do their darndest to sell it, but you know what they say… the best used car salesman in the world is still selling used cars. It’s tempting to say other dancers may have fared better with it, but since that will never happen, there’s no use arguing the point. All I saw was a not great routine. Hell, if a very attractive guy getting his pants pulled down and showing off his goodies doesn’t help, then the whole venture is probably doomed.
HOWEVER, I do appreciate the different flavor Tab and Nap are bringing to hip-hop. I like that they’ve devised a way to make the genre a little softer, a little less serious, a little more universal. But I think this routine proves that hip-hop doesn’t always translate well into goofball.
Suzie and Marquis, Smooth Waltz by Hunter Thompson
Next up is Suzie and Marquis. Suzie is the much-maligned high school teacher / pussycat doll, and Marquis is another who? They will be dancing a Smooth Waltz, brought to you by another new choreographer (at least I think he’s new), Hunter Thompson. I’m always nervous for people who draw a slow ballroom dance during the first week, because I tend to forget about them, and I also think they get judged with a different set of standards, which is totally fair, but also confusing to the public. All of this to say, I barely watched. That is UNTIL they totally botched a lift. But kudos to them for their recovery. Although I knew they had messed up, neither of them let it show on their faces, and they saved it as best they could. That’s called working it out and I applaud them.
Kourtni and Matt, Jazz by Mandy Moore
I think Kourtni and Matt get the Ok-but-not-great-which-kind-of-disappoints-me award for the night. Kourtni was basically paraded into this competition with trumpets and tambourines and riding on a float made of money, and while that might seem like an advantage, it actually builds a sense of goodwill that can rapidly backfire if she blows it. Matt, likewise, was presented with glowing adoration through the audition process. And then they got Mandy Moore as the choreographer of their first routine, which is more good news for them, because Ms. Moore is only slightly behind Mia and Wade as my favorite choreographer on the show. And they drew jazz as their genre, and then Mandy picked "Tainted Love" as their song, and they’re dancing jewel thieves. The question is: how did something that sounds so fabulous end up being so… not? I’ve watched this routine quite a few times since last Thursday, and I’ve convinced myself that another couple, say… Sabra and Neil, for example, would have killed this routine… it could have been an instant classic. So where did the lauded and universally adored Kourtni and Matt go wrong? Personally, I think Kourtni over-acted, and Matt just looked out of his element. Nigel’s comment about Matt having a broomstick shoved up his butt might have been a little harsh, but he isn’t wrong about it, either. I think Matt has a personality, it’s just one that hasn’t adapted to this kind of dancing quite yet. For him, acting out a dance involves pulling faces, which just won’t work when there’s a camera aimed right at your mug. The emotions have to be real and the story-telling has to be sincere. Since he isn’t there yet, the dancing suffered, the overall performance suffered, and the chemistry between him and Kourtni REALLY suffered. BUT, I think he WILL get it, if he’s lucky enough to stay around. All of that said, they are both incredible dancers. I worry about their partnership a little bit, since they’re both gigantic… if they thought the puny lifts in Mandy’s routine were hard, just wait until they have to do disco or ballroom. I feel I have to reiterate, just one more time… I loved this routine, just not the people dancing it.
Chelsea and Thayne, Cha-Cha-Cha by Tony Meredith and Melanie
Next! Chelsea and Thayne. They’ve drawn the Cha-Cha-Cha, choreographed by Tony Meredith and Melanie. Before I talk about the dance, I must sidebar: ya’ll know how I secretly believe in all those conspiracy theories about producer manipulation and subliminal strategies to control the votes… smoke and mirrors and all that… well, these two are the DEBUNKERS. We’ve never seen nor heard from Chelsea (Chelsea who?) and Thayne got less than 10 seconds in Salt Lake City. Neither has a story, nor do they have fan-bases. And yet, here we are: they had my favorite routine of the night.
There’s no need to get too deep. Chelsea was fiery (in her purple, feathery, next-to-nothing slip of a dress) and Thayne was smokin’ hot. The movements were sharp, their technique was spot-on, they engaged the crowd, and seemed to have a hell of a lot of fun doing it. I don’t remember much about the choreography, but I do remember the raw, sexual energy coming off of Chelsea in waves. The judges were equally dazzled and heaped Chelsea with most of the compliments, while Thayne was credited with just keeping up with her. Well, I’ve watched the video a couple hundred times, and trust me, Thayne was working it out! He’s a little toothy, and he can get a little maniacal looking when he pulls his face, but otherwise, I’m feeling him... his hip action was good for me. Really good.
Chelsie and Mark, Contemporary by Mia Michaels
Mark, another one of our beloved who?’s, has been paired with Chelsie, the ballroom dancer from Salt Lake City with many brothers but not so many cars. It doesn’t really matter what I think of them, because they’ve drawn a Mia Michael’s contemporary routine, which translates to FREE PASS. Honestly, this routine isn’t my favorite of Mia’s routines. I’d go as far as to say I didn’t like it, but that sounds blasphemous, so I won’t. Was anyone else a little weirded out by Mia’s comments about Mark before we saw the dance? I mean, geez, lady, it’s week 1, we barely know the guy, and here you are throwing him under the bus. I’m sure she’s just trying to “keep it real” but I thought it was really bitchy. Anyway, Mia explains that this piece is an imagining of Tim Burton’s wedding, which, if I’m following her, means we’ll be seeing something that is macabre but sweet, quirky but moving. All I can see is Mark dancing like a molting bird and Chelsie trying to dance whilst bearing her own weight in tulle. That tutu was out of control. Some people liked it, but I thought it was a little distracting, and it obscured some of the more subtle movements, especially when the two were dancing together. All in all, it was good, and like I said, FREE PASS, but I didn’t cry or call my friends or take a picture of it or anything.
Kherington and Twitch, Broadway by Tyce Diorio
Next up are Twitch and Kherington, aka Twitchington. I have a feeling I’m going to be so tired of the word Twitchington by the time this season is over. Anyway, they will be performing a Tyce Diorio Broadway number, set to “Too Darn Hot” from Kiss Me Kate. I tend to run hot and cold with Tyce Diorio routines. His Lion King group number is one of my favorite routines, like, EVER, but some of the partner dances he has put together are just alright for me (sorry for that Randy Jackson moment, I’ll try not to do it again). And unfortunately for Twitchington, this routine left me cold. I will say that they were both terrific, and they did what they could with it, and for all I know, it was exactly what Tyce intended. The deal, though, is that Twitch could go onstage and run in place for 2 minutes and he’d still get a trillion votes. We just love him, don’t we? While I thought Kherington was very good, I think she was lucky to get paired with Twitch. She’ll ride him to the Top 10.
Comfort and Chris, Jive by Tony Meredith
Comfort (who is Comfort?) and Chris (the boy with the personality of a tree) (that sounds like a bad children’s book) must have some seriously bad luck. I always feel bad when the non-ballroom dancers have to do a ballroom number, but I feel even worse when they have to do it in the first week. I think contemporary dancers can pull it off easier than the hip-hoppers and breakers, but still… that’s a rough bit of luck. Comfort and Chris have chosen the Jive, choreographed by Tony Meredith, and ya’ll… it’s bad. Comfort looks uncomfortable and awkward (although, cheers for staying on those heels, girl), and Chris just looks desperate. As a couple, they look tentative and frightened, which they can’t hide by pulling their faces. If it wasn’t for Comfort’s incredibly likeable personality (“Bra… panties… BEADS!”), they would have certainly been in the Bottom 3. And even though I kind of hate it, because he’s just so cute, the first time Chris finds himself in the Bottom 3 will be his last.
Katee and Joshua, Hip-Hop by Tabitha and Napoleon
Katee, that girl who almost didn’t make it to the Top 20 when she pissed off the judges by being human and honest, and Joshua, the boy who cries a whole lot and whom I, therefore, adore, will be dancing a Tab&Nap hip-hop routine to the tune of “No Air” (or Ayuh, if we’re being phonetic about things) by Jordin Sparks. I was disappointed with the first hip-hop routine, so I was itching to like this one. And SCORE, second favorite routine of the night! I LOVED it. And here’s the thing: another couple might have blown it. Katee and Joshua were so committed, so deeply involved with the movements, that it never came across as cheesy or overwrought. It had feeling and substance, which made it work. It was soft hip-hop done right. Although, it does make me wonder if Tab&Nap are capable of truly hardcore hip-hop. We’ll see.
Jessica and Will, Tango by Hunter Thompson
There’s one more ballroom dance to get through, and it stars Jessica (Jessica WHO!?) and Will. I’ve never even seen Jessica before, but I remember liking Will. My first impression of Jessica is… not good. First, we find out it was she who misspelled Vegas at the Charleston auditions, and even though she spends her interview packet proving once and for all that she does know how to spell simple words, I think the damage is done. Second, her hair. Before I get to that, though, Will and Jessica will be dancing a Tango by Hunter Thompson. Will is flawlessly masculine, strong and graceful. She is wobbly on her heels and her hair makes her look like a ginger Sonic the Hedgehog. There are a couple of good lifts, and they successfully capture the mood of the dance, but the dancing is uncomfortable … I can see their nerves through the movements. I don’t get it, but the judges give them rave reviews. Mary even pronounces them the couple to beat. You know what, Mary? Not even! I won’t say the routine was bad, but it made me nervous, and that is bad.
Courtney and Gev, Disco by Doriana Sanchez
Last up, Courtney and Gev. First of all, love this couple. I think it’s a great pairing with a lot of potential. Unfortunately for them, their first test is Disco, choreographed by Doriana Sanchez. Ya’ll, I love Disco, but only when it’s done right. There’s a vibe to it, a spirit. I think people’s bodies just moved differently back then. I can imagine how hard it must be to teach these young, very modern dancers how to “feel” Disco. Anyway, I think the routine is enjoyable to watch, and I’m almost certain Courtney and Gev did the absolute best they could. I’d venture to say Gev may be the weaker of the two, but this dance was all about survival.
Ok, my three favorites were:
1. Cha-Cha by Chelsea and Thayne
2. Hip-Hop by Katee and Joshua
3. Jazz by Mandy Moore (Ok, fine… and Kourtni and Matt)
My Bottom Three are:
1. Hip-Hop by Rayven and Jamie
2. Tango by Jessica and Will
3. Jive by Comfort and Chris
America’s Bottom Three turned out to be:
1. Rayven and Jamie
2. Kourtni and Matt
3. Jessica and Will
So far, so good, America. We basically agreed.
Wade Robson is back for the first group number of the season! It’s too bad I didn’t like it. I know, I can’t believe I said it, either. Let me explain. I did like the dancing – I love Wade’s style. But I thought Nigel’s big face ruined it. Why did we have to point the camera at him every five seconds? We missed so much dancing! Another small quibble: the hair and make-up on the dancers made it hard to pick out my favorites. Otherwise, it was splendid.
On elimination night, the judges sent Rayven and Jamie home, and I can’t disagree. I was totally onboard with giving Rayven the boot, especially after she performed solo without going on point. Nigel took the words out of my mouth with his critique. She was brought on to the show because of her ballet background… it was a mistake not to show it off. Meanwhile, Kourtni was terrific and Jessica looked injured. On the boys’ side, there was no way in hell the judges were going to send Will home, and Matt had a decent solo, so the short straw went to Jamie. I have to say, I felt bad for the kid. I’ve always felt that the whole dancing-for-your-life bit gives the breakers and poppers (and on occasion, the contemporary dancers) an incredible advantage, while the ballroom dancers get screwed. It’s hard to stand out with samba steps, especially when the next guy spins on his head, bends himself into a pretzel, and closes out with some tumbling. That said, Jamie didn’t have a prayer, which is sad, because he was kind of cute. I think he could have wowed us with a ballroom routine or a contemporary routine. Now we’ll never know. And speaking of: with Jamie gone, we don’t have any male ballroom dancers. Jamie wasn’t even a ballroom dancer, technically speaking, but he was the closest we had. It makes me miss Pasha. Where is Pasha, anyway? What the heck happened to him??