”So You Think…”: Routine disappointment
At the end of last night’s episode, Nigel Lythgoe gave a very honest, earnest speech about how proud he is that this season of SYTYCD features dancers of such uniform talent and quality. And I agree; these hoofers are almost certainly the most consistently competent and professional in the show’s three-year history. But that doesn’t make last night’s episode any less of a weird letdown. I mean, seriously, when Mary Murphy can barely muster her trademark scream — for Anya and Danny’s elegant if not exactly flawless foxtrot — you know that the evening is seriously lacking in wow moments. And almost none of it was the contestants’ fault.
First of all, for someone known for creating routines that erupt in unexpected energy and pizzazz, Wade Robson sure is one low-key, sober dude as a judge. Not that his assessments were off the mark — actually, they were pretty much always considered and thoughtful, and I don’t think any judge has better nailed Danny’s core problem as a performer (i.e. he’s been dancing from the outside-in rather than the inside-out). But if ever I was reminded that this is first and foremost a television show and not the 3 p.m. class at the local dance conservatory, it was whenever Wade opened his mouth with his NPR intonations and professorial explanations, sucking the energy from the room with every syllable.
Indeed, Nigel was right to say he was sorry to see Wade judging and not choreographing, because the ones who deserve the lion’s share of credit for the night’s weirdness were the choreographers themselves. After a promising start with a rousing jive number from Sabra and Dominic — and can I just say that I’m thinking Dom maaaaay have just lost some votes after all those shots of him concussing his poor partner over and over and over again — the night quickly became a contest between the choreographers to see which one of them could create the most off-putting routine.
To wit: The reason Jaimie and Hok’s Broadway set didn’t work wasn’t because Hok didn’t perform like an old man; it was because Tyce Diorio chose the least Broadway-y Broadway song ever to build his routine around, and then refused to have the dancers actually move to the music, like, at all. Perhaps that’s why season 2 runner-up Travis was barely featured as Tyce’s assistant; or maybe it’s because he doesn’t tend to look cross-eyed at the camera and drop his pants to show off his collection of international-flag Underoos. (And yes, I noticed season 2 Top 20’er Ben was also on the show, assisting Mia Michaels.)
Speaking of Mia, much as I’m loath to agree with Nigel, I’ve got to say that even though Lauren and Neil executed her contemporary steps with increasing grace and polish, I just didn’t like it. My new neighbor wondered aloud whether it would’ve been better had Lauren and Neil ditched their dark, East-Berlin-art-show goggles halfway through and gone off into a different direction entirely. I am liking my new neighbor.
Even Pasha and Sara’s ’50s-beatnik-meets-’80s-Jane-Fonda-workout-model routine, choreographed by Mandy Moore, left me a bit wanting. Some of their suspender tricks were cool enough, and Sara’s ability to pull off everything the show throws at her has me seriously wondering if she’s the season’s dark horse to win. But, much like Mia’s piece, I appreciated it much more than I was entertained by it. It’s like these choreographers have decided to use the show to exercise their most esoteric muscles, to ”experiment” and ”stretch” rather than ”wow” and ”entertain.” And before you get all huffy that I’m separating excitement from artistic expression, Mia, Wade, and Shane have all demonstrated this season that you can accomplish both. (Dan Karaty’s tarted-up MTV-circa-1999 hip-hop steps for the makes-it-seem-too-easy Lacey and the yet-to-impress Kameron, meanwhile, accomplished neither.)
Goodness, I’m all grumpy today, and since Cat was inexplicably dressed like a sane resident of the 21st century, to cheer things up let’s discuss the fascinating window the dancers gave us into their minds and partnerships. Here’s what I picked up: Neil, Danny, and Kameron are all reeeeeeeally super hot, while Lauren looks like a pretty dude; Anya’s got awesome(ly bad) costumes; and Lacey’s a great dancing partner with a seriously janky weave. Sounds about right. Both Pasha and Sara take for ever in the bathroom. Makes sense to me. Dominic trusts Sabra implicitly, and Sabra is just hoping for no permanent brain damage. Hmm — worrisome, but not all that shocking.
None of it, though, compares with what Jaimie and Hok had to say about each other. Jaimie, it seems, likes how Hok’s Japanese face doesn’t match his British voice, which doesn’t match his Italian cooking — or, put another way, ”the whole idea of him.” Hok likes Jaimie’s…hair. ‘Cause it’s like a dog. Hemingway couldn’t have come up with a more succinctly complete portrait than that.
What are your pros and cons for each dancer? Other than Sabra and Dom, did any of the dancers truly earn their future in the Top 10 and the SYTYCD tour? Was it just me, or did Anya favor her uninjured ankle and skip all the jumps? Did Danny finally come out of his I’m so awesome cocoon? (My take: Yes — yes he did.) And did anyone else notice that the instant replay of his insane opening jump was labeled ”Last Season”?