”So You Think You Can Dance”: Missing action
Oof, this is a tough one. As I opened my laptop upon the conclusion of last night’s edition of So You Think You Can Dance, I realized I was far more interested in what we didn’t see in Vegas than what we did. Where was clogger Brandon Norris? Where was Benji’s sister Lacey (other than freaking out about Mia Michaels’ choreography)? Lyrical dancer Ashley Simpson? Hip-hop popper Phillip Chbeeb?
So much of the editing in this episode irked me. For one thing, of all people, Olivia ”My Mom Used Her Possible Illness to Emotionally Blackmail Me Into Auditioning for This Show” Usey was our main emotional through-line. She’s really nervous about Shane Sparks’ hip-hop routine, we were told. A bunch of people we got to know in the audition eps — former football player Myles Johnson; hot-pants duo Ashley Keegan and Katie Watts — were cut before Olivia, so what chance could she possibly have? Plenty, it would seem. She sailed through, and we barely got to see why.
Which is odd, since Olivia is clearly BFF with the camera, seemingly spending less time actually rehearsing with her five-person audition group than narrating the not-really-that-compelling drama unfolding in said group. So much drama, intoned Cat Deeley, that their chances before the judges don’t look good. Except, well, that they do. If anyone had bothered to show us their routine during rehearsal, we’d have seen it was a decently entertaining slice of chair-assisted hip-hop — far from a disaster. But then, if we had seen the routine in advance, Nigel wouldn’t have gotten to press the Reality-Show Music Cue: Tension button in the editing room, and we all know how much joy he gets in doing that.
If Olivia’s story line had been the only bit of manufactured drama in this ep, I could have tolerated it enough to spend more time speculating about whether the Melrose boutique where Cat and Mary shop is called ”Flashback to Flashdance” or ”the John Hughes Movie Surplus Store,” or, for that matter, trying to figure out which of Shane’s moves is called ”boom” and which is called ”kack-ka.” But no, we had to spend time with an insecure guy we’d never met and a cheery married mother we’d never met as they struggled through Mary Murphy’s samba routine and came out the other side…insecure and cheery. Or meditate on why Faina Savich, sister of season 2 finalist Stanislav, waited until 3 a.m. to timidly ask questions about her group’s limp lyrical routine. Or ponder what could happen to the partnership of amiable Lindy Hoppers Michael and Evita if Evita made it through and Michael di— oh, they both got cut? Never mind. They were no Benji and Heidi anyway.
Why couldn’t we have spent more time with Ricky Palomino? We got roughly 15 seconds of him praising Mia Michaels, then 15 seconds of his dancing, 5 seconds of his Atlanta audition, then 15 of Mia Michaels praising him, and 10 of him flipping out about her praise — approximately a minute of screen time, and already I’m absolutely desperate to see and know more about him. (Thank goodness for YouTube.) By way of explanation for Ricky’s absence from the show up until now, Cat said he’d been ”under the radar,” which seems to be code for ”possessing a backstory devoid of horrific injuries or intolerant and/or overdemanding parents.” Nope, he just had buckets of talent and sex appeal — and that’s never made for good TV.
Fortunately, the show knows enough to keep the Fame factor alive and well, and by that I mean moments like, say, when break-dancer Twitch was asked what he was going to do when he danced for his life (because if he does poorly, Mary, you know, will eat him). Twitch’s answer, given with the kind of earnest yearning first presented to the world in that 1980 classic of arts-high-school cinema: ”Freestyle. [Quiet pause.] Do what I love. [Pause.] Do what comes from the heart. [Pause.] Hopefully that can be enough.” I’m gonna live forevaah! I’m gonna learn how to fly! High! Cut to Shane Sparks, barking at his dancers: ”No mistakes allowed! This is your life!” Fame! Cut to Mia Michaels chiding her dancers: ”Don’t be such a needy dancer. Figure it out!” I feel it coming together! People will see me and cry! Cut to a dancer, weepy from stress and success: ”You don’t understand. This. Is our life!” I’m gonna make it to heaven! Light up the sky like a flame! Fame!
Okay, I’ll stop. But you get my point — I love moments like that. They hit me right in the bull’s-eye of my not-so-secretly sentimental heart. Moments like when Twitch, then D’Trix (16 head spins!), and then Hok all wowed the judges with solo routines of put-it-all-out-there dexterity and panache. Moments like Hanna-Lee Sakakibara’s final routine, in which she incorporated her sprained, taped ankle into her dancing both physically and emotionally — I really felt her frustration — only to have the harsh reality of that injury greet her at the end when she got cut. (Truth be told, I was kinda glad, only because it meant the producers will never have license to run that horrifying floor-collapse footage again.) Heck, even moments like the inexplicable ascendancy of Jessi Peralta, who moves well enough but relies too much on gimmickry (wow! she can fit in a suitcase! such dancing!) and a Pussycat Doll sexier-than-thou ‘tude that totally rubs me the wrong way. ‘Cause you always need the one you love to loathe.
But that’s me. What do you think? Did the Vegas auditions satisfy you or leave you wanting? Did Jamal Weaver truly try his best to master tap in his final solo, or do you agree with me that he simply gave up? Was Nigel out of line when he told Yesenia Gomez she looked ”like a little lump bouncing around up there” during her attempt at lyrical dancing? Or was he merely giving Ms. Gomez a strong dose of reality about the physical demands of good dancing? Finally, who do you think will make it to the final 20 (and light up the sky like a flame)?