”So You Think You Can Dance”: One from the heart
To say that emotions were running high on last night’s So You Think You Can Dance would be a bit like noting that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has sold a healthy number of copies. Tears! Sex! Romance! Redemption! And in much the same way that guest judge Adam Shankman was ready to throw superlatives at Neil and Lacey (though we’re definitely going to come back to that), I’m ready to proclaim this episode the best of the season thus far — in fact, it was as dynamic and entertaining as any episode I’ve seen in the show’s history.
And yet here’s the thing: Not one of the dancers has really broken out for me. Yes, I realize Sabra has clearly won over the judges’ — wait, sorry Cat, I meant jiiieeges’ — hearts with her peerless technical nuance and grace, and at this point I don’t think anyone doubts that Danny not only is the most talented male dancer on the show but has clearly managed to stop being all too-cool-for-the-room-y. But neither Sabra nor Danny — nor anyone else, really — has been given routines that let them really explode their talent into our living rooms. By this point last year, Travis and Heidi had already broken hearts with Mia Michaels’ Emmy-nominated park-bench routine, and this was the week that Benji and Heidi set fire to the stage with their ”Black Mambo” number. As Nigel said, the choreography last night played to the dancers’ strengths but didn’t really challenge them to get any stronger — which means, of course, I have no frickin’ clue who is going to go home tonight.
It probably won’t be Sabra and Pasha, the most consistent pair of the evening. And while it is tempting to follow Mr. Shankman’s lead and pity poor Pasha in the face of Sabra’s insane…well, everything, really, has Pasha ever let a partner down? Think of Lauren last week, Sara the weeks before, and, before that, both Jessi and Tony Meredith’s assistant Melanie. Though his solos have been kinda blah, as a partner, Pasha is by far the best dancer in the competition, and I think he’s earned his slot in the final four along with Sabra.
I’d like to see Danny and Sara there with them — wait, you’re screaming at your monitor as your coworkers speed-dial HR, that leaves out Lacey and Dominic!, and I hear you, and you’re right, it does, more later, now please put down the espresso — but the b-girl-and-so-much-more and the ballet-contemporary wunderkind both really disappointed me last night. Not that they were bad, but after they brought such feeling and personality to their Wade Robson solos last week, this was the night I really expected them to soar, especially since they were paired together. Their Argentine tango was a mere simmer compared with Lacey and Danny’s four-alarm-fire samba from last week. (I could’ve done without Shankman’s dig that Danny’s climactic fan wave wasn’t exactly butch.) And I’m not sure I can remember anything about that Shane Sparks hip-hop routine other than my curiosity about which touring company of The Wiz the wardrobe department pilfered their outfits from.
I also can’t remember much from Neil and Lacey’s first routine, but it wasn’t exactly the costumes that were the distraction so much as the oh-so-glorious lack of them. (I’m human.) It’s their second routine, though, that I’d like to discuss with you for a moment. It was lovely; I was especially touched by that opening look of warmth and love on Neil’s face as he gazed across at his ”daughter.” And afterward, Mary Murphy’s wordless emotional response to them was most moving of all. I thought of my own mother, and how deeply she would cherish another moment with her beloved father, however brief. So, yes, I got a little misty there for a second. But was it among the best pieces of dancing I’d ever seen in the history of television? Um. No. For one, that faux-flower-filled stage had me all twitterpated that one of them was going to step wrong and face-plant — a feeling I got from the dancers’ own tentativeness as much as my own baseline level of extreme anxiety. For another, I feel that Lacey may have reached a plateau — I got that Neil felt the piece, whereas I saw Lacey simply acting it.
Dominic and Lauren, meanwhile, really felt their last routine, didn’t they? I fell into gales of laughter when Dom planted that kiss on Lauren — I imagined his thought process to be something along the lines of ”Well, I’m here, and these heels I’m wearing have (finally!) put me at the perfect lip-lock height, so, what the heck, I might as well just go for it. Most women just head for the hills upon discovering how much of a spaz I can be anyway.” My friends all contended that Lauren kissed back, but from where I sat she was the one who put a stop to that particular amorous transaction. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long for the dancers on this show to ”go there.”
Let’s just hope the producers don’t go there with krumping anymore — or, anyway, with what they’re passing off as krumping. I’m no expert, not even close, but best I understand, this and this is krumping — as you can see, whatever Lil’ C is teaching the SYTYCD dancers, it resembles original krumping in the same way the new movie version of Hairspray resembles the original movie version of Hairspray: entertaining, sure, but less edgy, angry and interesting. Less complicated.
So who’s going home? Alas, I’m going to have to go with Lauren and my onetime favorite to win, Dom. I could be wrong, but somehow I doubt lip-locking with another girl is the best way to motivate those oodles of texting tweens to pick you as their favorite after they’d abandoned you the week before for continuing to drop your partner. And though Lauren’s dancing has finally lived up to the judges’ faith in her abilities, she’s still a bit of a blank slate when it comes to any substantive personality to hold on to.
So, do you agree? Does that kiss portend doom, or is it a harbinger of only good tidings? Is Sabra the one to beat? Was Neil and Lacey’s Mia Michaels routine the best dancing on TV you’d ever seen? And how awesome are Neil’s abs?