So You Think You Can Dance recap: Chelsea Mourning
Well, that was certainly unexpected. I don’t mean the results, exactly. I know I should be shocked that Chelsea was sent home, and grateful that Chris was finally sent packing, during last night’s So You Think You Can Dance results show. What’s unexpected, dear readers, is that I’m not. I can’t muster the outrage or the relief. The more I mull over the judges’ decisions — and mull is all any of us can do, since Nigel, apparently pressed for time, neglected to give any rationale for cutting Chelsea and Chris — the more the cold calculus of those decisions seems pretty plain, and the best I can do is shrug and mutter, ”Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” at the TV.
Before I get too ahead of myself, though, I should also point out there were several things about the results show that were all with the (relatively) surprising. The inverted dust ruffle along Cat’s neckline was a bit much, sure, but the outfit wasn’t that kooky at all, really, and I can’t even remember what Mary Murphy was wearing. Nigel, meanwhile, somehow pulled off a leather jacket. The guest dance performers didn’t suck. The guest musical performer actually sang. And all six solos were at the least solid showcases for their respective dancers’ core talents. Given the track record of the last two results shows, these are promising developments, indeed. (Even Cat’s and Mary’s sartorial restraint just makes the days they do break out the feathers, Bedazzler, and Hot Topic gift cards all that much more special.)
Of course, some things, thankfully, have remained reliably consistent. About halfway through the opening group dance number, I typed, ”I’m guessing this is Mia,” into my laptop, since only Ms. Michaels could’ve conjured up this black-and-white fever dream of Alice in Wonderland aristocratic angst and rejection. (Wade Robson probably could’ve done it too, but he would’ve added ”homages” to Moonwalker, ”Black or White,” and, inexplicably, ”Remember the Time” — oooo, I went there.) Again, Comfort enjoyed a sizable spotlight that very well could have kept her safe another week, and while Mark continued his season-long audition for the next Tim Burton movie (and I mean that as a compliment), I know that what will haunt my dreams once I’m done writing up this TV Watch will be the quick, non sequitur shot of Gev, in a crouch, tripping like a court jester who’s just shot pure meth into his eyeball. (Shudder.)
Cat, thankfully, gave us little time to dwell on that batch of bizarre, quickly lining up Thayne and Chelsea, Katee and Joshua, and Mark and Chelsie to get their results. (It would appear the producers are big fans of that old Sesame Street standby ”One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.”) After Thayne and Chelsea headed off to prep their solos, I realized I neglected yesterday to mention the fierceness of Katee’s new hair, and Chelsie did little to quell the rampant fan speculation that she views Mark at best like a tragically unhip big brother and at worst like a tragically disfigured runt cousin. Me, I just want to know why the two Mark and/or Cheslie supporters in the audience saw fit to don Grecian laurels.
NEXT: Nigel does impressions, too!
After the break, Kherington and Twitch showed no signs of losing their (increasingly undeserved) status as the most popular kids in school, and Courtney and Gev took one more step toward winning their (increasingly deserved) status as the SYTYCD are-they-or-aren’t-they couple of the season. Cat asked guest judge Adam Shankman to help eat up just enough airtime to prevent Nigel from explaining the judges’ decisions at the end of the live show, and he obliged by rambling advice to bottom-three’d Comfort and Chris that boiled down to: Dance better. (As a verbal-diarrhea sufferer myself, I can certainly relate.)
After the break, Will finally came alive for me with his refrain of ”disco-dancing diva time” — a phrase I just may have to borrow for my next Facebook status update — and after he sealed the deal with his gallant cheerleading of partner Jessica, Cat told the two that they were safe and Matt and Kourtni would be hoofing it for their lives. Cat turned to Nigel for the requisite judge’s non-comment, but the Brit instead dropped the hammer, hard. Kourtni’s lack of inner twinkle, he announced, had dropped her out of his top five girls (raising the question as to why he’d pick favorites that early in the competition, which I’ll leave for y’all to dissect in the comments). And with a not unimpressive display of continental accents (as well as a Michael Caine impression that sailed clear over the heads of the tween-y audience), Nigel called out Matt’s inability to dance as anyone other than himself. The point was clear: You two better put it all out there tonight, or you’re packing it up for home tomorrow.
Now, I’ve never really watched MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, in part out of my general boycott of all things MTV for making the vapid, listless, barely human shells that populate The Hills household names, and in part because every time my channel surfing did manage to rest on ABDC, I was never exactly captivated by the dancing I saw there. There were just too many bodies to pay attention to at once, and anyway, group dancing is so late ’90s and early 2000s (i.e., the last time I watched MTV with any regularity, i.e., obviously a much, much cooler, hipper time). And yet, even with barely 10 minutes of ABDC under my belt, I can safely say that SYTYCD‘s claim that Quest is really America’s best dance crew just because it happens to contain three SYTYCD alumni doesn’t so much hold water. The crew’s spastic interpretation of ”Chemical Calisthenics” had wit and charm for days, but the performances were all over the place, veering from sharp and fierce to a flop-sweaty mess and back again. Please don’t misinterpret: I liked Quest loads better than last week’s Blue Steele-meets-flamenco-heels number, and the top 20 week’s old, old, old school Electric Boogaloo-ing. It just feels pretty childish for the folks at SYTYCD to behave as if all these other dancing shows are somehow base pretenders to their throne. (American Idol may be all kinds of obnoxious even to its most die-hard fans, but I’ve never seen the show question, say, Nashville Star‘s right to exist.)
NEXT: America’s got talent
One need only watch the six individual solos to know that SYTYCD has no reason to feel insecure. I’ve noticed some grousing in the message boards that season 4’s been lackluster thus far, and I agree that it’s definitely had more than its fair share of blah routines, baldly pimping judges, and infuriating early episodes. But I’m sorry, the overall breadth of talent this season just plainly is better than in any past season. For one thing, Chelsea, Thayne, Comfort, Chris, Kourtni, and Matt all gave their steps at least a sense of coherent form beyond just a ”Hey, look what I can do!” collection of tricks and moves, which is more than I can say of previous top 20 to top 12 episodes. Of the six solos, Thayne’s came off the weakest to me — toward the end, he began racing around the stage like he wasn’t sure what to do next — followed by Comfort’s two-dimensional use of the stage, but both of them still brought spark and panache to their numbers. Kourtni and Matt, meanwhile, took Nigel’s dressing-down to heart; Matt’s limbs seemed to skitter over the stage like a chimpanzee through the trees, and Kourtni made the bold (and I’d say brave) choice to leave behind her most conspicuous technique and instead simply give the best shape to Ani DiFranco’s ”Fire Door” that she possibly could. Naturally, she was my favorite solo of the night.
As for Chris and Chelsea, Chris finally delivered a number that had me smiling and nodding my head: ”More varied and interesting than he’s ever been,” I typed in my notes. ”Is it enough?” Chelsea miscalculated, I think, choosing to go for melancholy when the judges had her pegged as the fiery vixen who’s always scorching the stage — but that didn’t make her solo any less impressive to my eye. In the end, my hunch is that the judges chose Thayne’s far more consistent mix of technique and Benji-like personality over Chris’, er, Wonder Bread disposition, and Chelsea simply fell victim to the insatiable maw of reality television — meaning Kourtni and Comfort are just more ”interesting” to watch week to week, and Chelsea wasn’t charring up that dance floor enough to make up the difference. If I were a voting judge, Comfort would be the one going home, but I’m just the guy who spends his nights bleary-eyed and bloviating about how Comfort is running out of second chances. They don’t ask me anything.
What do you think? Was Chelsea the one who deserved more of a chance? And speaking of, did Chris ever really have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it to next week? Were you a bit perplexed as to why Jordin Sparks took the stage sans background dancers, backup vocals, and, oh yeah, an actual band? And do you think Thayne and Comfort will work better as a couple now that their partners have been asked to vamoose?
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.