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Wow – I missed y’all! And I missed this So You Think You Can Dance. I am wasting away up here in a primitive, television-free wilderness land commonly known as Connecticut. Actually, for all I know, this might be the only house in all of Connecticut that lacks a TV. Either way, it’s a barbaric way to live and it should be outlawed. The upshot of it all is that I have not seen this show in close to ten days, and I am concerned about how much that bothers me.
As you know, the first thing I am compelled to do is evaluate Cat’s outfit. She looks pretty good tonight, if sunburned and again a bit prommy. So far, in my dealings with her, she has two looks: Prom, and Jungle Fug. I am highly qualified to judge her, because I also have two looks: Pajamas, and Actual Pants. Which, in all seriousness, places me a lot closer to being qualified to evaluate Cat than it does to being qualified to evaluate actual dancers. I mean, when it comes to judging people’s outfits, at least I can accurately say that I myself do wear clothes. This is not true when it comes to dancing.
But I’m not going to let that stop me! Onward and upward. Cat says a couple of times that we are on a quest to determine America’s “favorite” dancer. I notice that she never says “best” dancer. At least we’re being honest about that. However, we are not being honest about the following: Cat claims that viewers have been overflowing with gratitude for the clips flashing back to the judges’ favorite audition moments. This is a big, fat, hairy lie. Viewers do not like these clips. I can say this with confidence, since I happen to be a viewer myself.
Cat is brimming with excitement as she reveals that we are actually about to see some audition footage that has not been televised before. You know, we’ve come to a sad state of affairs when the fact that a clip being aired on this show has not already been aired on this show is cause for notice and for celebration. Cat practically begs the audience to “woo” over this fact, and they finally let out an anemic little “woo.”
We see audition footage. I am still not interested. Give me the actual dancers, please. Seriously, y’all, I’m skipping the audition footage. Someplace around the half-hour mark of this two-hour show, Cat finally tells us that it’s time to get down to business. Or rather, it will be time to get down to business, after yet another commercial. It appears to me that they then straight-up rerun the opening credits, dragging them out for as long as possible. This reminds me of when you’re in college, and you have to write a ten-page paper, so you use 2.1 line spacing, and 13-point font, and 1.1 inch margins. Not that I ever tried this or anything.
Finally we get the dancer intros. Natalie looks adorable, as always, with some kind of crazy high boots on. Ryan’s dance-in is a little too twinkle-toes for my taste. James “Jaymz” Tuaileva is still here. Yes, I know I said I needed to come up with a shorter nickname for him, but upon reflection, I don’t think he deserves it, and I’m still really hoping he’ll be gone soon. His partner Jessicker is wearing, er, a black leather bikini? Something like that. Benji does an awesome twirl and split. Overall, most of the dancers seems a little flat during the dance-in. I wonder if they were forced to stay up extra late or something.
Once again, there is no real group dance. Why couldn’t we fill up all of the extra time with group numbers instead of audition footage? That would make me very happy. Cat is introduced and again makes the very unfortunate decision to try to dance a little bit as she comes onto the stage. I must say that I don’t understand the concept of Cat being introduced after she has already been showing us lame audition clips for a half an hour. Maybe this is her first contact with the studio audience? I don’t understand how this show is taped and pasted together, so possibly that’s it.
Tonight’s judges are Dan Karaty, Mary Murphy, and Nigel. I don’t know who Dan Karaty is. Cat says he’s from the world of hip-hop, but I don’t remember anyone quite this white choreographing any of the hip-hop routines in the few weeks that I’ve been watching.
After we meet the judges, we get a dance number from Li’l C (who choreographed Martha and Travis’s krump routine) and a few members of his crew. One of the dancers seems to be wearing a T-shirt that says “Jesus Sucks,” but I know that can’t possibly be what it says, because this aired several days ago, and if someone had worn that shirt on Fox on primetime, I would have noticed the rioting in the streets by now. A closer examination reveals that the shirt actually reads “If it ain’t Jesus, it ain’t buck!” The power of Google is unable to uncover the meaning of this for me. By the way, I don’t think much of this dance. I thought it was good when he choreographed for Travis and Martha, but this is just boring. The only semi-entertaining part is when one of the guys rips off his shirt.
Mary gets all screechy and terrifying about how once she hangs up her ballroom shoes, she’s going to get her krump on. I kind of expect her to pee on the carpet and shred newspaper all over the living room and infuriate the neighbors with her incessant yapping. Off to the pound with you, Mary. And then, good God, Li’l C (or one of his guys, sorry, I don’t remember which one is him) has the most amazing set of abs I have ever seen in my life.
Cat reminds us for the umpteenth time that we are down to fourteen contestants. She claims, also for the umpteenth time, that the competition is going to start sometime before my fiftieth birthday. Our first couple finally picks out of the hat when we are close to forty minutes into the show. It’s Heidi and Ryan, and they draw hip-hop. This is no good for either one of them – she dances ballroom, and he’s one of the floatiest of the contemporary guys.
There is a cute-slash-offensive bit about how they’re going to assume alter egos for the week – Ryan will pretend to be “Hakim Smith,” and Heidi will be “ShaDawn” (sp?). Shane Sparks will be choreographing. There is a truly disturbing close-up on his swiveling ass as he waits for Heidi and Ryan to arrive at the studio. Shane is wearing another incorrect Yankees hat. He says that Heidi and Ryan don’t have “that feel that [he's] looking for.” I have a feeling this is an understatement, but I also think that they’re both good dancers and they’ll pull it off. They come in and immediately show him their alter egos, and he’s impressed by their attitude and enthusiasm.
Heidi gives a speech that annoys me, and here it is: “I’m gonna bring acting to this dance by taking this innocent girl with blond hair and twig-like arms and turning her into someone who’s mischievous and who’s rough and who’s tough, all the things that I am not.” The main thing that annoys me is that she mispronounces “mischievous” by giving it that extra syllable that is one of my pet peeves. But also, I don’t like hearing about how she’s so blond and adorable and innocent and so it’s so shocking for her to dance hip-hop. It reeks of excuse-making, and I don’t like the implication that hip-hop dancing is tied to thuglike behavior. Did somebody say Heidi and Benji are cousins and Mormons? That is interesting. Ryan is just as bad about this, by the way, joking about “ghetto Ryan” and about being rough and hard. Meanwhile, the whole time, they seem to be doing great in rehearsal.
Heidi and Ryan finally come out and give another astonishingly good performance. It’s not as good as their Cuban Rumba, but it’s totally different so it’s hard to compare. This dance would be at home in a Missy Elliott video; it’s kind of futuristic. There’s a part in the middle where they do the robot, and Heidi’s is just perfect. She has amazing control over all of her movements and all of her angles, every single time she dances. There’s a little bit of floor-humping and faux spanking – let’s see whether this dance got Nigel’s juices flowing.
Turns out it didn’t – Nigel says the dance was “frighteningly good,” but he doesn’t make any inappropriate comments, unfortunately. Mary calls Heidi a “funky little white girl” and laughs her horrible Mom-on-That-’70s-Show laugh. She loved it. Dan was not that impressed. He says they did better than he expected, but it seemed like a cheerleading or dance-team routine. We see a replay and we see that he is right. Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with that, but okay. Heidi is completely hyper throughout the whole “vote for us” segment. She’s like this all the time. She is the exact opposite of Aleks. Maybe she snuck into Aleks’s room one night and sucked her blood, and now she’s mojo-ing for two.
Travis and Martha are next, and they draw salsa. They seem pretty nervous. Their choreographer is Ron Montez. Travis jokes about how salsa is what he puts on his chips. Hm – this is the second episode in a row where Travis has gotten a little snippy. I like him, but I think maybe he needs to come down a peg or two. Travis and Martha both seem totally uncomfortable and tentative during rehearsal.
Of course, the dance is nowhere near that bad. They do fine, but they seem a little slow for the tempo of the music, and it seems like they’re not doing anything all that difficult. Martha’s amazing legs are showcased to good effect, but there’s not a ton of chemistry on display. Nigel says that Travis’s pirouettes were amazing and Martha has an incredible figure. Well, duh, and whoever chose her outfit deserves particular props tonight, because they really made the most of her body, and it helped the dance. Still, this seems like kind of thin praise from Nigel. If he didn’t have anything more positive to say, I’m surprised he didn’t rip into them. It seems like he’s giving them a pass because it’s their first attempt at ballroom.
Mary praises the choreography and disses the dancing, and the partnering in particular. She has several very specific criticisms, and the last one is that Travis should have been more masculine. Ouch. Dan liked it; he says the entertainment kept building all the way through. Travis and Martha talk about how hard this dance was, and Travis oversteps his bounds again by implying that Mary would have judged differently had she seen how bad they were in rehearsal and how much they improved. Or should I say – Travis oversteps his bounds, which have been imposed entirely by me.
Next up is the new odd couple of Ashlee and Dmitry. Incidentally, MS Word is convinced that both of those names are spelled wrong, and I can’t say I disagree. Ashlee and Dmitry are both really nervous because they think they’re going to draw contemporary, which neither of them is used to. They do.
Hm – Heidi also claimed to know she would draw hip-hop, and Travis said there had been much talk about how he and Martha hadn’t done ballroom before this week. Methinks I smell a rigging. Of course, there must be some degree of rigging, because you wouldn’t want the same couple repeating a style they’d just done – so, I’m not sure what’s going on there, but there’s definitely something rotten in the state of Denmark. That top hat Cat holds out with the dance styles in it may LOOK scientific and objective, but I think it’s a heavily biased top hat. The worst kind, or so I’ve heard.
The choreographer is Brian Friedman, who says Dmitry is “toxic” to his dance partners. There’s a really funny bit in which Ashlee and Dmitry claim that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Dmitry has to go to counseling, “to learn to talk properly to partner.” It’s great because they’re so specific, with the naming the days of the week and everything. Okay, it’s probably scripted, but it’s still funny. You can tell that Ashlee and Dmitry like each other. Dmitry must be pretty relieved after his tension with Joy, and then Aleks’s battle with onstage clinical depression. Still, I suspect that Ashlee’s lack of formal training is going to be a problem for him at some point.
Oh, NO. The dance is a story about a doll in a toy shop, and Dmitry has a wand, and he brings her to life, and he’s supposed to be psychotic, and oh NO but this is a bad idea, with too many layers and explanations and strange events. I mean, why not just say: “This dance is about a goat who likes to eat cheese, and a plumber who is studying for his GED.” That would make the same amount of sense. Actually, I would love to watch that. Can I put in a request?
Oh my God – Dmitry is wearing a top hat, and a ruffled shirt that’s buttoned only at the neck, and a large teal bow tie. Ashlee is wearing a tutu. I think Brian Friedman was drunk when he thought up this routine. They do the dance, and I mean, it sucks; there’s nothing coherent about it; it’s just all over the map. But there’s nothing wrong with their execution. It’s the choreography that I hate this time. And since the judges never ever criticize the choreographers, it will be interesting to see what they say about this hot mess.
Nigel gets in a good crack about how Dmitry is a magician who has already made two partners disappear. He then shows himself to be a master politician by saying something about how Brian Friedman came up with this dance to mask the fact that this couple has never danced together before and never done contemporary, so the choreographer came up with something flashy that he knew would make these two look good. He manages to give credit to everyone without ever saying that he liked the dance. Mary focuses on how Dmitry is hot. Way to go out on a limb there with those cutting-edge assessments.
Then, Dan is awesome. He says, “They’re hyping you guys up and I really don’t understand why.” I love it when the judges tell the truth. I mean, this couple did not do anything wrong, but that dance was terrible to watch, and someone has to pay for that. Dan faults the acting. I don’t think that was the problem, but I’m sure it didn’t help. Nigel cuts in here, to say that it isn’t fair to blame them for the acting, because they didn’t choose to dance a routine with a storyline. That’s the closest I’ve heard anyone come to blaming a choreographer for anything.
I have mixed feelings about blaming these people for bad acting – they are dancers, after all, not actors. Overall, though, I think the ultimate question is whether the performance is entertaining or enjoyable, and the acting is part of that. Personally, I think it’s a terrible idea for the choreographers to require a lot of acting, partly because the dancers aren’t up to it, but more importantly, because the choreographers are NOT Tony-award-winning playwrights. So far I have not been impressed with a single “storyline” they’ve come up with. Asking the dancers to reflect the personas of a couple in love, or a couple fighting, is no problem. But saying “Okay, you’re a DJ, and you’re a magician” – I think that loses the thread of what we’re doing here. Which is the important work of selecting a juicy morsel to offer up to the slavering maw of Celine Dion.
Dan savages Ashlee some more, and Nigel and Mary actually tell him to talk to the hand. Ashlee says that Brian is a genius. I think Ashlee has just a touch of Stockholm Syndrome.
Natalie and Musa are next. They pick disco and they are psyched. Me too! I didn’t know that counted as a real dance style, and I think this is the greatest idea ever. I think maybe the whole show should just be reformulated as So You Think You Can Disco. The wardrobe alone would make that worth tuning into every week.
The choreographer reminds us for the hundredth time that Natalie and Musa are very sexy together. Got that, America? They are VERY SEXY TOGETHER! Last week, they even shared a sexy glass of water! Tell all your friends! By the way, I think it’s pretty likely that the show is pimping Musa so hard just because he’s straight. I think that may be all there is to it.
We get a really excessive view of Natalie’s crotch on Musa’s elbow as he practices lifting her. Then her crotch is on his neck. Then it’s on his hand. Er, I sort of feel like I should leave and let them be alone together. From the rehearsal footage, it seems like the whole routine is going to be about Musa heaving Natalie around in the air – not sure whether there’s going to be any dancing involved or not.
Ah, but there is. The song is “Hot Stuff,” and Musa has on a white vest. He does disco butt, and disco arms; Natalie does high kicks; it’s lots of fun. Still, I find myself enjoying this dance just because of its disco-ness, and not because of the quality of the dancing or even the much-discussed chemistry. There are some lifts, but Musa handles them a bit awkwardly – you can tell he’s not used to doing lifts, and they slow down the flow of the routine. This dance has entertainment value, but it’s pretty amateurish. And something weird happens with the ending – it seems like the music runs out at the wrong time.
Nigel bags on Musa’s technique a little, but overall he makes excuses for everything Musa does, as usual. Mary gives a “woo” about the whole concept of “Hot Stuff,” and at first I think she’s going to just waste some more oxygen, but then she redeems herself by telling Musa that last week she thought his dancing was really crap. She says he went from crap to caviar. This is, frankly, crap – he wasn’t that good this week either, but it was fun to watch. Dan just hits the “sex” angle. Natalie mugs for the camera as Cat reads the phone numbers.
Donyelle and Benji draw the Viennese Waltz, and I am appalled to see that the caption spells it “Vienesse.” Whoever does these captions should be fired – first “Jamyz” two weeks in a row, and now this. I can’t believe this show is on a major network. Donyelle stumbles while reading, calling the waltz “Vietnamese,” and Cat mocks her. Now, I’m not exactly sure what a Vietnamese waltz would entail, but I think this is another possibility for improving the show: completely fabricated dance styles. Some of the dance styles they’re using are pretty fake already, so let’s go all out and have them dance “Chinese Broadway” or “Norwegian krump” or “hip-hop foxtrot.”
Benji makes the mistake of saying “Vietnamese” again after he and Donyelle arrive at the studio, and the choreographers are so not impressed. They tell us that the Viennese waltz is a lot faster than the regular waltz, which is something I did not know. Oh, God – next Donyelle interviews that she wants America to see “two Vietnamese dancers.” She then tries to correct to “Vietnese.” Now this is just sad. At first I thought they were just stumbling over the word, but now it seems clear that they really don’t know the difference between Vienna and Viet Nam. Then again, if the person who writes the captions is the same person who loads up the top hat, the piece of paper they drew might well have said “Vietnamese waltz,” or “Venereal disease waltz,” or any damn thing.
This becomes a running joke throughout the rehearsal, with Benji talking about “Vietnamese karate” and Donyelle about using a “Vietnamese chokehold.” I don’t know where to begin regarding how bad this is. Once again, this is not one of the more culturally sensitive shows on TV. Benji gets repeatedly slammed for not being masculine enough, and then he cracks me up with the way he says he has to bring out his inner Don Juan DeMarco. I like that movie. Donyelle tells Benji he needs to be her strong man, and he tells her to close her eyes and pretend he’s Dmitry. Snicker. We see a hysterical clip of Dmitry teaching Benji how to roll his hips, and Benji deadpans that Donyelle is already in love with him and now will be even more so. Benji is really very funny and cute.
The dance is ruined before it even starts, because it is set to a godawful Bryan Adams song. Other than that, it’s pretty good. I like the fact that he lifts her and they make it look effortless even though she probably outweighs him. Donyelle looks really beautiful, she makes beautiful lines, and her dress is great.
Nigel says something about how Donyelle might have a broken toe – apparently she jammed it in rehearsal and it’s been getting worse. He credits her for just dancing through it, which she certainly did; she says it hurts now, though. Nigel says the dance was fantastic. Mary does too, and I think that really counts for something, because she’s usually harsh on the ballroom routines. Dan says they are the most entertaining couple he’s ever seen, and that’s important.
Ivan and Allison draw West Coast Swing. I don’t even know what that means, but they are pretty bummed to have drawn ballroom for the third time. Ivan says he danced the swing once a long time ago with his mom. In rehearsal, they goof around and bounce around a lot. The choreographer says they are too bubbly – they need to be “slinky,” “earthy,” and “level.” But he lets Ivan incorporate some hip-hop moves into the dance.
I can’t even evaluate the dance because I am so fixated on Allison’s pants. They are black, covered with white fringe, which is in rows, and it stands out so far when she moves that she’s doubled in width. I will be seeing those pants in my nightmares. They really do detract from the dance. Cat calls them “trousers.” Nigel gushes over both Allison and Ivan. Mary says that Allison is “perfection,” and that Ivan wasn’t sexy enough, but he was still good. Dan says the routine was so well-choreographed that it seemed like they were just improvising, which is great.
Last are Jessicker and James “Jaymz” Tuaileva (I’m sure you can imagine what Microsoft Word has to say about them). They draw hip-hop, Shane Sparks style. James “Jaymz” Tuaileva wears his purse to the studio again. In rehearsal, it emerges that Jessica can’t pop – is, in fact, *afraid* to pop. “She tends to overcompensate her pop with a jerk,” Shane tells us. They all do some shtick about Shane being their drill sergeant, because they’re all wearing camo. By the way, Jessica never does a single thing that would serve to remind me that she is Cuban, is Italian, is loud, or has a personality.
This dance actually reminds me a lot of the “doll brought to life” scenario from earlier, which is not a good thing. On the plus side, though, I find it easy to forget that it’s my most hated couple dancing, which must mean that they’re doing a decent job. Nigel says they danced well, but it was “hip-hop by numbers” – it really didn’t have the feel of hip-hop. Jessica and James “Jaymz” Tuaileva defend themselves with that lame old “I’m a ballet dancer popping” excuse. Look, let’s say you cause a bad car accident, and then you try to escape responsibility by whining that it’s your first time driving. Somehow I don’t think this tactic is going to work. I see no reason why this should be different.
For some reason, Mary loved the performance. Fortunately, Dan did not. He says they were faking it, but they didn’t make it. They learned the choreography; they danced clean; they danced together and were in time; but they didn’t have the proper technique for popping and locking. That actually sounds like very sane criticism, and not just because my fondest wish is to see Jessicker and James “Jaymz” Tuaileva sent home.
Then James “Jaymz” Tuaileva turns into a whiny little bitch, saying that he’d like to see a popper or whatever do better than that at dancing ballet or jazz. Dan points out, quite rightly, that that’s the whole point of this show, and that hip-hop dancers get up and dance other styles every single week. Jess seems to realize that her partner is on the wrong side of the line, and she tries to cover with something about nerves, but James “Jaymz” Tuaileva will not be denied. He goes on to whine that they only had three hours to practice. Again – this is different from the other competitors’ situations how? He’s obnoxious enough that Nigel has to cut in and give him a little smackdown about how all of the dancers have to dance styles that aren’t their own, and SOME of them (read: not you) have been outstanding.
Ah, that’s a refreshing end to the show. I say we end every episode with James “Jaymz” Tuaileva being taken over Nigel’s knee. Literally or figuratively – I will settle for either. Actually, we should take bets on whether Nigel will end up spanking someone on camera before this show ends. I tell you what: If he does, I will publicly declare my love for Jaymz, and I’ll even call him Jaymz. Can’t wait for the results show – see you there.