Let’s Face the Music and Dance
After the joy of last night’s opening live show, it’s time to face the music and our first elimination of the year. Usually picking the first to go is a relatively painless affair as there always a few contestants who have failed to measure up. But this year, with only eleven contestants to start with, the producers have made the prospect much tougher.
I always look forward to the opening numbers – it’s a chance for a choreographer to really cut loose and show what they can do. Tonight’s number is by a new choreographer for SYTYCD, Tessandra Chavez, to the music of Kelis - a song called Acapella. It starts with three dancers in spotlight, then the others run in from the sides to join them, so by about ten seconds in we have all 11 dancers on stage.
It quickly became clear that this was not going to be a number that stayed with me. First, the costumes are all white shirts, shorts, and trousers each with unique sparkly gold trim which taken together just scream “Dance Recital Catalog”. Second, and most damningly, the number appears to have been conceived primarily for the benefit of the studio audience, not the camera. For most of the number there are 11 dancers spread all across the stage dancing out front. That really limits what the director can do with the camera. She either shoots it full stage center so we can see everything, or she scoots in to give us an angle, which by definition cuts out at least half the dancers. I get the feeling that there were things going on that we missed because they were happening off-camera. Overall, a disappointing opening.
The dancers split apart for Cat Deeley's entrance. This week our lanky lass is saluting the Highlands of Scotland in a lovely short tartan dress. She introduces the judges, and Nigel tells us about National Dance Day on July 31. Napoleon and Tabitha have created a routine for everyone to try out (available at DizzyFeet.org). Next week Cat will demonstrate – which should be fun to see. Has she ever danced on this show? I don’t think so. (I’m not counting that horrible phoney-baloney animation thing that Nigel teased us with a couple of seasons back.)
It’s a Safety Dance
Not wasting any time, Cat brings out the first four contestants: Kent, Lauren, Robert, and Alex. Cat recaps each dancer (which I won’t do here – you can read the performance recap for details). Alex was in the best routine of the night, so it’s no surprise that he is safe. Robert is next, and he also had a spectacular start with his African Jazz jungle romp– and he is also safe. That leaves Kent and Lauren. Cat reminds us that that she still hasn’t announced who is the first person in the bottom three. In the recap we see that Lauren was good – but not particularly memorable in her sofa number with Ade. Kent was on fire in his Cha Cha with Anya – so things look iffy for Lauren. Cat opens her envelope and tells Kent that he is SAFE! He is elated, though he quickly throws his arms around Lauren. But Cat taps Lauren on the shoulder and tells her that she is safe also. The two dancers let out a whoop, and Cat ushers them off the stage. “I know they hate it when I do that, but it feels so good”, says Cat.
We break for commercial, and then come back with the next four dancers on the stage: Melinda, Billy, Ashley, and Alexie. Melinda is first up. Nigel predicted that she would be in the bottom, and he was right. Cat turns toNigel for an explanation, and he blames the Jive routine. He also suggests that Melinda comes off as cold - not the kind of comment that really is of any constructive value to the contestant.
Billy is next, and he is beaming, just like he was during his Footloose dance. (Note to Mr. Bell: Shave. Please. You do not look mature, distinguished, cool, or older. You look unemployed.) He is safe.
Ashley slides over to Cat. Her recap is full of lukewarm comments from the judges about her “Love Dance” with Neil. Cat does not give Ashley any news, but now turns to Alexie. The judges thought she was too cute in her “Windows Hip-Hop” with Twitch. Cat says that one of the two is in the bottom. She opens the envelope and reveals that the second dancer in the bottom three is: Alexie. Cat asks Mia for a comment. Mia loves the fact that Alexie has worked so hard to be on the show, but she says, last night that work didn’t show. Mia says that now it’s time to “download”. (I really need a Mia to English dictionary, because I have no idea what that means. Anyone have a clue?)
We take a break and come back to Jose, Christina and AdéChiké. Jose goes first, and the comments from his “Wild Things” routine last night were mostly positive. Cat wonders if Jose is in for a shock tonight? “No, you’re safe”, she announces. Next we see a clip of AdéChiké’s “Office Fantasy” number. The judges found him empty. Cat moves over to Christina and her “Snake” routine with Mark. Her feedback was good, for the most part. Cat then announces that the final dancer in the bottom three is… Christina!
So, there we have it – the bottom three dancers are Melinda, Alexie, and Christina. While they go off to prep their solos, and before the evening’s entertainment begins, let’s take a moment to consider these results. Out of six guys and just five girls – we have three girls in the bottom. I know, it raises the specter of teen girls mega-voting for cute guys and abandoning the female contestants. However, I don’t see the results as being quite that dire. In previous seasons, gender equality was maintained by voting off both a guy and a girl each week until the finale. Now for the first time, that mandate is gone. Is this the end of the girls on SYTYCD?
The Boys of Summer
For this season – I think the girls may be in trouble, but not because of voting demographics. Remember, that just last summer we had a girl champion (Jeanine). Also recall that three summers ago, Sabra won over several cute guys: Neil, Danny and Pasha. So SYTYCD doesn’t have the female killing reputation of that other Simon Fuller produced talent contest that also airs on Fox, (but which will remain nameless).
However, from what I saw last night the performances split along gender lines. Alex, Kent, and Robert were, I thought, the best of the night. Billy and Jose were very good. AdéChiké danced well, but clearly missed the point of the number – so he could conceivably be in danger.
Compare that to the girls: Christina did the best, but it wasn’t an unqualified success. She was clearly outdanced by Mark. The other girls fared even worse and any of them could be considered a candidate for bottom three status. So of our actual bottom three, in my opinion, Alexie and Melinda were no surprise. Christina probably didn’t deserve to be there as much as Lauren or Ashley. So my only complaint might be that the voters put the wrong girl in the bottom with Alexie and Melinda.
In short – there is a reason that the producers put six guys in the show – they are all very strong. None of the girls scored an outstanding performance in the first week. They are going to have to step it up, or they will be out the door by Independence Day. Not because of looks, personality, or prejudice – but because of the guys are out dancing them! So far.
Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away
Back to the show. One of the things I love about the results show is that Nigel brings in someone from the world of dance and gives them national exposure on his TV show. Tonight from Broadway we have Tony award nominees Karine Plantadit and Keith Roberts from the Twyla Tharp dance show Come Fly with Me. They do the That’s Life number from the show, which is based on Frank Sinatra’s recordings. This is great American choreography and it shows you how hybridized Broadway is right now. Twyla’s roots are in Modern and Contemporary dance, similar to Mia. But here she’s mixing in characters and ballroom styles – blending it all up into something that’s never quite existed in this way before. I hope Lauren, Ashley, Billy and AdéChiké take note – because this is the level of storytelling that was missing from their performances last night. And that final move – where Karine runs across the stage and throws herself feet first (!) into Keith’s arms while he’s not even looking at her and putting on his coat is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend seeing the show if you are in New York, or if it comes on tour close to your town.
You Never Forget ‘bout Your First Dance
While we recover from that, it’s time to see the dancer’s solos. First up is Melinda doing her tap number. She does a wonderful tap routine – but while she’s dancing I’m wondering when did tap become so… asexual? She’s wearing men’s tap shoes, ready to challenge the guys. What happen to girls wearing pumps with taps like Eleanor Powell and Ann Miller? Or am I just old?
Next we have Alexie doing some contemporary steps to Otis Redding. Unfortunately for Alexie I judge her against that similarly pint-sized Sabra from Season 3, and the comparison doesn’t do Alexie any favors. Alexie sometimes fails to really finish her movements – something that fiery Sabra, the little girl who danced like she was seven feet tall, would never overlook.
After a commercial break we are back with Christina. As a ballroom dancer she has the usual handicap of having to dance alone convincingly – but she really throws her heart and soul into it.
When Christina finishes, I have to admit I was a bit shocked to discover that the judges, not the voters, would be sending one contestant home. True, this is normal for the first few weeks (up until the Top Ten in the old format), but since we are already at the Top
TenEleven I thought that the person with the lowest votes will go home. Nope. So the judges retire backstage to decide who’s dreams they are going to crush.
Baby I Can Break it Down
Meanwhile we get a guest star, Usher, doing his new single O.M.G.. At the beginning of his career Usher was a very good dancer. He’s gotten a bit lazy around the edges as he’s aged. (But then, haven’t we all!) His dancers are pretty good, but not up the level of this show. Contestants take note! You do not want to end up as a backup dancer for Usher. It might sound like a pretty good gig now, but trust me – it will take you nowhere.
Usher introduces the new video he did with Justin Bieber, Somebody To Love. As teen idols go, Bieber is OK in my book. He has a nice voice and an engaging personality. He can’t dance, though, which makes me wonder if they used a dance double and some CGI to do his dance sequences in the video.
There’s Gonna Be One Less Lonely Girl
It’s time for the moment of truth. Nigel says that the decision was unanimous. To Melinda, Nigel says that her tap style is cool, but she is going to have to find some heat to bring to her numbers. For Christina, Nigel compliments her for bringing a fiery passion to her solo, although her footwork wasn’t that great. Addressing Alexi, Nigel notes that she was very contained in her movement, particularly following the pair from Come Fly with Me. And, Nigel continues, Alexie will be the first to leave the competition. Adam wants Alexie to know that she is very hirable as a dancer. Mia pledges her support and promises that Alexie will work. We see a quick shot of Lauren, Kent, and Robert weeping. The show plays the compilation of Alexie’s best moments from the show, then the other dancers rush to the stage as the credits roll.
And that’s a wrap for the first results show. What do you think? Did the judges send the right dancer home? Did the voters support the best contestants? What advice do you have for the contestants for next week? Who needs to step up their game?