SYTYCD Top 8: Props To The Dancers Without Props

July 26, 2008 at 8:54 pm 3 comments

Okay, this is going to be a shotgun review for a couple of reasons. The first, I’ve been away. The second, I don’t much have the heart to watch last Thursday’s show–did I miss anything other than the glaringly obvious most important thing, i.e. Will’s elimination? No? I didn’t think so.

As for Wednesday, I was left feeling a little so-so about the whole thing, and it’s probably worthwhile to explore why. Certainly there were some competent performances. But, thinking about the show as a whole, nothing stood out as a dramatic “moment” although I thought there were a couple of instructive misfires, most of which had to do with the improper use of props. Let us begin…

Will & Courtney Hip Hop

“It has the potential to be SYTYCD history … easy”

–Will’s famous last words

Despite Will’s assertion, I thought Napoleon and Tabitha’s lyrical hip hop routine to Alicia Keys’ Like You’ll Never See Me Again was a bit ho-hum. As another commenter said, if I hadn’t heard the set-up (that Will was a ghost), and figured it out from the props (the photo album–or was it supposed to be letters?–and the cliché of the hourglass), I sure wouldn’t have got it from the choreography. Do not confuse sentiment and the literal interpretation of a pop song for the authenticity of emoting through dance, Will (or anyone, for that matter). I thought the judges’ comments were way over the top on this one (as they were throughout the evening, frankly), from Mary Murphy faking out her disapproval to Toni “Street” Basil declaring definitively that “great art makes you feel something” and “America will never feel the same about dance again after this show.” Maybe. But it ain’t Ballanchine or Nureyev; and the reality TV voting public has shown time and time again that that kind of over-the-top praise does nothing but turn the audience another way. So long, Will.

Comfort & Mark Hip Hop“I Will Not Be In The Bottom … I Will Not Be In The Bottom … I Will Not Be In The Bottom”

–Mark’s famous (written) last words

I preferred by far NapTab’s other ‘real’ hip-hop routine of the night by Mark and Comfort. Shout out here to all the high school teachers who contend with this every day in real life. My tap shoes are off to you. Meaning that, the arrogance of youth came through loud and clear for me in this routine, without the need for pretentious overacting or hackneyed use of props (the school desks, and the way they were worked into the choreography, was great). Mark is a fine character actor, and this show seems to reward that, whereas it punishes technique over style.

I really enjoyed this routine: the use of the desks, the great characters and the way Comfort and Mark played off of each other. I’m giving these two juvenile delinquents top marks for this routine, although I’m not surprised to see Comfort go out on this one. Even more than her dancing, the narrowness of her approach to dance as shown in the intro clip likely did her in. The arrogance of youth is fun to watch in a routine, but not in real life.

Will & Courtney Samba

“A feast for the hips.”

–Jean Marc Genereaux on the samba

The other misfire of the evening, which I believe contributed to Will’s early demise, was the samba he and Courtney did. Courtney’s passion for the dance showed through from the very first clip (“I love the samba. It’s so much fun. Kind of what your body wants to do when you’re dancing with someone.”). Will, in contrast, was busy memorizing the steps via Jean Marc’s use of metaphors as a teaching method. As it was, Courtney looked like a wild, bright yellow bird from the Latin America rainforest and sent that fringe a-flyin’. And Will did all the right steps. *sigh* (but big ups to Courtney for upping her game on Wednesday. That solo of hers was incredible, and she didn’t just hold her own with Will, she actually achieved Chelsie levels of charisma).

Twitch & Katee Contemporary

“It’s so hard to critique the dancing in that….”

–Nigel Lythgoe

Next up was Katee and Twitch with a Mia routine. *sigh again* I’m starting to see a pattern here. When the props are more dominant than the dancing, Mia’s routines don’t quite cut it. The props become a crutch. Refer back to Twitch and Kherington and the Dreaming With A Broken Heart bed in the Top 14. Here, as there, the prop was so big that it left no room for dancing–both literally and figuratively. All we had was raw emotion–which is usually Mia’s sweet spot. But without dancing, we have the artifice of the prop and the artifice of our dancers acting and not dancing. Act THROUGH dancing, yes. Don’t act IN PLACE OF dancing. Mia should not touch props with a ten-foot pole, is my opinion. She does much better when she uses her dancers’ bodies as the main instrument of the story.

In fact, I’ll extend this even beyond Mia’s routines: how about Katee & Will and the Top 12 boat (a Tyce DiOrio routine)? In all three cases, the dancing took a backseat. The art of dancing is to express the emotion through the body…not through the prop. The prop can’t, in other words, become a prop. It needs to seamlessly blend in with the choreography. When it’s done right, it supports the story and the emotion.

Mandy Moore seems to know how to work with a prop correctly: e.g., the shirt (Will & Jessica, Top 14; the map, Gev & Courtney, Top 12). If you re-watch those routines, you will see how the prop disappears into the choreography; supporting the movement and the story. I missed having a number by Mandy this week, for sure.

Twitch & Katee Broadway

“Broadway dancers have sometimes a little difficult time bringing something organic and feeling real. Twitch comes from the street, so he dances from the inside out. … Katee’s a beautiful dancer … I think she had a little bit more of a personality problem.”

— Toni Basil, in a moment of lucidity

Ok, couple more notes on the evening: Katee and Twitch and the Broadway number by Tyce DiOrio to Sweet Georgia Brown. Yet again, Katee is cast as the femme fatale needing to lure an unwilling man to the dark side. Next week, I’d like to see her in a character with a different story arc, please. I don’t believe this is the full extent of characterization she can play. And what on earth was with the homemade, Sharpie-lettered bristol board at the beginning (“Lookin’ for Mr. Right”)? Props people!! Get rid of ’em!!! (which Katee thankfully did within about 4.5 seconds of the opening–I wonder if it clipped the head of one of the stage left audience members?). All that said, Twitch was a hoot; Katee pulled off the character adequately, using her energy and solid technique, if not her acting skills, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Surprisingly enough, I’m making this one of my top 3 of the evening.

Joshua & Chelsie Disco

“We’re doing a lift that we’ve been trying to do for the past four years,so we’re actually giving it to them this time and hopefully they’ll shine in it.”

— Doriana Sanchez, disco-dazed choreographer

I was also on the edge of my seat with this one, and not always in a good way! Oh. My. God. Every judge said it, that the choreography was designed to highlight Josh’s strength, but there were some heart-stopping moments there when I thought he was gonna lose it and she was going to end up with a concussion! Beyond his strength, it also highlighted Chelsie’s beautiful, beautiful legwork. Finally, a disco routine worth watching. With all of that going on, we weren’t even focused on the dozens of small errors in the routine: he was misstepping all over the place, once early on almost spinning himself onto the floor; they were missing each others’ hands; and they were often out of sync. But, no one saw that, because we were all riveted by the next lift or swing–in particular, that unbelievable flying camel twist up to a flat overhead lift called, according to Nigel, a “pressage.” It looked like figure skating, but with figure skating you can leverage the power of speed. (In fact, even her outfit looked like a figure skater’s. Think that was intentional?) So, top marks for disco last week, a phrase I bet you never thought you’d hear me utter! (and, no props were abused in the making of this routine! Yay!!)

LA Ballet Pas De Deux

Performers from the LA Ballet dance a pas de deux from the ballet, “Who Cares.” Indeed.

One moment I did review from Thursday’s show, because of my love of what Will and Katee did to Desmond Richardson’s choreography last week: The pas de deux (on pointe, no less) by the LA Ballet’s classically trained ballet dancers to the Ballanchine-choreographed Man I Love routine (Gershwin). This was a recipe mixing savory with sweet producing an inedible mess. And what is with the audience squealing every five minutes–sure, she looked pretty up there on her toes, but this has got to stop. It is more annoying than the waving AI moshpit automatons. Head now exploding. Don’t do that to me again, SYTYCD–I didn’t even watch it all the way through, that was a hot mess, aka the last misfire of this week. Ah well, we’ve been treated to any number of magical weeks prior to this…everyone’s entitled to an off night.

Okay, next week: (holds envelope up to turban, a la Karnac): Mark better pray he gets contemporary or Broadway, with a meaty character he can sink his teeth into, else his lucky streak is about to end. And, we’re gonna have a heartbreak of an elimination among the girls. You heard it here first.

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Gone Fishin’ Haiku: From The Spa

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Patty  |  July 31, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I loved the “map routine” last season. They never let it touch the ground and it gave the dance a real tension for the viewer but the dance itself was so good that the map prop stayed appropriately in the background.

    With regards to the classical ballet routine to “Man I Love”, I have to say that I would rather be exposed to this type of “filler” then the brain dead, lazy pop and rap artists that we are subjected to during the elimination episodes. Dear god save me from…”put your hands in the airrrrrrrrrr, now jump, now jump, now jump!. Nope, I be doing the laundry during this shlock, Bro!

    Reply
  • 2. zennifer516  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Yo, Patty! Ain’t that the truth — some of the musical guests have been truly awful. The Pussy Cat Dolls were an embarrassment (they are at the best of times); and most, I confess, I don’t even know.

    I will say, though, that some of the music that the dancers have chosen has really opened my eyes to new stuff that I’ve not heard before. Remember Kourtni Lind, the Uma Thurman lookalike? She danced her audition to Ani DeFranco’s Parameters, and did a solo to another Ani DeFranco song. Plus, there was the “Lost” routine, by Gev & Courtney–music by Anouk.

    It’s nice to see non-mainstream music on at least one of these reality shows.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Reply
  • 3. cipcipcia  |  January 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    how can I add to bookrmark your blog? would you like to visit mine? regards!

    Reply

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