SYTYCD Top 6: They Are All Winners

August 2, 2008 at 11:29 am 2 comments

We’re down to So You Think You Can Dance Season Four Finale–what a whirlwind of a season. Tried to get tickets to the SYTYCD tour coming to Toronto on Oct 26, but no luck. They sold out in 25 minutes. As an aside, what is with these online ticket (re)sellers who now have them … and are selling $56 tickets for $350? I see a centre floor ticket for $1,500. Isn’t this illegal?

Ah well, tilting at windmills is not on the agenda until later in the day. For now, let’s look back at Top 6 week, and say a fond farewell to Chelsie and Mark. They came in to the show together, so it was only fitting (if a little surprising) that they leave together.

Mark and Chelsie became one of my favourite couples starting at their “Tim Burton’s Wedding” performance in Top 20. That a ballroom dancer could do–so well!–the contemporary and hip hop routines she was given is truly a testament to her skill and versatility. Chelsie’s magnetic personality and energy shone so brightly in any Latin or ballroom routine she was given, that she never failed to upstage her partner. She was charisma personified.

Mark’s quirky musicality grew on me each week, and when Gev left, he became the dancer I most looked forward to just to see what he would do with the choreography and the character he was given. His warmth and charm showed through in each routine. His final pairing with Courtney was almost as magical as when he was with Chelsie–in fact, can you imagine if Mark/Courtney had been together from the start, what we would have seen from them?!?

Well, we would have seen stuff like this (after the jump):

This was astounding. Earlier in the night, Adam Shankman had called Tyce DiOrio, Joshua and Katee “The Holy Trinity of SYTYCD”, but for my money, I’d say Sonya Tayeh, Mark and Courtney are equally as powerful a trio: albeit, a darker, quirkier and edgier one. These two contemporary dancers are so well-matched in technique and genre, in personality and style, that we are only left to wonder what they might have done had we seen more of them together. Add an unusual musical choice (Mirah’s The Garden), and you had magic.

“Sonya, you are such an exciting new presence in the SYTYCD landscape. That dark energy …” – Adam, about Sonya Tayeh

“I love you individually, but together you are unbelievable.” – Adam, about Mark and Courtney

Incidentally, the earlier waltz they had done didn’t impress me as much, although I could recognize the skill in delivery, especially the “rise and fall”, and there were some lovely, idiosyncratic upper body moves, which I think is what my PBP buddy and co-host, Debdee, was referring to as the “closed hold”. Now that I research this a little, of course what we see and what is called a “Viennese Waltz” on SYTYCD isn’t the formal Viennese Waltz that would be allowed in international dance competition–it is variations on the theme. And it is those variations that show us both the dancers’ styles and skills, and even more, the choreographers’. In this case, Jason Gilkison choreo’d this routine, and compared to others we have seen, it wasn’t, at least for me, the best waltz (I still remember Comfort and Thayne’s, believe it or not). Where were the lifts to give this dance more visual appeal? But my bigger problem with it: brace yourself, all you Cookie Monsters out there–was the use of David Cook’s Time Of My Life.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I understand but do not condone SYTYCD’s use of AI music. This show is, for me, a cut above in just about every respect to American Idol, as a TV show and, even more, as a vehicle for showing dance and music to a mainstream audience who would not normally see it. SYTYCD has–in most instances–shown courage in presenting edgy, non-mainstream art and music and personalities that we simply do not see on American Idol by virtue of the latter: a) being on Fox; and b) needing to appeal to the American masses (votes -> ratings -> advertising dollars. Blech).

The repeated use of American Idol music on this show, when there is so much more choice out there, is obviously for one purpose only–and that is to promote what is already over-promoted (and particularly, David Cook) and what is, in my opinion, contributing to the dumbing down of American popular art and culture. As soon as SYTYCD succumbs to becoming a tool for the homogenization of dance in the same way that AI is to music, I will be turning off my TV once and for all. As it is, SYTYCD has been a bright oasis in the barren landscape of all-pervasive reality TV, and I for one am cherishing it. It proves that reality TV can be made that is NOT about pandering to what will sell in the red states. The constant AI reminders and references taints it for me. But enough on that rant.

Let’s return to the second routine choreographed by Gilkison, the Aussie who’s made the Australian SYTYCD franchise #1 in that market (Nigel must have enough money to eradicate third world debt by now. Perhaps we’ll see an SYTYCD Gives Back initiative next year, or something similar?)

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Joshua and Katee will win this show. I don’t know who will place first, and who second, but these will be the two dancers left standing. The fluke of them ending up reunited in Top 6 and both of their performances last Wednesday cemented the win for them. This paso doble showed off their strengths, together and individually. In particular, have a look at:

0:54 – incredible flip over Josh’s back
1:20 – the “pull together and push apart” tension of the cape and matador
1:30 – the change-up in the music and the quick footwork to the front of the stage (remember! this is a hip hopper and a contemporary dancer. These are not ballroom experts! It’s unbelievable.)

Also, this is the characterization that I love from Katee. Instead of being squeezed into the narrow confines of a clichéd femme fatale character, she became the angry cape: all coiled passion, intensity and swirling heat. She is not so much acting a character, as she is expressing an emotion. Incredible artistry. And Josh’s matador matched her note for note, step for step. I loved the ending, with them staying in character as he pulled her across the floor to be judged. Incredible!

“Joshua, I feel like you’re making me believe in the impossible.” – Adam

“If you keep dancing like that, Joshua, you’re going to steal this show, there’s no question about it.” – Nigel

Plus, the music–“Filet” from Le Reve (soundtrack)–talk about building to a perfect crescendo. Another fabulous musical find courtesy of SYTYCD, and the choreographer/artists on it. Josh and Katee were one with the music. This might be my favourite routine of the year! But I keep saying that about at least one a week hehehe (Next week, after the finale and including the performances we will see next week, I will select my Top 5 from this year. It is going to be tremendously difficult to pick just five, and this one is definitely a contender.)

A quick recap of Josh/Katee’s contemporary routine: I loved it, it was classic Josh/Katee and there were innovative and unique movements that only the two of them can pull off together: he with his strength, she with her technical skill and sense of drama. Totally in love with the move at 1:16, the over-the-back lift and then her elevated walk forward. There are about a dozen moments like these, one after the other, in what we now see as distinctively Katee and Josh, and the magic that emerges from their special chemistry.

Final notes: loved NapTab’s conductor routine for Chelsie and Twitch. Very, very clever–but again, too much with the prop, and not enough dance in there! Still, the final six have emerged not just as the best dancers, but as the best actors in the bunch. I don’t think it was coincidental that Adam chose this night to announce the extra prize of the feature role in one of his upcoming films. Any of these top six have the dance and acting skills to pull that off.

Mandy Moore’s “Rose” routine was just gorgeous. Elegantly performed, sad and hopeful at the same time–beautifully matched to the lyrics of the song. The all-white, very simple costuming and the dancers, starting planted in the three spotlights like roses on stems, with bended knees suggesting thorns, was so powerful, and so … right. Notice how constrained but lyrical the movement was for each pair throughout the routine. They were each living a full cycle of life in their own little worlds: the suggestion of blooming, life, death and rebirth–all performed within two minutes, and in a six-foot radius (and no props required!). Just phenomenal. More Mandy Moore, please. More, more, more Moore.

Next week: My Top 5 routines and Top 3 choreographers of SYTYCD 4. And, of course, our winners.


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What’s Up On Hump Day! Le Rêve: A Collection of Imperfect Dreams

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gus G  |  August 2, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    America hasn’t even heard of this show. America doesn’t even know this show exists. Why they even bother to make this is anyone’s guess. Americans don’t even watch television anymore. Hollywood is owned, as The Americans say publicly, “by the dogs”. That was the whole idea. To watch the dogs.

  • 2. zennifer516  |  August 2, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Well, 11 million votes were cast last week, so SOME Americans have heard of it. And, it has been on for four seasons now. I think Americans watch entirely too much television, and don’t think nearly as carefully as they should about what they are feeding their brains with. And as for Hollywood being owned by the dogs, that’s an insult to dogs everywhere.

    Thanks for sharing!


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