Saturday, August 18, 2012

SYTYCD 9: 14 to 10 Recap - Mia Michaels, Then and Now

(This is her night!)

And so we're back together, Dance Fans! It's been forever. The Olympics happened! Now we're back with a Top 14 that will be cut to TEN tonight! Gulp! Nobody told us that ahead of time! I thought it as just the regular two who would go. They should've mentioned that when people were voting last time. This means the audience vote from, like, three weeks ago will determine who's going on tour. I hope you did a good job back in July, America!

Tonight, everything old is new again as the show has taken the odd approach of making this a tribute to the Mia Michaels dance catalog. I love Mia Michaels, but as soon as I heard about this, I questioned the logic. Firstly, the dancers had so much time over the break to practice new routines. I was looking forward to seeing a much wider variety of styles - and challenging routines within those styles. Secondly, so many of Mia's dances have become iconic routines throughout the history of the show. How can these kids compete with the memory of seeing these gems for the first time? I feel like we're predisposed to favor the originals. Even sometimes the encore performances in the season finale don't match up to the energy and surprise of seeing the dance the first time through - and that's with the same dancers performing them! I feel like this is just too high a bar for the dancers to clear and the overall effect will be underwhelming. If the viewing audience is an informed audience, we know what to expect from these routines which leaves little room for surprise and a lot of room for dissatisfaction.

Nothing we can do about any of that now though! As I said before, tonight we're down to 14. 5 contempos, 2 ballers, 2 ballerinos, 2 Jazz Hands, 1 Tokyo Popper, 1 Kung Fu Hustler, and 1 Shake Shake Shakira. Good luck, kids! Those contestants from season's past are gonna cast long shadows tonight.

Joining Nigel and Mary at the judge's table tonight are Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt - they both come from the London Royal Ballet and are the creators of the BalletBoyz Dance Company. They are also filming a new TV show with Nigel about building an entirely new dance company from nationwide auditions. These two seem like pleasant blokes, but to say they are not super-fans of SYTYCD is the understatement of the summer. They've never seen the original versions of the routines being performed tonight. This seems crazy to me. If they knew Nigel professionally, don't you think they would've sampled his other dance tv show before starting their own with him?  Considering how personally connected Mary and Nigel are to the original versions of the dances, it's actually not bad to have people on the judging panel who don't have that baggage... except these two also haven't watched this season at all and don't have any idea who the dancers are. How is that helpful for the contestants midway through the season? I don't get it. Their comments have zero context, other than first impressions after 90 seconds of dance. So while as professional dancers i'm sure they'll have a lot to say about performance and technique, don't expect to hear a lot about contestant growth from these two.

National Dance Day happened 104 US Olympic medals ago. I hope you got your groove on! If not this show has a montage you'll like to see. But I kinda skipped it.

Before we get to the solos, there is a new Mia Michaels group number for the top 14. There are ropes from the ceiling, and roses in hand and formal wear and upside-down spiderman open-mouth kisses. Then in the end maybe everyone dies? Or just collapses from exhaustion? I didn't really dig this group number the first time through, but I played it back and liked it better. Not my favorite group number from Mia, but it's solid. my favorite group number of hers wasn't even on the US version of the show.

Now on to the routines!
Cyrus and Eliana - The Door Routine - Originally performed by Twitch and Katee in Season 4. Danced to "Mercy" By Duffy. Man, I wouldn't want to be any of the girls following Katee in this. She was so fierce and balls out and crazy and Twitch was solid enough of a wall to take all the shit she was throwing at him and then send some of it back at her. Eliana seems to know it's a no-win for her to try to be Katee and will instead focus on bringing herself to it. In the routine Cyrus and Eliana both seem game and have energy, but it feels kinda sloppy. It doesn't have the precision nor the fluidity of the original dance. Meh. If this is a harbinger of things to come, we're in for a rough night. Mary and Nigel are like "huh... maybe this wasn't the great idea we thought it would be." They swear Eliana killed it, and that Cyrus brought his energy to it, but they sound like they're trying to convince themselves of that fact. Nunn-Trevitt thought it was great, but it's also the first couple dance they've ever seen on the show. Cat throws out the numbers but I wonder if people will be that inspired to vote tonight, as the choreography is really the star this week.

George and Tiffany - Hometown Glory Routine - Originally performed by by Katee and Joshua in Season 4. Danced to pre-Global Megastardom Adele's "Hometown Glory." OOF. Here's another routine I wouldn't want to touch. This one is famous for Katee's assisted run, but also for the amazing connection between Katee and Joshua and their undeniabile ferocity and commitment to the routine.God these kids have so much to live up to tonight. It really seems unfair. In performance, this is better than the Door Routine, but Tiffany is trying a bit too hard. The assisted run didn't really have the drama we know it potentially could have, as Tiffany almost left George behind there. George is really great though. I'm not sure why he's not a big vote-getter. It's not that his technique is lacking, that's for sure. The judges like it just fine. They love George. They love Tiffany. They too thought the assisted run wasn't really executed as a super-wow moment, but they like what these two did. 
Amelia and Will - The Butt Dance - Originally performed by Randi and Evan in Season 5. Performed to "Koop Island Blues"—Koop feat. Ane Brun. This new rendition is okay, but I didn't really think the original was much to write home about in the first place. Sorry, Mia fans! It doesn't grab me the way some of her more dramatic pieces do. I know she won an Emmy for it, but still, it's VERY much designed specifically for Evan and Randi and even moreso for Randi's butt and other butts simply need not apply for the job. Also, Will starts off doing this very shaky head thing that I assume is his attempt to make the routine his own through mugging. Amelia's character never really comes through. Will is lacking subtlety. It's weird. It's like the movement doesn't fit on them right. They explored similar character work in the Alley Cats routine from earlier in this season with much better results. The judges are all "Meh... we miss Randi's butt. Bring back THE BUTT!" Will Randi be an All-Star? Tune in next week to find out!

Dareian and Janelle - The Bed Dance - Originally performed by Kherington and Twitch in Season 4. Performed to Dreaming with a Broken Heart by John Mayer. (If you are keeping score. Season 4 had some badass Mia routines.) Someone online mentioned that this would've been a better fit physically for Chehon and Witney and I agree, Twitch and Chehon are not exactly stand-ins for one another. Dareian does look great shirtless though! Beyond physique, I actually think he has one of his best performances on the show tonight. There is emotion and character and technique all working for him. Janelle is not doing as well, getting kinda lost in the background. Her hair keeps getting flung in her face too. She seems kinda out of it. Her rehearsal package mentioned that she was going through a romantic break up of her own presently, and maybe she's just too close to it. This isn't a bad version of the routine, but if this was the first time seeing it, you wouldn't think it warranted being brought back in a "best of" night. Mary and Nigel again are like "Eh... okay...?" Nunn points out Dareian's feet as if it's the first we've heard of it, but I guess this means the problem hasn't really improved much since the beginning of the season. Nunn calls them "the young man" and "the young lady"  because he doesn't know their names. Trevitt mentions "Titch" and Cat's beautiful eyes grow wide and slightly panicked as she corrects him "Twitch! Twitch!" Somehow Teitch happens not be in the audience tonight, so the awkwardness is mitigated. But seriously, these two dudes have NEVER seen the show before if they don't know their Titch from Twitch.


Audrey and Matthew - The My Dad is Dead Dance - Originally performed by Neil and Lacey in Season 3. Performed to "Time" by Billy Porter. This dance has always been 90% character and 10% steps and was originally danced by two contestants who had a much stronger connection to Mia as she was going through this, than Audrey and Matthew have now. They obviously want to do the dance justice since it is so personal to her, but Matthew falls out of it in places. Audrey had a better go of it. The routine also feels very short. It goes by so fast. I don't really know what else to say about it. The judges are like "The music is still nice. The memory of the awesome original dance carries it for a distance, but you guys missed the point." They are especially harsh on Matthew which is not good for him since his last routine pre-Olympics was weak and he's probably in danger tonight. Nigel really hounds them about whether or not they know who Mia's dad was, and that seems a little unfair. I'm sure they know whatever Mia felt comfortable sharing with them. A lesson now on who he was isn't going to help their routine. Poor Matthew seems crushed by the critique. Aww!

Chehon and Witney - The Bench Routine - Originally performed by Travis and Heidi in Season 2. Performed to "Calling You" by Celine Dion. The iconic routine that started them all, really! Again, it's so hard to hear this music or see the bench and not picture Travis and Heidi. Chehon is so much bigger than Travis. It's a little weird seeing him do the same movements, but I have to say they brought a slightly different emotional interpretation to it that worked for them. The hands pressing up agains the steal bench move didn't really have the emotional heft that Travis and Heidi had, but what can you do? I think Chehon and Witney have been the most successful thus far in terms of getting the storytelling down as well as the steps. The judges really dig it. Nigel tells the backstory of this dance re: Mia fell in love with a gay man and he couldn't accept her love and stepped away from it for fear of really hurting her. I don't know if it was necessary to explain it, but he certainly stated it well (much better than I just recapped it). Nunn-Trevitt know a talented Ballet Boy when they see one and want Chehon in their company. Heehee!

Cole and Lindsay - Addiction Dance - Originally performed by Kayla and Kopono in Season 5. Performed to "Gravity" by Sarah Bareilles. Oh, this is probably one of my top 5 routines ever. Maybe top 3. I think these two can actually do it justice. Kayla was so fantastically wrecked-looking in the original though and starting out Lindsay looks a little too composed. Her technique is great and her facial expressions are spot on, but she doesn't look so strung out as she might. And maybe that's not really required for a reinterpretation, but the original made such a strong impact it's hard to step back with a clean perspective. Cole is super creepy as the Addiction, and he's not quite in the same vein of evil as Kopono was. There's a sharpness to his movement and brutal coldness to his expression that is very striking. Kopono creepily relished being the Addiction, while Cole has no human consideration factoring in at all. It really works for me. The judges are like "FINALLY! One that totally worked!" They all agree that Lindsay and Cole are by far the best of the night. Nigel admits that the night as a whole was underwhelming, but opines that dancers need to be able to go in to dances that were not designed specifically for them, and perform them as if they were. Fair enough. This just wasn't a good idea. The show is always eager to try new things and sometimes they flop (i.e. going to contestant's homes to tell them in front of their families that they are not gonna be in the Top 20) but at least they try. If one good thing comes out this, it will be that they now for sure will not attempt a "Best of Tyce Diorio" night. Silver lining indeed!

Bottom 3 Guys and Girls? George, Dareian and Matthew, Amelia, Janelle and Lindsay. Well, I don't think they will send Lindsay home 30 seconds after saying she was the best of the night. The boys I'm not so sure of. Everyone's dancing solos though! They still have a fighting chance!

The solos are all fine. They don't provide a lot of clarification as to who you think should go home, but I betting it's George and Lindsay who stay. And I'm right! Amelia seems pretty crushed. The others are sad, but try to take it in stride. Dareian cries! Oh, Dareian!
The show runs short by like 4 minutes. Cat is trying to stretch out the goodbyes as long as humanly possible. Are they going to reveal next week's All-Stars? They are not. Boo-urns! We do wind up getting about two minutes of Credits-Dance where everyone is hugging and crying. I love when we get to see this at the end, so the extended cut of it makes up a bit for the fact that the routines themselves were kind of underwhelming.Even the judges get on stage for hugs and consolation. Mia gives Dareian one million kisses. Nigel consoles Amelia non-lecherously. Mary slings an arm around Lindsay's shoulder as her ballroom girl survives another elimination. It's all adorable.

Tonight Routines in order of my Preference:
Cole & Lindsay's Addiction Dance
Chehon and Witney's Bench Dance
George and Tiffany's Hometown Glory Routine
Audrey and Matthew's Dad Dance (Matthew unsaved)
Dareian and Janelle's Bed Dance (both unsaved)
Amelia and Will's Butt Dance  (Amelia unsaved)
Cyrus and Eliana's Door Dance

Next week. New Routines! All-Stars! Thank goodness.Eliana is FREE! Spread your wings and fly, girl! 10 dances next week. Can't wait to see who is coming back. I once again have my fingers crossed for Katee and Jakob. Maybe this will finally be the year my All-Star wish will be granted! Until next time, Dance Fans!

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