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So You Think You Can Dance: Las Vegas callbacks continue

Illustration for article titled iSo You Think You Can Dance/i: Las Vegas callbacks continue
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Vegas Week!  This is why I watch So You Think You Can Dance.  Hollywood Week is my favorite part of American Idol, too.  America has no say yet, so we just press our faces to the glass and gape.  The pressure seems even higher than it does during the finals, given how easy it is to get lost in the crowd and how hard it is to stand out.  A brilliant solo and some cool tricks are not enough.

So last week we had the brutal "we'll watch you dance a couple of times and cut you without mercy" round, and a couple of choreography rounds.  Now it's time for jazz, and the judges aren't about making anyone feel safe.  Nigel gives Karen from the Latin-dancing Boston couple the old "eh-eh" hand gesture as he puts her through, but cuts her husband Matthew after he flails his way through the routine.  Iveta the "29" year old ballroom dancer, and the one remaining same-sex ballroom dancer, also go home.  Molly the girlish blond with no furniture hurts her foot and has to go to the hospital.

There's a bit of a different approach to the group choreography round; instead of showing the agony of the overnight sessions then moving on to the performances, the show goes straight to the performance and looks back at the previous night's rehearsals in flashback for selected groups.  Crumper Russell's Broadway group puts on a clever routine that I think would have gone over like gangbusters on the actual show.  Molly's group tries to use her injury as a theme for their dance, getting mixed reviews but also all going on to the next round.

The look back to the auditions highlights the problem; contestants go from being praised to the skies ("best audition I've ever seen!" "you're so amazing you make me weep for joy!") to being criticized harshly.  And they go from being judged on their own choreography to having to do someone else's — then to having to choreograph a group.  It's not So You Think You Can Choreograph, sure.  But what's being tested here is judgment.  Can they recognize a good idea?  Can they coordinate their strengths as a group?  I tend to feel like I find out more about the dancers from watching that process than from any other feature of Vegas Week.

But the coverage of group choreography is cut short so we can focus on the dreaded Mia Michaels contemporary routine; she disappoints the producers by being warm and cuddly instead of stern taskmaster.  Hip-hop Kevin impresses the judges with technique out of nowhere; Russell survives, too.  Now's the time for Legacy to come face to face with his limitations, I was sure — but his emotional breakdown is met with acceptance by the judges.  Watching the tears flow after the contemporary round, one wonders if a talent for making with the waterworks might be just as prized in future encounters with Mia as fancy footwork.

As Pauline from Season 5 dances Broadway, she turns her ankle quite alarmingly and it collapses under her.  Our female tapper goes through.  Then Ashley, the faces-pulling ballroom dancer, finds her appropriate style and finally gets some of the love the judges have been lavishing on her husband.  Ryan doesn't show much technique in his turn, but he shows a lot of skin and gets through on charm.  Dominick, who got medevac'd out of a previous season, gets unexpected criticism and then breaks down in tears, incurring a stern rebuke from Nigel and a ticket home.

One more solo from everybody, and then we'll have the long walks down hallways with montages and fake-outs from the judges.  There's a pretty incredible moment when Billy dances the first solo and wrings completely involuntary tears from Adam.  And I know exactly what he means.  Watching that solo was like watching the joyous display of human potential.  Given the quality of dancers this year, I hope I'll be feeling that week after week to come.

Stray observations:

- How insincere was that kiss Ashley and Ryan shared in their pre-Broadway interview segment?  "I'm so happy for you, honey," and a clenched-teeth smooch.

- Injuries galore, both this season and in washed-out flashbacks from previous ones.  Sprained ankles have got to be an occupational hazard of the profession; is everyone's concern about "I don't know how bad it is" genuine, or is it just the pressures of this particular competition?

- Kevin and the other hip-hoppers looked like they were going for broke in their choreography.  Is there another Twitch in the offing?

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