I don’t know how much time I’ve spent over the years trying to convince people that SYTYCD is a show worth their attention, and also that it is NOT Dancing With The Stars. But the way this season is going, I’m starting to hope that breath was wasted and all the people I harangued have ignored me and aren’t watching this season. Because this is not great, you guys. It’s not DWTS-level shlock yet, but it’s definitely not earning all the enthusiastic recommendations I’ve given it. As Donna has already pointed out, the All-Star format has proven problematic for many reasons, and the new director has been shaky so far. But unfortunately, there’s more than enough blame to spread around.
Perhaps most dispiritingly, the talent pool this time around has been lackluster thus far, and, oddly, divided down gender lines. Melinda is the only girl who has really distinguished herself for me, and I think that has more to do with the unusualness of her specialty than any surfeit of talent. (Though her excellent solo tonight made me believe in tap on SYTYCD again.) The rest of the girls blend into a bland mush—no surprise that the bottom three was composed entirely of the fairer sex: Melinda, Cristina, and Alexi. I suppose Cristina has distinguished herself somewhat, in that she is not very good, even in her own specialty. (That's something she shares with the wildly overpraised Jose, who should have taken one of the other bottom spots.) I’m still chafing over the judges’ trashing of Alexi’s performance and her subsequent elimination, considering the exceedingly lackluster NappyTab choreography she was given. Criticizing a dancer for not hitting hard on a NappyTab routine is asinine, considering they’re the fluffy little bunnies of hip-hop.
Which brings me to our next big problem. The choreographers. Travis Wall and Jason Gilkison have brought some much-needed life to the proceedings these past two seasons, but they’re used rarely compared to Tabatha and Napoleon and Tasty Oreo, who have been phoning it in for three seasons now. Tyce’s Broadway routines are particularly bad—witness last night’s wildly overpraised (notice a theme?) Footloose number, whose silliness was overshadowed only by its boringness. Tonight’s guest dancers, Karine Plantadit and Keith Robers from the Tony-nominated Come Fly Away, highlighted what I think is Tasty’s main problem: He can’t choreograph Broadway for two people. He basically just takes a group number and whittles it down to two dancers, rather than creating a storytelling dynamic. His contemporary is better, and occasionally quite good, but last night’s ranked a solid “meh.” NappyTab similarly manage to turn it out once or twice a season, but generally their routines watered-down and uninteresting… they choreographed a routine to Jason Mraz for crap’s sake. Sonya is also used quite a bit, and while she can get a little repetitive—flexed-foot, knock-kneed, arms-around-the-waist lift anyone?—she generally makes more interesting choices. The less said about Mandy “Day Bow Bow” Moore and her Now That’s What I Call ’80s CD collection, the better.
Then there are the judges, who are either going blind/senile in their old age, or they’ve spent so much energy coming up with terrible timely references before the show that they alter their critiques as needed to wedge them in. Nigel in particular seems to be gunning for the “most obnoxious” position vacated by Mary Murphy (when are we going to see her choreograph?), but Adam, who used to be the levelheaded wise sage of the group, is also getting a little too enamored of himself. (The “Blue Steel” thing from Star Search was funny, but who wants to bet it’s going to take the place of the Hot Tamale Train this year?) There was a point in tonight’s results show where Cat interrupted what she was saying to shush Nigel and Mia, who were horsing around off camera. We’ve reached the point—like American Idol—where the judges seem just as, if not more, concerned with being personalities than they are with judging. It’s dispiriting, and when it results in promising dancers going home early (Alexi) over dancers who aren’t even impressive in their own genre (Cristina and Jose), it’s downright infuriating.
Then again, Alexi was never going to win. I don’t think any of the girls have a win in them; the top three are clearly going to be Alex, Kent, and either Billy or Robert. (All contemporary/ballet. Yawn.) Everyone else just seems to be biding their time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting performance from another dancer to prove me wrong, but based on what we’ve seen so far, I’m not putting any money on that. Prove me wrong, SYTYCD.
• Another major gripe tonight: No performance from the All Stars at all? Getting an All-Star group routine, even having them be Usher’s dancers for chrissakes, would make this whole experiment a lot more tolerable.
• Hey, a new Justin Bieber video you guys! I just assumed it was great and watched it on mute.
• Cat’s outfit tonight—minus the puzzling brooch—was her first truly enviable ensemble of the season. I want it.
• National Dance Day is July 31! Who wants to have a virtual commenter dance-off to NappyTab’s downloadable routine? (I’m only kinda kidding.)
• This was a pretty negative review, so if you’re wondering what the positives were that contributed to that C-, here they are: The guest dancers, Melinda’s solo, the good-but-not-great group number, and Cat’s shoes.
• No real reason for that photo, I just think it’s funny.