Top 8 Performance Show
July 22nd, 2009
In the past four seasons, there have been a number of routines where emotional factors beyond the performance itself have played a role in their success. Two seasons ago, Mia Michaels did a piece where she imagined her reunion with her recently deceased father in heaven. Last season, Jean-Marc Genereaux and his wife France choreographed a piece for Twitch and Kherington inspired by their autistic daughter. In both instances, they were danced well, and there is a sense that the dancing itself was really besides the point: they were there to convey the emotion of the piece, and in those instances the steps were certainly secondary.
However, to be honest with you, I have my reservations about the place of a dance like Tyce Diorio’s Contemporary routine inspired by the fight against breast cancer that we saw this evening. [Before we move on from this point: I was emotionally moved by their performance, and felt the message about breast cancer was incredibly important. I am demeaning neither the purpose of the work nor their performance of it. Just making that clear.]
It was beautiful and moving, don’t get me wrong, and I believe they danced it well, but I think that there comes a point in the competition where such starkly emotional pieces may be too unbalanced for the competition to handle. There’s no piece that could possibly compare to what Melissa and Ade did in terms of emotional value, and I don’t necessarily think that it’s fair at this point in the competition, when the decision is entirely in America’s hands, for them to give a team essentially a free pass from any sort of legitimate critique. The strength of that routine, in my mind, should not be enough to hide the fact that Melissa and Ade’s Cha-Cha was perhaps the weakest routine of the entire evening, but the chances of them going home are now slim to none.
At the same time, of course, choreographers have the absolute right to be able to express their emotions through their work, and Tyce probably wanted to wait until he knew that all remaining dancers could handle the piece before showing it to the world. That all makes sense to me, it really does, but at the same time some part of me wonder if it’s particularly fair for one couple to have something so powerful and moving and the other to have something that inspired absolutely none of that emotion, and was never designed to do so.
I don’t think there’s a particularly answer to that, but a bit more discussion and some general observations after the jump.
I thought, like everyone did, that Melissa and Ade did a beautiful job with that dance: he is effortlessly powerful, she has that beautiful ballerina poise to her, and it really did capture the piece beautifully. However, how awkward must it have been for Kayla and Jason to ham for the camera in full-on zombie mode directly after? It really kind of destroys the evening’s equilibrium: Ellen didn’t get to crack her joke, the zombie hip hop routine fell flatter than it would have earlier, and the balance of the entire event was all over the place. Part of me thinks they should have put the routine last, but it could be that they didn’t want to give them the added advantage of the pimp spot, knowing they already had a significant leg up on the other competitors. Yes, you could argue that they deserve all of the votes they’ll get because of how beautiful it was, but I didn’t think their dancing was so exceptional that they performed it better than the other dancers performed what they had been assigned to do, and as a result it strikes me as unfair to the other dancers.
As for those other competitors, I think Nigel was right in that the first half was pretty weak, and we’re starting to see people start to separate. Realistically at this point, I’d argue that Brandon’s the only guy who’s really living up to his potential: I think Evan is really struggling with characters outside of “Aw shucks” adorable, I think Jason was only saved from danger last week thanks to Travis’ choreography, and Ade’s Cha-Cha was legitimately tough to watch, as he really was not getting it at all. Meanwhile, I think the girls are really dominating: Jeanine really did stick with Brandon on that Pop Jazz piece, Kayla really is capable of being a “triple sensation” if she can actually sing/act, and Janette’s strength in the ballroom dances is currently being matched by her ability to adapt.
I think my issue with Melissa is that her ballerina training can only take her so far. This is a great opportunity for her, but the show has spent a lot of time catering to her (the Romeo and Juliet routine, for one), and I think we’re at that point where she’s struggling. Both she and Janette stepped outside of their normal styles in their solos tonight, but whereas Janette seemed right at home doing a more contemporary-driven routine, Melissa just looked awkward. She didn’t look nearly as awkward doing Tyce’s piece, but I think she’s overall struggling a bit more with the different styles. But, since she had the advantage of Tyce’s piece, she’s pretty much safe, which means one of the other three girls (who I’d argue are better) is going home. Similarly, Jason and Evan are a likely Bottom Two on the male side, and I’d tend to say that Ade should be there instead of Jason (who was more consistent tonight).
As for Ellen Degeneres’ addition to the panel, I think I enjoyed it. With Ellen, I prefer her more spontaneous humour over her more planned material – her monologues are legitimately not that entertaining in my books, as they play like watered down versions of her pre-talk show standup acts. In interviews, though, there’s this breezy quality that really works well, and I thought she brought that to the judges’ table. Her jokes were corny, but her delivery is so self-aware that it works to break things up. I tweeted that it reminded me a lot of Hollywood Squares: their response is basically scripted (Ellen was never going to criticize anyone, let’s face it), but they get time ahead of time to riff on it. For some that resulted in painful awkwardness since they were doing prepared jokes and couldn’t deliver them, but Ellen can tangent like nobody else and she was a lot of fun to watch here.
Either way, it all adds up to one giant 100th episode celebration: clip packages, returning performers to re-create Emmy winning performances (from, I’ll presume, Wade Robson, Mia Michaels, Mandy Moore, etc.), Katie Holmes giving the “performance of a lifetime” (really?), and finding out to what degree the “Cancer Dance” kept Melissa and Ade from being sent home.
- I think it’s interesting to see the point at which this show can become either a breeding ground or a launching pad. For Travis, the show brought out the choreographer in him (the group routine was fun enough), and has resulted in what should be a fairly effective career – similarly, for someone like Chelsie Hightower, it gave her the ability to move onto Dancing with the Stars after her time on the competition. For someone like Kayla, though, she is very much a performer, and I think Mia is right about her Broadway potential (if not her “Tony Tony Tony” ramblings).
- Whoever gave Mary Murphy a train whistle had the right idea, but unfortunately did not make her sign a contract stating that she would only communicate through indoor voice critiques and whistle-blowing. Just didn’t follow through on the plan.
- Just so we’re clear: they’re not REALLY going to keep putting Dr. Nigel Lythgoe on the screen, are they? I really don’t think Nigel’s that vain.