So You Think You Can Dance: All’s Fair in Love and Dance?


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.

Cultural Observations

  • 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.


Filed under So You Think You Can Dance

14 responses to “So You Think You Can Dance: All’s Fair in Love and Dance?

  1. gg

    paragraph 3 line 4 should be knew

  2. natasha

    I can understand what you are saying about melissa and the emotion factor but its not so cut and dry. Others could have gotten the routine and not been able to carry the emotion nevermind the dance. Don’t forget she had the “Hair” piece and was in the bottom three last week while her partner was not. That “catered” to her and she did not get the votes. Likewise, Evan reminds me of Benji and although I like Evan (and other do too, hes still there) he cant carry the feeling and the dance of many of the other styles. He does the steps but the emotion is not there. Benji could do the steps AND convey the emotion thats why he won even though he was not the “best” dancer. He was the complete package. She delivered the package today and I doubt she will be on the bottom this week but I also doubt she will win even if they give her her style for the rest of the competion.

  3. Joe

    I truly am sorry, but Evan is a horrible dancer. He can do what he does passibly, but he sucks at everything else they throw at him. He is a weak weak partner and I always feel sorry for any of the girls forced to dance with him as they are all so far above him that its drags them down into the muck with him when they are forced to take the floor with him.

    Moving on Brandon is about to make me vomit with this fake personality crap he is sarcastically tossing out there to placate the judges, Bunnies and Rainbows my butt, the only thing that guy thinks about is himself.

    Tonight Adae took a hard hit, he made his first emotional connection to the world, you could see it in his face as Mia finished talking he was looking to the side off in the distance and you could tell it was sinking in that one dancer can change the world. I can not wait to see what he can do when he opens up his soul and lets the emotion touch him.

    Jason.. omg!!! Not really sure what woke this boy up, but all of a sudden I see a chance that a male dancer may actually have a chance against the girls this season.

  4. what the?

    Talk about a sob fest! Melissa and Evan should go home this week. Kayla, Jason, Jeanine, and Janette should be finalists and win in that order.

  5. ur rite

    You are right. Too much emotion for a good critique. Tyce did an excellent choreograpy. It likely would have been performed better by others. It was a great piece and I hope he get’s recognized for it. This year the girls rule! Kayla and the two J’s are the best!

  6. Moody

    Sorry What the but it has to be two girls adn two boys so u gotta ditch one of your girls… I can never go aganst a dancer and say he or she did something wrong cuz they only get 5 hrs to do some reall y tuff routines so let’s give them alla break here

  7. Summer

    Finally, a blog post that does not kiss Melissa’s rear. I do not think that Melissa is up to par with the rest of the female dancers left. I don’t know if it’s that she’s older, or what, but the judges have been kissing her rear all season, and I do not think that she is as versatile as the other girls. I thought that dance last night was TOTALLY unfair, although life is not fair, but really, leave the politics out of it. And I do not for one minute believe that they just “randomly” choose their names out of a hat for their new partners. Melissa and Ade were paired up on purpose just for that dance. And it’s funny, I hated Ade in the beginning, but once he was paired up with other girls and started doing his solos I thought he was amazing. I think Melissa brings him down. And something else, why hasn’t Melissa gotten a dance style yet that really challenges her, like hip hop, I want to see Melissa do hip hop. But I’d actually rather see her go home tonight.

    I also really can’t stand Brandon all that much either. Like Joe said, I feel like he’s never been real, he just seems very fake. He might be a good dancer, I don’t know, I try to avoid watching him because he annoys me, but it’s America’s Favorite Dancer, and he is not my favorite.

    I would like to see Ade & Jason as the final two guys, and I love Jinette, Jineane and Kayla, so that’s a hard choice. But I just had to comment because it’s refreshing seeing that I’m not the only one that thought that dance was not appropriate in terms of a competition. It was a nice dance, but they are doing it to keep Melissa there. Sadly.

  8. I love watching this show, and feel twisted about using your tough circumstances to try to win votes, but at the same time I think that if I were in a similar situation, dancing in front of the entire nation as a tribute to someone I love would be a pretty cool thing!

  9. ilejak1

    Thank you for keeping me in touch with sytycd. Unfortunately I just moved into a new apartment and they don’t have FOX in that cable.

  10. I, too, have had a growing uneasiness that the combination of partners, dance styles and choreography didn’t quite stack up to be fair. I’m not a dancer, so I can’t speak to anything technical about how good or not the dancers actually are, though I tend to agree with most of the statements on here about Evan and Melissa leaving. I loved the cancer dance, and I understand that other who’ve commented here feel that there are other dancers who could have danced that dance better and that might well be the case, sadly, we’ll never know. It just doesn’t feel right, does it?

  11. dhubka

    Ade and Melissa’s dance was good, but the reaction from the judges (except Mia) seemed forced and contrived, but then again, with the story of the dance being breast cancer how could they react? Anything short of tears or all-covering praise would seem insulting considering the issue.
    I agree Evan and Melissa should be the ones to go, but Evan has such a following I’m afraid that it won’t happen.

  12. This is a very amazing article.
    Thanks for that 😉

  13. Pingback: SYTYCD: where has the time gone? « Molecular Shyness

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