Who Won SYTYCD Canada Season 2?
October 25th, 2009
Since I’ve been home this year, and since it has as a result been on every Tuesday evening, I’ve been following So You Think You Can Dance Canada where I didn’t last year. What I’ve discovered is that this is a show that can be really engaging for the reasons that any dancing competition show is, but that it constantly claims to be something “different.” It’s a weird cultural superiority scenario, wherein the mosaic we like to consider ourselves part of is somehow reflected by the decision to classify genres of dance more distinctly or how what the American show is claiming as progress (Tap Dancers! Krumpers!) was already achieved this season in Canada. The judges, as I ranted about early on during the competitive rounds, are also far too nice, often failing to critique routines that deserve some sort of constructive feedback.
It’s all part of the reason why I found tonight’s finale anti-climactic, as its celebratory tone was not that different from the self-congratulation that defines the show. I don’t think the show is misplaced in thinking itself to be entertaining or valuable to the development of Canadian dance, but there’s a point where that becomes the “point” of the show. And the result is that I actually don’t think we’ve spent enough time with these contestants for me to really suggest I am invested in them, or for that matter that the show is invested in them. The finale only further cements this fact, with some strange (if not entirely unjustified) approaches that indicate once and for all that this is not a show about dance so much as it is about how Canada is so uniquely situated to host a show about dance.
And tonight, Canada picked their ambassador.
[SPOILER ALERT: If you’ve not yet watched the finale, I’m about to ruin the ending, so tread carefully!]
And Canada’s ambassador of dance (this year), and the winner of $100,000 and a new Mazda 3, is Tara-Jean Popwich. It’s not the most surprising event of all time, for everyone but Tara-Jean who was overwhelmed with emotion, as she was never in the bottom and was beyond charming pretty much the entire season. She was the one person whose personality really seemed to capture the hearts of audience, and her victory felt like the right kind of celebration. Everett and Jayme Rae, as I had expected, were eliminated immediately, leaving Vincent and Tara-Jean to take home a brand new car and build some legitimate suspense as to whether a male dancer would take home the crown. It felt like a fitting ending to the season’s dance narrative, although the finale itself may not have reflected this as clearly.
While the episode started with an enjoyable Sean Cheesman theatre number, and then the Top 20 coming out in segments to the crowd’s excited response, after that point something very weird happened. As the judges went through their choices for “encores” (which is now a franchise/reality show tradition), they very intriguingly introduced them almost exclusively by genre rather than the people who danced them. Blake asked for “something” from Luther, as opposed to any particular routine, and most everyone else asked for something specific but only through its connection to a particular style (like House) or through the work of an individual choreographer (like Blake, or Stacey). It’s a fascinating distinction, because it implies that what really made each number special was inherent in the choreography and not in who danced the piece.
I don’t question the role that choreographers play in this show, but for me this finale should have been a celebration of the dancers as opposed to the choreographers. When Melanie and Vincent finish performing their great Paso Doble, they’re asked about how hard the choreography was. When Kym and Emmanuel finish their encore of Blake’s trippy magician piece, they’re asked about working with Blake (the same about others in terms of working with Luther). There are only a few instances where I felt that the encores are a chance to actually see more of these contestants rather than letting the show boast about the variety of its choreographers and the diversity of its styles. And in fact, I actually wonder whether this hasn’t been a problem all season, because I don’t know if I really connected with any of these dancers. I don’t dislike them, or anything, but the show has never seemed to be “theirs” in the way I think I want it to be.
Eventually, the Top Four came to the forefront, but only in the final half hour of the show – sitting ninety minutes without getting a chance to focus on each contestant, and problematically repetitive ones that already aired (mostly) during the finale and where the judges each got to say something while the dancers got out a mere few words, just didn’t feel “right” to me. It was one big emotional mess, and while Jean-Marc’s cryfests are part of the show’s identity (if not a part I find particularly fun to watch, even if I appreciate his emotion) to have them infest the moments where I feel we should be getting to know them better as opposed to hearing their resume on the show being listed off by the judges (who, as the piece above indicates, are not my favourite people in the world).
The two-hour finale was a bit unbalanced, with the entire first hour consisting of encores with no sign of the results. I get the impulse for this decision, trying to avoid the bad news in order to be able to continue celebrating the season that was. However, it made me actually forget who the Top 4 were, and I think the show could have done really well copying the American edition (scandalous, considering how much the show prides itself on its singularity amongst editions of the show) and giving us interviews with each of the contestants that tell us about their background in dance and how they’ve enjoyed this experience. That we never got this kind of information seems very strange to me: while one could argue that the eTalk Daily special last week with the entire top four would be considered a substitute for those types of moments, that (from the bit I saw) turned into a fan-driven affair that didn’t actually treat the contestants with the same type of respect that the choreographers seem to get (screaming fans can do that to you). It made for a finale where the people in the audience actually looked bored at a few points, and I can imagine the audience at home would similarly tire as every commercial break teased results that never seemed to come.
The constant stream of encores confirmed what we knew before: Canadians can dance, and they did it well this season. Stacey Tookey makes her presence felt as expected, with three separate routines given encores, and as expected the various “unique” genres make their presence felt with Dance Hall, House, Jazz Fusion and all of the other variations on other genres that the show enjoys singling out. The original pieces (the Top 20 with Cheesman, the Top 10 with the injured Mia Michaels) were new and as a result the more interesting numbers of the evening, but they made up so little of it that it couldn’t help but feel a bit redundant in the internet age when all of the routines can be relived 24/7 on YouTube.
- Interesting to see Mia choreographing a piece about her recent decision to “resign” (her words) from the American version of the show, as everyone is transfixed by a huge chandelier and unable to look away. It’s a really evocative piece, and it shows that she really did have a tough time making that decision (one that could have, perhaps, been made for her with the back injury she suffered during rehearsal. The piece was marred, though, with some post-production slow-motion that kills any sense of the show seeming live (which is already impossible since there’s so much costume work to be done, but still).
- If Mia Michaels was really watching this live as suggested, she must have gotten a chuckle (or thrown something at the TV) when the oft-appearing Tylenol Back Pain commercials popped up.
- Didn’t realize that Kenny Ortega was on the show last year, and that he probably would have appeared this year (being Canada’s equivalent to Adam Shankman) if it were not for Michael Jackson’s untimely death and the need for him to be hands on directing “Is This It” (which was likely his justification for doing the show, as it does count as promotion).
- The one montage that did focus more on the dancers? The piece on how often they injured themselves is the closest the show came to showing us some behind the scenes footage, and it was actually really interesting to see just how varied the injuries were (and even some rehearsal footage where it went down). Really cool stuff (except for, you know, the injuries).