Category Archives: So You Think You Can Dance

Diagnosis Disinterest: The Troubles of SYTYCD Season 6

“The Troubles of SYTYCD Season 6”

December 15th, 2009

When FOX announced that So You Think You Can Dance would be returning mere weeks after its fifth season concluded for a fall season, designed to help bridge the programming gap that always plagues the network before American Idol arrives in January, I was moderately excited. At the end of a season, a show like SYTYCD is at the height of its excitement, and the idea of that excitement returning sooner than you expected seems a great one…at the time.

And then you realize that the Fall is not the same as the Summer, and more importantly that Season Six is not the same as Season Five. Nigel Lythgoe was in the unfortunate position wherein the show was changing seasons at the same time as they made a number of changes to the show’s formula (both aesthetic and organizational) which have severely weakened the series’ appeal. So just as I found myself feeling like I didn’t have time to follow along with these dancers and their journey, the show was giving me even more reasons to disengage, even more reasons to feel as if the show was losing its appeal.

It’s a perfect storm of problems that have made Season Six the unquestionable black sheep of the So You Think You Can Dance legacy, and righting the ship in Season Seven is going to be an interesting task in discerning which problems were caused by the change in season and which were mistakes irregardless of the colour of the leaves.

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So You Think You Can Dance Season 6 – “Top 20”

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“Season Six – Top 20”

October 27th, 2009

The season started out with such promise: the Top 20 was touted as one of their best ever, and the network even gave them an hour of primetime to prove it last night when the dancers got to showcase their own personal styles in a series of group numbers. It made for a really engaging bit of television, a celebration of the individual dancers that Americans would be voting on.

However, as tonight’s performance show demonstrated, this season has very much been taken out of America’s hands, not in any substantial way but through a series of unfortunate circumstances. Just as viewers may have started falling in love with Billy Bell illness pulled him from the competition, and Noelle suffered a knee injury that seems likely to pull her from the competition considering the huge honkin’ brace she was sporting during tonight’s performance show. And to top it all off, with the World Series dominating Fox’s airwaves, America didn’t even get to vote for their favourites, meaning that two dancers were sent home without ever using their fingers to make numbers in front of millions of Americans.

It was an unfortunate turn of events because it takes a show that more than any other democratizes reality competition programming, emphasizing the America and Favourite in “America’s Favourite Dancer” with gusto, and turns it into a charade that this talented group of contestants doesn’t particularly deserve.

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So You Think You Can Dance Season 5: The Finale Factor

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The Finale Factor

August 5th, 2009

While I accept any and all criticism of reality television as far as the sheer gluttony of the stuff that arrived on the airwaves over the past decade or so, I will say right now that the “Finale” is the reason the genre has continued to appeal to me. There is something about sheer uncertainty that few scripted programs can really match, as there is often no way to choreograph (eww, sorry) the twists and turns that could potentially happen. With shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race, any small snafu could completely alter the power structure, leaving your expectations in tatters on the floor while an unexpected winner is crowned. That’s the kind of story that keeps me hooked on (good) reality television, and the kind of story that makes me believe the genre has a definite place.

However, for shows like So You Think You Can Dance and its musical counterpart, American Idol, there isn’t always that same sense of uncertainty. Sure, there’s always a chance that expectations can be defeated, but for the most part things have been narrowed to the point where the final performances are not a surprise, and where the result is more a foregone conclusion. Last year, I don’t think anyone believed that Joshua, with his combination of braces and some fantastic and memorable routines was beyond likeable, was going to lose, so the suspense was somewhat gone. On these shows, dancers give so many performances that there is a lot of empirical evidence for how audiences are responding and voting, and as a result one can feel like the finale is only going to cement what has already taken place.

All of this being said, I feel as if this fifth season finale of So You Think You Can Dance is an example of a finale that has only further complicated what has been a very difficult to read season. Most thought that Brandon and Janette, so strong throughout the competition, were going to sail into the finals, but both found themselves in the Bottom at Top 8 and Janette even went home. Evan, meanwhile, has lacked a single breakout performance, and yet has never fallen into the bottom. The top two girls, meanwhile, are Kayla the Partner Killer, who was regularly in the Bottom Three, and Jeanine, who carried Philip early in the competition before emerging as a powerhouse when it mattered most.

The result is a competition that’s too close to call, but based on the evening’s events I think we can say that this is a finale that will truly matter.

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

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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.

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Don’t Call it a Comeback: Dancing out of the Bottom Three on So You Think You Can Dance?

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Don’t Call it a Comeback

Season Five, Top 18 Performance Show

I’m not quite an authority on dancing, nor do I really have the endurance to really comment on every single one of the Top 9’s dances during tonight’s performane show. As a result, I’m going to focus on the most interesting element of the week for me, which is seeing how the two surviving couples from the Bottom Three (Asuka & Vitolio and Jonathan & Karla) manage to bounce back from rough first weeks, plus offer some general thoughts on who I liked, and how the night went overall.

What I found from this perspective was honestly quite interesting, as you see how the luck of getting the right dance combines with the producers’ efforts to provide a moving story, as well as the dancers themselves stepping up to the plate to try to stay alive. The judges don’t want dancers to be down and out this early in the competition, nor are they going to purposefully try to sink someone, so these dancers are fully capable of making a dramatic comeback, winning the hearts of the judges, and winning over America at the same time.

Whether these two couples have done that…well, I’m not quite so sure, as it’s kind of tough to make that call without understanding the show’s dynamics.

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Showcase or Showdown?: So You Think You Can Dance and the First Round Elimination

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Showcase or Showdown?

June 11th, 2009

I don’t really hide the fact that as far as summer shows go, So You Think You Can Dance? is one of my personal favourites. There’s simply something about its mix of glossy spectacle and talented dancers that makes it just downright enjoyable, whether you know something about dance or whether you, like me, know absolutely nothing about it outside of what you’ve learned from dance-related television programming.

What is perhaps funny about the show, though, is that last night’s first performance show of Season Five was problematically fantastic. Of the 10 couples who performers, eight of them earned raves from the judges, and the way the show works there will be three couples who find themselves in danger of being eliminated. SYTYCD has a unique relationship with the notion of viewer democracy, but it’s not particularly foolproof, and there is every possibility that tonight’s first elimination show could end up with three couples the judges loved placed into the Bottom Three.

And I’m wondering if that’s something that could be, at least somewhat, fixed with a fairly subtle decision that would allow viewers a better sense of these dancers that, before last week, they may have never seen before.

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Finale: Who Won So You Think You Can Dance Season Four?

“Season Finale: Results”

August 7th, 2008

After one of the most well-structured pieces of fan service I’ve seen in a reality finale, emphasizing reliving past dances, seasons and even careers for its judges, it’s come down to this.

Could Twitch emerge from a few Bottom Three placements to win the day? Can Courtney overcome her technical deficiency with her charm and determination? Is Katee’s technicall brilliance a hindrance or a benefit with voters? And will Joshua’s feel good story and versatility win over America?

The votes are in, and it’s hard to argue with the decision.

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Performance Finale: So You Think You Can Dance Season Four

“Performance Finale”

August 6th, 2008

I haven’t blogged about what I deemed the summer’s guilty pleasure all those weeks ago, thus riling up a sizable segment of the show’s fanbase who viewed the term was disaffectionate. Well, needless to say, it was not intended as such – sitting around and watching So You Think You Can Dance has become a weekly ritual, first with some friends and then eventually with my parents as I’ve been spending a few weeks visiting at home.

It’s a show that you grow into more than perhaps any other reality program – there is a combination of personal achievement and massive variety that is unparalleled, and the limited audience involvement in selecting candidates keeps the dead weight out. This is a show where people are brought on for talent: not for how they play to the audience, not for their condescending attitude, but for their ability to dance.

And that means that, even with some surprises along the way, you get a finale of four strong dancers who offer up a great deal of entertainment and where all of the intense nepotism and laudatory comments usually dominating finales seems justified and deserved. I won’t pretend to know everything about dancing, but I have been watching enough to know where things might shake down for the impending final results.

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Summer’s Guilty Pleasure: So You Think You Can Dance – Week One Performance Show

“Week One Performance Show”

Season Four

In every television viewer’s summer, there are three things to watch: those shows that are actually good, those shows that are awful but are the only thing on at a given time, and those shows that enter into the category of “Guilty Pleasure.” For me, in this final category, that show is FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance.

The reason is really quite simple: the contestants on the show can honestly answer “Yes” to the titular question, and the result is often a compelling assortment of engaging dance routines. Unlike the painful to watch Dancing with the Stars, which derives its value from celebrities embarrassing themselves and occasionally a decent dance or two, this is a show that is about succeeding in one’s profession and not about creating a marketing machine. These people are forced to embrace multiple styles of dance in a way that American Idol singers aren’t forced to diversify, and the result is far more compelling in many ways.

So while in past summers I haven’t quite embraced these urges fully, this year I’ve decided to give in: my floormates for the summer are way into the show, and I can’t help but be sucked in by their enthusiasm. So, let’s do this, but with two ground rules.

  1. I know absolutely nothing about dancing.
  2. Presume that every paragraph begins with “SHUT UP MARY MURPHY.”

And with that in consideration, let’s do this.

Rayven & Jamie [Hip Hop]

Rayven is a ballet dancer, while Jamie is a West Coast Swing dancer with a supportive girlfriend, and are performing a hip hop routine from Napolean and Tabitha. While I have no idea if their moves were any good, they were at least convincing as hip hop dancers. There was some partial nudity, a lot of quirky humour, and ultimately some interesting little set pieces. Nigel enjoyed it but isn’t sure it’s memorable, Mary Murphy shrieks and compares it to cotton candy, and Dan thinks that there wasn’t enough funk (Modular funk).

Likely Fate: Early in the show like this, they’ll struggle to get votes especially when combined with their lack of coverage in the early parts of the competition.

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