Thursday, July 09, 2009

identifying the best of the best

You know you're getting older when you start referring to your favorite TV show as "my dance program" and you record an episode of Nova all in the same week. SIGH.

The program starts with the crowd going wild for Cat Deeley, and honestly I can't tell if she cut her hair into that fetching bob, or if it's just tucked up? It's cute, and I love a short hair cut on a girl, but I miss her flowing locks of perfect hair.

The good news is, all the couples are performing twice tonight—YAY! MORE DANCING! Instead of blogging in order, I’m going to group the dances together by couple.

1. Melissa & Ade
Dance 1: Disco - UGH. I've really started to hate the disco routines on this show. The choreography is so jilted between the dancing and the lifts, and the lifts are all so crazy hard, that it's hard for couples to really have fun. In this, I think Ade is surprisingly great at what I think is a bad number--he's having fun, his overall dancing and, as he said, "swagger" are perfect, and it makes me really want to see him in a hip hop routine, oddly. Also, I am just really really starting to love the hell out of him, and I'm pretty sure he's my favorite dancer on the show. Melissa, on the other hand, kills the steps, but is a little stiff. And, after they nail all these crazy hard lifts her foot slips on the last pose and she falls, which is a shame. But! She picks herself up and smiles and laughs, which I appreciate. The judges love the hell out of it, of course, because of whatever devil's pact they made with Doriana Sanchez.

Dance 2: Waltz – From the first move, this dance is gorgeous. These two are really well suited to the waltz, with Melissa’s grace and Ade’s strength. Ade charms me again with his grace and his commitment to the style. Not to mention some flawless pirouettes! And Melissa is all lines and floaty dress and pretty pretty pretty. Plus I thought having them waltz to “Natural Woman” (Mary J’s version) is a genius musical choice. Beautiful!

2. Kayla & Kupono
Dance 1: Contemporary - Mia Michaels is doing a dance about addiction, because there is NO SUCH THING as a show on TV that is not about addiction and/or daddy issues, and it has finally infiltrated the dance-off show. And yet. It's beautiful, and so powerful. The dancing is perfect, their characters are perfect, and the story is so tragically rendered that I'm crying at the end. It's kind of hard to watch, actually, because it's such an authentic, cathartic piece about something so hard to fight or witness. Mia, though. Wow, honey.

Dance 2: Broadway – Joey Dowling again, whom I didn’t love last week. But again they get characters to play, which is awesome for them. And the routine is great! The choreography is rad and fun, and they dance it really well and totally bring it to life. We finally get to see some plain ol’ fun and sweetness in Kayla’s face, for a change, which is nice. They don’t totally nail the style just right, though, and Nigel’s critique is spot-on. West Side Story contains my favorite music and dancing of any Broadway musical, and there’s a frenetic energy, tightness and toughness that’s inherent to the story that would have been so great to see here. But also like they said, it was still danced well.

3. Caitlin & Jason
Dance 1: Foxtrot - The number kicks off with style, and within 15 seconds I'm wishing I could see someone with more finesse in this dance. The choreography and the song are so fabulous and slinky, and these two are merely dancing well and making faces. And, no, it's not the crazy-ass characters they had to inhabit last week (or Kayla & Kupono worked just before them), but these are characters they have a chance to play, foxtrot or no, and they miss the opportunity. Caitlin is much better, as strong as she usually is, and she looks gorgeous. But Jason, whom I had such high hopes for at the top of the season, is weak as hell. The judges give high praise, but I think it was for the stylish routine more than it was for the dancing. Once again, great choreography helped save dancing that was merely okay.

Dance 2: Lyrical Jazz – They get a routine that Mandy Moore calls “the kitchen sink” because it has everything in it. And it’s fantastic entertainment. They’re clearly in their own element, and after struggling a bit here and there to get to this point in the competition, it’s really nice to see. It feels almost relaxing to watch them dance this choreography. But, like Mary said, I’m not sure if they danced it well enough to be memorable.

4. Jeanine & Phillip
Dance 1: Russian Folk Dance - WTF? (Mac: "Who's bright idea was this shit?") Seriously, I can appreciate it as its own fabulous style of dance, or whatever, but the result--with this couple at least--is just kind of goofy. Phillip's leaps are WEAK-ASS. (Remember Joshua's leaps in his Russian number last year? Hi.) Jeanine does a respectable job, and works hard to have fun, which I appreciate. Mostly, this feels like someone wants these two to go home. I'm tellin' y'all it’s sabotage.

Dance 2: Jive – So, Jeanine, in this fringed bra top, you guys, is so sexy it’s kind of distracting. Like, Phillip is lucky to have such a hot number for a partner that no one hardly looks at him. Because when I do look at him, I find him to be a little weak—not finishing lines, not bouncing enough, and just seeming like he’s nervous and not quite keeping up. Nigel gives Phillip props he doesn’t deserve, in my opinion, but I think they just want him in the Top 10. Jeanine, on the other hand, is on fire. Smokin’ or not, however, the overall number is just cute.

5. Randi & Evan
Dance 1: Hip Hop – Tabitholeon choreograph a story of a couple getting engaged and just finding out about having a baby, which sounds so freaking cheesy, and with these two white kids I’m totally prepared to hate on it before it starts. And, you know? I didn’t. I rather enjoyed it, actually. Randi is surprisingly great, and Evan at least did this choreography really well (which is not the same as saying either of them can dance hip hop really well, my feelings on Napolitha’s non-urban, store-bought "hip hop" being fairly well known at this point). Also, it is kind of cheesy, but they sell the hell out of it, and bring a lot of the joy in the dance out, and I found myself going “Aw!” a couple times. In short, this was a really nice surprise, and sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Dance 2: Samba – Choreographed by Pasha and Anya! Hi guys! Great to see you! Oh, they’re just as adorable as I remember, and I’m looking forward to their choreography. Which kicks off with so much going on, including these really over the top animal print costumes, that I barely know what to think. I think it’s danced well, but once again with these two, I find myself thinking that they’re cute when they should be raw or earthy or dirty. I like these two a lot, but ultimately I think they haven’t grown beyond the cute thing, and they’re going to have to, especially Evan, if they want to last much longer.

6. Janette & Brandon
Dance 1: Argentine Tango – These two, in this are just…. WOW. They’re amazing. The whole thing is strong and sexy and breathtaking. I think I said “Wow!” about 17 times in a row. Brandon is as flawless as we’ve come to expect from him, and Janette is kind of a revelation. As in, regardless of what happens for her in this competition, I think she has discovered a new calling in dance, and it’s the Argentine Tango. She’s ridiculously perfect. Wow. The judges, of course, have nothing bad to say, go completely bananas over it, and even give them a standing ovation, and for once I don’t find their effusiveness undeserved.

Dance 2: “Jazz” – Which is in quotes, because it’s Wade Robson, which means a little less actual jazz and a little more weirdness. The costumes are great, as well. (Mac: “It’s Willy Wonka’s children!”) And the dancing? IS SO AWESOME!!!! Mac and I were both squealing “Eeeeee!” with rapture and delight, mixed in with “Wow!” over their gorgeous, flawless technique and style. That thing, where they slink across the floor in unison, sliding the brims of their hats? Awesome. It’s so freaking cartoony and fun and as they’re moving towards the end of the dance, and their table prop (they’re supposed to be jewel thieves, evidently) Mac and I are all, “What are they going to find?!?” “I don’t know!” As soon as it ends I immediately rewind my DVR and watch it again, because I’m just so tickled and entertained. In conclusion: JANETTE AND BRANDON FOR THE WIN! It’s freaking GENIUS and officially my favorite routine of the season so far. My only complaint, and it’s minor, is that Wade uses another Roisin Murphy song, AGAIN, SOME MORE. Seriously, that’s three Roisin Murphy songs, Wade. Someone needs to make you a MIX CD. In fact, I will do that shit for you. Have you heard of Rasputina, the Dresden Dolls? Maybe some Ting Tings? Let’s branch out, sweetie.

Overall, I think all six couples are very good at this point, but some are just trying harder, committing more, and working harder than others. So predicting results is really more about identifying the best of the best. And that, right now, is Janette & Brandon, with everyone else just fighting to stay out of the Bottom Three, not necessarily fighting for that top spot. Which is kind of like me hedging my bets in case my predictions are wrong, maybe. But also, some people really need to step up.

Janette & Brandon – For delivering perfection week after week, overcoming their fairly annoying bio packages to become surprisingly likeable, and fully committing to every style they’re given.
Melissa & Ade – For working hard within and outside of their styles, being genuinely likeable, and showing what true grace under pressure looks like.
Kayla & Kupono – For truly growing week after week, creating outstanding chemistry despite their partner change, and inhabiting characters like no other to the point they border on brilliant.

Not Safe:
Caitlin & Jason – Because they’re good but not truly outstanding, because they have yet to shoot for the moon, and because they haven’t grown as much as some other dancers.
Jeanine & Phillip – Partly for that dumb Russian number, but also because of Phillip’s overall lack of technique. I think he’s skating a bit on personality, plus there’s only so far you can go when the judges say, week after week, “That was good considering your lack of training.”
Randi & Evan – Because they stay cute even though the routine calls for sexy, gritty, slick, earthy, or any number of other personalities. They only partially commit and play it safe, instead of taking risks that could maybe expose them as fools, or could allow them to be revelatory and truly be amazing.

Out of all of those, I feel like Caitlin and Jason, though adorable, have grown the least, and therefore deserve a Top 10 spot the least. Plus, not to be all cynical, but I think the producers are going to want Phillip and Evan in the Top 10 for the tour.

What did you think??


Christopher said...

This is going to sound super hyperbolic, but it's not. I am being dead serious.

Watch the routine again. Wait for this moment:

They take off their sunglasses and throw them. Then there is a cut to a different angle. The next three or four seconds may be my favorite series of movements ever in any routine choreographed on this show ever. You really have to watch just Janette to catch how brilliant it is. The movements are kind of tiny and slick, but the bridge between live action and cartoon is so gorgeous there. There are half a dozen other little moments in this routine - the step-step-point-kick at the top of the stairs, him picking Janette up and throwing her over the red beam, the little hop-hop-hop and rubbing their hands right near the end - this is really one of Wade's most exquisite pieces, and that's saying a lot, because the guy choreographed "Ramalama" and "Put All Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See." I must have watched this routine ten times since last night.

For the first time, we've come down on the same B3 but different conclusions. We'll see how it all shakes out. I think the judges will have swayed people away from Randi/Evan. Rewatching their commentary on both of their dances, I can't see how they survive tonight - if they're in the B3, they're going home. Well, Randi is, for sure. Evan might sneak in, because Jason's solos tend to be pretty weaksauce.

In short, I think they like Caitlin more than Randi, and that will seal the deal for the top 10.

Dinah said...

That doesn't sound hyperbolic at all. The precision and perfection of J&B's Wade number blew my freaking mind. It was simply THAT FREAKING GOOD.

I think if it comes down to Caitlin & Jason vs Randi & Evan, I think Evan has the edge of being the unique Broadway guy with the memorable story, and I think he's a more likely contender for the Top 10 Tour because of his unique style. Whereas Jason is a lot more likeable and flat-out ADORABLE, but also a contemporary dancer on a show with lots of superior contemporary dancers.

The girls are pretty evenly matched. I think Randi's a technically superior dancer, and Caitlin is, of course, stronger and more athletic.

Overall, though, it's a question of growth throughout the competition, and how they've handled their challenges so far. And based on that, even with last nights falters, I think Evan and Randi just have a better track record.

If just one of them lands in the B3, then we'll have our answer. If neither of them do, we're in for a nasty surprise...

Dinah said...

As long as we're bordering on Hyperbole-Towne, I would also like to add that the genius of Kayla & Kupono's Mia Michaels routine can also not be overstated. Because the Wade Robson was the big show closer and a lot more fun, it's an easy one to watch over and over and enjoy (much like the cartoon it was trying to be). No one really wants to watch the tragic addiction story repeatedly, but there's no denying how amazingly powerful and beautifully danced it truly was.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dinah
So you were dead on- the voting results meant that tough cuts had to be made. But the producers knew they had to keep those two in the touring cast! Nigel can have his cake and eat it too! Yes he can!

Is it just me or are the girls stronger than the guys this year? I could have cut Philip, Jason, Kupono or Evan this week just fine but only really thought that Randi deserved to go of the girls. Too bad it's so gender balanced for the cuts until the end.

Also Chip's started watching this with me! He's gone from making fun of me watching it to coming up with nicknames for the dancers and jidges.
We talk about the little halfback and Chuck all the time. It's awesome!
Kupono - it's hawaiin for Chuck! I'll let you guess who the Little Halfback is!
See you soon!

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Two things:

1) I like Tabitha and Napoleon more than most of the readers of this I think. And I feel like my view was at least partially vindicated by the White Stripes routine on Thursday night (although that was helped by the fact that all the dancers were good enough to be in in sync).

2) Shout out to my sister-in-law, who was right beneath Mary Murphy in the audience on Thursday's show. Odd to see there.

Dinah said...

I sometimes wonder if I'd like Tabitha & Napoleon a lot more if the show didn't call their style hip hop. Still, their group routine Thursday night was great, I really enjoyed it.

Also, I want to go to a taping of this show so bad it hurts!

Also also Amy, it is NOT just you--the girls are much stronger. I started off the season thinking this batch of guys were amazing, and now I kind of feel like most are okay, and Brandon & Ade are the only special ones. But between Melissa, whom I've always liked, Janette, who's grown on me, Jeanine, who's proven to be a bit of a dark horse in this race, and Kayla, who just dances brilliantly? I really think just about any one of them could win it this year.