”So You Think You Can Dance”: Two left feet
Back in 1979, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer scored a big, bombastic hit with ”Enough Is Enough (No More Tears).” And boy, does that song title ever express my feelings about tonight’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Too long by a good 30 minutes. Too much silly sobbing. Too many artificial conflicts. About the only things that seemed in short supply, in fact, were careful editing and the kind of restraint that lets the drama of the contest unfold at its natural pace. That’s a shame, really, because as Dancing With the Stars reminded us all earlier this summer, watching folks get their competitive groove on can be downright riveting.
Of course, whereas DWTS’ pacing was as fleet as a John O’Hurley paso doble, SYTYCD plays out more like an amateur’s clumsy waltz, tentatively repeating the same basic steps when we know there’s potential to drop to the floor and give us a head-spinning thrill. Take the cases of Britney look-alike Cheryl Texiera, Irish stepper Ashley Purl, and the ”injury”-prone duo of Burgendy Kirtz and Jessica Schaeffer, for example. From their first moments on the screen this week — all within the episode’s opening third — it was obvious the four women were marked for early elimination. Yet for some reason, the show’s producers seemed hell-bent on following each one through essentially the same snoozy story arc: girl messes up, over and over, as she performs for each of SYTYCD’s five choreographers, and then cries, gets angry, or makes downright delusional comments for the cameras.
Which got me wondering: Don’t the same folks who are responsible for a little show called American Idol bring us SYTYCD? Why, then, have they suddenly forgotten that at least half the success of reality TV is in the editing. Both Jessica and Burgendy were rock solid showing off their freestyle moves (especially the former’s impromptu ”robot”); had those performances been shown first, it would’ve set us all up for a surprise when the women crumbled under the pressure of performing to the various choreographers’ steps. Ashley, meanwhile, couldn’t keep up with hip-hop instructor Brian Friedman’s moves, so was there any reason to think she’d do better the next day in Dan Karaty’s class? And poor Cheryl. It only took seconds of footage to expose her as completely unchoreographable, and yet we were subjected to several minutes, followed by one judge’s assessment that giving her a zero would be ”a little harsh.” Which is more than a little harsh.
Repetitive as those moments were, though, at least they focused on the dancing, instead of contrived arguments like the one between Blake McGrath and his roommate Allan ”Big Papa” Frias. Does anyone care that Blake’s Chihuahua, Pancake, dropped it on the one, or that Allan stepped in it? Especially when both of the guys are inherently talented, and downright quotable, without being corralled into any Real World-esque ”speaking my truth” gobbledygook.
Putting Pancake aside, Allan and Blake could easily become SYTYCD’s unlikely hero and buzz-worthy villain: The former’s excited chant of ”I am twirling!” after advancing to the final 24 is the kind of zingy catchphrase sure to become popular with certain segments of the show’s audience, while Blake’s naked chutzpah in declaring himself superior to judge Karaty proved thrillingly dreadful. Love him or hate him, his outsize ego makes for some good television.
And, hey, we haven’t even gotten to see Blake tussle with truly scary ballroom judge Mary Murphy, a gal with a Serial Mom-like zest for personal hygiene — in particular, fresh-scrubbed hands and teeth. She doesn’t care for a sheer skirt, either, saying of one dancer’s skimpy outfit, ”One of the last things I want to see during the fox trot is their crotch!”
The atmosphere in Murphy’s room couldn’t have been more different from that in the room of American contemporary judge Mia Michaels. There, Blake’s midperformance emotional breakdown, while it didn’t have me reaching for the Kleenex, seemed to deeply affect his fellow dancers, many of whom joined in the waterworks. I guess they’re all following Michaels’ mantra of ”human first, artist second, dancer third.”
Salsa judge Alex Da Silva, on the other hand, seems to put ”cheeseball” first; how else to explain his showing up in a different (and increasingly gaudy) vehicle each day of the semifinals? No Alex, big cars can’t compensate for your lack of screen presence. (At least you’re better than that Simon Cowell knockoff, Nigel.)
Anyhow, who needs the choreographers to shine big when the show’s got several dancers poised for greatness? Well, at least in my untrained opinion. My early top 5: supercompetitive modern dancer Ashley Dawson; Nicholas McGough (who swapped his red, ribbony pants from last week for a pink T-shirt with the word ”stud”); Ukrainian wonder Snejana ”Snow” Urbin, oddly relegated to the background this week; mattress dancer Craig DeRosa (that’s not as dirrty as it sounds); and of course, Allan Frias. How can you not root for a guy who announces feeling ”very violated” by finding tiny dog droppings in his hotel room, yet still comes off as completely relatable?
What do you think Do you have an early favorite? Who are you rooting against? And is semiprofessional Blake’s presence on the show, as one contestant put it, like Mariah Carey competing on American Idol?