So here we are again at the start of another round of "So You Think You Can Dance"--and it's one regular US viewers can follow, as opposed to my off-season forays into Canada, the UK and Australia. I'll combine my early impressions of the Top 11 with their specialty dances from Thursday night's show. BTW, Top 11? I think someone miscounted the weeks and decided they needed one more contestant...
I'm a little torn about this season's All-Star format for a few reasons, the most prominent of which is that it will distract from the new contestants. These poor kids have to kill it right away because they'll be dancing alongside some of the best, most charismatic dancers that have ever come out of the show. (OK, some are filler. I mean, Neil? You have to figure that past winners like Joshua and Jeannine must be well-employed elsewhere.) The advantage, of course, is that they have professional partners to guide them through the process, give them pointers, and make them look good when all else fails.
That said, I'm afraid that if I complain too much about the All-Star format, they'll take Pasha and Mark away! So no more about the format. It is what it is, and it'll be better than the rushed back-to-back thing they tried last year.
But the opening "Fame" number (choreyed by Wade & Amanda, of course) highlighted the vast gulf between the experienced dancers and the newbie-noob contestants. Even though people like Billy, Alex and Robert have danced professionally--and even gave up high-profile dance positions to go on the show--they don't have television experience. It must be a whole other type of performance, and part of it has to do with capturing people's imaginations and hearts. Company dancers try to blend in and look like all the rest, to better highlight the choreographer's vision and the cohesion of the chorus line. But the level of personality required to win SYTYCD goes well beyond even being a soloist.
So who did the camera keep coming back to on "Fame"? Mark. Always Mark. Granted he's just about Wade Robson's ideal lead, but he's also an extremely gifted dance-actor. Everyone else needs to step it up or risk appearing wooden. I'm slightly afraid that the gulf between new and All Star will keep coming across that way through the season.
But...Mark!! So happy! Now, on to the dances:
(New) Lauren and Kent, with Mark and Kathryn (jazz by Travis): Who's higher on the totem pole than an All Star? A former contestant who's now so famous that he doesn't need to come back on stage! Travis! He's beyond adorable and mind-bogglingly talented. The choreography was very clever, in that he gave the most difficult lift sequence to Mark and Kathryn while the noobs did solo tricks.
That said, Lauren and Kent are exceptionally mature performers. I don't get any giggly-stupid vibe like I did from S6's Molly or Nathan. Kent has a depth of on-stage charisma that goes well beyond his Wapakoneta roots. (Yes, I've been there.) Bottom line is that they held their own against two exceptional dance chameleons and with killer chorey. Aside from the "Fame" routine and the ballroom, this was my favorite of the night.
Alexie and Melinda, with (Old) Lauren and Allison (Broadway by Tasty Oreo): Alexie was the center of this routine for me. First, I never liked Lauren. Ever. Second, I didn't watch all of S2, so I don't know Allison outside of a few select performances. My emotional connection to both is near zero.
Melinda, I'm afraid, is the big CHOKE contestant among the girls. She had very bad posture; her shoulders slumped forward as if ready to break into tapping at any moment. She also kept her face very static, never varying. I did feel sorry for her, however, in that she was the only one who didn't get to dance in her own style. I would've thought that Tyce could come up with a Broadway routine with a little tap in it, but no.
Alexie, however, was fantastic. She's a bright beam of sunshine. I don't know how she'll do overall, but she's intensely likable and doesn't strike me as the least bit forced. She must be a helluva force to reckon with, too, because of how long she's been trying to get on the show. No one gets back up that many times without being a super competitor.
Does Cat get lonely up there all by herself, a giraffe among pygmies?
Jose, with Twitch, Comfort and Dom (hip-hop by Tabitha & Napoleon): Ballz! That's what Jose had for stepping onto the same stage as those three wicked monsters. He's cute and obviously game for anything, but he's no Legacy. I'm thinking he's the CHOKE contestant among the girls, because I just can't see him pulling off a waltz or a lyrical jazz piece, even with an All Star to guide him. But I'd love to be proved wrong. Nice kid.
Oh, Dom, ya little weirdo freak. How I've missed your antics. He's adorable, and it seems like Cat was totally getting into the performance aspect of having him back and very, very close. Twitch and Comfort just murder hip-hop. Two years have only made them better performers. His chest pops and her bootie shake can't be topped. Fab.
Cristina, with Anya and Pasha (ballroom fusion by I Heart Jason Gilkison): Oh! Oh, my! Can't...breathe! How cool is it to see Anya and Pasha reunited on the SYTYCD stage? They've been all over the place, on "Dancing with the Stars," "Superstars of Dance," and as leads in Jason's Burn the Floor, but this is where it started for them on their fame journey. I have as much respect for Cristina as I do for Jose, the lone noob thrown in with utterly brilliant dancers. Plus, Anya and Pasha have been partners for something like a decade. They go together: AnyanPasha. For Cristina to step in there and establish a sense of competitive chemistry with them was bold.
I had to watch the dance about three times before I got past Pasha. But then I noticed how Cristina's bachacadas were not nearly as sharp as Anya's--what Nigel mentioned about the lazy feet--and she lacked Anya's extra zing: the hair flipping, the sharp arms flairs, and the talent of making all of that look like second nature. After analyzing it critically, I then returned to Pasha. I could watch him all day. Happily.
Billy and Alex with Ade (contemporary by Mia): Ade took one for the team on this routine. Had he been competing, his role as the old man would've been a serious disadvantage. As it was, however, he rounded out Mia's clever, enthralling vision and made it work. Then came the freak and the beast! Billy played the child so well. What could've been a throwaway role as the boy with the fire truck become the energy of the piece, the youthful innocence--and his feet were still pointed! His illness last season was actually to his advantage because he didn't need to go head-to-head with Jakob (another freak). Alex is a ferocious dancer. He's wonderful. I really, really hope he steps it up with regard to personality, because his facility is incredible.
Robert, Adéchiké and Ashley, with Neil and Courtney (jazz by Sonya): I love these best-of shows because the absolute top-notch choreographers come out to play. Mark is hot and a very good dancer, but he needs to STFU. He kept talking over Cat! No one talks over Cat! I will like to see more of how Courtney has grown, but I could care less about Neil. Still. Adéchiké will have to prove himself to me, because I would've preferred Andrew instead (the one who fought through the pain of his hamstring injury in Vegas week). And I still don't know who Ashley is.
Great show. Very good numbers, several of which I'll be saving. Now I'm stoked. With the boredom of the auditions out of the way, I say bring on more of Mark, Pasha and Anya, and other people!