Crouching Geisha, Infuriating Elimination.
If this week’s So You Think You Can Dance had to be summed up by a twist on an Oscar-winning movie title — and let’s be honest, what major life scenario couldn’t/shouldn’t fall under those terms? — then what better way to express the joy of Gaby’s Japanese-inspired hip-hop number and Edson’s blow-to-the-gut exit at the exact moment he broke on through to the future all-star side?
I know not everyone was fully sold on the Season 11 Twitter Save, but damn we coulda used it this week, if only to give Edson one more week — based on his soul-stirring contemporary and pulse-raising solo — while finally bringing the curtain down on Indestructible Derek and His Reign of Blank-Eyed Terror. (Sorry, I liked his hip-hop last week, but tonight’s jazz routine found him getting upstaged not only by white-hot Kayla, but also by a café table!)
Anyway, enough kvetching on my part — actually, no…
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Can I just have a quick sidebar and ask out loud the same question I posed on Twitter during the live telecast: Will there ever be a day when a SYTYCD finalist is allowed to publicly say he or she is gay — out loud, on air, and not just via social media or iffy subtext? We know Neptune’s got a kid, Jaja’s got a fiancé and countless other dancers over the show’s 12-season history have had romantic and or marital ties. But not a single Top 20 contestant — 236 in all, if you recall there was only a Top 16 in Season 1 — has ever gotten to be out and proud on Fox airwaves. Not only that, given the hundreds of heterosexual romance/relationship pieces that have dazzled us since the show debuted in 2005, only Travis Wall’s gay marriage quartet from last year has even flirted with an exploration of same-sex love. (And even that wasn’t an intimate one-on-one piece.)
As a gay husband and dad, am I being unabashedly soapbox-y? Maybe. But given the odds that no more than .0001 percent of the SYTYCD audience would identify as anything other than completely gay-friendly, the total straightwash (for lack of a better term) seems silly at best, and grotesquely antiquated at worst. Nigel Lythgoe and his fellow judges never hesitate to criticize dancers — and keeping it real, it’s usually the less-than-masculine fellas — for lack of “connection” and “chemistry” with their partners, but what if they got to get flirty/get angsty/get down with fellow dudes? Or what if straight performers occasionally had to tell same-sex love stories? I don’t need this to be So You Think You Can Banish Heteronormativity — did I just write that? — but maybe one in, oh, every 50 or 100 romantic routines could take us outside the prince-princess model?
OK, I’m pulling myself out of the rabbit hole and back into recap mode now. Let’s talk results — and the week’s best/worst, shall we?
Bottom 2 Team Stage (Based on Last Week’s Vote)
Bottom 2 Team Street (Based on Last Week’s Vote)
Lowest Vote Getters
Edson (Noooooooooo! Tell me we’re re-enacting the Twitter save over the next six days!)
JJ (already on the sidelines with an injury, so even if she was your fave, it’s kinda sorta fair)
Megz (insert Handel’s “Messiah” here)
And now, let’s dish who’s left… (bearing in mind I’ll be back overnight to update this recap with more detailed reviews of the nine big routines):
Routines (Ranked Worst to Best)
10. JJ (injured and not allowed to dance)
9. Derek and All-Star Kayla (Nick Florez & RJ Durell, Jazz) | I’ll admit there’s a chance I was simply so elated by the return of Kayla — one of my Top 10, maybe even Top 5 contestants ever — that I forgot to pay attention to Derek. But when he did catch my attention, his placid facial expressions were out of whack with the violently lusty choreography. Yes, he killed it as a support platform for Kayla’s wicked leap over his back, but there wasn’t much else to the routine that’ll win him votes.
8. Jim and All-Star Jessica (Dee Caspary, Contemporary) | Was Jessica supposed to be rocking a pageant-chick smile for half this routine about a tormented guy and the woman trying to pull him out of his funk? If so, I throw a side-eye at Dee’s direction. If not, I will politely observe that not all All-Stars are created equal. Whatever the case, though, Jim never fully engaged with or locked into his All-Star partner, and the distant quality to his dancing was at least half the reason that all the pretty shapes and leaps amounted to not much of anything. I hate when the judges all spout the same constructive advice — c’mon, most of these comments have to be planned over dress rehearsal — but Paula, Nigel and Jason all did Jim a solid by urging him to hone his storytelling skills even if it means a tiny reduction in technique. (We won’t notice the difference between 100 percent and 95 — not on a show that’s paced this rapidly — I promise!)
7. Megz and All-Star Marco (Ray Leeper, Jazz) | Megz is definitely among my Season 12 overall faves, but midway through her jazz number this week, I actually scribbled down the phrase “a tiny bit stiff?” — mainly in her transitions and her side-by-side work with Marco, whose fluidity and lines felt just a hair more fine-tuned than his partner’s. Megz’s solo was the most raw and engaging on Team Street, but as much as it pains me to admit, I’m not sure that’ll be enough to keep her in the mix over Virgil and/or Neptune.
6. Virgil and All-Star Comfort (Christopher Scott, Hip-Hop) | Paula was right that Christopher Scott is especially adept at juxtaposing his dance style with unexpected musical selections. And while “Just My Imagination” provided a sweet soundtrack for this throwback ode to old-fashioned romance — one that Virgil sold with some beautifully animated facial expressions — I’d have liked to see a little more hard-hitting content. (Not a complaint about Virgil, mind you, but I can see him possibly at risk next week due to the limitations of his number, no?)
5. Hailee and All-Star Brandon (Warren Carlyle, Broadway) | Broadway is a tough sell on SYTYCD — and it’s especially rare when the style gets the benefit of an emotional backstory — but Hailee’s exuberance seemed to feed off the electric combo of Gaga and Bennett’s vocals on “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” — her speed, her lines, her extensions all as mesmerizing as you’d expect from a future finalist (and potential winner). OK, sure, she’s behind Gaby in the Season 12 pecking order, but it’d just take one perfect piece of choreography to catapult her into a dead-heat for No. 1 on Team Stage.
4. Jaja and All-Star Alex (Nakul Dev Mahjan, Bollywood) | I wonder if this should’ve been labeled a Bollywood Disco, since it kinda looked like a ’70s style Dance Fever piece mixed with some gorgeous Indian-style costuming and hand gestures. Perhaps that’s another way of saying my untrained eye never is 100 percent sure if a Bollywood piece is being done imperfectly or not. The good news for Jaja is that it didn’t really matter — she and Alex painted a fairy tale of sly princess and flirtatious guard — pitted against one another but (maybe next lifetime) wishing they didn’t have to be. I loved the almost cartoon-like expressions on Jaja’s face — and the delicacy with which she leapt, spun and contorted to the music — the polar opposite of her chosen krump style. She’d have to fall flat on her face — probably literally – to not make the finale at this point, which seems as likely as anyone with functioning eyes denying that Alex is matinee-idol handsome.
3. Neptune and All-Star Jasmine (Pharcyde and Phoenix, Hip-Hop) | Neptune and Jasmine’s synchronization in this piece was pretty epic — from their across-the-dining-room foolery to the sick and delicious backwards crab-walk. Best of all, though, was the way Neptune used his “broken-arms” technique to engulf Jasmine in a limb-tasticly macabre twist. Frankenstein and his bride have never had so much fun — or dropped it so low — but I think we can all be thrilled we got invited to, as Paula called it, this “marriage in Transylvania.”
2. Edson and All-Star Jaimie (Travis Wall, Contemporary) | Music can play such a huge role in the success or failure of a routine, and Travis really made a next-level decision with his choice of the haunting “Your Day Will Come” as backdrop for a story about Edson pulling Jaimie away from “the light” at the end of her fading life. Edson’s quality of movement — the ethereal swoop of his every extension — made it look like he’d sprouted wings, and even the face-to-face scream was so committed that it never fell into camp/hoo-hah-ery. Combined with some wildly difficult lifts that looked as effortless as they did graceful, Edson definitely proved he deserved a Top 8 slot, and his failure to get one felt like akin to Grand Theft Reality Show.
1. Gaby and All-Star Joshua (Pharcyde and Phoenix, Hip-Hop) | This Geisha-vs.-Ninja romp definitely ranks right at the top of my “Best of Season 12” list — and might even crack my countdown of SYTYCD‘s 10 Best Routines Ever. Is that daft to say? I honestly don’t think so. I mean, just that move where Gaby lay on her back and balanced herself — feet straight out, atop Joshua’s torso — took such wicked strength and agility that I actually whooped and hollered and then hit the rewind button to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. Better still, though, it wasn’t merely a show of brute force by Gaby, but a graceful dance-battle TKO punch, no small task against the deep-in-the-groove Joshua and his delightful swag. Gaby’s been a front-runner since her audition redux this season, but this may have been the week where she finally got voted “Most Likely to Inherit Ricky Ubeda’s Crown.”
Team Stage Individual Rankings (for the week)
Team Street Individual Rankings (for the week)
1. Jaja (her solo puts her over the top)