August 6, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 4

My little summer dance show has really hit the big time now. They've moved the season finale shows (performance and results) to The Kodak Theater instead of remaining in their studio like they have in years past. On the one hand I'm thrilled that they're getting the larger audiences they've always deserved but on the other hand...I miss their studio. The size of the venue and the stage seemed, in a way, to swallow these kids up. And the larger audience appeared to be a bit of a distraction for them during judging.

Speaking of judging - Adam Shankman was back at the table. He is one of my favorite judges because he's filled to the brim with enthusiasm and still manages to give constructive criticism to the dancers while always making sure they know he loves them and everything about dance and this show. Also, Mary is so orange she looks like a traffic cone.

Now on with the review.

Top 4 - Pop Jazz (Wade Robson)
The girls were cheerleaders and the boys were jocks trying to get up on them basically. The girls play along for a bit, stroking the egos of the boys, and then laugh in their faces. This was so much more...fluffy and boring (stylistically speaking) than we usually get from Wade. Where are our bowler-hatted thieves, our crash test dummies, our wolves in the wild, our blooming flowers, our zombies? Cheerleaders and jocks? And unfortunately the dancing was a little bit flat too. Evan was too light next to Brandon, Kayla was too snappy next to Jeanine, Brandon was too serious next to Kayla, Jeanine was too aggressive next to Evan. It was fun and energetic but it just wasn't as good as it should have been given the choreographer and where we are in the season.
Grade: B-

Jeanine and Evan - Jazz (Sonya Tayeh)
Oh Sonya. This was not markedly different than the piece she did for Melissa and Ade several weeks ago. The costumes during many of her pieces are tending toward the over-simplified this season and the movement here had a stop and go quality that worked well in the boys routine last week but was distracting in a way here. Perhaps the stops were too long? Not enough go between them? I'm not sure. I wasn't watching as if it was a fluid piece so much as a series of short pieces strung together. Like a collection of short stories as opposed to a novel. I like short story collections just fine but only when the stories in them are interesting and they just weren't for me here. That said, the dancers did pretty good with what they were given. I don't think Jeanine is a particularly strong partner as I think she's often angling to be the star, and that was happening here for me, but was alright.
Grade: B-

Kayla and Brandon - Broadway (Tyce DiOrio)
Right up front I'm going to say that I was very disappointed that no one called Tyce out for blatantly ripping off parts of Mandy Moore's table routine from Season 3. That being one of my favorite routines ever, I was disgusted at the "Tyce is a genius" shit afterward instead of the "imitation is the highest form of flattery. Tyce, you should buy Mandy Moore something pretty as a 'thank you' for THAT!" which he deserved. But the rest of the routine was good. I'm on the record as not loving Broadway and being tired of Tyce but this was one of his best Broadway routines and it was in large part because the dancers were VERY good. Tom complained that Brandon didn't get his leg up high enough in their side-by-side spins but I think that's a limitation his muscles put on his flexibility and not him failing to dance it perfectly. And Kayla looked freaking GORGEOUS too.
Grade: A

Brandon and Evan - Hip Hop (Laurie Ann Gibson)
Ugh. I'm not going to lie, Brandon out-danced Evan to an almost embarrassing degree. Evan's soft, light, happy Broadway style was all over what should have been an aggressive number. Not to say it was great choreography though because it was actually quite soft for my taste. There just wasn't enough in there that was all that "hip hop" but there were spins and kicks and leaps aplenty. While I didn't think Evan danced it very well, I thought the judges could have been more constructive and less insulting when they told him that. The judges obviously don't want Evan to win any more than I do but they are only succeeding in pumping up his loyal fan base into a voting frenzy by beating him up with such veracity.
Grade: Brandon: A-; Evan: D

Jeanine and Kayla - Contemporary (Mia Michaels)
They were shedding their layers as they crossed the...stage of life. Basically they stood side by side and slowly danced across the big stage while ripping off layer after layer of their skirts. It was good and they are both strong dancers. I thought that neither commanded any more attention than the other and was disappointed with the judges implication that Jeanine was somehow more mesmerizing than Kayla.
Grade: A

Kayla and Evan - Jive (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin)
Adam didn't think the choreography was up to par for this point in the competition (yet he had no such dis for Laurie Ann...WTF Shankman?) but I disagree. I thought the choreography was very strong and very fun and very fast. I thought it was incredibly fun to watch though I did notice a dramatic drop in energy from the dancers 1/2 way through. I thought Kayla danced some of it in a kind of hunch that I think may have been her attempt to be shorter for Evan but was really unnecessary. Overall though, I thought it was a good routine and I enjoyed it a lot.
Grade: B+

Jeanine and Brandon - Paso Doble (Louis Van Amstel)
I almost had to have another rant about stealing moves when the rehearsal clips clearly showed Jeanine making herself into a human ring and then Brandon dropping her down over himself a la Neil and Sabra in S3 but that was left out of the performance and so I shall move on. It was good. Really good. The music was incredibly strong and the costumes were severe and it all added immensely to the drama which elevated the performance. There was some footwork that got a little sloppy here and there but on the whole it was excellent.
Grade: A

Solos: Brandon's wreaked of desperation and his chain gang board shorts were distracting. Evan's was devoid of substance and overly cutesy. Kayla's was better than some I've seen her do but still didn't show any real understanding of the best way to present her talent. Jeanine, once again, had the most well thought out and engaging solo of the night. I don't necessarily want her to win, but I think she will make a good choreographer some day. Maybe someday soon.

Predictions: To be honest, I don't really know. I think I'd most like to see Kayla win it...or Brandon. But I think Evan's extremely loyal and large fan base could sew this up for him. And the judges were certainly pushing hard for Jeanine to win so perhaps that's a possibility. I guess I predict that no matter who wins, I'll easily understand why.

Going way out on a limb there aren't I?

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