Friday, July 10, 2009

SYTYCD: Let’s talk about the choreographers

The producers have gathered a tremendous cast of choreographers, most of whom would never have been heard of outside their small circles. Every season they get better, perhaps because the dancers get better and can handle more complex choreographies. The last two weeks (4 and 5) have been outstanding showcases for these talented choreographers.

This week top honors go to Mia Michaels and Leo Barrionuevo and Miriam Larici. Michaels created yet another moving and startling contemporary piece, this time for Kayla and Kupono. The subject was addiction and the dynamic created between the dancers (Kupono as the addiction and Kayla as the addicted) truthfully depicted that relationship of longing and despair. Kupono’s relentless and confident pull on Kayla’s attempts to escape were performed with deep conviction. These two performed with similar intensity and skill in week 4 with Sonya Tayeh’s outstanding contemporary piece, another of my favorites. (I can’t believe that only a few weeks ago I thought Kupono should have been eliminated. He has proved me very wrong. I now think he is the best male dancer of the season.) Michaels’ talent seems to grow stronger every season and I wish she would create a touring company so we could watch a whole evening of her work.

Barrionuevo and Larici are (I think) new to the broadcast and I hope they become regulars. Their Argentine Tango for Janette and Brandon was filled with the passion and complexity the form is known for. They didn’t seem to hold anything back just because their dancers were inexperienced in tango. And with the considerable talents of Janette and Brandon, they didn’t need to. Even Lythgoe gave them a standing o. Brandon, usually so childlike in behavior and appearance, completely transformed himself into a dramatic tanquero and Janette’s long lunges and flicking feet were gorgeous.

Last night, though, there were many other excellent choreographies. Joey Dowling’s Broadway number (the Dance at the Gym music from West Side Story) for Kayla and Kupono was joyous, jazzy and fun. I loved its playfulness, despite the judges who thought it wasn’t enough like Robbins’ original dance (they were wrong: I don’t think Dowling intended them to be the Jets).

Mandy Moore and Wade Robson, both veterans of SYTYCD, consistently bring us exciting new choreography. Moore’s lyrical jazz finally gave Caitlyn and Jason a chance to shine. These dancers have too often been the unfortunate victims of unsuccessful choreography and atrocious costume disasters. Moore created a charming and delicious piece that was just too short. I wanted to see where this was going. Maybe she will develop this into a longer dance.


Robson, along with Michaels, is favored by the dancers and audience alike. This week he choreographed a jazz piece for Janette and Brandon who interpreted Robson’s unique movements to perfection. As thieves, the dancers skulked around the stage with fresh and quirky movements.

D Sanchez’s disco was superbly performed by Melissa and Ade and had me wanting to join in. This was true for the disco she created for Janette and Brandon in week 2. It helped that she got to use real disco music. Tony Merideth’s jive utilized the technical skill of Jeanine and the stage presence of Philip to great advantage. He also created a lovely foxtrot for Caitlyn and Jason, again demonstrating their talents. I thot Nap and Tab’s lyrical hip hop (who knew hip hop could be lyrical?) was delightful, although I don’t think Evan was really up to the task. Randi’s performance, however, expressed genuine pleasure in the movement.

A quick comment on the Russian Kalinka performed by Jeanine and Philip. I was thrilled that the producers took a risk and introduced a dance from the folk tradition. This one is technically and stylistically challenging and the dancers performed admirably. Philip’s lines could have been crisper and Jeanine’s landings could have been lighter, but I hope the unusualness of the style won’t discourage voters or the producers from trying again.

Postscript: Results show.

What can I say? I’m disappointed, dismayed, pissed off. I was sure Randi and Evan would be going home. Evan just hasn’t impressed me as much as I thot he would; he hasn’t grown as a dancer. Philip has surprised and delighted me consistently. And I’d rather watch Caitlyn than Randi. Caitlyn is the best soloist the show has ever had. At least Philip and Caitlyn will be on the tour. From here on, every elimination will be a disappointment. Best get used to it, I guess.

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