The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: The Mind-blowing Artistry of So You Think You Can Dance

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageDon’t worry, you are not having a déjà vu. A few weeks ago I already dedicated an installment of the Television Collision to FOX’s dance competition So You Think You Can Dance. And now I am doing it again. Why, you ask? Simply because I cannot say it often enough what a pleasure this show is to watch. Moreover, I forgot to mention a few things the last time around. But first and foremost because last Wednesday’s performance show BLEW MY MIND! I no longer have any concept of life before I saw the amazing artistry that transpired that night.

Let me start at the beginning. I knew last Wednesday would be a fairly exciting show, because the Top Ten Dancers had been revealed and the old couples would be broken up and combined randomly into new ones. Furthermore, from now on America would get to vote for individuals and not couples anymore and the judges would not get a say in who gets eliminated. (If you are not familiar with the elimination process on SYTYCD, don’t worry, it’s not required knowledge to understand my point.)

Oh, while I am on the subject of voting and before I gallop away about other stuff, one thing I forgot to mention last week: How awesome is it that voting for SYTYCD is toll free from landlines?!? There is none of that crappy consumer feeling when you dial the number of your favorite for the tenth time that all you are doing is shoving money down FOX's throat (or the phone companies' throat, who really knows where that money goes?). The show really is about art first and only secondary about the money, making it all the better.

Now, back to Top Ten Week. So I was prepared for surprises, good ones and bad ones, with the new couples and raised stakes, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened about midway through the show.
Sure enough Kayla and Evan and Janette and Ade had delivered solid performances. Though Evan struggled with the height difference in their Viennese Waltz, with all his Broadway attitude he still is one of my favorite male dancers this year, though I know full well he is not going to win the competition. Kayla took a while to grow on me, despite the judges raving about her lines and legs, she didn’t have star potential to me, she was just too perfect. Yet an elegance like hers isn’t as easy to find in dancers as some might think.

Janette and Ade actually really rocked the stage with their Tabitha & Napoleon hip hop routine. It was clean and funky and in sync. On any other given night, this would easily have been the stand-out number of the evening. NappyTabs, as the choreographing spouses call themselves, always deliver stellar choreography and cater to the dancers’ styles. I always enjoy their routines immensely, because they really think about what they do and often will match the movements to the lyrics of the song, which is an approach I appreciate a lot. After all the lyrics do give a song its meaning and hence the dance should coordinate with this meaning.

(Click the start button twice to run video.)


Yet NappyTabs, Janette and Ade had the bad luck of going on stage just before Jason and Jeanine, who blew the competition out of the water. (Similarly going on after them was a curse for Randi and Kupono, who both ended up being eliminated after a very weak Paso Doble.) Neither Jeanine nor Jason had really impressed the pants off me in their old pairings, though I always enjoyed their performances and especially their solos, when they got to perform them. Who could possibly have known that the combination of those two would lead to the spontaneous combustion that it did?

For their contemporary routine – a lucky draw for them, since they are both contemporary dancers – they worked with Travis Wall, who was a contestant and runner-up in Season 2. The fact alone that a show like SYTYCD gives individuals the opportunity and the means to grow from a “mere” contestant into a celebrated choreographer (the praise poured in after Jason and Jeanine’s performance) is remarkable in and of itself. The piece Travis choreographed though would have been just as impressive if he already had the repertoire and reputation of someone as established as Mia Michaels.

Set to an acoustic version of Jason Mraz’ “If It Kills Me” (which makes all of Mraz’ music better), the piece tells the story of childhood friends who fall in love, but aren’t sure whether they should really go through with it, because they stand to lose too much if it all goes wrong.
Jeanine and Jason set out to prove to everyone why they were still on the show – both of them having been in the bottom three couples before – and they sure let their competition know that the fight is on.

Prepare yourself, sit down and enjoy this video – several times.

(Click the start button twice to run video.)

If you don’t see what I am talking about, not even after several viewings, then dance is definitely not for you. This routine made me clap my hands, yelp with joy and shed a tear at the same time. The chemistry between the pair is undeniable – even without the kiss at the end, which is a “never before” on the show – and both of them show off their excellent technique as well, without it becoming the center of the piece. Only two exquisite dancers could dance this in a way so thoroughly enjoyable, so effortless, so emotionally touching, so painfully beautiful.

I have yet to see either Brandon or Kayla, who I suspected to be the number one guy and girl until last week, produce such a convincing performance from the heart and enthrall judges and audience alike. The reaction of Jason and Jeanine immediately after finishing the routine, before they had even heard the judges comments, clearly indicates they knew what they had just done: made SYTYCD history.

An astonishing FOUR So You Think You Can Dance choreographies from last summer’s Season 4 are nominated for an Emmy this year and I will be damned if the Travis Wall routine doesn’t get this honor next year. I firmly believe it will stand up against anything the fall season this year can produce and people will remember this one for a good long while.
Hell, if I lived in America, I would get myself a ticket to the "SYTYCD Top Ten Tour" right now just to see that routine live.

Okay, I’ll stop raving.

A couple of things I forgot to mention last time though:
You can follow the judges and some of the choreographers on Twitter and it’s very nice to hear what they actually think. They even ask opinions sometimes or post pictures from behind the scenes. Nigel Lythgoe especially comes across as a very pleasant man and it is so refreshing after all that Simon Cowell we get shoved down our throats all the time.
Here are the nicks you could/should follow (though I am sure there are more SYTYCD affiliates I haven’t found yet):

dizzyfeet – exec producer & judge Nigel Lythgoe
NAPPYTABS – choreographer spouses Tabitha and Napoleon
adammshankman – choreographer and movie director Adam Shankman
HOTtamaleTRAIN – judge and ex-ballroom dancer Mary Murphy
travISova – ex-contestant and choreographer Travis Wall
kingofkrump – guest judge and choregrapher Lil’ C

And to top it all off, I have to re-mention the beauty who is the show's hostess, Cat Deeley. She is genuine in her interaction not only with the contestants but also with the judges and has a very quick wit. It’s impossible not to like her and it’s impossible not to think she is absolutely fabulous, as is appropriate for an (ex-)model and shall be demonstrated in the gallery below.

I am telling you, you better tune in tomorrow to catch the Top 8 dancers perform! It’s a platitude, but this year just really may be the best they have ever had (and by now I have caught up with every season except Season 1, so I have some comparison). And just in case you don’t tune in even though I strongly recommended it, I will be back with more praise and ravings, I've got a feeling about it.

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