I’m watching TV.

It’s funny, realizing just how long it’s been since I had to remember to turn the TV on at a particular time, on a particular channel, because I wanted to watch something current.

I watch a lot of TV, but 99.9% of it is on DVD, after the season is over. Commercials annoy the snot out of me; I like being able to hit pause and wander off to get a drink; I like watching the show at my own pace (which is often “marathon”). But when my mother was here a few weeks ago, we watched So You Think You Can Dance, and — gasp — I’ve continued to watch it since then.

Here’s why I like the show. (The dance thing, obviously, but there’s more to it than that.)

For starters, they’re doing a pretty good job of being open to all kinds of styles, from ballroom to ballet to street. Not only can you potentially get on the show whether you’re swing or crunk, once you’re there, they’ll make you operate outside of your safety zone. So we get hip-hop guys doing the foxtrot, and ballerinas grunging it up, and some of them adapt spectacularly. (It also, as a corollary, means that the show has a higher degree of racial diversity than I’ve seen practically anywhere on TV. I predict that once this week’s cuts are made, there won’t be any white guys left — and the only one remaining is a Hawaiian guy who looks like he has more than just Europeans in his ancestry.)

Also, until they get down to the last 10, the cuts are made by both popular and judge decision. That is, viewers vote, and then the bottom slice of contestants solo before the judges boot one guy and one girl. This guarantees that when you get to the final stages of the show, everybody left is actually good. You may have preferred someone who got cut, but the remaining dancers are at least worthy.

Which means that the later stages of the show are really friendly instead of vicious and cut-throat, at least as seen on TV. Tonight’s episode was one big love-in, with the judges raving about what beautiful dancers all of them are; even when they criticize, they often do it apologetically, with references to all the other wonderful things the dancer is capable of, even if they failed at the current routine. And since the contestants have to dance in pairs, whatever sniping may go on backstage, you don’t see it out front; trying to undercut your partner is about the stupidest move you could make. The best way to look good is to make the person you’re with look good. There’s no Donald Trump being an asshole at the contestants, no fake conflict generated to boost ratings.

So what you’re left with is a lot of friendly people creating beautiful and diverse art.

For that, I remind myself to turn on the TV every Wednesday at 8 p.m. It’s worth the effort.

0 Responses to “I’m watching TV.”

  1. astres

    Don’t forget to watch the elimination shows on Thursdays 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      I missed it last week, alas. I do wish both parts of the show were less padded — that it had a higher dancing/other stuff ratio — but on the other hand, if the Wednesday episodes were more packed, I would have less time to reset my mind between routines.

  2. thespisgeoff

    I’ve tried to explain how beautiful this show is to others…Nigel and Mary get on my nerves, and sometimes they’re blatantly pushing an agenda, but there’s a generosity that’s just amazing. Even when the judges or choreographers are “mean” it’s only because they want the dancers to be the best they possibly can be.

    This year, it’s hard for me – I usually have a favorite early on. This year? Not so much. They’re each unique, each with their own weaknesses that make it impossible to root for them and them alone. I want the final eight to go on forever – or at least three or four weeks – so I don’t have to lose the guy I think I’d most want to work with in real life.

    • Marie Brennan

      I wish Mary would not shriek.

      Nigel can be annoying, but not excessively so, at least in the eps I’ve seen. And I think they all do an admirable job of being open-minded to different dance forms, which is an achievement all on its own; to be a ballroom woman asked to critique crunk or disco must be pretty tough.

      The guys are pretty spectacular, yeah, and I sided with Nigel a couple of weeks ago when he said he wished he could cut two girls and leave the guys. I think my preference is for Will, but Twitch keeps making me question that, and the rest are still well worth watching. The women . . . I kind of regret Jessica breaking her rib, because otherwise she would have been cut soon and Comfort would have stayed gone, and I wish Kherington had a little bit longer to prove herself. Katee’s my distinct favorite there, though.

      so I don’t have to lose the guy I think I’d most want to work with in real life.

      Which one is that?

      • thespisgeoff

        Mark. He’s just a brilliant person.

        My issue with Nigel (this year, at least) is his love for NappyTabs’ hip-hop over more “traditional” styles. A couple of weeks ago he said that “this is what hip hop’s been trying to be,” as if the only way hip hop could become “real” dance was if it was absorbed into the Lyrical/Contemporary world.

        Last year, he seemed to think the show created dance. This year, though, he’s awestruck by some of the people he’s gotten to choreograph, and it’s a much nicer Nigel.

        What I hate about Mary as a permanent judge is that we don’t get her choreographing – and she’s a killer ballroom choreographer.

        …I miss Wade this year. Terribly, terribly.

        Katee is, by far, my favorite girl. She just *glows* out there.

        I have issues with Will’s partnering – there’s nothing charitable about his dancing; he dances his brilliant way, and his partner just better keep up. It was especially apparent, for me, in tonight’s samba. He’s a brilliant dancer on his own or in a group…but except for in the pas de deux with Katee, he’s never really made his partner look better for dancing with him.

        • Marie Brennan

          Mark keeps being just charismatic enough to keep me interested in him, but he hasn’t really wowed me. Then again, I’ve only been watching for three weeks.

          Your comment on Nigel and hip-hop — I guess I’m not surprised by that, since step one of learning to like a dance style out of your comfort zone is generally liking the bits of it that are the most like your comfort zone. So maybe it’s progress, if not quite enough yet.

          I do like the love the show has for its choreographers, though, and I’m deeply glad that the people who create the routines aren’t made invisible. They’re just as big a part of the performances as the dancers. I haven’t seen any of Mary’s choreography, but now you have me curious; frankly, a lot of the ballroom numbers don’t quite do it for me, since I’m a lyrical/contemporary girl at heart, and a lot of the ballroom feels too . . . enclosed? I want leaps and extensions and things those styles don’t give me enough of.

          Interesting comment on Will. I don’t think I have quite a good enough eye to spot that for myself, but you may be right. What I love about him is his adaptability, which you really see in his solos; he’s about the only person who doesn’t get out there and do the same damn thing every week. (Most of them really aren’t great choreographers anyway, and on that front Comfort blows.)

          I really do wish the show allowed for two winners, one from each side. I don’t want to have to choose between the guys and the girls.

          • thespisgeoff

            Will’s solos consistently blow me away – he provides a performance, start to finish, every time. He’s never just freestyling for thirty seconds. But I’m scared for his partner in fast turns – he never checks to make sure she’s there, and it could cause some serious issues. (There’s debate on this, but I’m pretty sure he dropped Jessica onto the floor doing a Disco death drop in the first week or two.) He and Katee are the dancers up there I can see really working with a modern dance company, and since that’s my background (as an audience member), they get my main love.

            Interesting that we have opposite takes on the ballroom – what I dislike about SYTYCD ballroom is that it’s a bit too contemporary – they move past the basics, work in hold, etc, right onto lifts and tricks. There have been “waltzes” that don’t move across the floor at all in hold, for instance.

          • Marie Brennan

            I’m not surprised they blitz past the ballroom basics; the show does have to provide a certain amount of popular spectacle, and lifts and tricks are easier for the layperson to appreciate than close work. (I mean, they can only skimp the girls’ costumes so far, and tear the guys’ shirts off so often.)

            Maybe my real problem with the ballroom is that it’s neither fish nor fowl. Contemporary enough to make me wish I were watching real contemporary, but not quite ballroom enough to show off the specialized appeal of that form. Then again, my sense of “ballroom I like to watch” is pretty much founded on the pasodoble at the end of Strictly Ballroom. <g>

  3. kurayami_hime

    That’s very similar to America’s Best Dance Crew. Everyone’s supportive of everyone else, the judges are constructive, and the dancing’s pretty darn awesome.

    • Marie Brennan

      Constructive — that’s it exactly. The only tearing-down they do is so that something stronger can be built in its place. There’s never (that I’ve seen) “oh my god, you couldn’t dance your way out of a hip-hop paper bag;” instead, it’s “I really wanted to see you get down more into your knees and really feel it from the gut” or whatever metaphorical jargon they’re using at the moment. And given that they shake up the pairs, it’s in the dancers’ best interests to get along with all their fellow contestants, at least of the opposite gender — you never know who might be flinging you about the stage next week.

  4. amysisson

    I just adore this show. I became an addict in Season 2 (Benji) and in Season 3 took it up a notch by going to the tour. I was thrilled when Sabre won.

    I missed Nigel’s comment about wishing they could cut two girls, but I sure understand it. It’s getting darn difficult at this point. I feel that Mark was seriously handicapped tonight by being paired with Comfort, and with the routines they got. I hate to see him go for that reason — but I love Twitch, Will, and Joshua. When they do there solos, Mark’s is the least accessible to me — I just don’t get what he’s doing.

    For the girls, Katee has been amazing — real entertainment ability and stage presence. I’m also partial to Courtney — but wow, Chelsea’s Argentine Tango tonight was amazing. Poor Comfort has long been out of her element, but I give her points for trying week after week when it’s clear she’s at the bottom training-wise.

    My overall favorite has to be Twitch. I love his open face and his ability to adapt. But my favorite routine was Katee & Joshua’s Bollywood dance.

    Sorry to ramble, but I do get enthusiastic about this show!

    • Marie Brennan

      You’re right that a bad partner can be a handicap, but I’m honestly not sure Mark would survive much longer anyway. In the three weeks I’ve been watching, the judges keep on pointing out the ways in which he isn’t quite there. But I also wouldn’t have been as harsh on his foxtrot, probably because (as Toni Basil said) he carried off the jazziness of it so well. It wasn’t until they showed the recap when Mary was criticizing the close embrace that I saw how it wasn’t a good foxtrot.

      Courtney and Chelsie are both quite good; if anything, I think the reason I don’t warm to Chelsea is that she’s kind of “interchangeable blonde” in my head. She doesn’t stand out as an individual for me, and Courtney is only a little better. (Reverse racism? It’s all the white folks I’m finding boring.)

      I give Comfort points for guts, but she just doesn’t have the technique. They were right to cut her when they did, and I’m surprised she didn’t go right back out last week. (But of course that was viewer-voted, without the judges.)

  5. sarcastibich

    I think Katee and Joshua were INCREDIBLY lucky in being paired together to start, and I think they became judge and thus audience favorites. THeir critiques and even routines smack of favoritism to me, and they make me go “Seriously?! Did they just get the prime dance style again this week? Seriously?”

    THey are both good dancers, and I like their routines. This year I’m not sure who will win because so many of them are so good or they are crowd favorites. The guy vote this week will be VERY interesting. We know Mark will be bottom 2, but which of the other three guys goes with him?

    • Marie Brennan

      I only saw Katee and Joshua together once (after that, they started shaking the pairs up), but I thought the choice of styles was randomized — unless you’re suggesting they rig it.

      • thespisgeoff

        It’s at least slightly pre-planned. Katee and Will are the only dancers there able to handle a Desmond Richardson piece – and, voila, they were paired together the week he was choreographing!!! This doesn’t mean it’s not fair – it’s just not as random as we’re supposed to believe.

        • amysisson

          Do you think they don’t assign the styles randomly, or that they pick the choreographer(s) after they see who drew which style? Is there any evidence of this other than the Katee/Will/Desmond Richardson example (and which dance was that, by the way)?

          I’m just curious….

  6. laurelwen

    Did you happen to catch the Bollywood number they did a couple weeks ago? I don’t remember the names of all the people, but the pair who got it just ripped it up. I was quite pleased to see something that cool going on. Of course, as others have already pointed out, the judges laid it on a little thick when discussing the style itself, but it was fun to watch.

    The only problem is that Project Runway now runs at 8:00 and that takes precedence for me. Yes, I know it’s on later, but I go to bed at 10:30 these days, so I can’t watch the whole thing.

    I concur with whoever posted earlier…Fanny Pack freaking rules.

    • Marie Brennan

      That was Katee and Joshua. I’m not surprised the judges raved about the style; if they’re trying to expand the show’s repertoire, they need to convince the audience to like the new things they bring in. (Not me, though. I’d love to see more world-regional dance material!)

  7. amysisson

    I wonder if you can answer this, as you know a lot more about ballet than I do. Was that “pas de deux” piece a few weeks ago really a pas de deux? I wouldn’t have thought that’s a style of dance the way tango or contemporary or hip-hop is; rather I would have thought the style would be “ballet” and the piece would just happen to be a “pas de deux” (again, if it really was one).

    Wikipedia (my quick source at the moment) says: “In ballet, a pas de deux (French, step/dance for two) is a duet in which ballet steps are performed together. It usually consists of an entrée, adagio, two variations (one for each dancer), and a coda.”

    Alas, I have no idea if that’s true, and if so, it that’s actually what they did in that routine. The piece didn’t impress me much — to me, it was simply another contemporary routine. I mean, much more so than glossing over ballroom technicalities, they certainly can’t require them to do real ballet!

Comments are closed.