Another episode, another injury - that's 3 now this season. Is our relationship too new to say "I told you so?" In this week's episode of the top 6 dancers, Billy Bell chose not to perform due to a knee injury. That automatically puts him in this week's bottom three, but the injury doesn't appear to be too serious so hopefully he won't automatically be sent home tomorrow. To fill in the extra time, it seems, they added a fourth (guest) judge to the mix, Kenny Ortega, choreographer of Dirty Dancing and director of the High School Musical Trilogy. All in all, it was a solid night of dancing with a hearty cheering section in place of a judge's table.
Also, the show reached a couple of milestones - it was SYTYCD's 150th episode and it was announced that the show's costume designer won an Emmy. Ironically, however, as the show gets older, the attractiveness of Cat's dresses declines. It looked like she'd hastily wrapped a roll of red tissue paper around a tank top.
Onto the dancing...
1. Lauren and All-Star Twitch danced a western-inspired hip hop number
choreographed by NappyTabs. All the judges agreed they "tore it up." I thought the
dance was cute, but didn't demand much of the talented duo and it just seemed like they were a bit off synch all the way through (music: My Chick Bad by Ludacris & Nicki Minaj)
2. Jose and All-Star Allison played a couple in love in a Sonya Tayeh contemporary
piece that was danced almost entirely at the edge of the stage, representing the risks
you take with love. The judges found it difficult to critique the dance because it was
kind of quirky and as Shankman put it "there wasn't much dancing." Nigel said
the dance "covered up all of Jose's weaknesses" (read: lack of dance skills). Jose
escapes again (music: Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind Theme by Jon Brion)
3. Robert and All-Star Lauren seduced one another in a "storyless" jazz routine
choreographed by Tyce D'Orio. The piece was hot and well danced. The judges loved
it, but Mia and Adam pointed out a few nitpicky habits of Robert including the way he
jerks his head when he jumps (music: Wasted Time by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult)
4. Kent and All-Star Katherine danced an acrobatic Sonya Tayeh jazz number about
having fun and accepting who you are. The dance was met with high pitched screams
from the audience for Tween-favorite Kent. For the second week in a row, Nigel said
he "out-danced the All-Star". However, Mia reiterated her criticism of Kent's animated
facial expressions, which she felt took Sonya's work to a "juvenile level." I was mixed
on the dance - it never really found its groove for me (music: Tightrope by Janelle
5. Adechike and All-Star Comfort played the roles of a no good lying boyfriend and a
girlfriend on the edge of leaving in a NappyTab's hip hop routine. The dance was quite
emotional, moving Adechike to tears, and featured a mix of strong acting and dancing.
(I must admit, I was not a big fan of Comfort's during season 4, feeling vindicated when
she was voted off twice, but this season I have really been enjoying seeing her in her
element). The judges felt it was "so real" it was like watching a "dance film" and Nigel
said it reminded him of season 4 favorites "Bleeding Love" and "No Air" (music: Fallin'
by Alicia Keys)
That covers the first half of the show with the All-Stars. In the second half, the
contestants paired up.
6. Lauren and Robert danced a samba by Dmitry Chaplin that in my opinion was
lacking - the best parts were when the two danced as individuals, but when they came
together as a pair, I didn't feel the connection (and they sometimes missed each others'
hands). In a rare twist for the season, the judges thought Robert was better than Lauren,
although many a word was exchanged about her BUTT... (music: ''Drummer Boy
SYTYCD'' Remix by Debi Nova)
7. Jose and Adechike paired up for the first all-male Paso Doble matador duel featured
on SYTYCD. The disappointing dance was choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin &
season 5 contestant Legacy. There was no fluidity between the movements and Jose,
not surprisingly, appeared in over his head, technically. But this time, the judges were
able to see past Jose's puppy dog eyes and admitted, albeit in a democratic fashion, that
it represented a "valiant effort" and no more (music: ''The Arrival/Rampage/Continued
Existence'' by James Dooley)
8. Kent & All-Star Twitch (stepping in for injured contestant Billy) gave it their all in
the show's first "stepping" pairs dance choreographed by Chuck Maldonado. I thought
Kent looked like he was trying really hard, but I did't feel like he quite hit it. The
judges felt otherwise, pronouncing that "Kent is the one to beat" (music: ''Pro Nails Rusko
Remix'' by Kid Sister)
That wraps up the pairs dances. Overall, I thought Robert was the strongest dancer of the
night. My guess for the bottom three includes: Billy (guaranteed), Jose and Adechike.
What else? I'll devote about as much time to the solos as the show does: they were all
strong. And before each, there was a sweet clip of the dancers' parents expressing their
pride and love for their kids and wishing them the best. The music was fun, as usual. I
especially liked the throw back to grade school with "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys and an a
cappella version of the Boyz II Men song "End of the Road" for Kent's solo. And as per
usual, Nigel took two opportunities in this episode to pat himself on the back for the void
SYTYCD fills in the world: first, for giving credibility to male dancers and second, for
bringing stepping to the world stage.
And now, if you're still with me, as promised, I'd like to address one of our season-long
questions: Do we like Mia Michaels as a judge?
After some deep thinking and a scan of the blogosphere, the short answer is no. On the
one hand, people (myself included) don't seem to like her as a person. She's abrasive
and self-important, and I know this shouldn't matter, but it really bothers me the way she
squints her eyes all the time - probably to avoid intrusion by the volumes of eye shadow
she applies each morning. Oh, and did I mention she too often judges on the basis of
looks rather than dance skills?
Some research on Facebook reveals that I'm not the only one to feel this way. People
have called her racist for her uneven critiques of Brandon from Season 5 and this
season's Adechike. I think that's a bit much, but the depth of her hatred for Brandon
(my personal favorite that season) was odd. Others claim she must be bumping uglies
with beat-boy Jose. She's been called "self-absorbed, hateful and too personal" in her
criticisms, as well as "flaky" and "bile spewing." Apparently there's a lot of animosity
toward self-proclaimed Mama Mia. So much so, that she has people pleading for the
return of "Mary, Mary, Mary." There are even two Mia haters groups dedicated to the
cause on Facebook: one called Drop The Dead Weight and Bring Mary Murphy Back
and another called SYTYCD: Campaign to Remove Mia Michaels as Judge.
But besides her personality, Mia disappointingly hasn't brought much to the table in
the way of dance expertise. For a choreographer, she spends very little time judging
the actual dancing and instead chooses to focus on everything but: looks, emotion,
etc. At least Mary Murphy stepped up when the show needed an expert to judge the
ballroom dances. Mia has done little to bring greater clarity and access to her specialty,
contemporary dance. And, as one of the most talented choreographers the show has had,
known for such routines as "Mercy"and "Calling You" for which she won an Emmy
in 2007, the show certainly suffers from her inability to choreograph due to her role as a
Overall, it seems Mia brings negative value as a judge and a lot of value as a
choreographer. I'm not sure if the show needs to bring Mary Murphy and her "Hot
Tamale Train" back, but perhaps it should return to a format with two permanent judges
(Nigel and Shankman), with a third rotating seat for choreographers. That's right, I'm
even willing to endure two episodes a season of the incoherent Lil' C if it means having
Mia off the judges table and back-stage as a choreographer.
Comments welcome. Greene out.