This week has been a sad week for pop culture with the loss of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I’m glad that Nigel took a minute to address each of these figures, as each of their lives impacted the lives of others – perhaps none more greatly than that of Michael Jackson. I sometimes get very tired of our obsession with celebrities, but I certainly don’t find it in anyway trite or silly to mourn the loss of a beloved actor, musician or television personality. The reason these people were famous is because their lives created a product consumed and enjoyed by many people. They lived to entertain us and make us happy, to move us, and so it’s only fitting that we should be moved by their loss. I don’t generally listen to the all-dance station here in the Bay Area, but as I drove home from work yesterday, I had sincerely hoped that some stations would be playing Michael Jackson songs as a tribute to his long and varied career. Sure enough, I found that Movin’ 99.7 was doing just that, asking callers to request their favorite MJ songs and share the ways in which his music touched their lives. Me? I’m not the biggest MJ fan, but I do like to hear about how art reaches people, and I am grateful for every single one of his fans who called in to share a time when they got the courage to dance with a girl they liked because “P.Y.T.” was playing or how, as Nigel noted last night on Dancey Dance, so many people were inspired to take dance lessons because of the wonderful, memorable choreography in Michael Jackson’s music videos.
(Husband Note: I actually listen to Movin’ every day on my drive back from the office, and also enjoyed that they overhauled the St. John’s Playhouse 5 O’ Clock Happy Hour Mix and did a wonderful job sampling bits of his musical history. Once they upload the “podcast,” which should be later today, you can download the very mix in question at this link.)
I wish Nigel had more to say about Farrah Fawcett and how her career affected him, rather than telling a story about how the actress, while very ill, invited him over to teach him how to make pecan pie. (Although this does give me a great insight into the kind of woman she was – a kind, giving, sweet-toothed optimist with iconic feathered hair.) But I think the remembrance I appreciated the most from Nigel was what he said about Ed McMahon. Both Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien paid tribute to the former Tonight Show announcer earlier in the week (Conan showed a clip of McMahon riffing on the original Late Night with Conan O’Brien where Andy Richter challenged him to a rigged game of quarters), but Nigel actually reminded me of another facet of McMahon’s life I’d completely forgotten about: StarSearch. Half of the pop talents I grew up with were discovered on Ed McMahon’s StarSearch, a program that established the modern reality competition program genre, the televised talent show we’ve come to know and love in many incarnations from American Idol to Top Chef to Project Runway to So You Think You Can Dance.
But those necessary tributes aside, there was dancing for lives to be done and, even on such a sad day for the world of dance, dancers had to be cut from the competition. Ed McMahon would have wanted it that way. I think he (and Farrah and MJ) would have all enjoyed the opening number, a spicy club salsa number, the likes of which we’ve never seen before on SYTYCD, choreographed by season two’s Dmitry Chaplin and Tabitha and Napoleon. First of all, it is about damn time we had a group Latin dance number, especially one as writhing and sexy as that was. Chaplin choreographs some pretty hot Latin numbers (I remember season three’s cha cha for Lacey and whomever she was dancing with at the time) (Husband Note: It was Danny. Watch the video below), and I have to say that dancing on tables coated in water was a nice music video/vodka ad touch. (And also very Eastern European, considering I’ve seen Bulgarian all-male Romeo & Juliet that ended in an amazing, electric-light-laden-water-dance.) I’m not really sure how much Tab/Nap had to do with that, perhaps just the guys’ group section, but the whole thing was pretty damn cool. Please do on tour. Kthxbi.
Cat sort of did her own Farrah Fawcett tribute, surprising the hell out of me by wearing a palm-print halter jumpsuit that I simply can’t believe looks that good on any human being. Was that thing from the Michael Kors cruise collection? Does Michael Kors even do cruise? If he did, though, I bet it would look that chic. And as she towered over the dancers, looking even taller than she already does thanks to said amazing jumpsuit that I couldn’t wear in a million years, she announced the evening’s results.
- Auska & Vitolio: Bottom 3
- Jeanette & Brandon: Safe
- Randi & Evan: Safe (“The butt made the cut,” Cat intoned. Good job, writers!)
- Jeanine & Phillip: Safe
- Melissa & Ade: Safe
- Karla & Jonathan: Bottom 3
- Kayla & Kupono: Safe
- Caitlin & Jason: Bottom 3
Allow me to gloat for a moment that I am a very premium judge of dances, for I have once again correctly identified which couples will be in the bottom three. I really wish we got points for predicting the couples that would be in the bottom three in EW‘s SYTYCD Predictify game, because I would get hella more points that way. I am by no means very good at this game, but at least I’m beating two EW staffers, Alynda Wheat and Annie Barrett. So Cat sent the bottom three couples off to prepare for their dancing-for-their-lives solos and she brought on this week’s Special Guest from the World of Dance: a group of adolescent (and prepubescent!) boys called the Rage Boyz Crew, choreographed by Tiffany Byrne. First of all, the teenage white kids in this crew are hilarious because some of them went an extra mile to hit everything HARRRRDD. Second of all, I don’t think the teeny tiniest of the Rage Boyz was all that good as a dancer and the only reason they put him in dance captain position was that he was so tiny and cute, but when the older boys LAUNCHED THAT LITTLE DUDE IN THE AIR I was suddenly ALL ABOUT THAT KID. He is my hero. He has no fear. And a great fro. And is tiny and adorable. Please buy me one! (Husband Note: Stop trying to buy tiny African-American children! It sends the wrong idea.)
I’m not sure any of the solos lived up to the glory of tossing a tiny afroed boy into the air, but there were a couple of moments that I thought were great (although Nigel vehemently disagreed with me about these).
- Auska: Girl phoned this shit in as she half-heartedly shimmied and shook that blue fringed dress across the floor to “Don’t Trust Me” by 30H!3. Sad.
- Vitolio: He got points immediately for dancing to Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” because this shit is my jam. I thought he was extremely powerful, and I was floored by the height of his jumps, his lines, his strength and his carriage. I mean, when Chris Martin sang “feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes,” I fucking FELT THAT. Nigel, apparently, did not and later told Vitolio he didn’t do enough because all those powerful moments never built toward something more powerful.
- Karla: Her solo last night to Radiohead’s “15 Steps” was officially more interesting than she has ever been. Ever. Nigel later said it was all over the place, and I kind of felt that, especially during the super-duper arm-twirly movement that came the fuck out of nowhere, but at least it was interesting in its awkwardness.
- Jonathan: He chose to dance to a strong, Africanized beat with Kodo’s “The Hunted.” I thought this started strong as he leapt from the stairs to the stage, but then it rapidly descended into madness, and not in an intentional, artistic way, either.
- Caitlin: Like Vitolio, I’m giving the girl props for interpreting lyrics with movement. She chose to perform to a version of “Que Sera Sera” by Jennifer Terran that sounded a bit like a dying cat, but she somehow handled the darkness of that minor-keyed rendering with grace, particularly the moment when she fell to her knees and drew her arms into her chest on the lyric “I asked my lover where should I go.” Plus, she didn’t rely too much on her gymnastics tricks tonight, earning back some points with me.
- Jason: I think this solo might have been such a mess because of song choice, “New American Classics” by Taking Back Sunday, which gave him absolutely nothing to work with. That said, I thought his floorwork was nice. Nigel disagreed and told him later that whole thing was desperate.
In the end, the two dancers with the absolute weakest solos of the night were sent home, Auska unanimously, and Jonathan un-unanimously. I’m glad to see Jonathan go, as I don’t think he contributed anything to the show in the 3 weeks he’s been here, but I’m a little sad to see Auska go. Sure, she wasn’t great last night or tonight, but now we’ve ousted two ballroom dancers, which narrows our diversity field to having one salsa dancer, one ballerina, one popper, one Broadway baby and a whole bunch of contemporary/lyrical/jazz dancers. Now, this show has proven multiple times that dancers of the contemporary/lyrical/jazz styles are often the most successful on the show (if not winning, then placing in the finals), but there are at least three examples off the top of my head of ballroom dancers making it to the top . . . and all three of those examples are Schwimmers. So what gives this season? Where’s the love for diverse styles?
I’m glad that the horrible Jonathan/Karla pair has been broken up, though. It’ll be good to see what Karla can do with a new partner. I think Vitolio’s emotiveness might just finally be the end of Karla, as it will show her weakness in that area of performance. I just hope it won’t be the end of Vitolio, as well.