The Wife:

In front of an audience of three thousand at Hollywood’s Kodak theatre, our final four dancers performed in the last competition show of the season. Overall, I have to say that I was very impressed with the routines presented last night, as well as the solos. Clearly, some things were better than others on both counts, but this finale certainly lived up to the grandeur that was the oh-so-very-MTV set on that big ol’ stage. Well, except for that opening groove that the dancers do each week. That thing looks doubly stupid in a giant stage when performed by only four people. I’ll be sticking to my regular format this week of ranking the dances and solos in order of my preference, but first I’d like to talk about that Top 4 number.

Wade and Amanda Robson choreographed a routine for Kayla, Jeanine, Evan and Brandon in which they played high school cheerleaders and football players shamelessly flirting with one another. It was set to Lady Gaga’s “Boys Boys Boys.” When I hear Wade Robson, I do not expect a routine associated with high school stereotypes. I expect romances between hummingbirds and flowers, quirky jewel thieves, vagabond cabarets, alligator people dancing to Tom Waits and, of course, Victorian zombies. Furthermore, I expect a certain style that accompanies such out-of-the-box conceits. What I got with this routine was essentially a pop-jazz routine, as though it were choreographed by Dan Karaty. This is to say that it was the most “traditional” work I’ve ever seen Wade Robson do. (And I should note here that Dan Karaty actually does hip-hop, but I’ve always felt his work has a sort of poppy, music video feel, and that’s what I felt when watching this Wade piece.)

High School Musical as choreographed by Wade Robson.

High School Musical as choreographed by Wade Robson.

Did I dislike it? No, not at all. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m pretty sure it’s the Robson’s response to something Lady Gaga herself said the other day about her views on feminism. In short, she doesn’t view herself as one because she loves male culture and celebrates it. And that makes her not a feminist . . . how? I give Lady Gaga the benefit of the doubt most of the time in that I know she understands art and performance and that, for her young age, she really is a gifted songwriter deserving of her early admission to Juilliard, but for her to think that feminism somehow denigrates male culture (especially third-wave feminism) is more than a little wrong. In fact, it’s kind of dumb. It’s statements like that which further mistaken notions of what feminism actually is: leading certain people to believe that it is inherently mysandrist.

So for Wade and Amanda Robson to take one of Lady Gaga’s songs in which she openly praises and worships male culture (and proclaims liking boys who are into that, with their cars and catcalls) and turn it on its head by giving the women in the dance the power roles seems to me to be a really interesting subversion of the song. Sure, it agrees in one point to the liking-of-boys aspect, but its clear in Wade’s choreography that the men here are just playthings for Jeanine and Kayla. They’re not the kind of women who will stand idly by and be catcalled – they’re the ones in control. And that doesn’t make Brandon and Evan any less manly for allowing themselves to be in Jeanine and Kayla’s control. Anyway, I continue to be perplexed by the bundle of contradictions that is Lady Gaga and impressed by Wade Robson, even when he does totally un-Wade Robson stuff like this.

Moving on!

The Excellent

Jeanine and Kayla (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “The Four Sections: IV, Full Orchestra” by Steve Reich

I talk a lot about art and theatre when discussing this show, and no piece this season has better expressed what contemporary dance theatre looks like than this Mia Michaels contemporary routine. The number, expressing through the metaphor of layered clothing and movement the dancers’ journey and growth within this completion, brilliantly used the entirety of the Kodak’s enormous stage to tell its story. Each skirt the women stripped off may have removed a layer from themselves metaphorically, but added a layer to the visual interest of the performance. Mia Michaels made this dance for a big ol’ stage, and the left-to-right movements and costume removal helped fill that big ol’ stage. It was a visual feast of beautiful choreography danced by two women of incredible skill.

Fully layered, like the rich, complex dancers they are.

Fully layered, like the rich, complex dancers they are.

I completely agree with Nigel that the only problem here is that the dance simply wasn’t long enough. (And not in his mildly pervy double entendre sort of way.) Although the movement was big enough for that big stage, it was far too grandiose a piece for such a short duration. This work was the stuff of contemporary theatre, and I believe it should have been a whole number in itself, rather than the competition-length vignettes that a number of these dances are. I’d had watched this piece for at least 10 minutes, ideally as a section of a contemporary dance work about dancing. And I’d really like to see Mia develop it into a larger work, because I would pay to see that.

I also want to note here that while I like the number Mia did for the Top 2 boys in season three (“Two Princes” for Danny and Neil), I believe her choreography is best when she’s choreographing for women. This piece proves that, as does her piece for the Top 2 girls from season one, in which Ashle and Melody danced just as strongly (if not more so) than their male counterparts to “Message in a Bottle” by The Police. I love that routine, and I hope you guys do to:

Jeanine and Brandon (Paso Doble)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel
Song: “Tetsujin” from The Matrix Revolutions

If you’ve ever wanted to know what a industrial goth club for Latin ballroom dancing would look like, you now know. I was worried that the two ballroom numbers were at the end of the show, and even more worried to hear one of them was a Paso Doble. “Please be good!” I thought, knowing a lackluster Paso in the finale would be the ultimate in disappointment. This, however, was not disappointing. The industrial goth concept was a little weird, but I think it worked the instill in Jeanine and Brandon the dark passion that is the Paso Doble. They danced it clean, and they danced it mean. It will certainly be a Paso Doble to remember, and I hope that it will eventually erase all of the bad ones from my memory. Also, who knew Louis Van Amstel had this dark side?

Maybe a latin ballroom industrial goth club isn't such a bad idea after all . . .

Maybe a latin ballroom industrial goth club isn't such a bad idea after all . . .

The Good to Very Good

Jeanine and Evan (Jazz)
Choreography by Sonya Tayeh
Song: “Heartbreaker” by MSTRKRFT ft. John Legend

For me, the best part of this dance was Evan. I felt he was really strong here, well-suited to the style and 110% committed to the routine. The part where he clung to Jeanine’s back like an adorable spider-monkey was my favorite and highlighted both his agility and Jeanine’s strength. Honestly, I didn’t really watch her much in this number. That’s in part because I know she’s very good, but more because I wanted to see how Evan would do in this competition episode. He really surprised me here, and I think this number served him well to prove his capabilities and his worthiness in the Top 4.

Kayla and Brandon (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Bye Bye Love” from All That Jazz

Only these guys could create a photo like this.

Only these guys could create a photo like this.

Kayla and Brandon are such stunning technicians that they can do no wrong. Ever. Something about the sets, costuming and disco-y music in this number instantly made me think of The Apple, and I had a hard time focusing on the piece because of that. I just know that the danced it superbly because they replayed the lift sections at the end and they were certainly stunning. For Tyce’s part, I’m glad he actually added a hint of theatre into his choreography (it’s about death! the table! the chest pains!) to contextualize the piece, because otherwise it wouldn’t have made sense from a storytelling perspective. I’m also glad he didn’t over-Fosse it, even though this is from a movie by Fosse about Fosse’s life.

Evan and Kayla (Jive)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Song: “T.R.O.U.B.L.E.” by Travis Tritt

I caught myself thinking the other day about a certain number performed in season 4 by Mark and Kherington. It was a country two-step, and it was awful. I tried to find a video of it for you, but apparently the internet has done it’s best to forget that atrocity. So here, you’ll have to settle for a picture of the awkwardness:

I cant believe this was the best the internet could give me.

I can't believe this was the best the internet could give me.

Much like how the Kalinka will be the end of Russian folk dance on this show, I thought that Mark and Kherington had just about done in any country western dances on this show. I’m glad that Tony and Melanie revived that by taking a ballroom/swing standard and giving it a country flair. While I wouldn’t want to see too much country western dancing, I’d love to see a little bit more on this show. Much like disco, it’s usually rather upbeat and crowd pleasing and there’s something very interesting to me about seeing club/recreational dances turn into competition. I mean, we welcome that with hip-hop and we’re more than happy to see competitive hip-hop (though not competitive krumping because that NEVER went well on this show), so why not give a little bit more to the viewers who love getting drunk in rodeo bars?

My point in this is that from last year’s country two-step fiasco, we can only go upwards and I think this jive was a step in the right direction. (Although Kayla’s outfit, which was fringe AND ruffles AND cowboy boots was definitely a step in the wrong direction, fashion-wise.) Kayla was spot-on throughout. Once again the judges noted Evan’s retraction problems, but complimented him on his strength in the lift section. Truly, he served his purpose there by partnering well with Kayla and getting her into those double turns with grace. I simply cannot understand why a guy who is so good at old-timey Broadway stuff, which, oddly, translates well into contemporary and jazz work, can’t seem to get a decent retraction going in a dance style that was actually popular during the time period in which he specializes.

But he does look mighty cute in that shirt, no?

But he does look mighty cute in that shirt, no?

Which brings me to another question: Really, SYTYCD? You went an ENTIRE SEASON without a single West Coast Swing or Lindy Hop? Please bring those back. I love the Lindy Hop (as well I should, as Lindy was my grandfather’s Navy nickname because he was a top notch Lindy Hopper and my own middle name pays tribute to this fact). I love swing dance in general. All I want is one a season, dudes. Is that so much to ask?

Brandon and Evan (Pop-Jazz)
Choreography by Laurieann Gibson
Song: “Nasty” by Janet Jackson

Be cool, boys!

Be cool, boys!

The reason this number is last on my list is not because of the choreography, but because it was the only number of the night that really showed the disparity between the two dancers. Every step of the way, Brandon was out-dancing Evan. He was hitting it harder, getting nasty and dancing that shit into the ground. While I think Evan on his own would have made a good show of this (his movements were clean, well-timed and well-executed), standing next to Brandon he looked somewhat foolish. He just couldn’t keep up with Brandon’s inherent sense of fluid movement and musicality. Brandon gets a gazillion points for this one, Evan gets maybe 2,000. That said, I did believe Evan’s character throughout this piece and I loved the post-dance banter with Cat and Mary in which Mary seductively asked Evan what the nastiest thing he’s ever done was, and Cat balked at her and instructed Evan to answer only after the other Kasprzak’s covered his “grams” ears. (Side note: I was thoroughly surprised to see two elderly Kasprzak women in the audience, as I thought Cat was just being adorably British by making “grams” plural, as it seemed like something adorable British people would do, akin to calling your parents your “Moms” and “Pops” here in the States.) Evan’s version of nasty is more like being a Jet in West Side Story. In fact, I think he’d make an EXCELLENT Baby John. (Arthur Laurents! Take note! I am a very premium casting director!) But even if I believe Evan’s work here would translate to a 1950’s version of nastiness and street gangs, it just didn’t compare to Brandon, who was so damn nasty that he’d have to call Janet “Miss Jackson.”

Solos!

1. Brandon the Spiseagle once again takes my top spot with his mind-and-laws-of-physics-bending solo to Karl Jenkin’s recording of “Dies Irae.” He did the Spiseagle thing again, but also added in some different movements I’ve not quite seen before. Like Shankers and Nigel, I, too, do not understand the decision to wear the Imprisonment Board Shorts, but odd costuming choices aside, this was the best solo of the night. Hands down.

Long live the Spiseagle!

Long live the Spiseagle!

2. Jeanine did another one of her absurdly impressive combinations of technique and personality in this solo to “Por una Cabeza” from The Tango Project, allowing her to remain the most competent soloist among the women in the competition. Shankers was right to note that those pirouettes were insane, because they were. It was risky, and she pulled it off. Unlike Shankers, I liked the plastic flower. It made me really look at her face during those turns, which highlighted how well she could spot.

3. Kayla has never been a great soloist. There’s something about her own choreography that just hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of her audition. But even so, you can’t deny that she’s exceptionally talented as a dancer, and I liked her music choice of “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. Took me back to that great Mandy Moore routine for Neil and Sabra with the table.

4. Evan’s solo tonight suffered from too much stuff for too little time. As such, I don’t think we really got to see a good indicator of his style and technique from 30 seconds of “The Best is Yet to Come” by Michael Bublé. I loved the flip at the beginning and desperately want to know what kind of magic tape kept his hat on during that turn, and I liked the little slapstick bit with the hat-kicking after the end, but everything in between was very forgettable. It’s clear to me from his choreography here that this would have worked if he’d had a minute, or a minute-30, but he didn’t seem to know how to get that down to just 30 seconds and I think the solo suffered a bit.

So who will win? I really have no idea. Evan has a ton of fans, and my favorite lady has always been Kayla, but Nigel seems to think it’s between Brandon and Jeanine. I don’t know if he was just saying that to get the Evan and Kayla fans to vote hardcore, possibly promoting Kayla to winner, or if he really believes that. It’s hard to tell. At this moment, I’m not even sure who I’m going to lock in the EW SYTYCD predictify challenge. I’m feeling a Jeanine win is eminently possible, but I personally prefer Kayla. She is Radomkulous. That is all.

Other things:


  • The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for this episode is five, four of which were for that Paso Doble and one of which was for her own name.
  • I would really love someone, a producer, perhaps, to give Evan lots of money so he can create his own vaudeville-esque show with his brother Ryan. Dear people with money: make this happen. I, and millions of other Kasprzaktivists, would willingly pay to see that.
  • Do not credit me with the term Kasprzaktivist for an Evan/Ryan fan. That honor goes to CliqueClack’s Julia Hass. Kudos, Julia. That’s brilliant.
  • Did Shankers at all realize that when he compared Kayla to his favorite dancers from past seasons (Travis Wall, Danny Tidwell, William Wingfield) that he was basically comparing her to a bunch of losers? Look, Shankers, I love those guys, too, but we want Kayla to WIN! Let’s not doom her to a gallery of also-rans!
  • In other news, if I were 16 again, I would have freaking killed to have worn Jeanine’s Paso Doble outfit to prom. That single vinyl sleeve? Hot.
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