“So You Think You Can Dance” Recap: What’s Wrong With Season 10?

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I realize we’re a week off from the finale, but now’s as good a time as ever to ask the tough question: What is missing from this damn season of So You Think You Can Dance? I still say SYTYCD is the greatest reality-competition on TV; I still say it’s an explosive That’s Entertainment!-type spectacle every week; and I still believe Mary Murphy‘s hair and face are the same dynamite color that I’m calling This-Ranch-Hand’s-Been-Dead-For-Days Orange, but season 10 manages to fall short as addictive television.

Strange considering the choreography still rules, the judging is 100% fantastic if you disqualify Carly Rae Jepsen‘s appearance (Thank you to this week’s guest-judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson for that scathing, hilarious aside about her failed guest stint, and the talent level is impossibly high. Why aren’t we impossibly high?)

For me, the problem is that the dancers don’t actually appear to be having much fun, and they don’t feel particularly obligated to emanate star quality. They’re working their asses off, but last season’s Cole Horibe interjected some goofiness into his discipline. His co-contestant Witney Carson lived to be saucy on that stage. This season, Jasmine Harper‘s work is equally astounding — and her unthinkable leg extensions are architectural wonders — but I’m not detecting a personal sense of ebullience.

Even Amy Yakima, with her mile-wide smiles and ferocious contortions, feels merely peppy, not exuberant. Aaron and Fik-Shun are mega talents, but their unending cheer seems more coached than organic. All I’m saying is it’s hard to root for any one dancer when they’re all equally focused and satisfied with technical precision over X-factor magnetism. Bring me some Madonna-on-Bandstand carnality! Some Benatar shoulder shrugs! Some hungriness!

Which is not to say our six finalists didn’t bring it. They sure did. But I’m torn when it comes to picking my personal favorite and electing one of these kids the new Rhythm Nation dictator. Here’s a rundown of the nine partner routines.

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Paul and Kathryn: All Kathryn’s Jazz!

A solid show-starter, and not just because all-star Kathryn began it wearing a gigantic stiltwalker “dress” (which was actually just a clever, ladder-draped illusion): The energy of this dance was relentless and fun, with both Paul and Kathryn thrusting around in a way that suggested “mating season at the Kit Kat Klub.” Unfortunately, Paul’s plasticine grins paled in comparison to Kathryn’s vivacious sexuality, and my eyes were glued solely on her fearless mug throughout the routine.

Hayley and Joshua: I “Roar” For More

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Downright bizarre that Hayley danced a boxing-themed hip-hop routine that really, really resembled Katy Perry‘s performance of “Roar” at the VMAs on Sunday. Same boxing ring, same triumphant fist-pumps, etc. Hayley even wore tight braids in the Katy style, and that made me fear that she was going to release a midtempo ballad that I can’t believe anybody likes. Choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo alerted us beforehand this routine hinged on the “hardness” of the movements, and if we’re being honest, Hayley couldn’t deliver in that department. She’s a beast, but not a knockout-dispensing hurricane when it comes to Evander Holyfield mimicry. If I had to compare her to a boxing icon, I’d go with Barbra Streisand in The Main Event. Joshua, meanwhile, riveted me with his pugilistic gall. Oscar de la Hell-yeah, or something.

Aaron and Melanie: Glisten Without Prejudice

For a Broadway routine, this was almost unassuming: Aaron and beloved champ Melanie cavorted and spun to George Michael’s “Faith,” matching that song’s snap-along energy with breezy flair. They both beamed and shined in every one of the routine’s big gestures, and even if the peppy shebang didn’t add up to one of the night’s more memorable routines, at least we were dealt a moment of unobjectionable fun. Melanie’s strength and control of her limbs? Still sick, y’all.

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