Okay, I must admit, since SYTYCD began this season, several of my most intelligent friends would, if they were lawyers or writers, roll their eyes and snicker, or if they were serious arts journalists, make much more pained faces, whenever I chirped poetic about the show. They found it, at best just a silly waste of time, at worst demeaning and harmful to the art of dance. I would get really angry: my friend was on the show, and he’d had so many ups and downs, had just come out of a long illness, the ballroom competition judges who ruled his world could be so very nasty — I was so thrilled that he was finally getting his due, that the public supported him the way it did. I’d never really watched the show in prior seasons, and I couldn’t understand how my friends couldn’t see how amazing the show was to give people like Pasha such brilliant opportunities. Now he’s off, along with my blinders; I hate to say it, but my friends were so right.
First, the dancers who are left … they’re just nothing like what I’ve seen live, and it’s such a shame. Just because Danny is from ballet doesn’t mean he’s a perfect representative from that world. To me he doesn’t have the charisma, the personality of, say, Angel Corella, or my favorite. And he doesn’t have the virtuosity of David Hallberg or Ethan Stiefel — his legs don’t fully extend out into the splits when he jumps, like theirs do, and he doesn’t do hard combinations, he just does a bunch of turns, then a bunch of jumps, then a bunch of turns again. And what was all that crazy gymnastics at the end? Why didn’t he combine things into a difficult routine? The public is being cheated if they think this is real ballet. Yeah, he’s technically better than the others left on the show, but who cares when everyone’s a bore? Who wants to watch a show with no competition?
The good thing about Pasha was that he was so good at something so different than Danny. So, the public was seeing two very good dancers who excelled in their own styles — it was like people got a good taste of two wholly different points of view.
I think both because Pasha’s gone and because Danny’s not making ballet come alive to me, Danny’s completely wrong cha cha, which might otherwise have been cute since it was wrong but was ballet-dancer wrong, instead totally annoyed me. I remember seeing Jose Carreno dance salsa in his native Cuba in the film Born To Be Wild and thinking, hehehe, that’s not Salsa, that’s Ballet-Salsa! The reason ballet dancers can’t do Latin properly is because you have to settle fully into your hip in order to look properly grounded; ballet dancers have a natural turn-out, so if they settle properly, into a turned-out hip, they’re really going to grind to bits whatever cartilage is there, which means end of ballet career. So, no settling, no grounding, no proper hip action. But watching Jose in that movie was charming, because then you got to see him perform an absolutely breathtaking, beatific Don Quixote right in front of Castro. So, you got to be blown away seeing him do what he DOES. Not so here with Danny. And you don’t get a proper version of Cha Cha since Pasha’s off. And Lacey and Neil’s Lindy Hop: eh, they did what they could with it, but it’s just that if you’ve seen real Swing dancers, you know how not there it really was.
Second, what the HELL was that choreography — particularly the so-called contemporary? The Swing and the Cha Cha were fine because those dances are supposed to be cute, not meaningful, not thought-provoking, not profound, not poetic, not moving the viewer to a higher level. (Not that Latin can never do that — I very badly one day want to see Bodas de Sangre, the Latin dance version of the Garcia Lorca play.) But, those are the reasons we go to see concert dance. What was that hideous fox thing whoever choreographed for Lacey and Sabra? How am I supposed to be moved by mommy and baby fox-people doing whatever in God’s name they were supposed to be doing to each other? What was I as a viewer supposed to get out of that? And what was that 80s Adam Ant thing Mia Michaels forced poor Danny and Neil to do with each other? Is it too much to ask for serious choreographers? Lar Lubovitch for a male duet, anyone? Twyla Tharp for contemporary combined with social to brilliant effect, anyone?
No, you see, real choreographers are used to dealing with professionals. More than anything tonight I was absolutely appalled at the extreme immaturity of those dancers. Pasha never would have acted like such a child. Making fun of the choreographers to their faces, making fun of dance, making fun of a foreign language? I’m so embarrassed for Lacey that she doesn’t know better, that she doesn’t know how horridly unsophisticated she looked. I’m so embarrassed to admit that I can’t understand spoken French very well, and she’s flaunting her ignorance like that. I just … on so many levels, I’ve never seen such puerile, such beyond juvenile behavior. I just, I’m honestly in shock. I liked Lacey too before tonight.
Melanie LaPatin — bless that woman. God bless her. For the first time, she actually gets her day as choreographer, out from Tony Meredith’s shadow. Let me tell you, that woman is a slave-driving hard-ass — one reason I love her. She makes you work like you’ve never worked before in her studio — unlike Tony; he’s a softie In a good way — we love him too, just for that But Melanie takes no shit whatsoever, and I really thought she was going to lose it here. You know she didn’t because she had to smile pretty for that stupid ass camera. Bless her soul; she’s a far bigger woman than I am.
I was so mortified, after the show ended, I had to go outside and take a long walk, had to reassure myself there were were people with pulses, with brainwaves, on this planet, whose eyes had not been glued to their TV for the past two hours. Sure enough, wine bars were overflowing with twenty and thirty-something hipsters engaged in conversation, take-away ice cream parlors with happy-faced children and parents, coffeehouses and bookstores with people engaged in mental activity. Ah, people with lives. As of now, count me one of them.