Last week, I wrote up the week’s So You Think You Can Dance? with a focus on the role of choreography, namely, how bad or indecisive choreography was hurting certain dancers. That made this week’s episode so interesting – everyone dances the same routine? Hmmm. Still, that didn’t keep choreography from sinking Jaime. Sadly. And this week’s episode also revisited an old motif: anxiety about masculinity and sexuality.
First, though, some fan-stuff. I’m always so happy when Cat dresses up as a Greek goddess. So You Think…? is, in the wider context of reality television, such a strange show, so I appreciate the purely indulgent Greek thing Cat does in wardrobe. In terms of goodbyes, I wasn’t entirely surprised to see Kameron go – he really struggled to find a place as a dancer, never standing out as one thing or another, even while being good at everything – but genuinely sad to see Jaime leave. I loved watching Jaime dance, both because she was physical so spectacular (strong and graceful) and because she was an utter enigma. How does that quirky personality come out in that dancer’s body? It’s the kind of thing to make you believe in gods and inspiration. She certainly never had that artsy dancer personality presence. To say the least.
Jaime was done in by choreography, bearing out my point in last week’s post. The costuming and whole motif, as noted by all the judges, didn’t match the idea of the waltz. If nothing else, Austria is not Spain, so that was strange. Unfortunately, too, she was paired with Dominic. Dominic’s “thing” is unbelievable. He showed that in his solo on the results show. But he can’t help save poor choreography. Jaime needed help and just got buried in the whole mess of Spain and Austria, and, in the end, I guess folks just didn’t find her likable. Alas. I liked her. It takes two good dancers to elevate mediocre or bad choreography; Jaime couldn’t do it alone, and, to be honest, I think the motif was just so lost that no dancers could have saved it.
The re-pairing thing this week brought anxieties about masculinity and sexuality back into the open. With the previous pairings, because they were kept intact, the talk had shifted (very gradually, really) to individual performances. But re-pairing meant fussing over “chemistry” and the like. I find this so interesting. The critiques (spot on, to my mind) of both Neil and Kameron centered on their very masculine – or at least effeminate-resistant – embodiment. Neil caved and hunched his shoulders too much. Kameron failed to extend out past his hands in so many movements. The judges (rightly) asked for exuberant embodiment, flamboyant in its extension and expression, pushing outside rigidly controlled boundaries and toward the fringes on which real beauty lives. And of course that’s just what dance is supposed to ask of the body: be beautiful by leaving yourself. But that’s also where men’s conventionally masculine bodies draw a line. Keeping the body tight to itself, never flamboyant in extension, is a very real matter of conventional masculine comportment.
So, it didn’t surprise me to hear chatter about “chemistry” and “connection,” as if five days of choreography training and practice led to marriage. To my ears, and I admit that I’m reading quite a lot into it, the judges were asking for a lot of effeminate movement and expression, yet tempering any transgression of masculinity with assurances of that masculinity by “connecting” with the woman in front of them. That’s why I’ve called this whole masculine/feminine game on So You Think…? the show’s pharmakon.
On that note, it is also interesting that Danny – surely the most expressively transgressive male body (I’m thinking of how he dances at his very finger tips) – has decided to go shirtless or don a small tank-top at every opportunity. As if to remind us that he’s manly, masculine enough to be a favorite (not just “best”) dancer on the show. Thus, what Mia Michaels called the “sexiest dance of the season.” I agree. Still, that sexuality, that super masculine desire, came from the same man Mia described as dancing and extending beyond the ends of his fingers. Flamboyant and exuberant. Transgressive, really. Nothing a tight shirt won’t correct…at least a little bit, right?
This post would be remiss if it didn’t mention Wade Robson’s choreography and its anti-war sentiment. And the “apologies” from the judges for featuring such choreography. Sigh. That’s all I can say about that. I actually think it is just fine to have ideas in dance (gasp!).
I really liked the method, though, of having everyone dance the same routine. One of the best things about So You Think…? is that you actually learn about dance from the judges’ remarks. I know I have over the past few years. There was so much to learn from the repeated routine. Nigel Lythgoe’s note that some danced “big” and others danced “small” was so insightful, something that is hard to see when everyone is doing different choreography and benefiting or suffering from the particular routines given to them. Repeating the routine, you see how important it is to infuse technical precision with emotional and soulful presence. Danny’s rendering of Wade’s routine was amazing. In fact, I’d say it went way beyond what the choreography actually made possible; Danny was that good and that beautiful. Dancing the same routine, we saw who has soul (Jaimie, Sabra) and who struggles to have soul (Lauren, Kameron, Neil), as well as who is still just struggling with choreography (Dominic and Pasha). We didn’t have to be told that. The shared-choreography motif put it on display for us, right there. I appreciate that.
That said, the shirts were lame. Is the show really on that small of a budget?