First of all, I worship Alex da Silva. How can you wear sunglasses inside without looking like a complete fake? How can you sit with sunglasses on, in a dance studio, fanned by two women, and look like you don’t care and you do this sort of thing regularly? Be Alex Freakin’ da Silva. Yeah, I worship Alex da Silva. Mostly, though, I worship him because he designs consistently vibrant and sensual pieces for his dancers, which allow them to flourish as expressive bodies. And I thought that would be more than enough to save both of his dancers this week. Alas.
Was Alex da Silva the guy who came out with Lauren Sanchez (miss her!) in the first season’s finale and totally thrilled humanity? That was my absolute favorite moment in reality television. Ever.
On to other stuff…
The opening routine was fabulous and said a lot about both Danny and Sara. Danny was subtle and over-the-top spectacular at the same time, that is, beautiful and macho. Sara, as the Hairspray-guy said, showed herself to be the most transformed dancer, capable of being physical and graceful at the same time. I couldn’t believe it, really, when Sara went home instead of Lauren. I know I’m kind of playing favorites here, but at the same time, well, Sara was just so versatile, good, and soulful.
Soulful. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
For the third week in a row, I’ll complain about choreography. And this week, I join the judges. The weak choreography is obviously there to help dancers’ deficiencies (see Dominic and Lauren this week), but sometimes it is just weak because it is poorly put together. That’s what did Sara in and, I feared, would take Danny with her. Shane Sparks did accomplish the impossible, I’ll give him that: I was wishing Dan Karaty had gotten this week’s hip-hop routine. Shane’s choreography was uninspired, strange, and for the last minute or so, incredibly busy without being interesting. For real. There was a lot of rolling around and arm sweeping, but why? Terrible, terrible routine.
Shane owes us. Or, really, he owes Sara. This was Sara’s moment to shine and be special. She is shiny and special, actually. No one could have been special in that slow, busy, heavy routine. Ugh.
What Shane took from Sara – and what Alex gave to Danny and Sara – was the chance to be soulful. This is one of the things that separates Sara from a lot of other hip-hop dancers from this and the last two seasons: the ability to carry her soulfulness from the home-style dance into other styles. That’s hard to do, whether you’re a hip-hop, lyrical, ballroom, or any other dancer. Again, that’s why I like the mash-up method of So You Think You Can Dance? so much. That’s the challenge, but such a challenge counts on choreography. I still wonder if Danny can do hip-hop. Both of his routines have been design catastrophes. I wonder if Sara would still be around if a good routine would have cleared space for her most intimate dancer-self to come out on the stage. Her hip-hop last night should have been the girlpower moment of the season. Salt-n-Pepa, after all (that mix was so terrible…), so the music itself asked for the girlpower moment. Shane, you owe us and you really, really owe Sara.
And soulfulness was really missing in the night’s – maybe the season’s – most praised routine: Neil and Lacey’s interpretation of Mia Michaels’ memorial to her late father. As well as their first dance, which was supposed to be Lacey’s home-style – Latin. First, though, it has to be said: the show seems to want these two to win. Giving Lacey her home-style, then moving to a routine no one could really criticize, is a real advantage. Imagine if they’d been given Shane Sparks instead, right?
Both routines were open. That is, both routines had minimal, if purposive, choreography, and so let the dancers find their own expression in movement. Soulfulness, in other words. (I like Maria Torres’ stuff on the show for this very reason.) In the Latin routine, the judges were right: no sensuality, no intensity, no earthiness to the steps, and no voluptuosity in the hips. In other words, absolutely no soul. I imagined all of Latin America and the Caribbean shuddering at this disembodied, by-the-numbers, playing to the crowd with shallow smiles rendering of regional dance forms. The judges one word for this big bunch of lack? No “chemistry.” That was being polite. What they meant was “can you really be a-sexual and do Latin dance? No.”
Is Latin really Lacey’s starring form? I’m not being personal or partisan. I’m really astonished at how weak her performance was last night, even though the choreography was solid and interesting.
Getting such a personal piece from Mia was such an advantage. There was talk, honest talk, of course, that the routine was full of so much pressure. Rightly so. A personal piece builds a lot of depth into your responsibility as a dancer, something that is always there, but never quite so pointed on So You Think…? as at this particular moment. Judges and audience responded as if it were a total success. No one seemed to care that Lacey was clunky and earthbound in a piece that was supposed to be light as air and barely connected to the ground. Neil’s athleticism was appropriate to that airy feel, but his struggle with gracefulness made the performance seem like some amateur acting with a cluster of great jumps. I was actually a little embarrassed for them. Not in a way that condemns – I think they really cared about doing the piece justice, or at least Neil did – but in that way you are embarrassed for someone who is confronted with emotions too big for their maturity.
Neil wore this on his face and suffered it authentically. I felt like he did his very best, wanted to do better, and felt challenged. I like that. No shame in being overwhelmed with these particular emotions; I’m certainly not criticizing Neil for being young and a little lost. It is death, after all. Who can really “get” that emotion, that sense of loss, when it is someone else’s loss? But I felt like Lacey was a bit of a fake. I know that’s a lot to say and even seems a little mean, yet I’m unsure how to reconcile the professed seriousness (“I feel blessed to have danced this…”) with the immediate hamming for the camera (putting the flower in her mouth and making a silly face). So strange. Even disrespectful. In the dance, that flower in her hand was the last gift from her father as he dies, the gift of something soft and beautiful. Don’t put it in your mouth and be silly. If the dance really means something, treat the symbols as if they really mean something…
I’ll pass on Sabra this week, only saying: wow. She’s unreal. That’s a whole post unto itself.
Lastly, I would be remiss and even dishonest if I didn’t praise the absolute audacity and machismo of Pasha’s solo routine – shirtless, brother! – with a cape and paso doble music. That was freakin’ unique and unexpected and totally perfect. I imagined Alex – sunglasses on and maybe in the back seat of his pink ’57 Chevy and drink in hand and two women fanning him and all that shit – giving Pasha a little nod. “Yeah, hijo, that’s how it’s done.”
Soulful. With a cape. I’m really at a loss for words. Just awesome and pure performance.