This is the most controversial season ever for SYTYCD. We started with the choice to bring in All Stars and reduce the number of competitors, we lost several dancers due to rehearsal injury, and then last night the producers decided not to send anyone home. This produced a flurry of angry responses on the website complaining that someone should have been eliminated in order to maintain the integrity of the voting process. (Although, no one could agree if it should have been Jose for his technical insufficiencies or Billy for refusing to dance.) This only supports my critique from the beginning that the producers are trying to manufacture the magic that resulted naturally in previous seasons. That’s a little like trying to deliberately create a cult film: you can’t…they have to happen as a grassroots response. On top of that, the producers are now apparently choosing who will go on tour and who will not, which used to be the privilege of the top ten contestants.
Lithgow’s Dizzy Feet Foundation is also trying to institute a National Dance Day (July 31) that so far isn’t national by a long shot. First of all, its too soon after International Dance Day (April 29), National Dance Week (April 29-May 5), and the end-of-the-year recital season. There are flash mobs planned (isn’t that a contradiction?) for LA and DC to perform Napoleon and Tabitha’s choreography (which you can find at the website) but I have found nothing happening in important dance centers like NYC and the San Francisco region where I live. Still, if you do have events planned around that weekend, you might consider posting them on their events calendar, whether they are related to NDD or not.
All that aside, we have seen some beautiful performances over the last two weeks, and some stellar choreography (especially from Sonya Tayeh and NappyTab) so it’s still worth checking out. With Alex out of the way, Kent is bursting into the fore and stands a good chance of winning. But watch out for Lauren who has really stepped up with her surprisingly skilled Tahitian and “nasty” hip hop. Barring injuries, I anticipate that it will come down to these two gifted dancers.
The producers are also presenting new choreographers (last nights “All That Jazz” routine by Kelly Abby was a brilliant tribute to Bob Fosse’s legacy) and top-notch dancers from ballet, modern, and popular dance styles. It’s a terrific education in American dance.
Also in the dance news: The dance world has lost two of its esteemed leaders. Denise Jefferson, Alvin Ailey dancer, teacher, and director passed away last weekend. In the last month we also lost Jonathan Wolken, co-founder/director of the brilliant and innovative dance company Pilobolus. I was lucky enuff to have taken a workshop with Wolken and company in the early 1970s when they first began. And I’m pretty sure I rubbed shoulders with Jefferson at an Ailey party when I was hanging out with the Vartoogians. Both of these artists will be missed.