Thursday, August 16, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 9: Top 14 Mia Michaels Debacle

Goodness gracious. That was a disaster.

It'd been three long weeks since So You Think You Can Dance had aired a new episode—something to do with an event in London?—so there was a lot of pressure for the show to deliver a high energy show to get people back in the swing of things. Something memorable and energetic was needed to reinvigorate the season. The obvious answer? The season needed some Mia Michaels.

Bringing Mama Mia back in full force was not a wholly uninspired idea. She's undoubtedly the show's most beloved choreographer, and her pieces skyrocket to the top of the "best of" lists for every season. But everything took a turn for the worse when the idea to have a Mia-centric episode turned into having the Season 9 Top 14 dancers reenact her best pieces from throughout the show's history. Ugh.

There are so many reasons why this was a terrible idea, so instead of doing full-on critiques of each performance per usual, let's just talk this one out:
  1. There was absolutely no chance these dancers were going to top the original performances. These are iconic pieces within the world of SYTYCD. We were there for their debut, we saw them on the tour, we watched them incessantly on YouTube. Regardless of whether or not the Season 9 dancers danced them well, these routines—and their original performers—have a special place in our hearts. 
  2. Of course, #1 could've been negated at least slightly if the choreography were tailored to this new crop of dancers. The biggest challenge a choreographer has on the show is adjusting the genre in order to highlight the strengths of the dancers. So if a piece has been crafted to highlight the best Twitch had to offer, why aren't we adjusting it to do the same for Cyrus? Why is Will doing choreography that was custom-made for Evan, who was at least a foot and a half shorter?! It would've at least been intriguing to see the way a piece could morph depending on who is dancing it. Lindsay even pointed out an example of this in her "What is your favorite SYTYCD moment?" video package when she spoke about the Wade Robson "Waiting on the World to Change" solos from Season 3.
  3. We are now halfway through Season 9, and I still feel like I don't know many of these dancers. I think Tiffany is phenomenal, but I couldn't tell you two things about her beyond her being a brunette jazz dancer. That's a big problem when being asked to vote week after week; if I don't know the dancers, my interest in keeping them in the competition isn't high. So how do you take that problem and exacerbate it? Spend two hours making me remember dancers from past seasons and directly compare them to Season 9, mostly with thoughts like "oh, he's no Twitch" or "wow, Katee did that way better than her." We have to let these dancers make their own moments!
  4. A big part of the excitement of SYTYCD is the anticipation of seeing what the choreographers have created. It's watching 10 world premiere performances every week; even if some don't reach the level of others (and Lord knows some don't), the exhilaration of witnessing it for the first time is undeniable. Sure, I can revisit something over and over and still enjoy it immensely (ahem, A League of Their Own), but the magic of that first viewing is unmatched. So instead of coming back from a huge mid-season hiatus with seven show-stopping, never-before-seen productions, we sat through something we've already seen before. The result? Two dreadfully boring hours.
For the sake of recording history—the aliens may find this post one day!—here's a list of which dancers recreated which routines, in order from worst to first....

7. Amelia & Will - The Butt Dance (Randi & Evan, Season 5); "Koop Island Blues" - Koop ft. Ane Brun
6. Audrey & Matthew - Time (Lacey & Neil, Season 3); "Time" - Billy Porter
5. Witney & Chehon - The Bench (Heidi & Travis, Season 2); "Calling You" - Celine Dion
4. Eliana & Cyrus - The Door (Katee & Twitch, Season 4); "Mercy" - Duffy
3. Janelle & Dareian - The Bed (Kherington & Twitch, Season 4); "Dreaming with a Broken Heart" - John Mayer
2. Tiffany & George - Hometown Glory (Katee & Joshua, Season 4); "Hometown Glory" - Adele
1. Lindsay & Cole - Addiction (Kayla & Kupono, Season 5); "Gravity" - Sara Bareilles

The Bottom Six had the predictable bunch (Amelia, Janelle, Dareian) and some surprises (Lindsay, George, Matthew). I'm surprised Cyrus, Chehon and Audrey weren't there instead of those surprises. And I love Will, but I'm not sure how he is evading being in the bottom every week. With the weeks missed for the Olympics, four dancers had to be eliminated, and honestly the only one I was sad to see go was Matthew, though I completely agree with saving George and, as Tyra would say, Matthew's light was beginning fade. Lindsay was an absolute no-brainer to keep in the competition.

So farewell to Amelia, Janelle, Dareian and Matthew. As for the rest of you? Your rankings are up. Take note:
  1. Cole (+1)
  2. Witney (-1)
  3. Lindsay (+1)
  4. Eliana (-1)
  5. Tiffany
  6. George (+1)
  7. Will (+5)
  8. Chehon
  9. Audrey (+2)
  10. Cyrus
What did you think of the show's return from hiatus? Was the Mia experiment a disaster, or did you enjoy the walk down memory lane? Are you happy with this Top 10? And who are your favorites as we enter the back half of the season? Sound off in the comments!

[Image Source: FOX]
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