strictly contemporary

Now that So You Think You Can Dance has officially wrapped up its ninth season, I find myself wondering, has the show finally peaked?  Re-reading what I wrote when the show first kicked off at the beginning of summer, I'd have to say, in a word, that I was disappointed this season.  I had such high hopes for the show this summer precisely because the dancers were so good and seemed to have interesting personalities.  And that was true. Other than a couple of things possibly out of their control, I point a finger at the show's producers and here's why:

1. 50% less SYTYCD

While the results show always tended to be a bit drawn out, I really disliked grouping the competition element for voting purposes with the results from the week before tacked on to the end.  Did you really like dancer X this week? Well, then, be sure to jot down dancers X's number, but - oops, sorry, he or she just got cut based on last week's results.  And let's face it: there's nothing to watch all summer.  I missed my Thursday night SYTYCD fix.

2. The Olympics

Okay, I know this one's not totally fair, but Craft Wars continued to air during the two weeks that the Olympic games took over just about every other channel; why not SYTYCD?  I watched a bit of the Olympics, almost exclusively recorded. I definitely would have watched SYTYCD live had it been on and I think the essentially three week hiatus, just when the show was getting going, didn't do the show any favors. And I know this is only an issue every four years but, refresh my memory: did they do this in 2008?

3. Guest Judges

I think, other than a strong interest or some sort of background in dance, the one requirement of guest judging should be that those invited have at some point watched at least one episode of the eight years of the show, preferably from the current season.  Other than Jesse Tyler Ferguson (my all-time fave guest judge, hands down) and Christina Applegate, each week I said, "Meh," to that week's guest judge, with the lowest blow coming in the form of Ballet Boyz.  I mean, honestly, guys, I don't care how amazing your act is, do a little homework before you come on the show.  And then the other judges tried to spin the fact that they'd obviously never watched a single episode, saying something to the effect of, you know, how great it was to have fresh eyes critiquing the dancers.  Yeah, yeah, whatever.

Next year, the judges ought to invite Emma Stone to guest-judge. I read this little tidbit recently in Vogue:

"Stone, who spent much of her Arizona childhood studying dance, described it to me as 'the most ultimately revelatory form of expression' besides movies."
I couldn't agree more.

4. Primadonnas

But maybe I'm being overly harsh.  This was also the episode that immediately followed their break for the Olympics and included only routines choreographed (and in some cases slightly updated) by Mia Michaels. This is unfair to the contestants but who could help comparing the current dancers with the vets who originally performed the routines?  And why single out one choreographer, especially one who's been absent from the show for an entire season?

5. Choreography & Production Transparency

So, from the 4th point you might guess that not only am I not a huge Mia Michaels fan, contemporary is not my favorite style.  And yet there was so much of it this season!  When you have a lot of strong contemporary dancers in one season and combine that with a lot of contemporary choreography, it's a little boring. There have been seasons where the diversity of styles and the extent to which the dancers were pushed out of their comfort zones each week was almost overbearing.  Well, they've pulled way back from that model this season.  I don't necessarily need to watch the contestants pick names and styles out of a hat, but a little more transparency would be nice since it really seemed like they were grooming certain dancers to make it to the final four or so.  I never thought I'd say this, but a little more ballroom, please.  And just mix it up - Cyrus in particular got crazy lucky a few times (see below - one of my favorite routines of the season, but c'mon) and when he didn't I felt the judges were way too easy on him. Where's the constructive criticism? Other than a couple of dancers, they didn't have much to hand out this season.  The dancers were that good.  But push them out of their comfort zone a bit more and then we can talk.

So what did I like?  Well, despite being a bit critical of how far Cyrus made it (while I did single him out as one of my early favorites I made it clear I didn't think he'd last too long because of technical limitations), I was shocked he didn't win the top guy spot. I could obviously see his appeal as one of the "favorite" dancers and figured Nigel's comments about voting for Chehon instead would send America into a voting tizzy (Nigel pulled that sort of thing a couple of times - what I like to call passive-aggressive judging). And between the two, I voted for Chehon as well so I was happy he won, but in previous weeks felt a little sad to see dancers like Will and Cole leave the competition, I felt, prematurely.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well Lindsay did each week (in the end I thought she was much more memorable than Whitney, for example, or Tiffany, for that matter) and would have liked to see her in the final four. But Eliana was one of my favorite girls from auditions so needless to say I was happy with her win and in general pleased with the end results of the show.  It just wasn't as exciting to watch along the way.

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