Thursday, December 4, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Canada: Top 4

Lisa and Izaak were eliminated last week, leaving Nico, Natalli, Miles and Allie. The Final 4 episode is two hours long and the two hours of voting that follow constitute the final vote for Canada’s top dancer. There will be no Results Show Thursday. The final results will be announced at the end of a two hour special airing at 9 pm on CTV this Sunday, December 7th, the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For those who have watched the series, I can’t imagine the grand finale will have much of interest before 10:55 EST, a half hour earlier in Newfoundland. Why a 9 o’clock start after 12 weeks of 8 o’clock starts? My two year old is so disappointed – she loves dancing along, but if she’s not down by 9 the wife starts looking at me funny and eyeing the knife rack in a way that makes me nervous.

Host Leah Miller wears a one-shouldered dress of balloon-grade Kevlar. In the parallel universe that got the future with flying cars, this is what the hot Italian women wear.

Leah intros the final 4. Natalli wears a solid red micro skirt and a white peasant blouse with flowers embroidered across the top and up the shoulder straps. Allie wears short-shorts made from the material left on the sewing room floor when they made Leah’s dress and a top made of material the same colour as Natalli’s skirt. Nico looks like a castaway on a desert island in ragged Robinson Crusoe shorts and a white tee with a boxing cartoon and a lot of stuff I can’t read written on it in black magic marker. It seems there was some ink left in the tube after he did the faux-tattoos for last week’s show. Now we know he is perfect - he even puts the cap back on. Miles wears a spotless white crew-neck tee, black jeans and ball cap and more eye make-up than Natalli. All are barefoot save for Miles, who wears black deck shoes with white soles.

Nice touch – the 16 dancers that have been eliminated from the Top 20 are present in the audience, standing as a group on a catwalk in front of the judges’ balcony box. The Judges are the group I think of as the first string – Luther, Blake, Tre and Jean Marc.

We start with a “hip-hop driven” cane-and-dance group routine choreod by Dan Karaty to Genesis by Justice (they tried Justice by Genesis, but found hip-hop doesn’t work well to pseudo-intellectual British science-fiction space rock). The choice was the right one. Genesis by Justice is a bit of ominous, crunchy techno that sets a great mood for the costumes: the guys are in all-red Edwardian suits with matching two foot tall red top hats and make-up by the Rocky Horror Picture Show stylists. They look like Satan’s undertakers. The women wear black top hats, vests, stockings and boots and short, flouncy red skirts. Allie has the top two buttons undone on her vest and for once looks as naughty as Natalli.

Loved the entire routine; music, choreo and dancers. Noticed that Miles’ bald scalp scar is back. Did last week’s hair plugs not take?

The judging isn’t really judging. Luther congratulates the dancers on making the top 4 and compliments Karaty on the choreo. Tre uses her time to congratulate Leah on winning a Gemini as “viewer’s choice for Canada’s hottest star.” Evidently this was a secret until Tre blabbed (shout out to Tre: love the sparkling white cocktail dress against your caramel skin). Jean Marc uses his time to introduce us to his wife, who is in the audience. It’s like the last day of the school year – yeah, work: I’ll get right to it.

Natalli and Nico do the first couples performance. Gustavo Vargas choreos a salsa (Natalli’s third salsa of the series. Somebody get this girl some corn chips and a Corona). In the rehearsal clip both Vargas and Natalli tell the camera about Nico’s quickness in picking up new dance styles. The storyline is two conservative people cross paths, salsa like rutting minks, and then pick up their briefcases and go on their way. Couldn’t happen to a better pair than Natalli and Nico.

He’s in a suit and tie, carrying a briefcase and, inexplicably, wearing his usual complement of facial studs. She is in a blue business suit, if women’s business suits came with a matching figure skating skirt and glittering, stiletto-heeled strap-ons.

And in the time it took me to type that she has stripped down to a sleeveless, backless, shimmering red top with a figure skating skirt and glittering, stiletto-heeled strap-ons; Nico has lost the coat and tie. Can the shirt be far behind?

They salsa toward each other, ankles flashing. They meet. They twirl and Natalli lifts one of her perfect legs. Nico takes her heel and… they get twisted together worse than that drunken night the two of you played Twister with the new neighbors. Later in the routine Nico is late on a hand grab, and then Natalli doesn’t have enough momentum on a slide to take her back to her feet gracefully.


The judges continue cheerleading. They gloss over the sloppiest job either of these dancers have dome in the entire competition. ?

First solo is Miles. He wears sneaks, a black ball cap, a baggy black suit over a blue dress shirt with the top four buttons undone, revealing the crew neck white tee he wore in the opening number. He pops to Slick Dogg’s I Can Make You Dance. If pop and lock is your thing, you no doubt loved it.

He adjusts the ball cap as he walks over to the judges and – aw shit – he puts it on backwards. Must just be a nervous mistake. No grown man in his right mind would intentionally wear a baseball cap backwards. That would make them look like they were mentally challenged. Ask the women, guys. The backwards ball cap is only cute on a male if he’s under 10 years old.

In the rehearsal clip before they do a hip-hop routine, we learn that Natalli’s favorite routine was the Pasa Double with Francis. For Miles the big moment was having Mia Michaels tell him, “Right now, you’re my favorite.” He doesn’t know that, like all Quakers, Mia’s life philosophy is, “My favorite person is the one in front.”

The choreographer is Sho-Tyme. His hip hop routines are usually krump-lite – hard, aggressive and more about two dancers doing the same thing side by side than any dancer interaction.

The song is Redman’s Let’s Get Dirty. Natalli wears b&e gloves, black leather billed cap, a gray vest/life jacket over a sweat shirt, camouflage pants and combat boots. Miles wears about the same with the exception of a black winter jacket instead of the vest/life preserver. About halfway through the routine Miles is looking left as Natalli turns right. She transitions into the next movement. Miles turns back and hasn’t a clue what happened. He stands there, obviously lost, until Natalli finishes and they go into the move he had been expecting before he discovered his partner doing the move he forgot.

Will the judges finally judge?

Miles is nearly in tears even before he gets to the chalk line. Natalli – ever the strongest dancer on the floor – comforts him. Leah won’t even look him in the eye.

Luther tells him not to beat himself up over this. He says, “You can’t let the beat defeat you.” Sounds cool, but what did he mean? Blake tells Miles to “wipe that look” off his face because “this game is not over.” Gooooo team!!! Tre asks him not to forget that he’s Mr. Entertainer of the show and Jean Marc tells him people love him because he is human. Not me. I love him because of how he dances, and THAT SUCKED!

The partners are switched around, with Allie and Nico doing a contemporary routine choreod by Stacey Tookey. The story is of a soldier returned from war to the woman he loves, who “has a secret she hasn’t told him,” the bitch. The piece includes a portion in which the roles switch and little Allie has to lead big Nic. The song is a heartbreaker – Permanet, a beautiful, slow piano and strings ballad by David Cook.

The piece is incredible, with Nico effortlessly doing huge lift after huge lift, and Allie’s ballet-trained body always finding the perfect point of balance. Great choreo, great music, great dancing. The performance of the night. Jean Marc is moved to tears and eloquent in his praise.

Natalli solos to Madonna’s Spanish Lesson. She has her midriff exposed from the bottom of her flowery bra to just below the hips. She is barefoot under a black, floor-length Spanish skirt (don’t ask me how the thing is staying on) and wears aquamarine three quarter length sleeves. Best solo so far.

Nico solos. We get a montage of his performance first and watching it I realize he makes the women he dances with more beautiful.

The first bars of the White Stripes’ Blue Orchids catch my attention. Best guitar sound since Mississippi Queen. Nico’s in unlaced ankle high black shoes, black slacks with the suspenders hanging loose, and a suit coat over a subtly striped white and gray Zellers v-neck tee. Driving routine.

Luther calls him the most popular dancer on the show and the dancer with the most presence. Blake tells him to stop by in the Mercedes. Tre tells him he is going all the way to the top. Jean Marc picks up on the masculine theme that has informed this show from the beginning. His sentiment, his desire to remove the stigma that attaches to a heterosexual man wanting to be a dancer, is heart felt and hints at some tough times in his own personal life. I expect him to do one of his puns (You’re not Nico: you’re Neo), but I guess he isn’t a Matrix fan. In any case, that Nico knows exactly what Jean Marc is talking about makes one sad. Good on both of you.

Allie and Miles do a theatre piece choreod by Sean Cheesman. The story is a couple fighting over the TV remote. The song is Move (You’re Stepping On My Heart), from the Dreamgirls soundtrack. It’s a fun, light piece with an insane number of transitions.

Luther’s praise is lukewarm. He loved the beginning and end but tellingly says nothing about the middle. Blake is vague in explaining why the piece was “amateurish.” Tre disagrees strongly, saying the routine, “…hit the trinity; dance, choreography and acting.” Jean Marc tells Miles to never lose the remote control. Over the howls of the audience he shouts, “It’s the only thing we own anymore,” and such.

Natalli and Allie do the first same-sex pairing in the series. Dare we hope for a storyline that includes a pillow fight? Aw; it’s Go-Go: what women did back before strip joints were legal and brass poles were invented. Melissa Williams choreos to The Hollywood Persuaders’ Drums a Go-Go.

The routine starts with the dancers up on the catwalk that carries the staircase that sweeps down to the stage. They wear white boots and white shorts layered in fringe, sparkly Madonna-style cone bras, hoop earrings and over the elbow gloves in red (Natalli) and blue (the other one). They don’t have much room to work. The choreo has one dancer still while the other moves. Drums a Go-Go thundering out of a theatre PA and one of the Go-Go dancers is still? Thirty-two bars have passed before the choreo gets them onto the staircase, where they can both move and stretch their arms. You can see the relief on the girls’ faces.

At the judging Luther’s long-standing infatuation for Allie creeps just below the surfaces. Come on, Luther – ask her out. This is your last chance. But no, all he can do is moon, the big lug. His last chance passes with no one but us to mourn what could have been.

Nico and Miles. Miles tells the camera that people should vote for Nico because he is an inspiration and the best dancer. He sounds sincere. Their choreographer is Paul Becker and he is re-visiting Caoeira, a traditional Afro-Brazilian slave dance. Earlier in the series Becker choreod a Caoeira group dance and I complained about the hackneyed stereotypes in the costuming. Tonight I am relieved to see the dancers wearing white pants with a naval cast to them and nothing else – no grass skirts, no war paint.

The dance is to a musical piece called A Amizade / Sacode A Poeira (Coro), by Mestre Barrao / Axe Capoeira. My Spell Check just blew up.

The routine gets off to a weak start when the guys are a bit hesitant on the opening series of unorthodox moves – nothing obvious, just not, as Liza would say, hitting it in the middle of the beat. As the dance progresses it becomes obvious that the source of the hesitancy is Miles, who simply does not yet have the knowledge base wired into his autonomous system that Nico has developed. Maybe some day, but not yet. This was a piece that cried for speed and crispness. More time and they would have gotten it.

In the judging Jean Marc gets back on his hobby horse and goes on about how much he would love to have fathers see these two, to prove to them how much dance is just another sport. Put a fight in it and us hetero men won’t be able to resist teaching it to our male children? Is that what you’re saying?

So, after 12 weeks it comes down to this? Women are go-go dancers and men are combatants?

To the producers, choreographers and judges: I am grateful to you for bringing this show to Canada. I really am.

To the dancers: You make us humble and proud. Even Izaak.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Canada - Top 6

Last week’s elimination took out Vincent and Arrasay, leaving Lisa, Nico, Miles, Allie, Izaak and Natalli. Leah, resplendent in a midnight blue cocktail dress, intros the Top 6 judges; Tre and Jean Marc as usual, with Mary Murphy and Sean Cheesman. Couples, paired at random, will do two genres and a thirty second solo.

Natalli and Nico start. She is the best possible replacement for Arrasay. Of the 3 women left, only Natalli has the same level of natural, overt sexuality as Arrasay and Nico demonstrated when they were paired as the contestants were whittled down from 20 to 10. They draw Disco as their first genre and Melissa Williams as their Disco choreographer. Melissa tells the camera they are going to be the doing the real thing, “A peak inside Studio 54, 1978,” not a “parody.”

The lights come up and my jaw goes down. Natalli is dressed in a skintight, gold lamé, bell-bottom jumpsuit. The sides are cut out from the bottom of her breasts to inches below her hip bone. The cut-out leaves only a three inch swath of material covering her abdomen from the top of the pubis to the sternum. The total effect is to frame and accent angles and curves that get overlooked when the mid-riff is bare. She is the most naked woman I’ve ever seen and I can’t take my eyes off her.

Nico is in a black dress shirt that has had the sleeves removed, black slacks and black shirt cuffs. His is the only male presence in the competition that has ever been able to match the heat of Arrasay, and he matches Natalli’s as well.

The routine is done to the Amii Stewart version of Knock on Wood (no match for the Sam and Dave original). They nail it, with the final lift of Natalli to a full splits behind Nico’s head is particularly well hammered. The judges love it.

Miles does a solo to Vernon Burch’s Get Up. The routine doesn’t really go anywhere: but at least he doesn’t spend his time polishing the floor. He remains upright for most of the piece, which features a lot of popping and a bit of strolling. I definitely didn’t get the Bay City Roller – Mime look. We’re they going for A Clockwork Orange?

Allie and Izaak do a Luther Brown choreod Hip-hop routine to the Diddy/Aguillaro’s Tell Me. They are out fitted in watch caps and khakis – zippered overalls for her, pants with suspenders over a white undershirt for him. Oh yeah – Izaak is also wearing a contraption that looks like a suicide vest minus the dynamite. Halfway through the bit Allie unzips the top of her overalls to reveal a sparkly red bra. Gratuitous, pleasant, and no match for Natalli’s cut-away. The judges find the routine “good but not great.” One week left in the competition and they’re still telling Izaak he has to “step it up,” “try harder,” “give a lot more.”

Miles and Izaak pale compared to the performance Nico put on with Natalli.

Natalli does her solo. She is in a man’s suit with the shirt untucked and unbuttoned save for the button between her breasts. She looks like a female version of American Gigolo’s Julian. She does a contemporary routine to N*E*R*D’s She Wants. Of the three women, Natalli has the worst technique and the best presence. Her sensuality is amazing. Human Viagra.

Lisa and Miles do a Contemporary routine choreod by Blake McGrath to Ryan Dan’s The Face. The story is of a woman whose partner has passed away and she is longing for his presence. The piece uses a full length mirror on a rolling platform to great effect. Miles comes out from behind the mirror when Lisa turns from her reflection. He dances behind her, the two never quite touching. When she finally turns to the presence she has been dancing with, Miles turns the opposite way and they are trapped with the mirror between them once again. Nice job, Blake.

Oh yeah – Miles is another Hair Club for Men success story. You know that large, unexplained bald strip on the front left quadrant of his scalp? The bald strip we all have thought was a scar lo these many weeks? Well, it’s gone. No explanation, not even a shower scene.

Izaak solos to Alibis by Marianas Trench. He gets great air on his opening ballet leap, as per usual. The whole bit is one of the best solos we’ve seen –a beginning, middle and end, all in thirty seconds.

Nico and Nat are back with a Quickstep routine to the Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s version of Swinging at the Savoy. She is in an angle-length, blue satin evening dress with a broad, sparkly empire line, spike heels and her hair up. He is in a three piece suit minus the jacket. The tie is a Windsor knot, done fat, right and tight. Nico has left the facial hardware in the garage and his Mohawk has grown out. For the first time I think, yeah, I could see this guy in a movie that’s not about a meth-head.

Lisa does a solo to Radio Citizen’s The Hop, a musical piece with a slinky beat that she exploits well. She does a kind of tough chick stroll I like. Poppy, but more to it than just that.

Allie and Izaak do their second number, a Melissa Williams choreod Jazz routine to Forever by Chris Brown. Thank you, Allie, for the blue short-shorts. At one point in the rehearsal scenes ever smiling Allie starts crying from the pressure of the competition, but her smile barely dips. Not sure that’s a good thing.

In the dance Allie wears a white gown and pink sneakers. Izaak wears an open black shirt, black slacks and shoes and black and white basketball shoes. It’s a Cinderella bit, with Allie running off at the end, leaving a pink sneaker behind. Izaak was sloppy with the climactic lift. Tre tells them, “You pulled up out there, you pulled up.” Evidently this is a good thing, as when the pilot does it and doesn’t crash. It is not a bad thing as in you-didn’t-give-it-your-all.

Nico solos to Radiohead’s Reckoner. Open shirt, barefeet, ho-hum. Didn’t grab me.

Lisa and Miles Cha-Cha. He’s in a girly black sleeveless tee and faded jeans, she’s in a shimmery red bra, flouncy black mini-skirt and silver strap-on spike heels. The two do a great job that is wasted. Choreographers Tony Melanie and Melaney Lapatin decided to set their Cha-Cha to Lady Gaga’s Just Dance. Trying to Cha-cha to something other than Latin is like watching a great but badly dubbed porno. You want to get excited, but you keep being distracted by the out-of-synch moans and sighs.

The episode ends with Allie’s solo, a full-on ballet piece from Tchiakovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. She wears a turquoise green ballerina costume, complete with tu-tu and tiara. I have been wondering when she’d get around to this. She knows what she’s doing and does it well.

So that’s it. Top 4 should be Nico, Natalli, Allie and Miles, but we’ll see.