Just when you thought Carly Rae Jepsen had forever tarnished the integrity of diminutive brunette Billboard stars as guest judges on So You Think You Can Dance, in comes the fabulously deadpan Anna Kendrick (whose “Cups” from Pitch Perfect is still in the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10) to redeem the entire demographic. Maybe she didn’t boast technical knowledge, but the point of guest-judging this sweatfest is to combine clever gushing with self-effacing humor, and Ms. Kendrick nailed that. Better yet, she was kind of damning! I gawked in appreciation when she lamented how “sexualized” Hayley’s narrative arc has been on the show. Hell yes, Anna Kendrick! You call out that blasé misogyny! I only wish she could call also out the pretension, condescension, and utter shallowness of Up in the Air, which remains one of my least favorite movies of the past five years. What the hell was up with the “statement” of that movie? People get fired and we should feel terrible for them, but George Clooney’s completely inoffensive job is BAD and he should feel BAD for doing it. Ugh! I’m mad now! Vera Farmiga, I thought we were buds.
Anyway, back to Anna’s resilient coolness: Did you know she’s both an Oscar AND Tony nominee? And did you know she once spoke to meeeeee? Ultimately that’s what you should know about Anna Kendrick.
Fourteen dancers shimmied like gay eels for our affection this week, and two left just in time to celebrate Kate Bush’s birthday. Fact: I realized only today that Kate Bush IS MARY STEENBURGEN. (Well, the Steenburgen of ’78 I mean, but still, HELP ME GOD, THEY’RE ALIEN GLAMOR TWINS.)
And now, onto Tuesday’s performances.
Jenna and Tucker: Wretched Ratchet
Or as Cat Deeley prefers to call them: “Jennahrr and Tuckhaaahhhrr.” I feel like SYTYCD has recently kicked off several shows with lackluster routines, and this might’ve been the lacklust’riest. Even though Tucker pandered to TheBacklot’s readership by baring his gleaming torso and resembling Alan Cumming as the Emcee, this was a hip-hop routine about pointless thrusting and mugging. It didn’t even appear that athletic. Jenna and Tucker gyrated like mad toddlers and pounded the air like the recently departed B-girl Mariah Spears. This failure is mostly the choreography’s fault, but Tucker’s prim posture was in dire need of a swagger coach. I’m still dumbfounded by Mary Murphy’s exclaimed pronouncement, “But Jenna, you came down all ratchet and everything else!” Mary Murphy: giving you the hip-hop credibility of Vivian Vance since 2004.
Nico and Alexis: So-Sonya
I know I harp on this all the time, but I can’t get over how annoying it is when song lyrics are translated literally through a dance. I spasmed in agony watching poor, beleaguered Alexis run in place while The Bengsons’ song “Ashes” crooned, “I’ve been running…” Come on. Sonya Tayeh is a marvelous choreographer. She understands cool things. She is a cool thing. She’s like if Bjork’s Telegram were a person. An emotional robot swamp creature banshee. Surely she knows why I’m upset. Anyway: Nico is still sexily nervous all the time, and I thought he and Alexis achieved a heartbreaking connection. It remains to be seen whether this somewhat drab routine (Head-to-toe gray outfits!) will be memorable among the flashier dances.
Hayley (and Leonardo, in place of Curtis): From Loser to… Oozer?
Yow-ow. While it’s always sad when a dancer has to remove himself from the competition due to an injury, I have to say that Leonardo was a very satisfactory substitute for Curtis in this stark, catlike tango. Hayley’s every glance, turn, and extension was pristine and quite scandalous. And better yet, I remembered the routine well after the show was over! Hayley needed a standout moment, and this shadowy blitz was just the trick. A startling display. Almost as startling as when Mary said the routine “ooooOOOooooozed” sexuality, and it sounded a little like your irascible great-grandfather getting lost in the middle of a word. You know Mary’s about 10% Charles Laughton, right?
Makenzie and Paul: More Like SonYEAH Tayeh!
Ah, here’s Sonya Tayeh’s speciality: broken robot burlesque. Good. Makenzie brought forth all the inherent angst from having the name “Makenzie” and sexed up her sexy, shirtless partner Paul with this clever, jolty dance. Did I catch a slight moment of oral sex innuendo in there? Because that’s very Adam Lambert-at-the-2009-AMAs, and royalties will be paid. Weirdly, although I dug most individual moves in this routine, the overall dance was somehow not a standout among other broader, more sexless routines we saw last night. Hmmm. Can anyone diagnose this? Not sure what went wrong.
Jasmine and Aaron: Swell Silverstein
Let’s first give it up for Jasmine, who is still extending her legs in over 170 of your favorite directions and looking chipper as she does it. Let’s also give it up for choreographer Justin Giles, who staged the most alluring story arc of the evening in this emotional routine about apple-gifting. I could’ve done without the music, which was a little heavy on purring for me, but I really admired the chemistry here. Aaron is tapped into Jasmine. Wish that was mentioned more. Either way, the mood was deflated after the performance when Nigel began his critique with, “I don’t know if you know the whole story of The Giving Tree…” and launched into a Kirkus Review blurb about Shel Silverstein’s hugely well-known book. So weird. Hope it didn’t kill Jasmine’s comeback mojo with voters.
Fik-Shun and Amy: Waiter! There’s a Fall In My Soup!
Simple, well-executed vaudeville: Fik-Shun and Amy played a waiter and restaurantgoer who shoot flirty glances, strut around the table, and dive under their chairs like flying squirrels. Ol’ Fikky really commanded at first, as he seized on the hokeyness of the act and amplified his smooth talent with new-found bigness. Amy, the declared frontrunner on the girls’ side, suffered an unfortunate snafu and tripped at some point, but her ebullience never failed. Because Amy never fails, see. As Anna Kendrick sarcastically pointed out about the cast, “It’s boring how good you are.” Amy’s unerringly exceptional work is shock-worthy, though Nigel brought up a fair point when he said he’d like to see this duo play more than vaudevillian character types. At least they’re characters, which is more than I can say for the talented dancers who can’t get votes because they’re not as immediately identifiable.
Malece and Alan: The Long Hot Salsa
Malece single-handedly carried last week’s routine with her hard-strutting Resident Evil act, but this week she and Alan both worked themselves to death in record time, right in America’s gay living rooms. The sheer airtime of Malece in this routine? Nauseatingly consistent. You couldn’t not whoop at her first backflip, which was aided by Alan’s insane strength and stamina. Salsa! It’s not just what I’m eating straight out of the jar right now! Unfortunately, this gauntlet of sexy moves was so intense that Malece practically limped during the last few moments, showing a fallibility that struck me as new. She was out of breath, but still exuding freakish amounts of glamor. One of the more fabulous and extreme routines of the evening.
What’d you guys think of Tuesday’s episode? Sad to see Curtis and Alexis go? Or were you sadder to hear Joe Cocker’s cover of “Come Together” play over that otherwise awesome billiards-themed group number? I personally hated the “bullying” routine at episode’s end because it was so, so, so literal, yet because of its topicality, the judges were forced to cry at it. I REFUSE.