So You Think You Can Dance?

Since I'm talking about the TV show, you don't have to answer. I have been watching SYTYCD since mid-way through season 2. I have some issues with the show - Nigel Lythgoe is a gross ogler of young ladies and seems slightly homophobic, the judging often focuses on the wrong things (I don't care if the costume is terrible, the dancers don't pick their own), and sometimes the choreography just sucks ass (Tyce DiOrio), but I can't get enough of non-celebrity related dance programs.

(Sidebar: I have always wanted to be a dancer. My parents were instructed to put me in ballet after I had osteotomy surgery to help strengthen my leg and core muscles and keep my flexibility going, but they didn't. Instead, I took Irish step dancing, which I adored, but the lessons were too far away from our house, so my mom stopped taking us. As an adult, I did lots of musical theater and I even had a featured dance solo in a production of "Chess" because the choreographer loved me. I worked hard, but with a body as messed up as mine is, dancing isn't really in the cards. But I love to watch dancers, I have never been to a recital or dance show where I didn't cry - there is something about the pairing of music and movement that moves me.)

I watched the audition shows sort of half-heartedly. It's almost a waste of time, because half the dancers they pick for the program aren't featured during the auditions (usually), and you often see as much of the judges reaction (which I don't care about) than you do the solos. But last night was the first time we would meet the top 20, and since there are dance routines involved, I'm there.

The first four in the top 20 are Alexa, Amber, Will and George. I will come out and say that George is my early favorite - the boy was born to dance, and his joy at dancing comes through in his movement and his face. Seriously, his face while he dances is just dreamy. The choregraphy is Tyce Diorio, so, it's okay, but not great. Will is a giant. Everyone does a fine job.

The next three are two blonde ballroom girls from Utah, Whitney and Lindsey, and Nick, a brown haired ballroom guy from Utah (the Mormons are trying to corner the market on ballroom dancers, I think).  Jason Gilkison choreographs a ballroom menage a trois, and it is fiery and excellent, although poor Nick gets lost a little because it's hard to not look at the girls, Whitney in particular, who is demanding that you look at her, because she is awesome.

Next is Eliana, Daniel and Chehon. Eliana was an aerialist with Cirque de Soleis, and her legs are magic. Daniel wanted to move from Australia to the US and found out that you could do that if you did ballet, so he did - he seems really pragmatic from what I've seen of him just fare and way less emotional than many of the other folks. Chehon is a beautiful ballet dancer from Switzerland. His leaps are insane. He is about 20 seconds away from actually being able to take flight.  They do a very stylized and modern ballet piece, with all the strength and beauty that ballet contains. The costume they put Eliana in has actually injured both of her partners, but it was glorious, although I am worried that the floor is not good for pointe - I think Eliana was holding back a little. The routine was choreographed by Desmond Richardson and Dwight Roden, who are serious business in the ballet world.

The next routine was supposed to include three tiny dancers, Audrey, Tiffany and Janelle. Janelle is a belly dancer who (from what I saw of her in Vegas week) did well with other styles. Janelle, however, is ill and a doctor has instructed her to sit out this week. So tiny and indistinguishable Tiffany and Audrey get a Sonya Tayeh routine. I love Sonya Tayeh's work - I know it's instantly recognizable, but I find that a plus, not a minus. You would instantly recognize a Bob Fosse piece, too. She has a vocabulary of strength that I love. These girls are pulling it off, but they are so tiny it makes it look like they are the best girls at a high school dance recital.

The next routine includes Matthew, who is a cute contemporary dancer, Dareian, who is a tiny man with clunky feet but a gorgeous dancer is every other respect, Amelia, who is a little over-affected but clearly has the dancing chops to back it up, and Jenaya, who I don't know anything about. It's a contemporary choreographed by Stacy Tookey, and it's very sweet and it's hard to not look at Amelia because she is the whitest person on the planet. Her skin is so white it appears blue on stage.

Next routine is made up of the last three guys: Brandon, who is a stepper, Cyrus, an animator, and Cole, a martial artist. Of those three styles, I only recognized stepping as a dance style, but Cyrus has one of these personalities that goes on for days, Cole is just beautiful, and Brandon is big and strong. Christopher Scott choreographs a baseball themed routine where they each get a moment or two to shine. Cyrus doesn't shine quite as much, because outside of his style, he has some issues, but it's a fair introduction.

The top 10 girls dance a dreamy piece choreographed by Travis Wall (he's an asshole, but at least he's a good choreographer); it's really lovely and the girls work so well together.

The top 10 guys get Sonya Tayeh, and I love this one. So strong. The stand-outs for me in this one were George, Cole and Will.

The last routine is choreographed by the returning Mia Michaels (again, she's an asshole, but she can be an incredible choreographer). This piece is good, with a lot of the emotional heft that her choreos provide, although it was hard to see everything because it was so dark and my TV is so old. I think Alexa was the standout in this one, and that's good if she can stand out against 20 people who are all doing the same movement.


Moonrise Kingdom

Sam Shkusky is an orphan and a Khaki Scout. His troop is attending a performance of Benjamin Britten's "Noye's Fludde" (foreshadowing!) when his restlessness gets the better of him and he gets up and wanders through the building, eventually ending up in the girl's dressing room, where he locks eyes with Suzy Bishop. Before he is returned to his seat by his troop, she slips him her address and asks him to write. They do, for a year, and Sam plans an escape. He asks her to join him. She does, bringing everything a girl needs when running away - a suitcase full of books and a battery operated record player. His Scout Master and her parents find out they are missing and the search begins while a hurricane brews off the coast.

The kids who play Sam and Suzy are played as if they were children imagining they are adults. They end up in a cove where Sam pitches camp. They swim and dance and share a first kiss. They are in love in the way only young people seem to be able to be in love - the rest of the world doesn't exist for them. The actor who plays Sam (Jared Gilman) is a little mush-mouthed, but he exudes a confidence that he can handle any problems that come their way - unless it involves swimming, because he's not a very strong swimmer. Suzy (Kara Hayward) looks at the world through her binoculars, but when she puts them down, she has a thousand yard stare that it would be unsettling to be at the other end of.

Standout performances in the movie are from Ed Norton as Scout Master Ward and Bruce Willis as the police chief. They both are sensitive and subtle and sad, but are redeemed in the end. 

The music of the movie is mainly classical - excerpts from Britten's Noye's Fludde and Midsummer Night's Dream, selections from A Young Person's Guide to the Symphony, with a little mid-60's French pop music as well as a good helping of Hank Williams.

I've been a fan of Wes Anderson since Bottle Rocket. While his movies are criticized for being twee and precious, I think despite the artificiality of the worlds that he creates, there is genuine emotion and feeling present. This movie has the look and feel of childhood remembered - there is a washed-out, Instagram quality to the picture. The story takes place on and island off the coast of New England, and the characters at the start of movie are all islands unto themselves. Suzy has a violent streak; Sam just doesn't fit in (although when it comes down to it, no one can quite figure out why they don't like him, although I suspect it's because he doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks of him). Suzy's mother is disconnected from her family - she calls the kids to meals with an airhorn - but has some kind of sad affair going on with the police chief; the police chief put his love life on hold for the woman he loved who married another, and lives a sad and lonely life; Suzy's father seems to suffer from ennui as he lazes around the house reading books. By the end of the movie, connections are made, bridges between these islands that won't be washed out by any flood.


Long time no write

It's been almost a year since I last posted. I am planning an overhaul of this blog, to focus on a few things instead of just random posting. I will be focusing on the subject of going back to school after a long hiatus (which includes the subject of being in school and working full-time); on television, movie and music reviews; and there will inevitably be some political posts.

So all my non-existent readers can look forward to changes soon. The first thing I'm going to talk about after the updates: Moonrise Kingdom.