Pure World of Dance Season 1, Week 8 (Cuts) – Power Rankings

Well, I said last week that I thought the judges were bound to get it wrong at some point – and unfortunately, I think that trend extended into this week, with some strange disparity amongst the judges’ scores, disparity between scores and critiques, and general quality of performance and the responses each routine got.  When things feel as wonky as they did on last night’s show, it does give one pause and makes one wonder what exactly is going on…

…which brings me to my next point: it’s important to remember that, while this is a reality show, it is still very, very produced, and there’s little things that go on behind the scenes that may help “shape” the show in a certain way.  Heidi, Vogue, and I had a pretty enlightening email conversation earlier today about some things we had read in various interviews that made us really question the validity of some of what we had seen on the show – particularly how the editing has been rather poor and left the show feeling a bit disjointed.  Something to keep in mind that I think escapes a lot of viewers: when you’ve got a show that is completely pre-taped like WOD, it’s entirely possible (and it’s entirely legal) for the show to edit portions of footage that do not effect the overall outcome of the competition.  This may mean we only see short snippets of acts that are probably going to get eliminated fairly quickly, anyway, or maybe the judges’ comments get edited together in such a way that they appear to be more positive or negative in tone than the complete critique they gave an act. It may even be that they may cut to a judge making a facial expression during a dance, and that particular clip is from another performance altogether, but contextually fits with the “story” of this particular dance better (this sneaky clip poaching is a technique oft-employed on Rupaul’s Drag Race, where several queens have claimed that critiques from the judges have often been shuffled around to make it seem like they’re talking to one queen, when they’re really talking to another). As I’ve said many a time over at PureDWTS – you guys should watch UNReal.  Very eye-opening about the world of reality television and how it’s often not all that…real.

But I digress.  What does all that have to do with the price of tea in China? I think the reason that last night’s show maybe felt so strange and incongruous was some editing – albeit poor editing.  Some of the acts got fairly positive critiques, but only lukewarm scores; other acts seemed to get nitpicked quite a bit more, but ended up with fairly decent scores in the end. And some cuts from the judges to the contestants and back seemed kind of jerky and abrupt, as if whole sections of dialogue had been cut.  I’m hoping that, with hopefully a live format and a longer time slot next season, a lot of these awkward bits of editing disappear. And as for the scoring disparities – I find myself wondering if this might be one of the caveats of the judges scoring on multiple metrics, and not seeing how their fellow judges are scoring.  The only analogy I could come up with takes me back to my sorority days, during formal recruitment.  There were multiple rounds, and each potential candidate was interviewed by a different sister during each round, and then we’d score each candidate and come up with an average that helped to determine if the candidate was going to be offered a bid. Each year, there always seemed to be a candidate that was either rude/distant/uninterested/generally unpleasant that somehow managed to score high enough to get into bid territory, despite all of the sisters who interviewed her being generally unimpressed. We figured out that, because we were scoring independently, most of us tended to pad our scores a bit, just so we didn’t seem douche-y, figuring that the girl wouldn’t make it through, anyway. And when we all did it – it actually had unexpected side effects.  Part of me wonders if something similar is happening with the judges scores – the fact that they aren’t colluding is leading to unexpected disparities, since they can’t really bounce ideas off one another.  Or I’m just trying to make sense of nonsense 😛

Once again, just ranking based on my own personal enjoyment –  will have to figure out a new method next week.

1.) Keone & Mari – God bless these two, I think they may very well earn WOD it’s very first Emmy nomination – and possibly Emmy win – for outstanding choreography next summer.  Two mind-blowingly creative routines in a row, and they seem to have mastered the art of making an audience really FEEL while also showing great technique.  I think what I love most is that they aren’t really any one genre of dance – there’s shades of hip-hop there, along with some contemporary, jazz, and even some ballroom-esque partnering. And then when you add in props that actually WORK within the context of the dance? You get, as Derek described it, the feel of an “art installation”.  And their dance this week really did feel like performance art as well as dance. My current pick to win the upper division finale spot – well done, guys 🙂

2.) Fik-Shun – It’s performances like this one that really make me appreciate how much Fik-Shun has grown as a dancer since his days on Live to Dance and even So You Think You Can Dance. It’s tough to meld hip-hop with contemporary and have both genres actually work in tandem and not look aimless or confused – and he made this work effortlessly.  Loved the storyline, loved how lyrical it was, and how he was able to handle the umbrella and not the other way around.  Poor kid got RIDICULOUSLY shafted in score – I would have given it a 90-92, at least. Given the expression on his face after learning he’d be eliminated, I have to wonder if we’ll see him next year or not – he seems like one of the ones that may have taken the results a bit personally, and I can’t say I blame him.

3.) Ian Eastwood & the Young Lions – I have nothing but respect for these guys – they came out to a very lukewarm reception from the judges in the qualifier, then managed to step their game up and reinvent themselves in the duel to wow everyone and bump out a fan favorite, and then they completely retooled themselves AGAIN for the cuts, infusing their usual hip-hop/jazz style with more of a contemporary vocabulary to give us something completely different. And that’s my favorite thing about these guys: every performance felt different – I was never bored, and I didn’t feel like I was watching the same thing each time, just with different costumes & music (looking at YOU, Diana, Eva, and Twins). It really sucks that they got pretty shafted in their scores – and I’m still raising my eyebrows at the disparity in scoring (Ne-Yo somehow managed to end up with a score that was a full ten points less than Misty’s…have we seen a gap that big before?) – but overall, I think they have a bright future and could easily come back next year and make it even further.

4.) Luka & Jenalyn – *sigh* Once again, the judges kinda completely miss the point of what Luka & Jenalyn do – once more, with feeling: CABARET BALLROOM IS ALL LIFTS WITH VERY LITTLE IN-BETWEEN DANCING. You passed them through the auditions to get them to this point, so clearly you consider what they do “dancing”; so for the judges to bitch & moan about “not enough dancing”? Sounds like a cop-out to me. I feel like calling them out for that would be like calling out Les Twins for not doing pirouettes, or telling Diana to include more krumping in her routines – it’s asking them to do something that is not part of their style. If “not enough dancing” in a cabaret ballroom routine is a problem, then perhaps they shouldn’t cast any other cabaret ballroom acts in future seasons…just a thought.  Or, you could just interpret as a sort of extended pas-de-deux, which is the tack I think Misty took (she was about the only judge that didn’t mention “not enough dancing”). Anywho, I was just thrilled to death that these two went for – and nailed! – the infamous “donut drop” move, which is kind of one of the “holy grail” moves in cabaret…only the couples with serious chops attempt it. I’ve seen a really well-executed (and well-maintained…for about 3 minutes) donut drop bring a ballroom full of spectators to their feet for a good 5 minutes. Also loved the way Jenalyn was sitting on Luka’s shoulders with her legs outstretched above her, and just shot the judges a “Yeah…I did that!” look. Don’t know what the hell Ne-Yo was talking about with them “connecting to the music” – I felt like they accented every major moment in the music with an equally-impressive trick. Completely bogus score, especially when you take into account that Chapkis’ kinda chaotic number got 5 points more.  Shame on you, judges – but Luka & Jenalyn, you impressed the hell outta me.

5.) Kinjaz – I’ll give them props for trying to do something different, but this wasn’t my favorite routine they’ve done – I actually preferred both their qualifier and their duel to this one, as this one felt a bit less cohesive and well thought-out. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t really much to sneeze at, after how incredible their duel performance was.  I will commend them on doing some really clean, really intricate choreo, though.

6.) Pasion – Well, I think we kinda had an inkling they weren’t long for this show, considering that we never actually saw a full-length performance from them on the actual show.  The thing that kinda sucks about flamenco is that it’s at its most impactful when it’s done with a very minimal musical accompaniment – a guitar, maybe some castanets, so you don’t overshadow the rhythms they’re making with their feet.  So for them to come out and try to do the same thing to a loud, borderline cacophonous Ricky Martin song? Kinda defeats the purpose. I can appreciate that they were trying to switch things up and do something a little different, I’m just not sure the risk paid off.

7.) Les Twins – I’ve called Eva & Diana out for the same thing, so here goes: I feel like we’ve seen the same routine from them, three times, with only the music and costumes changing.  Additionally, they seem to lack the synchronicity that makes groups like Kinjaz and IEATYL so visually appealing to watch – and it’s beyond me why the judges don’t call it out, and why these two can’t seem to do any wrong in their eyes. One of my coworkers (who is a huge Les Twins fan, mind you) theorizes that the Les Twins name is what’s carrying them – “people seemed to be impressed more by the fact that they’re Les Twins, rather than the quality of their dancing on the show…which isn’t nearly as good as it was in their early YouTube days.” In that respect, I feel like they’re suffering a bit from “Jabbawockeez Syndrome” – some people seem so blinded by how awesome they’ve been in the past, that they can’t seem to see that they’re not quite as good as they used to be. It’s a case of “they’re the Jabbawockeez, so they’re automatically the best” rather than “they really and truly slayed the competition because they really and truly were the best.” At this point, I guess they’re the favorite to win – but given that we haven’t seen much in the way of variety from them, I’m rooting for Keone & Mari to head to the finale.

8.) Chapkis Dance Family – I’ll cut them a bit of slack, given that we were only shown a very truncated version of their routine (and we never really got to know them much this season, anyway); but it seemed a bit…aimless. And kinda messy.