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So You Think You Can Dance Season 9 – Top 14 Week Podcast


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Episode 51 direct download

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Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: Ballet boys as judges, and Ms. Tedholm’s Facebook comment
3:31 – General thoughts about the Mia Michaels episode
5:23 – The Door routine: Cyrus & Eliana
8:44 – Hometown Glory routine: George & Tiffany
11:23 – The Butt Dance: Will & Amelia
14:02 – The Bed routine: Dareian & Janelle
15:58 – Time routine: Audrey & Matthew
18:07 – The Bench routine: Chehon & Witney
20:41 – Addiction routine: Lindsay & Cole
24:45 – Bottom 6/Elimination discussion
30:05 – Wrap-up: Thoughts about Brandon/Amber elimination from Top 16 week, and thoughts on the live shows thus far

Episode Length: 32:24

The Top 14 week of So You Think You Can Dance celebrated Mia Michaels and her iconic routines from the show. Each of the dancers were called on to recreate some of her most beloved routines. Our feelings, along with many fans, were mixed on this approach. Should these routines be performed again, or are they only meant for the original dancers? Can an alternate, yet equally valid interpretation of the routines be presented? We discuss these questions, along with our thoughts on the somewhat shocking elimination of Amelia in this podcast!

We found it very useful to compare the original performances against the new ones. In the time stamps above we’ve linked to blog posts that have both routines embedded for easy viewing.

Let us know what you think after listening to the podcast! We’ve partnered with Pure So You Think You Can Dance to deliver this series of podcasts, so check them out and interact with fellow SYTYCD fans! You can leave us a comment on Pure SYTYCD, on this blog, or tweet us. You can also visit our Facebook page and leave a comment there! We love feedback and will respond either with a comment or in our next published show.

Why Is The X-Factor Manipulating Contestant Narratives?

It just wouldn’t be a Fox Reality Talent Competition without some controversy and The X-Factor has not disappointed! For several weeks, rumors have been circulating the internet that Stacy Francis and X-Factor producers not only downplayed her past music experience for dramatic effect (“I don’t want to die with this music in me, Simon!”), but Stacy has taken to Twitter to deny any truth to suggestions that she has done more professional work than we have been led to believe.

A recent article offers some details taken from her now deleted professional website, with bio information saying that she has worked with the likes of Madonna, Chaka Khan & Prince. Vote For The Worst did more detective work to uncover her professional past, demonstrating that while she hasn’t achieved mainstream stardom, the story put forth on the show gives the impression that after an abusive relationship she did no further work. However, internet searches reveal that over the past decade she’s done acting work and played the role of Rusty in the original Broadway cast of Footloose. She’s the feature singer on the song “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” (see a picture of her singing the song)!

We want to make it clear that we have no issue with Stacy having a professional background. One of our favorite contestants, Leroy Bell, has a website that outlines his accomplishments in the music industry, which includes several recent albums (check some of them out on Spotify!), songwriting credits to songs by The Spinners, The O’Jays, The Temptations, Rita Marley and Elton John and live performances with numerous others, including B. B. King, Idina Menzel, Sheryl Crow and Los Lobos. Although he doesn’t talk about all this, Leroy never denies this part of his past. Here, either because of production or by her own choice, Stacy is acting like she hasn’t been doing work over the past ten years. Granted, it’s not like any of it is high-paying work, but it’s professional work, none-the-less.

What’s confusing is that The X-Factor is inconsistent on whether or not to reveal the past of a contestant. While Stacy Francis and Leroy Bell haven’t had much said about their earlier work, Brennin Hunt and Christa Collins had their past struggles in the music industry broadcast front and center. It appears as if the contestant’s history fits into a narrative of struggle, then it makes the cut and gets featured on the show. If not, then it gets ignored to make the contestant appear to be a talent that came from nowhere.

In another story involving production decisions, Dexter Haygood claims he volunteered for elimination on last week’s episode of The X-Factor. He cites creative differences with the song choices Nicole Scherzinger gave him, expressing frustration with having to sing pop songs instead of rock songs. Perhaps that explains why it appeared he took last week’s elimination so well, when we were expecting a full on storm of tears and emotion. Without further substantiation, we can’t know if this is the full truth or if he’s covering for his early departure from the competition. If it’s true, it makes the elimination portions of the Top 17 episode feel less sincere.

What this all points to is the active hand production takes in shaping the narrative we see on FOX reality competitions such as The X-Factor. Because these are competitions and not just observations of life, we take issue with all this misdirection. We’d like to think we’ve gotten to a point that we want honesty from our programs, not narrative distortion to manipulate viewer perception. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen it on a FOX reality competition. So You Think You Can Dance often does this with hip-hop/street dancers, with season four winner Joshua Allen being a good example. Throughout the season, the judges acted amazed at how well he picked up choreography outside his own style, as if he was doing all this complicated movement for the first time in his life. Yet, when asked about it, Joshua said he took as many dance classes as he could to prepare for the show. So while he wasn’t a master in any of these styles, he had exposure to them, but the judging panel reacted as if he did not. This is the type of production interference we do not like as it lessens the value of the respective shows through cheap emotional tricks.

Why are all of FOX's reality competitions using narrative manipulation?

Even though The X-Factor is selling itself as big and flashy and has been signed on for a second season, we really think this show could set itself apart from other shows by being honest with the viewers. So what if a contestant has found some modest success in the music industry, tell us about it! Let us know the real people, not the manufactured personalities. Someone that paid their dues for years will get respect as that ethic resonates with American viewers. Why not shape itself as a show that wants to give nationwide exposure to talented indie performers? They have the talent on board to go in that direction. I say go with it and set yourself apart from American Idol.

What do you think about all this? We think this goes beyond just the news involving Stacy Francis and Dexter Haygood and hits at the core philosophy behind the production of reality competitions. Should they continue creating emotional stories for contestants, even if it requires ignoring a large part of their past, or should we move towards a more authentic reality television that represents the actual people involved? Let us know your thoughts through a tweet or by leaving us a comment!

UPDATE
In a post-Top 12 elimination episode interview, Simon Cowell and company assert that they’re aware of Stacy Francis’ past and that they haven’t been trying to hide it. In addition, they say that Dexter’s story about striking a deal to leave the show is “nonsense” and “not the case.” Is this damage control or them setting the record straight? We’re more inclined to believe their word over Dexter’s, but not so much on the Stacy Francis stuff. The removal of her website and short biography along with the deliberate editing job which makes it sound like the only singing she’s done in the past twelve years was in her bathroom after putting her children to bed looks like an attempt to shape a specific narrative around her. As we and many others are saying, we can see that none of her past experiences led to mainstream success, but it’s misleading to say she’s done nothing in the past twelve years when there’s multiple articles that state the contrary. Just be honest and the questions will stop.

So You Think You Can Dance Season 8: Top 4 and Finale Podcast

Summary

For the finale of So You Think You Can Dance season 8 we give you a super-sized podcast with 15 more minutes of content. We were happy with Melanie’s win and were pleasantly surprised that the top two dancers this season were both women, which has not happened before on this program. The performance episode was not up to the high standards of past seasons which was disappointing for us, but there were some highlights such as Marko and Lauren F.’s wonderful contemporary piece by Tessandra Chavez and the captivating performance by Melanie and Sasha in the second Stacey Tookey routine of the night.

The results show reminded us of many of the great routines from the season, although we were surprised by how the judges picks seemed to place less emphasis on everyone except for Melanie, Marko and Sasha (even Tadd only had one non-group routine repeated). This portion of the show has historically served as a warm-up for the forthcoming tour and features many of the routines that are expected to show up. But here we had many routines that involved all-stars, none of which will likely be on the tour. It was unexpected for the judges picks to lack variety.

We conclude the podcast with a discussion of the show’s production and the effect it’s having on the pacing and the way we get to know the dancers. We pinpoint that the approach towards the show changed in season 6, when they moved to the live show format. At this point the packages became shorter and contained more schtick and the judges comments started having less substance due to the time constraints of a live program. We also discuss the choreographers and that some of them tailor their work to their selected dancers and that others do not and whether this is a fair way of doing things. Finally, we discuss the variety of dancers in the top 20 in later seasons versus the early seasons and the effect this seems to have on the type of choreography we see each week.

We want to thank everyone that has tuned into our podcasts during the course of the season! We’ve enjoyed doing this and its been a learning experience for us! We’re planning to do podcasts for season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance, so check back with us in May 2012. We’re going to continue doing our Big Brother podcasts and will be adding The X-Factor to our weekly discussions when it premieres on September 21st. We are also adding a Week in Review podcast in the fall for all the other shows we watch during that time. So if any of that sounds interesting to you, then keep coming back to Reflections on Pop Entertainment and check out our updates. If you’re only interested in our So You Think You Can Dance material, we’ll see you again next summer!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment on Pure So You Think You Can Dance after listening.

Episode Length: 44:53

Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: Congrats to Melanie! Guest judges: Katie Holmes and Kenny Ortega and the choice to have celebrity judges
2:37 – Melanie and Marko’s disco
4:15 – Sasha and Mark’s jazz
5:44 – Tadd and Joshua’s hip-hop
7:10 – Melanie and Robert’s contemporary
8:29 – Sasha and Marko’s broadway
10:46 – Sasha and Tadd’s chacha
12:57 – Marko and Lauren F.’s contemporary
14:36 – Tadd and Melanie’s jazz
16:01 – Melanie and Sasha’s contemporary
18:27 – Marko and Tadd’s gumboot stepping
20:28 – The order of the placing: 2 girls in the top
22:22 – Results show: The new top 20 routine and tap routine
24:28 –  Results show: The judges picks were stacked towards Melanie, Sasha and Marko and didn’t seem to be a retrospective of the season
28:58 – Post-season discussion: The direction of production and how it affects the show – pacing in live shows vs recorded shows, an increasing focus on the judging panel, choreographers tailoring their work to the dancers, variety in the dancers in the Top 20 (stacked towards contemporary/jazz now), variety in routine genres (less ballroom now, more contemporary/jazz)
42:34 – Wrap-up: What are your thoughts on our post-season discussion? What we’re going to be doing in future podcasts (Big Brother, The X-Factor, Week in Review)


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Episode 15 direct download

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