Live to Dance: Finale

Now that Paula-fest is coming to a close, we have a chance to look back and wonder how successful this show was. The ratings, were pretty small and I will be surprised if it gets picked up for another season (maybe they will consider it in the summer, but then it would have to go up against SYTYCD). For me, the biggest faults were its obsession with Paula (The X Factor seems to be on the same path with Simon, as is evidence by its promo during the Super Bowl) and its inability to define what the competition was really about. It claimed to be looking for the “Best Dance Act in America” but it was more like the “Dance Act that Loved to Dance the Most and Listened to Whatever Paula Said.” It also doesn’t help that the special effects going on behind the dancers are so overdone it’s distracting (and for soloists, overwhelming).

While I approve of the idea of the acts having a mentor to help them finesse their acts, I think having Paula do it was a mistake. How can a judge be impartial when she is a part of the performance? Her comments almost always revolved around how much or little the contestants listened to her words of advice. (Notice that generally speaking, Tim Gunn does not judge but only advises.)

We get an opening number performances with all of the finalists and like Travis before, the choreographer (What?!? It was Paula?!?!) seemed not to know what to do with our ballet duo, White Tree Fine Art. I love how Paula says that this was the first time she worked with them they weren’t competing because…they weren’t competing. This performance has no bearing on whether or not they win. Way to state the obvious.

To drag the episode out, we cut the top six down to three. In no particular order, the first act “safe” is…White Tree Fine Art. Second is…D’Angelo and Amanda. Third and the final act “safe” is…Kendal Glover (no love for the group acts then?). For the duration of this performance I have complained about the number of children in this show being at a disadvantage because of their lack of experience. However, there is also an advantage, as Kendal and D’Angelo and Amanda show. They are good enough that they are almost or equally as good as a talented performer ten years older than them, which is even more amazing to people and therefore wins them “bonus points.” And they’re cute!

D’Angelo and Amanda perform one last time and Paula calls them technical geniuses. And she wants bobbleheads of them. Kimberly likes their consistency and flawlessness and fun and connection. Travis apparently had nothing to say.

We take out a moment to give Chai Town’s Breakers a car and then return to the finalists to watch White Tree Fine Art dance to Halleluyah. Nice choice of song. Kimberly feels like they’ve already won. Travis says America got it right when they overruled him. now he’s a fan.

Next comes Kendall’s performance. She’s everybody’s everything apparently.

In third place is…White Tree Fine Art.

And the winner is D’ANGELO AND AMANDA!

Live to Dance: Final Performances

Paula informs America that they should choose a winner based on what inspired us. Does anyone else notice the strange, stilted way that she speaks? The other judges speak fluidly, but Paula not so much.

Kendal is the final act put through to the finals.

Twitch is up first for the final performance, dancing to “Paparazzi”. This is their last performance together because some of them are graduating. Travis thought it was awesome quality.

White Tree Fine Art performs to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and once again Paula and Kimberly LOVE it. Down to Travis who finally gives them a gold star.

The Vibe gives us a performance to “Umbrella” which is again cool but there are just so many of them that it is hard to watch on a stage that small. They should split into two groups or something. Travis thought the number was too busy and should have been less ambitious. THey’re the first group to get only two gold stars.

Kendal Glover, the only soloist in the finals (an eleven year old whose body looks like a 20 year olds) is dances to “Dog Days Are Over.” I think she’s extremely talented but at a disadvantage when competing against groups.

Dance Town Chaos goes up this time and while I didn’t love them last time, they definitely stepped it up. They receive a standing ovation from the judges. (They keep getting asked about what they will say to guys watching this show and I want to say, let’s be honest, not many men are watching this.)

D’angelo and Amanda are the final performers of the night. Solid performance but not my favorite of the night.

Now it’s time for America to vote and next week we’ll have our winner.

Live to Dance: Ep 5

I’ve decided a few things about this show:
1- stop making it The Paula Show
2- choose what the competition is (best dance group or most love for dance)
3- set an age limit
4- expand the format so we don’t have to vote off 2/3 of the groups after only seeing them performing twice

Twitch was voted to move on by America.

Dance Town Chaos is up first. Stop over-sexing it! Technically they’re solid but I didn’t love the actual performance. Paula loved it, of course, because they prove that dancers have athleticism. Travis thought it was masculine. Kimberly thought it was just beautiful to watch. (Also, is that a fifteen year old mixed into the group.)

Jill and Jacob have some issues with Paula because she wants them to simplify but they didn’t want to. “It was their time on stage!” Someone saying no to Paula? For once I would say they should have agreed. They shouldn’t have done so many tricks and just let it flow. You could see the effort going into each trick. Travis thought there was no connection and he knows they are better. Red star. Kimberly found some risks that went well but some didn’t work out. Jill’s performance was stronger than Jake so she gives them a red star too. Paula admires their tenacity but their niche was their connection (that’s not a niche). They came a long way. So she gives them a gold star. (Of course.)

Roosevelt Anderson is the popper/locker that was pretty good but not amazing. What is that flying thing and why do they think it is dancing? Rule number one, you need more than two moves in your repertoire. Another weak so with an overproduced backdrop that takes the attention away from the dancer. Kimberly loves his passion for dance but there wasn’t enough. Paula, shockingly, disagrees. He’s delightful (which is not the same thing as a good dancer), which earns him a gold star. PAULA STOP TALKING! Travis thinks he followed up his audition well and that he’s magnificent though he had some moments that could have been cleaner. He gets two gold stars.

Tap Sounds Underground is not what I was hoping for. Good, but there was something that made it hard for me to get into. The changing music turning on and off maybe? Paula says something about dead tappers smiling down on them. Travis liked their use of space but they were out of sync at times. Kimberly challenges them to breath new life into tap. Kimberly gives them a red star.

Shore Thing takes into a little girl’s dreams for a fun and chaotic ride. Kimberly thought it was amazing and wants them to add more umph into their dancing. Paula’s (shockingly) proud. That was Paula’s shortest speech yet. Travis liked it, not perfect but very good. Three gold stars.

Kendall Glover, the judges choice shows a skill well beyond her years. When she’s old enough for SYTYCD, she would easily qualify. The performance was a little frenetic but she’s a little person trying to cover an enormous stage. Travis wants her to work on her lines. Travis didn’t think it was her best performance so she got a red star. Kimberly thought she as on fire. Paula wants more people as prepared as her. Two gold stars.

The judges choose…Dance Town Chaos to move on.

Live to Dance: Ep 4

Round 2 of the semi-finals. Even the opening credits reinforce the Paula obsession. Only she and not the other judges appears. Does that bother them? I don’t understand how more people freak out when seeing Paula than seem to have freaked out when seeing Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez on American Idol last night. Personally I’d be more excited about the latter. Also, anyone even notice how incredibly short Paula is? Okay, she’s 5″2′ which is the same height as me, but when standing next to the others it just makes her look teeny even with her heels.

The two acts that received the most votes last week were Jittin Genius and D’angelo and Amanda. I’m voting for the kids. And America…agreed! They were apparently the clear winners which I agree with. D’Angelo was so excited he drops to his knees and pumps his fists which is only made cuter by how little he is.

Six more acts for this weeks, once again mentored by Paula.

Up first is Jalen, the nine year old b-boy who has had a lot of changes since auditioning because his tooth fell out. This is an instance where I’m not sure that Paula was the best judge to be mentoring him. What does she know about breaking? And what tricks can she teach him? That being said, he actually is much stronger this time around with a lot more speed and more flow. The best act in America? Probably not. But when he’s old enough for So You Think You Can Dance in seven years (if the show is still around) I hope he tries out. This kid is so cute. Paula was very proud of his dedication and hard work and his performance. She thinks he’s really nineteen. Gold star for nailing it. Travis tells him it was really really good for coming back with new moves. He’s a joy to watch and pretty awesome. If he comes back, his new challenge is to add more dance steps to the tricks. Two gold stars. Last but not least our former Pussycat Girl (is it former? do they still exist?) gives him a third gold.

Dance in Flight, a group i have no recollection of, is up second. They’re on the old side and they point out how unusual it is to be doing the acrobatic elements they do at their age but it doesn’t seem to hold them back. Here it seems like Paula would have more to help with. The opening of the routine starts slow and stiff and the woman’s haircut only emphasizes her oldness. Which isn’t to say they don’t have some great lifts. I think the woman is a little shaky and has a hard time. Her movements looks slightly too old. They were good but without question I would pick Jalen over them. Travis liked their audition better. He thought some lifts were sluggish and they lost their luster. They need more. He gives them a red star and the audience boos. Kimberly is conflicted because Kate needs to stretch more but she admires their love of dance. So she gives them a gold star. Paula finds them a dream to work with and their technique is beautiful but especially with Kate it was hard to nail the sharper moves. They had a little tumble at the end but she gives them a second gold star anyway. No surprise there. But it’s doubtful that the judges will be putting them through to the next round.

The group Twitch is third and we learn that they’ve all had crushes on Anthony, the only guy of the group but he is dating one of the girls so they end up together in the dance too. This is actually a group I really like because there is something fun and quirky about them. I don’t find Anthony to be the best dancer ever (he wouldn’t hold a candle to most of the SYTYCD contestants) but he’s good enough for this stage. Their performance receives an applause from all three of the judges. Paula loved their openness and willingness during practice. Tonight was beautiful. Gold star. Travis thinks it was hot. Amazing. They raised the bar. Gold. Kimberly loves their ability to tell a story with the technique to back it up. But most of all each one of them performs to the best of their ability. Gold.

Du-Shaunt Stegall, a hip hop dancer is next. He’s a good dancer but his performance was just good. Kimberly thinks he didn’t hold it through the whole performance. Red star. Paula says he needs to be a student of all styles of dance. Also a red star. (What, Paula has a red star button? I was beginning to wonder.) Travis says he pointed out that he has to increase his repertoire of steps. He also gets a red star.

Next is Dax and Sarah. Dax has been injured all week so his performance level is questioned even before he gets on stage. What exactly is his injury? Herniated discs. This couple is super cute, but whether their dancing is up to par with the best in America. I’m not sure. The moment the song speeds up they seem to be all over the place and the entire routine is something of a single note which is probably due to his injury and thus inability to do any particularly exciting tricks. It almost looks like they’re tapping without tapping shoes. (It feels like a Jittin’ Genius redo almost.) Paula gives them a gold star for pushing through their injury. Travis is glad the music picked up but he found it boring. Agreed! Red. (Paula tells him it isn’t easy, as though he didn’t just say he knew what it was like to be an injured dancer.) Kimberly thought they stayed true to the heart of the lindey hop and gives a gold star too.

Finally, White Tree Fine Art. I like this group though I didn’t love this performance as I loved their battle piece two weeks. The ribbon thing didn’t work for me (and not just because I wish it wasn’t a jarring red color). Despite these complaints, they were still very good, even earning a standing ovation from Kimberly. They have inspired her and brought little girl dreams to life. Gold. Travis likes their lines and imagery but he can’t get as excited as he wants to about them. Maybe he just doesn’t like ballet. He gives them a red. The audience cheers for him to change his vote. Paula says she can’t believe they ever didn’t make it straight through to the semifinals and gives them a gold star.

Time for the experts to choose. I imagine Twitch will go through and America will vote for White Tree Fine Art.

The decision is not unanimous but they end up putting White Tree Fine Art through, which is a surprise. In which case, my guess is Twitch is voted through.

Live to Dance: Ep 3

I think the semi-finals highlighted the real problems behind the rules and the format of the show. The competition is supposedly looking for the best dance act in America and is open to all ages.

Before the competition started, the second act from last week’s dance-off to make it into the finals, as voted by America. White Tree Fine Art, the ballet duo were voted in. This was a good decision and I’m excited to see what they bring in their semi-final performance.

This week we had round 1 of semi-finals, 6 of the top 18 performed this week, competing for two spots (once again one decided by the judges and one decided by America) in the finals.

The Vibe, a 38 member dance group performed first and kicked off the show with an easily awarded three gold star performance. My only complaint with the group is really that with so many people, it is difficult to really see everything that is happening.

Jittin’ Genius was second, and was sort of a fast foot dance solo. He got a large applause but personally, I found it a little repetitive. He’s good but he just doesn’t do enough.

Chi-Town’s Finest Breakers was up next and this was exactly where the competition showed it’s flaws. These five kids are completely adorable and for their ages, they did a good job. But the fact is, they simply lack the experience and degree of difficulty to win a competition like this. So instead, they are put in the position where at such a young age, they are very publicly told that they are not good enough. They get two red stars and only one gold star, and you can see that they’re kind of struggling not to cry.

We get another solo kid act, Austin Acevedo who has only been dancing for a year or so but seems to be more than a little bit awesome. He too is told that he doesn’t have enough experience and needs to let go more. He received three red stars, even harsher than the other kids. Couldn’t one of the judges given him a gold star so he doesn’t feel, at nine years old, that he is a complete failure?

Bev and Hap, the old tapping couple comes fifth and here’s where we once again wonder what the judges were thinking when they were sent through to the semis. They simply don’t have the mobility and flexibility of a 20 year old dancer. They get one gold star from Paula for their enthusiasm. Or something.

Amanda and D’Angelo are the final pair, another pair of kids who are quite talented. In fact, they’ve got four years of experience behind them and that certainly shows. They even get three gold stars and the truth is, of the night I do think they were one of the top, though not really good enough to win.

The judges choose The Vibe to move on and America will vote for one more act (D’Angelo and Amanda I’m hoping).

One other complaint I have about this show: it is called LIVE TO DANCE not THE PAULA SHOW. I get it, people like her because of American Idol, but let’s stop making the show all about her. Every sentence she says starts with “you listened to me…” Enough already.

Live to Dance: Eps 1&2

Paula Abdul’s new dance show has premiered two episodes so far and though I can’t get a full idea of the show until we actually see the finalists, we’ve gotten at least a taste of it.

My take: it’s sort of like the weak version of So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew. Not to say I won’t be watching, since I don’t have to choose between them.

First let’s discuss the judges:

  • Travis Payne- choreographer, particularly notable for his work with Michael Jackson
  • Kimberly Wyatt- one of the Pussycat Dolls
  • Paula Abdul- former Idol judge, singer and dancer
  • While I’m not surprised that no one really knows who Travis is, it surprises me that Kimberly gets so little attention by contestants. The Pussycat Dolls were a big deal not so long ago. Paula gets so much attention it’s getting kind of ridiculous and getting a little old (which is saying something considering that it’s only the second episode). As far as actually judging goes, this is sort of the nicest panel ever. They are, perhaps, a bit overly nice. The only specific critique they’ve given has been “point your toes a bit more, straighten you leg” and most of their commentary consists of “your passion for dancing really shines through.” Look, I get it, being passionate about it is important, but it should not outweigh talent. So for example, moving Solid Gold on to the “short list,” which means the judges will continue considering them for a place in the top 18, simply because they once played an important role in the dance world is ridiculous. (Luckily, they didn’t make it to the 18, but still.) As of yet, none of the judges are really distinct enough to form clear personas (beyond Paula giving a “gold star,” the show’s method of judging, to groups whose enthusiasm she likes). There’s no Simon giving the harsh critique, Michael Kors telling it like it is with a harsh metaphor, no Mary shrieking so loud you don’t know if you want to tell her to shut up or join in. There’s just…niceness.

    The host:
    Andrew Ginsberg, a co-host of Australian Idol, is sort of a poor man’s Cat Deeley. He asks a couple of stupid questions to the people backstage but otherwise he isn’t particularly involved. Think of Ryan Seacrest bantering with the judges, Cat Deeley standing with her arm around the contestants as they hear from the judges and even occasionally challenging the judge’s critiques, Jeff Probst standing in the rain with the survivors and asking the tough–if some feel inappropriate–questions during tribal council, or even TJ Lavin scolding contestants who don’t give their all during elimination challenges. Things might change once we get further into the show, but as of now, I’m certainly not an Andrew fan, even if I do like his accent.

    The talent:
    Something that distinguishes this show from SYTYCD is that it does not set any age requirements. The oldest contestant was something like 87. I get that everyone can enjoy dancing, no matter what age they are. But while the 87 year old woman was super cute, she simply did not have the talent or even simple mobility and flexibility of the younger contestants. She and her 68 year old partner did not deserve a spot on the show, even if we appreciate their love for dancing. She may have been a fantastic dancer once, but now she simply cannot compete. (There’s a reason that dancer’s career don’t last all that long. Injuries and the body’s degeneration as it gets older, prevents someone who is 80+ from moving like a 20 year old.) There were also some super cute kids who made it through the the top 18 and once again, though they are adorable and they have such sweet stories, a nine year old generally cannot compete with a twenty year old. It comes down to experience and learning. A twenty year old who is serious about dancing has likely been dancing for 15 years. The nine year old has been dancing for a max of 5-6, if they started extremely young. The show made me appreciate the cutoff on SYTYCD. Not only is it unfair to put a kid through the pressures that doing a competitive show on broadcast television requires, but for the most part it isn’t really a fair competition and they are most of the time being set up for failure. (Especially because when America votes for a final winner, they tend to think, “well, they’re young, they have a long time to accomplish things.”) Not to say no children could be good. D’Angelo and Amanda were surprisingly good and though they may not be able to beat Anya and Pascha or even Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello, but they did hold their own against the older contestants. But the same cannot be said for some of the other groups that were good, but not good enough to compete on this level. Yet.

    I’m willing to wait to see how things turn out. I did enjoy watching the dancing overall, even though the talent level wasn’t up there (I think the quality of contestants on SYTYCD has improved over the years so maybe that will be the case with Live to Dance as well).

    What did you think about the show?