Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cat Deeley Wins So You Think You Can Dance, Top 8, and Mia Michaels is Rude But Not a Racist

Last night on So You Think You Can Dance, horror of horrors! We learned the amazing Alex Wong was injured rehearsing for a Bollywood routine with AdéChiké Torbert and may have to leave the show. I'm not being snarky. I really do like Alex.

Alex is amazing! So, is host Cat Deeley. I love SYTYCD in general, but I specifically hate how the judges handled AdéChiké last night.

Mia Michaels, who I tend to adore almost unconditionally, was the most brutal of all in judging AdéChiké. Actually, I agreed with her observation that something about his movement during the Bollywood routine, choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan, who has been trained in African tribal dance, had an African vibe. Before the judges spoke, I told my daughter, who's been trained in African dance as well, "Hmm. Are they making a connection here back to African in that number?" Nevertheless, Michaels was indisputably rude to AdéChiké, going so far as to say how much she missed Alex's presence in the routine. She made a similar remark to Melinda Sullivan last week, telling the tap dancer that the judges made a mistake when they sent ballroom dancer Cristina Santana home the week before and kept Sullivan.

In spite of her rudeness, I strongly disagree with people on Twitter calling Michaels a "racist" for saying the black dancer's movements were more African in style than Bollywood. Some people are so offended on behalf of AdéChiké that they are making broad statements such as Michaels is always harder on black male dancers. WTF! That's not true. Who can forget how Mia nearly worshiped African-American choreographer Desmond Richardson and fawned over contestant Will B. Wingfield in 2008?

One point to make is it may be that there's nothing wrong with Bollywood having a little African feel in parts, but would people be calling Michaels's comments racist if the dancer were not black? Is it Mia who can't separate dance critique from race or is it the audience that can't do so?

I think people are recalling how hard she was on Brandon Bryant in Season 5 and reading too much into that. (Michaels has known Bryant since he was a little boy.) However, she said she was hard on him because he was good. I've had a few teachers like that. I had a professor who kept slapping B+ on my papers because he said I had become lazy, used to getting an "A" easily, and he expected more. As a result, I wrote one of the best papers of my college career and he mailed a note to my house with the words, "Happy now?" and a smiley to tell me my grade for the semester was an "A." He was the professor pestering me to go to grad school while the ones who eagerly marked my papers with "A" never encouraged me to go beyond a B.A. degree.

Nigel Lythgoe criticized AdéChiké as well for bringing his own "funky" flavor to the number and thought adding his own twist to Bollywood was inappropriate. The drama intensified when host Cat Deeley stood up for the 23-year-old dancer and reminded the judges that only a few weeks ago they had praised B-boy Jose Ruiz, whom all the judges shamelessly cherish, by saying he added his own little twist of personality when he performed a Bollywood number. They thought Jose's little twist was charming. Why not AdéChiké's?

Basically Mia and Nigel seemed to say that Jose's added flavor is genuine and AdéChiké's is not. The implication was Jose is just naturally more lovable than AdéChiké. O.K., so Jose does seem quite sweet, but still, bad form, Mia and Nigel!

I think the Bollywood choreographer also felt the judges were too hard on AdéChiké because he stood up in support when Cat Deeley questioned the judges comments.

Judge Adam Shankman, perhaps after seeing how the crowd cheered for Deeley's defense of AdéChiké, softened his criticism a little in comparison to Nigel and Mia, but he still agreed the dancer's performance could have been better. He assured him that he would see what they meant when he watched the playback and told him his movements lacked the crispness and finish the routine required.

These harsh critiques came after judges had earlier pounded AdéChiké about his Mandy Moore routine with all-star Courtney Galliano and on the heels of all the judges lathering up Robert Roldan, another of their favorites. They feel the public is unfairly voting Robert into the bottom three. Nigel went on and on saying that people online are calling Robert "arrogant" and how Robert is absolutely not arrogant, but a hard worker. Adam and Mia followed up further in Robert's defense.

I got the strong impression that since Alex must be automatically placed in the bottom three, the judges fear having to choose between keeping him and sending another of their favorites home if the audience votes AdéChiké into the top seven. If the doctors say Alex can continue in the competition, and he's automatically in the bottom three but unable to dance a solo, the producers and judges probably want to make a preemptive strike on the fallout of not axing Alex when he can't dance for his life.

Fans were angry last year when Ashleigh Di Lello was injured but the audience voted for her anyway. People felt the votes stemmed from sympathy not merit. And that may be the reason that this year the rule is injury automatically places a dancer in the bottom three. So, now the judges are in a tough spot. The golden one, Alex, is in danger.

I think if the doctors say Alex can finish the season, the judges would prefer to see AdéChiké in the bottom three tonight so they can vote him off, justifying his dismissal by saying Alex's past work is far superior to anyone else's, which would be true but not go over well with fans without him performing a solo. In other words, AdéChiké is their least favorite dancer, male or female, and they can't afford to lose any more girls because they're down to only two. With the thrashing they gave him last night, if he lands in the bottom three, no matter how great his solo, they probably think they will sound fair if they release him instead someone else.

Who's tonight's real winner? Cat Deeley. Whatever points she may have scored for AdéChiké, he may have lost when he pounded his chest at her defense. But he's still not as boring as Robert.

The following screenshot from Twitter is only a small sampling of the kind of tweets applauding her for speaking up that I saw tonight. The shot begins with Ellenore Scott, a season 6 contestant from the show, saying "Cat Deeley is my hero."


Anonymous said...

The judges are not qualified to comment on Bollywood dance anyway. I'm an Indian and enjoyed AdeChike's bollywood number - I would most definitely not call it African. Bollywood isn't a strict movement style, it's the dance of Indian movies and it takes something from everywhere.

There were elements of Bharatnatyam in there but the whole thing was definitely not, hence AdeChike's performance was perfectly "Bollywood". To say it was African is really ignorant, insulting and racist.

No-one can claim that if Billy danced like AdeChike, Mia would describe it as "African". Her tongue slipped, and revealed her mind. People are so afraid of this word racism, but when she made such unfounded and rude comments on AdeChike's peformance, don't shy away from using the word because pretending it doesn't exist is just as bad if not worse.

Mia should leave the show if all she can do is abuse the black dancers rather than give CONSTRUCTIVE criticism which is what she is paid to do!

Vérité Parlant said...

I agree with Mia that something about his movement was in the style of "African" dance. However, I disagree with her that to have a feel of African dance in parts of a Bollywood dance is unequivocally wrong for the style. But I also think that if Adechike were not black, then people would not be saying Mia Michaels is racist. They'd be saying some of his movements had an African feel but that's o.k. for the Bollywood style.

I'm the last person to be afraid to call anybody racist. In fact, I do it so much and define exactly why I do so that people expect that to be my opinion automatically. Sucks for them b/c I'm not a kneejerk responder on the subject of racism.

And you're wrong. She does not abuse the black dancers. She's an equal opportunity offender. People are so used to treating black people like little children in need of constant protection that they associate any harsh comment to a black person with racism. That's paternalistic racism.

msladyDeborah said...

I love reading these types of posts on WSATA. I don't watch these types of shows at all. But through your diligent eyes, I learn so much about their content.

I am of the firm opinion after watching the film Baraka, There are movements that seem to be universally used no matter where the dancer is from. Of course each one has its unique twist on the movement.

I hope you continue to post on the competitive shows. I love a good synopsis.

avi gold said...

her so called critique of Adechike was so unprofessional and just plain mean spirited.How is anything she said going to help him grow as a dancer? And her "ew" when the crowd rightly booed her was just so valley girl and silly for a women her age.She tries to sound profound but rarely does.

fourthbreakfast said...

I agree. Mia is an equal opportunity offender. I had a slight twinge last night when she faked an Asian accent after Dominic and Ashley's number ("grasshopper"). I also thought it was unnecessary harsh for her to say they wrongly eliminated Cristina to Melinda's face. The buzz makes for good ratings though.:P

Anonymous said...

I have watched this show since season one. Let me add that my husband and I are teachers. I have over 20 years of experience teaching. I have been inspired by Mia Michaels choreography.
At the same time, she can be incredibly cruel and harsh in her so-called critiques which seem to be mostly (but not entirely) directed toward black male contemporary dancers: Adechike, Ade, Brandon, Will, and Danny.
On the other hand, she gives unwavering praise to dancers who are not as skilled but in her view have heart. She does not help either group of dancers. A good teacher give constructive criticism to help a student grow. It is an unfortunate example that she is providing the audience.
Noone is suggesting that she baby anyone (although she does for those she likes). We just want her to be fair and professional and decent. Perhaps she is just not cut out to a judge.