"Dance": It's kind of choreographer roulette


This whole good luck/bad luck thing goes deeper than expected on "So You Think You Can Dance."

Sure, it makes a difference which choreographer you draw. Some -- especially Napoleon and Tabitha D'Umo -- almost always make their dancers look good; others -- Dave Scott, for instance -- don't.

But tonight we saw it go deeper than that with Sonya Tayeh. She gave one duo (Ryan and Rickey) a terrific piece, another (Ashley and Chris) a number that should send them to the bottom three Thursday.

Tayeh -- from Detroit and Wayne State University -- is an eccentric and imaginative choreographer. Sometimes her pieces overwhelm the dancers; sometimes they are great.

Her first one tonight -- a "Beetlejuice" take-off -- was mechanical and impersonal. Her second one -- with Ryan's clothes being used as a sensual device to bring the duo together and drive them apart -- was passionate and powerful.

By comparison, the D'Umos scored each time. One piece was performed with rich emotion by Melanie and Marko. The other, by Jordan and Tadd, was the most fun I've ever seen from people putting their clothes on.

A few other notes:

-- After another sensational performance by Jordan (who specializes in sexy dancing) I was disturbed to hear her say this is all make-believe. ("I still sleep with my Pillow Pet," she said.) She could have left us with the illusion.

-- When did clothes become such a good dancing prop, anyway? Taking them off, putting them on -- either works well.

-- Since the judges are mostly in a no-fault zone, they sometimes have little to contribute. "I've got nothing," Kristen Chenoweth admitted. At least, Little C found ways to make his praise interesting. After Miranda's sesational performance, he said: "With legs like that, who needs arms." After the perfection of Melanie and Marko, he called them "two Swiss army knives." 

 

"Dance": A good show, but not a fair one


On their way out of of competition shows, most contestants fill their final minutes with happy talk. Life is good, they say, life is fair.

The "So You Think You Can Dance" contestants mostly said that, today, too. Still, they occasionally granted that "Dance" could be more fair than it is.

"I was shocked, because I thought the show was about showing different styles," Iveta Lukosiute said. Instead, the final 20 included only one person each whose principal style was tap (Nick Young), ballroom (Lukosiute) and break (Wadi Jones). And those three were all eliminated Thursday, leaving only one Broadway guy, three hip-hoppers and a sea of contemporary or jazz dancers.

Other quirks include:

-- Last week's decision to dump nobody from the three duos who were in the bottom in viewer votes. That meant that this week, four of six dancers had to go. "It is kind of ironic that the bottom three this time is completely different from the bottom three last time," Young said.

-- The "dance for your life" portion wih 30-second solos, which seem to be best for contemporary -- and, especially, hip-hop dancers. "You see them doing flips and amazing things," Young said. "All I could do is move my feet really fast."

-- The process of drawing a dance style out of a hat. Young praised the randomness, but isn't sure about fairness. Lukosiute agreed. "Some of the dancers never danced out of their comfort zones," she said.

Last week, she and Young drew the quick-step, considered a killer in previous years, and escaped the bottom three. This time, they drew Bollywood and didn't.

Meanwhile, Jones and Missy Morelli (a jazz dancer who didn't do this conference-call interview) drew the cha-cha this week. "The cha-cha was very hard for me -- all the technical things, which way my fingers were pointed," he said.

Mostly, Jones had no complaints and the others were fairly upbeat. Jones, a native of Jamaica, is self-taught and will keep working with kids. Lukosiute, a native of Lithuania, is an international ballroom champion who plans to open her own New York studio this year.

And Young? He's different from most dancers -- taller (6-foot-1) and from Wisconsin (Franklin, just south of Milwaukee). There, he used to race between his mother's dance studio and three sports -- just  like Shirley MacLaine's son in the "Turning Point" movie. "I really like the  busy life," he said. Now, 19 and working at the studio, he's thinking about moving to New York and trying Broadway -- where life will get even busier. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Dance": Variety vanishes quickly


If you like variety on "So You Think You Can Dance," Thursday was another tough night.

Ousted was Nick Young, 19, the only dancer whose specialty is tap. And Iveta Lukosiute, 30, the only one whose specialty is ballroom. And Wada Jones, 24, the only one whose specialty is breaking. And one token jazz dancer, Missy Morelli, 20.

That leaves a field of sameness -- a dozen jazz or contemporary dancers, three hip-hoppers and a Broadway guy. It was kind of like last year, when the show was excited about having three tappers -- then lost them in the first four weeks.

A few stray comments:

1) As usual, it hurts to draw a style that viewers aren't familiar with. Young and Lukosiute drew Bollywood; Jones and Morelli drew cha-cha. The third couple in the bottom three (Ricky Jasime and Ryan Ramirez) was spared; its disadvantage was going first on a two-hour, 10-couple night, giving voters too much time to forget.

2) Once someone is in the bottom, the "dance for your life" solos tend to give a big advantage to street dancers, who are master soloists. I was surprised to see the judges criticize and dump Jones; I thought he had a terrific solo.

3) It also helps to get a choreographer who does melodic, audience-friendly numbers. In the past, one curse was to draw Dave Scott; I was reminded of that anew by Thursday's opening number, choreographed by Scott and hard to like.

4) I'm really not happy about a long bit that was more Gator Ade commercial than anything else. Take that out and people would have more than 30 seconds for their solos.

5) I must admit that I don't know what the initials stand for in Thursday's music group, LMFAO. I'll guess it's Let's Make Foolish Asses of Ourselves.

6) Did you notice how polite I was, to choose "Foolish" as my F-word? This is truly a family-friendly blog.

"Dance" debut (redux): I vote for Napoleon and Tabitha


The winner of tonight's "So You Think You Can Dance"? I'd say Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo.

OK, they aren't in the competition. But they're two of my favorite choreographers and they had an amazing night.

For one duo (Robert and Miranda), they did a joyous piece about two woodpeckers; it was a delight. For another (Sasha and Alexander), they did an emotional piece about a soldier returning home; despite so-so music, it was deeply moving.

Another piece, by Spencer Liff, was even better. The dancers (Ashley and Chris) were separated by jail bars; it was a great device ... one that separates them, yet lets them pierce the spaces between bars.

That was part of a good night. I was also impressed by one piece in which an easy chair separated the dancers (Mitchell and Caitlynn) and kept them together.

I was also impressed by the crossover abilities. Tadd, a hip-hop guy, did an elegant Viennese waltz; Iveta, a ballroom dancers, was great in hip-hop.

Of course, we don't know how this will break on Thursday's show. Last week was supposed to be the season-opener for viewers' votes; they sent six people to the bottom, with judges scheduled to dump two of them.

Alas, they didn't. In effect, tonight was the opener all over ... except that now four people must be ousted Thursday. We'll see.

 

 

 

 

Funny future: "Futurama" is back


Every year, some good shows are undeservedly canceled. This time, the list was topped by two strong Fox dramas ("Human Target" and the superb "Chicago Code") and two fun comedies, ABC's "Better With You" and CBS' "Mad Love."

And every few years, a show springs back to life. The latest is "Futurama," which has new episodes -- erratic, but funny -- Thursday (July 23). There are plenty of reruns to go with it, including a "Futurama" movie before the new episodes and the original series at 4:30 p.m. weekdays -- starting with the pilot Friday. Here's the story I sent to reporters; the specifics are in the bullets that follow the story:

By MIKE HUGHES

“Futurama” is back, for a summer
filled with twisted tomorrows.

This is the cartoon show that died and
was reborn. Now it's 12 years old and in its sixth season.

That's a minor detail, of course. “Our
characters never get any older,” said co-creator David X. Cohen.

Besides, this is set in the year 3000.
It will be a while before it seems dated.

“Futurama” had a pizza guy fall
into a machine and emerge 1,000 years later, meeting a hard-drinking
robot, a sexy alien and more. “I thought the characters were so
cool,” recalls actor Billy West.

He would soon play many of them. West
is the central character (Phillip Fry), plus Prof. Herbert
Farnsworth, Dr. John Zoidberg and more – including Bill Clinton's
head in a jar.

The series began with Matt Groening,
whose “The Simpsons” was already almost a decade old. He talked
to Cohen, who says he was “the nerd of the staff – something
there was a lot of competition for.”

Like many “Simpsons” writers, Cohen
was a Harvard grad and a former Harvard Lampoon editor. Unlike most,
he also had a master's degree in theoretical computer science from
Berkeley.

So Groening started talking to him
about stories with weird, sci-fi twists. “Pretty soon, we had 10
stories ready to go and 10 or 20 characters,” Cohen said.

The possibilities were endless, he
said. “It's almost too much; you have to rein yourself in …. We
want it to be about human behavior – even when the characters
aren't human.”

That requires voice actors who can find
both the humor and the humanity. “They are fabulous,” Cohen said.
“They've even yanked a tear or two.”

West comes from the opposite of a
Berkeley background. A cruel father, he says, dominated his
childhood. “It was horrific growing up in that home …. I had a
tendency to vaporize.”

He would ignore the commotion and
obsess on TV – from science fiction to the Sid Caesar shows, with
their emphasis on accents. When he was 11, his mom decided they would
escape to Boston; soon, he had his own escape, playing rock 'n' roll.
“I wanted to get out of school; I didn't fit in.”

His band did fairly well; his odd
voices when he talked to the audience did better. Soon, West was
doing comic voices for radio shows – first in Boston, then Howard
Stern in New York. That led to cartoons – new characters (Stimpy,
Doug), revived ones (Elmer Fudd, Woody Woodpecker) and “Futurama”
oddities. “Billy absolutely runs with that,” Cohen says. “He
can do anything.”

After five seasons and 72 episodes, Fox
canceled “Futurama” in 2003. It was a temporary death.

With its reruns thriving on cable, the
show made direct-to-video movies were split into four TV episodes.
Ratings prospered and Comedy Central ordered a new season.

Technically, this summer is the second
half of the 26-episode sixth season. Still, it feels more like the
seventh or (counting those movies) eighth. When you span millennia,
numbers get odd.

The show's stars rarely get recognized,
but there are moments. John DiMaggio – the voice of Bender the
robot, was getting a tattoo, Cohen said; “there was a guy there
right then getting a Bender tattoo.”

Think of it as a permanent tribute to a
show that never stays dead.

– “Futurama,” Comedy Central; new
episodes at 10 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday (June 23), preceded by the
“Into the Wild Green Yonder” movie at 8.

– Those new episodes rerun at
midnight and 12:30 a.m.; then 9-10 p.m. Saturday, 10:30-11:30 p.m.
Sunday, 9-10 p.m. June 30.

– Then new episodes at 10 p.m.
Thursdays; beginning Friday (June 24), the series reruns from the
beginning, at 4:30 p.m. weekdays