By MATT CARTER //
The live version of the show brings to life the best routines and pits the two disciplines of stage and street dancing against each other.
So You Think You Can Dance is not only a reality dancing show, it’s a live national tour where the dancers from the show perform some of the same routines that you enjoyed from the comfort of your living room. Season 12 was by far the most inclusive the show’s music had ever been - not only because it pitted street dancers against contemporary styles - but because the routines for Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” and even Bjork’s “Earth Invaders” were highly ambitious and unexpected.
Likewise, the amount of injuries occurring while filming the television show is just as unforeseen, yet is a natural reality when the human body is pushed to the extremes of constant rehearsal coupled with sleep deprivation. If you have never seen the show, it need not be an obstacle for enjoying a live performance; you will just as easily leave the venue with a favorite among the 14 dancers.
SYTYCD Live stopped in Portland this past Sunday, one of the last tour dates before the troupe then makes its Canadian run in the New Year. With regard to our friends up North, I will try not to give away too many spoilers. The night at Arlene Schnitzer began with an introductory group routine of the entire cast in Victorian garb and powdered wigs, setting the stage for their intricate movements and forming an overall spectacle of building excitement and refined dance steps.
Moving on to a solo dance, first up was JJ Rabone. A model and dancer originally from Japan, Rabone suffered an injury during the competition and has made her come back for the tour. As a street dancer, she is infectious and spirited to watch, you’re instantly caught up in her electric personality and ability to work the crowd with her daisy kicks that reach high above her head. As she went low and duck-walked across the stage, knees bent, shining smile, it was apparent that it would take more than just a rib injury to slow her down. Also, returning to the stage on the tour after an injury was contemporary dancer Derek Piquette, 18, of Chicopee, MA.
After the first few introductory dances it became clear there was little to no slow down between each routine. Often, each dance would either overlap to new dancers with style- appropriate costumes, or the musical cues would signal individual dancers to swiftly move off stage and change for the next number. Dancers of different styles meshed well together, even when out of their element. But the tone of the performances between the two individual camps was sometimes like night and day. The contemporary dancers kept you in a hypnotic trance of cathartic movement; but choosing to use Sarah Mclaughlin’s “In the Arms of an Angel” as musical accompaniment was a sharp divide when compared to the more up tempo street dancing.
From there the routines turned to a mélange of technical Broadway tunes, of which Virgil Gadson, 27, was the clear veteran. As a cast member of Broadway’s “Until Midnight” in 2013, Gadson seemed to fair the best at contemporary routines while not being a contemporary dancer per say. As runner up for the street category, Gadson was an acrobatic dynamo when it came to performing street routines.
After intermission the contemporary troupe crept down the aisles with a ghost-themed routine to Helen Money’s “Beautiful Friends”, before coming together on stage with illuminating torches. In the second half, the stage dancers took on a block of Bollywood tunes in traditional costumes.
Gadson not only shined during Broadway songs, but also brought the house down during his solo dance to the RJD2’s “A Beautiful Mine” the theme to AMC’s Mad Men. His gliding footwork carried him in spectacular runs across the stage, and was not without humorously injecting what has come to be known as “The Carlton,” made famous by Alfonso Robeiro’s character from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Just as scintillating was the trio of Haley Payne, Alexia Meyer and Marissa Milel doing SBTRKT’s “New Dorp, New York”, which featured hair whips in stilettos and scantily clad costumes underneath trench coats.
Presumably, this might have been thrown in for the men in the audience, but the sheer charisma presented here deemed the dance more about the potential of the dancers, showcasing a sultry eroticism all their own. Payne, a top four contender who took runner up to Gaby Diaz in the stage category, is known for easily nailing the street routines not in her category. Her solo performance was a strange yet powerfully fitting choreography to the Dresden Dolls song “Missed Me.”
Culminating in the Team Street treatment for Busta Rhymes’ “Break Ya Neck,” the night’s performers displayed a dizzying amount of styles and choreography. It can be said that unlike musicians, these dancers move and interpret music in a way that only a dedicated athlete is capable of doing. Like the consequence of a broken radio dial, the troupe walked seamlessly through clashing time periods, cultures, and disciplines - always ready to deliver the right facial expression or humble us with the prowess of their dancer thighs.