By Komal Thakkar – George Washington University
Summer is well underway and that means that Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance is on again for another season (Season 9 to be specific). They’ve just completed the second week of competition, and this week included the season’s first Bollywood number. I enjoyed writing about the Bollywood dances from last season that I decided to start The Critic’s Corner blog again in order to share my thoughts and opinions with all you lovely BG readers!
For those of you that don’t watch, here’s how it works. Each season, the judges travel to cities throughout the country searching for dancers who have the potential of becoming America’s favorite dancer. After a grueling series of auditions, the judges pick the top ten girls and top ten guys for the live shows. They are paired together, and after picking up an overwhelming amount of choreography, many times in a style that they have never done before, they perform it in front of America and the judges. This season, they’ve changed it up a bit. Instead of a Wednesday night performance show and a Thursday night results show, they’ve reduced it down to one show on Wednesday nights. Thank goodness! It was getting to be a serious time commitment. The bottom three couples that received the least amount of votes from the week before are announced at the end of the show. After consulting with the choreographers and amongst each other, the judges send one guy and one girl home. If they can’t make a decision, they’ll ask them to dance a thirty second solo and then decide. Since they’re on such a tight schedule, we can finally say goodbye to all that filler nonsense!
This past week, Witney Carson, a Latin Ballroom dancer, and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp (What an awesome name!), a Ballet dancer took to the stage for Bollywood. Nakul Dev Mahajan, the choreographer, informed the audience that there would be no story in this Bollywood dance. It’s about “the stamina, the speed, and getting the hands right.”
Dark red lights unveiled two dancers in a classical pose. Chehon dipped Witney in a circle and then dramatically dropped her right above the floor as the track “Tandav Music” by Aatish Kapadia came on. I jumped out of my seat with excitement! It’s a truly beautiful track from the film Waqt that incorporates very traditional Indian rhythms and a quick tempo that makes for commercial appeal for a television audience. Great selection!
The dance itself required just what Mahajan said it would, stamina, speed, and precision. He incorporated difficult mudras (hand gestures), knee drops, and knee spins choreographed precisely to the music. Of course, there were characteristic celebratory jumping steps from one foot to the other. It wouldn’t be Bollywood without some cheese factor, but what was most impressive was Witney’s ability to dance with the flirtatious sensuality of a female and Chehon’s ability to take that same movement but make it masculine. Mahajan definitely expanded his movement vocabulary and incorporated some innovative moments like a partnered port de bras (circling of the upper body in Ballet) towards the middle. This was an extremely tough routine, and I commend Witney and Carson for picking up the technicality of classical Indian and charisma that a Bollywood routine requires. I can’t even dock points for being the slightest bit out of sync at a couple points since as Cat pointed out, the first time they got to breathe was at the end.
Clearly happy with their performance, I rejoiced at their costuming which I was better able to see as they headed to the judges panel. Chehon rocked harem pants with a majestic red and gold vest bearing his ripped abs. I can’t ask for anything more. Now let’s talk about the breathtaking Witney. She seriously worked a red and gold lehenga choli with a dupatta draped over her blond hair. Unlike poor Iveta from last year, we didn’t have to see the bright gold leggings too often since her lehenga was much longer, so they didn’t bother me at all. I might actually start wearing them under my outfit next time I go to Garba. A large gold necklace, tikka, earrings, and bangles topped off the look and gave her an additional sparkle as did the intricate bindis on her forehead. Costume and makeup department, thank you for doing your research!
The judges were pleased, and pointed out how much fun it was as they always do since they don’t generally know how else to critique Bollywood. Adam Shankman stated that it was perfect for them and that it was the first time he saw joy from Chehon. I do agree in that it highlighted their personalities. Mary let out a screech of excitement, and mentioned that even though they were apart and didn’t partner for much of the routine, their chemistry still came across. Again, I agree. Now, on to Nigel. He should seriously consider stepping off the panel when it comes to Bollywood. His attempt at pronouncing Kathak and then vocalizing the rhythms was pathetic. I understand and appreciate that you have been exposed to classical Indian dance and you’ve got some knowledge about it, but if you’d like to point out that it was highly technical to America, at least practice the pronunciation. Goodness me, Nigel. Goodness me.
Side note to producers and lighting designers: It’s great that you’re in the Kodak Theater, but is there really a need to use every lighting instrument you have in every dance? We’re not at a rave. Let America watch the dancing without colors flashing through the entire routine!
Overall score: 9 out of 10. I’m impressed!
Watch the video for yourself, and let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Image courtesy of sytycd Tumblr