Premierewatch: "Superstars of Dance"
We've heard about it, marveled at the commercials for it, wondered how the heck is works, and finally decided that we don't care because it's produced by the same folks who do So You Think You Can Dance so we're on board regardless. But now the wait is over. Finally Superstars of Dance has arrived.
Our host, Michael Flatley, is introduced as "the most popular dancer on the planet." I'm pretty sure that's not an exaggeration - the Lord of the Dance has made bank. The co-host is Susie Castillo, Miss USA (though it's not clarified if she's current or the former and I'm too lazy right now to look it up on the interweb). She explains that the dancers will compete separately in solo, duet and group categories with the lowest scorers being eliminated. Michael further clarifies that there will be an individual and an overall winner selected.
The participating countries are Argentina, India, Australia, South Africa, the United States, Ireland, Russia, and China. The judges are also international, one from each country but won't score for their home team to assure fairness. This ain't Olympic figure skating after all. The score, from 1 to 10, will be given based on skill and artistic merit (and listed in the above order in parentheses after the total).
Group - Team Ireland
Flateley's own "Lord of the Dance" crew is repping first. No pressure there. It's a big group, about 20 or so dancers. Replacement Flatley lacks the original's gravitas but at least has the frosted tips down. Not that the clogging isn't clean and precise, but maybe if I hadn't already seen Michael do it in his heyday I'd be more impressed.
Score: 65 (10-9-9-9-10-9-9)
Solo - Robert Muraine, USA
For those who watch SYTYCD, you'll recognize Robert as the popper who quit Vegas week the first day last season and erroneously won the popping battle during the finale (not that he's not immensely talented, I'm just saying). In his package, he clarifies he's not double-jointed and actually works for his flexibility. He does this one move where he looks like Robbie the Robot from Lost In Space. He really is superhumanly flexible and delivers a great routine (he gets a standing ovation).
Score: 57 (8-7-9-9-8-8-8) - I think he got hosed a little because most of those judges don't know how difficult what he does is
Solo - Carolina Cerisola, Argentina
Carolina was a solo performer at the famous Forty Deuce club (a sort of cabaret venue) for six years and danced with the likes of Prince and Justin Timberlake. Which means she's going to be good. She's doing a Tango/Jazz/Cabaret kind of number complete with shimmy outfit, hat and chair. She's got great leg action, too bad the camera doesn't show them half the time. There was a little too much set up for my liking but a solid number overall.
Score: 58 (8-8-7-9-9-9-8) - the scores would've been higher if the intro wasn't so long
Duo - Pasha Kovalev & Anya Garnis, Russia
More SYTYCD crossover. Pasha & Anya also appeared on Dancing with the Stars this past season. I heart them. They're doing a Samba to some very nontraditional music, but it works. It's pretty darn hot actually despite being hindered by some bad camera work.
Score: 64 (8-9-9-9-10-10-9)
Duo - Nishi Munshi & Sangita Sanyal, India
The girls explain that it's an iconic, Bollywood-type piece about two sisters in love with the same guy but don't find out until the end. They're very cute. More bad camera work - I should never be only watching one of them. Who's directing this thing? Their movements don't exactly match but that's fine because they are portraying different personalities. And their reactions at the end were really good.
Score: 51 (9-7-6-7-7-8-7) - Poor girls. Flatley asked the South African judge why he gave them a 6 and he says that he's seen spectacular Bollywood dancers and they didn't match up. I can't exactly agree or disagree since half the number was horrible angles and medium shots of one dancer.
Solo - Sean Robinson, Australia
He's a tap dancer and was in Tap Dogs when he was fourteen and performed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was good - threw in a lot of solid maneuvers and flashy bits. Not the best tap dancer I've ever seen but good nonetheless.
Score: 57 (9-8-8-8-8-8-8)
Solo - Bei Zheng, China
She's performing a traditional folk ribbon dance. Her costume is fantastic and, while it may not look difficult to some people, being able to manipulate like eight feet of material on each arm so beautifully isn't easy. I enjoyed it.
Score: 51 (8-7-7-7-8-7-7) - Everyone who gave her a 7 got booed.
Group - Team South Africa
The group, named Umojo, is performing gumboot dancing, a style developed by gold mine workers to entertain themselves. Their costumes reflect the origins to show the world a part of their history. This has to be where Stomp came from. Except Umojo sing in harmony during their performance. It was very cool.
Score: 57 (8-8-9-8-8-8-8)
Group - Team Australia
The group is made up of dancers from all over the country and trained in different disciplines. The music is some generic Hip Hop song which to go with the pseudo-stylized-quasi-breakdancing-hybrid choreography. It reminds me of when ballet companies do pieces to Prince and whatnot. It's cool but sometimes the brain can't take it. The technique is great and the choreography is innovative, I just found the song distracting. I loved the dark-haried female soloist - she was my favorite for some weird reason.
Score: 57 (9-8-9-8-7-8-8)
Solo - Damien O'Kane, Team Ireland
Like his team, he is also clogg dancing. Methinks he's the Replacement Flately from earlier. I also think I've seen Original Flavor do this number before. The one with the shirt with flames. Sure, it's well executed but I just can't help but compare him to Michael. Unfair but them's the breaks. He must be more exciting in person.
Score: 58 (9-9-8-7-8-8-9)
Solo - Sduduzo Ka-Mbili, South Africa
When he came to America, he wanted to make sure he shared the culture and arts of his home country with everyone as that's how people come together. So true. He's performing a Zulu dance in native garb. It's a very athletic piece, lots of flips and high jumps, but also has fluidity. If this was a group number, it would be crazy.
Score: 55 (8-8-7-9-7-8-8)
Duo - Georgia Amabarian & Eric Luna, USA
In their package, Georgia explains their discipline, the form of Ballroom called Caberet or Theater Arts, combines forms like Rumba, Cha Cha, and Waltz with lifts. They've won a whole lot of titles. A whole lot. Towards the beginning, he picks her up from laying on the floor with one hand. One hand! And she lifts him. Crazy. This performance is also marred by bad camera work. The piece is a bit melodramatic but all the lifts are ridiculous. At one point, she's standing on his chest, no hands, while he's standing. Rick-diculous.
Score: 57 (7-9-7-7-10-9-8) - Sure, there wasn't as many dancing moves as there could be but good gravy, the lifts!
Duo - Miriam Larici & Leonardo Barrionuevo, Argentina
Miriam starred in Forever Tango in two years and Leonardo was part of a successful competition team before joining the same show. So, yeah, clearly they're doing a Tango. Technique-wise they are great but she's way outshining him in the performance department. The footwork is outstanding, the lifts are great, but from the shoulders up he's a cold fish and she's the molten lava core of the Earth. Score: 65 (9-9-10-10-9-9-9)
Solo - Julia Bantner, Russia
Julia's solo will be a Contemporary piece. Her mother was a dancer and her dad was a classical pianist. Her eyes and face are very expressive, but not to the point of distraction. The number is quirky and fun, you can tell she's very skilled. If she'd done a balletic piece, it would be outstanding
Score: 50 (7-7-7-7-7-8-7) - The Russian judge got jokes. He said that Julia got a call from the Kremlin saying if she didn't dance well she'd be shipped to Siberia.
Solo - Amrapali Ambegaokar, India
She grew up dancing and was a principal in a Cirque Du Soliel show. Oooo. She's doing a traditional North Indian dance where there are bells on her ankles. I'm very impressed because this quick, precise type of footwork is difficult at best. She's very engaging and the technique was definitely there. Amrapali ended the number with a turn sequence. I'd tell you how many but I lost count. Brava! (The Team India coach clarifies for us: 15 spins, all in the same spot, on the heel. Okay.)
Score: 62 (9-9-8-9-9-9-9)
Group - Team China
It's a group of Shaolin Monks. They're so good it's not fair. While some may think martial arts is not dance, I say whatever. If it's choreographed and put to music, it's a dance. In addition to acrobatics and forms, they also showcase some weaponry. Oh, and one monk balances himself on four pointy spears at the end. Yeah.
Score: 66 (9-9-10-10-10-9-9) - Dang Argentian judge, Team Ireland gets a 10 and a dude being propped up by spears on his chest gets a 9?
Assorted Bits & Pieces:
The South African judge ain't no joke but I mostly agree with his scores. The Argentinian lady, however, I just don't get. Also, seeing the monks perform is the perfect explanation for why China's representative hasn't given out a 10. Those monks are no joke.
Michael Flatley is a surprisingly good host. He's warm, conversational and has a vibe that puts you at ease. And he can read a teleprompter deftly. And Susie Castillo was equally impressive (though in a different way). She's like Samantha Harris gone right.
Overall I enjoyed all the dances though Ireland isn't really offering anything I haven't seen before, which is a tad disappointing. Plus every time Flatley comes back on screen it reminds me that he did it better.
So what do we think of the show? Did you have a favorite performance? Did any of the judges get on your bad side? Any other thoughts?