For better or for worse, technique is not the end-all be-all for dancers on So You Think You Can Dance, even the Top 20. By the time SYTYCD gets to the live shows, everyone in the Top 20 is extremely talented. So to move to the next show, the dancers not only have to nail the dance style, but they need the personality — on stage and off — to motivate people to vote for them. This week, ballet dancer Jourdan Epstein didn't have that standout spark that's needed to move to the next level.
In the quick pieces that the dancers perform, there's a lot to take in — the choreography, the stage presence, and the two dancers' abilities. Normally, the dancers are not given their preferred style of dance right off the bat. But for the first live episode, every dancer performed in their chosen dance style. That meant ballet dancers Jourdan Epstein and Jacque LeWarne performed a traditional ballet piece together last week.
I was happy to see Jourdan and Jacque perform together, especially since this was the first time two female dancers performed a ballet piece on pointe on the show. (Which is a sad fact considering the dance series has been on for 11 years.) And although I'm a sucker for contemporary, I was happy to get a break from the same female-male coupling about a couple who just got into a fight. So, I hate to pick on one of the only two same-sex dance couplings, and a different style to boot. But pick I shall.
First of all, their choreographer, Marat Daukayev, gave them somewhat of a disadvantage by going such a traditional route with a Swan Lake pas de deux. The fact that Jourdan and Jacque looked so similar was also a potential downside. Mary commented that they looked like sisters that have been dancing together for years — which is great, from a performance perspective — but not so great when trying to make yourself memorable. Typically, you wouldn't want to stand out in a piece like that, but it's SYTYCD. Votes are what get you through. So, did Jourdan standout any more than Jacque? Unfortunately, no.
When she did standout to me, it wasn't in a good way. She fell out of a turn and a balance. You can see the little flubs at 1:39, 1:53, and 2:19 in the video above. Besides that, Nigel commented that Jourdan needed more elevation. (To be fair, he also had a critique for Jacque.)
This is not to take away from the 15 or 16 fouette turns she did. Of course, she's an awesome dancer. Just check out the crazy extension and control she showed in her original audition.
But on a personal level, I was kind of put off by Jourdan apparently using the story of her brother's struggle with drug addiction to give her an angle on the show. Her pre-show interview also didn't inspire me to root for her.
With all of that said, the main challenge of SYTYCD is how a dancer handles other styles. We may have gotten a glimpse of Jourdan dancing hip hop on pointe shoes during callbacks, but how will Jourdan handle the rest of the dance styles? Without seeing the dancers try a different genre in the live setting, it's hard to see how fantastic they really are. I'm sure Jourdan will be able to rock out a contemporary number just fine, but if she can't really grab the crowd in her own style, will she be able to do it with others?
The dancers who usually stay on the show the longest are good at all different genres (or at least, they can fake it 'til they make it), like alumnus and choreographer Twitch.
Twitch Exhibit A — Faking It (Well)
Twitch Exhibit B — Making It
What made him so awesome is that although he was a hip-hop dancer, he performed every type of dance with amazing energy and gusto, even if he wasn't the best technically. It also helps when you have choreographers like Mia Michaels that play to your strengths, and a standout personality.
I'm not sure if Jourdan has the right amount of charisma to pull off all of the different styles — but I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Her real test will come on Wednesday night when the dancers compete in different styles. This year the voting has changed and instead of being able to call or text, you have to go to the Fox website or use the Supervote app, which could affect the type of people who vote. And Wednesday night's eliminations will be based on the vote results from last week's show and the judges’ opinions of Wednesday's performances.
So, will Jourdan make it through? Possibly, though I doubt she'll be in the Top 4 and I'm much more interested in what the other dancers have to show. Then again, tonight is her chance to prove me wrong.
Image: Adam Rose/Fox