I was finally able to catch Bravo’s new dance show, Step It Up and Dance, tonight during its first showing. The nice thing about Bravo is that they rerun shows a lot, so I’ve been able to watch the first two episodes as well.

This show is definitely starting to grow on me and I really enjoyed this third episode.

SIUAD (as I shall hereafter call it…pretty ugly acronym if you ask me but the whole title is too long to type) follows the tried and true Bravo reality competition show formula that started with Project Runway. The host is a model/actress type, there is a middle-aged male mentor, and several judges– 2 fixed the others rotating. There is generally some sort of fast challenge in the first part of the show which will determine things such as teams and immunity for the second, longer elimination challenge. Someone is eliminated each week, but not before the show’s proprietary goodbye catchphrase and final instructions by the hostess. Project Runway and Top Chef have pretty utilitarian final instructions to the effect of “now go pack up your shit (i.e., knives/sewing supplies) and leave.” SIUAD’s is the painfully contrived, “It’s time for your last dance.”

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EPISODE THREE AND DO NOT WISH TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED OR WHO WAS ELIMINATED

The first two episode’s challenges were relatively ho-hum for me, but I love a good dance-off, and that is just what the challenge was in the third installment. Dance-offs require not only great skill and technique, but the ability to improvise, to stay cool in the face of a challenge, and to always have one more event more amazing move up your sleeve. It also requires a good sense of humor.

The audition challenge introduced guest choreographer Dave Scott (Stomp the Yard, Step It Up 2), who had the dancers learn a very challenging hip hop combination in one hour. As I watch this show I can’t help but compare it to that other dance show, and I like how the format of SIUAD goes a little deeper into the process of learning and rehearsing choreography. PR and TC have certainly increased my respect for the fashion design and restaurant businesses and I hope this show will have the same effect on the public for dance. One thing I wish they would show is the lengthy preparations that dancers have to do to warm up before they can even start doing choreography. There is so much time, repetition, and hard work involved just to get to those first steps so a dancer’s body can be at its best and diminish the risk of injury.

The result of the audition challenge was that Dave Scott picked Janelle, Miguel and Cody as group leaders to select teammates for the elimination challenge. The three groups had to choreograph two 20-second sequences for the dance war, as well as be ready to freestyle and clown (intimidate and make fun of the opposition’s dancers) on their own.

This show is more than just dancing– it also tests the dancers’ ability to choreograph. Janelle’s group was fierce and deservedly won the challenge. Because she has immunity for next week I suspect if she does not do well on a non-hip hop challenge she is going to be very vulnerable to elimination.

I was so happy that Oscar had immunity this week because the judges said he would have been at great risk if he hadn’t. Oscar’s currently one of my favorite dancers in the competition. He’s an amazing and mature dancer, and he’s just so darn adorable. Of course, I do have a thing for Italian men (I’m married to one after all) so that endears me, but he also just busts out with the funniest little things, like attaching the Italian word “uffa!” (rough translation: gee whiz!) to an otherwise English sentence and complaining about how grounded hip hop is, “I just like to JUMP!” He’s very exuberant and I hope that his personality and technique will carry him forward for a long while in the competition, hoping that there are some challenges more in his idiom along the way.

Another contestant that is growing on me is the Christian Siriano-esque Miguel. Just like the Fierce One, Miguel’s got crazy hair and a knack for trash talking. He’s got some mean vogueing skills in his bag’o’tricks, but he’s also got a really cool style all his own that he can back up with technique. There’s also a vulnerability behind the facade which is appealing.

My dark horse nominee is Tovah. Hands down she is the most beautiful dancer of the lot with amazing lines and grace. She is humble, likeable and honest. Although she’s done middlingly well on the challenges so far, they just haven’t catered to her strongest points. I’d like to see how Janelle fares in a ballet challenge. I just have a feeling Tovah will be with us for a while.

Jessica was eliminated tonight and I can’t say I was very surprised. At this point in the competition it’s hard to have formed much in the way of attachments to particular dancers (though if he’d stuck around I think I would have been a James fan). She was the only one of the lot that had not danced professionally and although she really gave it her all and was not short on ability, she lacked the maturity, experience, and self-belief to make it very far in a competition like this. We were also not very impressed by her attempt at doing the worm, but I think we have to go easy on dancers who are not trained in breakdancing– something that may be far from the experience of a professionally trained modern or ballet dancer.

I’ll be on a plane during next week’s show, so my next recap will likely be delayed by a couple days. Luckily, Bravo does make the full episodes available on its website. It you’ve missed any of them so far, you can access them here.

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