Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Pocket B-Boy That Could

My favorite So You Think You Can Dancer was eliminated this week.

I have always been amazed at Gev Manoukian. He may be tiny, but he always danced BIG. He was an explosive b-boy with an innovative way of breakdancing AND choreographing. He was one of the very few contestants (probably the ONLY ONE) who knew how to put together a complete solo and charm an audience at the same time. It will really be hard for me to watch the show without him.

I first saw him when he auditioned for Season 4. I was new to the show and did not see him audition in Season 2 (and yet I saw his Youtube'd audition and it was a FANTASTIC routine set to James Brown). Although he was classified as a breaker, he was careful to add that he took additional dance classes, too, such as ballet and jazz. And that right there got me interested in him because it showed initiative and desire to learn and improve. Ballet and jazz are certainly distinct enough to gain him more skills and provide him with a carriage and class that can propel him beyond his street dancing. And it helped that he had such a kickass choreography to an uber-cool song.

How many times do you get to hear Lupe Fiasco on this show? And his choreography was stellar and certainly showcased all his skills in just under a minute and a half. He started with some strutting, gliding, a glorious handstand, a leap and some lovely contemporary moves. When the rap part came on, he exploded in some expansive b-boying that was just fabulous. In that short routine, he showed his athleticism, strength, musicality, grace, and contemporary technique. My favorite part of the audition, and I must credit the camerawork done here, is when after gliding a bit on stage, he suddenly goes into a reverse handstand. What was great about it was that it timed perfectly to the music, and his face had on a nonchalant look on it that made it seem like a sudden and unexpected move that even Nigel had busted out a "Nice!" and you could hear Mary and Mandy's gentle sighs when he did that. It was a gentle segue into a power move and a display of strength. Beautiful choreography and beautiful execution. I knew who I was going to root for after that. The Vegas auditions did not show him very often, but seeing him make the top 20 was enough to make me happy.

He was paired with Courtney for the first few weeks. Courtney's a lovely girl. I saw her audition and her grandparents came along and they are just lovely people. Plus Courtney seemed to be one of the better contemporary dancers among the ladies. Gev is lucky that he was given such a pretty, strong, and graceful partner. He knows it, too, and every week, we see him work hard to make them both look great. Unfortunately, she does not seem to be as grateful to be paired with him. I'm not sure what the real story is behind those two, but it definitely seemed to me that Gev had to work harder than Courtney to keep the partnership on equal footing.

I do not mean that Gev was the weaker dancer of the two of them. What I meant that Gev had to work harder to make them LOOK good. If there is one thing that is unpleasant about this season, is that the judging biases are way too blatant. And it was very apparent that Gev was never going to get any favors. If he did, they were given begrudgingly. Always, Courtney was given the praise, and Gev was left with the critique. I never really agreed with any of them, save for last week's Jive. I thought Gev really did make some errors, and it was his luck that he got such a wonderful partner in Chelsie who made those quick handholds work. But in his other dances, he was never really given high praise and I felt sorry for him that the viewers won't get to hear how awesome he was at just getting the choreography down.

For instance, his Mandy Moore contemporary was lovely (and nicely-lit, I might add). He nailed all the lifts and the emotion required. The rumba was hot and sexy without looking trashy. He certainly did not do a Dom because he nailed the feeling of the piece. He may not have done the necessary hip gyrations, but I thought he did fantastic. And who cares if Courtney outdanced him in the hip hop? I thought it was a smooth number that didn't need the grit of the West Coast style. He certainly had the right attitude for it, but the judges never brought that up.

For all the talk about Gev having a crush on Courtney, I always looked at it as Gev working harder, and his passion for dancing was having an effect on his relationships with the others around him. If making Courtney look good and looking like she was a great partner translated as a crush on TV, then so be it.

However, I do want to say that his final week with Courtney was just STELLAR, with a fun and sexy Cha-cha and an amazing and funky jazz. That week just showed how much Gev has improved without losing his street dancer cred. He has improved his footwork (see his Jive), his hip action, and his hand extensions that translated into wonderful lines (see his Sonya Tayeh contemporary). He has developed a ballroom sexiness and a penchant for fun whenever he would inject b-boy moves into any routine. And that latter part I loved. I love how every choreographer he worked with would incorporate his b-boying skills in his routines, whether it be a handstand or some form of strong-armed lift. To be honest, ANY girl in the competition should be thrilled to have Gev as a partner because he could work out ANY hold. I would like to think that choreographers have an admiration deep down for Gev because he could handle choreography really really well. He was one of very few dancers on the show who could transcend his specialty. He was agile, versatile, committed, and was never hindered by his height.

The latter, of course, was never shared by the producers of the show. For all his gifts, all they could see of Gev was his lack of height. I like to think that what he lacked in length, he made up for with exciting shapes and a unique groove. But the judges continually tagged him as the short guy who can breakdance and possibly nothing else. They keep ignoring his versatility and growth as a dancer – until this week.

Due to the blatant pimpage (some of it deserved, but it took away the competitive nature of the show so early on it's sad), I knew I had to just count down the days until Gev was eliminated. And it seemed like this week was it. Mary finally acknowledged his improvement and how he's been the dark horse all this time. Lil C finally acknowledged his heart and passion. And Nigel finally discovered Gev's personality. It was like watching a funeral and everyone was saying good things about you before they kicked you to the curb. I could feel the bus revving up and directed towards Gev a million miles away.

And yet, when Cat finally eliminated him, I could not help but hear my heart crack a bit. My favorite contestant had been eliminated and I could not find anyone else to root for after him. I suppose my motherly and protective instincts took over. Gev has been such a sweet, gentle, and good-natured person on the show. And seeing him eliminated made me want to hug him and tell him he will be all right. In fact, I did hug the TV set! But the good thing going for him is that now, he has all these amazing skills and experiences to take with him and make him a better dancer. He has already worked with such acclaimed choreographers, including Andy Blankenbuehler and Sonya Tayeh. And he has been sincerely appreciated by Desmond Richardson. How lucky can you get? When they showed Sonya wigging out of her seat with Desmond Richardson raring to clap for them in the foreground, I wigged out as well. Desmond Richardson? Showing Gev and Chelsie some love? Unbelievable. And yet understandable.

And his solos will live in the minds of dance lovers everywhere. His audition pieces. His death-defying tumble after a heavily interactive solo set to Fatboy Slim. Him taking his shirt off to Lupe Fiasco. And his solo to Michael Bublé. Seriously? Michael Bublé? But it was fantastic, out of this world, brilliant, and just all around terrific. I am profoundly impressed at such creative risk-taking and innovativeness. I really have no words for it. His great taste in music mirrors his great choreography. The tricks, and being in tune with the instrumentation and the phrasing. Just absolutely mind blowing. His solos, all of them well-planned and well-thought out, are among the best, if not probably the best, in the history of this show. They all made you want to see more of it. If they could give out Emmys to the solos done on this show, they should send a tape with Gev on it. It's not just the partner dances that are being choreographed on the show, you know.

And yet, after all is said and done, I believe Gev will do just fine. He will be fine because he has learned so much and will give just as much. In an interview, he said he hopes that his turn on the show will give him the opportunity to set up his own dance studio so he can teach. How amazing is that? Instead of the usual, this-is-my-stepping-stone-to-an-onstage-dance-career, all Gev wants is to teach. How can you not love a guy like that? After everything that has happened, he still thinks of other people, wanting them to LOOK good. Like what he has been doing these past weeks on the show.

I will continue to root for him beyond the show. SYTYCD has awakened the dance lover in me, and I will look to him for inspiration. As the street dancer who kept an open mind, kept jumping outside of his box, and kept doing the extraordinary. I will miss him and hope that, eventually, he will realize that he looked great out there dancing all this time.



momo said...

What a beautifully written and heartfelt tribute to Gev! You really articulated my own sentiments and appreciation for Gev and a dancer and a person.

Stacy Horn said...

AMEN. I'm going to post about him on my blog, but I think I will say a few words and then post a link to this. VERY well said, I couldn't agree more with every word, thank you.

zhongfu said...

what a fantastic tribute to Gev, and very well written too. he was my favorite dancer also, ever since i saw his audition in vegas. he had a way of captivating viewers and drawing them into his every move. his song choices were always unexpected and added so much more to his solos. thank you for articulating what the producers seemed to have missed.

The Fat Lady Sings said...

Beautifully written. I tend more towards the individualist too. Mark, Chelsie and Gev really stand out. It takes more then skill and letter perfection to make a performance. I listen to all the fawning over the supposed 'technicians' - and I am reminded of Jason Castro from American Idol. So few seemed to see what a gem he was. Every performance was just that - a performance. When Jason sang, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. Same goes for those few graced with an inner light on SYTYCD. No insult to Courtney – but it was Gev everyone watched. Just as its Mark and/or Chelsie – though I must say, Chels didn’t shine with Gev in quite the same way. Chemistry is impossible to predict. You just never know who will set those sparks.

I come from the theatre - actor and director. I cut my teeth on musical comedy, I've directed ballet and opera – and let me tell you – I’d take 100 Gev’s, Marks and Chelsie’s over anybody else on that stage. So kudos to you for highlighting a gifted performer. My fingers are now crossed for Mark – but I fear his natural light is not visible to judges blinded by flashy fluorescents.

Zul Aliya said...

Oh, such eloquence! I could not agree more. Can someone out there please direct him to your post? A huge thank you for expressing exactly what many others feel about Gev. :)

sunnydlita said...

Beautiful tribute to Gev. It's good to see that there are those of us out there who appreciate his talent, even if the judges failed to.

kate said...

I love Gev too. He really shows heart and passion when he dances. His solos on SYTYCD were just breathtakingly awesome. I will miss him.

Spadada said...

I still miss him...

chowie said...

So do I, spadada.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Gev. I just read the article and I wanted to say thank you so much, it really means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

Hello. Just to let you know, the comment above me is really Gev. I sent him a message on facebook and gave him the link to this blog. =]

chowie said...

Well this is a surprise! I haven't checked the comments in a while, so that explains the uber-late reaction. :)

Thanks to the people who thought the post meant something to them. I'm glad we feel the same thing! And if that was really Gev... hope you are doing fine wherever you are, and that you are dancing your little heart out somewhere.