, ,

*This blog first appeared on Culture Cruncher at San Diego News Network

I was away on family vacation last week and didn’t get a chance to see
what went down on SYTYCD. When I returned, my friend asked me to
guess who was kicked off. I said Karla and Vitolio. The two of them
were consistently underwhelming as performers and just couldn’t find a
way to really embrace all the various styles they were asked to do.
Last week, the judges got it right. This week, they got it so, so

In narrowing down the field to the Top 10, the judges were correct to
let go of Caitlin. But it was her partner, Jason, who should have
joined her. The two of them, like the others, are really fantastic
dancers and have been solid competitors. But they have never been an
exciting couple, their performances rarely memorable. They are not
stars, which this show aims to celebrate and create.

So it was a shock that the judges, apparently unanimously, decided to
send home one of the show’s true stars, and also perhaps its most
pleasant surprises.

Phillip Chbeeb is one of the most unique dancers I have ever seen.
The way he can manipulate his body is simply unreal. But in this
show, you’re never just a soloist, you must conquer a ridiculous range
of styles and find some sort of chemistry or cohesion with a partner.

Phillip impressed me by doing just that. I thought he actually did
quite well in his Broadway routine a few weeks ago and particularly in
the Jive this week. He held his own with Janine (possibly my favorite
of the female dancers) and made her look great.

Time and again, the judges admitted that they didn’t have high
expectations for him in styles outside his own, but each time he
proved them wrong. Now that’s growth. Jason, on the other hand, has
been good – but flat.

So why Phillip? I can’t help but wonder if his popularity got in the
way. Clearly a crowd favorite, is it possible he could have claimed
victory riding that wave of support? I wonder if the judges/producers
worried about such a non-traditional dancer winning the competition
and decided to take him out while they were still in control. [Note:
Starting next week, those being kicked off will be decided by audience
votes alone.]

I realize that’s a radical claim. I’m basically talking conspiracy
here, I know. But how else to explain the removal of the show’s most
inventive and charismatic dancer in favor of one who has been merely

Phillip’s moving farewell speech, in which he said that you don’t need
money for a studio or classes, just the passion and creativity to do
whatever you want, highlighted how different a path he took to get
here. He is not a trained dancer. He doesn’t have the turns or the
high kicks or the pointed feet.

His talent does not fit within the mold of tango or contemporary or
waltz. He is a genre of his own. I have always applauded this show
for embracing such a wide range of styles but this is the first time I
feel the limitation of even that range. What do you do when one of
the dancers moves so brilliantly but not within the definitions of
technique that are laid out by codified dance?

Well, apparently, you say goodbye to him. It’s our loss. Phillip,
you will be missed.