'So You Think You Can Dance': A chat with Lauren Gottlieb
The top 10 dancers on "So You Think You Can Dance" performed with some format changes this week: The partners were changed around and each dancer had to perform identical solos. One of the contestants was Lauren Gottlieb, pictured, a 19-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz., who last season was too young to audition for the show but assisted choreographer Tyce Diorio with putting together some of the routines. She was able to chat Wednesday morning between breakfast and a costume fitting about the changes, the judges and whom she think has the upper hand in the competition.
Lauren's work in previous weeks with partner Neil Haskell, especially during last week's contemporary Mia Michaels routine (which she revealed was more about two people looking to score a fix than to fix a drain), garnered raves from the judges. However, she didn't seem to mind switching partners, especially because this week she was paired with Pasha Kovalev, who hasn't let down a partner yet. They turned out a technologically themed Shane Sparks hip-hop routine, a genre she's familiar with.
"It was my favorite performance so far. I'm still smiling from it!" Lauren gushed. "Switching up the partners was totally different, but we really clicked and I had a blast up there." She's diplomatic, however: "I would have picked anyone to dance with. I'm very familiar with the show, and in previous years the choreographers have had a hard time with some dancers. But this year everyone's doing amazing, so standing there picking our new partners' names from the hat, I had no worries. In fact, a lot of people say they wish it'd be split up from their old partners each week. It's cool to see how people vibe off different people now."
The mixed-up couples did prove as entertaining as they seemed they'd be. Sabra Johnson proved that her star can still shine without Dominic Sandoval, while Kameron Bink's days appeared to be numbered with or without previous partner Lacey Schwimmer. Lacey, meanwhile, continued to dominate the paired dancing, while Danny Tidwell could barely conceal his disdain for her larger-than-life personality. Dominic brought a theatricality to the dance floor for Jaimie Goodwin that her previous partner Hok Konishi could not -- but too much, for the judges. Sara VonGillern's and Neil Haskell's fun disco routine proved that they're a strong couple but strong individual dancers as well, as pairs dancing isn't either of their fortes. But they sure made it look easy.
In addition to the partners being switched, each dancer performed a solo to a Wade Robson routine. Although it was admirable for the choreographer to tackle the topic of war and peace, the resulting routine was reminiscent of those Gap "Red" ads. The all-white outfits, the peace-sign T-shirts, the John Mayer song "Waiting for the World to Change" and especially the hyper-literal choreography (screaming, pantomime, pacing the floor in futile frustration, peace signs) just felt more like a cliché than art. Judge Mia Michaels noted that there was very little personal variation in the dances, with some exceptions like Sabra and Lauren, who were praised for putting their individual spin on the performance.
Is it difficult for the dancers to turn out technically proficient dances while giving the audience a personality to love? Not for Lauren: "For me it's so easy; since day one I was just a nutcase. If you watch the episode of my first audition, I'm just doing all this bad dancing.... It's so fun because I can be completely myself and have fun."
She did acknowledge that the hams on the show do have an advantage: "Shauna [Noland, eliminated July 12] was herself. She's so laid-back and down to earth and real and normal, and she didn't want to throw anything fake out there." Unfortunately, the judges thus felt that her personality was lacking. But the contestants have no illusions that personality doesn't factor into the show: "They always tell us, 'It's a dance show second, and it's a personality show first,' " Lauren said.
Lauren thinks that having a bubbly personality isn't the only advantage on "SYTYCD": Gender is too. "I think there's going to be a girl winner this year. And it's not just because we've had two boy winners already. There's just something about it; the girls are all just crazy-good this year. We've been killing it."
The judges seem to agree thus far, reserving the most negative comments of the night for Kameron and even some for thus-far golden boys Dominic and Pasha. Despite her love for the boys ("They're amazing"), Lauren can't disagree. "I think Nigel has been completely right-on this entire season, and I think I have a good eye for the little details. I've watched and helped judge for conventions and competitions alongside people who are really well-trained. Everything Nigel has said this week was exactly what I thought. I think he's the most consistent and most fair of the judges. He's not trying to kick anyone off; he's just trying to tell the truth."
Unfortunately, the judges don't make the call anymore on who stays or who goes: it's entirely up to America, so we'll see if it too agrees with Nigel.
(Photo courtesy FOX)