The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes first performed in 1925 in St. Louis as the Missouri Rockets. Russell Markert created the precision team, originally sixteen dancers, after he was impressed by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922. They, along with 17 other acts, were brought to RCMH when it opened in 1932 by Roxy Rothafel; they became a fixture as the Rockettes by the next year, and have been ever since. Markert staged and choreographed the group until 1971.
The Rockettes were invented in Missouri? Oh. Take that, New York City.
And by the way – the first black Rockette was hired in 1987. 1987. In Markert’s day, suntans weren’t even allowed because “it would make her look like a colored girl.”
So before we get carried away with the romanticism of the Rockettes and their mystique and history, let’s just pause for a few seconds to realize the Good Old Days, as late as 1987, weren’t all that good for some.
Thus endeth the lesson for today.
(I didn’t say it would be the only lesson. You can learn how to dance like a Rockette from Dr. Oz of all people, and if that doesn’t sour you on the Rockettes, nothing will)
Fabio misses Gunnar so much, he slept in his bed. Fabio, I love ya, man, but that’s just weird.
Sonjia does a round-robin countdown of wins, ending with Elena, who has won… zero times. With Elena sitting right there. What are you doing, Sonjia?
Basic Kick (flick-step-flick-step):
They meet Tim at RCMH and watch Heidi and the Rockettes. Dmitry: “And the way she moves, oh, baby.” Really?
They are to design a Rockettes costume for use in a future show. I’m impressed, I’d figured the dancers were just there to intro a generic stage costume challenge. Director-choreographer Linda Haberman joins them and points them to some existing costumes for reference. Some of the things to keep in mind: They have to look spectacular from the first row and way back in the balcony; glitz and glamour of course, but a modern aesthetic. Some designers are thrilled, some not so much.
A couple of little twists in this episode. Like, after RCMH and Mood, they go back to the workroom but call it quits at 7:30 so they can go out to dinner; they’ll have the entire next day. I wonder if the early quits got some leeway built into the schedule, or if this was planned all along. I’m all for it, whatever it is, because I’d rather watch them actually work than see weeping and wailing borne of exhaustion. So good move, folks (I would say bravo, but that’s still a touchy point). It’s a warm and fuzzy dinner, with Elena apologizing to Dmitry for being a bitch, and Ven giving her a Mitt-Romney-style compliment afterwards: “I thought, maybe she is like that, but she’s also very talented.” He was the youngest sibling in his family, so he’s always been alone. What?
In another twist, Tim decides after his walkthrough on the second day that they need to go back to Mood to get more stuff, because they just aren’t doing that well. I’m not sure what that’s about, but it’s interesting that Sonjia said at the dinner she wished she had more time at Mood. Can they really just waltz into Mood at any time? Doesn’t that get disruptive to the usual business of the place, what with cameras and frantic time pressure to get stuff cut and eight people who all need help right now? I don’t know, but I think something’s fishy. Fabio, Ven, and Dmitry choose to stay in the workroom, since they feel they have enough materials and want the time more. Tim doesn’t argue.
Debra Messing is the guest judge. Wait – usually when they’re making something for actual use, the user is guest judge and presumably has final say on the winner, what’s going on here, where did Linda Haberman (or a wardrobe specialist or at least a Rockette) go? They’re going to trust Heidi? Are they nuts? Then again, a big pink disco ball is sort of the Rockettes’ aesthetic. But it’s still odd. Stage fright? Is someone behind the curtain doing thumbs-up-down? Or are they just confident they can massage the winning design until it’s something they can actually use? Maybe for a pro bono appearance at a nursing home, if necessary?
Melissa has never made a dance costume, but she goes for the art deco shapes from the theater and ends up with eighteen pattern pieces plus hand beading. She calls it ambitious; Fabio calls it crazy. Tim suggests doing what she can to speed up the beading process. Christopher gives her $15 in Mood so she can get better sparkles. Just before moving to the runway, she breaks the zipper; everyone gathers ’round to help, which is always nice to see, but she ends up sewing the model into the dress. Can’t see it, though. And it isn’t because she doesn’t know how to put in a zipper. As her model walks down the runway, Melissa realizes she’s put a great big black spangled #1 on the bodice; it was just supposed to be shapes. It kind of reminds me of the “2” or “3” from the 2012 London Olympics font. Which is not a good thing, since it’s been called one of the ugliest fonts ever. But it’s also unreadable, so if she hadn’t mentioned it, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. Heidi at first thought it was a showstopper, but then kept finding things wrong with it. Like the gigantic one, and the too-short length. Michael likes some things – it’s dramatic and graphic, the rhinestone edging is cool, he loves the hat and styling, but not the chopped-off-cocktail-dress effect, and the One is driving him crazy. Gee, maybe I would’ve noticed it. Nina loves the vibrancy and cigarette girl styling, but it’s a real miss. Wow, there’s a change in direction. Debra is confused, and isn’t sure about the awkward neckline, but loves the sparkles. Everybody loves a sequin.
Dmitry wants sex appeal and athleticism. He’s had lots of dance costume experience, since he was a ballroom dancer until he was 18. Tim loves the simple geometry and think it’s got wow factor. Christopher thinks it’s high school dance team. I like it a lot, and it’s dramatic enough to work at a distance but has great details up close. Heidi loves the edginess, the black and blue together. Michael’s excited; it’s polished, and he can tell Dmitry made it; it’s a modern take. Nina’s loving the color, the movement, and the modern chic. Debra worries it’s not G-rated enough (maybe not for Amish country or Iran, but what would the Rockettes be doing there anyway) but it’s glamorous and beautifully made.
Christopher goes for the NYC skyline. Tim worries about the super-short skirt being fringed, and suggests adding the stars at night on the top. The straight-on picture makes the model look like a Mac truck, but it’s actually very nice on the runway. I’m not sure about how it’d play at a distance, though, or in a dance. Too bad the models can’t do a few simple kicks to show how each costume moves. Several people around the blogosphere have suggested making the illusion fabric dark blue, to show off the skyline; that’s a great idea, wish I’d thought of it myself. Wish Christopher had thought of it. Maybe the Rockettes wardrober will think of it. Heidi loves the message and the thought of thirty-six dancers lined up with that costume. Michael calls it a Bob Mackie moment, especially the Empire State Building on the back. Debra: magnificent.
Fabio goes for see-through in a different tone from his dress. Tim tells him, “Bitch slap that bitch” in some context I don’t quite get. Tim, can I give you some advice? When you come out with the gutterisms once in a while, whether turtle poop or menstrual cycle, it’s unexpected and cute and funny. When you do it every week, it gets tiresome and cheap. Word to the wise, ok? I love the skirt and like most of the rest, but I wish the grey underfabric was nude illusion, because it’s awful. I’m always disappointed when Fabio’s safe, because I don’t see what he’s wearing. Some kind of netting over white. And a polo shirt and goofy hat. I don’t know how he pulls it together, but he does every time. On the “I’ll Be The Judge Of That” video on Lifetime, he says he was thinking of the 36 dancers lined up like Valkyries, an army of women. I love Fabio more each week. Dmitry’s adorable, but Fabio is mine.
Falling on their Asses:
Ven is crazy about beading; that’s a surprise. He’s going to do something modern. Ven, I do not think that word means what you think it means. The trick, he says, is to not over-embellish. Clean lines. No gluing stones all over. Tim loves the netted fabric over the solid, and suggests he do more of that. To his credit, Ven helps Melissa do some hand sewing. Plus his attempts at human warmth at dinner. The redemption arc in progress. But I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. As he watches his model walk the runway, he thinks the netting looks like glass. Heidi likes the fabric but there’s no design; it’s boring. She’s surprised he didn’t go back to Mood. Michael loves simplicity, but it turns into yawn and this looks like a chopped off evening dress; he wants to see more body. Nina wants more drama. Debra disagrees; she loves the movement and simplicity, but the hemline is uneven, which seems like an odd nit to pick. Ven explains the netting drags down, leading Heidi to wonder what would happen after several wearings.
Elena claims to have made dance costumes, which is a surprise. And she’s really, really happy to be working with sequins again. Yes, of course I’m kidding. If she never sees another sequin it’ll be too soon. She gets disoriented in Mood and doesn’t know what to get, then ends up way over her budget, and finally leaves with royal blue and yellow, or, as she puts it, high school marching band colors. So she makes a cheerleading uniform . She keeps kvetching about it, and Dmitry wonders, “Why are you making something you hate?” I really don’t think she’s doing it on purpose. She asks her model if knows how to throw a baton; in best Tyra fashion, the model says she’ll learn. To me, the biggest problem is the dipping of the skirt in the front; it looks like a snap has come undone. No, that’s only one of the biggest problems. The colors and the openwork are other problems just as big. It really is pretty bad. She defends it on the runway by saying she was thinking first of movement, then of impact from a distance. Debra thinks it’d work for the circus. Nina thinks fabric choice was biggest problem, plus she hates the styling. Heidi calls it cheesy. That’s an insult to Velveeta.
Sonjia is uninspired. Nothing in Mood makes sense. She ends up with lots of feathers, and a feather skirt that’s kind of nice, but that’s it. Tim tells her he can read her across the room, “you seem very disabled.” Dmitry does a chicken-bwaaawk. Eventually she manages to put fabric on the bodice and more feathers on the sleeves – she sees Black Swan, I see Kenley. But she’s worried she’s back to carhop. She should be so lucky. She’s having trouble getting the top onto her model, and Christopher warns her she’s going to break the model: “As long as I break her and not the clothes, it’s fine,” she says. See, if anyone else said that, Ven, for instance, he’d be slaughtered, but with Sonjia, it’s funny because… I don’t know, I guess we know she doesn’t really mean it? Some people earn more slack than others. But the dress really is pretty awful. Heidi thinks it’s too covered up, boxy, it’s not sexy. Heidi, I know your divorce has been rough, but please, go out and get yourself some action. It’s not attractive, what you’re doing. Nina worries that feathers are fragile, and Debra agrees; they fall off just walking. Michael sees no movement, and it’s more cocktail than costume. Michael, show me one woman wearing that to a cocktail party. Nina envisions 36 of them in a row: turkeyfest. That’s pretty amusing for Nina. Is Michael’s writer doing her lines now? Come on, Nina, you’ve always been the straight wo/man, don’t get sidetracked into the glamour side now.
Fan Kick Grand Finale:
Heidi gives an encouraging speech about how seriously they take judging, and how talented everyone is. No season has ever been so coddled. They should all send thank-you notes to Kooan and Andrea. While the judges chat, the designers dish; Elena’s convinced she’s going home, and Ven hugs her. Wow. Redemption arc in full swing.
The debate in Little Chat is about which is worse, boring or madness. Michael gives Ven the drag name of Origami Rose. And they finally notice he falls apart when he can’t do roses and pleats. Hey, I said that weeks ago, I’m glad they finally caught on. Then again, Elena did a Vegas twirler and Sonjia a disco turkey.
Christopher wins. And again, Dmitry is robbed. But I think I understand. Dmitry’s is just a little too modern. And the NYC skyline is just too juicy to pass up.
Elena and Ven are standing alone on the runway. When they announce Elena is safe, she cries. That’s the thing, she cares, she really does, and she’s trying to adapt.
Ven is out. His exit interview is back to the pre-redemption Ven: it was just this one dress that did him in, and it’s too bad someone with more talent is going home instead of someone with less talent, like Elena, who made the ugliest thing on the runway. So much for that redemption arc. Thing is… his origami roses are really beautiful, and, having seen pics of his finale collection, I think it’s gorgeous. But he really can’t do anything else. Maybe when he gets the roses out of his system – when everyone’s seen them and get tired of them and stop telling him how beautiful they are – he’ll learn another technique. Then he’ll be off to the races.
Tim makes a different kind of goodbye speech: “This is a wake-up call: look who’s going home. It’s a scenario none of you wrote.” Tim really looks shocked. But there’s no “We’ll miss you.” There’s no blathering about talent.
Preview of coming attractions
Hey, I called it last week – they have to design something for Heidi’s line of babywear. Elena is going to lose her mind. And Ven should be relieved he’s gone, because I’d hate to see what he’d come up with. Christopher: “Now I know why Judy went off the deep end with Liza.”