SYTYCD 11, Top 8–Dancing Machine

We’re closing in on the end of Season 11!

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Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Tonight’s guest judge is Jenna Dewan-Tatum, star of the original Step Up movie and former background dancer to the likes of Pink, Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson. This is her second stint on the competition panel, and her second appearance this year (she sat in on the Atlanta auditions).

Top 8 group
Well if anybody was going to choreograph a group number for Michael Jackson night, might as well get the man’s own choreographer Travis Payne. Very futuristic looking and probably could have jumped out of the Cirque de Soleil Xscape show.

Tonight the kids get to do their solos in addition to the All-Star duets slated.

Tanisha kicks off the solos—she throws every possible skill known to man in, with the ballroom prowess seeming almost secondary. I really wish I liked her personal solos more…I can appreciate the skill and technique but Mary has ruined me for wanting more ballroom content from ballroom contestants.

(This week gives us words from the teachers, relatives and fellow performers that most inspired and influenced the kids in their development as dancers.)

Ricky (with All-Star Jaimie Goodwin)
Contemporary—Travis Wall

Whoa—Season 11’s Ricky has Season 6’s Victor Smalley (of Dance Moms: Miami fame as well) to thank for his early dance education; Victor gave the kid a scholarship. Nice redemption for Victor, because I maintain that he got hosed during his season.

Ricky is the positive light, the best friend that can always raise your spirits. Travis is pushing Ricky beyond his technical limits to try and help him put a lock on the win.

Dancing to Michael’s cover of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” this routine’s Melanie/Marko “I Got You” in feeling layered on top of Robert/Allison “Fix You” in technique. And while it looks terribly simplistic, the lines and pictures the dancers produce are exquisite.

Jenna’s word of the night is “incredible”—from the technique to the partner connection and everything in between, she’s completely enamored with both this routine and with Ricky. Mary marvels at the effortlessness and high echelon of technical prowess that Ricky has continued to display week upon week. Nigel feels that Ricky has grown to the point of transcending his already incredible skill and technique and becoming the dance.

(I see they’re going to continue this “results as they go” BS….of course Ricky is safe….you expected less?)

AND as they’re announced safe, they’re immediately paired with their next All-Star…so Ricky will be doing some sort of ballroom routine with Anya “Hot Tamale Train” Garis

Zack gets to dance in his specialty tonight, and dude throws in enough slides and fast footwork–not to mention the attire–to be the tap reincarnation of Michael Jackson. Even Sandman Sims would have looked at that bit and said, “DAMN!”

Valerie (with All-Star Ryan Dilello)
Samba—Jean-Marc Genereux

Dance break with Jean-Marc first….oh, THAT’S how you spell “batucada!” Phonetics only take you so far in another language…..

(Valerie’s dance inspiration is Kathy Simpson, her teacher since she was 3 years old. Now if SHE had a show instead of Abby Lee, I’d watch that…she looks like she’s professional AND nice.)

Valerie “Wanna Be Starting Something” battling with Ryan, the Samba King.

She was working her fanny off to nail that technique and I give her props for that—AND she got a smidgen of sexy out in her performance demeanor. However, she still needed some more oomph in her execution. I’d love to just say that she did an admirable job as a non-ballroom dancer, but considering we’re at Top 8 and shooting for a Top 6 berth it’s too late for that…it’s go big or go home time, and I fear this may hasten the latter.

Mary said, in her delightful Mary fashion, that the samba was well done and Valerie attacked every move with the exception of some hesitation on the samba runs (which I saw as well as the area of most discomfort in her); Nigel calls Valerie vivacious and says this bit of brilliance cancels out any complaints he had about the previous week, although he did express worry that if she were to depart tonight that would be why…and it would be a shame on the heels of tonight’s success. Jenna tells Valerie that her dancing gives her joy but there was an added sexiness and attitude (that’s basically the translation for “face” people) in her performance.

(Valerie, amazingly, is safe this week. And apparently Mr. Boss really needed to get out of the house this summer because after tonight he belongs to Valerie. Having already proven she can “turn up,” this should be a thrilling pair.)

Casey leaps and spins and dives his way through his solo…..we know, we know—you’re a maestro with all of it. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Rudy’s up next with a variation of Casey’s magical spinfest layered on top of the beastly style he brought to the auditions, and you can see a lot of technical improvement in him. He’s a little too happy for that now (or maybe the flash of cutie-pie I saw was just a result of him quickly dropping character at the end of the solo….Jacque might me making you a little too mellow, boo….IJS)

Casey (with All-Star Comfort Fedoke)
Hip-Hop—Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz

(Miss Terri [Schulke] and Miss Mandy [Rogers], his two dance teachers who have trained him for the past 4 years, are Casey’s inspirations…and both ladies are deeply moved by the nomination.)

OK, if Academy of Villains doesn’t get that finale berth it doesn’t really matter because Pharside and Phoenix are solidly IN as choreographers. So in honor of MJ Week they’ve created a theatrical, over-the-top routine called “8 Legged Love.” Um….yeah. Good thing I already know they do some killer work because there isn’t a side eye strong enough to give them for THAT description. Black Widow meets Fatal Attraction, or Kiss of the Hip-Hop Spider Woman, if you will. Casey has to bring out strong characterization again this week….the last effort at hip-hop landed him in the bottom. Hopefully the costume’s better this go-around.

“Xscape,” the song that titles the Cirque de Soleil show, is the tune for this piece. Casey had moments of looking tortured and seduced—good things for this particular number—and he was really working to hit those shapes and positions. Plus I imagine jumping on and off of a spiderweb-shaped cargo net dangling had to be taxing as well. Not quite the Nico benchmark from last season’s Spider Woman interpretation, but a reasonably good effort. (On another note, wardrobe let Comfort borrow Tanisha’s catsuit and seriously vamped her up with the makeup—she’s come a long way from the thunderstruck girl in a bra and beads…..

Nigel acknowledges Casey’s further growth as a performer while advising him to get more into the style, however foreign to him. Jenna admires his stage presence and his ability to perform “in the moment” and in step with Comfort. Mary admired the strength and commitment, and also recognized the increased sharpness and precision as the number built.

(Casey is in the bottom of the votes this week—not unexpected with fan favorites Ricky and Rudy as his competition. Zack, who I fully expect to be down there with him, is the sleeper contestant of this pair and may edge him out for Top 6.)

Jacque’s up with her solo and it’s very light and effortless and danced with so much joy she’s practically levitating. Whether this will aid her chances of staying remains to be seen.

Tanisha (with All-Star Nick Lazarrini)
Contemporary—Stacey Tookey

(Kelly Messerly, Tanisha’s teacher and mentor, is her dance inspiration.)

Nick’s a crooner reliving the memory of the One That Got Away (embodied by Tanisha). So I probably should have expected “She’s Out Of My Life” to be the song of choice.

I know I’m supposed to focus on the contestants, but I really have to pause and acknowledge Nick’s growth as a dancer over the years. He was neither my choice nor my expectation for SYTYCD’s first champion and I’ve watched him dance before wondering how and why that was. I’m liking what I’m seeing now. *exhale* Now, back to the task at hand: Tanisha really should consider shifting to the cabaret division if she means to stay in the ballroom world—whatever Latin training she has is nowhere near as good as the contemporary skills she’s exhibited since she’s been on the show. Very nice work from her again this evening.

Jenna is astounding by her strength and the couple’s fluidity, and called for a bit more angst to her emotional expression to enhance the feeling of the number; Mary hailed Tanisha for keeping pace with Nick and is amazed by her consistency and quality of movement; Nigel is equally impressed by her physical strength but admonishes her to tap into and release more of her vulnerable side as a counterbalance.

(Tanisha is the first girl in the bottom two this week; considering Valerie skated through this week I imagined that would be a probability as Jessica’s fan base seems incredibly strong and loyal.)

Jessica takes the “massive tricks and levels to a Celine Dion power ballad” route in her solo tonight…way too much to visually process but again….these fans are lo-yalllllllll……..

Rudy (with All-Star Allison Holker)
Contemporary—Ray Leeper

(Kevin “Tokyo” Inouye—you KNOW I’m Googling to find out if he’s any relation to the late Hawaiian senator….dude’s honest, I gotta give it to him. Not many teachers would admit on national television that their student, despite their heart and passion, was just not good at it. Of course, not many would take them under their wing anyway and try to mold something out of them, either. I think I rather like you, sir…..) *side note: Google results inconclusive, particularly since there’s a professor and martial arts coach in the biz with the same name–hence, this Kevin going by “Tokyo.” If any of you readers find out, holla.)

A tale of obsession—Allison is focused on getting Rudy, but he’s taken and trying to push her away….despite the small part of him deep inside that kinda does want her. Unhealthy dysfunction at its best. Ray’s concerned about Rudy tapping into his vulnerability and letting go of some of the aggression inherent in his personal style.

I was thinking “Leave Me Alone,” but “Dirty Diana” makes much more logical sense considering the darkness of tone and the storyline itself (I don’t know HOW I forgot about that song). Rudy is fighting for his spot. I mean really, seriously, both dukes up, all guns blazing FIGHTING to get to the end—and the top—of this competition. He is determined to be standing under that confetti, and powerwise he could do it. I saw more tortured anger than vulnerability in him, but that may have been moments of “seeing him thinking.” I will say that for him to evenly match Allison Holker in a number so powerful is an impressive accomplishment, and that may just be the thing that America eats up with a spoon.

People are standing and hollering—more importantly, THESE people are standing and hollering: Ray, Mary, Nigel and Jenna. This bodes well….that and the fact that Rudy is doubled over, gasping for breath and doing that high-pitched Dino from The Flintstones babble-scream he does when he’s overexcited.

Mary is just as flushed as Rudy is, but manages to find words and breath to agree with me about the pair going in whole hog and matching each other toe to toe, dubbing them spectacular. Nigel’s only complaint was a brief lapse in character to focus on technique (during a pirouette section) that broke from the story, but otherwise commended Rudy for morphing into a completely different person. Jenna calls Rudy phenomenal and also commends him for rising to and matching Allison’s level.

(Rudy is in the bottom this week, saving Zack this time. If I know anything—and history is to be believed, Rudy’s larger than life personality will probably elevate him over Casey’s insane technique. We’ll see at the end of the show….)

Valerie taps her way out in her magic ruby slippers and has vastly improved with projecting energy from her upper body and face as her feet are going a mile a minute. She’s the better of the two tap solos this evening.

Zack (with All-Star Makenzie Dustman)
Broadway—Spencer Liff

(Mark Goodman, tap legend I’m not familiar with but I guess I’d better research….he’s danced with some legends himself: Gregory Hines, Sandman Sims, Savion Glover–very impressive.)

Naïve girl fresh off the train in the big city meets slick smooth talker Zach, who tries everything he can to tell this girl “The Way You Make Me Feel”….the boy looks like Howdy Doody meets Opie; I just can’t see him being a Lothario. Still, he and Rudy have a similar drive to prove themselves, so I know he’s gonna knock himself out trying.

Makenzie looks thick in that dress. Marilyn Monroe thick. Not a bad thing at all—in fact it transforms her character—but it just threw me off for a second to see her serving Ava Gardner realness and I know she’s barely hit adulthood yet. Zach looked more smitten than smarmy half the time but that character focus was razor sharp. He knew just when to switch his gaze from the audience to his potential conquest while executing all of his moves perfectly and in sync. The end was clunky, but that wasn’t the dancers’ fault: it was the music mix, adding an additional unnecessary beat to the end.

(Since Zack knows he’s safe, Cat reveals his partner….and just as I was saying that we were about due for a boy pairing, who does nuFik-Shun get but the original himself? I am extremely intrigued to see how that plays out.)

Nigel would have liked to see a little more groundedness from Zack, but was overall pleased….and is especially tickled like the rest of us about next week’s matchup. Jenna mused about the incredible amount of control and showmanship needed—and employed by Zack—to successfully pull off a Broadway routine; she thought he was believable and was completely sold by his performance. Mary also notes Zack’s growth, spirit and wholehearted embracing of everything he’s been given to date.

Ricky closes out the solos, and….hold up, pause. WTF was that, dude?!? You just did a nosebleed induced leap, landed on cotton and slid into one of the sickest, most tightly controlled straddles like you were made of melting butter….the old, fat creaky dancer in me hates you and is sobbing in the corner. And continues to do so after you laid in a straddle ON YOUR BACK and then just stepped up into a layout. Boy go sit down somewhere before I start throwing stuff at my TV……

How am I JUST noticing the Moonwalk logo on the backdrop and in the wipes tonight?

Jacque (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Dave Scott

(Older cousin Christianne Jordan is Jacque’s inspiration….way to go, Pookie!)

Ionkno if ballerina Jacque is gonna let street Jacque out to play—she’d better do something to hang with the Boss since Jessica’s efforts were so well received last week….

“Slave To The Rhythm” is the song of choice, and we have some post-apocalyptic, Terminator futuristic type scenery happening here, and these two look like they survived the war and are hooking back up to kick it. Jacque got looser than I gave her credit for, though she looked like her biggest struggle was controlling her face. I think I saw one smiley moment before she masked it with the hardcore, serious badass look she was supposed to be serving. Both Melissa and Eliana proved that ballerinas can get down and dirty, and Jacque’s climbing into that class. Hopefully, it’s not too little, too late….

Jenna thought Jacque did extremely well and really got into the groove of the style; Mary also felt that Jacque conquered the groove and was impressed by her growth and synchronicity; Nigel was duly impressed by her embodiment of the style and thought she and tWitch complemented each other well, even daring to use the word “swag.”

(As expected, Jacque is the second girl in the bottom two. Not positive how the decision is going to shake down between her and Tanisha….)

Jessica (with All-Star Will Wingfield)
Contemporary—Mandy Moore

(Talia Favia, Jessica’s teacher, sounds a lot like my own—always picking and pushing. In love, of course….)

Earth and mankind….Jessica is being asked to be uncomfortable in this piece, portraying someone being callous and careless with the planet.

Jessica is really trying to embrace her artistry and incorporate it with her technical abilities—there are moments when she looks like she’s mimicking Will as a young dance pupil tries to mirror their teacher. That’s a good thing, as she matches him move for move, height for height, and all other nuances in between. The lighting was inspired, and told the story as much as the two dancers illuminated by it. Characterization is hard to read on her, so I can’t be sure if she embodied everything Mandy asked of her. But it was a very good performance from her.

Standing Os from the panel, so I’m expecting a good bit….

(Jessica’s All-Star is Ade…going from one big-league dancer to another. You gotta work, honey….)

Mary feels that the stars have aligned with the perfect music, choreography and dancers, and is pleased and proud of Jessica’s growth and passion displayed; Nigel ticks off a litany of favorites in all aspects of the piece—which include the stellar presence of William Wingfield (that man is a blessing to dance in general, and I will wax poetic about him whenever I can. Deal with it.)—and is moved by her magnificence; Jenna is also duly impressed with Jessica’s incredible growth and also throws around the words “favorite” and “magnificent.”

Three weeks from the finale, and we’re presented with the third of our crews up for an encore performance on that night. Tonight it’s Control Freakz turn….and it’s worth noting that the spoken word intro sounds a lot like the voice that introduced us to Will Wingfield in Los Angeles back in Season 4….just after he’s left the stage tonight. Serendipity, perhaps?

Damn…..what? I dare anyone to ever again set their lips to say that popping and hip-hop are any lesser forms of the art of dance. Every bit of that looked almost balletic—and that smoothness and grace is hard to accomplish coming out of a back flip. I am duly impressed. And I do have to say—though in this day and age I shouldn’t have to—how beautiful it is to see some many different looks and shades of my people given the opportunity to express their artistic selves on a national stage. It might be more commonplace in this day and age, but as a young girl with aspirations of dance those images were extremely scarce…and it makes my heart smile.

(I did have to actually spoil results to go vote, but I’m still going to give my assessment as if I hadn’t.) So it’s down to Rudy, Casey, Jacque and Tanisha. If I go by past opinions and votes, Jacque has been in the bottom the most out of the four, and I don’t recall ever seeing Rudy there (though I could be wrong). Young fans might be reluctant to break up the reported lovebirds, but have also repeatedly been reluctant to send Tanisha home, as well. I’d venture based on all of that, Jacque has run out of chances…and with Rudy being the less polished of the guys, he may be leaving with her.

Of course, America seldom behaves as I’d expect—while I don’t deny Tanisha has some great ability I thought she would have gone home long before now…and tonight she’s going out with her original partner. Rudy leaving just breaks my heart…and that was BEFORE he started crying. I really saw a Benji-esque victory as a possibility with that one, but apparently the contemporary seduction continues. Zack is the last odd man standing, and as I had hoped Aaron would be the first tapper to take the crown last year, I feel compelled to throw my remaining support behind him. The girls’ diversity is still intact, just minus a ballroom specialist. So of the jazz dancer, tapper and ballerina remaining, I feel like the larger push is going to go to Jessica. However, with Jacque’s miracle save and Valerie’s sleeper performances, anything could happen there. With us back to a single winner I dare not even venture who has the best shot at that right now….but it’s gonna be a rollercoaster ride.

(The survivors get their All-Star pairings: Casey gets Makenzie and Jacque gets Will. *moment of silent praise that I get blessed with him a second week in a row*)

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SYTYCD 11, Top 10–Counting (All) Stars

The Top 10 are in and rolling with the All-Stars for the first time this week–and the judges’ influence no longer applies. The decisions are all on America now.

Olympic gold medalist, figure skater and actress Tara Lipinski is on the performance show panel for the first time. I love Tara but I’m not overly sure about this; while I realize figure skaters do have to have some dance training to smooth out their routines and now a thing or two about intense competition, being able to critique dance technique is an entirely different scenario.

Image courtesy of  19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Top 10 group–Hip-Hop

Last Chance Saloon—good LORD that’s a loud number. And that’s just the costumes and scenery. The song of the night should have been “Sunglasses at Night.” At least that’s how I had to watch it to see the choreography. I’m surprised that I’m not more familiar with Jamal Sims–I certainly recognize a lot of his work outside of this first SYTYCD appearance.

Bridget (with All-Star Brandon Bryant)
Bollywood Disco(?!?)—Nakul Dev Mahajan

Good Lord! Two of the fastest, most intricate dance styles meshed into one? And poor Brandon might as well have just trained in disco because it seems like he’s the only All-Star that’s called back to do either of them.

This was fast and furious and Bridget was here for all of it—she had the sass Valerie needed a few weeks ago and then some. Brandon did a great job recovering from the underrotation of that aerial cartwheel…good thing he isn’t being judged.

Tara loved the performance—how interactive and rhythmic it was and thought it was a moving puzzle; Mary threw out the five Ss: strength, stamina, speed, skill and spirit…and of course she added a sixth S–SCREAM ; Nigel thought it was inspirational and that Bridget did well keeping up with the insanely fast and physical routine. Though I wish he’d left the corny jokes where he found them.

(And to announce right after that performance that she’s in the bottom of the votes SUCKS.)

Tanisha (with All-Star Ryan Dilello)
Argentine Tango—Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

Miriam and Leonardo take the fact that they have two stellar ballroom dancers and run with it, throwing in every complicated move and lift they can imagine.

WTH? As if that lingering star lift wasn’t enough, Ryan basically tossed Tanisha in the air, spun her around his neck and dropped her into a mermaid pose in 4.7 seconds….technically it was brilliant but the passion seems a bit forced and over the top for me. Tanisha by herself though was ON FIRE.

Mary’s excited—about both technique and stage presence; Nigel thinks she hasn’t put a foot wrong since she’s been on the show; Tara was impressed by the smoldering sexiness of the solo opening. (Tanisha’s safe going in.)

Emilio (with All-Star Jasmine Harper)
Hip-Hop—Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo

Cue the Degree dancer montage….. *eye roll* Guess they had to put it somewhere….

It’s a Nappytabs sighting! King Emilio and his pet snake who’s trying to take over the throne. Ooooookay…..

Choreography was dope, and the right dancer got it. I’m thinking Jasmine would have been better suited in that silver snakeskin number she wore with Aaron last season, but she is definitely exuding some serious sexy here…and once again proving that she can hang with hip-hop.

Nigel praises Emilio’s improvement; Tara’s mind is blown; Mary thought it was sensational.
(Emilio is the first in the bottom for the guys…have I mentioned how much this BLOWS?)

Valerie (with All-Star Ade Obayomi)
Jazz—Tyce Diorio

Tyce Diorio is challenging Valerie to go into her meaner, more aggressive side.

It’s difficult to believe that Valerie is a tap specialist when she pulls out these amazing performances in contemporary and contemporary-looking dance styles. Although I think choreographically, Ade did most of the heavy lifting (both figurative and literal), Valerie did come across well and complemented his movement. On a side note, that boy is getting thicker and I’m not sure how I feel about it…maybe it’s because the shirt is ON….

Tara called it interesting—didn’t see the connection with the character’s anger throughout the piece but thought her physicality in the lifts was very strong; Mary agrees to a point but thinks she’s progressed another step in her development; Nigel rounds it out, loving the works but thought Valerie came across as tight and self-conscious. (Valerie is safe.)

Rudy (with All-Star Jenna Johnson)
Cha-Cha—Louis van Amstel

Louis van Amstel has them “dancing out their attraction to each other.”

And Rudy is doing quite well at pulling that off. I know from the first performance videos he’s got at least a little bit of ballroom training in him, but with the skills he’s displaying coupled with his magnetic stage presence, you’d think it would have been him instead of his buddy Nick that would have auditioned under the ballroom genre. I saw what looked like a mishap on that last move and end pose, but if it was, he made it look intentional. He and Jenna were evenly matched in this routine.
Mary thought they were hot, and that Rudy was full of chemistry and power….so naturally Rudy gets a ticket on the train; Nigel apologizes to Rudy for thinking his being full of life was him being full of himself, though he did caution Rudy not to go over the top with the winks and asides since his personality was plenty; Tara thought that Jenna set the bar high, and Rudy matched it brilliantly. (Rudy is safe.)

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Jacque (with All-Star Chehon Wespi-Tchopp)
Contemporary Ballet—Travis Wall

Of all of the choreographers I would have figured to be on tap for this—Dwight Rhoden, Desmond Richardson, etc.—I would not have even put Travis Wall on my radar. I know he’s a contemporary dance genius, but I have no knowledge of his expertise with ballet. Still, his expansive creativity gives him credence in my book. Another piece that’s all about the connection between the dancers rather than portraying a story.

Choreography was executed perfectly—the worst part about the number is that it ended. There was simply not enough dance there…it could have gone on much longer despite the fact that there were more contestants to perform and it’s only a two-hour show. (And I have to watch it several times before I could apply my television professional eye to that Steadicam one-shot–that really was an excellent choice to showcase this particular piece.)

Nigel was wowed and thought Jacque elevated her technique and performance energy elevated to a higher level; Tara thought it was flawless overall; Mary agrees and called the performance—as well as Jacque—exquisite.

(Jacque is the other girl in the bottom….had I watched before I spoiled the results to go vote, the writing would have already been on the wall here.)

Ricky (with All-Star Lauren Frodeman)
Jazz—Mandy Moore

Mandy Moore does a nod toward rockabilly and wants the dance to have a fun party feel in spite of all of the difficulty and complexity she’s throwing into it.

Mandy Moore is psycho. Who throws that much into one dance? I have to say that Lauren really nailed down why she won—the first person this season to pull focus from Ricky. That’s not an easy thing to do, either. I will say he held his own with the choreography and did a good balancing act of letting loose and hitting his forms and marks with precision. And those last eight counts of Kama Sutra-esque, Twister-like leg wrapping was mind-blowing….

Nigel praised Ricky (as expected) for raising his dance level and for taking some complicated choreography and making it look simple; Tara was enjoying the number so much she was dancing in her seat; Mary buys the third ticket on the Love Train and says that there’s nothing he can’t do. (Ricky is safe—and I’m typing this before they even open the envelope.)

Casey (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Broadway—Spencer Liff

Spencer Liff and the “he loves me, he loves me not” game. Casey’s acting skills are called upon this week, which seems to be a challenge to layer those on top of the impeccable technique.

He does OK emoting his movements but he’s right on the line of “over the top.” Not going to bother re-typing the same stuff I’ve been saying for weeks about his technique…y’all already know….

Mary thinks Casey is quickly becoming a star and thought he dug into the character work very well; Nigel thought the style really suits Casey coupled with his technique and amplified by the breakout performance with Jessica last week…and even ventures to class him as not only a contender but a threat in relation to Saint Ricky; Tara was equally enamored and thought his performance was wholly believable. (Casey is safe…which automatically puts Zach in the bottom with Emilio.)

Jessica (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo

Another Nappytabs joint tonight…in this one Jessica’s a pin-up girl passing by this “old cat” at the bus stop (when one of the dancers you pretty much watched grow up in his career is not only referred to as an “old cat” but says himself that he’s “dancing like he’s 20 again,” it’s time to re-evaluate how close you are to that AARP notice in the mail). Jessica is beyond thrilled to have the triple dream trifecta of a Nappytabs duet with tWitch on SYTYCD just dropped in her lap. Let’s see if she really can hang….

I’m sorry….I’m supposed to be judging Jessica but all I can see is this pot belly and gray hair on tWitch and I can’t help but hear the words “Lemme holla at cha” looped in my head. Too damn funny. However, for the speed, precision and synchronization required for this number Jessica did very well. I’m a little unsure about her characterization, but some of her over the top was necessary in her case.

Tara called it unreal and thought Jessica exceeded every expectation; Mary said it was off the charts and memorable; Nigel notes that Jessica has again lived up to her potential…and that she’s classed as a jazz dancer, which I honestly didn’t remember. I had her in contemporary with the rest of the viewing public. (Since Jessica went in safe, she was more at ease with her performance.)

Zach (with All-Star Amy Yakima)
Contemporary—Sonya Tayeh

Sonya Tayeh offers an emotional tribute to a friend who’s passed all too soon. (Side note: I started typing my notes after hearing of Robin Williams’s untimely passing, so there’s a different tinge to my view than if I’d done this the night of like I usually do.)
Honestly, Zack is this season’s Fik-Shun. He’s more trained, but as his area of specialty is in something that one would not expect him to be able to branch out from, he’s been quite impressive week after week in styles not his own. Not to mention this is the second time he’s wowed Sonya. I’m ready to see what Fik-Shun’s partner will bring out of him.

Y’all can sleep on Zack if y’all want to—that boy is more well-rounded than we think. I believed him way back to that Keone and Mari hip-hop, and this is a WAY deeper level of emotion. Not to mention the exquisite and impressive form and technique—you really can’t just look at him and see the word “TAP” in flashing neon letters. Bravo, sweetie.

OK, with both Sonya and Amy near tears and the entire audience and panel on their feet, this critique session is gonna be stellar….Nigel is momentarily speechless, and in the midst of genuflecting at Sonya Tayeh’s well-deserving feet (and stunning everyone with the announcement of her new—and equally well deserved—assignment with the Martha Graham company), hailed Zack as stunning. Tara thought that Amy’s pronouncement of a “wow” moment was an understatement and is equally speechless, and Mary proclaimed it a masterpiece through tears and a lump in her throat.

(I am saddened that the choice came down to Emilio and Zack….no matter how this came down or when I saw it, I was destined to hate America for this. However, it just goes to further prove what I said about the high bar the guys have set this year.)

Christina Perri’s career was made on this show when Stacey Tookey heard her not even released yet song “Jar of Hearts”, choreographed a routine to it and put it on display for the SYTYCD audience. Christina returns to the stage that helped make her with an assist from Kathryn and Chehon. What a lovely trio.

By now I already know that Bridget and my beloved Emilio are leaving tonight, and while I realize it’s a difficult decision between the four in the bottom I am no less angry at America’s decision…almost to the point of not even wanting to finish out the season as a viewer and reviewer. All four of these dancers have given the performances of their lives on this evening’s stage, and sadly it’s of no consequence at this stage. Not even the comfort of them being solidly committed for the Tour is enough to pacify me. Te quiero mucho indeed, papi….

Anywho, I shall regroup and realign my allegiances….and continue to watch my creative lifeline. After all, it’s just too much talent to just ignore.

On tap for next week are the following All-Star pairings (I kind of like the heads-up, as it’s a different kind of anticipation to see where the kids take things):

Tanisha gets Season 1 champion Nick Lazzarini
Ryan Dilello’s back next week, and coming for Valerie this time
Mrs. Boss hits the stage next week—Allison Holker dances with Rudy
And of course, Mr. Boss tags along for a repeat….and the irony of tWitch pairing with Jacque is not lost on me
Jaimie Goodwin makes an appearance as an All-Star, and Ricky looks like his bucket list just got completed with one check
Casey earns this week’s head-tilting pairing, as he’s slated to dance with Comfort Fedoke
Jessica gets blessed by the heavenly presence that is Will Wingfield….I’m excited for her and pray she lives up to him (yeah, I’m biased dammit)
And last, but not least, another underrated dancer gets her due—last season’s Makenzie Dustman is coming back for Zack. I smell another emotional breakthrough coming.

AND it’s Michael Jackson week….Y’all just knew I couldn’t quit you, didn’t ya?

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(OK…the fact that both Bridget and Emilio just came barreling from the sidelines toward their friends with huge smiles and big hugs takes again some of my bitterness….what champs these kids are. Long live Bridgilio!)

Long Live Bridgilio!

Long Live Bridgilio!

10 Signs You’re With The Person You Should Marry

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SYTYCD 11, Top 14–Ten at 11

A quadruple elimination looms tonight (thanks SO much FOX executives for shrinking the show’s air time *raises sarcasm sign*)

Christina Applegate makes her first appearance this season, joining the usual suspects on the judges’ panel tonight.

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Top 14 contemporary

A meeting of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus—it’s very smooth and non-quirky so on surface value Sonya Tayeh is not jumping out at me.  I’m not ruling her out, though…

It’s a Stacey Tookey joint, and apparently Ricky is the new soul being welcomed into heaven. Close enough.

The Top 14 dancers are called out to whittle down to 8—the top vote getters’ names are read this week instead of the Bottom 6, who will actually be dancing for their lives on top of their other performances.  Let’s see who America wanted to see on Tour……

Bridget, Emilio, Jacque, Ricky, Tanisha, Rudy, Valerie, and Zach.  Four couples immediately through, and not many surprises on my end.  That leaves Casey, Jessica, Emily, Teddy, Carly and Serge in the Bottom 6.  I’m kind of surprised about Carly and Serge—Serge has been in the bottom before and danced his way out to two judgment-free week; considering he had one of his better performances last week it’s a bit of a head scratcher.  I have NO CLUE why Carly’s down there.  Truthfully though, all six have had really great moments on the show and as two are leaving instead of staying this week this decision is going to be brutal.  Yeah sure, any or all of these cut tonight have strong possibilities to be chosen as Tour alternates, but still….

This week’s theme: the kids give kudos about their partners’ strengths

Emilio/Bridget (Miss Congeniality and the potty mouth…hey, if you gotta cuss, you gotta cuss.)

Jazz—Ray Leeper

“So you’re on a mission from Hell……”  Well that’s attention grabbing, Ray….kind of S3 Neil/Lauren G. but with both dancers hunting souls. Let’s see if they can lure us in.

OK, the theme of “Night of the Dancing Flame” but the feel of that Season 8 jazz Melanie and Marko did.  Definitely hip but not disturbing.

Nigel thought it was fun and thought Emilio was fabulous, though he cautioned him to work on lowering his shoulders; he thought Bridget was a little too cautious and upright and could have sunken more into the movement (I got that vibe too—she played it a little TOO cool).  Christina dug the routine and is impressed with Emilio’s transformation into a more all-around dancer, and gave both Emilio and Bridget advice about maintaining their intention in their heads to hold the “face” of the routine.  Mary agrees as well and thought the number suited them well.

Tanisha/Rudy (Hiccups? Quiet demeanor—Rudy?)

Contemporary—Mandy Moore

A story of seduction…not sure who’s seducing who but let’s take a look.

This is worthy of a ballroom cabaret competition—all those lifts and throws, and the actual on-the-ground choreography feels very rumba-like.  Tanisha pulled focus as usual, but Rudy’s got to be putting in great work in order for that to happen.  I don’t understand why she registered as a ballroom dance, as I have enjoyed all of her routines EXCEPT the ballroom number.

(And now Cat is starting mess with Rudy and Jacque’s two older brothers sitting in the audience…..SMH)

Christina stands clapping, entranced.  AND she can’t speak.  I can’t be positive, but I think she liked it. ;-)  She did manage to string together a few syllables about how connected the partnership was, though.  First Mary screams of the evening, so I’m guessing she’s cool with it, too…strong, powerful and dynamic only a few of the words thrown around.  Nigel just told Rudy that he’s so loud he keeps thinking he’s Mary’s love child (they DO match each other holler for holler) but praised their lifts and called them tremendous.

First solo of the night and it’s Serge…that boy has some fast feet, and the fact that he’s hot doesn’t hurt one bit.  I think it’s safe to say that barring a colossal meltdown on his other numbers he’s going on tour as the last ballroom man standing—whether that’s a Top 10 position remains to be seen.

Jacque/Zack (Excellent customer service skills and rapping….okey-dokey)

Paso Doble—Jean Marc Genereux

“A bloodsucking paso doble” (Cat’s words), and the couple walks in to Jean Marc as a Moulin Rouge version of Lestat.  Silly as he is, I know he knows his ballroom, so this should be a power packed dance if they can master the choreography.

Had Zach been a vampire in Twilight, I might have paid attention.  That boy had command of the stage from the first note.  Have no idea where Mary’s gonna rip into his technique but he had that bravado down cold.  Jacque was a little too reserved for me—she was probably trying to keep to the technique but her sinister personality did not come through well enough for me.

WHYYYYYYYYYY are the three of these goofballs wearing fangs?!? *facepalm*  Mary said this different take on the Spanish paso was “love at first bite.”  Mary loved their shapes but thought the routine lost a little steam at the end (I noticed that as well, right after that jump Zach did).  Nigel agrees and was glad the concept didn’t overshadow the execution of the routine.  Christina makes three and hails Zach’s growth and his presence in the routine, as well as Jacque’s abilities.

Second of the solos—Carly.  She had a very good sampling of skill and technique, and that turn combination was insane; however, it was a bit slender in the connecting moves, which is something that has been criticized greatly on this show. This could possibly hurt her chances at Top 10.

Emily/Teddy (Ah, the business degree….and Teddy’s elasticity)

Broadway—Warren Carlyle

A game of cat and mouse, for sophisticated actors who dance.

Nice nod to Fosse and Kiss Me Kate in the opening bars—not quite as loose as Bob would have been but Teddy danced admirably.  Emily dialed back just enough to let Teddy shine alongside her without muscling over him with her personality.  Not sure what went on with that end pose…..

Nigel acknowledged the stamina and skill it takes to perform that style, but was disappointed with the end of the number, calling for more elevation and saying that it was not as strong as it needed to be particularly on such a difficult night.  Christina did note that they got a little wobbly but did praise Teddy’s growth (and his arms) and Emily’s technique—and also urged them to watch the inspiration number in KMK to absorb the nuances of the style.  Mary thought the routine went in and out but enjoyed it.

Time for Casey’s solo—he’s a turnmaster just like Carly but not enough wow in that solo.  Not solid on his chances, as there’s already a pretty boy in the Top 10 in Ricky.

A commercial break, costume change and regroup and then Emily’s right back out on the stage performing her solo…which is awesome.  Beautiful flow and technique and just the right amounts of power and reserve—so far the best of the solos. If she gets to the Top 10 this will be why.

And then Casey’s also gets a quick turnaround for his duet with Jessica….

Casey/Jessica (Awkwardness/turning ability)

Contemporary—Travis Wall

Finding the person that centers you and you can escape from the world with—complete with stage kiss.

Didn’t like the end pose.

That was it.  Everything else was flawless—beautifully in sync and fluid and perfect.  Jessica might have gone a little over with the movement amplification, but they danced well.

Screams and standing Os from audience and judges alike, leaving Jessica surprised and overwhelmed in tears….. “Travis Wall—shut your face!”  So I think Christina might have liked this a little. ;-)  Totally enthralled with the performance, the intention, the technique—and not only reaffirmed her assertion that Jessica could win the title but that Casey could give her a solid run for the money…as well as threatening America within an inch of their lives if the two of them ever wound up in the bottom again.  Throwing out words like “life changing” means she ain’t coming over for tea.  Mary absolutely seconds those sentiments and adds breathtaking and amazing to the mix, praising their fast chemistry and performance.  Nigel muses about Casey’s nerves following the loss of both of Jessica’s partners—I swear this old man needs to pay attention…she lost THREE partners—but acknowledges the magic that exuded from the new partnership to make this dance so special.  (Cat, you can encourage free kissing in there all you want, but remember how out of hand the shenanigans got in Season 8 after Melanie and Marko did “I Got You”….)

Teddy’s the final guy solo of the night—and he does this hip-hop/contemporary/Broadway-ish hybrid of a number in a full tux with ankle wiper pants.  Kind of smooth and quirky and offbeat, and a little more understated than I thought he would go for in a winner-take-all situation like this.  Hard to call where the judges will go on this.

Carly/Serge (emotions, and the “bronytail”?  No sir—not even Pat Morita could pull that off in the Karate Kid movies.  Get a headband, I beg of you.)

Quickstep—Jean Marc Genereux

“Let me tell you about the quickstep: the upper body needs to take a chill pill, and the lower body needs to be on four espressos.”  (You have to layer on Jean Marc’s French accent for the full effect.)

Serge is smooth like Godiva chocolate—I don’t know how much traditional ballroom experience he has but he performed well (and I guarantee you Mary is not gonna be all up in his DNA about his technique like she was with Marcquet last week….). Carly was lovely to watch and it seemed to me like she held her upper body frame really upright.

Mary thought they coped well with adjusting to the framework—and true to form only criticized the lack of power through his legs but was otherwise pleased with him as well as with Carly.  Nigel liked the piece and liked that they enjoyed themselves and continue to grow every week.  Christina channels her inner Carrie Anne Inaba and takes a poke at DWTS, but called it sexy without being vulgar, flirty yet demure and fabulous.

Our final solo and quick turnaround from Jessica, who composed herself well enough to display her musicality and technique to Beyoncé’s version of Fever.

Valerie/Ricky (Tomboy energy and Cuban coffee. I have a feeling there’s gonna be an extra tour bus just to haul the coffee….)

Hip-Hop—Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz

And just before Academy of Villains hits the stage tonight, Pharside and Phoenix are back to do a funky/scary twisted hip-hop routine.  The witch doctor is struggling to bring the voodoo doll to life.

That was pretty tight hip-hop out of a pretty boy contemporary dancer and a cutie-patootie tapper.  Props to the choreographers, even though I know that’s going to be a problem for the Syncopated Ladies.  That leg lunge/weight transfer (or leg wave, as Nigel puts it) from a seated straddle that Valerie pulled off was DOPE—and difficult.  I kept thinking about Dmitry and Ashley from Season 2 with this, only more hip.  Turn down for what?  For Tour, that’s what.

Nigel thought they were outstanding and was just as wowed as I was about the leg wave, but also praised Ricky for transforming and adapting into an entirely different dance style with as much ease as weeks past, calling him outstanding.  Christina just fangirled over the pair, saying she’d been watching for weeks and looking forward to meeting the two, and not adding much more than “I could watch that all night.”  Mary’s best number of the night as well, and she was impressed with the musicality—so much so that she threw out every possible hip-hop descriptor imaginable (sick, frozen, buck, ridiculous, a crime scene and “murdered it”)

More small groups—girls and guys this week….

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Girls—Contemporary, Mandy Moore

Mandy doesn’t want pretty, she wants powerful—strong women dancing together.

I already love “My Immortal” for so many reasons, and putting it on these ladies tonight was a great choice.  It had the same feel and strength of the fountain piece (“Young and Beautiful”) from last season.  The unison and sharpness and flow were phenomenal, and when you consider that there’s a ballerina, tapper and ballroom specialist among contemporary girls, that’s an amazing feat.  Although I’m gonna need to re-check Tanisha’s qualifications and experience….personally I think she took enough ballroom classes to look polished and is really a jazz and contemporary superstar.

A room full of applauding, standing people has GOT to be a good sign that it wasn’t just pretty, but also powerful, Mandy….Christina has again lost her breath and the power to speak coherently, but she spits out enough to hail Valerie and Jessica—as well as the other ladies, because they rocked as a unit—and said they were all at eleven.  (Spinal Tap reference might be a little out there for them but I think they can grasp a 1 to 10 scale analogy.  Try that next time.) Mary is choked up by the symbolic sisterhood of it all, and Nigel reaffirms Christina’s comment about the piece being a gift and extends to defy Misty Copeland’s pronouncement about the boys being at a higher level this season.  No Nigel, she was right—the girls just put on their big girl dance trunks and brought it up a level this week.  NOW we’ve got a battle coming.

Brief pause to allow the Academy of Villains their shot at the finale spot…and I already see blacklight ready material….LEGGO!  That was a lot to look at in low light but there was a little bit of everything in that—breaking, tutting, acrobatics, jazz/contemporary…you name it, they threw it in there.  The elaborate skeletal/animalistic face paint helped blend the dancers together as a unit instead of delineating gender, which might prove a smart move as it focused our attention to their strengths as dancers without qualification.  Good effort from the group.

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Guys—Contemporary, Travis Wall

Before the break Cat announced that the boys are going to be up close and personal with the front row.  I’m sure all of those spectators are SOOOOO disappointed…..

From Sonya’s Broken People last week to Travis’s Lost Souls of the Sea this week….boy oh boy do y’all have some imaginations!  Travis decides Emilio needs to go flying in the air with a basket toss…you let that boy break his nose again and love or no love, I’m coming after you. *side eye*

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is how you present boys in skirts.  The apron over straight but loose pants is perfect….and seven extremely yummy-looking chests don’t hurt things at all.  Since they’re a nice sea-colored blue-gray I’ll even forgive you for shoving the waistlines under their armpits again.  The boys did well keeping the movement liquid and synchronized, though there was one person in the center that was off by a fraction in the middle section (I think it was Casey), but I’m really splitting hairs here.  That ending visual with them just falling off the edge into the deep end….I mean, what?!?  Dude….I can’t even….and I’m well past the age where that phrase is appropriate.

I think Travis just broke Christina….Mary starts off with memorable, smart and important, and continues to gush from there. Nigel likened them to a coral reef in the deep sea with the ebb and flow of their movement and was equally appreciative of Travis’s “gift” to the audience.  “Maybe Misty was a little right (about the boys).” I done told you about doubting me, Nigel…. Christina said “Shut your face” and “I can’t stand you” to Travis this time—I actually expected her to say the second one once her jaw hit the floor and she grabbed her forehead—she’s so emotional.  “Do you know why I come here? Because I get to have THIS.” Yeah…pretty much the reason I still watch and write faithfully whether I agree with the choices and decisions or not—because we ALL get to have this.  LOVE that she lightened her own heavy mood by telling the guys that their boobs were showing….but shut up, mayn—I was enjoying that view!

Time to reveal the last two in the Top 10—and sadly, the next four dancers to leave the competition.  Best solos came out of Serge and Emily, best duet came from Casey and Jessica.  I’m still thinking Serge for the boys because he was most solid all around AND because he’s ballroom, and probably Jessica for that duet.  Carly and Emily are on pretty equal ground in the face of that, and Casey and Teddy’s solos were good and OK, respectively.  Still, who knows what criteria the judges will employ to make this tough choice?

That duet was the clincher—Casey and Jessica round out the Top 10.  Serge got about three more rounds than his original partner Brittany Cherry, and I claim validation for the both of them in that.  Plus, like I said, I’m betting all six of these kids are going to wind up on the Tour.

Now for the final bit of business—the freshly minted Top 10 get their All Stars!

Rudy gets Jenna Johnson (Season 10)

Jacque gets Chehon Wespi-Tchopp (Season 9)

Zach gets Amy Yakima (Season 10)

Bridget gets Brandon Bryant (Season 5)

Ricky gets LoFro (Lauren Frodeman, Season 7)

Tanisha gets Ryan Dilello (Season 6)

Emilio gets Jasmine Harper (Season 10 and new Degree spokesdancer)

Valerie gets Ade Obayomi (Season 4)

Casey gets Kathryn McCormick (Season 6)

Jessica gets….tWitch?!? (Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Season 4)
I don’t remember her hip-hop in callback week, but we’ll see what happens….

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

PRE-SENT All-Stars–time to crank it up, Season 11!

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SYTYCD 11, Top 16–Broken Outlaws

Another week closer to revealing the Top 10….

image

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Third time’s the charm—Misty Copeland’s back for a judging hat trick.

Top 16 Contemporary
Mandy Moore (I called her or Tyce, and I suppose it helped to see her parking spot post on Instagram the night before); probably the most basic costumes I’ve seen on this show, and while that’s not a bad thing, I probably would have figured out a way to let the ladies keep those scarves…you know, since they were dancing to “Take Me To The River” and they were a good visual for water….

No messing about—straight to the Bottom 6 announcement: Bridget, Marcquet, Brooklyn, Serge, Tanisha, Zack.  Well at least Emilio’s safe but he didn’t do that jive alone…same with that hip-hop Serge did with Carly. Tanisha was a matter of time, Marcquet probably fell victim to the pairing with Jourdan going so-so last week (and being paired with Jessica this week makes me nervous) and I don’t know WHY Zack is on this list.  If anything, Jacque was the weaker of that pairing, though they both did great.  I guess the crush on Rudy has stars in the public’s eyes as well.  Seeing as we have all four of the remaining ballroom dancers here I imagine short of a jaw-dropping performance, two of the four of them will be headed home tonight.  Of the girls I could stand to lose Tanisha, though she’s proven incredibly strong and versatile in the other styles.  I have to lean more towards keeping Marcquet but any of these three leaving is gonna break my heart.

Oh boy…first dance performance week.  Cue the hilarious recital videos!

Valerie/Ricky
(Valerie was 4 years old with a bow on her butt doing a Daddy and Me tap; Ricky did a super-emo, kitchen sink contemporary that overdid EVERYTHING.)

Bollywood—Nakul Dev Mahajan

Ricky is laughing at the concept of Valerie being sexy in this number, but I don’t know…she’s looking a lot like LoFro does normally, and the sexy SHE pulled out I did NOT see coming.  She should have the stamina for it.  

Came across more like the Amy Yakima “kid sister” vibe, but she held the energy for most of it…her arms started flagging at the very end so while she was hitting the positions, there was a lot less energy.  She’s also gonna need to stretch some more to try to match Ricky, because his extension was way higher and he probably wasn’t even trying.  

Mary thought it was full of life, joy, love and high-octane energy and stamina; Nigel agreed and thinks this performance should keep them safe next week; Misty loved it in her usual manner, bringing the tough love with it—she though Valerie could have been sharper throughout so there was more clarity in her movements.  She LOOOOOVED her some Ricky, though, hailing him as the total package.  

Bridget/Emilio
(Bridget did the Vaseline on the teeth pageant smile and tripped thinking about it; Emilio was a late bloomer at the ripe old age of 19)

Contemporary—Travis Wall
Emilio has a troubled past (Bridget) that he’s trying to shake off and move forward.  Sounds a lot like Wild Horses from Season 9…or even Fik-Shun and Amy’s tour de force opener from last year…choreographers are a troubled lot.  

Bridget looked like that little girl from The Ring for a second there…she was DEEP in that character.  She seriously was dancing for her life.  Emilio looked like he did well with the foreign choreography, and I believe I saw pointed toes!  The martial arts background came in handy with all the jumps and balance moves he had to do.

Nigel saw Emilio’s toes as well (better give my boo his props!) and was enthralled by the theme and the execution of the piece, lauding Bridget for throwing every ounce of herself into it and looking magnificent; Misty marveled at how well the choreography highlighted them and praised Bridget for shining in her genre without overshadowing her less skilled partner, and gave equally glowing remarks to Emilio for his growth and grasp of technique; Mary said, “when you see special, you know it…and that was special.”  Indeed.  

Tanisha/Rudy
(A 9 year old tumbling pom-pom girl and a really bad salsa dancing boy…now I see why you and Nick are friends, Rudy….

Hip-Hop—Dave Scott  
A black and white comic book (graphic novel?) come to life, where Tanisha has the kiss of death and Rudy is deciding whether she’s worth the risk.  Is that why you’re punching the girl out in rehearsal, dude? SMH  Poor Tanisha has this vixen in the headlights look on her face watching Dave go through the moves.  

OK, that catsuit is EV-ER-Y-THANG…..where can I get one, please?  The vamp role helped to distract from any weakness in skill—let’s face it, the girl can pull off some sexy moves.  Rudy had some classic 40s/modern swag going as well.  The ending three counts went a little fast for me—I’ve seen fast-acting poisons move slower.  But they got the point across…good effort from the two of them.  

Misty was amazed by the subtle sexy from Tanisha and the Usher vibe Rudy was channeling (don’t get him started—he’ll never come out of the clouds!), and loved that they worked smoothly in sync without overpowering each other; Mary loved the all-business, take charge energy Tanisha exudes and the increasingly high performance level from Rudy; Nigel praised Rudy’s ability to contain his energy but still establish a strong presence and agreed with Cat’s Uma Thurman comparison on Tanisha, admiring the combination of sinewy and sharp she displayed in her movements and calling it her best performance thus far. They are determined to embarrass these poor children, aren’t they?  Poor Rudy….  

Jessica/Marcquet
(Cat called the girl Honey Boo Boo-esque; OK, the costume was a little bit Toddlers and Tiaras/Shirley Temple but was that necessary?  Meanwhile, Marcquet’s early competition days show that he had the same energy…if a bit lacking in proper technique and execution.  I thought you were good, baby….)

Foxtrot—Dmitry Chaplin
Marcquet is the successful business, power executive type and Jessica is the…ahem, “interested party.” (Golddigger seems so harsh.)  With a contemporary girl and a Latin trained guy, we’ll see what happens.  

This song again?!?  I love me some Nina Simone but really though…. I guess I should be happy it’s not the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins version.

Ummm….well damn.  Jessica plays vamp well.  And who would have thought she could carry ballroom so well in such a short time?  I do have to take a pause to note how INSANE her back is….holy cow! *stares across the room at the dumbbells*  Marcquet was very smooth and looks like he connected better with Jessica than he did with Jourdan, although Jessica did overpower him a hair.  

Mary called that boy’s technique every name but a child of God—even after finding out he’d never had any standard ballroom training she still nitpicked every move in hold that he made, giving kudos only for the freer side-by-side sections.  She was, however, blown away by Jessica’s performance and grasp of the outside genre in such a short period of time.  Nigel pulled out the old fogey card and said he preferred the flow of movement epitomized by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and also expressed his discomfort with the routine (particularly Marcquet for some reason—my boy’s in trouble); Misty enjoyed the performance overall but still took the time to reissue notes on Jessica’s neck lines and Marcquet’s balance and grounding, respectively.  

Carly/Serge
(2 year old Carly takes over her sister’s birthday party and Serge channels Tony Manero in his first ballroom competition.)

Contemporary—Mandy Moore
This routine centers around desire, specifically the girl wanting the guy and the guy being a jerk and playing with her emotions.  Serge is too much of a sweetie, but if he embodies this character that’s a clear sign that he’ll be safe.

(I really have to start TiVo-delayed as the show is airing, because I legit rewound this number about 12 times at 2 in the morning because I kept missing stuff.) Carly is slowly creeping her way into the Top 10 with these solid, impassioned performances.  Serge must have located his inner Chmerkovsky bad boy because he had some solid moments of douche in there…still too much of a cutie-pie to believe he’d be that much of a jerk, but he did well with both characterization and technique.  

Nigel praised Carly for her efforts for both this week and last week, and acknowledged the pair’s growth in skill and partnership; Misty agreed, calling Carly a consistently full-bodied dancer and Serge a fluid, emotionally charged dancer and partner; Mary dubs Serge the most improved dancer this season and gives unanimous acclaim to Carly’s artistry and athleticism.

Emily/Teddy
(What I’m assuming is a Grease-inspired tap from Teddy—complete with pursed lips and raised eyebrow—and Emily’s wild child antics in toddler ballet got her put out.  Most of the students I had that were like Emily turned out to be the most dedicated as they matured…so have some patience with those little ones!)

Salsa—Jonathan Platero and Oksana Dmytrenko
I swear I don’t remember Jonathan being a salsa specialist on his season—but I AM really glad to see him getting work as a choreographer, because I did think he got pushed out WAY too early.  Anyway, this in-your-face routine has Emily gravitating towards the tricks and Teddy focusing on the steps. 

There’s a lot of potentially career-ending moves in this thing, too….I’m almost afraid to watch. They survived and each stayed in their little salsa comfort zones: Emily went for broke with the tricks but was more reserved with the across the floor choreo, and Teddy looked and felt loose (despite a slight slouching issue in the neck) but seemed REALLY cautious doing those lifts.  This could hurt them for next week, because it wasn’t wow.

Misty commended Emily on holding the performance together despite her discomfort and instability with the execution of the routine and praised Teddy’s presence, ability and fierceness…though she did say she would have rather seen that from the pair as opposed to just him individually; Mary also took notice of Teddy’s strengths and commended the totally non-ballroom couple for fighting their way through that incredibly tough salsa; Nigel reveals that not just routine nerves were a factor—Emily dislocated her shoulder earlier that day—and noted that yes, the routine could have been stronger but considering the circumstances was pretty well executed.    

Jacque/Zack
(Jacque as a baby Mame—looks like a Mommy and Me dance—and Zach’s early tap days.  Both look like they were watching the teacher for the next step…too adorable!)

Jazz—Sonya Tayeh
Past fling having a moment of nostalgia and longing.  Zach’s impressing Sonya beyond what she expected while Jacque’s dancing a little too prettily for her taste.  Still, she thinks the two working in tandem and taking responsibility for each other can produce awesomeness.

I don’t dislike Beyoncé—really I don’t—but I wish Andre 3000 had done that tune alone.  It sounded seamier when he was singing and it added to the slight forbidden air of the piece.  Jacque was still a bit pretty and Zach showed some fledgling signs of Jakob Kerr.  

Cat just likened the piece to “The Garden” (it’s the fishnets, Cat—that’s all)…Mary marveled at the slinky transitions (and I have to watch again myself because I did NAUGHT see one single, solitary shoe) and applauded Zach’s tremendous growth; Nigel couldn’t emotionally connect to the number but did appreciate the couple’s dance efforts; Misty micromanages ballerina Jacque’s feet, calling for more refinement, but praises Zach’s growth.  (Nigel attempts to call her out on being harder on the girls, but not only does Misty deflect that but she verbalizing what I’ve been saying all along—that the guys this season are at another level.)  

Brooklyn/Casey
(Hip-Hop Casey with frosted tips and Brooklyn tapping in a leather Dick Tracy style jacket and hat…and looking very serious.)

Hip-Hop—Will “Willdabeast” Adams
He’s making the kids live up to HIS name in his show debut, getting down and dirty and into Beast Mode.  

Costumes were a HUGE no—Brooklyn looks OK in her lycra workout getup but those hideous shorts on Casey….y’all would have done better letting them wear the outfits from the opening number.  Both of them in the guys’ V-neck t-shirt and pants would have been infinitely less distracting.  They gave it a really good push but the last four 8 counts were the best danced part of the numbers…and even part of that was clunky.

Nigel echoed my sentiments about the shorts (stop trying to make excuses, ladies—those things were HORRIBLE) and thought they needed to latch on to the feel of the number and step out of their technical boxes—though he did give proper credit to Brooklyn’s efforts. (I’ve agreed with Nigel twice within 10 seconds…either he’s getting to be a bigger softie or I’m becoming a bigger hardass.  Neither prospect is comforting.) Misty thought this number was the most confident she’d seen Brooklyn and while she did love Casey’s work, this week belonged to Brooklyn.  Mary also noticed Brooklyn’s rise and split the middle, saying that the first half should have been lower and (her favorite term) in the pocket, but the second half picked up steam and grooved.  

Mini groups tonight!

First up is Sonya Tayeh and the Village of Broken People—Brooklyn, Casey, Emily, Emilio, Tanisha, Serge, Valerie and Zach take on this dark contemporary that forces the dancers to unearth their vulnerabilities and lay them out for display.

Gorgeously ugly, in Cat’s words.  It was a fairly cohesive number, and the group did an excellent job of staying unified within the framework of all of that chaotic movement.  If I could call it anything it would be the photo negative of Season 2’s Hide and Seek.  Impressive, and it bears noting that of this group only 2 of the 8 claim contemporary as their signature style.  

Misty recognized the cohesiveness of the theme and singled out Tanisha’s efforts.  I do have to admit that she really did hold strong with that featured section, doing a style so unconstructed and unfamiliar quite dazzlingly.  Mary thought that Sonya created a brilliant work and that the dancers were brilliant in it.  Nigel was so taken with the number and the performance that he wanted to be a part of it.  To enjoy something that generally would not appeal to you is pretty high praise.  

Travis Wall takes on the second group–consisting of Bridget, Marcquet, Carly, Rudy, Jacque, Ricky, Jessica and Teddy–turning them into a group of outlaws trying to escape the city. (Maybe I should have gone to New York and watched The Warriors with Lin-Manuel Miranda…..)  

I’m sorry—did Travis Wall just out-Sonya Tayeh Sonya Tayeh?  If these two pieces had been presented pre-package free I would totally have gotten the choreographers reversed.  I’m not used to seeing this kind of aggression in Travis’s work, and unless I blinked and missed it he’s never danced any of Sonya’s choreography—at least not on the show. Body parts were flying EVERYWHERE, just as promised.  Outside of Rudy, Teddy and one brunette girl I couldn’t pick out from under the ponytail and Alice Cooper eyeliner, I could have used a bit more mayhem…Marcquet disappeared in this and it’s not a good week for that to happen.  

Nigel is tooting horns everywhere…as a quick personal aside, it has thrilled me to no end as a television professional to see Nikki Parsons’s name in the opening credits as director for several years, so I’m going to really have to study this piece again and leave my artistic eye at the door.  All around for direction, choreography and performance Nigel couldn’t use the word “outstanding” enough.  And yes, Nigel, if WE don’t win an Emmy this year, somebody got paid off. (I’ve been invested in this show since Day 1—it’s my damn Emmy too.)  Misty’s word was incredible, and once again while congratulating everyone she gives high praise to Ricky.  I love the dude but I think Teddy and Rudy carried most of the male weight in that one. (PAUSE. I swear ‘fore GAWD I’mma coming after kneecaps with a crowbar if y’all don’t 86 that damn “happy dance”! And….NOOOOOOOO! Not Misty too! I give up. UNPAUSE.) Mary’s excited because she’s yelling—not just yelling, but legit screaming.  Fabulous is Mary’s term of the night, and I’m going to chalk it up to her having much better seats than I do, because Marcquet certainly was NOT invisible to her.  Glad to see him finally getting some unqualified praise.

Seriously, how do y’all cut people after all of that?  I really hope y’all skip it this week and do a double elimination next week.  I know that’s more complicated for y’all but seriously, there are 16 asses lying on that stage that got danced off tonight.  

Have NO clue who this Lucy Hale person is, but the people seem to like her…even though I know it had to be prerecorded.  I know some good grips, gaffers and scene movers, but there’s no way….  

*sigh* If they insist on going through with this, then strictly based on the couples’ routines I fear that Marcquet and Brooklyn are dancing out of the competition the same way they came in—together.  Tanisha pulled herself out of the fire with the hip-hop and into the stratosphere with the group contemporary; Bridget’s duet with Emilio can’t possibly sent her home unless the entire panel is smoking crack; and Serge’s growth and passion is palpable and undeniable.  Zach leaving is a possibility but it’s a tough call.  

Wait, what?  You’re already doing a quad elimination next week? Curses.  No, serious ear-blistering curses.  There go my hopes….and I’m really tired of being right.  The level of NOT HAPPY I am right now is UNBELIEVABLE.  

Remaining weak links (based on the couples’ performances from tonight) include Valerie, Jacque, Zach, and Emily.  Bridget and Serge may still be in danger since America wasn’t feeling too “happy” about them in the votes, and as Jessica is now on her fifth partner in Casey, I’m not sure if it spells trouble for him because of past history or for her for yet another partner change…although that may be the very thing to secure her a place in the Top 10….

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