22 Sep 2014 Leave a comment
22 Sep 2014 Leave a comment
15 Sep 2014 Leave a comment
10 Sep 2014 Leave a comment
It’s the finale of Season 11 and the results are in!
As has been standard over the past few seasons, several dances from the season are revisited based on judges’ choices, finalists’ faves and a fan pick based on social media vote…with all of the choices being likely fodder for the upcoming concert tour.
Tonight’s judging panel, along with stalwarts Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, include early judges Tara Lipinski and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and in their first panel appearances this season, legends Adam Shankman and Debbie Allen.
Mary Murphy is up first and picks Casey and Jessica’s Week 5 breakout contemporary, Travis Wall’s “Like Real People Do.” It lost some of the first time organics but it’s still a good piece, and they naturally nailed it technically, as usual. They’ll get it hammered out for the Tour….Debbie Allen makes her first appearance this season and picks Valerie and Ricky’s hip-hop duo courtesy of Pharside and Phoenix. The minute I heard “Turn Down For What” start I knew this was destined for heavy repetition. Considering it actually made me like the song, that’s a pretty good thing. Nigel’s choice was a nice little brag session, picking Rudy’s duet with FORMER All-Star Allison Holker–now a cast member and the latest SYTYCD alum on Dancing With The Stars–in the Ray Leeper “Dirty Diana” jazz from Michael Jackson Week. Nice cross plugs, Nigel…but how you mentioned everybody BUT Chelsie Hightower in that list is unfathomable. For shame! Jenna loves her some Rudy as well, as her selection is the Sonya Tayeh jazz piece “What You Need” performed with Tanisha in Top 20 week 2. That was a good piece and an excellent showcase for Tanisha’s abilities. Adam Shankman, also in the studio for the first time this season, gives the best intro EVER: “I want to let those two kings know that THIS queen is a fan!” Naturally, he’s referring to the fresh from last week Pharside and Phoenix hip-hop number “The Antidote,” given to Zack and Ricky, and I have to say those boys were just as filthy (Adam’s words) this week as they were last week. Tara brings back the Nappytabs hip-hop “Get Low,” performed by my boo Emilio Dosal and All-Star and Degree pitchwoman Jasmine Harper, which is lucky for them as you’ll see a few paragraphs down.
Blessedly, there was no official ranking this year, but we were still treated to memorable moments from the auditions. Most were expected–Courtney “How you doing?” Barnes, Jerrod “Hey Ms. Mary!” Swain and the 18 1/2 year old J4–but also included, and greatly appreciated, was Dani Platz, a young lady re-entering the dance world after a stint in recovery for an eating disorder. Her emotive expression of her experience through her dancing, and judge Christina Applegate’s recognition of her voice in that piece, was touching and inspiring, and I applaud the producers for including it.
The top four kids also get to pick their favorites:
Zack goes with his breakthrough contemporary, Sonya Tayeh’s “Europe After the Rain” with All-Star Amy Yakima; Valerie sticks to her roots and picks the “Sing” tap Anthony Morigerato created for her and fellow finalist Zach Everhart; Jessica reprised the “When I Go” contemporary from the previous week, choreographed by Stacey Tookey and performed with All-Star Robert Roldan; and Ricky went all the way back to the first performance show and pulled his “Vow” contemporary from Sonya Tayeh, that he performed with fellow finalist Jessica Richens.
The evening would not be complete with an over-the-top foray from Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who not only “attempts” some Travis Wall choreography onstage but whips out his own ticket to Vegas for next season…who’s gonna tell him they’re back in Pasadena now?
Since we’re back to a single champion, we get that dramatic drawn-out results reveal, and the 4th place contestant is announced–Zack Everhart. (Objectively, I have to finish this piece, but know that I call complete and total bullshit on America’s vote. At the very least I think he should have been Top 2 for the astronomical growth he’s had this year.)
The audience got to select from three hip-hop numbers in the course of the season: the snake piece from Emilio and All-Star Jasmine Harper (#SYTYCDgetlow), the skeleton piece from Serge and Carly (#SYTYCDskeleton), and the piece from Week 4 with Casey and Brooklyn (#SYTYCDhustle). In a move that once again proves I TOTALLY cannot read the America audience, the popular vote went to #SYTYCDskeleton, the piece “Senile” with Carly and Serge. Whaddayaknow, the audience can appreciate subtle skill after all. (However, I was partially correct in my surety that we’d be seeing “Get Low,” since as mentioned above it wound up being Tara Lipinski’s choice for an encore.)
Also on tap were the clear and overwhelming winners of the Crew contest–The Wanted Ashiqz. All four crews were great and had their own something special, but there was that extra edge from Wanted Ashiqz that gave me the feeling that they would wind up on the finale….and they did not disappoint. The hip-hop/Bollywood fusion group has an incredibly high production value with moves and precision to match.
Alright, it needs to be said–Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott, just get married already and have a SYTYCD baby! The Top 10 + 10 get blessed by the Miracle Duo’s latest concept piece, which is basically just people helping people and being kind whenever you can. I sure hope they can make this work with 13 people, because this not being on the Tour would be criminal.
Even Cat gets in a pick, and as it happens, it’s a duet from what is determined as the top two finalists–Ricky and Valerie reprising their very first partnership, the contemporary “Oh Darling” from Travis Wall. Which, of course, means that Jessica falls short of the title in 3rd place…and, like Zack before her, is eliminated immediately after her last performance of the night. Something tells me more people knew the results beforehand than have let on….
So it’s down to another couple, and America’s vote goes exactly where I thought it would (despite my hopes for a surprise win from a tap dancer): Ricky Ubeda. Honestly, I really have nothing against the kid other than it’s yet another contemporary dancer taking the title. But that’s not really fair to let my hang-ups and wishes color his victory. In truth, any of the four finalists possess a level of technique and passion that was worthy of a win. But you could definitely see something extra special in Ricky. On top of that absolutely insane level of technique embedded in his muscle memory, the high degree of passion displayed every time he stepped onto the stage essentially cemented America’s choice. Nigel called him a magician of dance very early on, and I have to admit that he’s right. The combination of skill and joy is entrancing, and what makes the experience even more profound is watching Ricky AFTER performing. The boy was literally spent and either near or in tears after every single performance–I honestly believe we as an audience felt a mere fraction of everything he put into his routines, which were often superhuman but looked as natural as breathing.
So Ricky is the latest So You Think dance ambassador, and he definitely earned it. As a former teacher myself–and as a big fan of Ricky’s teacher, Season 6 contestant Victor Smalley–there’s a certain feeling of pride and joy when you see one of your students excel at pursuing their dreams…and when those dreams just happen to be ones you yourself reached for and just missed, that extra vicarious thrill of victory has got to feel incredible. I imagine both of these Miami boys are over the moon right now, with no signs of coming down anytime soon.
UPDATE: I am ashamed to say that in my haste to publish on time I missed a few things. Enrique’s performance was lovely (and why is he doing the one name thing? SMH), but I was focused on the dancing. And I have to go watch again and fully appreciate the Les Twins performance. But it is absolutely shameful that I did not even mention Michael Demecki, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Australia….where do I even begin? That boy has moves Blake McGrath can only dream of….and I LOVE me some Blake McGrath. AND he danced to Cole and Lindsay’s paso song? Let’s just say it’s a good thing Ricky wasn’t competing there. Bravo, young man.
08 Sep 2014 Leave a comment
Emotional Intimacy | Jimmy and Karen Evans: http://youtu.be/pDi6-pxhqu0
03 Sep 2014 1 Comment
in Dance, Entertainment Tags: Aaron Turner, Anthony Morigerato, Christopher Jennings, dance, dancers, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jessica Richens, Kathryn McCormick, Krystal Meraz, Mary Murphy, Nakul Dev Mahajan, Nigel Lythgoe, Pharside, Phoenex, Ray Leeper, reality TV, Ricky Ubeda, Robert Roldan, Sean Cheesman, So You Think You Can Dance, Spencer Liff, Stacey Tookey, Travis Wall, TV, Tyce Diorio, Valerie Rockey, Zach Everhart
This is it–the last competitive performance show of the season! The top 4 dance in as many incarnations as can be thought of…group, duets, All-Stars and solos.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson makes his first appearance of the season on the judges’ panel, thus a guarantee that hilarity will ensue over the course of this evening….
Top 4 group
A piece essentially about equality, the four dance to “Wind Beneath My Wings” in a physical personification of their dance journeys to this point. I’m not sure what’s with this trend of the all white color scheme on the final four group number…probably just coincidence, but you know I notice stuff like that….
Along with pairing configurations, we also have every conceivable dance style in existence represented this evening…observe:
African Jazz–Sean Cheesman
“Survival of the Fittest”–the kids are racing to get to the finish.
They got the mechanics but not the organics; the athleticism was high level, though.
Nigel was breathless watching and thought stamina was high; Mary marveled about their athleticism and energy and called the number animalistic and uninhibited; Jesse was just thrilled to see them and thought they were already at at high level coming into the competition.
Two lovers at their secret rendezvous, complete with 1940s noir feel and a staircase as a prop.
Jessica had some Cyd Charisse vamp happening (Jessica Rabbit had to have SOME inspiration), and Zack is very engaging and personable with flashes of technical brilliance. I can’t quite figure out who he reminds me of–perhaps a bit of a Tommy Tune vibe because of his build, but there’s an extra something I can’t yet place.
Mary said it was sexy, sensational and stunning stair work, and gave kudos to Zack’s legs, too, stating they were just as noticeable and impressive as Jessica’s; Jesse thinks Zack and Jessica could hit the Broadway stage tomorrow with no problem; Nigel commended both of their growth, calling Zack gifted and Jessica a standout.
Viewers’ choice this year is between three average hip-hop numbers: the snake piece from Emilio and All-Star Jasmine Harper (#SYTYCDgetlow), the skeleton piece from Serge and Carly (#SYTYCDskeleton), and the piece from Week 4 with Casey and Brooklyn (#SYTYCDhustle). The Casey/Brooklyn piece is off my radar mainly because of that unfortunate costume choice, and that skeleton piece was underappreciated, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jazzy and my boo take the stage tonight.
Yes darlings, you read that right–the two tappers left standing are paired in a contemporary piece. This will be the defining, game-changing number of the evening, having them dance against type and dig deep into their emotional wellsprings. Tyce has them portraying lovers overcoming an obstacle…the obstacle being the woman’s blindness and physical limitations.
The choreography itself is nothing above ordinary; what transforms it is the characterization these two moving actors bring to it.
And Cat says the same….
Jesse: commended Valerie on her characterization and ability to connect with Zack while keeping her “handicap” in place; Nigel called it a remarkable blend of artistry and tough subject matter; Mary proclaimed that it’s no longer a surprise why they’re top 4, and found the honesty of their portrayals moving.
No concept, just a push for excellence. The best they have to offer.
Great work from them. Technically solid.
Nigel: Loves the two as a couple since the first Top 20 show, perfect fit; Mary: clean, concise, full of power; Jesse: adorable little sprockets and topped even his own fanboy levels to take a selfie with the kids from his seat.
Jason Mraz music break….I’m not NOT a fan, but I wanna see the kids dance.
Bollywood–Nakul Dev Mahajan
“Bollywood Divas”…Feminine/classical mix–could this be the girls’ take on Robert and Billy’s routine from Season 7?
No…not as much palpable energy from the girls. But it was fun, clean and well executed.
Mary hailed them as stunning Bollywood divas and thought they did an amazing job; Jesse was impressed with the expressive joy and athleticism; Nigel stated that Bollywood was a fusion of all dancing and it makes him smile….so I’m going to assume he liked it. ;-)
Hip-Hop–Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz
Season 3 had the two princes; Season 11 brings you the two kings in this piece called “Crowd Favorite.” (Or is that Crown? Either works for me.) The King of Diamonds and the King of Clubs duke it out.
Of the two Zack has a slight swag edge. However, Ricky ain’t no punk…..
Jesse jokingly dubbed them the personification of Nigel and Mary’s relationship, but called the pair spectacular; Nigel stated they were the “two least likely urban, swagtastic dancing dudes ever on the show”; Mary said they were amazing with a side of scream, and that it was totally unexpected.
And now that the kids have been properly shuffled amongst each other, time for their All-Star pieces in their own style (more or less) and their final defining solos.
Valerie (with All-Star Aaron Turner)
Absolutely no reason not to take advantage of the show’s highest ranking tapper when there are two in the final four this year, right? Aaron returns and in his pairing with Valerie gets involved in yet another tumultuous relationship. The choreography is precise and exacting (Anthony’s words) so the two have to be clean and stylish.
This was some insane syncopation accompanying Sammy Davis Jr.’s vocals, particularly in the scat section. Heels would have been nice for the look since we kind of had that 1940s glam happening, but I know those are more difficult shoes to navigate with this kind of fast footwork. And Valerie’s trademark red shoes were really cute, so I’ll take it. Marvelous job.
Nigel thought the piece was so full of love; Mary dubbed them “perfect partners”; Jesse likened Valerie to being the “Michael Jordan” of the show, a nod to her excellence in outside style but being total magic in her own most comfortable one. I got it, Jesse…it only seemed like you were rambling aimlessly.
Ricky’s first up for retrospective and solo duty…his passion was on display for sure, but the technique is so embedded in this boy’s muscle memory that the two are indistinguishable at this point. Dance is the reason that Ricky Ubeda exists.
He has a quick change over the commercial break to go right into his All-Star duet.
Ricky (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Ricky is at rock bottom, with Kathryn acting as his angel on Earth–the force to lift him from his troubles and worries into a lighter, happier being.
So much joy expressed in movement….and Ricky’s sobbing again. I mean really–you hear people use the phrase “dance is in my DNA” but you can only have an abstract grasp on that concept until you watch Ricky. He is a literal personification of that.
Mary thought it was spectacular and breathtaking; Jesse had no other commentary outside calling it a brilliant performance and delivering a blushworthy takeoff on Toni Basil’s “Mickey” (or Weird Al’s “Ricky,” since the name fit); Nigel said Ricky is the perfect ambassador for the show.
Valerie is next, and it’s very telling that the song used for her retrospective package is titled “Unbreakable”….well dammit, if you’re gonna go out with a bang and there’s an upbeat, tappable song out there with your name literally on it, you might as well go for it, right? Using your music and your feet to remind the people what your name is–go ‘head, girl!
Zack (with All-Star Aaron Turner)
Boys’ duet, with Aaron as the bartender and Zack as the weary patron coming in to tip a glass and spill all his troubles. I did not notice that Zack and Aaron had crossed paths before back in Season 9’s auditions. Both were cut back then…and look at them now. Awesome.
Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is the tune of choice for this piece, and a more appropriate song you cannot find.
OK, I’m not even gonna review this. I’m just gonna post the screenshot of the Facebook message I left on Anthony’s wall immediately after I watched them.
Cat actually used the words spiritual and divine, and the judges gave a well-deserved standing ovation.
Jesse sat marveling at Zack’s growth, brilliance and malleability; Nigel attempted to pull a Christina Applegate and told Anthony, SHUT UP! (It’s actually “Shut your face!” Nigel but don’t worry, I said it for you); Mary saw passion from the guys from the beginning, and simply loved it.
Jessica’s solo turn brings it back to the beginning–a revisit to the audition piece that got her the ticket in the first place. It might be a man’s world in the song, but Jessica is putting y’all on notice with the rest of that lyric: “….wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.”
Jessica also has a quick change moment to prep for her duo.
Jessica (with All-Star Robert Roldan)
I guess they said jazz and contemporary were close enough (unless Jessica pulled a Jasmine Harper and actually REQUESTED contemporary)….
According to Travis, the piece essentially asks this one question: “Will he miss me if I leave?” Jessica is trying as best she can to stop playing it safe with her dancing and just let loose and get involved in the character of the piece.
Jessica has gotten stronger as a moving actor; her technique was always good but she’s letting that take more of a backseat to her emotional projection.
Nigel was just as impressed with her acting improvement as well as dance ability, and dubbed her his favorite girl this season (“I love you to bits”); Mary got choked up, but used spontaneous combustion and electrifying to describe her experience of the piece; Jesse named it his favorite of the night, and hailed Travis Wall as an “unending well of creativity.”
Zack closes out the night with the evening’s final solo. This dude is too cool for school….smooth style, ridiculous rhythms and an out-of-the-box song choice. I’m rooting for you, kiddo….
And that puts a wrap on Season 11–it’s all over but the voting results. It’s clearly no secret that of the remaining four, I’m putting all my chips on Zack. Which is not to say that any of the other three finalists are any less talented, because each one of them is stellar in their technique and specialty styles as well as being able to adapt brilliantly to all of the other styles. But after 11 seasons and 211 contestants, there have only been 8 classified tap dancers on the show, and only 3 of those have gotten to the final four. All of the other dance styles are represented somehow, and it would be nice to see either Zack or Valerie take the title. But I’m thinking of the total packages–both the prize package and what each contestant brings to the table–and with a show like On The Town, Zack has the most comprehensive skill set combined with the biggest exponential growth to flourish in that featured role. Plus, I like an underdog.
We’ll get the skinny soon enough…..