In Conversation with So You Think You Can Dance Bollywood Choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan

courtesy Bollyspice.com

I LOVE Nakul Dev Mahajan! While I’m sure he’s not the only Bollywood choreographer out there, the work he’s done on So You Think You Can Dance over the years has been amazing, and a very good cultural education to mainstream America. Check out this interview with him on Bollyspice.com:

In Conversation with So You Think You Can Dance Bollywood Choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan

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SYTYCD Top 20, Week 2–The Eliminations Begin

courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Production

For this week’s show I typed my commentary as I watched, so with only a few minor edits, these are my actual, in-the-moment comments on the show.

Top 20 – Character (Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo)
It looked like a Mia Michaels piece, to tell you the truth—I don’t know if Nappytabs had assistance or if they’re branching out into contemporary, but I liked it. Showcasing Cyrus was pretty much a given considering the theme and the music—at this stage he’s much less trained than Twitch was on entering this competition, but as noticed and mentioned by many, he is the consummate student, and the opportunity of this show is going to do wonders for his career future.

Guest judge: Adam Shankman, who just happens to be the producer of “Step Up Revolution,” opening in theaters the following week.

Lindsay/Cole – Hip-Hop (Christopher Scott)
She’d have been hotter in a black skintight catsuit, and Cole as nerd scares me. Nigel commented on Lindsay playing to the audience rather to the vampish character; Mary agreed and so do I. She looks a lot like Lo-Fro (Lauren Frodeman, Season 7’s champion), and if SHE could pull it off Lindsay has a great chance if she works at it. Cole has a future in entertainment even if he never dances again.

Amelia/Will – Contemporary (Sonya Tayeh)
Wow. Will is really good at contemporary. I no longer question his presence. Amelia was her usual engaging quirky, but definitely at home in her own style. Adam commented on not noticing the size difference between the pair—I have to agree with that, too. See all that bending and melding you did, Will? That there is what Nigel was talking about. More of that, please.

Amber/Nick – Tango (Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo)
Amber looks mean and Nick’s coat is not only too big, but wholly unnecessary. He does look a lot sexier tonight but they’re still hesitant with each other. Should have been a little more push and pull between the two of them. Nigel and Mary were quite impressed with Amber, though. (On a second look, some of her solo performance persona in that was really well done.) Nick is an excellent partner, no doubt—the problem is that in THIS competition, stars win.

Audrey/Matthew – Jazz (Sonya Tayeh)
Girlie’s got dance skills, but I’m just not believing the whole tough, strong woman bit from her. FYI—if you want somebody that little and innocent looking to be a warrior, the French braid ponytail is NOT the way to go. Matthew’s really good. Almost reminded me of Baryshnikov for a hot second…although I still need some more power out of him. Maybe Daniel can give him some pointers….

Janelle/Dareian – Lyrical Hip-Hop (Christopher Scott)
Awwwww……that was cute. And they’re both really good at it. Got lukewarm reception from the judges, and they may have something there. Dareian did have a performance edge over Janelle—he was definitely living the piece, while she was simply dancing it.

Janaya/Brandon – Broadway (Sean Cheesman)
Eh. Well danced, I’ll give them that. I really liked that last lift. Janaya was definitely in character. But I’mma need Cat Deeley to NEVER utter the words “cray-cray” AGAIN. Well received by the judges.

Eliana/Cyrus – Jive (Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith)
Valiant effort by Cyrus, but this one was ALL Eliana. He was telegraphing too many transitions, his feet were horrible but he held the swag in the poses—and he did get the speed in some of those unison moves. I also have to commend him on the lifts. But this was Eliana’s spotlight tonight! I daresay she about matched up to Melanie’s competitive days with Tony on the ballroom floor.

Alexa/Daniel – Contemporary (Dee Caspary)
Damn. Veddy interestink……don’t really get the bathtub part of the story but OK. The judges connected with the technical but not the emotional/audience connection. I have to agree. Alexa ought to be tired of hearing this by now. (Although now that I get that she was supposed to be water, I’ll cut her a small break. Personifying water would be difficult for emotive experts.)

Tiffany/George – Foxtrot (Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith)
I could so see George at the Cotton Club. His ballroom form wasn’t perfect but it was very good for just learning it. Almost makes you want to give him the last name Nicholas. (Dance history, kiddies—look it up.) Tiffany has finally impressed me, though. In-freakin’-credible indeed, Adam.

Witney/Chehon – Bollywood (Nakul Dev Mahajan)
WHAT. THE. BLEEP?!? This Latin ballroom dancer and contemporary ballet dancer just did the HELL out of Bollywood. That was awesome—on par with Season 4’s Katee and Joshua (Dhoom Taana) and Season 5’s Caitlin and Jason (Jai Ho). I think some of Chehon’s energy flagged at the end of that, but Nakul’s pieces are never cute as far as the fast pace goes, so that’s not only understandable but forgivable.

Now for the elimination section:

Janaya
Alexa
Witney (saved)
Nick
Daniel
Chehon (saved)

courtesy 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

I pretty much called the first four but can’t understand the lack of fan votes for Witney and Chehon. Even considering that the votes were based on the so-so samba, there were numbers from that previous week’s show that were not nearly as strong as that one. The judges did not need to see a “dance for your life”—I don’t appreciate that or them padding the extra time with a full-on “Step Up Revolution” promo blitz. I don’t care if a bunch of my favorite alums were in the number; those kids should have had that opportunity.

Of the four, I’m sorriest to see Daniel go—he had great potential and I liked his performance energy. It was just too much for America to keep two male ballet dancers in the running. Janaya fell victim to that invisibility factor I mentioned in the first blog, and Alexa and Nick just never fully ignited between technique and performance. I am surprised to see the split between the Janaya/Brandon and Amber/Nick partnerships. We’ll see what comes of the new Amber/Brandon partnership in the next episode.

Next week’s projected Bottom 6 (trying to do this while blocking out the tvline.com review spoilers):

Janelle
Dareian
Lindsay
Matthew
Audrey
Brandon or Cyrus (though I really believe Cyrus’s fan base is going to drag him up to the Top 10)

Based on last week’s votes, I fear Witney and Chehon will be in the bottom again…but hopefully that kick-ass Bollywood performance will keep them safe.

I know we’re going to be subjected to more stunt promotion given that it’s Step Up Revolution opening weekend AND National Dance Day weekend, but with any luck that will die off a little as the weeks go on. I will go on record as saying the choreography was much better this week. Let’s hope the content keeps getting better.

Late Night Thoughts on the Eaton Center Shooting

Thought I would share this in my own blog. This young lady is one of the 12 people who lost their lives in the Aurora, CO shooting. Almost on a “Final Destination” level….I pray peace and comfort to her friends and family.

A Run On of Thoughts

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.

What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life. I was on a mission to eat sushi that day, and when I’m on a mission, nothing will deter me. When I arrived at the Eaton Center mall, I walked down to the food court and spotted a sushi restaurant. Instead of walking in, sitting…

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SYTYCD Season 9, Week 1–Coming Out of the Gate

photo courtesy 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

We go into Week 2 tonight as the new results show-less competition moves forward. Tonight is the second week of competition with the ominous spectre of America’s vote looming–and will result in 4 dancers (2 guys and 2 girls) leaving at the end of this evening. I’m assuming the “dance for your life” portion of the show is still being employed, though it was dropped during Season 6 when there were fewer episodes to air. Overall, the dancers are doing a great job performing, but some of the choreographers are a little less than inspired this year. They are adding so many abstract concepts and themes in the numbers that I don’t think are necessarily translating well to the audience–which in turn may detract votes from the contestants due to a lack of connection with the number. Here’s my look at last week’s show:

Witney/Chehon –Samba (Louis van Amstel)
Good effort: Witney, of course, thrived in her own style, and Chehon gave a very good effort. He got good hip and upper body action going considering his rigid ballet training, but you could visibly see him trying. Mary mentioned something about his feet (which I didn’t see but as the ballroom expert I’ll take her word for it), so he has some definite work ahead molding himself to the outside styles. But he’s cute and engaging so he should be fine this week.

Tiffany/George – Contemporary (Sonya Tayeh)
Another lucky pair to land smack their own style. While I didn’t get as much of the intense energy from George I got in the first performance show, he and Tiffany did execute the choreography and the softer tone of Sonya’s vision extremely well. I think America liked them well enough to save them.

Janaya/Brandon – Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo)
Message hip-hop is always tricky. Overall I think Janaya and Brandon did exactly what they were taught and did well for their individual abilities. But the emotion wasn’t as believable as it should have been. They guys may be in trouble tonight.

Alexa/Daniel – Jazz (Sean Cheesman)
Possible targets tonight–perfect example of great performance of mediocre and confusing choreography. The difficulty level was obvious and appreciated, but whatever theme or story was supposed to conveyed did not come across…through no fault of the dancers, who worked their butts off. While I’m not overly crazy about Alexa, I hope she doesn’t shake out because of this number.

Amber/Nick – Viennese Waltz (Jason Gilkison)
The dance was very dreamy, although I wasn’t fond of the color combo they put Amber in. Maybe if the shoes had matched the dress? (I know, picky. But ballroom is just as aesthetically appealing visually through the costuming as through the choreography.) Amber, like Chehon, also had foot troubles outside of her style but coped extremely well. I still need more energy out of Nick, though. His choreographer even said that he needed to push harder in his given style. Possible bottom 6 candidates only because the number was good but not in-your-face memorable, and their fan bases (or potential lacks thereof).

Amelia/Will – Hip-Hop “Character Pop” (Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo)
This was too stinkin’ cute! Amelia was very minxish in her “bad kitty” role, and Will did a remarkable job of playing smitten. The choreography moved with ease and you could almost hear Amelia purr. This might have been my third favorite couples number. I hope Will’s fan base doesn’t let him down–depending on the numbers, he could be in danger despite such a good performance.

Janelle/Dareian – African Jazz (Sean Cheesman)
This pair did a remarkable job with this number, though the intensity of performance we saw from Janelle at the beginning of Vegas week was sadly missing. I have to admit she has set a high standard of performance that she hasn’t yet matched on the show. Of course, she HAS only performed ON the show once due to some unfortunate injuries, so I’m hoping America gives her a second shake. Dareian is great. Nigel praised his turns in the opening Christopher Scott number–which I DID notice and is one of the singular snapshots of that number for me. And his turn in this African jazz was well executed, too. We should be seeing him for another week.

Eliana/Cyrus – Broadway (Tyce Diorio)
One of two standouts of the night–Cyrus really did steal the show, though Eliana was a perfect complement. When Kenny Ortega said he could see that performance being on a Broadway stage I did a mental fist pump. I saw Seaweed, not Cyrus, in that Hairspray-inspired number, and while Eliana didn’t draw major focus, she kept up the energy and the feel. These two are staying for another week–run and tell that!

Audrey/Matthew – Contemporary (Travis Wall)
That darn Travis–what a sentimental mush. The last lucky lotto draws, Audry and Matthew performs their given style with great abandon and exquisite skill. Granted, it wasn’t Melanie and Neil “Total Eclipse of the Heart” intense, but that Audrey’s got no fear. Very believable–I think they’re safe.

Lindsay/Cole – Paso Doble (Jason Gilkison)
The second of the two standouts of this show, and an electrifying way to close the show. Lindsay being amazing was expected; COLE being amazing was astounding. I guess the fighting nature of the dance lent itself well to Cole’s martial arts foundation, but the intense energy could’ve powered half of Broadway. Nigel said he thought Cole was the best boy performer of the paso doble EVER. High praise…though I could recall several quite excellent performances over the nine seasons (Heidi/Travis, Sabra/Neil, Joshua/Katee, Jeanine/Brandon). But if we qualify that statement by noting that this was Cole’s first competitive performance in a style that wasn’t his own, then I can fully agree. If either of these two wind up on the bottom there will be a vote recount, because the phone will HAVE to have been broken for America not to respond to THAT.

This season still hasn’t matched the excitement level of last season, but the dancers are really talented. I’m anxious to see what happens next. Tune in tonight!

SYTYCD Season 9: Handicapping the contestants

courtesy 19 Entertainment/Dick Clark Productions

I figure Nigel and the “professional” dance critics are going to rip these kids up enough, so I will do my best to not be a jerk in my observations. But after watching them in the Vegas and Top 20 shows, here are my predictions as to who might take home the titles.

Alexa Anderson
19, from Chandler, AZ
Contemporary

Overhyped in my opinion. She may well have the talent and tenacity to go all the way to the end, but I need to see more. Her rough journey through this year’s Vegas week doesn’t help with my perceptions, either. Ryan edged her out last season, and I’m seeing why they paired them for the final selection–they’re about the same brand of OK. We’ll see what lighting the competition fire under her feet does, though….

Amber Jackson
21, from Atlanta, GA
Contemporary

Third time’s the charm (and blond hair is clearly the talisman). Solid performer, reminiscent of Season 2’s Martha. Every girl dancer of color is going to pin their hopes on her to make it to the top–I hope she does at least make the tour.

Amelia Lowe
18, from Butler, NJ
Contemporary

Cute, quirky and capable. That will only carry her so far with the judges. I hope she’s working on her non-contemporary repertoire. I do like her, though.

Audrey Case
18, from Edmund, OK
Jazz

Janaya French
20, from Aurora, CO
Lyrical Contemporary


Tiffany Maher

19, from Plantation, FL
Jazz

One of the “Invisible Three.” Not any disparagement on their talents, but of the 20 dancers, they are the three most likely to blend into a group number interchangeably. Not distinctive enough yet to say who is who. The only reason I could find Janaya was because she was in the contemporary number with Amelia—Audrey and Tiffany looked like twins. I did give a lot of leeway to first-time nerves and consciously re-watched the performance, focusing on each girl individually…and to be fair, I did detect a slight technical edge in one and a slight performance edge in the other. Problem is, I couldn’t tell you which girl displayed which skill. How they blossom remains to be seen….


Brandon Mitchell

27, from Kansas City, KS
Stepping

The Top 20 “old-head,” the last upper age contestants to get close to the top were Melissa (Top 6, Season 5) and Ashley and Ryan Di Lello (Top 6, Season 6). Adapted pretty well to Cole and Cyrus’s styles in the Christopher Scott group number, but the rest—particularly posture-heavy stuff like ballroom—remains to be seen. He looks determined, though. Sentimental favorite, being an “old fart” dancer myself (and way past the show’s age limit).

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp
23, from Zurich, Switzerland
Ballet

Clearly hungry to expand outside of his own genre. Didn’t explode in Vegas until the end, but he and Daniel Baker (more on him later) are putting the viewing public on notice: don’t sleep on the ballet dancers.

Cory Horibe
26, from Honolulu, HI
Martial Arts Fusion

His nimble and agile movement looks like it will translate well to contemporary, and the discipline practiced from his martial arts may help with the more formal styles. We shall see.


Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer

22, from Atlanta, GA
Animation, Popping and Robotics

Personal favorite, though I really don’t think America is going to vote him to the top. But two things may affect that—1) His hunger to learn. Even Lil C noted that as a master in his own style, he still embraced every round with new eagerness and determination. The best quote I’ve ever heard from this show came from Cyrus: “Apparently there’s a whole other level of hard I ain’t working, and I need to get there.” And number 2? I said the exact same thing about Russell in Season 6.

Daniel Baker
24, from Newcastle, Australia
Ballet

Consistent performance throughout Vegas week and, like Chehon, is itching to expand beyond his ballet horizons. I want to see where he takes that.

Dareian Kujawa
20, from St. Paul, MN
Contemporary

He had GOT to work on those feet–something I can definitely relate to, but I’m not the one competing. If he can get past that, dedication to the new styles should be a snap.

Eliana Girard
21, from West Palm Beach, FL
Ballet (Contemporary Ballet)

The girl IS. A. BEAST. She is an aerial artist. She studied with Joffrey and Ailey. She can do ballet and contemporary flawlessly. And she transfixes me like Melanie and Joshua did. My money’s on her to take Top Girl.

George Lawrence II
19, from Atlanta, GA
Contemporary

I’m looking for him to be at least in the Top 3. One of the better technically polished dancers on the show—and he performs SO BIG for such a small guy. My favorite for Top Guy, but we’ll see what the fans say and what the season throws at him.

Janelle Issis
24, from Vestavia Hills, AL
Bellydancing

Dancers of unusual styles have to have that extra special something to get on—and succeed at this show. Melissa was the first ballerina to crack Top 10 (Jessica Fernandez of Season 2 was the first Top 20 ballerina but didn’t make Top 10, though fellow contestant Ryan Rankine (who was more contemporary, IMO) did make Top 8), Russell was the first (and as yet only) krumper on the show, and Bianca, Phillip and Peter cracked the tap barrier in Season 6 for the first time since Season 1’s Sandra Colton. And though we’ve seen many a belly dancer in the audition shows, NONE made it to Vegas before Miss Janelle Issis. I took belly dancing for three months—that is NO easy skill. And she adds scarves and flags flawlessly without missing a beat—everything just flows. Her performance aura reminds me of Season 5’s Janette, so I’m thinking if she’s got a similar vibe, taking to newer styles should be a breeze. Even if she has to work at the choreography, the performance level is going to be off the charts. Don’t dismiss her because she doesn’t have a traditional specialty. You know that acronym GRITS (Girls Raised In The South)? That’s not just a name label—we HAVE grit, too.

Matthew Kazmierczak
21, from Peoria, AZ
Contemporary

Tall cutie-pie with good technique. But the last tall Matt didn’t fare too well. Gotta see him in competition.

Will Thomas
19, from Troy, MI
Contemporary

Like Matthew from Season 5, Will is tall. But Will is also big. He does move well, but I agree with Nigel’s assessment that he needs to get down lower to match his vertically challenged fellow contestants. He simply has to do more to be outstanding. Not at all fair to the non-typical body type, but it is what it is. What Will does with that critique will make the difference between Top 20 and Top 10.

Lindsay Arnold
18, from Provo, UT
Latin Ballroom

Nick Bloxsom-Carter
20, from Oak Park, CA
Ballroom

Witney Carson
18, from American Park, UT
Latin Ballroom

The “Meet the Top 20” ballroom did not impress me at all. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the girls swallowed Nick up whole. A ballroom trio is hard to properly execute with the right balance of technical skill and sizzling charisma, and these kids unfortunately had the shadow of the Season 5 number to overcome. (You KNOW it’s a bitchin’ performance when you pause your TV to take a phone pic of the final pose for your wallpaper. They were THAT good.) I see their individual strengths, though, after watching their bio vids. Witney’s got some fire that come could out and surprise; I have to assume it’s there in Lindsey and Nick. Nick reminds me of a dancing Clay Aiken (who until Celebrity Apprentice seemed a little under-assertive to me). So far, my initial impressions of Clay’s persona are what I’m seeing in Nick. Ballroom boy or not, I just can’t get that mental picture of him as a paso doble toreador. He may surprise me, though. As may Lindsey—she got some really good lines and a little other dance experience in her back pocket. Who knows–we may well have another Chelsie Hightower on our hands.

50 Geeky Things Kids Should Do Before They’re 12 | GeekMom | Wired.com

I’m trying to think of how many of these I did as a kid…of course, some stuff didn’t exist when I was a kid, either. Still a cool list….

50 Geeky Things Kids Should Do Before They're 12 | GeekMom | Wired.com.

Planking, move over……

….I think we have a new fad coming.

(This post may well be Girl on the Contrary or Speaker7 worthy….I aspire to greatness.)

It all started when my friend Theresa posted this Facebook status:

Now, being in a cupcake mood at that moment, I could relate, and immediately started drooling and dreaming of all of my area cupcake haunts and how much I DID NOT NEED a cupcake. But just under her status is a comment from her son Nicholas. Now, he’s a good kid, so I know the comment was in jest, but it’s all the more funny because of the following factors: a) Theresa is a teacher and also coaches Nicholas in acting and voice (hence, diction and proper grammar are familiar subjects); b) Theresa and Nicholas maintain the mother-son hierarchy while at the same time enjoy an incredibly humorous back-and-forth; c) Nicholas, for all his good qualities, is a smartypants teenager. Nicholas’s response, and Theresa’s reply:

Now I’m really amused, but I figure it’s my turn to jump in, if only to school young Master Nicholas about arguing with a woman about dessert:

Then, completely out of left field, Theresa’s friend Sarah comes up with a response that I hadn’t even considered…which got me to thinking, and not in a good way:

I mean, can you imagine? Yet another “performance art” type stunt where people pose in crazy positions in crazy locations? Mind-boggling. But still funny.

As I’m posting, I made an uncanny observation about Facebook’s monitoring my conversational bent…

…ummmmm, a little TOO Big Brother for me. At this point, Sarah comes back with an even more frightening suggestion:

I had to shudder. There are enough online examples of DWI (Dressing Without Instructions) without people purposely wearing too-small shirts to expose that nasty, flabby piece of skin and fat hanging over their waistbands. Now I have no problem with a healthy, non-model thin body or a little bit of a pouch—but I do believe in dressing appropriately for your body. I know MY belly is not coming out from under a midriff until I am comfortable that I am not offending the general public. The least the general public can do is afford me the same courtesy.

The mere fact that Theresa’s one short declaration inspired such a hilarious and ridiculous thread tickled me to the point that I had to share with the rest of the world.

Of course, Facebook had to have the last say on our conversation….

*sigh* Now I wanna cupcake……

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