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!

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