SYTYCD Top 14, Week 5—Going For the Gold

Well, we’re back from the Olympic break and it’s Mia Michaels Night. And now I know why….

Guest judges: Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, the “Ballet Boys.” Also known as Mia’s co-conspirators on the Ovation channel show A Chance To Dance. This new reality competition had them forming a company from the contestants—who “coincidentally” performed at the Dizzy Feet gala on National Dance Weekend.

I do dig that I have the opportunity to recognize the pieces before they are recreated and predict what the new spins will do to them. Plus anyone who has watched the original incarnations of these Mia numbers at least knows the general story behind the dance—a slight disadvantage to any new viewers but enough is put into the pre-package for them to get the gist. I got a semblance of a fresh look at all of these, since aside from the Gravity encore—and maybe Koop Island Blues?—in Season 5’s finale, all of the revisited dances were first performed on the old stage (which to some degree I still like better than the new arena, but the place is growing on me). Also cute that Cat channeled Mia’s “Angel” routine (Top 5 girls of Season 4) in her outfit, right down to the braided hair.

The running commentary as the show played out:

Top 14 group:
Hanging On: Really dark piece—yet another in Mia’s stable of love/rejection pieces. Aerial arts play in here (I’m sure to Miss Eliana’s delight, though the boys had the more complex maneuvers). As usual, a lot to take in at one time—a blend of grandeur and Gothic, like a Twilight book cover come to life.

Cyrus and Eliana:
Mercy! Big shoes to fill here following Twitch and Katee’s Season 4 performance. Cyrus stepped up but Eliana tanked herself from the beginning, talking herself out of her own brilliance. She was quite technically good—definitely not Katee, but I expected way more force in her energy. She pulled back in a lot of places where she should have been trying to take off Cyrus’s head. I got more “maneater” out of that ballet from the Meet The Top 20 show. The judges were impressed with her, though. Cyrus was pretty funny, and he got really lucky getting this piece that was closest to his wheelhouse. There is still a lack of fluidity in his movement that continues to limit his development, but he’s got charm and character down. The greatest thing about him being in this competition is the exposure to all of dance styles, experts and techniques to help him grow further and have greater career opportunities, and I’m glad he got the opportunity. Whether he takes the title or not, this in itself is the biggest win for him.

George and Tiffany:
Hometown Glory here (first performed by Joshua and Katee in Season 4)…I like their interpretation of this. And I have to say, my first real glimpse of the toughness everyone else is seeing in Tiffany. The double-contemporary background made the piece a bit controlled for me but there was a good bit of angst and tension in their performance. I would have liked a little more connection in their disconnection—less dancing in unison and more dancing “together,” if you can follow that. But still quite impressive.

Will and Amelia:
Koop Island Blues: Can you DO the butt dance without actually having a butt? This should prove interesting as the height dynamic is reversed this time (Will is, shall we say, significantly taller than Evan, and Amelia is not quite as thick as Randi). The quirk factor may help….and it did. Will is so doggone silly it works. Amelia didn’t have the aloof, unattached air needed for that character, and Nigel agreed. Her technique was really good, though. Mary thought Will overdid it—mayhaps there was a touch over-the-top where it seems cartoonish rather than hypnotic, but I think for Will that was the perfect personification. I almost expected his eyes to pop out of his head Bugs Bunny style with the “AH-OOOGA!” horn sounds in the background.

Dareian and Janelle:
Dreaming With A Broken Heart: the “bed” dance—recreating this “Twitchington” moment should be fascinating with a male contemporary dancer and a belly dancer as the female lead. Janelle did get through Vegas to the show, so she must have shown something in the contemporary arena.

Wowzers. Dareian had some great moments—and now they’re ragging on his feet again. Janelle pulled some good emotion this time (having some personal issues helped a little). The judges are cracking on her hair detracting from her performance, but I think that’s a bit unfair—her hair’s way longer than Kherrington’s (and less moussed to look like “bed head”) so of course her hair’s going to hide her face. Perhaps a well-placed rake of the hair might have helped for the judges, but I think she nailed the passion despite having very little choreography to sell. I will say that her performance felt less like she was a figment of Dareian’s imagination or nightmares and more like a manifested memory…like this was an actual fight or a very vivid recollection. (On re-watching and comparing to the original, it seems to me that the bed Twitch and Kherrington used was wider and at a slightly lower angle, putting Janelle and Dareian at a bit of a disadvantage with the spacing and the momentum needed to jump over the back of that bed. Not to mention Kherrington’s pajama shirt was more open and looser, giving her more material to virtually rend in frustration than was afforded to Janelle.)

Matthew and Audrey:
Time: Bold move pulling the flower dance back out. That’s a hard one to begin with, and the amazing performance Lacey and Neil put out is difficult to match. (If you’ve never had the privilege to see this in concert, it’s even more amazing). Two contemporary dancers performing tonight….

OK. *wipes tear* It did lose some of the organics but I liked the feel. As the judges noted, they did focus a lot on the choreography as opposed to creating a moment—this is NOT a piece you want to screw up, so I understand that from them. I think they put a good bit of whimsy into the piece, though. I don’t know how fair it was for Nigel to quiz them on the stage about the character background, especially since I KNOW not even the viewers were treated to that little tidbit the first time around. I’ve been watching since Day 1, and even I didn’t know Mia’s dad was a song and dance man. This should be a teachable moment for future contestants, though—quiz your choreographers about their motivations for the piece you’re dancing. It may help you connect better AND win you points with the judges if you ever get called out on it.

Chehon and Witney:
Calling You: The park bench routine—another ballroom girl, but a ballet dancer in the male role this time.

(Side note: dagger in my heart when Witney said she watched this when she was 12. Excuse me while I go and be OLD now….)

The only number to make me actually applaud. DEFINITELY not Travis and Heidi, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Chehon was extremely perfect in his technique, which with any luck we will continue to break him of…but he was really good overall. His characterization skills are really progressing. Witney didn’t seem to have as many walls to break down as Heidi did, and what I could focus on from her was a really good effort. The first version flowed like water, so it’s not on equal par. But then again, the Travis/Heidi redo for the 100th episode had a choppier flow to it as well, so it clearly comes down to the magic of that specific moment. I thought Chehon and Witney did a great job. Hearing the backstory on THIS one (unrequited love from a gay friend) gives Travis’s turn a whole new meaning, particularly after watching that first episode of All The Right Moves and finding out about his relationship with Season 3’s Jaimie. But I digress….

Cole and Lindsay:
Gravity: Well, if you were going to give the addiction dance to ANYBODY in this season, I’d have picked Cole. Having a ballroom girl in the contemporary role should prove interesting, especially following Witney, who I think is stronger than her anyway.

And if ONE MORE OF THESE CHILDREN comes on saying they watched this when they were 12……

What the *BLEEP* did I just watch?!? Cole was so empty, cold and emotionless…which is a complete 180 from the oily, snake oil salesman touch Kupono put on it. This shouldn’t have worked…whoa. It takes a whole lot of passion and commitment to read THAT passionless. It was nearly robotic—like Hok in Wade Robson’s Chairman piece robotic (the hummingbird and the flower from Season 3). I felt like I was being assimilated by the Borg. I really tried to watch Lindsay—what I did see was a lot more loosening than she’s done in the past. Plus I did see the emotional struggle in her face despite HER hair being in her face (but nobody noticed it that time, I suppose). But Cole was simply RIVETING. The first pass with Kayla and Kupono had you wrapped up in the addict’s struggle; this one has you absorbed in the addiction. I already knew Cole was getting to this tour—I think, barring any really out-there choreography choice in future weeks, I can be bold enough to put him in Top 4…with a VERY strong chance of winning. The girls are really lucky there will be two winners this year.

Now for the part I don’t want to know:

Bottom 6:
George (saved)
Amelia
Janelle
Dareian
Matthew
Lindsay (saved)

All got to dance their solos, which I believe was by design, as there were no performance guests for this episode. Wise move, especially at this critical stage in the competition.

I tell you—that stage was gonna burn DOWN if George hadn’t made the Top 10. I have not voted up to now mainly because I seldom watch in real time, but if George survived to Top 8 I’m on it next week (i.e., tonight). I think he deserves a better chance than he’s gotten.

So the Top 10 is set:
Eliana
Cyrus
Cole
Lindsay
Chehon
Witney
Tiffany
George
Audrey
Will

Predicted swings for the tour:
Amelia
though I think it would be a wasted opportunity to NOT pull a bellydancer onto the Tour stage
Matthew (just because of the feet)
truthfully, I’d like to see Dareian

If Nigel’s beeline post-show is any indication, I think I may be right. It is an amazing testament to the level of talent on tonight’s stage that ALL of the judges and Mia went onstage after the show to speak to all of the dancers. These kids will definitely be working SOMEWHERE in the foreseeable future. I’m not even trying to predict what’s showing up on the tour….

The fan swell for Audrey, Tiffany and Cx3 will probably guarantee that George and Will fight it out for the guys next week and Lindsay, Witney and Eliana duke it out for the last saved girl spots. I won’t even try to call it on performance level.

We split into new couples and get our All-Star partners next week, and the full vote shifts to America at this point. Stalwart All-Stars have been Allison Holker, Robert Roldan, Ade Obayomi, and the Laurens (Lo-Gott and Lo-Fro); who I would LOVE to see show up from last season is Sasha, Marko (with or without hair), Missy or Ricky. Truthfully, there are not many All-Stars I would mind seeing…can I cross everything on my body that Alex Wong has run out of tendons and body parts to snap or break?😀

P.S. Cole, darling…that was NOT your cue to injure your foot. I hope all goes well for you.

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