SYTYCD Season 10, Week 7: DANCE is a Battlefield

image courtesy of 19 Productions and Dick Clark Entertainment

image courtesy of 19 Productions and Dick Clark Entertainment

The Tour is set and the talent is fierce. Now it’s time to duke it out for the title.

Top 10 Group
Contemporary – Christopher Scott

Wow–the top 10 are candidates for the nursing home already….either that or Christopher Scott has got some interesting ideas about the kids’ futures.

Guest judge:
Debbie Allen, world-renowned dancer/choreographer/actress/director/singer/producer/living legend. It’s a little known fact that Debbie Allen is my adoptive mother. Well, OK, she doesn’t know about it either, but don’t say anything to her about it, alright?

Top 10 come out as soloists for the first time, and Tucker looks like he’s in tip-top shape. Hopefully his work tonight will keep him safe.

Bottom 4 this week:
Tucker
Makenzie
Nico
Jenna

I actually expected Jasmine over Jenna, but that hip-hop last week must have gone full-throttle past the paso doble. Nigel dismissed seeing the solos tonight based on the magnificence of the dancers thus far, and so on with the competition we go.

Amy (with All-Star Brandon Bryant)
Disco – Doriana Sanchez

OK, is Brandon the designated disco boy? I bet when he lied about his age in Season 1 he never expected to go from a contemporary dancer to a disco don….Doriana gives a nice shout-out to Whitney Houston on what would have been her 50th birthday week. Busy and energetic as usual, and the “Disco Location” (was that the attitude pot stirrers or that last drop lift?)?!? The usual glittery, death-defying cardio sprint Doriana is famous for creating. Amy reminded me of the number he did with Tiffany last year.

Mary, don’t make me shank you in your sleep behind Whitney Houston—you could put a Russian folk beat behind I Will Always Love You and it’ll still be fly. But she definitely loved the number and Amy in it. Debbie thought they were well paired in energy, size, dynamic and spirit, and thought Amy was dynamite. Nigel called her vivacious and said the energy she radiated made it appear as if she were dancing on ice. And then he had to go and steal her breath and make her cry by comparing her to Melanie Moore, and said that she is growing into a high-caliber All-Star in her own right.

Aaron (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Contemporary – Stacey Tookey

Stacey channels her love for her husband and gives us this piece celebrating unconditional love.

Damn, boy…just damn. I need to schedule him a screen test, like, RIGHT NOW. I’m almost at Anna Kendrick stage talking about how good this tapper is at contemporary. I’m not gonna say a word—I’ll just let the judges’ standing O and Stacey looking like she’s about to cry from the sheer beauty of it say everything for me.

Debbie was having some moments during the dance—Aaron gets the Dominic Sandoval “Call the fire department” kudos and the pair is praised as a magical couple, saying that Aaron’s performance and his growth over the weeks has raised the bar for the evening and the competition. And she’s ready to go buy her Tour ticket right now….if you can just wire me the money for my seat, Mom, that’d be great. Nigel also give praises and states that the highest praise he can give is noticing the look of pride and happiness in Kathryn’s eyes after the performance (and tears, according to Kathryn), knowing they had danced a winner. Mary adds to the Aaron Adoration Club and agrees with all previous stated accolades and thinks Aaron is inspirational in his growth as well. Poor Aaron looks like he got the same speck in his eye that Amy did because he’s so amazed by what he just accomplished that he’s overwhelmed by it all. Greater things are coming, sweets—buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Fik-Shun (with All-Star Melanie Moore)
Jazz – Mandy Moore

And speaking of our Season 8 champion, here she is with her heir-apparent Amy’s former partner. Melanie and Fik-Shun take on this steamy jazz piece where Melanie’s a performer whose ex-lover come to town and heats things up. Mandy is really pushing Fik-Shun’s dance boundaries—let’s see how well he stepped it up.

Get yo swag on, lil daddy! I still see cutie-pie written all over you but that’s because you’re barely legal; however I could see you smoldering and cranking up the machismo while hitting all those moves. A little more muscle on you and I can see Joshua Allen in you. Well done!

Well, MANDY’S certainly “feeling good”…as is the once again standing panel of judges. Nigel is proud of Fik-Shun’s growth and the improvement of technique, as is Mary, whose also happy with his focus on and improving of his lines, carriage and technique. And the Debbie Allen quote of the night? “Honey, they can say your name is Fik-Shun, but that was real what we saw tonight…..that was the truth.”

Paul (with All-Star Witney Carson)
Cha-Cha – Jean-Marc Genereux

Fresh from the DWTS troupe, Miss Carson is back to create some cha-cha chemistry with Paul. Why Jean-Marc is standing in the middle of rehearsal in a Thomas Dolby-style labcoat and goggles is beyond me….Ballroom Chehon—I mean Paul is in his element here. I mean, since last season and all throughout this past season of Dancing With The Stars I have NEVER seen anybody outdance Witney…until now. THIS is what we should have seen on the Meet the Top 20 show. Paul’s got all cylinders firing now, and he’s fighting for his US crown.

The set design budget is going to be well-extended, because clearly nobody is using those chairs tonight. Mary is trying to downplay again but nobody’s buying it—just tell us what we already know, that he’s dancing his patootie off. She does, and also says that his volume in his dancing has increased—I guess that’s her way of saying that his personality is projecting to the rafters now. Either way, the pair is riding the Hot Tamale Train tonight. Debbie’s having hot flashes again (and, she surmises, so is her husband Norm Nixon and the rest of his NBA buddies over that almost dress Witney has on), and is impressed by the way Paul seamlessly handled the intricate and difficult choreography. Nigel says the two were born to partner each other (He’s got the Chehon vibe and Chehon’s partner….no surprises there), and that with Paul’s skill and personality he is going to make a very, very interesting challenge to win the competition. Happy birthday to PAUL!

Hayley (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop – Christopher Scott

Twitch is trying to get a loan from hard-nosed banking agent Hayley, and turns on whatever charms he can to get it.

It was pretty smooth as cute hip-hop goes, and she carried the character well. I was just a little biased, though—in the “corporate dance” world, the table AND the floor still belong to Sabra Johnson.

Debbie thought the piece was theatrical—props, table, hair toss, etc.—and with that, Twitch stole some of the initial focus from Hayley. But she did think Hayley turned on the character a lot more after the hair came down, and it was a great routine. Nigel waxed nostalgic about Twitch’s journey to commercial success and loved that Hayley got a funkier, fun piece of hip-hop to tackle. He classed her as a dark horse in the competition and lauded her ability to be a dance chameleon—that is, to be able to adapt to each choreographer’s vision and give them exactly what they’re asking form. Nigel thinks that may be enough for her to stay in the game. Mary also thinks that even though she’s sailing under the radar, she’s on the rise to excel in the competition and in her future career. On a side note (since Mary threw it out there), Mary’s face looks a bit thinner. I guess that no-carb, no pancake diet is the culprit…though she’s sounding a bit testy from the lack of them. I’m just sayin’….

Jenna (with All-Star Neil Haskell)
Contemporary – Mandy Moore

Another break-up dance…Mandy is hoping this partnership with Neil forces Jenna to be more engaged with this piece. She had some pretty good moments with last week’s dance at the fountain, so….

Mark Masri—so now I know whose voice has been ringing in my head all season. You do realize how hard it is to NOT visualize those Vegas group dances, right? But oh, how I’ve missed Neil Haskell dancing. (Still kicking myself in the ass for not going to see Bring It On when I had the opportunity.) That last sequence of turns that just melted to the floor? *sigh* Breathtaking.

Nigel gets a Mary age dig in about all the candles onstage—never learned not to poke a hungry bear, did you, Nigel? The censors are going to be working overtime if you keep messing with that woman! He loved the fluidity (and also mentioned that last fluid sink to the floor), and thinks Jenna is probably one of the best all-around dancers with ballroom as a specialty, commending her on her strength in taking those opportunities at the bottom of the votes to come back blazing, strong and in control. Mary was moved by the couple’s movement together and also loved the end sequence—likening it to caramel being laid on top of her favorite ice cream. While I do agree with that visual, Mary—for the love of God, just go eat a cheeseburger! Toss the bun if you have to, mayn! Debbie just made MANDY cry by calling her one of her favorite choreographers in the business, and called Jenna a choreographer’s dream despite her continuous trips to the bottom three/bottom two. She just might have done enough to hang in one more week….we’ll have to see what Makenzie does later. Had she been head to head with Hayley, based on tonight’s performances Jenna would definitely have had the edge.

Jasmine H. (with All Star Marko Germar)
Jazz – Ray Leeper

I remember being nose to nose with Marko at the Season 8 Tour meet and greet, so unless there are lifts in his shoes, Jasmine HAD to be on a lower step going into the break. OK, I guess I’m just that short…or remembering it wrong. Anyway, a hip, cool, slick jazz routine with a little bit of arrogance involved, yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sounds like the dance with the bowler hats Marko did with Melanie, but I’ll watch my boy toy do anything. Oh, and I like seeing Jasmine dance, too.

Aw, $#!t—we’re blurring lines, y’all! Jas put a little too much English on her moves; while Marko had that chill, laid-back vibe happening, Jasmine had a barely restrained energy burst she was trying to contain. She reminded me of a kid with his or her mom in the supermarket checkout line who’s just seen the candy display but can’t reach it from their seat in the basket. Choreography was definitely locked down, but their energies didn’t match—one or the other should have moved to meet in the middle, and considering Marko’s already ridden in this rodeo, it should have been her.

While those chairs are gonna be like new from the lack of sitting, that “happy dance” is getting old. If you stop REMINDING Cat about it, she’s stop DOING it…smh…… Oh, brother—et tu, Jasmine? Y’all gon’ stop the madness…. Mary was more drawn to Jasmine in the number and seems to love that energy she emitted. Debbie was also drawn more to Jasmine, and offered a second apology (the first being from Mary) to Marko for virtually “ignoring” him. And Nigel just compared Jasmine to Michael Jackson and the All-Star dancers in the same breath….in his notes he wrote, “style, class, sharp, neat, fun and sassy”—and capped it off with a big ol’ FANTASTIC. Guess they liked it, huh? 😉

Makenzie (with All-Star Jakob Kerr)
Broadway – Spencer Liff

Two people meet in a crowded, smoky club, and it’s a whirlwind. So clearly, we have another fast-paced scorcher. OK…whose idea was it to put arguably the two best sets of legs and pointed feet in the history of the entire series together as partners? Whoever it was, they need a raise and a promotion YESTERDAY. They had the sync I thought Jasmine and Marko should have had, and that was seriously a Broadway revue caliber performance. Different kinds of fabulous from both her and Jenna, so it’s back to being a draw.

Debbie is wowed, literally, and saw old Hollywood starlet in Makenzie’s gait (Cyd Charisse got tossed around again, and Nigel brought out Rita Hayworth. I’m thinking more Leslie Caron. Look ‘em up, younguns.) Nigel echoed my comments about their feet, and is at the end of his rope trying to figure out America’s disconnect with Makenzie. Mary also thought they were amazing and also picked up on the perfect unison the pair danced with.

Nico (with All-Star Comfort Fedoke)
Hip-Hop – Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo

Reptiles at play, or something like that. I’m not gonna lie, I said this would be Nico’s death knell and the choice would be easy. I was ALLLLLLL kinds of wrong. Nico rode the character development wave in from last week and put it into this hip-hop—AND hit all the moves alongside one of the best (if not THE best) girl hip-hop dancers in the show’s history. Despite all of that rolling around on the ground, Nico was not taking his position lying down and went out fighting strong.

Nigel even noticed Nico embracing the quirky as well as the technical, despite the fact that he didn’t like the routine as much as the audience did. And even though I’m sure he knows what he said, Nigel was not giving the satisfaction of pun acknowledge after speaking about Nico’s ability to stay in the character’s “comfort zone.” Mary thought he pulled it off, giving a very deliberate, precise and hard-hitting routine. She, unlike Nigel, liked the “oddly freaky” routine. Debbie caught shades of Jurassic Park with the sharpness of Nico’s head isolations, and thought that amongst the tight competition, he did himself proud.

Tucker (with All-Star Robert Roldan)
Contemporary – Travis Wall

Another guys’ contemporary from Travis, this time about two brothers, one of whom has hit rock bottom and gotten a second chance, and the other who is standing by as a support system. Um, from this point forward, I’m going to need all tall contemporary male dancers to avoid cars entirely—what’s this I hear about an accident last year, Robert?!? Between you, Tucker and Marshea Mason, I just can’t wrap my mind around that kind of potential artistic loss. I’ll even hire a chauffeur for you if you need me to.

Tucker lost a few moments of sync with Robert but it’s clear to see that both of these young men just laid their lives out on the stage for everyone to see. Fix You meets When It Ends and gets a happier, more poignant ending. I’m pretty sure by the time the Tour is over, Tucker will not only have had the biggest, most public cathartic release from his haunts, but he will have developed an acumen for portraying them with powerful restraint. Almost got something in my eye, there….

Mary’s about to lose it, and if she breaks the way she usually does the guys (Travis included) are going to crack, too, and there will be tissue boxes flying left and right. Well damn—even Debbie’s got a lump in her throat…and reminded me of the brotherly bond between Travis and Danny Tidwell as the inspiration for this piece. Nigel did manage to hold it together long enough to acknowledge and praise all of the challenges and triumphs that contributed to the perfect storm that was this piece. All three judges were unanimous in pronouncing the dance amazing.

Thanks to constant interruptions from the hubby I had to break from the show and vote blind on the app to try to preserve the suspense, but I could see Tucker’s brightly illuminated face and knew Nico was on his way home. I thought just by the numbers it would be him, but nobody danced like going home was even a remote possibility—as if the potential miracle of everyone staying was possible. Makenzie’s run also comes to an end tonight, despite Nigel’s best efforts, and Team Tuna slides into the Top 8. Seems that according to the clips we’re losing the two biggest goofballs in the cast; the cuts at this point are based on popularity at this point, as there are no slouches in this Tour cast.

I think Hayley’s performance being the weakest this week (and again, because of everyone’s stellar talent, “weakest” is being used VERY loosely) may put her in danger, unless the public is really that unmoved by Jenna…though I’m hard pressed to understand how anyone could just NOT vote for that performance. I also believe Amy’s safe—who’s seriously gonna vote Joey Potter off the show?—but Jasmine has also been in the bottom, so it will be a very tough call. The boys are in a dead heat—Aaron and Tucker’s Twitter fan clubs (@aaronturnerfans and @TuckerKnoxEmOut) may keep these two off the edge, which spells trouble for my boo Fik-Shun. I don’t know exactly how rabid Paul’s fans are, but aside from Tucker none of the remaining guys has ever been in the bottom, and the law of diminishing numbers means somebody’s got to be down there. And although my main vote support is oldhead first (whoever’s closest to my age I can best live vicariously through, and given that Aaron spent some years here in New Orleans, I gotta back him first), each successive vote-off for the guys is going to break my heart. My only consolations are that I will be all up in the house in New Orleans on November 5 come hell or high water (and considering this is one of the first events back at the Saenger since that most notorious of “high waters” bullied her way through town, I might not want to say THAT too loudly), and each one of them is going to have a blazing career—and most definitely a fan in me for life.

Next week, my All-Stars are going to dip their toes in the choreography pool as well as performing—I know I’m probably not going to get a pairing of anyone with Travis Wall, but maybe if I wish it hard enough…especially since I’ve never seen Travis dance in person. (I only got to see Seasons 3, 4, 8 and 9 onstage. Season 5 is a story best left untold so I can keep my anger at missing it buried, and a new job conflicted with the Season 6/7-All Star tour. Even though I was about 5 minutes away.) Whoever comes in, I’m just so excited to see many of my favorites flexing their multi-talented dance muscles on the show that afforded them the spotlight in the first place.

Wish me luck and lots of 5-Hour Energy shots that I got some good seats for the concert!

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