SYTYCD 11, Top 10–Counting (All) Stars

The Top 10 are in and rolling with the All-Stars for the first time this week–and the judges’ influence no longer applies. The decisions are all on America now.

Olympic gold medalist, figure skater and actress Tara Lipinski is on the performance show panel for the first time. I love Tara but I’m not overly sure about this; while I realize figure skaters do have to have some dance training to smooth out their routines and now a thing or two about intense competition, being able to critique dance technique is an entirely different scenario.

Image courtesy of  19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Top 10 group–Hip-Hop

Last Chance Saloon—good LORD that’s a loud number. And that’s just the costumes and scenery. The song of the night should have been “Sunglasses at Night.” At least that’s how I had to watch it to see the choreography. I’m surprised that I’m not more familiar with Jamal Sims–I certainly recognize a lot of his work outside of this first SYTYCD appearance.

Bridget (with All-Star Brandon Bryant)
Bollywood Disco(?!?)—Nakul Dev Mahajan

Good Lord! Two of the fastest, most intricate dance styles meshed into one? And poor Brandon might as well have just trained in disco because it seems like he’s the only All-Star that’s called back to do either of them.

This was fast and furious and Bridget was here for all of it—she had the sass Valerie needed a few weeks ago and then some. Brandon did a great job recovering from the underrotation of that aerial cartwheel…good thing he isn’t being judged.

Tara loved the performance—how interactive and rhythmic it was and thought it was a moving puzzle; Mary threw out the five Ss: strength, stamina, speed, skill and spirit…and of course she added a sixth S–SCREAM ; Nigel thought it was inspirational and that Bridget did well keeping up with the insanely fast and physical routine. Though I wish he’d left the corny jokes where he found them.

(And to announce right after that performance that she’s in the bottom of the votes SUCKS.)

Tanisha (with All-Star Ryan Dilello)
Argentine Tango—Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

Miriam and Leonardo take the fact that they have two stellar ballroom dancers and run with it, throwing in every complicated move and lift they can imagine.

WTH? As if that lingering star lift wasn’t enough, Ryan basically tossed Tanisha in the air, spun her around his neck and dropped her into a mermaid pose in 4.7 seconds….technically it was brilliant but the passion seems a bit forced and over the top for me. Tanisha by herself though was ON FIRE.

Mary’s excited—about both technique and stage presence; Nigel thinks she hasn’t put a foot wrong since she’s been on the show; Tara was impressed by the smoldering sexiness of the solo opening. (Tanisha’s safe going in.)

Emilio (with All-Star Jasmine Harper)
Hip-Hop—Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo

Cue the Degree dancer montage….. *eye roll* Guess they had to put it somewhere….

It’s a Nappytabs sighting! King Emilio and his pet snake who’s trying to take over the throne. Ooooookay…..

Choreography was dope, and the right dancer got it. I’m thinking Jasmine would have been better suited in that silver snakeskin number she wore with Aaron last season, but she is definitely exuding some serious sexy here…and once again proving that she can hang with hip-hop.

Nigel praises Emilio’s improvement; Tara’s mind is blown; Mary thought it was sensational.
(Emilio is the first in the bottom for the guys…have I mentioned how much this BLOWS?)

Valerie (with All-Star Ade Obayomi)
Jazz—Tyce Diorio

Tyce Diorio is challenging Valerie to go into her meaner, more aggressive side.

It’s difficult to believe that Valerie is a tap specialist when she pulls out these amazing performances in contemporary and contemporary-looking dance styles. Although I think choreographically, Ade did most of the heavy lifting (both figurative and literal), Valerie did come across well and complemented his movement. On a side note, that boy is getting thicker and I’m not sure how I feel about it…maybe it’s because the shirt is ON….

Tara called it interesting—didn’t see the connection with the character’s anger throughout the piece but thought her physicality in the lifts was very strong; Mary agrees to a point but thinks she’s progressed another step in her development; Nigel rounds it out, loving the works but thought Valerie came across as tight and self-conscious. (Valerie is safe.)

Rudy (with All-Star Jenna Johnson)
Cha-Cha—Louis van Amstel

Louis van Amstel has them “dancing out their attraction to each other.”

And Rudy is doing quite well at pulling that off. I know from the first performance videos he’s got at least a little bit of ballroom training in him, but with the skills he’s displaying coupled with his magnetic stage presence, you’d think it would have been him instead of his buddy Nick that would have auditioned under the ballroom genre. I saw what looked like a mishap on that last move and end pose, but if it was, he made it look intentional. He and Jenna were evenly matched in this routine.
Mary thought they were hot, and that Rudy was full of chemistry and power….so naturally Rudy gets a ticket on the train; Nigel apologizes to Rudy for thinking his being full of life was him being full of himself, though he did caution Rudy not to go over the top with the winks and asides since his personality was plenty; Tara thought that Jenna set the bar high, and Rudy matched it brilliantly. (Rudy is safe.)

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Jacque (with All-Star Chehon Wespi-Tchopp)
Contemporary Ballet—Travis Wall

Of all of the choreographers I would have figured to be on tap for this—Dwight Rhoden, Desmond Richardson, etc.—I would not have even put Travis Wall on my radar. I know he’s a contemporary dance genius, but I have no knowledge of his expertise with ballet. Still, his expansive creativity gives him credence in my book. Another piece that’s all about the connection between the dancers rather than portraying a story.

Choreography was executed perfectly—the worst part about the number is that it ended. There was simply not enough dance there…it could have gone on much longer despite the fact that there were more contestants to perform and it’s only a two-hour show. (And I had to watch it several times before I could apply my television professional eye to that Steadicam one-shot–that really was an excellent choice to showcase this particular piece.)

Nigel was wowed and thought Jacque elevated her technique and performance energy elevated to a higher level; Tara thought it was flawless overall; Mary agrees and called the performance—as well as Jacque—exquisite.

(Jacque is the other girl in the bottom….had I watched before I spoiled the results to go vote, the writing would have already been on the wall here.)

Ricky (with All-Star Lauren Frodeman)
Jazz—Mandy Moore

Mandy Moore does a nod toward rockabilly and wants the dance to have a fun party feel in spite of all of the difficulty and complexity she’s throwing into it.

Mandy Moore is psycho. Who throws that much into one dance? I have to say that Lauren really nailed down why she won—the first person this season to pull focus from Ricky. That’s not an easy thing to do, either. I will say he held his own with the choreography and did a good balancing act of letting loose and hitting his forms and marks with precision. And those last eight counts of Kama Sutra-esque, Twister-like leg wrapping was mind-blowing….

Nigel praised Ricky (as expected) for raising his dance level and for taking some complicated choreography and making it look simple; Tara was enjoying the number so much she was dancing in her seat; Mary buys the third ticket on the Love Train and says that there’s nothing he can’t do. (Ricky is safe—and I’m typing this before they even open the envelope.)

Casey (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Broadway—Spencer Liff

Spencer Liff and the “he loves me, he loves me not” game. Casey’s acting skills are called upon this week, which seems to be a challenge to layer those on top of the impeccable technique.

He does OK emoting his movements but he’s right on the line of “over the top.” Not going to bother re-typing the same stuff I’ve been saying for weeks about his technique…y’all already know….

Mary thinks Casey is quickly becoming a star and thought he dug into the character work very well; Nigel thought the style really suits Casey coupled with his technique and amplified by the breakout performance with Jessica last week…and even ventures to class him as not only a contender but a threat in relation to Saint Ricky; Tara was equally enamored and thought his performance was wholly believable. (Casey is safe…which automatically puts Zach in the bottom with Emilio.)

Jessica (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo

Another Nappytabs joint tonight…in this one Jessica’s a pin-up girl passing by this “old cat” at the bus stop (when one of the dancers you pretty much watched grow up in his career is not only referred to as an “old cat” but says himself that he’s “dancing like he’s 20 again,” it’s time to re-evaluate how close you are to that AARP notice in the mail). Jessica is beyond thrilled to have the triple dream trifecta of a Nappytabs duet with tWitch on SYTYCD just dropped in her lap. Let’s see if she really can hang….

I’m sorry….I’m supposed to be judging Jessica but all I can see is this pot belly and gray hair on tWitch and I can’t help but hear the words “Lemme holla at cha” looped in my head. Too damn funny. However, for the speed, precision and synchronization required for this number Jessica did very well. I’m a little unsure about her characterization, but some of her over the top was necessary in her case.

Tara called it unreal and thought Jessica exceeded every expectation; Mary said it was off the charts and memorable; Nigel notes that Jessica has again lived up to her potential…and that she’s classed as a jazz dancer, which I honestly didn’t remember. I had her in contemporary with the rest of the viewing public. (Since Jessica went in safe, she was more at ease with her performance.)

Zach (with All-Star Amy Yakima)
Contemporary—Sonya Tayeh

Sonya Tayeh offers an emotional tribute to a friend who’s passed all too soon. (Side note: I started typing my notes after hearing of Robin Williams’s untimely passing, so there’s a different tinge to my view than if I’d done this the night of like I usually do.)
Honestly, Zack is this season’s Fik-Shun. He’s more trained, but as his area of specialty is in something that one would not expect him to be able to branch out from, he’s been quite impressive week after week in styles not his own. Not to mention this is the second time he’s wowed Sonya. I’m ready to see what Fik-Shun’s partner will bring out of him.

Y’all can sleep on Zack if y’all want to—that boy is more well-rounded than we think. I believed him way back to that Keone and Mari hip-hop, and this is a WAY deeper level of emotion. Not to mention the exquisite and impressive form and technique—you really can’t just look at him and see the word “TAP” in flashing neon letters. Bravo, sweetie.

OK, with both Sonya and Amy near tears and the entire audience and panel on their feet, this critique session is gonna be stellar….Nigel is momentarily speechless, and in the midst of genuflecting at Sonya Tayeh’s well-deserving feet (and stunning everyone with the announcement of her new—and equally well deserved—assignment with the Martha Graham company), hailed Zack as stunning. Tara thought that Amy’s pronouncement of a “wow” moment was an understatement and is equally speechless, and Mary proclaimed it a masterpiece through tears and a lump in her throat.

(I am saddened that the choice came down to Emilio and Zack….no matter how this came down or when I saw it, I was destined to hate America for this. However, it just goes to further prove what I said about the high bar the guys have set this year.)

Christina Perri’s career was made on this show when Stacey Tookey heard her not even released yet song “Jar of Hearts”, choreographed a routine to it and put it on display for the SYTYCD audience. Christina returns to the stage that helped make her with an assist from Kathryn and Chehon. What a lovely trio.

By now I already know that Bridget and my beloved Emilio are leaving tonight, and while I realize it’s a difficult decision between the four in the bottom I am no less angry at America’s decision…almost to the point of not even wanting to finish out the season as a viewer and reviewer. All four of these dancers have given the performances of their lives on this evening’s stage, and sadly it’s of no consequence at this stage. Not even the comfort of them being solidly committed for the Tour is enough to pacify me. Te quiero mucho indeed, papi….

Anywho, I shall regroup and realign my allegiances….and continue to watch my creative lifeline. After all, it’s just too much talent to just ignore.

On tap for next week are the following All-Star pairings (I kind of like the heads-up, as it’s a different kind of anticipation to see where the kids take things):

Tanisha gets Season 1 champion Nick Lazzarini
Ryan Dilello’s back next week, and coming for Valerie this time
Mrs. Boss hits the stage next week—Allison Holker dances with Rudy
And of course, Mr. Boss tags along for a repeat….and the irony of tWitch pairing with Jacque is not lost on me
Jaimie Goodwin makes an appearance as an All-Star, and Ricky looks like his bucket list just got completed with one check
Casey earns this week’s head-tilting pairing, as he’s slated to dance with Comfort Fedoke
Jessica gets blessed by the heavenly presence that is Will Wingfield….I’m excited for her and pray she lives up to him (yeah, I’m biased dammit)
And last, but not least, another underrated dancer gets her due—last season’s Makenzie Dustman is coming back for Zack. I smell another emotional breakthrough coming.

AND it’s Michael Jackson week….Y’all just knew I couldn’t quit you, didn’t ya?

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(OK…the fact that both Bridget and Emilio just came barreling from the sidelines toward their friends with huge smiles and big hugs takes again some of my bitterness….what champs these kids are. Long live Bridgilio!)

Long Live Bridgilio!

Long Live Bridgilio!

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