Vegas Week continues this week and we move from the choreographers into the group round. Both Team Stage and Team Street have been divided into groups among themselves and are presented with their music selections by their mentors. What in the actual hell? From what I’ve heard of the music, at least two groups on both sides are getting “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s opera Carmina Burana. I can see that happening on Team Stage, but I’m at a complete loss to see what Team Street does with that piece of music. We see the usual drama of the teams trying to work together through the night, and then day three begins. Jessica and Virgil are in this first group for Team Street, and dubbed themselves Party of Five. They do a comical dance version of a James Brown “concert”, complete with popping and locking and the traditional James Brown shuffle. The other guy, Tyrus, got thrown off for a couple of beats, but overall the concept was very will executed and the number was pretty good. They all get through to the next round, though, along with a host of other favorites seen in montage clips. The next spotlighted group is from Team Stage, and includes Edson and Marissa. Calling themselves Date Night, they’re having a little bit of drama, from ballroom dancer Ekaterina rehearsing all night apart from the group, to contemporary dancer Thomas being missing in action the morning of and sleeping in. Performing to Michael Buble’s cover of “Fever”, there are a few miscounts, but they manage to pull the number together some. Judging from the groan Nigel just let out, they are about to catch hell. I wasn’t far off–after Travis expressed some disappointment with the execution of the number, Nigel agreed fully and tagged them the worst group so far. A bit harsh sounding, but considering the large number of groups shown with positive results, that’s probably accurate for the time. That didn’t stop him or the other judges from keeping the five dancers in the competition.
The next group up from Team Street is making a statement–or not, perhaps, judging from the tape over their mouths. This group, Blackout, includes B-Dash, Angyil, and Ladia. One of the street numbers to Carmina Burana, the concept looks brilliant. The execution however, seemed a little juvenile to me. The judges were not particularly wowed, either, expressing that the very concept in its brilliance is what spotlighted the dancers’ and the routine’s flaws. The judges discuss the performance, and ultimately Angyil is let go. Not the right decision, if you ask me, but at least she and Cookie can come back next year and crush the stage together. B-Dash, Lil Boy, and Brittany are all saved, but Ladia has to dance for her life. We have another round of groups who failed in their executions, but it appears the judges decided to let them all through.
The last group from Team Stage is up, and it includes tapper Gaby, jazz dancer Hailee, ballroom dancer Denys, contemporary dancer Natalie, and ballet dancer Jim. Self-dubbed Bloodline, this is the Team Stage group that pulled O Fortuna…..and they had much better luck with it. Denys looked like a contemporary of Jim’s rather than the ballroom dancer that he is, and all three of the girls looked unified, as well. The judges are amazed and dub them the best group of the day, though Jason does caution them on keeping their energy level constant throughout the piece. I happened to notice that right at the end crescendo of the music, so I applaud him for taking note.
Ladia is the last to dance, having been chastised in her group and singled out to dance for her life. Her solo is magnetic, but as Nigel said, lacked substance. That magnetism however, is enough to let her continue.
As Team Street gets a much deserved break, Team Stage begins their final choreography round with Sonya Tayeh. Getting only a half hour to learn this jazz routine, the dancers are sent to the ballroom to rehearse, with some sage advice from Coach Travis. The first Group up includes Darien, Moises, Edson and Denys, who we now learn won So You Think You Can Dance Canada. This accolade, however, does not take away from the unease he is having with Sonya’s choreography. For all the unease though, he’s holding his own amongst trained ballet and contemporary dancers. He and the rest of his group go through, but other ballroom favorites such as Brandon Armstrong, Ekaterina, and Kevin Morales, fall out of the running and are sent home. Antonina Skobina, Denys’s partner, is in the next group of dancers, and she looks to be having a harder time grasping the choreography than her partner. The judges make the difficult decision to cut her from the competition.
The last group of dancers consists of jazz dancers Christine and Hailee, contemporary dancers Kate and Natalie, and tapper Gaby. Each has varying levels of success and failure in their performances but perform well enough to survive cuts.
Now that Team Stage is finished with their last choreography round and can take a dip in the pool, Team Street gears up for their last round of choreography with Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo. Tabitha demonstrates the routine for the kids and….hold up. Did Tabitha just grab her crotch? I’m so done. And Nigel actually covered his eyes…….yes indeed. The first group of is a trio of girls that includes Mary Poppins. Each of them loses timing in different spots of the routine, but they all managed to recover quickly and stay in the groove. (Tabitha set a REALLY high standard.) They apparently did well enough to survive and go to the next round. Next up is a familiar round of faces–Asaf the Hebrew breaker, B-Dash, B1, and street tapper Justin Ballasy. These gentlemen, however, are having a harder time than the ladies at grasping the routine, and it will probably take whatever energy and/or tricks they’ve thrown in at the last minute to keep them safe. B-Dash skates through on the strength of his grasp of the choreography, but Justin is deemed not strong enough and is let go. B1 and Asaf surprised the judges on opposite ends of the spectrum–Asaf having performed better than expected and B1 not doing quite as well–so both have to dance for their lives now in order to stay. The next group of dancers includes Bobby Anime, Alain Latour, and Mission from the Detroit auditions. Anime and Alain struggle through the routine but add their own flair to certain moments, and Mission does a fair job. The one who surprised me was animator Bobby Volozanin, who struggled with most of the choreography as well, but added moments of swag I hadn’t expected to see from him. Bobby V. and Alain go through, but it’s the end of the line for Anime and Mission.
Meanwhile, back in the theater, B1 and Asaf go up for their solos. B1 pulls every trick imaginable and gives each a new (pardon the pun) spin, and gets a pass from the judges. Asaf comes out with a much stronger routine than his original audition and, in Paula’s exact words, “left it all on the floor and killed himself” to remain in the competition. Jason and Paula are immediate yeses, but before Nigel can give his decision he says something about the show not being “So You Think You Can Entertain”….and Asaf goes off. A-W-F. AWF. He starts this tirade about B1’s tricks and headspins being old hat and not as original as, say, his routine. Jason, Paula, and tWitch all try to diffuse things, but Nigel seems content to hand Asaf the rope to hang himself in a different manner. Somehow, the situation and manages to get to a calm enough point that Asaf realizes he has made it to the next round. This blow up, however, may cost him a spot in Team Street’s Top 10.
With that, we close out Vegas Week and have finally reached Green Mile, with 47 hopefuls–24 Stage and 23 Street dancers–wait to find out if they have done enough to make the show. Stage dancer Marissa Milele goes in first, after three auditions, to find out if she has finally done enough. And she has…she marks the first member of Travis’s Top 10. For Team Street, Asaf gets sent in first, and is ultimately cut more for his inability to quickly grasp choreography than his outburst at the last round. Ladia and B-Dash are also let go from the Street side. Edson goes in next for Team Stage, and we learn that his gift for dance wasn’t developed until very late due to heteronormative views about dance and machismo in his background. Happily, the panel gives him a chance to prove his naysayers wrong with a spot on the show. Joining Edson on Team Stage are Moises Parra, Kate Harpootlian and Hailee Payne.
Team Street gains its first member in Alain “Hurrikane” Latour (who I honestly thought was a no-go because of his hit-or-miss moments with the choreography), who gets to represent his Haitian homeland with pride. Street dancer Jessica “JJ” Rabone goes in next, hoping to make her own name and blazing star shine through the television waves. She’ll get her chance….as will Yorelis Apolinario, locker Lily Frias, and Ariana Crowder.
Denys Drozdyuk, who seriously contemplated dropping out of the competition after partner and girlfriend Antonina was eliminated, goes in with a clearer head to hear his verdict….or so I thought. This dude just told the judges–judges who were heaping effusive praise on him, I might add–that he might have to drop out. WHAT?!? Nigel wastes no time putting up with this wishy-washiness and shows him the door.
Virgil Gadson goes back down Green Mile, with much more delightful results this year. He’s in, along with freestylers Eddie “Neptune” Eskridge and Megan “Megz” Alfonso. Queen Kenya is up next, and even though she’s the last of the top age dancers released, the judges give her mad respect for even getting to the end as brilliantly as she did. For Team Stage, Jim Nowakowsi goes in, and I am all set to prepare for the Second Coming if the judges are stupid enough NOT to put him through. Fortunately, they have much better sense than that, and he sails through, along with contemporary dancer Alexia Meyer and ballet dancer Derek Piquette.
Only two spots left on each team, and Burim “B1” Jusufi claims one of Team Street’s spots. At 29, he’s the last elder statesman standing and the only one to make the show. Darion Flores, the first Black ballet dancer I’ve seen since Danny Tidwell, next claims a place on Team Stage. That leaves four girls–two on each side–vying for the last two spaces. Gaby Diaz and Christine Shepard for Team Stage, and Mary Poppins and JaJa. Gaby gets the last Stage spot and JaJa closes out Team Street. (IaMmE, Part 3, y’all!)
To say I’m disappointed that Black female Stage dancers were shut out of the Top 20 yet again is an understatement, particularly when I saw so many talented young ladies make it to Vegas. But once again, there’s a swerve going into the live shows, and it’s injury related. Aaron Turner was the most recent beneficiary of this twist in Season 10, when Emilio Dosal’s broken nose made it possible to be in that season’s Top 4. Which contestant is getting a miracle opportunity, and which team?