Battle Lines Drawn! SYTYCD Season 12, Week 1


Season 12's Top 20!

We’ve got our teams–let’s head to Hollywood! The live shows begins on the “brand new” stage….I’m not exactly sure what’s new about it except that it looks like the original stage got plopped down onto the newer stage. A little more flexibility with the lighting, which I like–now to get the Steadicam operators to nail their blocking better….

We open with a well-edited side-by-side montage of the teams training and rehearsing, their unique styles seemingly blending in unity, which leads to opening “stage battle.”

Team Stage/Team Street (Song: Revolt, Nathan Lanier)
Whenever you hear Nathan Lanier you can almost guarantee Christopher Scott is in the building. His usual partner in crime Sonya Tayeh is busy in New York with a hundred projects, so first-timer Jessica Lee Keller is up to bat for the stage choreo. It is nothing short than its usual brilliant fusion.

(Cat, you forgot to take the bib off the front of your dress before you walked onstage, love…..)

Locker Alain “Hurrikane” Latour is the first casualty of the season, sustaining an injury before the live shows and dropping out of the competition. That leaves an open spot on Team Street, and it was given to…..Asaf Goren?!? Yes, the Hebrew breaker is in the Top 20 in the available space. This should prove interesting, as he had that spectacularly terrible display of how he didn’t play well with others….ie channeling that individuality into a group work setting.

The couples next week will be one from each team, but this week everyone is on home turf.

Team Street – Megz, Neptune and JJ
(Song: The Illest, Far East Movement featuring Riff Raff)

Choreographer Dave Scott casts the three as superheroes saving the street.

Neptune has Twitch’s skill, but not personality. Megz has Twitch’s personality but not skill. JJ has her own personality, and possibly some stage dance skills. Promising start for the three, especially if they work on those weaker areas…and as of the three, only Neptune has no formal whatsoever, it should be a reasonably smooth transistion. (Who knew Megz had a ballroom background?) Nigel gives them notes on personality, Paula on maintaining character, Jason said the number lacked breadth and clarity.

Mentors Travis and tWitch have double duty as both coach and color commentator, asking their performers about their numbers right after they dance.

Team Stage – Moises, Derek and Gaby
(Song: Luminous, Max Richter)

Choreographer Stacey Tookey guides the dancers in a contemporary piece about finding your inner light and standing in it…reaching for something and not stopping until you get it.

Excellent piece from this trio. There’s an entire section of this dance where three people move like one, with no hiccups. The depth of expression is there as well, and I am quite impressed with all three, and particularly Gaby, who continues to prove the versatility of tap dancers in this competition. There is general gushing from all three judges, and in particular about Gaby, the only performer not dancing in her own style.

Team Street – Lily, JaJa, Burim and Asaf
(Song: Easy (Switch Screens), Son Lux featuring Lorde)

Choreographer Christopher Scott showcases the different street styles on the four dancers.

The girls are tight and in sync with each other, the guys, not so much, but their skills are about on the same level. Still, it’s an eye-catching routine.

“Beasty” is Jason’s word of the night…clearly impressed by the quartet. Nigel is just as impressed with this street routine as with Stacy Tookey’s prior stage number and singles our Lily. Paula was nervous watching but is extremely excited by the energy, skill and unison she just witnessed.

Team Stage – Hailee, Marissa, and Alexia
(New Dorp, New York, S8TRKT featuring Ezra Koenig)

Choreographer Brian Friedman is back after a very long absence; jazz is an homage to the film noir era and involves chairs, trenchcoats, stilettos and lingerie. However, it’s meant to display the strength and dominance of women. TOTALLY worth it to see Brian slaying it in stilettos right along with these girls. I’m with Alexia, though….those joints HAD to have been custom made.

H-A-W-T. And I want every single outfit. Those girls are beasts….and they mastered those heels. I could barely walk in those, so the kip-up and sh-blam blew my mind as well.


The kip-up and sh-blam, for the uninitiated.

Nigel compared Hailee to Madonna (I’m getting more Gaga than Madge, but I guess it’s a similar energy), and cautions all of them to grasp the subtleties in an in-your-face performance–something both Paula and Jason agree with.

Team Stage – Darion and Jim
(Song: Blood And Stone, Audiomachine)

New choreographer Bendit Swan Pouffer crafts this contemporary ballet piece for the pair. This is the second season with two ballet guys and the inevitable comparisons to Danny Tidwell and Alex Wong are lingering. But for now, we will concentrate on these two individuals performing a “friendly ballet battle.”

For all the power he had in his audition, Jim next to Darion looks so tiny. However, that little Asian boy has some power in his moves, and the two mesh well. That last lighting effect took away from the power of the end pose, although It may just have been the camera angle. That and the Steadicam moves also need work.

No, Paula, Season 9 had two ballet boys in Chehon and Daniel. Although, they did do a trio with Eliana, so I guess we can say this is the first duet. Jason was floored by the performance and thought it would be memorable. Nigel gives a Danny Tidwell comparison I didn’t expect–the Two Princes duet he performed with Neil Haskell. Praised Jim for his feet and asked Darion to bring more light to his eyes when performing but gave him props for his ability and grace with his body type. If only he’d look at black female Stage dancers that way….. (sorry, still a little salty.)

Team Street – Virgil, Ariana and Yorelis
(Song: Locked Out Of Heaven, Bruno Mars)

Choreographers Pharcyde and Phoenix; Virgil decides between good and evil at the gates of heaven.

They held together well, considering how high energy a routine that was and how intricate the arm movements were. Still need a little more personality from both the girls, but Virgil is in his element here. The judges specifically praised Ariana for raising her personality, and as she is the only one of the three with no formal training in anything else, that’s pretty high praise. Paula does caution them to keep projecting energy even in the breathing moments of a number.

Team Stage – Edson and Kate
(Song: Shaped Like A Gun, Tailor)

Coach Travis Wall is stepping in as choreographer for his team, with the theme being love that hurts people. I’m sorry, Kate does not look 27 years old. And I’m not sure how old Edson is, but I could have sworn he was below his twenties as well. (He’s 22…not too far removed.) Kate, that was a cute Team Stage/Team Street joke you snuck in there….I saw it coming, but still funny.

Both are very powerful dancers, both physically and emotionally, and they carry this piece very well. Nigel is about to piss off the public, though….he didn’t understand what the piece was about, couldn’t grasp the emotions being portrayed. Paula also told them to get out of their heads. Jason said live it and be more aggressive. On a second look after listening to the judges’ comments, I can see where Kate seems more smiley in places where she should have been more tortured, but everyone expresses angst differently, so that comes down to personal perception. Coach Travis was impressed with his duo, however, so all is good as far as he is concerned.

We take a brief break for a short interview with First Lady Michelle Obama and a Jason Derulo performance, complete with pointe dancing All-Stars I can’t recognize. OK, the pointe dancing girls might be Jason’s personal backup dancers, but the additional six dancers that came out afterwards are the All-Stars, including my boo Fik-Shun. ♡ Don’t understand the storyline…I guess Phantom of the Opera meets Twilight? Maybe if I watch the video…..

Team Stage – Broadway
(Song: Body Language, Queen)

Choreographer Warren Carlyle gives us a Fosse-esque number with a touch of contemporary and dynamic. Lots of prop work involved, with hats, chairs and canes.

Gaby and Moises killed that tap section, the choreography look more comfortable on some dances than others (Jim looked particularly balletic, which is a bit too stiff for Fosse-esque), the arabesques in the lift section were not all on the same level, and considering all the things Warren had those children doing with the canes, I’m amazed only Hailee dropped it and only dropped it once.

Team Street – Hip-Hop
(Song: Ready Or Not Here I Come, District 78 featuring Cheesa)

Choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo hold boot camp for a squad of soldiers battling it out. Fast, intricate, and lots of energy.

All I have to say is Team Stage, Team Street is coming for your throats. Be ready. I mean, they pretty much straight up said it–ready or not, here I come….

On to next week with the teams split into combined pairs, and our first official elimination of the season. There’s a lot of strong talent here so it’s going to come down to the personalities and how much social interaction the dancers engage in with the viewers.

(Technical note: I’m loving the Team Stage/Team Street wipe effects)


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. msklap04
    Jul 22, 2015 @ 10:25:32

    It’s all about the optics. Call me selfish, but I’m a black woman and I want to see a black woman (and not just one proficient in street dance) in the Top 20 every season. OAN, I need Nigel to stop with the subtle body-shaming. There is absolutely no reason to make comments about anyone’s body type, especially AFTER they’ve been selected for the Top 20.


  2. msklap04
    Jul 22, 2015 @ 09:32:39

    Love your recaps. I hate to sound like a broken record, but if you’ve heard me for the past I don’t know how many years, you’ll know what my NUMBER ONE complaint about this show is. It was pretty obvious to me when Team Stage performed the group dance – all white (women). Team Street looked like an 80’s Benetton Ad; Team Stage, J. Crew. *SIGH*


    • dramaqueen1913
      Jul 22, 2015 @ 10:01:54

      I have to agree. As much as I like Alexia and Melissa, either of them could have been replaced with Christine Shepard. I’m surprised they let Darion Flores (totally atypical body type for ballet) on Team Stage, and Ariana Crowder (as 4c as 4c can be) on Team Street.


    • dramaqueen1913
      Jul 22, 2015 @ 10:03:49

      Although to be “fair,” Gaby is Latina. Can’t be sure further with her skin tone what the genetic mix is, but one can hope….


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