The semifinals are here–and two dancers are going to fall just short of their opportunity to claim the coveted title of America’s favorite dancer.
Top 6 Comtemporary
Choreographer Mandy Moore (Song: Everybody Hurts, Jasmine Thompson)
Each dancers is putting their hearts and souls on the floor tonight, showing their inner selves to the viewing audience to convey the anguish in this piece.
55% of the vote goes to Team Stage, so Coach tWavis is back on top this week.
Two duets tonight–one with an All-Star and one with one of their fellow competitors–as well as their solos. AND the votes from this week roll into the next week and count toward the championship vote.
Gabi (with All-Star Marko Germar) – Jazz
Choreographer Ray Leeper (Song: Emergency, Icona Pop)
Sexy, steamy jazz….with a lot of “booty-ography”
Thank the LORD it’s not a Beyoncé tune…and there’s a good bit of technicality in this piece. The “booty-ography” is actually minimal–what’s impressive is Gaby hanging on to that choreography in those high heeled boots.
Nigel agrees with me, and thought the number and Gaby were marvelous. He even goes so far to say she’s one of the best dancers of not only this season, but across the seasons. Paula said it was absolutely “bootyful,” calling it lighthearted and fun, and has managed to make the most difficult choreography look as easy as breathing. Jason enjoyed it, but thought the star quality she usually carries diminished a little bit….which prompted a vehement argument from Paula in disagreement, and a short joke from Nigel at her expense.
The solos tonight honor the contestants’ mentors and feature a meaningful piece of music.
Virgil – Rock The Bells, LL Cool J
Clyde Evans, Artistic Director of the Chosen Dance Company is Virgil’s inspiration–and his solo is inspired by the summer block parties and backyard barbecues where they would freestyle and just generally have fun. Virgil eloquently channels that feeling and a shade of LL swagger into this solo.
JaJa (with All-Star Alex Wong) – Contemporary
Choreography Tessandra Chavez (Song: Youth, Daughter)
JaJa and Alex team up again, with JaJa portraying a woman dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Tessandra is determined that JaJa dance up to the challenging choreography and embody the character, and JaJa seems to be embracing it.
JaJa has a very expressive face, and whatever thoughts and emotions she was channeling conveyed the complex mental and emotional struggle that was supposed to be happening in her head. The confusion, elation and fear that flitted back and forth was tangible and believable, and the reassuring assist from Alex was a beautiful complement.
The standing ovation probably says it all, but let’s go to the judges’ table anyway….Paula applauds choreographer and performer, giving JaJa praise for her imaginative performances. Jason appreciates JaJa’s commitment and intensity, and was moved to sentimentality by the number. Nigel compounds on Jason and Cat’s mention of The Notebook and notes her ability to relay the emotions through her face and movements, and congratulates her for taking full advantage of all of the experiences afforded to her through the competition and adding to her growth.
Hailee – Elastic Heart, Sia
Mandy Shaw, Hailee’s dance teacher who helped her develop her dance abilities and stepped in as a “second mom”, is Hailee’s honoree. Her solo is an homage to all the people at home supporting her that she misses dearly.
The Hough siblings pretty much laid claim to this song in last season’s Dancing With The Stars, so of course my view of this solo is going to be tinged. The power Travis wanted to see in this number? A little subdued, in my opinion. But well put together and emoted.
Megz (with All-Star Joshua Allen) Hip-Hop
Choreographer Christopher Scott (Song: Freedom, Pharell Williams)
Chris is trying to show the full range and freedom of hip-hop dance, and Megz is struggling for yet another week. That it’s her own genre is a bit alarming, but Coact tWitch is hopeful that she’ll settle into the moves and do well.
The last time I saw power and swagger this well matched was back in Season 6 with Dominic and Jose’s Excalibur themed routine. Megz can hit as hard as any dude in the business, yet can still bank her feminine mystique at the same time….and to hang tough with Season 4’s champion is a huge accomplishment.
Jason applauds Megz–and the rest of the contestants as well–for being able to maximize the very limited amount of time given to learn and rehearse the dances onstage. He also thinks that while Megz was really good this week, with it being down to the Top 6 it’ll be a tough battle for her. Nigel dubbed it a “jazz hip-hop,” and thought the mix allows Megz to prove herself an all-around dancer, stating that he could easily see her cast in West Side Story…as anybody. ANYBODY. Not Maria, not Anita, not third girl at the dance–ANYBODY. Pretty high praise. Paula agreed and feels that Megz was in her element with this number, adding that if she continues to dance with that same energy and dangerously that she’ll discover more and more layers of identity in her dancing.
Gaby – It’s Your Thing, Christian McBride featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater
Gaby’s passion for dance is fueled by her love of family, and one family in particular–her late great-uncle Renaldo “Titi” Silva–was a successful dancer in Cuba and persevered in continuing that career in a move to the States. And this certainly is her thing–lots of funk, noise, sass and syncopation.
Jim (with All-Star Anya Garis) – Samba
Choreographer Dmitry Chaplin (Song: Chillando Goma, Fulanito)
A ballet dancer pulls his first Latin dance–and the hardest one, at that. But he’s apparently nailing the choreography; he just needs to grasp the flavor of it.
It reminds me a lot of “My First Kiss” from Season 7. It’s very technically sound, and he’s really keeping up the energy…he just needs a little more WD-40 for those hips.
Nigel recognized the fun Jim was having in that routine and that he largely captured the samba, with the exception of the looseness being more in his shoulders than his back. Paula thought Jim was a strong partner and struck a nice balance between partner/audience connection, but also commented on the lack of hip swivel. Jason was shocked at how much Jim actually did open up and get loose, and congratulated him on that.
JaJa – Laundry, edIT
JaJa was actually mentored BY Ceasare “Tighteyez” Willis, krump originator and legend. Enough said. Iron sharpens iron, greatness begets greatness.
OK, this is telling my age….you know that short-lived sitcom Small Wonder, with the little robot girl Vicki? Imagine she grew up and learned how to dance. That’s what JaJa just did, and it’s very impressive. That “chameleon of dance” tag Nigel put on her last week is no bullshit.
Virgil (with All-Star Melanie Moore) – Contemporary
Choreographer Justin Giles (Song: All Is Now Harmed, Ben Howard)
An emotional routine portraying what happens when a soldier comes home from the war. It’s already gut punching Virgil in rehearsals, so it ought to be really striking once it hits the competition stage.
That got me. That almost Turn To Stone got me. Virgil might not be able to manifest sinister but he nailed complex and tortured. He wallowed in this piece, and held strong with the choreography and partnering while doing it. This is a breakout moment for him. Good job, man.
Paula thought Virgil gave a beautifully executed, mature performance and matched Melanie step for step. She also called it unbearably vulnerable and had to dig for an actual critique in having him improve the lift in his jumps. Jason said the humble and honest persona Virgil brought to the stage is what gave it that extra level of connection. Nigel marveled about the high performance level Virgil gave and how it covered any lack of technique.
Jim – Ra, Nathan Lanier
Timothy Draper, founder of the Rochester City Ballet, introduced Jim to the world of ballet at age 11 and helped to groom his technique. Judging from the depth of emotions Jim is dealing with just trying to talk about his late mentor speaks volumes. Reminiscent of the harsh winters in his upstate New York, Coach Travis calls it impeccable, stunning and gorgeous in rehearsal….let’s see what it looks like on stage.
It certainly moved fast and was way too short….but it displayed every facet of Jim’s technique. Beautiful piece.
Hailee (with All-Star Robert Roldan) – Jazz
Choreographers RJ Durell and Nick Flores (Song: Haunted, Beyoncé)
Hailee is the angel of death reincarnated as a crow, sent to deliver Robert his last fatal kiss. Lots of tricks and character…..and Hailee is a ball of giggles trying to rehearse those kiss moments. She says she’s getting it together though…..
Hailee was most certainly fierce, technically sound and deep in character. But Jordan Casanova did it better a couple of seasons back. Not my favorite.
Jason enjoyed it thoroughly, and thought she had the character and strength required for this piece. Nigel thought Hailee was on point technically but seemed to have difficulty accepting her characterization given her usual outgoing personality. Paula called the performance a perfect mixture of finesse and fury and found her wickedly seductive, but cautioned her to smooth out her transitions.
Megz – Let It Go, James Bay
Cynthia Geffon, Megz’s dance teacher, seems to give as much credit to Megz for shaping her as a teacher as Megz gives her for helping mold her dance persona. There seems to be a running theme with Megz’s musical selections tonight…..
Wow. And I said that BEFORE that last hinge pose. It wasn’t elaborate or throat-grabbing but the freedom of it is what made it so compelling to watch. This contemporary/hip-hop mesh that Megz does suits her beautifully. Best solo I’ve seen from her.
Jim and Gaby – Broadway
Choreographer Josh Bergasse (Fever, Michael Bublé)
“Gaby is lovesick and stuck in bed…and Jim is the hunky, fedora-wearing man of her feverish dreams.” Hey, that’s what they said, y’all…. Action packed with lots of character development.
Gaby’s got character in spades, and the dance acumen to back it up. Jim is opening up a lot better with his dance persona but still needs a little more push with it. I think he’s fairly introverted as a person–going big with the personality is challenging for people like us, especially when we are called to be performers. He’ll get it, though.
Nigel thought it felt more nightclub than Broadway–that the transitions felt corny and their chemistry wasn’t right. Josh isn’t the only one who’s gonna club you for saying that….. *eye roll* Paula dubbed them the perfect technical partnership, but agreed with Nigel that something was a bit off with the feeling of the piece. Jason also missed the chemistry with the pair, and thought Jim lacked the strength expected of a leading man persona. However, he thought Gaby “oozed with greatness” in this performance, as opposed to his opinion of her earlier duet.
Megz and Hailee – Contemporary
Choreographer Stacey Tookey (Song: Sarajevo, Max Richter & Sara Leonard)
Two inseparable sisters being torn apart and forced to say their final goodbyes. Both coaches and choreographer are stressing the importance of balancing strength and elegance in both ladies.
These are two of the most physically powerful female dancers in this season’s cast, so it’s interesting to see them temper that power with the fragility asked of them. It’s a very delicate balancing act, especially considering the number of partnering moves that require said strength. For the most part, they balance it well, but there were some parts of their characterizations I wasn’t quite certain of their intent.
Paula thought they did a very nice job and that Stacey played well to both of their strengths. Jason said it was a beautiful and solid performance, and was particularly impressed with Megz as he could clearly see her intention as she moved. Nigel was also impressed with both girls, marveled at Hailee’s final emotive collapse at the end and at Megz’s overall growth, giving her solo high praise. Almost made that girl all verklempt, Nigel….
Virgil and JaJa – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Pharcyde and Phoenix (Song: If You Crump Stand Up, edIT)
These two come straight out of the storybooks…”through the hip-hop looking glass” in Cat’s words. So basically JaJa in Wonderland…..you’ve got the right two for that.
I had to mentally reset the minute the song came on, because if I remember correctly that was Fik-shun’s audition piece. As it is, Virgil reminds me so much of him in personality, so I had to force myself to focus on the story in front of me. Fortunately, in The Amazing Tales of JaJa and Virgil, that was not a difficult task. I hope there’s room on that tour truck for this big ass book….
Jason thought they did a great job but not “through the roof” good. Nigel was reminded of Paula’s “Opposites Attract” dance duet with MC Skat Kat. Paula called them a jolt of electricity and the most affable performers on the stage, but did advise them to be mindful of embracing the musicality.
I did a Periscope before last week’s show in which I predicted the final four to all two members of my audience. And I made the right call. Based on tonight’s performances–and the solos in particular–Jim and Megz should still be in the running. But looking at the overall picture based on the entire season’s performances and the contestants the audience tends to gravitate toward, they were the only logical choices to go. The greatest thing is that we’ll not only get to see them on Tour, but I believe their development as dancers is going to be astronomical and very fruitful.
So it’s down to easily the four biggest personalities in the competition–Virgil, JaJa, Hailee and Gaby. This is going to be one high energy finale!