Js up! SYTYCD Season 12, Week 6 Hollywood

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It’s Top 10 week, which means the All-Stars are coming out to play now! It’s also a week for triple J news: JJ is injured, J-Lo is offering a dance spot in her Vegas show as part of the prize pot, and J. Smollett and company (AKA the cast of Empire) are the soundtrack for tonight’s contestant solos. Js up, yo!

More in-depth bios on the contestants this week.

Virgil – Conqueror (from the Empire soundtrack)
Pulled out his full bag of tricks, but it looked a little incohesive.

Hailee (with All-Star Brandon Bryant) – Broadway
Choreographer Warren Carlyle  (Song: It Don’t Mean A Thing  (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga)

Quirky, jazzy and fast–a tap dance without the shoes…at least according to Warren.

This isn’t Hailee’s style. Don’t get me wrong, she danced the hell out of it…I’m just not fond of the way it sits on her. This uptempo, classic style doesn’t seem to fit her personality, but she kept up well with both the music and her partner.

“Liza Gaga” as a nickname, Nigel? I can half see that. Makes the music selection that much more ironic. He thought it was a great routine and that Hailee is an exquisite individual in her own right. Paula said she was throwback Liza and radiated from every angle, taking her breath away. Jason recognized her combination of ability and energy and also dubbed her star material.

Hailee is SO safe. The bar is set high tonight.

Neptune – Power of the Empire (from the Empire soundtrack)
Song bodied and embodied. I like.

Derek (with All-Star Kayla Radomsky) – Jazz
Choreographers RJ Durell and Nick Flores  (Song: Got It, Marian Hill)

Sexy vibe is required tonight from Derek.

I got the power and male aggression from Derek but I can’t say sexy came across for certain. He was definitely exerting control in that number but no thoughts were made impure in the dancing of this piece. Again, though, the technique was razor sharp.

Paula said Derek’s strength prevailed and his technique is triumphant, with her only note being to better finesse a balance between his partner and the audience in getting his passion across. Jason noted that Derek fed off Kayla’s energy and produced a different side to his personality tonight, but needs to channel it when not in the partner moments as well. Nigel thought Derek was great support and started to come through from the background, holding his own with Kayla as the dance progressed.

Derek is the first of Team Stage in the bottom. (two from each team tonight, and it looks like no Twitter saves are in play.)

Gaby – Can’t Truss Em (from the Empire soundtrack)
Nice blend of rhythm and tricks, and glad to finally see her in her own style.

JJ gets her bio aired even though she can’t dance tonight. She’s in the bottom this week, and should she survive gets to do it all again next week, being automatically sent to the bottom.

Virgil (with All-Star Comfort Fedoke) – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Christopher Scott (Song: Just My Imagination  (Running Away With Me), The Temptations)

“Two very serious dancers.” Christopher, how you even THOUGHT that with a straight face boggles the mind. The two are a couple spending their first night together in their new apartment. Coach tWitch is trying to pull big brother rank but I’m wondering if he’s having bed flashbacks from his season….. Well, at least Comfort is unpacking this time, and under happier circumstances.

They are just too daggone cute.

Jason said the dance was a cool breeze on a hot summer day in Hollywood, and cold Virgil the one to beat. (Pause… Is that Whoopi Goldberg in the audience? Well damn.) Nigel thinks Virgil came out of the womb born to dance and born to entertain, and handled the difficult moves with great ease. Paula calls Virgil enjoyable to watch and wants to know what size batteries he runs on. AA, in case you were wondering.

This Energizer bunny is going to keep going and going….he’s safe.

OK, Cat…Virgil’s happy dance? THAT you’re allowed to do.

JaJa – Keep It Movin’ (from the Empire soundtrack)
I’m still salty you didn’t make Season 11, JaJa. But I do agree that the year wait was better for you.  Clever choice of lyrics and moves for this song.

Megz (with All-Star Marko Germar) – Jazz
Choreographer Ray Leeper (Song: Canned Heat, Jamiroquai)

A “That’s my jam!” jazz dance….this is gonna be fun.

The last jazz to Canned Heat (and that might have been Ray’s, too) did not go over well. This one was a lot more fun but I sensed less energy in Megz’s performance than in the rehearsal footage. I think she played it cool a little too long, and some of her transitions were bumpy because of it. Plus the usual palpable energy was not as strong tonight. I hope this piece does enough for her.

Nigel loved it and loves that Megz owns her personality and stands out with it. He does give her a note on increasing her flexibility, but states that the performance cannot be faulted. Paula says the number was fun and Megz was magnificent, with infectious energy. Jason thinks Megz has catapulted herself into a top contender on the show.

Megz is the second Team Street dancer in danger. Things will be thrown if I don’t see her next week.

Jim – You’re So Beautiful (from the Empire soundtrack)
Light and fun, with all that gorgeous technique thrown in for good measure.

Edson (with All-Star Jaimie Goodwin) – Contemporary
Choreographer Travis Wall (Song: Your Day Will Come, Son Lux)

Edson is the force trying to keep Jaimie from losing all hope and drifting toward the light. This is Coach Travis’s attempt to push Edson’s boundaries and performance personality even further.

GODDAMMIT TRAVIS! Lord, those lines were beautiful….and Edson really pulled something from deep within to connect with that piece. Standing ovation well deserved.

After a bit of fluttering and stuttering, Nigel lauds Edson for the best work he has done on the show thus far, calling the routine very strong. Paula agrees, calling tonight’s performance a game changer for him, and marveling at his strong presence, his effortless transitions, and his exquisite lifts. She hails the duet as magical. Jason agrees that today was Edson’s breakout this evening, and other than noting a small bobble on one left, agrees with his fellow judges wholeheartedly.

Even with this stellar performance, Edson joins Derek in the bottom two for Team Stage. If all is aligned properly in the heavens, this performance should save him for next week. However, Derek has a very strong Internet following, so I’m very worried about this one.

Hailee – Nothing To Lose  (from the Empire soundtrack)
Lots of desperation in that solo–it’s a good thing her All-Star duet was first. Or maybe that’s why I’m not knocked out by it. I don’t know…..

Young Hailee and young JaJa look eerily similar. I’m just saying.

Neptune (with All-Star Jasmine Harper) – Hip-Hop
Choreographers Phoenix and Pharcyde (Song: Milk Was A Bad Choice, Yultron)

I see furniture. The last time I saw furniture and hip-hop was involved was tWitch and Sasha Mallory in Misty Blue. A lot to live up to already. Uh-oh….Frankenstein and his bride are spatting this time. Curiouser and curiouser……

Good pairing. Off-the-wall choreography and bananas energy. So many previous numbers I can compare this to… the aforementioned Misty Blue and a duet done by Jasmine Mason featuring a regal couple. There were a couple of bumpy transitions between the pair, but it was really fun to watch and they hit all their points.

Jason said it was crazy–when you’re speechless to the point of trying not to work the censors overtime on live TV, you know he thought it was good. He thought the pair danced at the highest level and that Neptune is also one to beat in the competition. Nigel loves the theatricality and the “buckness.” I swear Nigel is so cute when he tries to talk street…. Paula marvels at how Neptune improves every week, and was equally yoked in his partnership with Jasmine tonight. She dubbed it “a marriage made in Transylvania.” (Nope, nope, NOPE. Nice Misty Blue mention, Nigel, but that was NOT Jasmine. Give Sasha her props.)

We already know the two in the bottom for this week, so the rest of the contestants are just dancing for next week’s glory. Neptune moves on.

Derek – Drip Drop (from the Empire soundtrack)
That solo was BOSS. I enjoyed it. The end wasn’t designed for a fully lit stage, so it looked a little incomplete, but it was very well crafted. This might just balance the scales with Edson if it has any effect on the outcome.

Jim (with All-Star Jessica Richens) – Contemporary
Choreographer Dee Caspary (Song: Heal, Tom Odell)

A young man dealing with internal conflict, and a young woman who doesn’t want him to have to deal with it alone. One of the first times we have seen Jim out of his comfort zone, probably partially because of last week’s injury as well as the movement of this piece being foreign to what he is used to.

I’m really starting to like and understand Dee’s work a lot better now. He has still put out some oddball pieces, but I really like this one, and Jim seemed to get a grasp on the movement much better than he did in rehearsal. He certainly internalized the character very well, and matched Jessica’s movements well.

Nigel thought it was a beautiful routine and again tells Jim that his technique is flawless but he needs to release it a little in order to fully immerse himself into characterization and connection. Paula agrees and advises Jim to trust his gut  instincts. Jason made it unanimous, remarking that the weakness in connection kept him from enjoying the routine as much as he felt he should have.

Jim has another week to work on it, and hopefully have a breakthrough in that area.

Megz – No Apologies (from the Empire soundtrack)
I would not have recognized Megz from any Season 5 clips. She needed time and seasoning as well.

The solo was fierce but really heavy. Her personality sat way back for the first time this season, and it’s probably largely due to the pressure and the nerves. I hope she has another week.

JaJa (with All-Star Alex Wong) – Bollywood
Choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan (Song: Naacho Re, Jai Ho soundtrack)

JaJa is a princess who escapes her palace and bumps into the palace guard in her excursion out. Another week of bringing out the girlie within.

Well damn, JaJa….somebody had their sassy juice this morning. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with 70s musician and personality Charo, but JaJa was channeling her in spades. I didn’t know she had that much flirty in her. Not to mention they gave her knee spins–not a typically female move, but she breezed right through them. I loved it! (And yay for Alex getting through yet another Bollywood routine unscathed!)

Paula’s quotable of the day: “[Jaja] you’re a firecracker and a sweet dream all at the same time.” She believed JaJa nailed the character and has proven her versatility among dance styles. Jason called her a chameleon and thought she more than matched up to her All-Star partner’s level. Nigel confirms my eyesight and makes a joke/reference to Ms. Whoop in the audience….who is evidently a huge JaJa fan. Go figure. Nigel calls her a princess of dance and is amazed how she transforms herself for every single routine.

Edson – I Just Wanna Love You (from the Empire soundtrack)

Hey now….that was kinda sexy suave right there. And just enough razzle dazzle to show you off. The solos are a draw for him and Derek.

Gaby (with All-Star Joshua Allen) Hip-Hop
Choreographers Phoenix and Pharcyde (Song: I’m Really Hot, Missy Elliott)

Geisha and ninja doing hip-hop….don’t judge a book by its cover, Mr. Man. Underestimating the beautiful can be deadly.

TOUR!!!!!!!!!!!! (Neptune, get ready to learn this, boo….) Gaby took on the Season 4 champion and knocked him out. It was like Mulan from the ‘Hood, with a dash of Kill Bill thrown in. Some of the twerk moves need a little more looseness, but everything that was sharp and precise was hit with as much deadly accuracy as those imaginary throwing stars. Travis said in the package that this was the kind of routine that could walk her through the finale. I wouldn’t doubt it.

Cat tells Gaby that she couldn’t love her any more with every fiber of her being, and Jason fully agreed….and also appreciated the twerk moments as well. Nigel pronounces this his favorite episode of the season and says the caliber of dancing from everyone is going to make it difficult to separate the pack. However, he does qualify with his “favorites” being JaJa and Gaby, so I guess it’s safe to say he loved it. Paula is slayed as well, and enjoys Gaby’s ability to master all the styles given to her while maintaining her feminine power and old-school swagger.

This routine may well carry her a couple of weeks. She definitely gets the next one.

Now on to the grizzly business of sending someone home…..*pauses TiVo*

All of them have their pluses dancewise, but if the vote goes the way I think it will based on Internet presence, the two I really want to stay are leaving this week. *unpause*

Hmmmm…..it’s a split vote. Megz stays but Edson goes, giving Derek a pass and sending the injured JJ out without a chance for redemption. I’m sad that she goes out like that but she’d have been my bottom choice of the Street team anyway. I think Edson gave everything and then some these last two weeks and should have stayed. Derek’s fans are helping to carry him, but he’s got to find a breakthrough quickly.

Three weeks left to discover America’s favorite dancer, and the race is the closest it’s ever been.

Three shows closer to a champion now….the field is closer than ever and the outcome more up in the air. Who’s gonna take it all?

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Ladies’ Night Out: SYTYCD Season 12, Week 5 Hollywood

Double eliminations this week as we shape up who’s moving into the Top 10!

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Top 14 group
Choreographer Brian Friedman (Song: 100% Pure Love, Crystal Waters)

A Vogue from the VMAs look. I like it. I had to look up Brian’s bio to double check–if he was in that, he was the tallest, most mature-looking 13 year old EVER. I can’t believe that performance is 25 years old! Love what the kids did with it.

Team Street get 53% tonight!

This week is the 20 second question round! Let the hilarity ensue!

Jim and Yorelis – Contemporary
Choreographer Sonya Tayeh (Song: Asht, Nebulo)

Jim was injured during rehearsal (and wasn’t in that group dance), but was cleared to perform his duet with Yorelis. Because I was TOTES confused when he came out during intros…..the theme is a power play.

Strong work. It’s like Sonya just painted this work onto their bodies. Jim actually reminded me of Cole Horibe in given moments. Yorelis proves that though she might have moved her focus to street styles, her technique is well-rounded and in full force.

Nigel appreciates that Yorelis was given the chance to shine and display her versatility in this piece, and praises Jim as one of the best technical dancers in the show’s history….but cautions him to hone his personality, performance and connection, as the best technical dancers have not always been the people’s champions. Paula lauds their ability to handle the strength, power and intensity of the piece and thought the pair complemented each other. Jason appreciated the synergy and technical prowess from both dancers.

Jim is safe, Yorelis is in danger.

Edson and JaJa – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Misha Gabriel (Song: She Came To Give It To You, Usher featuring Nicki Minaj)

Edson wins for sneaking an IaMmE reference into the 20 second round.

The pair are funky, edgy models taking the fashion world by storm….a runway show with a remix to it.

Stuck-up, sexy JaJa…..even JaJa’s not seeing that. Edson’s confidence in his swag is flagging, too.

This season’s Blurred Lines. Not quite the attitude from Sexyback (maybe Edson should have consulted Coach Travis?), but well performed and lots of energy.

Paula thought it was a fun routine and made an intricate routine look breezy,  found Edson’s swag and thought JaJa blended the fierce technique and flirty ‘tude perfectly. Jason thought the routine was a little basic, particularly for this stage of the competition, cool but no standout “wow” moments. (Hope he had someone check his car before he left.) Nigel agrees with Jason and thought it was too big for his taste, as opposed to the contained cool the style usually displays.

America voted the pair into the Top 10.

Hailee and Virgil – Contemporary
Choreographer Tyce Diorio (Song: Cellophane, Sia)

Hailee as crazy, obsessed girlfriend who won’t let go. She’s channeling her dance crush on Virgil to tap into the dark, reckless feel of this piece. Virgil is also going to have to internalize the usual megawatt charm to pull off his part.

I’m seeing part Joshua and part Fik-Shun in Virgil’s performance. The intense energy is definitely subdued, but it fits the piece. I can easily see Sia or even Pink calling Hailee in the future for one of their videos. That last drag across the stage said everything.

Jason felt the recklessness in the piece and appreciated the 180 degree turn from Virgil in the persona portrayed. Nigel loves the material and the characters, and enjoyed Hailee’s transformation. Nigel thought Virgil’s character was terrific but it exposed his lack of technique. Paula countered, saying it was more that Virgil’s dramatic turnaround in the face of Hailee’s intensity and draw dimmed his usual magnetic exuberance.

Y’all in the Top 10, too. We already knew.

Alexia and Ariana – Burlesque Jazz
Choreographers Tracy Phillips and Dominic Carbone (Song: Circus Fish, Vermilion Lies)

Sexy fish….alrighty then.

It was weird. It was definitely weird. Weird’s not necessarily a bad thing, though…I thought they nailed what they were given, give or take a few missed connections. Burlesque is such a varied and misunderstood art form it’s going to be hard for the audience to grasp. And now that I know they were literally supposed to be fish, I think it was hard for them to embrace and, well, swim in the character with the complex, unfamiliar movements.
 
Nigel thought it missed the mark a little, starting off in a Liza Minelli/Bob Fosse vein but losing its dark feel with all the smiles. Paula is slightly less brutal (and great gut check on Nigel, girlie!) and recognizes the campy concept, suggesting to the girls that they emulate a performer that embodies what they’re going for, and act as if until you can become. (I’m stealing that mantra, Paula.) Jason opined that it was a little rough, saying that the uncertainty and negative feelings about the piece showed out through the movement and transferred into his perception and enjoyment of it.

Both girls are in danger, and this piece is going to be hard-pressed to win them any votes.

Megz/Derek – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Dave Scott (Song: Worth It, Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink)

Female artist in a jazz club is intrigued by an audience member and pulls him onstage. Sooooo……Megz was just gonna keep that trumpet playing card in her back pocket, huh? I tell you what–in addition to some killer dance moves across the board, she is making for some really fascinating TV, and that’s the type of thing that boosts ratings….and votes. They have to loosen Derek up some, though.

They got him looser, though he still needs work on hitting the hip-hop moves. But I felt like I was at a concert witnessing an impromptu on-stage collaboration between artist and fan. I can see Pink calling up Megz, too. That sassy-sexy came out of left field….Megz could easily and strategically maneuver her way into Top 4 with all these surprises she keeps revealing.

Paula says it wasn’t her favorite–though she appreciated the effort–because it wasn’t Derek’s comfort zone (which showed) and Megz did more face-pulling than she would have liked. The nit-picking about the mismatched horn was unnecessary…..we can suspend disbelief, dammit! Jason thought Megz was pretty good, not her worst but OK (can y’all give it a rest about the sax/trumpet conundrum?), and that Derek needs to immerse himself in some research to improve his hip-hop vocabulary and swag. Nigel doesn’t think the routine helped Derek’s standing in the votes, already being in the bottom from last week’s injury. However, he thought Megz was terrific.

So did America….helloooooo, Top 10, Megz.

Gaby/Neptune – Contemporary
Choreographer Stacey Tookey  (Song: Take My Hand, Precious Lord, Ledisi [from the Selma soundtrack])

Neptune, did you REALLY shade that girl’s nose ring as a booger?!? Sir, you’re fired. SMH

Humanity and prejudice….”chasing each other’s trust.” (Neptune, that quote was inspired.)

Timing is everything. Particularly with this show and the placement of the pieces. I think given the current climate in this country with racial tensions and current interactions, this routine could easily be described as this season’s “Woman’s Work.” Both dancers moved in concert with each other, but more importantly fully lived this piece. It’s clearly visible once we see their faces after the performance. Props to the director and the camera operator for the decision to shoot this with one camera and in one take. That made the number that much more powerful.

The judges are standing. Jason is STILL standing as he gives his commentary, calling it unreal and a grade A performance. Nigel calls Gaby his favorite stage dancer this year, and says that she has shined every week. Neptune, in his eyes, has simply transcended to a dancer, with no limitations. Given that Neptune basically poured his life out on the stage and into that performance, I think the rest of us can say the same. Paula is short on time, but also short on words, calling it stunning.

Gaby sails into the Top 10, but Neptune surprisingly is back in the bottom after a few safe weeks. If America wants him to stay, this would be the routine to move them.

JJ/Kate – Jazz
Choreographer Brian Friedman (Song: A Different Beat, Little Mix)

Pin-up jazz….Brian sure loves this sexy/flirty stuff when he gets all girls to work with. I’m here for it, though. Uh-oh….Kate has some twerk in here. Both are struggling with parts, though.

This needed to channel On The Town and any given Katy Perry video, and for the most part JJ got the flirty sass down. Kate was working at it but it looked like it–it didn’t come across as natural. But I think they both did well and conquered their personal weak areas.

(Brian, I sincerely hope none of those pins on your hat are remotely military–I still remember the backlash Mia Michaels got for wearing the upside-down Marine patch on her blouse in Season 3…..)
*<u <h
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Nigel thought their personalities definitely came out but didn’t showcase their abilities as much. Paula suggested not performing so on-the-nose in order to make it look mature and sassy as opposed to leaning toward the adolescent. Jason agreed, but thought the performance was pretty good.

Kate is in danger, but JJ moves on to the Top 10.

I’d honestly forgotten about the double eliminations…..so the Twitter votes are all important tonight, as it solidifies the Top 10. The futures of Alexia, Derek, Kate, Yorelis, Ariana and Neptune hang in the balance….and the judges have no say.

Team Stage group dance – Contemporary
Choreographer Sonya Tayeh (Song: Lift Me, The Bengsons)

Based on all the emotions that happen within the first few moments you receive tragic news, each of the dancers should have some experience they can tap into. (All-Star Robert Roldan steps into the group number for the injured Jim.)

This had a very Alvin Ailey “I’ve Been ‘Buked” feeling to it…the feeling of despair and desperation is palpable. The sincerity Sonya was looking for definitely came through.

Team Street group dance – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Pharcyde and Phoenix (Song: Dragula, Rob Zombie)

Welcome to the Freakshow Carnival…..cue Ryan Murphy, as this one number covers all the bases of his two latest successful ventures.

Freaky as hell. Virgil was way too cute a clown for the dark nature of this piece (as cute as clowns can go). But folks definitely latched onto their characters while slapping the life out of that choreography. (I had a slightly saltier version but I try to use my cuss words judiciously.)

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Twitter saves allow Derek and Neptune to round out the Top 10, leaving Kate, Ariana, Alexia and Yorelis out in the cold…but hopefully the swing realm. Personally the Team Street vote was an impossible choice–Yorelis, Ariana and Neptune are three of the strongest dancers PERIOD. The emotional pull from Neptune’s turn on tonight’s stage may have elevated him this time. As for the Stage crew, each had their flubs, so I’m guessing Derek had the strongest Internet presence to pull him out of the fire. Not at all pleased with the Street result but that’s who was up for the vote this week. I didn’t have any strong attachments to the Stage dancers in jeopardy, but logistically Derek was probably the best choice of the three given their existing body of work on the show.

Next week brings in the All-Stars….and turns up the heat. Now the competition really kicks in as they fight for the title.

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Never Give Up

Awesome inspiration

Never Give Up.

Thinning The Herd: SYTYCD Season 12, Week 4 Hollywood

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This is the last week for contestants to still make the Tour.

Top 16 group

Choreographers Nick Flores and RJ Durell stage a Goth fashion show…..Enough said.
(Song: Love Is Free, Robyn & La Bagatello Magique featuring Maluca)

Intro had 15 dancers–where’s Derek? He was injured in rehearsal and is on mandatory medical rest. He will automatically be in the bottom for next week’s show–if he’s not voted out.

Team Street is coming up–49.5% to Team Stage’s 50.5%. tWitch and tWavis do a lovely pas de deux.

Oh goody…..we’re now into the dancer interview question phase….

JaJa and Hailee – Jazz
Choreographer Ray Leeper (Song: Endangered Species, Dianne Reeves)

[JaJa’s engaged and Hailee is not a natural blonde…kind of a hair chameleon like Lacey Schwimmer.]

Ray is choreographing the two female powerhouses in a female empowerment piece.

Hail-Ja….they’ve dubbed themselves Hail-Ja. And they’re dancing to Dianne Reeves. Did they kill it? HAIL-JA! JaJa is looking more Stage every week, and Hailee clearly has the ability to adapt seamlessly to all styles.

Nigel agrees with the powerhouse label, and says Hailee is pulling the majority of the focus. He says JaJa is the most interesting street dancer, and her technique is growing exponentially. Paula said is brilliant to watch JaJa’s growth from her first audition, and remarks on Hailee’s radiance. Jason says it’s a great opener to the show, and praises JaJa for her progress. However, he does caution her about lengthening her extensions. Hailee he dubs a star.

If they hadn’t already been voted safe by the audience, this dance certainly would have secured it.

Neptune and Alexia – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Dave Scott (Song: Flex (Ooh Ooh Ooh), Run Homie Quan)

Neptune’s a daddy and Alexia has a blind toy poodle. Reminds me of a friend’s dearly departed pup Ginger.

Dave crafts a crazy love story, and Alexia has to come up to Neptune’s level here. They must literally mean crazy, because they’ve also incorporated a padded wall into the routine. Didn’t Travis use the wall a few seasons back with Sasha? Let’s see how it works for hip-hop.

OK, they are seriously flying over the cuckoo’s nest with this one. Immediately I get vibes of Beautiful, Mia Michaels’ quirky wedding piece performed by Mark and Chelsea from Season 4. Alexia almost has Witney Carson level swag in this, while Neptune is clearly swimming with the sharks and thriving. I could see this going on tour.

Paula was impressed with their commitment to the insanity of the characters, and thought it was quirky and  weird and loved it.  Jason believe Neptune is very important to Team Street’s success, and thanks Alexia is improving as well. He thought Dave Scott’s concept for the dance was brilliant. Nigel agrees with the commentary on the kids’ performances.

After such an amazing performance, the pair is relieved to both be safe.

JJ is solo going into the break, so I gather she was to dance with Derek in a Miriam and Leonardo Argentine tango….

JJ and Derek – Argentine Tango
Choreographers Miriam Larici and Leonardo Buenonuevos (Song: Duo De Amor, Astor Piazzelle)

Derek is adopted; JJ LOVES her topknot.

Portraying a couple being alone for the first time, this promises to be steamy. However, as we see in the Day 2 footage, Derek has sprained his back from all the lifts….the muscle next to his spine, to be specific. So naturally, Leonardo is stepping in tonight.

JJ did well, especially with the emotional side of the performance. No Mary to zero in on the intricacies of the technique, but she looked like she was working very hard at hitting all the lines and foot placements.

Jason said she brought sexy back, and that she held her own given the circumstances. Nigel said she was a credit to her team, and had Mary been in attendance, she would have been on the Hot Tamale train. Paula said it was a beautiful routine and she had an incredible transformation this week.

As we know, Derek will be in danger next week if he comes back, but as it stands this week both of them are in danger anyway.

Jim and Ariana – Contemporary
Choreographer Sean Cheesman (Song: Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Lorde)

Ariana loves special effects makeup and Jim loves therapeutic bubble baths. I’m not mad at him.

Sean is displayed a battle with depression, with Ariana as the depression and Jim as the person battling it. Given my family experiences recently, this should cut pretty close.

Lorde, I like you, but I don’t know if I want you fooling with this particular song. However, let’s home of your version went very well with this piece, combined with the costuming and the lighting. Arianna and Jim we’re in great sync the entire time, and carried the emotional weight of this piece elegantly. Reminiscent of the wild horses piece from season 8 And the rigid and Emilio piece from last season.

Judging from the standing ovation from this judges panel, these reviews are to be pretty good. Nigel thought they connected to the message very well and put rated brilliantly, and is at a loss as to why Ariana has not connected with the audience. (Me too.) He also tells Jim that his work was effortless in his portrayal. Paula thinks the piece showcases the breadth of their development as dancers, and is very pleased with both of their growth. Jason is equally blown away by Ariana and her ability to match her partner’s stage technique, well giving high praise to Jim’s technical prowess.

Again, again, Jim is safe but Ariana is in danger. I’m really getting sick of America on this one.

Gaby and Virgil – Broadway
Choreographer Al Blackstone (Where Or When, Sammy Davis, Jr.)

Virgil has a jazz band and Gaby has Food Network Star aspirations….she just can’t cook.

Two New Yorkers who literally bump into each other on the streets and feel like they’ve met before. “Character Olympics” is the new phrase of the day. Let’s see how much radiates from these two hams.

And Gabi gets to tap….awesome.

Virgil has some pretty good moves there, channeling Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, and even a little bit of their singing namesake. Clearly those years on stage have helped his performance a lot. He and Gaby took the Character Olympics to an entirely different level. Dynamic number from the two of them.

Paula is ecstatic and calls them both a great day at Disneyland. She actually tells Virgil he looks like Sammy Davis Jr., and says that Gabi is well rounded and well versed in the competition. Jason says Virgil breathes life into every performance, and that both of them did an amazing job. He also agrees that both have a wide breadth of ability, but cautions the taller Gabi to “act larger” when dancing next to Virgil’s megawatts personality. Nigel disagrees with Jason, saying that the two were a powerhouse couple in that regard, and matched each other perfectly.

Both are safe, though we pretty much knew that on Virgil side. But Gaby was pretty much a shoe-in.

Kate and Asaf – Jazz
Choreographer Sean Cheesman (Song: Braveheart, Neon Jungle)

Asaf? Doughnuts and peanut butter? At the same time?!? Kate, on the other hand, was the target of an attempted kidnapping as a four year old by a serial killer. The phrase, “you just can’t make this stuff up” just seems inadequate…..

The couple at the club that IS the “in” club…. this week we are struggling with Asaf’s ability to lift Kate. Both coaches step in to try to help him build his skills so that the piece looks good and Kate doesn’t get hurt.

Eh. He tried. She was going gangbusters, too. I just wasn’t feeling it. Kate’s technique is insane, though.

Jason called it a good performance, which doesn’t bode well. He thought Kate was awesome, and that Asaf has improved but still has a good way to go. Nigel thought that Kate did a great job with connecting as well as with her technique, and Nigel throws in the name pun, saying he danced his “ass off.” Paula thought they both worked very well together, and also agrees that he improved significantly from last week.

Both are in the bottom again, so we’ll see what happens.

Marissa and Yorelis – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Christopher Scott (Song: Let Go, Kezwik featuring Mimi Page)

Marissa was a power tumbler, and Yorelis is a club go-go dancer.

Yorelis hypnotizes Marissa to bring her to the Street side….

Marissa is still a little too precise for me, but I believe Yorelis mentioned something in the package about her style being less fluid. So I could be wrong about that. Both are definitely hitting the choreography, I’m just not sure how much of the vibe they caught. Christopher is smiling, though….

Nigel but Marissa was terrific, but cautioned her about matching flow.  He thought Yorelis’s flow was excellent, and that the peer did well together. Paula also thought they did well as a team, and thought Yorelis nailed the entire performance. Jason thought it was a really good performance, but given the scope of the competition, he thought the routine could have used a little more intensity.

Yorelis is safe and Marissa is the final Stage dancer in the bottom 6.

So Megz and Edson get to perform with no pressure.

Megz and Edson – Contemporary
Choreographer Talia Favia (Song: You There, Aquilo)

Edson has been a cheerleader since age 10 and even coaches teams. His team spirit has even led him to create a Team Stage cheer. How cute! Megz has a shoe fetish–378 pairs that she obsesses over.

This routine is about temptation and being extremely intrigued buy it. Megz is reaching for it and Edson is pulling her back from it.

Don’t sleep on Megz, y’all….I really believe Sonya Tayeh sent her secret little sister into this contest to mess with us. Edson is really developing emotionally, and if ever a piece of choreography earned the Best Use of Costuming in Movement award, this was it.

Cat called it a mix between the Scream painting and the Calvin Klein ad campaign. I can buy that.

Paula looks like she’s about to cry. She has goosebumps and is nearly speechless. She says she’s very taken by the piece, calls Megz truly amazing, and praises the partnership. Jason says it’s easily the best performance of the night. Nigel praises Megz’s transformation, as well as Edson’s emotional breakthrough.

Safe, as we said before….but it’s nice to hear it confirmed.

Team Street group dance – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Luam (Song: Commas, Future)

The New York “hustler spirit.”

The girls are really carrying this team. Asaf is good in his own right but the weakest link of the bunch.

Team Stage group dance – Contemporary
Choreographer Travis Wall (Song: Beautiful Friends, Helen Money)

Ghosts of Theaters Past….the ghosts come out at night. Oh wait, wrong song. Sorry, Whodini…..

Again, the costuming and lighting really sell this piece. The choreography is amazing as well, but the entire ghostlight concept is what puts this over the top.

So now, who goes home? Twitter saves JJ and Derek, so Derek at least gets a chance to dance his way to another save. The judges make the tough decision to save Kate and Ariana, and Marissa and Asaf leave the show. Asaf was growing but not fast enough or any brighter than the rest of his team, and Marissa, though good, was expendable compared to her female teammates.

So now we have the Tour dancers in place…who will be the featured Top 10 and who will be the alternates? With all of the dancers performing at higher and higher levels, it should be interesting to watch.

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The Total Package: SYTYCD Season 12, Week 3 Hollywood

Another week, another round of exciting competition…..

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Top 18 group – Samba/Jazz (?)
Choreographers Asiel Hardin and Reina Hidalgo

Nothing could prepare me for this Brazilian samba-like rhythm and the song title super….Let The Groove Get In by Justin Timberlake?!? Alrighty then….it’s a fun number, though. I can see this being a tour piece.  First-time choreographers Reina Hidalgo and Asiel Hardin are welcome back anytime.

Not caring for this Stage/Street percentage announcement….

JaJa, Derek and Alexia – Contemporary
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Song: All Waters, Perfume Genius

Bravery in different forms. The dancers are cast as a war veteran, an abused woman and a single mother, and each has to draw on their own emotions to convey experiences they have no direct way of relating to.

I still wholeheartedly believe JaJa was ready last season, but she is really morphing well into the stage styles. A bobble here and there but for the most part she matched Alexia the whole time. Derek’s salute was weak but that may have been intentional given the theme of the piece….plus he also had some off moments. Considering he had two girls to partner and his own character to portray through all of it, I think he did an admirable job. Alexia danced very well–it’s hard to focus on Stacey Tookey’s choreography as there are several things happening at once. But I think she delivered everything Stacey asked.  The lighting was spectacular.

Nigel thinks Alexia danced tall and Derek did well in concert with the girls, and is also impressed with JaJa’s chameleon-like abilities. Paula lauds Stacey for the piece and agrees on all three, and dubs this as Derek’s best work yet. Jason makes three and appreciates the timeliness of such a piece, feeling connected to the story and the emotion. Cat drags out the results for effect, scaring poor Derek unnecessarily….all three are safe.

Megz, Moises and Jim – Hip-Hop
Choreographer JaQuel Knight
Song: Whuteva, Remy Ma

Choreographer JaQuel Knight (famous for Beyoncé’s Single Ladies choreography) gives the trio a piece that “lets everybody knows you’re here to stay, and ‘whuteva to the haters.’ ” Megz still looks the toughest in the bunch regardless of style, but the guys are really trying to find their cockiness and swag.

Jim tried, and held on to the choreography fairly well, but the swag rested in the not-so-good stank face he was bringing. Moises did better and I thought he gave the necessary attitude. Megz clearly danced more in pocket to help the boys match.

Paula thought their commitment to character, vibe and feel could have been stronger, though she did applaud Jim for being able to more fully express it; Jason thought it was cool, but thought Megz petered off in energy at the last quarter, and the guys gave mediocre backup dancer; Nigel didn’t think the piece worked at all.  Results save Jim and Megz but puts Moises in danger again.

Edson, JJ and Yorelis – Jazz Funk
Choreographer Tovaris Wilson
Song: Restart, Sam Smith

A jazz/hip-hop fusion with Edson as the ladies’ man working two women. Coach Travis wants Edson to own his sex appeal in this piece, while Coach tWitch is impressed with the girls’ grasp on the choreography.

Great sync from all three. Not sure about the level of stage training JJ has had but she’s proving equal to her partners. Also, Edson holds his own extremely well alongside two of the strongest performing personalities in the competition–I got some nice suave pretty boy vibes from him. The jazz technical sections seemed more drawn out and heavy compared to the fun, hip-hop inspired parts, but the execution was strong and precise.

Jason thought it was entertaining and that Edson had some great moments, but could have been more free with his interactions “flirting” with the ladies. Nigel thought the girls are very strong–dubbed them two of his favorites–and said they caught the groove but need to be careful polishing the technique, while telling Edson to embrace his sexuality and infuse his performances with it. Paula agrees on both points about the girls regarding vibe and technique, and notes Yorelis had a slightly better hold on the latter than JJ. Edson got a favorable review on his vibe as well. Yorelis and JJ move forward while Edson falls to the bottom.

Marissa and Asaf – Club Cha-Cha
Choreographer Jean Marc Genereux
Song: +1, Martin Solveig featuring Sam White

A rock star and groupie/plus one connection. Asaf gets to use some of his cocky bravado if he can grasp all of that complicated choreography, and Marissa gets to amp up her sex appeal once she can more fully let loose and be confident in her partner’s abilities. Coach tWitch is just happy Asaf is working hard and doesn’t have to be pulled aside this week. (As are we all, tWitch…as are we all.) Jean Marc gives Asaf a plate to work with to help him maintain his arm space…..now Jean Marc, was the duct tape under yours really necessary?

He tried. I will give it to him–Asaf really tried, and was physically strong and present. But I now see what Mary Murphy has been yammering about regarding foot placement and rhythmic hips…because it was badly lacking. This hampered Asaf’s ability to infuse his persona into the dance, while Marissa thrived in that, making it seem like SHE was the rock star character in this instead of the man.

The judges were unanimous in noting that Marissa, in her effort to dance down to Asaf’s level, danced below her own as well. She is safe to come back next week, though, as Asaf heads the bottom 6.

Gaby, Burim and Ariana – African Jazz
Choreographer Sean Cheesman
Song: Gorilla, Lord KraVen

Choreographer Sean Cheesman casts the trio as animalistic, beasty creatures and themes the piece “dance of the blood moon.” Canes are involved–the girls are grasping it; Burim is not. We’ll see what happens on stage.

Arachnophobes, do not adjust your sets–that is not a spider in the opening shot. Very ethnic and earthy movements, and Burim caught on better than I thought, but this number belonged to the girls. Total powerhouses, those two. Between wardrobe, hair and lighting this was a visually spectacular piece.

Paula thought it was strong, and inadvertently made a reference to the video introduction that triggered the 12 year old boys flanking her at the judges’ table. Thanks to a save from Cat Deeley (because you will NOT drag me into pre-pubescent boy world), she is able to articulate how proud and impressed she is that he’s overcoming his struggles. She also marvels at the girls’ strength and power, and loves the overall visual presentation. Jason noticed a slight misstep on Burim’s part and gave him some advice, but overall loved the concept and the number. Nigel called it one of the best of the evening, praising the two girls and giving Burim his due on keeping pace. He also gives Burim tips on using his second position and plié to get further down into the movement…..then quickly reverts back to his inner teenage horndog. *facepalm* Ariana is in danger again as well as Burim this week, but Gaby comes up safe.

Neptune and Kate – Contemporary
Choreographer Justin Giles
Song: Promise, Ben Howard

Oh goody–an established married couple having to do the long-distance/separation thing. A little too close to my personal home. Both dancers are having to pull on their full emotional range for this piece to prove to the judges and to the viewing audience what their capabilities are.

Good routine. Neptune’s movements need a little more power and completion but he had them and the emotional execution down. Kate is a very fluid dancer, and that tends to imply that there are no drastic levels to her performances. I saw a few sharply defined moments, so she may be able to get better remarks from the judges this week.

Jason enjoyed the chemistry and the “filling in of spaces”, and applauded Kate for breaking out of her shell. Likewise, he praised Neptune’s efforts and intimated that he just might be this week’s favorite. Nigel marveled at the dichotomy of such a limited scope of steps giving off such an expansive aura, and also commented on the progression of audience acceptance regarding pairs of mixed races. (Trust me, Nigel, the ignorance is still out there…..they just don’t say it in the general public.) Paula also sees Kate’s emotional progress and claims Neptune as a favorite as well. Neptune is safe this week with the audience vote, but Kate is in danger.

Virgil and Hailee – Hip-Hop
Choreographers Phoenix and Pharcyde
Song: Runnin, Noahplause

Robots. They’re playing robots. From outer space, even. This should be good. Hailee is picking this up…..wise girl, studying some hip-hop for the show. Virgil is having to bring a harder game to keep up. I’m not worried, though. Coach tWitch described him as “Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Pryor wrapped up in a little nugget of a man.” That’s about right.

Ummmm……damn. Dizamn, y’all. I was watching the beginning thinking Hailee needed to bring up her energy and precision…and then I noticed the height difference. Briefly mistaking her for Virgil is about the highest compliment I can give her. That, and I see shades of Eliana. Virgil was no slouch either. These two were virtual dynamite. This is touring.

Nigel dubs them the two brightest personalities on the show, and these two personalities proceed to try to snag the Cole Horibe Award for not breaking character. Paula thought it was fantastic, and Jason is floored by the wacky pair.

So the bottom 6 this week are Edson, Moises and Kate for Team Stage, and Ariana, Asaf and Burim for Team Street.
Team Stage group dance – Contemporary
Choreographer Jaci Royal
Song: For My Help, Hayden Calnin

Choreographer Jaci Royal crafts a piece about needing others to overcome obstacles. Focusing on emotion and connectedness as opposed to the power and aggression of last week, Coach Travis is hoping something new comes across this time.

Still a lot of power and aggressive energy, but the slow motion moves are impressive with the strength and fluidity displayed. Kate’s expressiveness is really palpable in this one.

Team Street group dance – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Marty Kudelka
Song: Break Ya Neck, Busta Rhymes

Legendary choreographer Marty Kudelka gives Team Street a smoother, groovier piece than the previous offerings.

Pretty funky. Squad is in the house.

Twitter saves Ariana and Kate, which drops all of the boys in jeopardy. After the judges’ deliberations, Asaf is the last B-boy standing, while Edson gets the contemporary save. So Burim and Moises–the two I DIDN’T want to leave–are going home this week. Boo hiss. Oh well, the show goes on. We’ll see what new challenges are in store for next week.
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My thoughts when they announced who was going home....talk to the hand.

Man Down! SYTYCD Season 12, Week 2 Hollywood

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Photo credit: Dick Clark Productions and FOX

It’s the second week of dancing for our Top 20, but this week the stakes are high as two of the dancers–one from each team–will be going home tonight. Emmy announcements abound (I guess considering this show practically gave Travis his career, an Emmy nod will never get old for him) and the introduction of the save tweet a la The Voice. Gonna make my delayed viewing problematic.

Top 20 group – Hip-Hop
Choreographers Phoenix and Pharcyde. (Song: Baila Como Yo, District 78)

Opening hip-hop number with a Day of the Dead theme. I love the fusion and reminds me of Ramalama (from Season 2) in look and the salsa/hip-hop mashup (done in Season 5) in vibe.

There’s a little change-up this year….the groupings are not necessarily pairs. In fact, there are only two couples tonight; the rest is a collection of trios and quartets.

Darion, Yorelis and Hailee – Salsa
Choreographers: Jonathan Platero and Oksana Dmytrenko
(Song:  Blucutu, Saamara)

A salsa trio–the cha-cha was done well as a trio in Season 6 (and decently enough in Season 9) but those were all trained ballroom dancers. Season 5 alum Jonathan and his partner Oksana teach the three this combination of intricate steps and insane tricks.

The girls are rocking cutouts and fringe, and Darion is in a hoodie. Really, wardrobe? Love Hailee’s pompadour, though. Darien looks just as uncomfortable doing the tricks on stage as he did in the rehearsal video. All three did a pretty good job of the side by side salsa steps, and the girls did their best to keep up with the fast paced music.

Jason thought the novel was missing spice, heat, and sexiness, and dubbed it a little less than OK. Nigel for the two girls did bring the heat, but agreed about Darion’s lack of fire.  Paula also praised the two girls, and advised Darion to stop thinking so hard and be more present.

I forgot about this results part of the show, where they tell the kids they’re standing right after the dance. At least it’s not at the top of the show this time. The girls are both safe, but Darion is in danger of going home.

Derek and Ariana – Jazz
Choreographer Ray Leeper
(Song: Cry Me A River, Michael Bublé)

A semi-dark piece from Ray about two people coming together to share the loss of a loved one.

Both dancers were on an even keel as far as skill and energy. Considering only one of them is the stage trained dancer, that’s pretty impressive. As far as emotional performance goes, I think Ariana nailed it a little more than Derek did. His anguish looked forced, while hers looks more organic. And while I didn’t quite understand it, I did appreciate the choreography.

(Did Cat just really just call that man Mickey Bubbles? SMH)

Paula praised the pair on the execution, but cautions both of them about facial performance. Jason is equally impressed by both and surprised by Ariana but agrees with Paula. Nigel rounds out the concurrence, as he expresses his shock that Ariana did so well outside of her style. Somehow the pair are both in danger, joining Darien in the bottom 6. Ariana is the first Street dancer announced in the bottom as of now.

Alexia, Virgil and Megz – Contemporary
Choreographer Dee Caspary
(Song: Until We Go Down, Ruelle)

This ought to be good. Alexia is Team Stage and Virgil definitely has stage training as evidenced from previous seasons, but let’s see what kind of contemporary prowess Megz has in her. Dee casts Virgil as a battered around man in a toxic relationship with two strong women.

Another Dee Caspary piece I didn’t quite fully grasp, but I actually liked the energy of this one. Reminded me of Sonya Tayeh’s work. It was well executed by all three dancers. The judges are completely wowed by the trio, and especially Megz and Virgil. Nigel makes a special point to praise Alexia for her skill, technique, and performance energy. Jason goes so far as to name Virgil as a top contender. Thankfully, after that stellar performance all three dancers are safe until next week.

WHYYYYYYY do I have to look at Seacrest right now? You have a show–get off of mine!

Lily, Burim, Gaby and Edson – Bollywood
Choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan
(Song: Dhol Baaje, Ek Pahelli Leela soundtrack)

 
Four Bollywood virgins. Edson, at least, was a cheerleader at one time. So the  high energy and bounciness needed for this number should come easily to him.

Unless America does something completely asinine with their voting, I can pretty much guarantee Gaby will be going on tour. She nailed the energy from the first note of the music, and hung on to the choreography very well. The others were impressive, but Gaby was the magnetic draw.

Jason was impressed by the energy of the group, Nigel praise the girls but told the guys he didn’t get as much energy from them as he expected, and Paula loved the foursome as well.  with the audience vote from last week, Lily is in the bottom 6. Burim, Edson, and Gaby are all safe.

Neptune, Kate and Asaf – Broadway
Choreographer Spencer Liff
(Song: All About That Bass, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox featuring Kate Davis)

Spencer casts the threesome  as a jazz trio of musicians, and their instruments will be interpreted through their movement. Kate is progressing well, and Neptune is going for it and giving it his all. Asaf again is resisting the learning process and subverting the choreography–to the point where tWitch has to have another “come to Jesus” meeting with him about working for the greater good.

A jazzy cover of the Meghan Trainor hit, and quite appropriate for the number. Very hip in jazzy, and the guys carry the mood well. Whatever magnetism Kate was missing last week is here in spades this week. That last note pose could have been a little stronger, but I enjoyed it. (Looking again I wonder if Kate’s strength is amplified by her partners’ inexperience, because I see it there but it’s simmered under surface level….it wants to pop but it’s not quite there yet.)

Paula calls the number inventive, and is impressed with Neptune’s progress; lauds Kate but tells her she can go even further with her performance level; and dubs Asaf most improved, praising his progress thus far and telling him to embrace the discomfort he is having adapting to choreography. Jason agrees on all fronts, and Nigel is unanimous. While I appreciate them helping foster a positive mindset in the dancers, I’m a little over the Asaf therapy sessions now. You’re on the show–put your big boy pants on and deal with it. The votes put Neptune in danger but Kate and Asaf are safe.

JaJa and Jim – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Christopher Scott
(Song: No Woman, No Cry (Live Version), Bob Marley and the Wailers)

Christopher Scott gives us a piece that depicts a man having compassion for women and their struggles. Right away Coach Travis is on Jim to loosen up and lose the awkwardness and balletic carriage, while Coach tWitch focuses on JaJa’s ability to connect emotionally. The inevitable high expectations abound (the last Asian ballet dancer to do hip-hop created the most popular and iconic moment in the show’s history). However, Chris think Jim has the potential to be a good animator…so lightning just may strike twice. (JaJa has a point about those subtitles…there have been WAY thicker accents on this show.)

Way more laid back than I expected–the vibe is similar to the piece Jess and Clarice did in Season 8–and beautifully in sync. I needed a little more power from Jim’s energy or a little more vulnerability from JaJa, because it didn’t quite pull at the heartstrings as much as it should have. But the execution was flawless.

The judges are standing, so that’s a good sign….damn, Nigel actually got emotional and blew the pair a kiss. I knew you were an old softie. Paula is proud of the two of them, and Jason calls it an unbelievable routine. They are definitely safe this week.

Marissa, Moises and JJ – Jazz
Choreographer Ray Leeper
(Song: I’m So Sorry, Imagine Dragons)

Ray Leeper puts poor Moises in a love triangle as a philandering man confronted by the two women he’s wronged.

Either Moises manned up to eleven or Marissa and JJ really dialed it back, because he held focus for the whole dance. He’s still a small dude but he danced big and projected a lot of force. The girls stayed in sync well, but in reining in the sexy vibe I think they suppressed the aggression. The steps were well performed.

Jason praises Moises’s strength, and critiques both girls on their expressions; Marissa on the misplaced smiles and JJ on the one-dimensionality of her scowl.  Nigel agrees on both points, but Paula has a different perspective on the ladies, suggesting that their expressions were not mere smiles but relish at teaming up against the scoundrel. She also applauded Moises for taking the notes and applying them to his performance. The voting results save both the ladies but put Moises in danger.

So Moises, Derek and Darion for Team Stage and Ariana, Neptune and Lily for Team Street are in the bottom 6. The Twitter save allows two votes per person per team, and has a five minute window.

Team Street group dance
Choreographers Christopher Scott and Phillip Chbeeb
(Song: Time, Nathan Lanier)
….big surprise

Balance is involved, figuratively and literally. These two have brought out the seesaws. (Neptune let his Southern slip and called them teeter-totters. Cutest thing ever.) And have I yet mentioned the big cheese-eating grin on my face that two of my very favorite people are choreographing this piece? I LOOOOOOOVE me some Phillip and some Christopher MF’ing Scott….

A combination between The Nightmare Before Christmas and Matilda the Musical. A lot depended on the balance and the timing of this piece, and the dance is executed it very well with no mishaps. There was a lot going on  to try to focus on one thing. I can’t see them taking this on tour though, so y’all better enjoy this on TV.

Team Stage group dance
Choreographer Travis Wall
(Song: Stabat Mater, Woodkid)

Choreographer and Coach Travis casts Team Stage as gods at war. A very violent and aggressive piece, and an attempt at return fire for last week’s explosive routine from Team Street.

Powerful and fierce. Hailee’s energy was so strong I could see it when she was in the back row. I don’t know how they flipped Darion over and held him in the air AND he did an extension…dude is bigger than everybody holding him up. Oh never mind….that was Jim. Way to project that manliness there!

Now for the eliminations…. the Twitter votes saved Neptune and Moises. So it’s now between Darion and Derek for Team Stage, and Ariana and Lily for Team Street. The judges choose to save Derek and Ariana, which I’m happy about but not at the expense of Darion and Lily. Although all of the dancers are excellent in their own ways, so the vote really does come down to popularity. It’s how the show works. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, but that’s how it works.

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The Top 18!

Battle Lines Drawn! SYTYCD Season 12, Week 1

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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.

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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)

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