SYTYCD 11, Top 6–Boogie Nights and Technicolor Dreams

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Last show before the final choice is made!

Christina Applegate is back for another week of judging

Top 6 group–Hip-Hop

Blacklights, makeup and props…choreo looks Dave Scott but concept looks Pharside and Phoenix.  But no, it’s Nick DeMoura…the Biebs’s choreographer, “co-host” for the Crew Challenge, and purveyor of a new instructional dance video.

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All-Star pairs, contestant pairs (which by chance or choice happen to be original pairings) and solos for the crew tonight….and we start by reuniting Valerie and Ricky

Valerie/Ricky
Broadway—Spencer Liff

Spencer is choreographing a Technicolor dream….

Valerie’s in this aqua frothy dress and the kids get to play with a swing.  Spencer’s combined a little Fosse with a little Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse (or Leslie Caron, if you prefer)—Valerie actually reminds me of Singin’ in the Rain era Debbie Reynolds…and Ricky has the physique of Bob Fosse with the technique of James Mitchell or Jacques d’Amboise.  I was quite impressed with that jump through the swing.

No they DID NOT embarrass that poor girl with rehearsal footage of her slip getting caught on the swing!

Nigel loved the feel and thought that either of them would make a welcome addition to the On The Town cast should they win, and upon him bringing up and instant replaying Ricky’s jump I’m even more impressed that it was a jeté; Christina thinks they both have That Thing to take home the win; Mary that their chemistry was honest and thought it was breezy and sweet.

Jessica and Casey are teased up to their disco finest going into the break….wonder what they’re doing….

Jessica/Casey
Disco—Doriana Sanchez

Didn’t see that one coming…. -_-

A “sexy, fun and technical” disco…do you teach any other kind, Doriana?

Casey just might give Brandon Bryant some relief as a future disco All-Star—the kid was just the right amount of clean and kitschy.  Jessica did well though some moments of hesitation were visible, particularly in landing that end pose, but she definitely threw her whole self into the experience.

Christina “ages” herself by bringing up Denny Terrio and Charo to compare the kids—she kinda has a point, which dates me too, but whatever—but she thought it was fabulous, but noticed a shade of fear in Jessica’s expression on a few moves (in a most indelicate fashion….snot, Christina? Really?); Mary was thrilled dizzy by the kids’ performance; Nigel proclaimed it tremendous and agreed that the kids did very well.

(Coming up, cooling off Nigel’s hot head and making the kids cry with family videos tonight….starting with Ricky.)

Ricky—Solo

Dude, please…shut your face.  Just shut it.  You might not be my vote but you definitely have skills and passion.

Jacque/Zack
Foxtrot—Jean-Marc Genereux

“Zack Astaire and Jacque Rogers”—seriously, J-M?  Them’s big shoes to fill.

A little rocky in spots, and Jacque REALLY has to break out of that “smiley” face and present something more genuine, but it was a very nice number.

Mary called it, too—though she called it “snazzy and jazzy” she also said it was rough around the edges, showing signs of promise in areas but clunky footwork in closed hold and tension in other areas; Nigel agrees and actually used the words “herky-jerky”—Sir Lythgoe was not impressed; Christina thought the faces were a bit disingenuous and forced, and didn’t feel the chemistry as much from them…”dance from your souls, first….”

Jessica—Solo

This solo was basically a turnfest, but it was one of the most honest performances I’ve seen from her.  I’m guessing she actually saw that package with her family before she danced….

Musical interlude IN THE MIDDLE of the show…a-ha.  I have actually heard this song by Rixton before, but I wouldn’t be able to pick these children out of a lineup if they were wearing nametags.

Valerie (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Will “Willdabeast” Adams

Newlywed couple’s first dance at the reception….a) does Allison know about this? and b) that is possibly the stuffiest wedding dress I have ever seen…this is not Green Gables, folks….

Thank GOD that skirt disappeared….Valerie still has some funk to her, and plenty enough to hang with tWitch.

Nigel enjoying the fun and entertainment brought to the piece—and rightly shouting out Nappytabs’s Emmy win this past weekend—and acknowledging the entertainer’s spirit in Valerie; Christina called Valerie amazing…and I’m not sure exactly where the Diet Coke came in with the crotch roll and side of rice in this hip-hop wedding joke, but I’ll let her have her “away from the kid” fun; Mary thought it was a wedding routine to remember and dubbed Valerie “swaggerocious.”

Casey—Solo

A little more quirk with the spins tonight, and lots of emotion.

Valerie—Solo

High octane like last week, but not quite as cohesive.  It was definitely fun, though.

Jacque (with All-Star Will Wingfield)
Jazz—Sean Cheesman

The innocence of young love….with a Pilates ball.  You choreographers and your crazy, abstract concepts…. “I wish I could say we had a ball, but….” Really, Jacque? *groan*

Awwww…..that was really sweet.  Jacque got to pull from her innate innocence and make this organic.  And without seeing that rehearsal footage, you’d think that ball sequence was a breeze for the two of them….awesome work.

Christina praised Sean first for the choreography and then Jacque for rising to the occasion and bringing forth character organically; Mary described Jacque with the words “class, grace, elegance and control,” and acknowledged the difficulty of working with the ball; Nigel called it brilliant and said it wiped that foxtrot from his memory.

Zack—Solo

First of all, he’s in black, dancing against a brightly colored backdrop, to a song called “Butterfly.”  Whycome them feet are moving like a hummingbird’s wings?  He is determined to leave a fabulous impression on the audience’s minds.

Jessica (with All-Star Ade Obayomi)
Jazz—Ray Leeper

The most fabulous couple in the Tokyo club…and I see they recycled Zack and Jacque’s getups from Top 20 Week 1…..

If those costumes weren’t so godawful ugly, I’d have enjoyed the dance MUCH more.  But I managed to tune them out aurally and visually to focus on the execution of the choreography—which was well in sync and quite sassy.   Jessica really held her own with Ade.  And while my knowledge of clubs is probably just as expansive as Jessica’s, I think the pair carried the vibe pretty well.

Christina makes a bad lost cat joke (no self-respecting cat would sacrifice itself for those UG-A-LEE boots) but loved Jessica’s performance and the ponytail strut; Mary thought it was fun and crazy and envisions Cat and Nigel doing that at the club (thanks Mary—it’s gonna take me the rest of the season to unsee THAT), and manages to praise Jessica for her razor-sharp focus; Nigel wasn’t thrilled—it was just OK and didn’t connect with him, and he also takes the moment to tell Jessica not to rely on turns and beef up her solos.  I’m not the biggest Jessica fan, but that there was unfair—I don’t recall him saying that to Casey last week….

Jacque—Solo

Well, if you’re gonna do an eye-catching, Final Four worthy solo, you might as well pull out a flowing skirt and WAC hat and do a pointe solo to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”.  That was the nicest blend of classical and contemporary, reminding me of something the Joffrey might stage—much like the suite they did to Prince’s music.

Ricky (with All-Star Anya Garis)
Cha-Cha—Jean-Marc Genereux

Cha-Cha—Cuban in origin.  Ricky Ubeda—Cuban in origin.  He gets to go from cutesy to sexy in this piece, and if anybody can pull it out of him, it’s the original Hot Tamale.

Eh—lukewarm.  I can’t help but wish it was Rudy doing this one.  Still, Ricky’s technique looked really sharp….just needed way more sexy.

Nigel thought he looked like he’d been doing it for years, at least in stature and bravado; Christina bought it wholesale and said he actually drew her attention with Anya on the stage (is that SEN-sational or SIN-sational, Christina?); Mary thinks Ricky brought it, was solid on his feet and in his lead, and she totally bought it.

Casey (with All-Star Makenzie Dustman)
Contemporary—Stacey Tookey

Didn’t Makenzie already do the “little time to live” thing in her season?  We’ll see what Stacey’s take is on finding out you may have only one day left with the one you love…..though technical, Stacey hopes Casey focuses on the feeling and tells the story with his movement.

Y’all really didn’t need to put the boy in an asymmetrical mini-dress to get a nice fluid effect—his dancing was plenty.  I saw only glimpses of his expression but his movement, connection and flow were airtight.  That counterbalance move was wicked.

Christina took the Iyanla route and asked Casey how the dance made him feel—upon his not being able to describe it, she said that he’d done his job and it was wonderful; Mary really felt it and thought everything blended and smoldered and proclaimed it his best of the season; Nigel thought the piece made sense from beginning to end and dubbed it remarkable.

DAMMIT—NIGEL STOLE MY IDEA!  Or at least my prop, if someone has the unmitigated gall to challenge me….

Zack (with All-Star DuShant “Fik-Shun” Steagal)
Hip-Hop—Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb

My boo Phillip’s choreographic debut, and he’s inspired by a Rorschach blot….well, the boy WAS studying engineering, so I’m not surprised where he can take his mind….

Fascinating bit of work….reminiscent of what he and IaMmE Crew did with their finale piece on America’s Best Dance Crew, and some of the armwork he did with Jeanine in “Mad”.  I love me some him….and them.  Though I did see some subtle differences in head movements in two different sections, I thought the boys shaped that well.

Even Cat’s impressed…..

Mary screams fabulous and loved every second of it; Nigel is impressed at tonight’s performance as well as every other dance and characterization Zack has been asked to perform over the season….then gives this backhanded wish for success and luck getting into the finale :-/ (he saved himself by amended that to being “shocked and thrilled” to see him in the finale….hmph….); Christina is proud of Zack’s ability to not only hang with Fik-Shun but to transcend any dance boxes he might have put himself into.

Now to the last elimination for the Big One:

Jessica (no surprise)
Ricky (also no surprise)
Valerie (HELL YEAH!)
Zach (F’IN RIGHT!)

Did I actually just channel Drake? Lord help me…..

Hard call if you look at tonight, but I tell you, Valerie and Zach have been proving their versatility since the ballroom round of callbacks.  I’m amazed with all of the bottom placements that Jacque got as far as she did, and there can only be one pretty boy, so poor Casey didn’t really stand that much of a chance.

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(Why does the final four lineup look like a scene out of Boogie Nights?  Some of the most unfortunate costumes to get good news in….)

Next week’s All-Stars: Kathryn (presumably for Ricky), Robert (apparently doing double duty with both Valerie and Jessica) and Aaron (with Zack, natch).  Plus, if the format holds, everybody dances duets with each other in addition to their solos….let’s make sure we don’t cut the Final Four group number this year…..

And as I really don’t remember seeing them, we should get a performance from Wanted Ashiqz before the grand finale….no mention of them but a performance from Jason Mraz?  Hmmm…..

Gonna be a packed show!

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SYTYCD 11, Top 18–Checkmate

Week 3 has begun and yet another round of eliminations is on the board for tonight.

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Guest judge: Misty Copeland apparently didn’t get enough last week, so she’s doing again this week.

Top 18—Hip-Hop
A battle on the chess board…Christopher Scott, with a technical assist from Sonya Tayeh.

Welp….didn’t see that one coming. Fresh blood—Christopher “Pharside” Jennings and Krystal “Phoenex” Meraz from Academy of Villains. Who, I will assume, is the crew on tap for tonight. Let’s find out. (No AoV tonight, but they’ll be performing in the weeks to come.)

Bottom 6:
Bridget, Emilio, Emily, Stanley, Jourdan, Teddy

America, you suck. Emilio is my highest concern, and I want Stanley to have a better shot…so that leaves Teddy. As for the girls, I’m calling Emily right now but that may change once everyone has danced.

Jacque/Zach
Hip-Hop—Keone and Mari Madrid

They’re back! I haven’t scoured their YouTube videos but hopefully this is totally fresh and a snarky fan won’t pull them up doing it after the show. The story is about a couple that’s about to get together, and the ballerina and the hoofer are both having trouble nailing down the intricacies of the choreography.

If acting could win this, Zach would have a lock on the finals. He seemed to grab on to the steps pretty well, and Jacque hung with it, too. Still a bit smiley, and though I’m sure there were probably some moments where she was supposed to gaze at him adoringly, it was more of a pasted performance smile than a “I think I’m falling for this guy” smile.

Cat had recollections of the Mark/Chelsea “Bleeding Love” routine from Season 4; I got more of a Phillip/Jeanine “Mad” vibe myself….Mary is enjoying the versatility coming from the two of them, and was impressed with the interaction between them; Nigel feels that Jacque is doing very well looking like she belongs in the styles she’s been given, and is thrilled by the high level of commitment Zach throws into his work; Misty co-signs with the others and praises them on the deepening and improvement of their partnership.

Jourdan/Marcquet
Contemporary—Dee Kaspery

A couple trying to disappear, and needing to find a place to be happy.

Trying to understand why the umbrellas are there and how they connect to disappearing (or not disappearing)….Dee and these props. They looked out of sync in the unison section and some parts had Marcquet looking like a solely hip-hop trained dancer attempting contemporary for the first time. Jourdan managed to take off enough of her edges to not be balletic in this.

Cat, don’t invoke that song…I beg of you….

Nigel thought the routine was challenging and they did well enough, but is not quite able to connect with them personally as a couple, acquiescing to Misty regarding Marcquet’s form—she notes his shakiness in his bottom half that could be better grounded by shifting his weight more forward over his toes, and also remarks on a lack of vulnerability in Jourdan’s facial expression detracting from everything else that she is executing well. Mary agrees with the other two but does note a bit of magic in their opening pose, as well as a connection with Marcquet in his partnering.

Jessica/Stanley
Jazz—Tyce Diorio

Funky carpet ride…and they have to make it fly with their performance.

I’m not sure exactly how complicated the choreography really was, but they made it look effortless. Not sure about their connection in such a short span of time.

Also, I’m not entirely sure I want to know what or where a mosquito’s tweeter is…. O.o

Misty thinks Jessica and Stanley are both overdoing it a touch with their faces and advises them to tone that down and let the superb work their bodies are doing shine; Mary is impressed with Stanley’s fearlessness and agrees about Jessica’s overselling the facial expressions; Nigel agrees with the others about Jessica and advises Stanley to rein in some of the strength and power flying through his limbs and channel it toward his core for a stronger dancing base.

Bridget/Emilio
Jive—Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev

Typical struggles of non-ballroom dancers trying to pick up one of the fastest styles in one week. Bridget, could you NOT try to break his nose again? I’d like Emilio to dance a few more weeks, please.

OK, y’all can’t possibly in good conscience vote off a couple that danced to “Happy”—that automatically has to be on tour, and thusly, you have to get these two to Top 10. Fortunately, they do a passable job in pulling off this jive. It does help that Anya and Pasha put in a lot of elements that are within their own styles and comfort levels, but from what I could see the flicks and kicks were sharp and the passes were decent.

Mary was impressed at how well they did with a foreign style (but she’s getting Sometimer’s disease or something, because she dubbed Anya the originator of the Hot Tamale Train, and I CLEARLY remember her putting Sabra and Dominic on with their rumba in Season 3. Maybe I need to go back a few episodes to double check….) and thought they had lots of energy, and while she gave Emilio feedback on improving his technique she felt Bridget seems to grasp and execute it quite well. Nigel commends Emilio on doing well with the very-outside-the-norm jive and thought Bridget was gorgeous in technique and appearance. Misty thought their performance level was on point and that Bridget embraced the note from last week about blending her strength and femininity.

Emily/Teddy
Contemporary—Tyce Diorio

A look deep into a soul that’s saying “Don’t ever leave me.” Well they’re definitely going to need to be connected tonight, aren’t they?

Very abstract and out there, but Teddy’s contemporary form is really something. Emily was good too, but that’s her area.

Nigel thought their performance got very close to touching the human spirit and they danced beautifully; Misty said even though Emily doesn’t speak French, her body does—and was delighted by the articulation in her feet (“you should dance like you’re barefoot every week”). She was also wowed by Teddy and feels that he translates into every genre with ease. Mary feels the same about Emily as Misty felt about Teddy, and was mesmerized for the first time by Teddy.

Brooklyn/Casey
Jazz—Bonnie Story

A boy at a high school prom who wants to ask a girl to dance. Bonnie is very adamant that they keep in character and away from the “technique face” while they’re dancing. I’ll look and see if I can tell what she’s talking about.

This should have been a jive, with Michael Bublé putting his jazzy spin on Freddie Mercury, but it was cute…except for that wanna-be beehive on Brooklyn’s head. That nearly distracted me from watching for the technique, which was really good especially in their unison sections. Didn’t see much face action, but I’m sure the judges will have something to say about it.

Misty was impressed by Brooklyn’s improvement (but noted a little “technique face” when performing outside of genre dance skills) and completely enamored by Casey; Mary thought it was really fun and agreed with Misty’s assessment on both dancers; Nigel makes three and while he did note that Brooklyn coped well with the difficulties of the routine compared to her skill set, he did caution her to dance up to Casey’s level in order to remain safe from possible elimination.

Valerie/Ricky
Viennese Waltz—Lacey Schwimmer

It’s nice to see both the Schwimmer kids working—first Benji last week, and now Lacey this week. I’m guessing the DWTS experience honed her Viennese waltz expertise, since I thought she was mostly Latin trained…but hey, she’s here and doing it, so let’s see what’s on tap. Or, it seems, I should have said on TAPE….did she really duct tape those children together?!? Yessss indeed….

I will say that Valerie is working her little fanny off to capture the styles thrown at her; while some of her attempts to hit certain positions seems a bit choppy she was rounding her arms and doing her damnedest to make them fluid. I’ll defer to Mary about Ricky’s posture and form but it seemed to me that his leading arm had a little too much play in it and should have held stronger. Still, the performance level and connection between these two is really something special. I liked it in spite of hearing this particular Jason Mraz song for the bazillionth time on this show…..

Damn—NIGEL stood up?!? Wow—can’t wait to hear these comments. Mary was quite taken with the pair—praising Ricky’s topline while cautioning him to smooth out the rise and fall in the lower half, and then giving Valerie’s performance glowing reviews while admonishing her to tighten her core to do the head lean instead of dropping into her sides. Nigel declined to speak on their technique and chose to hail their performance level as “beyond reproach,” and thought Valerie’s improvement in rising to Ricky’s standard was stunning and remarkable. Misty agreed with Nigel on all fronts.

(I don’t know what’s on these children’s faces, but as I didn’t see Sonya’s purple hair in the audience, I don’t think it’s her doing.)

Carly/Serge
Hip-Hop—Luther Brown

I haven’t mentioned anyone else’s “deep dark secret” this week, but I have to do this one: Serge—DUDE?!? You’re practically family with the Chmerkovskys and you didn’t channel Maks last week for that contemporary? I’mma need you to do better.

Skeleton people—not something I expected out of Luther Brown. He’s impressed with Carly’s swag, though (guess that dance team experience is paying off). Serge is trying to find his “creepy yet gangsta” sweet spot—I’m wondering if this will have any of the feel of the Pasha/Lauren G. routine from Season 3.

This was definitely more Carly than Serge, but he gave a really good effort. I think he put a little too much slouch in where he was trying to be less erect in his posture, which kind of made the creepy gangsta look more like slouchy sloth. Hard to tell if either did as expected since this number was incredibly laid back.

Nigel thinks this number may make it difficult for the public to rush to vote for them—not because of lack of execution but because the amount of intricacy and effort may not be readily picked out by the viewer. (In short, he basically gave voice to the misgivings I expressed above.) Misty somewhat disagrees, feeling that the public should be made to know how difficult it is for the dancers to switch genres, and ultimately gain a better appreciation for the routines and their execution. Having said that, she went on to compliment Serge on becoming an all-around dancer and Carly on shining in the number. (“But I’m from this generation….” Did she just get in a sly dig on Nigel? Misty, you bold, girl!) Mary also thought Carly was a beast and was fascinated with Serge’s efforts.

Tanisha/Rudy
Broadway—Warren Carlyle

Classic Broadway with canes. Let the mishaps ensue.

The number was “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the version from Fosse, and I dare say, Rudy pulled off some Fosse-like jumps in that. Mixed with a little Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and dare I say, Jess LeProtto—Rudy could get that role if he stays the course in this competition. I’m not particularly drawn in by Tanisha on a general basis, and as this is not as in-your-face as her jazz performance last week, my eyes were drawn to Rudy most of the time. She hit all of her steps but it wasn’t the same strong energy as I’m used to from her…either that, or Rudy’s star really was supernova bright tonight.

Standing O from the judges……Misty thought Rudy was IT, and said the pair danced in unison but let their individual personalities shine through. She did give Tanisha notes on lengthening herself in pirouette to stay on balance, but loved the number overall. Mary called it a showstopper, and was just as impressed with the pair; while Nigel thought their through-the-roof energy brought magic to the stage.

Now see, I was trying to be nice and give these children some breathing room, but since the “secrets” interviews pretty much outed Jacque and Rudy, Cat somehow feels compelled to put them on national blast. Those poor babies turned beet red under those hot lights and all that grilling….but this little crush is too cute!

A Great Big World (whose “Say Something” was probably heavily instrumental in securing Amy Yakima’s victory last year) performs on the stage tonight, reprising that tune on the stage where it made them household names, backed tonight by the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir.

Eliminations are up, and I dread hearing about the guys. I don’t want any of them to go, but again, if I have to go on weakest performance, I’m afraid my Stanley is next to go. I think Emily saved herself with the contemporary, so unless there are serious misgivings about Bridget’s jive that went unvoiced, that extremely abstract piece of Jourdan’s will be her swan song. Dee Kaspery numbers have not fared well on this show so far, so that’s another strike working against her chances.

After deliberating, the judges decide to go with America’s vote (more proof that y’all suck) that it is indeed Stanley and Jourdan going home. I hate that I called two weeks in a row correctly, and this week is a bigger shame because I think given the right number Stanley would have blown the voters away. Though I’m not particularly attached to any of the girls this season, it was my hope that both ballerinas could get to the Top 10. I can’t be totally angry, as one has already triumphed and there’s still one in this year’s race, but I’m still saddened for Jourdan. Her partner, Marcquet, will make Jessica’s third—the public saved her last week but as one-half in another weak number her chances are marginal.

I’m not sure exactly where America’s heads are at (I have an inkling, but I’m trying to be polite) as far as who is grabbing the popularity vote, but this is one crazy ride.

SYTYCD Week 7, Top 8—Review, Interrupted (or Parent/Teacher Night)

courtesy 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Ah, fate is a cruel bitch—lost power Tuesday at my home due to Isaac mixing things up in the Gulf (yet the FOX affiliate I work for never lost power, but I was off work), so I’m REALLY late watching this week’s show. Gotta love those rabid YouTube fans. Tonight the dancers all get to do solos in addition to their all-star partnerships.

Guest judge: Self-proclaimed fanboy Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Putnam County and Modern Family fame makes a return visit. Shenanigans will most certainly ensue.

(Note: As I’m having to watch the show piecemeal and not in the exact order everything aired, the commentary on the solo profile packages will be in parentheses under the dance review.)

Top 8 contemporary
There must be something these choreographers find fascinating with the whole Eastern/Asian motif in contemporary….Sonya’s number from Season 8, Wade’s Top 10 piece from Season 6—and all with a funky twist. New to me choreographer Peter Chu adds his take with a Kill Bill/Big Trouble In Little China motif. Another clear winner of the Tour Lineup sweepstakes.

Witney
Witney gets ratched (ratchet?) with Twitch in new to SYTYCD-US choreographer Luther Brown’s hip-hop piece. Don’t worry, Witney—I STILL don’t know what “ratched/ratchet” is either, and I supposedly have my urban card. But you hung in well, sweetie. Almost reminded me of Natalie Fotopoulos’s swag in the “Promiscuous” hip-hop of Season 2. Witney’s cha-cha/samba inspired solo to Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” had me a little worried—a lot less than her usual substance but the sexpot was turned all the way up, so there was definitely a draw there.

*Side note: upon tracking down the “definition” of ratchet as per the Hip Hop Archive and finding its origins in Lil Boosie, I am still not much clearer on the subject, as I have also never figured out what a Lil Boosie is. Y’all can keep that card.*

(LMAO! Witney’s dad is such a….dad. She is amazingly evocative for an 18 year old, so I get it. Plus, little girls never really grow up in their fathers’ eyes, so I think it’d probably be hard on him anyway. That bundle of energy thing explains a LOT.)

Cole
Cole gets another contemporary (this time from a more girlie-looking Sonya Tayeh) where he can channel his emotions from the depths of his soul to be…soulless. Shades of Gravity AND Alex Wong come out in his stature and, well, Allison Holker makes anybody look phenomenal. Her job tonight was quite easy, though. The boy is good…and matches her move for move, step for step. That assisted lift/jump that hovered in mid-air for a few seconds—wow. Cole’s martial arts themed solo was our first reminder in a long time that he has consistently been dancing out of his style.

(Shy, socially awkward, outcast, baby of the family–if I didn’t know exactly how much older than you I am, I’d swear we were separated at birth. His mom reminds me strongly of Rita Moreno.)

Eliana
My darling Eliana pulls two of my favorite cuties—Jonathan Roberts and Season 6’s Ryan Di Lello—for a quickstep. I don’t know why the bored/agitated housewife theme keeps popping up on this show, but it is a very interesting shade to paint onto a ballroom number. Thank goodness for those ballerina lines, because I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled that off like that, especially in such a leg-revealing costume. And yay to the vampy alpha female she brought out tonight—THIS is some of what I was looking for in Mercy. Eliana’s solo evokes a Black Swan air—and, as usual, is flawless. (ANYBODY who can pull off a front walkover in both heels and pointe shoes is the BOMB dot com in my book.)

(Love the “close with Mom” stories. “I moved to New York to study with the Joffrey Ballet….I think it worked out, because I’m here now.” Biggest DUH statement of the millennium, my love.)

Lindsay
In an unprecedented move, Cole gets to reunite with Lindsay and do another Sonya Tayeh routine…oh wait, that really IS Alex Wong this time. Lindsay and Alex put their tensions on display for this jazz piece, and it’s really technically good. You can see the pre-ballroom dance training coming out of Lindsay. She’s still very exact for me, though—some things that should just flow you can see her counting on, and while that does satisfy the needs of the choreographer and the work, sometimes a little too much precision makes it more of a dance routine than a performance experience. There’s no doubt that she’s a talented dancer; I would just like to see a little less polish on her performances that require an emotional commitment. (And I see that Nigel, Mary AND Jesse agree with me.) The ballroom solo was just as technically perfect.

(A studio kid…figures. Keep working with the Ballases, particularly on your performance level. Mark’s gotten a DWTS trophy or two out of it. Brilliant technique, but I think you need life to get a little messy to color your life experience enough to muddy the emotional waters and give your dancing that extra depth the judges keep asking for.)

Will
Our loveable goofball has to get serious tonight, literally dancing away his pain (in the guise of Lauren Gottlieb) in this Christopher Scott hip-hop number. And he does so—quite well, actually. He stays in sync and well connected with Lauren in a very separatist routine, and manages to pull a little swag out of his back pocket. Will’s solo? Technically OK (I need those long limbs to stretch more, if that’s possible) but emotionally brilliant. Reminds me of a taller Teddy Tedholm.

(*sniff* “I think dance saved my life.” The little oddball outcast in me just gave you a standing ovation for that. Keep dancing–you radiate joy when you do.)

Cyrus
Gimme gimme Moore—and we got it, in both Mandy and Melanie. Basically “two cool kids strutting around town,” we get treated to a Fossesque, “Sweet Charity” revamp of Rich Man’s Frug. Once again, Cyrus rises to the challenge. It’s very good for him that the choreography has elements of Broadway and hip-hop in it because, as previously demonstrated, Cyrus can pull them off with ease. Matching Melanie’s energy and presence was just as easy. I will repeatedly acknowledge my bias toward Cyrus, but even if I weren’t a fan I’d have to be simply for the degree to which he dedicates himself to matching all of these incompatible styles and selling them as if he’s being doing them all of his life. I am really most interested in seeing where his career goes post-show and tour. Getting such a wealth of dance history and education in doing SYTYCD can only serve to make his hip-hop and animation PHENOMENAL. Which is also the word I’m using for that solo.

(You REALLY look like your dad. I see shades of both parents in you, but you look a lot like your dad. And how great is it to have such a supportive mom? She can be proud of the young man she raised.)

Chehon
The tango “look” in the rehearsal clip just cracked me up. However, if there’s anyone who could carry the swagger of a Miriam and Leonardo tango and go toe to toe with Anya Garis, it’s our Chehon. It definitely didn’t hurt to put a few balletlike jumps and stances in there because it helped to give him that sense of imposing height and stature required of the male tango partner. The paso doble segments added to the drama of the connection, though some of tango form looked off (are the feet supposed to be pointed in the ganchos?). But it was an excellent turn….and the ONLY time you’ll hear me say I liked Anya as a blonde for once. No words to be said on the solo…it was the usual mind-blowing fabulosity.

(I’m not really sure how I got the air of “adopted kid” from Chehon without knowing anything in-depth about his background, but seeing it confirmed was not a big surprise to me. It’s my experience that adoption tends to bring some of the greatest people into your life–I figure I can call myself an expert since I married one. 😉 Parents who can send their kids away to study, train and follow their passions have to be some of the bravest people on the planet, and I take this opportunity now to thank Beat Wespi and Edith Tchopp for taking that chance and sharing their precious gift with the rest of us.)

Tiffany
Tiffany gets to be thrown around the stage by Ade Obayami to Mandy Moore’s choreography and Celine Dion’s epic vocals. Seems like I’ve seen this before….Caitlyn and Mitchell, much? (Though the sight of her carrying Ade in the rehearsal package was too funny for words—how do you watch her seriously after that?) But it was just as good as the previous Mandy/Celine collab—Tiffany has got to be a good dancer to be able to be seemingly tossed by Ade from one lift to the next like she was a featherweight streamer and not a 100+ pound girl. She has managed to make beautiful pictures with every frame she’s danced this season, and though I’ve pretty much come down on her (along with Janaya and Audrey) for being “invisible,” her work clearly speaks for itself. You can see it in her solo, as well—floating with an assist from an able-bodied male is one thing, but being able to recreate that same sense of fluidity BY YOUR DAMN SELF?!? I tip my hat to you, young lady….and that standing ovation is well deserved.

(Awww! Too stinkin’ cute! Her technique was excellent even at a young age–I’ve taught advanced students that never had that good a point in the toe and stretch in the leg. You were clearly born to do this.)

Bottom 4:
Witney (saved)
Lindsay
Cole (saved)
Will

As a turn of the last judges’ save of the season, Lindsay and Will bow out of the competition, which is not wholly unexpected. If looked at overall—from auditions to Vegas to the competition stage—Witney and Cole had way more grab-you-by-the-throat standout moments. The caliber of dancing and performance is really tightly knit, so I imagine this was an extremely difficult decision for the judges to make. At this stage, the blow is not as keenly felt since all of the night’s performers have already been locked into the tour; still, I’m sure there’s some smarting about not being in contention for the top title. But even without the tour berths, there are no losers here. Each dancer has brought their own special shine to this season, and we viewers wouldn’t have it any other

SYTYCD, Week 6, Top 10—The All-Stars Are Out Tonight

Happy 100th Birthday, Gene Kelly!

courtesy 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Despite my TiVo’s attempts to stall this blog by freezing and not recording the show, I am bound and determined (thanks to clips on the Internet) to write this review.

I only get to critique the dances this week—well, I DO get to ask wardrobe to burn that ugly dress Cat had on. It may well be a perfectly suitable dress, but when Cat gets to looking like somebody’s GRANDMOTHER (and not even the HOT kind), it’s gotta GO.

Guest judge: Benjamin Millipied of the L.A. Dance Project (whose guest performance was OK, I suppose….)

Top 11 group
Wait…Top 11?!? Something’s up…whoa, was that TYCE? In his own number?!? Wow! That’s either a really gracious reprieve for Cole’s foot or a really rabid Gene Kelly fan. Probably both—and between him and Nigel, I’m pretty sure they planned this spectacular 100th birthday present for one of the greatest movie dancers of all time. Eliana made a perfect Cyd Charisse, and they covered just about every iconic Kelly picture in that number. Tour number, please….

Tiffany
Draws All-Star Brandon Bryant (Season 5), who must be the contemporary dancer of choice for Doriana’s demented disco routines. 11 FREAKIN’ LIFTS?!? She DOES know the 70s are over and we’ve been trying to keep disco dead and buried, right? I do think that because of Doriana Sanchez and her insane routines that disco has replaced the quickstep as the “dance of death” on this show…not so much for life on the show but for the dancers needing oxygen and CPR after the number. Hell, I needed it after watching. But I’ll tell ya, Tiffany hung in there really well. Her energy stayed high, and save for the move from that upside-down split to the overhead press lift, the transitions were really smooth. The judges were equally pleased, marveling that the number was a great start to the evening.

Witney
Oh, how cute—Travis brings Nick along to get some All-Star brownie points. To my immediate memory, Melody Lacayanga has been the only Season 1 performer to get an All-Star berth. Good to get a little mileage out of that win, Mr. Lazzarini. An interesting departure from his usual angst-driven contemporary, Travis choreographs an almost Tyce-like jazz number for Witney, casting the two as (pardon the pun) diehard lounge performers still playing at their old abandoned haunt. The Zombie Jazz Age, if you will.

Mean, mean Travis…forcing Witney to be sexy in this number….

Now that I’ve taken my tongue out of my cheek, I will wholehearted agree with the judges about Witney’s star turn tonight. A lot of the moves were similar to the ballroom poses she’s accustomed to striking, but she also blended all of that well with the jazz choreography while matching pace and step with her All-Star partner. I think the sex cranked way past eleven and went somewhere into the 30s….steamy!

Cole
Poor darling—he had to perform a Dmitry Chaplin cha-cha on a bum foot. With Anya Garis. In a barely there blue teddy (y’all can call that a dress if you wanna—that’s a Frederick’s of Hollywood slip if I ever saw one). Admirable job—energy was definitely good (and apparently, so were whatever drugs/shots they gave him to dance through that madness). Some definite form issues—a lot of rigidity in the stance (that weird jazz hand at the ribcage pose the guys have to hit) and some lackluster hip action—but for a non-ballroom, semi-healthy performer, I think he sold it well. However….

OK, a brief pause….MARY ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!? THE CHEMISTRY WASN’T HOT ENOUGH?!? PUT THE CRACK PIPE DOWN!!!! *ahem*

….as I was saying, however….Mary picked up on the form issues, one of which had to do with—you guessed it—foot placement. I know they have to take that into account regardless, but I KNOW she knew his foot was injured when she said that. HALF THE WORLD knew his foot was injured. Kudos to Cole for not using it as an excuse, though.

And might I register my 1,000th protest to Anya to change her hair back to the brunette? I know you were blonde first, but I liked the dark hair on you better…..

Lindsay
Lindsay pulls Broadway and Jakob out of the hat, and Spencer Liff’s Fosse-esque routine was an excellent proving ground for our ballroom girl. I mean, I was REALLY impressed with her—I KNEW the shadow was Jakob, but their moves matched so perfectly I actually questioned for a second whether or not he was behind the screen. And, I will definitely give props and high fives to ANYONE who does an aerial cartwheel in character shoes without missing a beat. NOW I can see her in the Top 10….AND I’ll accept her stealing Cole’s ticket on the hot tamale train. Special kudos to the lighting designer—I don’t know who you’d pull to do it with her, but I’d pay money to see that on tour.

Will
Naku Dev Mahajan + Kathryn McCormack = Bollywood snake charmer. Always a marathon dance energywise, I’m afraid Will sacrificed precision for energy in too many places. While I’m not an expert on the exact arm and hand placements and their meanings, I do know that Kathryn’s steel-straight precise arms made Will’s flailing spaghetti arms stick out. As for the “acting,” I’m on the fence—it usually tends to be over-the-top in a Bollywood number, but on Will he somehow managed to look like he was trying too hard AND wasn’t trying hard enough at the same time. I was looking for him to be smilier (I know it’s not a word, but you get the idea) but not quite so obviously animated with his expressions. And now that I know he was actually trying to bring in the sex appeal, it still doesn’t help. He’s a blond Pacey Witter (and I had a MAD crush on Joshua Jackson on Dawson’s Creek), with all of the goof and precious little of the brooding, smoldering heat. I suppose it doesn’t help that compared to me, he’s basically jailbait—Kathryn might find him cute enough to slither around with, but he just makes me want to pat him on the head and give him some milk and cookies. I commend him for the effort, because I know this routine wasn’t easy—but I just can’t give a thumbs-up to this one. Fine time for Nigel to censor himself and NOT agree with me.

Side note: that level of starstruck awe Will’s got with Kathryn? THAT’S what Koop Island Blues needed more of….

Cyrus
And…..boom goes the Kryptonite. Contemporary with Jaimie. A Travis Wall contemporary with Jaimie. Lord love him, this is NOT his best work. His feet are horrible, his reach, stretch and extension need a GREAT deal of development, and I’m not quite sure what emotion he was supposed to be selling me. But I know one thing—the boy is one hell of a partner. In all of the dances he’s done this season, whether he latched on to the style or not, he did a phenomenal job of supporting his partner. For someone whose signature style doesn’t lend itself to contact partnering, he has remarkably completed holds and lifts that would challenge a dancer within the given genre, and tonight with Jaimie Goodwin was no exception (By the way, TOTALLY pleased that Travis noted and commended him on that). I am biased because I am a fan of his, so I will always applaud his effort. That doesn’t mean I don’t notice the shortcomings and the areas that need improvement and call him on them. Based on the quality of performance, it will definitely take America to keep him safe. But I can’t help repeatedly admiring the colossal level of focus and dedication he is putting in to everything he has done since Nigel put that Vegas ticket in his hands. I’m betting his two roommates are taking turns putting their feet in each other’s backsides for punking out in Vegas.

(Personal note: I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild hours before this performance and, as a native New Orleanian, am unwillingly conscious that seven years of post-Katrina existence is nigh (and, actually upon us on the actual publication of this piece)….so the life after destruction theme is a hard one for me to watch, especially considering that this show was one of my survival lifelines in returning to a semblance of normality. That, in addition to my knowledge of Cyrus’s skill level in the genre, may have colored my perceptions of the choreography even more had I seen the rehearsal footage in real time on the first viewing. I guess the TiVo crash was a blessing in disguise.)

Chehon
Dave Scott and Lo-Gott hold the “key” to his success tonight. (What can I say—I’m a punny girl.) Total swerve for the surviving ballet boy tonight in lyrical hip-hop, but if anyone is going to help out a dancer from a vastly different style with this, Lauren Gottlieb is our go-to girl. I still see him thinking and perfecting, trying to be precise without allowing for a little play room, but he hung well with this piece.

George
Allison Holker is somewhere in her mid-20s and is a mother of a young child. Has been for a minute. Why is it that only NOW she looks like an adult? *sigh* Anyway, on to George. Remarkable job on Tyce Diorio’s jazz routine—Nigel stole Mary’s pipe and said some nonsense about not buying George’s character…..

Damn. I watched the dance before the set-up so a) that explains Allison the vamp, and b) I see Nigel’s point. Shiitake. George definitely did not bring the raunch. A lot of really good cat-and-mouse, and the shy boy retreated a lot, but I should have wanted to run to Confession for impure thoughts, despite not being Catholic….and like Nigel, I also saw an entertaining dance. I can so relate to the shy thing and trying to get around that to crawl into an unfamiliar and slightly uncomfortable dance character, so I definitely admire the work he put in. But based on Tyce’s description of the plot…..you know, I REALLY hate admitting when Nigel’s right, especially on one of my favorites. Foccacia.

(Hoping everyone appreciates the restraint—I really, really, REALLY want to curse right now.)

Eliana
My favorite contemporary ballerina joins my favorite (and FINALLY well) All-Star Alex Wong for a Stacey Tookie contemporary about a “so bad for you it’s good” relationship. Despite Stacey’s concerns about Eliana breaking from “ballerina pretty,” brilliance met brilliance and birthed extraordinary perfection. I need say no more. The judges’ standing ovation says it for me.

Audrey
Dave Scott returns with “Titch” (it’s bad enough I have to remember not to call him Stephen—now they’re going to skip over Twitch and give in to the Ballet Boys nonsense?) for another lyrical hip-hop. This one’s a little more playful than the one he gave Chehon, but no less complicated, particularly for a non-hip-hop dancer. But she executed the moves really well and in near-perfect sync. Her emotions were all over the map—I know it was supposed to be playful but I gather in some point of that our zombie lovers were supposed to be spatting and she looked more like Mrs. Cleaver did when the Beav did some outrageous than a miffed girlfriend.

Bottom 4 (2 each)
Witney (saved)
Audrey
Chehon (saved)
George

As I feared, I’m too late to save George. And I can’t even be fully mad about it because I never expected Chehon to be down there with him. I’m sure Audrey fans are upset about the outcome but looking at those solos, Witney was clearly the victor—as well as in overall reception across all of her dances during the competition.