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.

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SYTYCD 11, Top 20–Dropped Calls

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It’s the second week of competition and the first set of eliminations for the show this season.

This week’s guest judge is Misty Copeland, ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre.

Top 18 group–Broadway

Well, since part of this is grand prize in the role in the new Broadway production of On The Town, it’s only a fair to allow choreographer Josh Bergesse to create a routine to “New York, New York” from said musical, especially since he IS the choreographer. I just knew it was tight. And we’ve moved back to a single winner….hmmm…..

Why is Cat cracking up? Oh yeah, it’s All Star game time again for Major League Baseball, and all of the judges–Misty included–get in on the shenanigans and are dressed in full baseball uniforms. Sigh….Happy Birthday, though, Nigel….

(Nigel, you are wrong as hell for putting Cat on the spot about that baseball pitch…. At least it crossed the batting area.)

I see we have learned nothing from last year’s results debacle….the bottom six are announced at the top of the show. At least they haven’t been cut yet. Those six are: Brooklyn, Casey, Jourdan, Nick, Malene, and Serge. I know Serge had better NOT go home first!

New partnerships (and they each get :10 apiece to get to know each other with silly speed-dating type questions before picking a dance style):

Tanisha/Rudy

Jazz–Sonya Tayeh

Cat and mouse power play.

It’s like Season 4’s “The Garden” and Season 6’s “Tore My Heart” got together and gave birth to this number. I think Tanisha was better in this jazz than in last week’s cha-cha. Rudy was in his element here; very strong and powerful in his movements.

Mary thought it was strong as well and loved the performance, but still gave Rudy notes about his shoulders; Misty thought they were forceful yet fluid and displayed the many faces of sexy in this piece, and also gave Rudy notes about being more grounded in his partnering (I love her analogies–“be the tree trunk for her to be the leaves on”); Nigel also agreed and notes how well Sonya complements the dancers abilities with her choreography.

First of the crews performs on the Hollywood stage to get through the finale….and we also go to the breaks with dance combinations from the choreographers?!? Do you know how many competitions these combos or going to show up in?

Valerie/Ricky

Contemporary–Travis Wall

The one that got away–and she’s doing the chasing. Interesting to see what kind of contemporary technique lies within the tap girl.

She did pretty well–about as well as Alexis did paired up with Nico last season. Her facial emotive were a little one-note though…she needs to dig a little deeper. Ricky, naturally, was Ricky Potter Goodfellow (reference from last week).

Misty loved the partnership and was impressed with Valerie’s abilities, though she did mention focusing and extending her energy throughout her entire body (a more encompassing version of what I just said), and just ate Ricky up with a spoon; Nigel thought they meshed well in their partnership, also noting Valerie’s under-par emoting but praising her grasp of the techniques, while praising Ricky and putting all his pedigree on display (a Young Artists scholarship and tutelage from Desmond Richardson? No wonder the boy’s magic!); Mary marveled at the magnificence of the artistry and athleticism woven together by Travis and performed brilliantly by the pair.

Bridget/Emilio

Hip-Hop–Luther Brown

Rehearsal show a modicum of swag from Miss Bridget–let’s see how she matches with Emilio. Guy reconnected with an old girl friend a former nerd turned hottie. You know, y’all could have just CALLED me….

Season 6′ s Ashley plus Season 9 Witney equals Bridget’s hip-hop swagger. And I was NOT expecting those backflips…at least not from HER. Solid job.

Nigel loved their chemistry and thought Bridget did better than expected, though he did suggest she get down into the style more and feel stronger with it…and insulted Emilio wardrobe (dancing Hobbit? Hobbits wish they were that sexy); Mary thought she went in and out but largely praise Bridget’s efforts, and that Emilio “ate the whole thing for dinner and spit out fabulousness.” Oooookay….as long as he got props, I’ll deal. Misty rounded out the agreement on both dancers, telling Bridget that she could mix femininity and power and battle Emilio toe to toe as the number called for.

Jessica/Nick

West Coast Swing–Benji Schwimmer

My boo Benji went and thinned out again….I kinda liked him buff. I get to drool over him again, though…. No theme, just fun and dance.

JESSICA IS A DAMN SOLDIER! I would have been rolling on the floor like a bitch if I dislocated my shoulder–hell, I damn near did in my own living room watching it!

They both did well with that complicated choreography–I think Nick lost a little of his mojo mid-way in, which was probably a combination of nerves stemming from Bottom 6 placement and avoiding Jessica’s shoulder’s DISplacement. It’s more of a judges’ decision tonight, but in general the viewing audience connects better when there’s a theme, so I fear for his place in the competition.

Mary commended the two for keeping pace and noted the style shift for Nick (as West Coast Swing is not within the typical ballroom vocabulary) and cautioned Jessica about being more grounded in her footwork, Misty thought it was entertaining and gave critiques on Jessica’s elongation in her neck and on stronger footwork for both; Nigel felt that even with the intense difficulty of Benji’s routine paired with two dancers brand new to the style, Nick could have danced much more strongly and Jessica lost some of the honesty in her expression (said she over exaggerated and pulled face a bit too much).

Carly/Serge

Contemporary– Sonya Tayeh

Unbreakable love.

(Okay, y’all have the misfortune of performing a contemporary with that same song AND theme that won Meryl and Maks their mirrorball on DWTS, and THAT number was phenomenal. Still, I’ll be as objective as I can and try to forget that happened first.) Serge was incredibly strong from beginning to end; Carly lost a little steam on her intention right at the unison steps on the chorus. Good but not wow.

Misty, however, WAS wowed… Serge definitely moved her and she was impressed with the pair; Nigel again praised Sonya’s ability to bring out the best in her dancers and felt the first emotional connection with this pair, and expressed his shock at how well service performed outside of his own style. For those of us *raises hand* who cussed you out last year for cutting him at Green Mile, we are not surprised AT ALL.) Mary is all teary and impressed with Serge as well, and loved the couple’s performance.

I repeat, Serge BET’ NOT be going home this week!

Emily/Teddy

Hip-Hop–Dave Scott

Flirtatious energy in this number–and how am I now supposed to take this seriously after Teddy basically faceplants into Emily’s butt? *deep breath*

It almost looks very Nappytabs–didn’t know Dave Scott had that in him. They worked and did a better give and take than Bridget and Emilio, but Emily still looks like she was trying too hard. Teddy, however, channeled those mack skills and turned on the charm.

Nigel cautioned Emily about getting the connection and performing WITH her partner before directing that energy outward to perform FOR the audience (pretty fair assessment of what I was thinking) but he did enjoy the number. Mary enjoyed it but was put off a touch by the ticking at the end holding these kids accountable to prior standards, and Misty thought Emily could have gotten more comfortable and grounded in the routine but loved the connection.

Malene/Stanley

Broadway–Spencer Liff

Was not expecting Broadway with that costume–I suppose that hair was a giveaway, though. Spencer has based this routine on the variety shows of the 1960s with telephone props.

I could see some Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse face out of these two–very interesting with the corded phones. Countless opportunities for catastrophe with those and it went off smoothly. Stanley is just mesmerizing to watch and Malene held pretty strongly in a new style.

Mary was enthralled…up through the first :20. Then it went downhill for her, mostly due to the tethering nature of the phone with respect to the choreography. Misty thought they were great individually but lacked connection as a pair, and need to work more on that aspect of their performance; Nigel thought the two missed the mark stylewise and agreed with Misty on their lack of connection.

Jourdan/Marcquet

Jazz–Sean Cheesman

YASSS!!!! I was wondering if I’d see you this season! A sexy interrogation (why the black man always gotta be the suspect?) between interrogator an agent; has to be sexy and sharp but like buttah….hmmmm…..

Sooooo much to look at….tables and swinging lightbulbs have been done to great effect before, and this was incredibly fast and all over the place. Jourdan’s flexibility is ridiculous and Marcquet’s partnering and presents were strong as usual. They got the sexy and most of the sharp, but the butter did not melt for me.

Misty loves the number and particularly Jourdan’s ability to own the style rather than simply adapt to it–she did caution Marcquet about overdoing the character and being conscious of everything to do with expressing that character, Nigel enjoyed the number as well but cautioned JOURDAN about her expression in relation to character, and lauded Marcquet’s efforts; Mary thought Sean did well with giving the pair moves that suited their abilities and was pleased with how well Jourdan did outside of her comfort zone.

Brooklyn/Casey

Argentine Tango–Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

Brooklyn’s Latin Ballroom but not necessarily Argentine Tango fluent; Casey’s completely out of his style. And Miriam and Leonardo do some really tough choreography….with us now knowing both of them are in danger of going home, this one concerns me. A lot.

Not steamy but not a train wreck–Brooklyn did dominate a good deal and the technique on both looked pretty decent. Was watching Casey’s butt most of the time (as Mary is usually commenting on whether or not the male dancers are properly tucked under as the move) and it seemed to me that he was holding the proper posture quite well for a contemporary dancer doing a tango. I was not prepared for the slicked-down hair though–it really help in making him look like the weaker sex in this pair.

Cat noted (as I did) the subtle ending to the piece…typically Argentine tangos end in more dramatic fashion. Not the usual, but it was cool. Nigel praised the pair on their intensity and control and wished them well in hopefully going further in the competition; Mary marveled at Brooklyn’s maturity and was even more awed at Casey’s transformation; Misty loves their connection and intensity, and ever the constructive critic, urged Brooklyn to be more assertive in planting her weight over each foot rather than wavering toward center.

Jacque/Zach

African Jazz–Sean Cheesman

I adore Sean’s African jazz pieces but they always seem to go to the dancers least likely to adapt well to the style. Still, Brittany Cherry surprised me last season, so I’ll definitely keep an open mind. Warriors coming to life out of ancient art…am I wrong to be picturing (and dare I say, expecting) a tribal Turn To Stone moment here?

I am really trying to appreciate their athleticism here–which is pretty impressive–but the costume is going a little too much Thing One and Thing Two for me to take them seriously. Mythical creatures, maybe…warriors? Eh. Though Zach did perform much more fiercely than I gave him credit for, and Jacque also adapted well.

Mary was impressed. Standing ovation, hot tamale train impressed. Misty was also taken with the pair, those she thought Jacque slightly over did the characterization in her mouth expressions (this lady’s tough! I love it, but damn!); Nigel rounded out the lovefest and called the number his favorite of the night, and also marveled at how well the two were able to mix technique with the power and flow of African movement.

Dance Crew time! Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies tonight, & I gotta say….they love them some Beyoncé, don’t they? Ironically, they lost syncopation a number of times during this routine, and it pains me because between the difficulty level of the choreography amplified by all that sexy, I love the concept. Girl power favorites but I need to see the other crews first–the Ladies had better hope the other crews slack up.

*deep sigh* Results time….

Based on tonight’s performance, I’m guessing Nick and Malene go home first….*unpauses TiVo*

Girls first-and Malene is indeed the first to go. As for the guys, I was also unfortunately correct about Nick as well. Poor Rudy is inconsolable. Not happy to see anyone go home, but at least I didn’t have to brain Nigel for sending Serge packing.

Next week’s predictions:

Assessing the reception of the numbers performed and the tide of the first vote, possible girls in danger are Valerie, Jessica or Emily, and Bridget, while Stanley, and despite well-received performances, Serge and Casey may be the bottom three guys. I’m also not sure if Marcquet is totally safe. Jessica and Stanley has the disadvantage of starting a new partnership and building chemistry as well, so they’re going to have to pull contemporary or an outside style that will sit well on them to convince the judge is to keep them if the public doesn’t say the same.

This season is really going to be a challenge….

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 5: All Tapped Out

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

A new week of competition as we get closer to solidifying the Tour lineup. The cuts aren’t getting any easier, folks….

Top 14 Group
Y’all sure love dangling folks in the air…looks like a combination of contemporary and ballroom. Way too much going on for one pass. (Or even 5 or 6, as I’ve watched this piece over and over and can’t really zero in on one dancer for any length of time. Though again Aaron keeps establishing his presence…I feel like I’m copying and pasting that phrase from one blog post to the next.) Sonya Tayeh and Dmitry Chaplin confirms the genre mashup…if this choreographer combo business is going to be a regular thing, can I make some suggestions?

Curtis is out—this week—with a shoulder injury. If he winds up in the bottom, let’s hope this doesn’t affect his place in the competition. (Though the doctors apparently DID clear him for the dancers’ intro….)

Adding mini group numbers to the mix of couples dances….I don’t remember doing groups in competition this early, but there’s a first time for everything.

While they DO work, why does Cat have drapery tassels hanging from her ears?

Guest judge – Anna Kendrick
Pitch Perfect and a Tony nod should give her something intelligent to say.

This week’s Bottom 6:
Jasmine H.
Alan
Alexis
Curtis
Makenzie
Nico

Jasmine is the only big surprise in this bunch, but I don’t think she or Makenzie are in grave peril (At least Makenzie, who as I suspected, was immediately saved by Nigel). All of the boys just got dismissed from dancing for their lives BUT were still considered to be in danger. That does not bode well for Curtis in my mind, though Alan is on thin ice with the judges as well. It’s gonna take a royal screw-up from both him and Nico to keep Curtis solid, though.

Alexis
Clean syncopations and several toe stands, but not a whole lot of huge, flashy tricks. Clarity might be enough, but her routine’s simplicity mirrors the solo Curtis did—and was ragged on for—last week.

Jasmine H.
Should have known Endangered Species was a Dianne Reeves joint…but I digress. Jasmine was fluid and frantic and threw in every turn and balance skill in her toolbox. It wasn’t dazzling and spellbinding, but it was quite good. I call the solos themselves a draw, and will wait for the other dances to make my call.

This week’s question: how did our dancers catch the dance bug in the first place. [Again, I’ll put the answers in brackets.]

Jenna/Tucker
Hip-Hop – Luther Brown

Killing it in the club—Team Tuna is a fish out of water again….I REALLY can’t see them being ‘hood.

[Jenna’s in the Lollipop Guild and Tucker dances a solo that really wasn’t….well I thought you were doing great, sweetie….]

Valiant effort, kids…..they looked like Mary and Adam Shankman trying to be fly. Well, Tucker looked like Adam up until he unzipped his jacket….They kept on rhythm, but no real force of swag.

Time to get ready for the Mary Murphy drinking game….

Nigel thought it was a little unconvincing—they didn’t get the whole feel of it. Tucker was too upright and Jenna was too sweet, and he deemed it unmemorable. Mary thought Nigel was a bit harsh, but agreed to a point. She did, however, appreciate that they attacked what they were given, and said Jenna edged Tucker out a bit. And she just threw in the word “ratchet.” I think I may faint…. Anna said it wasn’t their strongest and may have been a little cute, but thought they were lovable and gave a great effort.

Alexis/Nico
Contemporary – Sonya Tayeh

[Girly girl Alexis tapped in a tux and Nico was literally the class clown…yes indeed…..]

A relationship falling apart—Nico’s moving on and Alexis won’t let go.

It’s what Sonya gave her to do, but those static runs were just killing me–I couldn’t take her seriously. The energy of this piece was very similar to Nico’s audition solo, but with a harder edge, so I think he did well with this one. It didn’t spotlight Alexis in the same way, and I fear this may mean her exit.

Mary lauds Sonya’s abilities and was actually feeling the energy and desperation Alexis was putting out, and was taken by Nico’s performance as well, calling the two spectacular. Anna was impressed with the range the two showed throughout the piece and thought the tension they created was palpable. Nigel marveled at the strength they put forth, particularly in the face of both of them being up for elimination.

Hayley
Argentine Tango – Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

ADHD Curtis and ornery Hayley [at least by their accounts] practice the tango with lots of giggles and distractions, much to Miriam and Leonardo’s dismay. A couple that meets for the first time on the dance floor is the underlying story.

Leonardo himself steps in for the injured Curtis—I’m going to try to look at this as an unfolding plot line and ignore the “skeevy old man” potential this could have. OK…being thrown around the stage by the actual choreographer can’t possibly hurt, but I do believe Miss Hayley has a future as a femme fatale. Much like that samba from a couple of weeks ago, she exuded fire and passion, as well as some pretty darn good-looking form.

If I didn’t already accept Anna’s credentials, the fact that she is actually actively watching this season and giving fully-fleshed critiques based on everything shown thus far puts her on the short list for a repeat performance on the panel. While she deferred to Mary regarding the technicalities, she noted that Hayley has coped well with all of the emotional gambits given to her, and not just the “sexy girl” box she seemed to be repeatedly put into. Nigel said Hayley nailed everything and was quite stunning—given that she had a professional partner, I gather he thought she would be intimidated in her movement. Guess that’ll learn ya, Nigel. Mary gave a standing O and thought she was quite impressive, in disbelief that she was ever a clumsy dancer in her youth. Both Mary and Anna want to be Hayley for a few minutes tonight.

Makenzie/Paul
Jazz – Sonya Tayeh

[I forgot Makenzie had the jazz singing parents…..and I never would have guessed Paul was such a late bloomer in dance.]

Sonya immediately orders Paul’s shirt off; there’s going to be a lot of power and aggression in this one.

The fact that they’re dancing to one of my cousin Catherine’s favorite go-to Santigold songs is going to distract me, but I’ll try to concentrate….Y’all can sleep on Paul if you want to, but that boy’s got something. Don’t forget he already won this game in another country. But all that aside, he’s got some really great range and versatility considering he’s a late bloomer. You know who else was a late bloomer? Chehon Wespi-Tchopp. ‘Nuf said. As for Makenzie, damn if that girl isn’t making tour—especially if Nigel has anything to say about it. But y’all CAN see why Nigel keeps saving her, right? Phenomenal job. And since Sonya is dancing in the aisles again, you can bank on that statement.

Nigel thought they were both brilliant and is still nonplussed as to why Makenzie isn’t clicking with the fans. He also brought up Paul’s Armenian win and said he was on track to take the American crown as well. Mary agrees in the Makenzie assessment and though Sonya brought out another side to Paul with this piece. Anna called Paul a total MVP and thought the fact that this piece displayed Makenzie’s athletic ability as opposed to simply spotlighting her ethereal beauty—intimating that perhaps that may be the push to change the public tide.

Jasmine H./Aaron
Contemporary – Justin Giles

[I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to unsee Aaron in that Ugly Stepsister dress…..and Jasmine’s tomboy phase extended to the early stage as well. She was all over the place, but then a lot of the students I’ve taught like that have gone on to surprise me with their skill and focus in their later years—much like Jasmine is doing now.]

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree in dance…fascinating. I gotta read that someday….

Aaron is just stunning when he does contemporary….I can almost forget that tap is his original specialty. The star focus on Jasmine was dimmed tonight, but that was by design. And she still manage to stand out without overstepping the parameters she was given.

Mary thought it was seriously interesting and was impressed with the couple’s navigation of the prop for the entire number, even saying that it was more of an extension of Jasmine’s body than a noticeable object. She also lauded the tenderness in Aaron’s partnering. Anna was moved by the emotional intention and intensity, and was impressed by Jasmine’s magical grace. And she is clearly also a huge and totally biased Aaron fan….not that there’s a thing wrong with that. Nigel waxed poetic on the plot of The Giving Tree and equated the unconditional love displayed in the story to Team Tall’s partnership.

Cat said they’ll never have to see that apple again. Show of hands—who knows that we’re not only going to see this as a favorite in the finale, but as a tour number as well?

Amy/Fik-Shun
Hip-Hop – Christopher Scott

[Amy’s a 2-foot-tall bundle of energy and Fik-Shun’s another late bloomer.]

Fik-Shun is at a café ordering the catch of the day—Amy, the tired, beleaguered waitress just trying to get to the end of her shift. What kind of mojo does my boy have with the ladies? We shall see….

LET’S GET IT ON BY MARVIN GAYE?!? Whatchallknowboutdat? It worked, though…I imagine the feeling we got from this is what Janelle and Dareian were supposed to do last season with the My Girl number. Even with the prop slips, they played through them beautifully. And that “tragic” hyper energy Amy was blushing about from her 7-year-old performance? Without it, the character in THIS dance wouldn’t have been as believable. I love me some Famy!

Anna wants to take them home with her and thought the dance was made for them. Nigel thought they were tremendous, stating that if the show was based on cumulative points they’d be so far ahead nobody could touch them. His own concern is that they seem to fall into the same characterizations and would love to see something different from them. Guess that paso or that über-serious contemporary wasn’t different enough for him. He DID, however, put their partnership in the same class as Katee and Joshua and Melanie and Marko. I’ll have to agree with him there. Not to mention both of those aforementioned couples boast a champion….major omen there. Mary makes it unanimous and was upset that it didn’t last longer. They still have their train ticket.

“Malese and Alan dip into the season’s first salsa.” REALLY, Cat? I know you didn’t write that line but you didn’t have to agree to SAY it….smh….

Malese/Alan
Salsa – Jonathan Platero (Season 5 alum)

I remember Jonathan DOING Latin, but I don’t remember it being his specialty….great to see him again regardless.

[Malese, be glad the accident was offstage–THAT might have been the visual used. And Alan looked reserved even back then–in childhood it’s understandable, but he’d better find something to light a fire under his butt.]

TOTALLY forgot Malece got dropped on her head in Vegas. I think Alan’s paying attention, sweetie…you should be good. Saying some Hail Marys for you anyway, even though I’m not Catholic. SHE DID THE JANETTE MANRERA FLIP!!!!! Though I did sense a little hesitance in other areas from her…not to mention fearing a wardrobe malfunction with that top…. Alan was in his element, which meant some of the unison moves didn’t quite match in energy, but they did really well.

Nigel thought it was a tremendous routine and thought Alan was indeed there for his partner, though he did think he was still a little too tall in stance when he should have been a little lower. Mary was impressed with the energy level and intensity, and marveled that they managed to keep and get back into time after all of those exhausting lifts. Anna admitted that she didn’t always “get” ballroom on the show, but this routine made her want to take lessons. She thought it was solid, and even though it was terrifying with all the lifts and such, she never felt nervous. (I wonder if somebody got a shot of MALECE’S dad this week after the “make a baby” comment….)

Makenzie, Jenna, Malece, Hayley, Alan, Nico, (Curtis)
Broadway group – Spencer Liff
#sytycdPoolHall

Mixed groups….hmmm….good way to set up tour material. Very prop heavy number, and no they didn’t just cross the pool cues into Roman numeral tens……wow.

American Graffiti meets The Outsiders meets Cool Hand Luke. And was that Spencer filling in for the injured Curtis? Why yes…yes it was.

“It’s like, boring how good you guys are.” Anna had no words for the kids but did take a moment to shout out the SteadiCam operators. Every time I think of the moves I had to make with the heavy pedestal cameras, I realize that was child’s play compared to some of the shots from the SteadiCam—particularly the Top 20 one-take. (That ish was the bomb and deserves perpetual praise.) Nigel thought Spencer unintentionally showed the boys up, but the girls were tremendous…although he thought Malece was a little uncomfortable in places. Though considering both she and Alan went immediately into this number from that break-neck, breath stealing salsa, it’s a little understandable. Mary agrees, just as impressed with Spencer and slightly disappointed with the boys while also praising the girls’ efforts.

Fik-Shun, Aaron, Tucker, Paul, Jasmine H., Amy, Alexis
Contemporary group – Bonnie Story, of High School Musical fame (if I remember correctly, her daughter tried out one year)
#sytycdBully

A piece about bullying…Bonnie even gives them real source material from a friend’s first-hand account.

Against Amy and Tucker, you can see the technical weaknesses Fik-Shun has. But they made no difference, just as with every other foreign style he threw himself into the movement 150%. Very dramatic and worth seeing on tour without the SteadiCam assist–nothing against it, mind you, but some things just need to be seen straight on. Tucker simply took my breath away. The dancers in black did their jobs well, but I just have to watch this again and focus on them because in a group of seven people, this was the Tucker Show, guest starring Amy.

Mary echoed my sentiments about Fik-Shun and was touched by both the movement and the message. Anna seemed to be at a loss for words but said the dancers were fantastic and was thankful for the dancers’ dedication and for the show as a rare platform for that dedication and passion. Nigel agreed on all points with everyone, adding a statement to Fik-Shun to absorb and improve all the technique he can at this moment, because that added to the heart and soul he already possesses in spades will render him unstoppable. Top 4, y’all. I’m going to keep saying it until you see I’m right.

The only logical thing to do was to cut the two tappers in peril. I didn’t think Nigel would have the cajones to do it, but he did. Alexis and Curtis both have promising futures, though, and it’s not unlikely that one or both won’t wind up on tour. My money’s on Alexis of the two of them, though….

So, this leaves Aaron as the lone hoofer left in the competition this season. His versatility and amazing facility for contemporary dance in particular should cement him a place in the Top 10 and on the Tour, if not his enormous popularity with the fans. Next week will tell the tale for everyone in that regard, as we will know who all of the Top 10 will be–and which two dancers will fall just short of the All-Star rounds.