SYTYCD 11, Top 8–Dancing Machine

We’re closing in on the end of Season 11!

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Tonight’s guest judge is Jenna Dewan-Tatum, star of the original Step Up movie and former background dancer to the likes of Pink, Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson. This is her second stint on the competition panel, and her second appearance this year (she sat in on the Atlanta auditions).

Top 8 group
Well if anybody was going to choreograph a group number for Michael Jackson night, might as well get the man’s own choreographer Travis Payne. Very futuristic looking and probably could have jumped out of the Cirque de Soleil Xscape show.

Tonight the kids get to do their solos in addition to the All-Star duets slated.

Tanisha kicks off the solos—she throws every possible skill known to man in, with the ballroom prowess seeming almost secondary. I really wish I liked her personal solos more…I can appreciate the skill and technique but Mary has ruined me for wanting more ballroom content from ballroom contestants.

(This week gives us words from the teachers, relatives and fellow performers that most inspired and influenced the kids in their development as dancers.)

Ricky (with All-Star Jaimie Goodwin)
Contemporary—Travis Wall

Whoa—Season 11’s Ricky has Season 6’s Victor Smalley (of Dance Moms: Miami fame as well) to thank for his early dance education; Victor gave the kid a scholarship. Nice redemption for Victor, because I maintain that he got hosed during his season.

Ricky is the positive light, the best friend that can always raise your spirits. Travis is pushing Ricky beyond his technical limits to try and help him put a lock on the win.

Dancing to Michael’s cover of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” this routine’s Melanie/Marko “I Got You” in feeling layered on top of Robert/Allison “Fix You” in technique. And while it looks terribly simplistic, the lines and pictures the dancers produce are exquisite.

Jenna’s word of the night is “incredible”—from the technique to the partner connection and everything in between, she’s completely enamored with both this routine and with Ricky. Mary marvels at the effortlessness and high echelon of technical prowess that Ricky has continued to display week upon week. Nigel feels that Ricky has grown to the point of transcending his already incredible skill and technique and becoming the dance.

(I see they’re going to continue this “results as they go” BS….of course Ricky is safe….you expected less?)

AND as they’re announced safe, they’re immediately paired with their next All-Star…so Ricky will be doing some sort of ballroom routine with Anya “Hot Tamale Train” Garis

Zack gets to dance in his specialty tonight, and dude throws in enough slides and fast footwork–not to mention the attire–to be the tap reincarnation of Michael Jackson. Even Sandman Sims would have looked at that bit and said, “DAMN!”

Valerie (with All-Star Ryan Dilello)
Samba—Jean-Marc Genereux

Dance break with Jean-Marc first….oh, THAT’S how you spell “batucada!” Phonetics only take you so far in another language…..

(Valerie’s dance inspiration is Kathy Simpson, her teacher since she was 3 years old. Now if SHE had a show instead of Abby Lee, I’d watch that…she looks like she’s professional AND nice.)

Valerie “Wanna Be Starting Something” battling with Ryan, the Samba King.

She was working her fanny off to nail that technique and I give her props for that—AND she got a smidgen of sexy out in her performance demeanor. However, she still needed some more oomph in her execution. I’d love to just say that she did an admirable job as a non-ballroom dancer, but considering we’re at Top 8 and shooting for a Top 6 berth it’s too late for that…it’s go big or go home time, and I fear this may hasten the latter.

Mary said, in her delightful Mary fashion, that the samba was well done and Valerie attacked every move with the exception of some hesitation on the samba runs (which I saw as well as the area of most discomfort in her); Nigel calls Valerie vivacious and says this bit of brilliance cancels out any complaints he had about the previous week, although he did express worry that if she were to depart tonight that would be why…and it would be a shame on the heels of tonight’s success. Jenna tells Valerie that her dancing gives her joy but there was an added sexiness and attitude (that’s basically the translation for “face” people) in her performance.

(Valerie, amazingly, is safe this week. And apparently Mr. Boss really needed to get out of the house this summer because after tonight he belongs to Valerie. Having already proven she can “turn up,” this should be a thrilling pair.)

Casey leaps and spins and dives his way through his solo…..we know, we know—you’re a maestro with all of it. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Rudy’s up next with a variation of Casey’s magical spinfest layered on top of the beastly style he brought to the auditions, and you can see a lot of technical improvement in him. He’s a little too happy for that now (or maybe the flash of cutie-pie I saw was just a result of him quickly dropping character at the end of the solo….Jacque might me making you a little too mellow, boo….IJS)

Casey (with All-Star Comfort Fedoke)
Hip-Hop—Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz

(Miss Terri [Schulke] and Miss Mandy [Rogers], his two dance teachers who have trained him for the past 4 years, are Casey’s inspirations…and both ladies are deeply moved by the nomination.)

OK, if Academy of Villains doesn’t get that finale berth it doesn’t really matter because Pharside and Phoenix are solidly IN as choreographers. So in honor of MJ Week they’ve created a theatrical, over-the-top routine called “8 Legged Love.” Um….yeah. Good thing I already know they do some killer work because there isn’t a side eye strong enough to give them for THAT description. Black Widow meets Fatal Attraction, or Kiss of the Hip-Hop Spider Woman, if you will. Casey has to bring out strong characterization again this week….the last effort at hip-hop landed him in the bottom. Hopefully the costume’s better this go-around.

“Xscape,” the song that titles the Cirque de Soleil show, is the tune for this piece. Casey had moments of looking tortured and seduced—good things for this particular number—and he was really working to hit those shapes and positions. Plus I imagine jumping on and off of a spiderweb-shaped cargo net dangling had to be taxing as well. Not quite the Nico benchmark from last season’s Spider Woman interpretation, but a reasonably good effort. (On another note, wardrobe let Comfort borrow Tanisha’s catsuit and seriously vamped her up with the makeup—she’s come a long way from the thunderstruck girl in a bra and beads…..

Nigel acknowledges Casey’s further growth as a performer while advising him to get more into the style, however foreign to him. Jenna admires his stage presence and his ability to perform “in the moment” and in step with Comfort. Mary admired the strength and commitment, and also recognized the increased sharpness and precision as the number built.

(Casey is in the bottom of the votes this week—not unexpected with fan favorites Ricky and Rudy as his competition. Zack, who I fully expect to be down there with him, is the sleeper contestant of this pair and may edge him out for Top 6.)

Jacque’s up with her solo and it’s very light and effortless and danced with so much joy she’s practically levitating. Whether this will aid her chances of staying remains to be seen.

Tanisha (with All-Star Nick Lazarrini)
Contemporary—Stacey Tookey

(Kelly Messerly, Tanisha’s teacher and mentor, is her dance inspiration.)

Nick’s a crooner reliving the memory of the One That Got Away (embodied by Tanisha). So I probably should have expected “She’s Out Of My Life” to be the song of choice.

I know I’m supposed to focus on the contestants, but I really have to pause and acknowledge Nick’s growth as a dancer over the years. He was neither my choice nor my expectation for SYTYCD’s first champion and I’ve watched him dance before wondering how and why that was. I’m liking what I’m seeing now. *exhale* Now, back to the task at hand: Tanisha really should consider shifting to the cabaret division if she means to stay in the ballroom world—whatever Latin training she has is nowhere near as good as the contemporary skills she’s exhibited since she’s been on the show. Very nice work from her again this evening.

Jenna is astounding by her strength and the couple’s fluidity, and called for a bit more angst to her emotional expression to enhance the feeling of the number; Mary hailed Tanisha for keeping pace with Nick and is amazed by her consistency and quality of movement; Nigel is equally impressed by her physical strength but admonishes her to tap into and release more of her vulnerable side as a counterbalance.

(Tanisha is the first girl in the bottom two this week; considering Valerie skated through this week I imagined that would be a probability as Jessica’s fan base seems incredibly strong and loyal.)

Jessica takes the “massive tricks and levels to a Celine Dion power ballad” route in her solo tonight…way too much to visually process but again….these fans are lo-yalllllllll……..

Rudy (with All-Star Allison Holker)
Contemporary—Ray Leeper

(Kevin “Tokyo” Inouye—you KNOW I’m Googling to find out if he’s any relation to the late Hawaiian senator….dude’s honest, I gotta give it to him. Not many teachers would admit on national television that their student, despite their heart and passion, was just not good at it. Of course, not many would take them under their wing anyway and try to mold something out of them, either. I think I rather like you, sir….. *side note: Google results inconclusive, particularly since there’s a professor and martial arts coach in the biz with the same name–hence, this Kevin going by “Tokyo.” If any of you readers find out, holla.)

A tale of obsession—Allison is focused on getting Rudy, but he’s taken and trying to push her away….despite the small part of him deep inside that kinda does want her. Unhealthy dysfunction at its best. Ray’s concerned about Rudy tapping into his vulnerability and letting go of some of the aggression inherent in his personal style.

I was thinking “Leave Me Alone,” but “Dirty Diana” makes much more logical sense considering the darkness of tone and the storyline itself (I don’t know HOW I forgot about that song). Rudy is fighting for his spot. I mean really, seriously, both dukes up, all guns blazing FIGHTING to get to the end—and the top—of this competition. He is determined to be standing under that confetti, and powerwise he could do it. I saw more tortured anger than vulnerability in him, but that may have been moments of “seeing him thinking.” I will say that for him to evenly match Allison Holker in a number so powerful is an impressive accomplishment, and that may just be the thing that America eats up with a spoon.

People are standing and hollering—more importantly, THESE people are standing and hollering: Ray, Mary, Nigel and Jenna. This bodes well….that and the fact that Rudy is doubled over, gasping for breath and doing that high-pitched Dino from The Flintstones babble-scream he does when he’s overexcited.

Mary is just as flushed as Rudy is, but manages to find words and breath to agree with me about the pair going in whole hog and matching each other toe to toe, dubbing them spectacular. Nigel’s only complaint was a brief lapse in character to focus on technique (during a pirouette section) that broke from the story, but otherwise commended Rudy for morphing into a completely different person. Jenna calls Rudy phenomenal and also commends him for rising to and matching Allison’s level.

(Rudy is in the bottom this week, saving Zack this time. If I know anything—and history is to be believed, Rudy’s larger than life personality will probably elevate him over Casey’s insane technique. We’ll see at the end of the show….)

Valerie taps her way out in her magic ruby slippers and has vastly improved with projecting energy from her upper body and face as her feet are going a mile a minute. She’s the better of the two tap solos this evening.

Zack (with All-Star Makenzie Dustman)
Broadway—Spencer Liff

(Mark Goodman, tap legend I’m not familiar with but I guess I’d better research….he’s danced with some legends himself: Gregory Hines, Sandman Sims, Savion Glover–very impressive.)

Naïve girl fresh off the train in the big city meets slick smooth talker Zach, who tries everything he can to tell this girl “The Way You Make Me Feel”….the boy looks like Howdy Doody meets Opie; I just can’t see him being a Lothario. Still, he and Rudy have a similar drive to prove themselves, so I know he’s gonna knock himself out trying.

Makenzie looks thick in that dress. Marilyn Monroe thick. Not a bad thing at all—in fact it transforms her character—but it just threw me off for a second to see her serving Ava Gardner realness and I know she’s barely hit adulthood yet. Zach looked more smitten than smarmy half the time but that character focus was razor sharp. He knew just when to switch his gaze from the audience to his potential conquest while executing all of his moves perfectly and in sync. The end was clunky, but that wasn’t the dancers’ fault: it was the music mix, adding an additional unnecessary beat to the end.

(Since Zack knows he’s safe, Cat reveals his partner….and just as I was saying that we were about due for a boy pairing, who does nuFik-Shun get but the original himself? I am extremely intrigued to see how that plays out.)

Nigel would have liked to see a little more groundedness from Zack, but was overall pleased….and is especially tickled like the rest of us about next week’s matchup. Jenna mused about the incredible amount of control and showmanship needed—and employed by Zack—to successfully pull off a Broadway routine; she thought he was believable and was completely sold by his performance. Mary also notes Zack’s growth, spirit and wholehearted embracing of everything he’s been given to date.

Ricky closes out the solos, and….hold up, pause. WTF was that, dude?!? You just did a nosebleed induced leap, landed on cotton and slid into one of the sickest, most tightly controlled straddles like you were made of melting butter….the old, fat creaky dancer in me hates you and is sobbing in the corner. And continues to do so after you laid in a straddle ON YOUR BACK and then just stepped up into a layout. Boy go sit down somewhere before I start throwing stuff at my TV……

How am I JUST noticing the Moonwalk logo on the backdrop and in the wipes tonight?

Jacque (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Dave Scott

(Older cousin Christianne Jordan is Jacque’s inspiration….way to go, Pookie!)

Ionkno if ballerina Jacque is gonna let street Jacque out to play—she’d better do something to hang with the Boss since Jessica’s efforts were so well received last week….

“Slave To The Rhythm” is the song of choice, and we have some post-apocalyptic, Terminator futuristic type scenery happening here, and these two look like they survived the war and are hooking back up to kick it. Jacque got looser than I gave her credit for, though she looked like her biggest struggle was controlling her face. I think I saw one smiley moment before she masked it with the hardcore, serious badass look she was supposed to be serving. Both Melissa and Eliana proved that ballerinas can get down and dirty, and Jacque’s climbing into that class. Hopefully, it’s not too little, too late….

Jenna thought Jacque did extremely well and really got into the groove of the style; Mary also felt that Jacque conquered the groove and was impressed by her growth and synchronicity; Nigel was duly impressed by her embodiment of the style and thought she and tWitch complemented each other well, even daring to use the word “swag.”

(As expected, Jacque is the second girl in the bottom two. Not positive how the decision is going to shake down between her and Tanisha….)

Jessica (with All-Star Will Wingfield)
Contemporary—Mandy Moore

(Talia Favia, Jessica’s teacher, sounds a lot like my own—always picking and pushing. In love, of course….)

Earth and mankind….Jessica is being asked to be uncomfortable in this piece, portraying someone being callous and careless with the planet.

Jessica is really trying to embrace her artistry and incorporate it with her technical abilities—there are moments when she looks like she’s mimicking Will as a young dance pupil tries to mirror their teacher. That’s a good thing, as she matches him move for move, height for height, and all other nuances in between. The lighting was inspired, and told the story as much as the two dancers illuminated by it. Characterization is hard to read on her, so I can’t be sure if she embodied everything Mandy asked of her. But it was a very good performance from her.

Standing Os from the panel, so I’m expecting a good bit….

(Jessica’s All-Star is Ade…going from one big-league dancer to another. You gotta work, honey….)

Mary feels that the stars have aligned with the perfect music, choreography and dancers, and is pleased and proud of Jessica’s growth and passion displayed; Nigel ticks off a litany of favorites in all aspects of the piece—which include the stellar presence of William Wingfield (that man is a blessing to dance in general, and I will wax poetic about him whenever I can. Deal with it.)—and is moved by her magnificence; Jenna is also duly impressed with Jessica’s incredible growth and also throws around the words “favorite” and “magnificent.”

Three weeks from the finale, and we’re presented with the third of our crews up for an encore performance on that night. Tonight it’s Control Freakz turn….and it’s worth noting that the spoken word intro sounds a lot like the voice that introduced us to Will Wingfield in Los Angeles back in Season 4….just after he’s left the stage tonight. Serendipity, perhaps?

Damn…..what? I dare anyone to ever again set their lips to say that popping and hip-hop are any lesser forms of the art of dance. Every bit of that looked almost balletic—and that smoothness and grace is hard to accomplish coming out of a back flip. I am duly impressed. And I do have to say—though in this day and age I shouldn’t have to—how beautiful it is to see some many different looks and shades of my people given the opportunity to express their artistic selves on a national stage. It might be more commonplace in this day and age, but as a young girl with aspirations of dance those images were extremely scarce…and it makes my heart smile.

(I did have to actually spoil results to go vote, but I’m still going to give my assessment as if I hadn’t.) So it’s down to Rudy, Casey, Jacque and Tanisha. If I go by past opinions and votes, Jacque has been in the bottom the most out of the four, and I don’t recall ever seeing Rudy there (though I could be wrong). Young fans might be reluctant to break up the reported lovebirds, but have also repeatedly been reluctant to send Tanisha home, as well. I’d venture based on all of that, Jacque has run out of chances…and with Rudy being the less polished of the guys, he may be leaving with her.

Of course, America seldom behaves as I’d expect—while I don’t deny Tanisha has some great ability I thought she would have gone home long before now…and tonight she’s going out with her original partner. Rudy leaving just breaks my heart…and that was BEFORE he started crying. I really saw a Benji-esque victory as a possibility with that one, but apparently the contemporary seduction continues. Zack is the last odd man standing, and as I had hoped Aaron would be the first tapper to take the crown last year, I feel compelled to throw my remaining support behind him. The girls’ diversity is still intact, just minus a ballroom specialist. So of the jazz dancer, tapper and ballerina remaining, I feel like the larger push is going to go to Jessica. However, with Jacque’s miracle save and Valerie’s sleeper performances, anything could happen there. With us back to a single winner I dare not even venture who has the best shot at that right now….but it’s gonna be a rollercoaster ride.

(The survivors get their All-Star pairings: Casey gets Makenzie and Jacque gets Will. *moment of silent praise that I get blessed with him a second week in a row*)

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SYTYCD 11, Top 16–Broken Outlaws

Another week closer to revealing the Top 10….

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Third time’s the charm—Misty Copeland’s back for a judging hat trick.

Top 16 Contemporary
Mandy Moore (I called her or Tyce, and I suppose it helped to see her parking spot post on Instagram the night before); probably the most basic costumes I’ve seen on this show, and while that’s not a bad thing, I probably would have figured out a way to let the ladies keep those scarves…you know, since they were dancing to “Take Me To The River” and they were a good visual for water….

No messing about—straight to the Bottom 6 announcement: Bridget, Marcquet, Brooklyn, Serge, Tanisha, Zack.  Well at least Emilio’s safe but he didn’t do that jive alone…same with that hip-hop Serge did with Carly. Tanisha was a matter of time, Marcquet probably fell victim to the pairing with Jourdan going so-so last week (and being paired with Jessica this week makes me nervous) and I don’t know WHY Zack is on this list.  If anything, Jacque was the weaker of that pairing, though they both did great.  I guess the crush on Rudy has stars in the public’s eyes as well.  Seeing as we have all four of the remaining ballroom dancers here I imagine short of a jaw-dropping performance, two of the four of them will be headed home tonight.  Of the girls I could stand to lose Tanisha, though she’s proven incredibly strong and versatile in the other styles.  I have to lean more towards keeping Marcquet but any of these three leaving is gonna break my heart.

Oh boy…first dance performance week.  Cue the hilarious recital videos!

Valerie/Ricky
(Valerie was 4 years old with a bow on her butt doing a Daddy and Me tap; Ricky did a super-emo, kitchen sink contemporary that overdid EVERYTHING.)

Bollywood—Nakul Dev Mahajan

Ricky is laughing at the concept of Valerie being sexy in this number, but I don’t know…she’s looking a lot like LoFro does normally, and the sexy SHE pulled out I did NOT see coming.  She should have the stamina for it.

Came across more like the Amy Yakima “kid sister” vibe, but she held the energy for most of it…her arms started flagging at the very end so while she was hitting the positions, there was a lot less energy.  She’s also gonna need to stretch some more to try to match Ricky, because his extension was way higher and he probably wasn’t even trying.

Mary thought it was full of life, joy, love and high-octane energy and stamina; Nigel agreed and thinks this performance should keep them safe next week; Misty loved it in her usual manner, bringing the tough love with it—she though Valerie could have been sharper throughout so there was more clarity in her movements.  She LOOOOOVED her some Ricky, though, hailing him as the total package.

Bridget/Emilio
(Bridget did the Vaseline on the teeth pageant smile and tripped thinking about it; Emilio was a late bloomer at the ripe old age of 19)

Contemporary—Travis Wall
Emilio has a troubled past (Bridget) that he’s trying to shake off and move forward.  Sounds a lot like Wild Horses from Season 9…or even Fik-Shun and Amy’s tour de force opener from last year…choreographers are a troubled lot.

Bridget looked like that little girl from The Ring for a second there…she was DEEP in that character.  She seriously was dancing for her life.  Emilio looked like he did well with the foreign choreography, and I believe I saw pointed toes!  The martial arts background came in handy with all the jumps and balance moves he had to do.

Nigel saw Emilio’s toes as well (better give my boo his props!) and was enthralled by the theme and the execution of the piece, lauding Bridget for throwing every ounce of herself into it and looking magnificent; Misty marveled at how well the choreography highlighted them and praised Bridget for shining in her genre without overshadowing her less skilled partner, and gave equally glowing remarks to Emilio for his growth and grasp of technique; Mary said, “when you see special, you know it…and that was special.”  Indeed.

Tanisha/Rudy
(A 9 year old tumbling pom-pom girl and a really bad salsa dancing boy…now I see why you and Nick are friends, Rudy….

Hip-Hop—Dave Scott
A black and white comic book (graphic novel?) come to life, where Tanisha has the kiss of death and Rudy is deciding whether she’s worth the risk.  Is that why you’re punching the girl out in rehearsal, dude? SMH  Poor Tanisha has this vixen in the headlights look on her face watching Dave go through the moves.

OK, that catsuit is EV-ER-Y-THANG…..where can I get one, please?  The vamp role helped to distract from any weakness in skill—let’s face it, the girl can pull off some sexy moves.  Rudy had some classic 40s/modern swag going as well.  The ending three counts went a little fast for me—I’ve seen fast-acting poisons move slower.  But they got the point across…good effort from the two of them.

Misty was amazed by the subtle sexy from Tanisha and the Usher vibe Rudy was channeling (don’t get him started—he’ll never come out of the clouds!), and loved that they worked smoothly in sync without overpowering each other; Mary loved the all-business, take charge energy Tanisha exudes and the increasingly high performance level from Rudy; Nigel praised Rudy’s ability to contain his energy but still establish a strong presence and agreed with Cat’s Uma Thurman comparison on Tanisha, admiring the combination of sinewy and sharp she displayed in her movements and calling it her best performance thus far. They are determined to embarrass these poor children, aren’t they?  Poor Rudy….

Jessica/Marcquet
(Cat called the girl Honey Boo Boo-esque; OK, the costume was a little bit Toddlers and Tiaras/Shirley Temple but was that necessary?  Meanwhile, Marcquet’s early competition days show that he had the same energy…if a bit lacking in proper technique and execution.  I thought you were good, baby….)

Foxtrot—Dmitry Chaplin
Marcquet is the successful business, power executive type and Jessica is the…ahem, “interested party.” (Golddigger seems so harsh.)  With a contemporary girl and a Latin trained guy, we’ll see what happens.

This song again?!?  I love me some Nina Simone but really though…. I guess I should be happy it’s not the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins version.

Ummm….well damn.  Jessica plays vamp well.  And who would have thought she could carry ballroom so well in such a short time?  I do have to take a pause to note how INSANE her back is….holy cow! *stares across the room at the dumbbells*  Marcquet was very smooth and looks like he connected better with Jessica than he did with Jourdan, although Jessica did overpower him a hair.

Mary called that boy’s technique every name but a child of God—even after finding out he’d never had any standard ballroom training she still nitpicked every move in hold that he made, giving kudos only for the freer side-by-side sections.  She was, however, blown away by Jessica’s performance and grasp of the outside genre in such a short period of time.  Nigel pulled out the old fogey card and said he preferred the flow of movement epitomized by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and also expressed his discomfort with the routine (particularly Marcquet for some reason—my boy’s in trouble); Misty enjoyed the performance overall but still took the time to reissue notes on Jessica’s neck lines and Marcquet’s balance and grounding, respectively.

Carly/Serge
(2 year old Carly takes over her sister’s birthday party and Serge channels Tony Manero in his first ballroom competition.)

Contemporary—Mandy Moore
This routine centers around desire, specifically the girl wanting the guy and the guy being a jerk and playing with her emotions.  Serge is too much of a sweetie, but if he embodies this character that’s a clear sign that he’ll be safe.

(I really have to start TiVo-delayed as the show is airing, because I legit rewound this number about 12 times at 2 in the morning because I kept missing stuff.) Carly is slowly creeping her way into the Top 10 with these solid, impassioned performances.  Serge must have located his inner Chmerkovsky bad boy because he had some solid moments of douche in there…still too much of a cutie-pie to believe he’d be that much of a jerk, but he did well with both characterization and technique.

Nigel praised Carly for her efforts for both this week and last week, and acknowledged the pair’s growth in skill and partnership; Misty agreed, calling Carly a consistently full-bodied dancer and Serge a fluid, emotionally charged dancer and partner; Mary dubs Serge the most improved dancer this season and gives unanimous acclaim to Carly’s artistry and athleticism.

Emily/Teddy
(What I’m assuming is a Grease-inspired tap from Teddy—complete with pursed lips and raised eyebrow—and Emily’s wild child antics in toddler ballet got her put out.  Most of the students I had that were like Emily turned out to be the most dedicated as they matured…so have some patience with those little ones!)

Salsa—Jonathan Platero and Oksana Dmytrenko
I swear I don’t remember Jonathan being a salsa specialist on his season—but I AM really glad to see him getting work as a choreographer, because I did think he got pushed out WAY too early.  Anyway, this in-your-face routine has Emily gravitating towards the tricks and Teddy focusing on the steps.

There’s a lot of potentially career-ending moves in this thing, too….I’m almost afraid to watch. They survived and each stayed in their little salsa comfort zones: Emily went for broke with the tricks but was more reserved with the across the floor choreo, and Teddy looked and felt loose (despite a slight slouching issue in the neck) but seemed REALLY cautious doing those lifts.  This could hurt them for next week, because it wasn’t wow.

Misty commended Emily on holding the performance together despite her discomfort and instability with the execution of the routine and praised Teddy’s presence, ability and fierceness…though she did say she would have rather seen that from the pair as opposed to just him individually; Mary also took notice of Teddy’s strengths and commended the totally non-ballroom couple for fighting their way through that incredibly tough salsa; Nigel reveals that not just routine nerves were a factor—Emily dislocated her shoulder earlier that day—and noted that yes, the routine could have been stronger but considering the circumstances was pretty well executed.

Jacque/Zack
(Jacque as a baby Mame—looks like a Mommy and Me dance—and Zach’s early tap days.  Both look like they were watching the teacher for the next step…too adorable!)

Jazz—Sonya Tayeh
Past fling having a moment of nostalgia and longing.  Zach’s impressing Sonya beyond what she expected while Jacque’s dancing a little too prettily for her taste.  Still, she thinks the two working in tandem and taking responsibility for each other can produce awesomeness.

I don’t dislike Beyoncé—really I don’t—but I wish Andre 3000 had done that tune alone.  It sounded seamier when he was singing and it added to the slight forbidden air of the piece.  Jacque was still a bit pretty and Zach showed some fledgling signs of Jakob Kerr.

Cat just likened the piece to “The Garden” (it’s the fishnets, Cat—that’s all)…Mary marveled at the slinky transitions (and I have to watch again myself because I did NAUGHT see one single, solitary shoe) and applauded Zach’s tremendous growth; Nigel couldn’t emotionally connect to the number but did appreciate the couple’s dance efforts; Misty micromanages ballerina Jacque’s feet, calling for more refinement, but praises Zach’s growth.  (Nigel attempts to call her out on being harder on the girls, but not only does Misty deflect that but she verbalizing what I’ve been saying all along—that the guys this season are at another level.)

Brooklyn/Casey
(Hip-Hop Casey with frosted tips and Brooklyn tapping in a leather Dick Tracy style jacket and hat…and looking very serious.)

Hip-Hop—Will “Willdabeast” Adams
He’s making the kids live up to HIS name in his show debut, getting down and dirty and into Beast Mode.

Costumes were a HUGE no—Brooklyn looks OK in her lycra workout getup but those hideous shorts on Casey….y’all would have done better letting them wear the outfits from the opening number.  Both of them in the guys’ V-neck t-shirt and pants would have been infinitely less distracting.  They gave it a really good push but the last four 8 counts were the best danced part of the numbers…and even part of that was clunky.

Nigel echoed my sentiments about the shorts (stop trying to make excuses, ladies—those things were HORRIBLE) and thought they needed to latch on to the feel of the number and step out of their technical boxes—though he did give proper credit to Brooklyn’s efforts. (I’ve agreed with Nigel twice within 10 seconds…either he’s getting to be a bigger softie or I’m becoming a bigger hardass.  Neither prospect is comforting.) Misty thought this number was the most confident she’d seen Brooklyn and while she did love Casey’s work, this week belonged to Brooklyn.  Mary also noticed Brooklyn’s rise and split the middle, saying that the first half should have been lower and (her favorite term) in the pocket, but the second half picked up steam and grooved.

Mini groups tonight!

First up is Sonya Tayeh and the Village of Broken People—Brooklyn, Casey, Emily, Emilio, Tanisha, Serge, Valerie and Zach take on this dark contemporary that forces the dancers to unearth their vulnerabilities and lay them out for display.

Gorgeously ugly, in Cat’s words.  It was a fairly cohesive number, and the group did an excellent job of staying unified within the framework of all of that chaotic movement.  If I could call it anything it would be the photo negative of Season 2’s Hide and Seek.  Impressive, and it bears noting that of this group only 2 of the 8 claim contemporary as their signature style.

Misty recognized the cohesiveness of the theme and singled out Tanisha’s efforts.  I do have to admit that she really did hold strong with that featured section, doing a style so unconstructed and unfamiliar quite dazzlingly.  Mary thought that Sonya created a brilliant work and that the dancers were brilliant in it.  Nigel was so taken with the number and the performance that he wanted to be a part of it.  To enjoy something that generally would not appeal to you is pretty high praise.

Travis Wall takes on the second group–consisting of Bridget, Marcquet, Carly, Rudy, Jacque, Ricky, Jessica and Teddy–turning them into a group of outlaws trying to escape the city. (Maybe I should have gone to New York and watched The Warriors with Lin-Manuel Miranda…..)

I’m sorry—did Travis Wall just out-Sonya Tayeh Sonya Tayeh?  If these two pieces had been presented pre-package free I would totally have gotten the choreographers reversed.  I’m not used to seeing this kind of aggression in Travis’s work, and unless I blinked and missed it he’s never danced any of Sonya’s choreography—at least not on the show. Body parts were flying EVERYWHERE, just as promised.  Outside of Rudy, Teddy and one brunette girl I couldn’t pick out from under the ponytail and Alice Cooper eyeliner, I could have used a bit more mayhem…Marcquet disappeared in this and it’s not a good week for that to happen.

Nigel is tooting horns everywhere…as a quick personal aside, it has thrilled me to no end as a television professional to see Nikki Parsons’s name in the opening credits as director for several years, so I’m going to really have to study this piece again and leave my artistic eye at the door.  All around for direction, choreography and performance Nigel couldn’t use the word “outstanding” enough.  And yes, Nigel, if WE don’t win an Emmy this year, somebody got paid off. (I’ve been invested in this show since Day 1—it’s my damn Emmy too.)  Misty’s word was incredible, and once again while congratulating everyone she gives high praise to Ricky.  I love the dude but I think Teddy and Rudy carried most of the male weight in that one. (PAUSE. I swear ‘fore GAWD I’mma coming after kneecaps with a crowbar if y’all don’t 86 that damn “happy dance”! And….NOOOOOOOO! Not Misty too! I give up. UNPAUSE.) Mary’s excited because she’s yelling—not just yelling, but legit screaming.  Fabulous is Mary’s term of the night, and I’m going to chalk it up to her having much better seats than I do, because Marcquet certainly was NOT invisible to her.  Glad to see him finally getting some unqualified praise.

Seriously, how do y’all cut people after all of that?  I really hope y’all skip it this week and do a double elimination next week.  I know that’s more complicated for y’all but seriously, there are 16 asses lying on that stage that got danced off tonight.

Have NO clue who this Lucy Hale person is, but the people seem to like her…even though I know it had to be prerecorded.  I know some good grips, gaffers and scene movers, but there’s no way….

*sigh* If they insist on going through with this, then strictly based on the couples’ routines I fear that Marcquet and Brooklyn are dancing out of the competition the same way they came in—together.  Tanisha pulled herself out of the fire with the hip-hop and into the stratosphere with the group contemporary; Bridget’s duet with Emilio can’t possibly sent her home unless the entire panel is smoking crack; and Serge’s growth and passion is palpable and undeniable.  Zach leaving is a possibility but it’s a tough call.

Wait, what?  You’re already doing a quad elimination next week? Curses.  No, serious ear-blistering curses.  There go my hopes….and I’m really tired of being right.  The level of NOT HAPPY I am right now is UNBELIEVABLE.

Remaining weak links (based on the couples’ performances from tonight) include Valerie, Jacque, Zach, and Emily.  Bridget and Serge may still be in danger since America wasn’t feeling too “happy” about them in the votes, and as Jessica is now on her fifth partner in Casey, I’m not sure if it spells trouble for him because of past history or for her for yet another partner change…although that may be the very thing to secure her a place in the Top 10….

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 9: People’s Choice

images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

A new week of competition that will reveal who fights it out for the title and the prize money….and it’s no easy feat. We get three performances from each contestant tonight: an All-Star pairing, a solo and a match-up with one of their fellow contestants.

Straight to the Top 6 intro—aight. (I eventually figured out why–this was a pure, unadulterated results show with some performances thrown in. I almost cussed folks out behind not being able to vote, but it did sink in after a while that I saw no phone numbers during the show.)

Guest judge:
Jesse Tyler Ferguson – he’s so cute when he’s on the show. And he’s such a fanboy—I know he’s glad he doesn’t have to make the hard choices…or that he got out of jury duty.

Top 6 Group
Afro Jazz – Sean Cheesman

If this Aileyesque Revelations wannabe doesn’t wind up on the Tour, I want my friggin’ money back. So joyful. The first time I’ve seen Paul dance less than, and even that was pretty good.

Paul (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Jazz – Tyce Diorio

Struggle for power between the sexes, or “the most enjoyable fight with a girl I’ve ever had.”

LOVE the starting pose—reminiscent of Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker. Was hoping for it to be most intense than it was. It was an enjoyable dance, but not enough tension came across as advertised.

Nigel thought it was a great routine and compliments Paul’s ability to adapt to and conquer every style given to him; Mary was wowed by the opening/entrance and thought they were magnificent; Jesse is also thrilled with Paul’s rise to the top and has gained an affinity for leather pants. (I hope someone told him about breathable pleather….)

Amy
That solo, though….yes, it looks like the same choreography she throws into every solo. And she somehow still manages to blend it together and dance it in such a way that each performance is its own unique and intense experience.

Hayley (with All-Star Joshua Allen)
Hip-Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo)

Million Dollar Baby in dance. (Naps, you gon’ stop clowning my boo about his “eye of the tiger” t-shirt….)

And Season 10’s “Witney Carson Total 180 Moment Award” goes to…..say what you want about Hayley, the girl thoroughly absorbs and embodies the characters she’s given. This time, she lost herself in the dance style as well. I believed her more this week than I did in last week’s rumba with Dmitry. She matched Joshua move for move and got grittier than I ever would have expected. Way to go, Hayley! (Joshua, you DO know we aren’t looking at that belt, right?)

Mary thought Hayley was as strong as anyone who has danced hip-hop on the show; Jesse called them “the greatest workout video of all time” and also noticed her embracing the “hardass” role so completely; Nigel pulls the MDB comparison and thought she gave quite an impressive fight to hang on in the competition.

Fik-Shun
Maaaaaaaayn……..I can’t even LISTEN to Busta Rhymes rap those lyrics clearly (and will never dare attempt to SAY them) and this boy is articulating every word and beat with the movement of his body. And speaking of stuff I’ll never dare attempt—even WITH dance training I couldn’t pull off a lot of that in my prime. As freestyle as it looks, it took a clever imagination to put THAT together and come away with a fascinating bit of story AND dance. This child WILL NOT be dancing on the streets again unless he just feels like it for shiggles.

Aaron (with All-Star Melanie)
Broadway – Spencer Liff

A loving (and fighting) couple.

Those first 16 counts of Aaron dancing was so totally Broadway I really had to keep pushing the word “tap” into my brain. If that Melanie drop was a missed hold or a scripted fall I’ll never be sure—at least not the way these two played it. What a showman.

Jesse thinks Aaron is unbelievable and has risen even higher; Nigel praises Aaron on his strength as a dancer but again reminds him to pay attention to the little nuances and focus on lowering his shoulders; Mary was concerned about Aaron’s shoulder injury but was duly impressed, especially by the height of all the kicks he had to do and the near-expert partnering skill he’s picked up over the weeks.

Jasmine
A repeat of our audition song—this rendition must mean a great deal to her for a turn on the Hollywood stage. I think if I put her side by side on a stage with Sasha Mallory it would be like seeing two halves of the same whole, dancing in tandem with complementing contrasts. The angularity that comes with Jasmine’s height and build is softened by the ease and flow of movement.

Paul
There’s a reason I call him “Ballroom Chehon”—he moves so gracefully and has such an engaging expression when he dances, yet every now and then he’ll throw in a move so totally unexpected and seemingly out of character that you’re taken aback for about a second….and then accept its presence as if it belonged from the get-go. I always managed to have that same sense of absorption and wonder when watching Chehon dance—Paul is of the same caliber. I think you have a lot of work in your future, sweetie.

Fik-Shun (with All-Star Witney Carson)
Foxtrot – Jonathan Roberts

Sexy, fast and too hot to handle…you know who else was told something similar before their foxtrot? Russell Ferguson. Perhaps there’s some providence involved here…. And Jonathan, I love you, but you keep endangering my Fik-Shun and Anna (Trebunskya, Jonathan’s wife) is gonna have to scoop you up off the sidewalk.

OK, I’m thinking Gene Kelly and Sammy Davis, Jr. got together in heaven and said, “This kid’s got something. Let’s jump in tonight and give him a little assist—Sammy, I’ll take the legs and you can handle the arms and the personality.” His shoulders are greatly improved and his ballroom style is even a little more polished since his and Amy’s Viennese Waltz.

Mary noted some rough spots in the performance with some not-so-great lines and quality of movement, but she did praise Fik-Shun on his closed dance position; Jesse thought Witney was the dominant force in this piece but thinks on the whole, Fik-Shun as a general performer is a bright and amazing force in dance; Nigel agreed on Witney’s dominance and cautioned Fik-Shun on the transitions being closed and open hold, saying that though this piece was not his strongest work the previous week’s vote should help carry him into the finale.

Hayley
Skill set has always been there and has been impressive—it’s been the emoting and expression that has been sketchy. It was much better in this number but still needs more work. If she could bodily throw herself into the emotion like she did in the hip-hop with Joshua, she could go a long way.

Jasmine (with All-Star Neil Haskell)
Jazz – Tyce Diorio

I am feeling some kind of way watching this piece on THIS evening—the 8th anniversary of That Storm That Shall Not Be Named; however, since this show is largely responsible for helping me hold on to my sanity and survive that time until I could get back home, I stomped all of the painful memories down and tried to give this piece an objective eye. Approaching the storms and devastations in the past years and the damage/suffering caused by them is a weighty emotional subject to tackle in dance—these two dancers can surely handle it…but can I?

The choreography, emotion and staging/scenery captured the desperation of such a situation and the aftermath it has on the places and people devastated by it. I think that’s all I will say before I go too deeply into memories I’d like to keep in the past.

It gets a standing O from the panel, though….Nigel thought the routine was beautiful and is still enthralled with Jasmine and her talent, envisioning a career with a company after the Tour is done. “Mary’s sniveling, as usual,” says Nigel as Cat tries to start the panel discussion with her. Mary thought Jasmine was spectacular and gave this bit of inspirational wisdom: “It’s history books that will tell us what happened [with all these tragedies], but it’s dance that will tell us how we felt about them.” (That and the seeing rainbows thing were pretty deep.) Jesse thought she and Neil had the heart and humanity to elevate the social relevance of the piece and, with all due respect to her competitors, was so happy to be there to witness his “favorite dancer” of the season.

Aaron
“Gene, you go on ahead—I’mma hang back with this cat for a minute then I’ll catch up.” Aaron channels Sammy’s showmanship and does with his tap solo what Fik-Shun did with his hip-hop/freestyle. I mean, who can add THAT much syncopation to a mid-tempo Bill Withers soul track? *Points two index fingers at my frozen TV screen* THIS sexy cat.

Amy (with All-Star Alex Wong)
Bollywood – Nakul Dev Mahajan

Amy as Bollywood bombshell diva, with Alex as her servant—but they’re in love, which according to the social structure, leans to the forbidden.

Nice job, as Alex FINALLY gets to perform Bollywood on the SYTYCD stage. (You might remember that the week Alex tore his ACL and had to withdraw from the competition, he was in rehearsals for a Bollywood duet with Adechike Torbert.) Amy playing flirty and forbidden love quite well, though she does need to strengthen up her vamp and vixen a little more. But the choreography was nailed so well I will accept any Ellen DeGeneres references that might pop up. That side by side turning switch leap?!? BANANAS!!!!!

Another standing O from the panel—Mary is reduced to “WOW” (which I can totally get) and “NUTS”; Jesse breaks out with “Good golly Miss Bollywood!” (which I’ll also let slide) thought it was fantastic; Nigel addresses the Bollywood Botch with Alex—who was totally excited about the chance for a redo—and while the number made him smile, he marveled at the level of difficulty infused in the choreography and the expert execution of it by the two dancers.

Hayley/Paul
Contemporary – Dee Caspary

Reassurance, commitment and connection are the hallmarks of this piece, and newly-minted couple Hayley and Paul have to find what gels between them fast.

A Dee Caspary piece I didn’t stare at in utter confusion…amazing. I think it’s Paul—that manufactured pre-package about the difficulties in connecting was definitely to be taken with a grain of salt. It felt a lot like the [choreographer] piece Paul did with Makenzie a few weeks back.

2/3 of a standing O here….this should be interesting. Jesse thought it was amazing and that their connection was so vivid and clear. No, Jesse—attempting to enter the phrase “Carly Rae Jepsen short” into the critical lexicon will not work, sweetie……no matter HOW cute you are. Nigel loved the flow of the movement and called the two complete dancers (though he was a bit disconcerted by the presence of the flexed foot in the choreography :-/ ); Mary sees a young James Dean in Paul and loved the connection (Nigel sees Elvis and elicited an impression out of Paul), and also expressed her amazement with the contrast in Hayley’s two performances—and the excellent execution of both.

Amy/Fik-Shun
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

Boyfriend gets to check out his girlfriend’s shopping finds. Hard and sexy is the feel Dave is going for, or as he put it, “imagine two krumpers in love.”

OH JUST GO OFF AND GET MARRIED ALREADY! These two fit like the only two pieces of a puzzle, and I’m amazed at the improvement in Amy with her hip-hop swag from the bellhop number to this one. Fik-Shun just WAS. Maybe I WILL need to use “Carly Rae Jepsen short” after all……

Nigel…..ooh, did he just slam Miley Cyrus?!? I see YOURS are brass and hang low, too….can’t argue with you though. Nigel praised the number, stating that the pair’s chemistry tends to bring out the best in each other’s work, and noted the range of styles Amy performed over the evening…and that “you don’t have to put it in someone’s face to be sexy.” [He’s not wrong….] Mary loved watching the “Dream Team” dancing together again and recognized the life-force that dance is in Amy. And I LOVE the Tom Clancy quote applied to Fik-Shun, because he most certainly DOES make sense. (Hopefully, after the show and this Tour, he’ll be pulling down DOLLARS, too.) Jesse loved the FAMY reunion and called Fik-Shun a megastar.

Aaron/Jasmine
Jazz – Sean Cheesman

Aaron is entranced by the essence of a woman trapped in a mirror that only he can see. I’ve seen stranger concepts….. (Dee and the bathtub, anyone?)

Really, Jasmine?!? A 6:15? Good Lord, woman…..She stole the thunder of this piece, and while as the main “character” of the piece that’s acceptable, Aaron for all of his effort looked like he was holding back more than he should have. Although Jasmine’s stamina toward the end of these high energy pieces still seems to be dropping at a noticeable and alarming rate—I can’t be sure if it’s purely physical or a combination of physical flagging and emotional withdrawal before the work is done. All of this is not to say that the piece wasn’t phenomenal; I guess this is testament to their excellence that I hold such incredibly high standards for them.

The judges were definitely wowed—yet another standing O. Mary loved the concept and noted a deep conviction in the way Aaron and Jasmine dance; Jesse agrees and said in one sentence what I just stuttered above: “I hate you because I can’t BE you,” and also reveals his “guy-crush” on Aaron (that damn guyliner!); Nigel praised Team Tall on their enduring chemistry and also took notice of Aaron’s embracing the note about his ever-rising shoulders and Jasmine’s freak-of-nature flexibility, stated that the gauntlet has been thrown down with this dance and it will be difficult for their fellow contestants to pick it up.

I felt going in exactly who was staying around for the Final Four, but didn’t settle on it because all of the performances were very strong. But the fact that next week’s blog title came to me well before I finished last week’s piece gave me an inkling, and it’s Hayley and Paul just getting edged out of the championship round. And even with that, each was congratulating the other….did you note the embraces between Jasmine and Hayley and Paul and Fik-Shun…not to mention Fik-Shun repeatedly telling Paul how amazing he is while leaving the stage? Genuine admiration and class, people.

These results boasts a myriad of firsts: Aaron now holds the distinction of the oldest finalist and the first tapper EVER in the finals; the first finale I’ve seen with 75% of the finalists being African-American, and the first time I remember two original couples making it to the finals intact. (And I have wracked my brain on that last one—I’m nearly confident that’s correct but feel free to let me know if that’s wrong.) However the votes fell, the competition was going to be worthy AND fierce. The people have a massive job to do next week.

The Top 4 dancers of Season 10! (credits to 19, DCP and FOX)

The Top 4 dancers of Season 10! (credits to 19, DCP and FOX)

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 4: Making Transitions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Missed the show live despite my best efforts—had a whole lot of people to visit and not enough time. Thankfully, my Season Pass and save lock functions on my TiVo guaranteed a fresh view DESPITE FB page spoilers from the show. -__- (Next time guys, late Wednesday evening or Thursday morning would be the best times to post results for those of us who have to tape-delay.)

Top 16 open
This looks like Mia with a touch of Ailey’s Memoria. Has the look of a tour piece. Did not expect the stripping…but definitely an allegory of the exposure the contestants must submit to as part of this process. Aaron stands out again, but check Fik-Shun lifting Jasmine—you handle your tall woman, boy! Stacey Tookey and Peter Chu knocked out this one; this seems to now be a trend, pairing choreographers who are powerhouses in their own rights.

Guest judge – Carly Rae Jepsen
Hmm. All I know about is her music career, and she’s getting slams for that. You’d better know what you’re talking about, or else maybe is NOT the word I’ll use to call you.

7 Emmy nods for the show—lighting, 4 choreographers, Cat again for host, and the show as a whole

Bottom 6 announced:
Ominous foreshadowing in the recap clips….
Mariah
Alan
Makenzie
BluPrint
Jenna
Curtis

That’s about right…none of these six in this number seem to have a rabid fan base, and with the level of talent and skill this year the fan votes are everything to their survival. Jenna was spared dancing for her life since she had done so the previous week.

Makenzie
Contemporary to classical music—I do appreciate the artist in her. Hopefully America will soon.

Alan
Cape was unnecessary if you’re gonna pick it up at the 10 seconds remaining mark. However, paso solos are usually the most dramatic, so I applaud your choice as far as an instrument to grab audience attention. Could have used a little more footwork but the stance and presence was there.

Curtis
Looka you putting on some big boy muscles! I like the swag to that—can’t have been easy mixing smooth and syncopated to a John Legend song. Not positive it was attention-grabbing enough but it was better balanced than your initial “all tricks and the kitchen sink” audition solo.

Mariah
The ‘tude is there but not enough moves. She might need to actually let the ponytail down and deal with hair flying in her eyes. Not many girls can—or even choose to—krump with any level of believability, and being a little blond girl with skills, it needs to be more in-your-face. Less cozy campfire, more forest blaze.

BluPrint
I don’t know what more to suggest to get his face more engaged, but that solo was SICK. He REALLY has to have gotten something effed up for couples.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Into the competition round, where our dancers reveal little known tidbits about themselves to remind us who they are…. [Those will be set apart in brackets]

Alexis/Nico
Jive – Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin

[Nico is half Colombian and half British….that explains a lot.]

This was weak out of the gate for Alexis. As a tapper her legs and feet should be flicking fast and furiously…plus considering how much the bent knee stance means to footwork, her bounce should have been much better. As a couple, the number didn’t connect well—it was more like them mentally checking off the list of combos (OK, NOW see what we can do…) than doing a whole piece. Not enough high energy or bounce to it, either—this might be the thing that keeps them from Top 10 and tour. I also didn’t believe her character this time around.

Nigel agreed about the connections being clunky and them losing the bounce and energy halfway through…said OK but not great. Mary enjoyed the routine and was impressed by the kicks and flicks, but also noted the flagging energy…but praised the dancing. Carly Rae speaks as a fan—loved the dance, impressed that they danced out of their genre, loved the dress. Yawn. Gimme something to work with, Carly.

Jenna/Tucker
Contemporary – Travis Wall

Team Tuna pulls contemporary—maybe Tucker can escape unbeaten this week?
Tucker is Jenna’s strength this week, with her character having lost all self-control. Tucker is pulling from the near-death experience memories, so this should be a gut-wrencher. One little hiccup in transition with her climb on Tucker’s shoulder leading into the spin on the silks and a timing mishap with taking the last restraint loose, but a very good job from the two of them. (Especially considering they only had the dress rehearsal to work with those.)

Mary’s emotional and thinks they were spectacular—too choked up to properly put them on the Hot Tamale Train, even; Carly Rae impressed by the choreography and the contrast between the pair’s stage and rehearsal personas; Nigel was impressed with Jenna’s grasp of classic contemporary (being a ballroom dancer) and by Tucker’s grasp of presence in a routine that could have easily overshadowed him.

Mariah/BluPrint
Jazz – Brian Friedman

I don’t think we’ve seen HIM since Season 1….welcome back Brian. A Greek goddess falls for a mortal man.

[Mariah is a “girly girl”—cheerleader and everything. Maybe that’s why her krump is not pulling enough grunge.]

Yeah, this piece did them in. Mariah had that supernatural regal power thing going up until that middle partner section…after that, both of them looked like they were out of breath stumbling through the rest of the choreography, and she went from goddess to vestal virgin being sacrificed to the volcanoes. The emotional depth in her contemporary duo with Carlos was sorely needed here, and sadly, nowhere to be found. BluPrint was so far out to sea, lifeguards couldn’t find him in the daylight with a flashlight. He was definitely caught in the undertow.

Carly Rae thought the routine was “fun” and energetic, and thought the end was striking and powerful. Still not one concrete technical comment. Judging table FAIL. Nigel thought even though the end lift was clunky, the two hip-hoppers did a serviceable job with jazz—gave it a good-ish rating. Mary loved the beginning and was delighted with the synchronization, though she thought it lacked a little toward the end.

Malece/Alan
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

[Malece is tiny and eats like a linebacker. Big surprise.]

Alan is in danger, in a new partnership and dancing hip-hop. Lord help him.
Futuristic hip-hop—“the finders” (Malece and Alan) have to go and steal hip-hop back from the aliens. Oooookay.

Malece had some swag going there. The transitions are KILLING folks tonight—Malece almost got a full A plus up to telegraphing that flip over Alan’s back. Alan is too soft and fluid for this particular number…Dave said robotic and to my mind, that’s more angular and slightly sharper than what Alan was giving us.

Nigel applauded the “badass Tinkerbell” while admonishing Alan on taking on the full persona of the dance style and not coming off as stiff as he did; Mary didn’t think Alan grabbed onto the style but thought he came across as strong—though Malece did overtake him. (Didn’t I tell you about that “in the pocket” business last time, woman?). Carly Rae praised them both (generically, big surprise) and called Malece her favorite of the evening. I’m almost tempted to just forego chronicling her observations—Hannah Simone (of New Girl fame) at least knew some terminology.

Hayley/Curtis
Contemporary – Dee Caspary

[Didn’t realize Curtis was 6’1”….]

Two people trying to climb the ladder of success….

Dee Caspary has yet to really wow me but this was the best of his works that I’ve seen yet. I almost forgot that contemporary was the round where Curtis had that cathartic breakthrough…he did really well. Getting into that end pose was clunky but considering they were climbing a ladder while doing it AND Hayley’s got an issue with heights, I’ll give them a small break on that.

Mary thought the number was creative and interesting, and thought the connections flowed; she also slapped Curtis on the hand about lowering his shoulders to create better lines. However, Hayley got high praise. Carly Rae praised the partnership and the chemistry between the two…it only took half the show to get a comment of substance from her….. *golf claps* Nigel was disappointed with Curtis’s ignoring the shoulder note as well (and was disappointed with his solo) but praised his emotional work, and gave Hayley the thumbs-up. (And did we REALLY have to put the children on the spot about going out on a date? They’re gonna be blushing well into the next few weeks.)

Amy/Fik-Shun
Jazz – Tyce Diorio

[Fik-Shun is a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Badass. Cute, kid, but Cole still has my heart there…. ;-)]

Hobo jazz—of course the Wade Robson Triplets of Belleville number with Jesus and Sara comes immediately to mind, but I’ll try to be open.

You’ve GOT to be effin’ kidding me…..the same SOUNDTRACK, Tyce?!? Way to keep it original….luckily, Team Famy does character stuff very well. The track itself took too long to pick up steam so the number dragged a little—but again, that part was the choreographer’s fault. (I think this music contributes as well–I remember watching the Sara/Jesus incarnation several times before I could grasp the rhythm properly, and I did start hearing Fik-Shun and Amy’s piece differently after a few watches.) I can’t help comparing it to its Season 3 predecessor and finding it less than captivating. The fact that they’re good AND popular should get them to Top 10 territory in spite of this performance.

Carly thought they were adorable and flawless, and steals the favorite mantle from Malece and gives it to their number. Nigel calls this the best work Tyce has ever done and throws us a swerve—saying the pair grew ENORMOUSLY in stature as opposed to a little bit, and gave them “couple to beat” status. I’ll watch it again, Nigel, but I’m not that impressed…and again, through no fault on the dancers’ part. Though I WILL agree that this partnership is bananas—I maintain that these two are going to the finals. Mary thought this was as sweet as the Twinkie comeback (really though?), clever and fun and amazing. The hobos get to hop on the “train,” and Mary has a new phrase to retire—no more “hitting it out of the ballpark,” please. (Nigel must have known I was going to slam him on his comment because he worked in Tyce’s Season 5 breast cancer contemporary before I could even type up this note.)

Makenzie/Paul
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

1930s model and her photographer….hoping this version comes off better than the Chaplinesque piece from Vitolio and Asuka from Season 5….Who knew you could put 21st century swag on 1930s Charleston? There were a few moments I would have liked to have seen more sway in Makenzie’s back on those body rolls and bent-over poses, but she hit those moves very sharply. Paul’s character in the first few bars looked just as intimidated by Makenzie’s character as he himself was in the rehearsal, but once the Robin Thicke verses came in he was all flow and fluid with his own smooth sense of swag.

Standing O from the panel there…..Nigel needs a fan (and Mary obliges off-camera. LOL)—deems it the sexiest number of the night and puts his own Hot Tamale Train on the tracks just for them. Mary wholeheartedly agrees, amazed that Paul had some “soul in his bowl”. Carly thought the number was incredible and was on the edge of her seat. Cat keeps invoking Baz Luhrmann (I haven’t seen his take on Great Gatsby yet but my memories of his Moulin Rouge visuals are much more larger-than-life than this number was….which is not to take anything away from that amazing performance.)

Aaron/Jasmine H.
Quickstep – Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin

The Jazz Age roars back up again with Team Tall jumping way out from under their respective styles of contemporary and tap and launching not only into traditional ballroom, but the HARDEST dance of traditional ballroom. I have the utmost confidence in their drive, so I’m hoping any potential shortcomings in executing the choreography get steamrolled by that. Aaron’s posture (or lack thereof) make this look more like a jive; he should have looked 7 feet tall instead of slumped over. They were both selling the hell of this dance, though, and the footwork looked clean. That last pose was a snoozer given the lead-in from the preceding lift sequence—I’d have preferred some more dramatic-looking. Jasmine was certainly channeling Eartha Kitt again this week, and even her hair was dancing along with her.

Mary loves that they went for it, saying that while they still need work with the framing it was super-fantastic….and clearly bought what Aaron was selling with his personality. Carly Rae thought they made a difficult dance look easy. Nigel thought they looked magnificent and got lucky with being able to fully employ their personalities in the performance. (Looking at the slo-mo clip, I did get a Wild Party feel from the couple.)

I really have to stay off of Facebook before I initially watch (or take the like off the SYTYCD page during the season so nothing shows up in my News Feed), because I knew going in who had left the show. But even if I hadn’t had the spoilers, I’d probably have picked Mariah to go, since of the remaining two girls her solo was the weaker. I’d have personally been torn between Alan and BluPrint as they were about evenly matched with good solos and OK couples’ performances. However, looking at Alan’s across the board performance and the repeated mentions to BluPrint about raising personality level, I can’t say I’m surprised BluPrint was the one to be voted off. I’m really disappointed for Mariah as the only female krumper EVER gets squeezed out before Top 10. I’ll have to look and see if Curtis got slammed as hard as Alexis did by the fans for not taking notes and improving but still remaining on the show.

My bottom 6 predictions for next week:
Alexis
Nico
Makenzie
Alan
Hayley (it could possibly be Jenna as history has shown, but I think her contemporary performance was a little more complete than Hayley’s, and may just edge her to safety.)
Curtis

Nigel has been knocking himself out to hold onto the tappers—Season 6 saw all three of their tappers squeezed out before Top 10, and Season 8’s Nick Young managed to make the tour as an alternate despite his early exit from the competition–so anytime he can preserve his dance “soft spot,” you know Nigel’s gonna go for it. Alexis is going to have to pull stellar performances all around out of her AND somebody else’s wazoo in order to make it there, and Curtis is really going to have to start applying those notes. It’s hard to understand Makenzie’s lack of traction—she’s just as much performance beast as Amy but her fan presence is not as rabid. She’s got Danny Tidwell syndrome—stellar technique but not projecting a whole lot of personal warmth to the viewers (not so much an air of aloofness but there’s some wall of separation she can’t seem to hurdle…and it’s a shame). Alan needs a breakout moment similar to that blindfold contemporary in order to stay through Top 10. And as it seems that Amy and Jasmine Harper (and to some degree, Malece) have a lock on the top votes, it’s down to either Jenna or Hayley despite them both being incredible dancers. Jenna being the last ballroom girl may give her the edge over Hayley, who is stacked against a jazz dancer and THREE other contemporary girls. There’s just no easy way to call the girls. I think Nico’s fan base has been pulling him up since that lackluster hip-hop, but you never know how the vote will go.

Next episode has Anna Kendrick guest judging (who got the merit of pre-hyping in the commercials); I had to go Google her to realize I’d seen her in Pitch Perfect and was delighted to discover a stellar Broadway background in her resume. I pray she adds more teeth to her reviews…Carly Rae can go back to singing.

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.