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….

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SYTYCD 11, Top 20–Dropped Calls

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

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

Top 18 group–Broadway

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

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

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

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

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

Tanisha/Rudy

Jazz–Sonya Tayeh

Cat and mouse power play.

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

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

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

Valerie/Ricky

Contemporary–Travis Wall

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

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

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

Bridget/Emilio

Hip-Hop–Luther Brown

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

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

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

Jessica/Nick

West Coast Swing–Benji Schwimmer

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

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

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

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

Carly/Serge

Contemporary– Sonya Tayeh

Unbreakable love.

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

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

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

Emily/Teddy

Hip-Hop–Dave Scott

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

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

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

Malene/Stanley

Broadway–Spencer Liff

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

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

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

Jourdan/Marcquet

Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

Brooklyn/Casey

Argentine Tango–Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

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

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

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

Jacque/Zach

African Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

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

*deep sigh* Results time….

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

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

Next week’s predictions:

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

This season is really going to be a challenge….

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 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 8: Last Call

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Into the home stretch for our dancers as they continue their quest for the title; with this being the last week the judges have any input regarding the outcome, the full weight of their fates is squarely on the viewers’ shoulders.

Top 8 group
Contemporary – Mia Michaels
This dance looked appropriately Sonya or Mia weird, so I took a stab. I was right. And either I’m really blind or Aaron didn’t dance this one….I swear I only saw three boys.

Guest judge:
Jenna Elfman – I vaguely remember her doing a stint in Chicago somewhere—but it is quite astounding to see her whole pedigree. And how smart of them to give it to Cat to read off right at the top. No ditzy Dharma here.

Bottom 4:
Fik-Shun
Jenna
Tucker
Hayley

All four get to dance for their lives, as this is the last week of the judges’ save.

Fik-Shun
Cute and playful and similar to the audition piece.

Hayley
Simple contemporary with a great display of technique. Her emotive skills seems a little forced to me, though.

Jenna
Paso solo, combined with a little cha-cha and a little samba

Tucker
The usual good—looked a lot like Hayley’s routine but with more content and natural joy.

This week’s filler focused on the dancers’ inspirations.

Aaron (with All-Star Chelsie Hightower)
Jive – Chelsie Hightower

[Aaron’s best friend Corey serves as his inspiration—the first of our tearjerker moment, as Aaron reveals that Corey died of brain injuries in a car accident. However, he carries Corey’s spirit and love for dance with him into every performance.]

50s vibe with some killer moves—with a setup that looks suspiciously like that Tiffany/Cyrus Broadway piece from last year…..

Ms. Hightower has gotten really good at assembling choreography. A small miss with one of the connections but it was pretty bouncy.

Mary was impressed with the blend of style; praised a lot but really picked at Aaron’s form; Jenna praised him on carrying through with establishing himself as “not just the tapper” and called him a money dancer, which he has been proving since Week 1; Nigel thought the style would have suited Aaron a little better than it did, but hopes America takes his whole season into account in their voting—though he did say he believed Aaron did enough to carry through to the finals.

Fik-Shun (with All-Star Allison Holker)
Contemporary – Allison Holker

[Fik-Shun credits his parents as inspirations, as they encouraged him to follow his dreams and that he could do anything.]

Apparently, Allison and Twitch aren’t going over with everyone, as Ms. Holker has seemingly channeled society’s views of interracial relationships into this piece.

That reminded me of Ivan a bit there—Fik-Shun is so joyful when he does contemporary.

Jenna tells Fik-Shun that he’s already an All-Star and that he can do no wrong (I’ll agree with that); Nigel thought it was a beautiful routine and thinks that there’s a quality about his work that cannot be ignored despite technical shortcomings; Mary agreed with all of that and thought Fik-Shun held the groundwork of the piece down very well in order to let Allison and her choreography shine.

Tucker (with All-Star Courtney Galliano)
Jazz – Courtney Galliano

[Tucker credits his very supportive dad—you don’t see a lot of dads with football and other contact sports in their histories enthusiastically front and center with their dancing sons, but Tucker’s dad clearly never gave any pause over his son’s passion.]

Romeo and Juliet? Oooookay……Ms. Galliano assures us a happy ending in this love story, though.

Nice work, Courtney–contemporary look but enough jazz choreography to distinguish it as such. Good unison this week, Tucker.

Nigel praised Tucker for battling back from the infection and dancing beautifully; Mary noted the synchronization as well; Jenna is moved. And I’m really glad I didn’t know about Courtney before the dance because I’d have had another moment like last week with Robert (who I also didn’t know about beforehand. This Twitter account is a blessing and a curse.) Battling multiple sclerosis and still pursuing a professional career in dance takes some serious courage and determination.

Paul (with All-Star Comfort Fedoke)
Hip-Hop – Comfort Fedoke

[Paul credits his ballroom coach/”twin brother” Gregory]

Graffiti artists at work. Let’s hope this number doesn’t purposely derail him.

Not quite Twilex but Paul did quite surprise me. Lost some energy toward the end but he kept hitting the moves.

Mary calls Paul one of the most versatile dancers on the show (the movement fit him like a soul glove? Oooookay….); Jenna is also impressed and inspired by his versatility; Nigel thought he danced it really well and made it tough for the voters to decide who’s sailing in to the finale.

Hayley (with All-Star Dmitry Chaplin)
Rumba – Dmitry Chaplin

Hayley credits her dance teachers. Big props for travelling 3 hours to get to class—I didn’t want to drive the 1 hour to get to work when I was up in Central Louisiana.

It’s Hayley with the open shirt (and a teeny-weeny leotard) tonight—dealing with a cheating fiancé.

Never mind—Dmitry’s chest is out after all. Hayley’s dancing flowed well but I’m on the fence about the facial expressions and the emotional projection…seemed like she’s pushing it instead of just being.

Jenna, if you’re gonna climb all over Dmitry, I’m grabbing Bodhi up, mmkay? Jenna tells Hayley she can do no wrong….but to challenge herself to let go and dance with total abandon (Nice call—I did see some reserve there and noted it in both performances); Nigel agrees and redeems Dmitry as a choreographer; Mary makes it unanimous and thought she held the technique and built up the steam.

Jenna (with All-Star Mark Kanemura)
Jazz – Mark Kanemura

[Jenna’s inspiration is her late cousin, who despite battling MD throughout her childhood was very active and outgoing.]

All about style…and might I say WAY TO BULK UP, MARK! Though somebody has spent WAY too much time with Sonya Tayeh and Lady Gaga….his special brand of strange has a whole new edge to it.

Quirky cool—though Jenna’s no match for Mr. Left of Center.

Nigel hailed it as phenomenal and quite different, and praises Jenna for her adaptability and joy of dance; Mary loved the “kitchen sink” style and the way Jenna did it; Ms. Elfman loved them both to pieces.

Jasmine (with All-Star tWitch)
Hip-Hop – Stephen “tWitch” Boss

[Jasmine’s inspiration is her mom. Not many single moms would not only nurture and support their child’s artistry but also pick up and move the entire family to another city to help further it in lieu of college. Big ups to her for that.]

Battles of the Streets – I should have known he’d play the superhero angle. The two “alter egos” jockey over who gets to save the day.

You’re such a nerd—damn you, Allison for snatching him up! Clearly, Twitch and tall, leggy contemporary dancers work—Jasmine did really well and kept up with him.

Mary said Jasmine conquered the routine; Jenna loved the sense of humor in the routine and that Jasmine owned it; Nigel agreed and thought she gave a really good go at out-Twitching tWitch.

Amy (with All-Star Travis Wall)
Contemporary – Travis Wall

[Amy’s Rockette cousin is her muse—either Amy’s taller than I thought or they’re taking shorter Rockettes now. I miss out on EVERYTHING…… :-(]

Travis as a player—and DANCING in it! THANK YOU GOD!

Yeah. Tour, Shaping Sound—we’re seeing this again. Eight seasons later and even with more bulk on him, Travis is still magic in motion. Yes, I’m well aware I said nothing about Amy…I’d just be repeating everything I’ve said in every other review.

Jenna thought she combined technique and passion brilliantly; Nigel thought it was beautiful and just confirmed Travis’s genius; Mary agreed and thought Amy’s sophistication and maturity in her dancing was mind-blowing.

It’s Team Tuna out to sea tonight, and I kind of saw that coming….Nigel looks like he’s giving Fik-Shun the same opportunity he gave Cyrus, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, because the boy’s really got something. I’m really afraid that the Karmaniacs are going to force a split vote between Aaron and Fik-Shun, and my prediction will fall just short of the Top 4 I pitched at the top of the season. (Although just like last season, the Top 3 boys are so evenly matched performers I really can’t be mad about whoever makes it to the end.) With everyone being solid tonight, I can all but guarantee for the girls that the finals will be the Jasmine and Amy show, with Hayley coming just short of making the Top 4. But who knows how the votes will go?

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 5: All Tapped Out

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenna/Tucker
Hip-Hop – Luther Brown

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis/Nico
Contemporary – Sonya Tayeh

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

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

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

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

Hayley
Argentine Tango – Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

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

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

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

Makenzie/Paul
Jazz – Sonya Tayeh

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

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

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

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

Jasmine H./Aaron
Contemporary – Justin Giles

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

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

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

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

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

Amy/Fik-Shun
Hip-Hop – Christopher Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Week 9, Top 4—The Final Opus

courtesy 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Well, we’re down to the end here—our final four contestants dance one last time for the audience’s vote before the season finale episode and the first ever dual champion announcement. The kids worked their fannies off last Tuesday performing an All-Star duet AND teaming up with each other in addition to dancing their solos.

Intros: Did Chehon just try to catdaddy?

Guest judge: Rob Marshall’s back for the first time this season—I suppose an Oscar for Chicago gives him some juice…if you’re into that kind of thing….

Eliana/Cyrus: Paso Doble
Interesting role reversal in this paso doble from Jason Gilkison: girl as matador and guy as cape. The few actual figures Cyrus did were pretty good, but it was definitely watered down for him. I loved the bravado, though, despite the posture issues. Gushing from Nigel and Mary…and some avoidance from Rob, though he did offer effusive—and well-deserved praise—to Eliana. Oh look—Mary and Eliana have the same hair. And Cyrus matched his gauges to his costume…he DID say he had a lot of them….

Tiffany
OK, I came into my recording after watching The Voice live and saw locs flying across the stage, so I’m like, RUSSELL! I forgot our darling William Wingfield has since grown out his hair. My good friend would have been delighted to see him half-nekkid. Anyway, this Sonya Tayeh piece has Tiffany in this Garden-like outfit doing a visual “recap” of her journey through the competition. More gushing from the judges, and she’s worthy for sure; it’s an excellent performance from the two of them. I need to watch this several times to really capture the piece in my head—it’s one of those pure themeless pieces of choreography you just have to appreciate for the pure joy of the art.

Eliana/Chehon: Classical Ballet
I CALLED IT, I CALLED IT, I CALLED IT! Pas de deux from our ballet finalists. Choreographer Marat Daukayev from the Kirov Ballet puts them through their classical paces with the Nutcracker Suite pas de deux. Deceptively simple-looking routine, but the amount of control it takes for Eliana to do those successive fouettés into multiple pirouettes and effortless développés into the stratosphere (all en pointe) is utterly amazing. (If the terminology throws you, basically it’s the last :30 of the dance.) For Chehon’s part, the double tours got great height and he without question is a great partner. And now that I see that the “handle” was just a shift in the boning on the tutu, I am back to wondering how they pulled off that final pose without hands. I am so glad ballet can get this kind of mainstream exposure and give people more of an interest in dance and the arts than backup dance performances and the few music videos that still exist.

Tiffany/Cyrus: Lyrical Hip-hop
From hooking up to breaking up–the kids have a rocky relationship this week in a Tessandra Chavez lyrical hip-hop. Tiff had a little more swag there—a little heavy on the acting and the staccato from my boy, though. I did like it, and judging from the judges’ push (Rob’s favorite of the evening, in fact), this will wind up being a tour piece.

Top 4 group by Tyce Diorio
Quirky contemporary—classical Mozart remix with everyone orchestrating their own style into one blended number (see what I did there?). The remix part of the music kicked in too late for my taste—District 78 could have left it as a wholly classical piece for what they actually contributed to that. A couple more sections in unison would have made it more cohesive for me, but the foursome danced it well. (After seeing the “Behind the Choreography” video and finding out they did this in 4 hours, that makes things a whole lot clearer for me.)

Eliana solo
Lovely blend of ballet and gymnastics. It just looks like there’s this large, invisible kid taking her anatomically perfect doll and moving and posing it all around the stage. If Melanie and Marko were beautiful statues come to life in Turn To Stone, Eliana is the real-life version of that. You KNOW there’s some genuine work and effort that goes into it, but it looks like she’s simply walking—even sailing—across the floor.

Chehon
Pairs with Allison Holker for a Stacie Tookie contemporary about letting a loved one go to follow their dreams.

To quote Cat Deeley: “Excuse me—ONE HAND?!?” No words. Chehon, I imagine your parents have to be the proudest of you right now. I rate a damn close second. THAT was a complete performance in EVERY. WAY. Literally took Mary’s breath and powers of speech away. Mine too, if you want the truth—he is getting better and better at losing himself in the performance and turning an intricate piece of choreography from a dance routine into a moment. I don’t think I’ve seen any guy totally match Allison in performance level (and that piece with Kent was a damn good one for that).

Side note: my girls are REALLY lucky Allison has done this already and is an All-Star. I’m still happy with Benji as my Season 2 champ, but I do vaguely remember thinking she was voted out too soon.

Eliana/Tiffany
Ray Leeper just made Eliana happy as a pig in slop—he brought in a pole for a burlesque-style Broadway jazz number. Now I gotta see if Tiffany can match up….and OH MY GOD I was seriously just thinking that I wouldn’t mind seeing “When You’re Good To Mama” on here but they’d never dare!

Damn, Tiffany—DAHELL did you pull THAT vamp out from?!? Grew up in a hurry for this one, did we? And Eliana, I saw the audition package, and you did NOT have on heels when you did that pole work. OH. MY. GAWWWWWWWWWD! I’m not sure which one of you miscounted on those pirouettes, but I don’t think I care…..

Rob, the line about Queen Latifah was PRICELESS—I think I was as spellbound by the number as well, because even though I typed it earlier, I STILL forgot you directed Chicago…..

Tour, please….

Cyrus solo
Nobody else can pull that off, mayn…..Joshua had small moments in his solos but Cyrus has a Ph.D. in those small, articulated movements. I have no idea where or how far this area of expertise is going to take him professionally, but it’s going to be interesting watching it happen.

Tiffany solo
Didn’t realize she was the only one of the four who didn’t get a straight ticket to Vegas…or much camera time. And I see I wasn’t the only one to notice the lookalike thing. I admire her all the more now. That solo had Allison Holker potential.

Cyrus/Chehon
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TELL ME THOSE POWER RANGER SHIRTS ARE A JOKE!!!!! Sonya Tayeh gets her hands on the boys for a routine enacting their struggle in this journey. Kind of the boys’ version of Game On, but not quite as fierce as Sasha and Melanie. Yet, they did quite an admirable job.

Completely out of left field aside, but damn if Eliana doesn’t look like she could have fallen out of Jennifer Beals’s family tree…..

A guest? And a one-legged b-boy at that?!? Inspirational, yes…but this could’ve waited for next week.

Chehon solo
Chehon actually does a duet with the girl that brung him—his Las Vegas ticket. I remember in Season 7 where Kent and Allison did their duet, and right after during commentary, Adam Shankman told Kent, “Dude, you don’t need this show. You are an artist.” That’s exactly what I was thinking watching this solo. It’s in our nature as dancers to always be doubtful and self-conscious…but Chehon? Seriously, don’t EVER doubt that you are beyond special. I think we all know how this ends…with a world of career opportunities exploding in front of you, firmly in your grasp.

Eliana
Paired again with Alex Wong in a Travis Wall contemporary tearjerker. Again, no words. That torn ACL is the best thing that could have happened to Lauren Frodeman, ‘cause Alex had that ish SEWN UP. Eliana is now Nigel’s favorite dancer of all time. She was mine 3 seconds into her audition piece. She really CAN do anything.

Tiffany/Chehon: Rumba
Contemporary and ballet meet ballroom with alum Dmitry Chaplin. Let’s hope a slow Latin number is the third time charm for Chehon; I don’t remember Tiffany doing any ballroom outside of that foxtrot with George, so I think this is her first Latin piece.

Sooooo…..Tiffany is determined to make a liar out of me—and good for her. She’s fabulous. Chehon’s just hot period, but I KNOW they’re gonna trample all over their form…and now MARY’S making me out to be a liar. She did pooh-pooh the chemistry, though. *eye roll* But she loved Miss Tiffany there….I want to know what was in Ms. Maher’s water bottle this week to get these kinds of performances.

Cyrus/Twitch: Animation
Glitch and Twitch Animated….I’d buy that for a dollar. A Christopher MF’ing Scott piece (is there ANY area of hip-hop he doesn’t have his toe in?) introducing some new cyborgs off the assembly line. I know this is Cyrus’s style, but he looks so puny next to Twitch….however, THAT was nearly Game On worthy.

That face save from Nigel was a bit of a low blow….I guess waiting until the final number to tell Cyrus he wasn’t voting for him was better than throwing off his game mid-competition, but even if you were pulling for his competitor there was a WAY better time, place and method to do it.

Can I tell you guys how hard it is to TiVo-delay and try to critique, type AND vote at the same time?

I won’t go into my favorites again—y’all already know who I want to win and also that I wouldn’t be outraged if it went the other way. But I do want to mention how amazing this broadcast really was. These kids had one less day than normal to master FIVE brand-new, widely varied pieces of choreography along with perfecting their own solos, doing all their on-camera pieces, getting fitted for wardrobe, doing stage blocking and still finding some time to interact with their fans online while fitting in those incidental frivolous activities like eating and sleeping, and there wasn’t one train wreck on the stage. Even the hardest-core Cyrus detractors have to admit there was some great stage work done in this show. With this level of dedication in evidence, I can’t wait to get to the concert.

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.