Generation NEXT: SYTYCD Season 13

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So You Think You Can Dance has returned to the small screen for a 13th season, and this year the kids get their turn in the spotlight.

The show has revamped its entire look and contestant base, auditioning dancers between the ages of 8 to 13 and mirroring every popular social network platform with its graphics, peppy music and bright colors. They’ve even extended the youth appeal by adding a new judge to join Nigel Lythgoe, Paula Abdul and Jason DeRulo–15 year old dancer Maddie Ziegler, made famous by her appearances on Dance Moms and countless Sia videos and performances.  Limiting their audition cities to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, the core trio of judges mines through the hundreds of pint-sized hopefuls to select a few hundred to attend The Academy, the kids’ version of the Vegas intensive. The selection has a twist, though–only ten young dancers are selected for the stage shows, and not by the three judges.  Ten All-Stars–former contestants from the previous 12 seasons–are judging at The Academy to select one dancer each to take to the Hollywood stage that they feel they best connect with and has the skills to win.

Los Angeles had a good number of surprising talents: hip-hop dancers Merrick and Kida, ballerina Avery, contemporary dancers Jordan, Sage, Ava (tallest in the auditions at 5’9″ at only 11 years old) and Sophia, tap dancer Ava (complete with embarrassing tap dad), and ballroom dancers Lev, Ivan and Camilla. One particular standout audition involved dancers Stella and Geramy, who initially got a pass from the judges before Stella pleaded their case and asked to show something different. The two did a more dramatic paso doble and Stella was passed through, though Geramy was still rejected.  However, Nigel–presumably impressed by both his performance demeanor and the 25 pound weight loss he accomplished in practicing for the auditions–convinced his fellow judges to give him the opportunity to go through to The Academy to get a feel for the amount of hard work it would take to pursue the show.  Chicago brought us the ubercuteness that was 10 year old J.T. Church, and the extremely excited Tahani, whose happiness bubbled right out of her….and onto Paula Abdul’s jacket.  Poor baby–I have never seen anyone throw up after getting a positive nod, and particularly not all over a judge.  But she and Paula took it in stride.  Other Chicago standouts included lightning-fast tapper Emma, ballerina Tia (who got to dance in front of Fabrice Chamels of the Joffrey Ballet), hip-hop dancer Alex, contemporary dancers Diana, Quinn and Enoch, jazz dancer Ainslee (who though completely adorable and energetic with her pocket-sized 8 year old self was turned down), and ballroom dancers Leana and Daniela.  11 year old Daniela had a bit of an ace up her sleeve: her mom, who teaches her, is a Latin ballroom champion.  She even got to show Nigel and Jason a few moves.  New York seemed to host the largest and most diversely interesting auditioners on the tour, from Latin dance junior champion Ruby to Kinky Boots swing Dougie, amazingly mature contemporary dancers Tate and Olivia, mini “Magic Mike” hip-hoppers R.J and Jake (who reminded me so much of Nick and Rudy from Season 11), 12 year old breaker Kai who’s so badass he rocks with an ADULT crew, ballroom dancers Valeriya, Alex, Liza and Joshua (all but Liza moved on, but I thought her personality would at least get her in the door), and 13 year old tapper Lucas, who caused a bit of discussion with the judges but was eventually sent ahead to the next round.

After arriving at The Academy, the young dancers performed their solos for the All-Star judges who would evaluate them.  The All-Stars roster for Season 13 is a pretty fair balance of all of the available genres: ballroom is represented by Paul Kamiryan, Jonathan Platero and Jenna Johnson; hip-hop is covered by Comfort Fedoke and champions Joshua Allen and DuShant “Fik-Shun” Steagel; contemporary is represented by Robert Roldan, and first runners-up Kathryn McCormick and Sasha Mallory; and rounding out the numbers is reigning champion, Season 12’s tap mistress Gaby Diaz.  Each dancer gets to pick their five favorite dancers from the Academy soloists, with at least three that are not necessarily of their specific genre.  Things get interesting a few times as some of the dancers are selected by more than one All-Star, which gives the dancer the option of which team he or she wants to be on.  By the end of the rounds the five dancers are cut to two, with those two being in contention to go to the live shows.

Contemporary dancer Tate gave such a technically and emotionally compelling performance she literally propelled half of the judges from their seats, even though they were supposed to restrain their reactions. She wound up being sought after by both Kathryn and Sasha, and after hearing their say, she chose Kathryn’s team. Two other dancers, Kida and Ruby, would also be doubly selected, with Kida choosing Fik-Shun over Joshua and Ruby selecting Paul in favor of Jonathan, respectively. All of the dancers gave their absolute best, but with the choices limited to 5 dancers per team, the selected pool of about 100 hopefuls was immediately cut down to 50.  After that, three rounds of choreography–Broadway with Warren Carlyle, Hip-Hop with Nappytabs, and Contemporary with Travis Wall–honed each team of five down to two dancers, of which the given All-Star had to select one to take with them to the live shows.  The final choices came down to gut decisions, as each of the kids displayed varying degrees of technique, personality, determination and heart throughout the whole process. The 10 dancers selected are:

  • Tate McRae – Team Kathryn
  • Leon “Kida” Burns – Team Fik-Shun
  • Ruby Castro – Team Paul
  • J. T. Church – Team Robert
  • Jordan Wandick – Team Sasha
  • Jake Monreal – Team Jenna
  • Daniela Avanzini – Team Jonathan
  • Sheaden Gabriel – Team Joshua
  • Emma Hellenkamp – Team Gaby
  • Tahani Anderson – Team Comfort

Overall, I like the concept, as today’s young dancers are doing feats I couldn’t master TODAY, never mind when I was their age.  I’m trying very hard not to let my disdain for Dance Moms and my intense dislike for Abby Lee Miller to color my judgment on Maddie Ziegler’s role in the proceedings; I feel she’s overhyped and overexposed but it’s a very shrewd move to include her as the kids will definitely know HER pedigree as opposed to the adult pioneers…not to mention they’ll have the benefit of her expertise in competing in the public eye and professionalism as a child in the entertainment business.  The one outstanding fact is that these kids are phenomenally talented and have larger than life personalities–and this, above all of the other gimmicks and enticements, will make this season shine.

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SYTYCD 11, Top 6–Boogie Nights and Technicolor Dreams

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Last show before the final choice is made!

Christina Applegate is back for another week of judging

Top 6 group–Hip-Hop

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

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

Valerie/Ricky
Broadway—Spencer Liff

Spencer is choreographing a Technicolor dream….

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

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

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

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

Jessica/Casey
Disco—Doriana Sanchez

Didn’t see that one coming…. -_-

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

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

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

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

Ricky—Solo

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

Jacque/Zack
Foxtrot—Jean-Marc Genereux

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

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

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

Jessica—Solo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casey—Solo

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

Valerie—Solo

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

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

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

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

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

Zack—Solo

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

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

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

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

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

Jacque—Solo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even Cat’s impressed…..

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

Now to the last elimination for the Big One:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gonna be a packed show!

Hang Ten! SYTYCD Season 10 wrap-up

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The tenth season of So You Think You Can Dance is in the history books and showcased some amazing talent. We only lost one week due to the MLB All-Star Game. The choreography seemed a little more balanced this season, although there was not a lot of ballroom present.

This season by the numbers:

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Queen Sonya has to share her throne with some new contenders this year–Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo. Clearly, London’s not the only new creation they’ve given the world this year as they and Sonya both knock out a whopping 9 total numbers this year….though with two of Sonya’s numbers being collaborations with Christopher Scott and Dmitry Chaplin respectively, one could unofficially put Nappytabs out in front since they’re a permanent team. Christopher Scott comes in second again this year with 8 total numbers, and in a remarkable FIVE-WAY TIE for third place are Sean Cheesman, Tyce Diorio, Spencer Liff, Stacey Tookey and Travis Wall. The remaining choreographers are:

Mandy Moore 5
Jean-Marc Genereux 5
Ray Leeper 4
Luther Brown 4
Dmitry Chaplin 4
Dave Scott 3
Nakul Dev Mahajan 3
Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo 3
Dee Caspary 2
Anthony Morigerato 2
Mia Michaels 2
Dmitry Chaplin 2
Jonathan Roberts 1
Doriana Sanchez 1
Louis van Amstel 1

This season also brought in a slew of SYTYCD alumni choreographers thanks in large part to All Star Night on Week 8. Veteran choreographers Travis Wall and Dmitry Chaplin created and performed their pieces that evening, along with first-time choreographers Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Comfort Fedoke, Courtney Galliano, Allison Holker, Chelsea Hightower and Mark Kanemura, whose impressive offering apparently bought him a second week as a choreographer during the performance finale. We also were treated to a salsa duet from Season 5 contestant Jonathan Platero and a Top 20 routine for the finale from Season 2 alum Ivan Koumaev. Additional rookie choreographers for this season included Lindsay Nelko, Keone and Mari Madrid, Bonnie Story, Justin Giles, and Anthony Morigerato.

Choreography MVPs for the season:
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Sean Cheesman

A fixture on the now-cancelled Canadian version of SYTYCD, Sean hit a personal best on the American show with six pieces this year. All were incredible showings, and his Kiss of the Spider Woman Broadway piece got a finale judges’ pick…but even without all of that, that Top 6 Aileyesque number automatically shoots him to the top of my list.

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Luther Brown

Another Canadian transplant, Luther puts in his personal best of four routines, and like his countryman above also garnered a judges’ favorite that will likely wind up on the Tour.

Guest judges for the competition this year were Wayne Brady, Kenny Ortega, Adam Shankman, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Christina Applegate, Carly Rae Jepsen, Debbie Allen, Paula Abdul, Erin Andrews and Gabby Douglas and Jenna Elfman, with Adam, Paula and tWitch alongside Mary and Nigel on the finale panel. Paula gets panel MVP status at the finale by sitting up there three times.

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Comfort bested Twitch as All-Star MVP by one appearance this season–with 3 individual pairings (Nico, Paul, and Jasmine), a finale reprise and a spot in the Top 10 + 10 finale number, she racked up 5 runs on the stage. tWitch performed with Hayley, Jasmine and Fik-Shun, the last of which was so well-received during the performance finale it was repeated as a judges’ favorite the following week, giving him 4 stage appearances. Tied with tWitch at second was Kathryn McCormick, Robert Roldan and Marko Germar, and tied at third were Alex Wong, Melanie Moore, Neil Haskell and Witney Carson with 3 total performances. Rounding out the All-Star roster are Chelsie Hightower, Joshua Allen, Allison Holker, Travis Wall, Mark Kanemura, Dmitry Chaplin, Courtney Galliano, Brandon Bryant, Jakob Kerr, and Melinda Sullivan. Due to contestant injury, choreographers Leonardo Barrionuevo and Spencer Liff also took to the DANCE stage.

My season superlatives:

Contestants who got the biggest shaft – Carlos Garland and Brittany Cherry

These two not only has to deal with being the first two dancers eliminated, but they had to fall victim to the wretched top-of-the-show elimination. And the sad part is that these two did not give weak enough performances the previous week to genuinely merit being in the position to be voted off. Thanks to huge fan uproar, it should never happen again….but these two dancers have to bear this dubious indignity in perpetuity.

Most underestimated contestants (at the beginning): Paul Karmiryan, Aaron Turner, Du-Shant “Fik-Shun” Steagel, Hayley Erbert

Fik-Shun, a completely untrained dancer, and Aaron, a tapper who squeezed into the Top 20 at the last minute, were obvious choices on the surface due to their specialties being so singular and so diametrically opposed to all of the other styles of dance. Aaron immediately dispatched any talk of not being able to hack it in the competition by looking capable in every style, prompting the choreographers to put him as close to front and center as possible. Fik-Shun, despite his lack of technique, impressed in a different way by taking a strong command of the styles he was given and layering his thousand-watt personality on top of them. His performance energy was even palpable in his serious works. Paul entered the competition a champion of an international version of SYTYCD, so he probably had an idea of what to expect–yet ballroom dancers often have trouble dialing back on intensity with their facial expressions or picking up styles with a less strict posture. Paul never exhibited any reticence over the weeks; in fact, he made each routine look easy. As for Hayley, I mentally put her in the same box as I did Tiffany Maher last season; great technical skill but limited in embodying the character. Boy did I call THAT one wrong–from the catburglar in her first hip-hop to the smoldering mystery in the Argentine Tango to the mysterious fortune teller, Hayley was able to fully inhabit the characters given to her.

Best numbers of the season
Can I pick the whole season? There’s way too many, especially if I just lump in my favorite dancers’ entire bodies of work for the season. I was going to list the ones that grabbed me most, and attempt to pull a Top 5 out of those, but even that was overwhelming. So here are the five that most moved or entertained me AND got heavy repetition on the TiVo:

My top 5 dances:

SYTYCD10-TapTrio

5. Anthony Morigerato Tap (“You Really Did It”) with Aaron, Alexis and Curtis

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4. Justin Giles Contemporary (“Learning Tree”) with Aaron and Jasmine

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3. Lindsay Nelko Contemporary (“No Day But Today”) with Makenzie and Paul

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2. Luther Brown Hip-Hop (Hello Good Morning) Fik-Shun and tWitch

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1. Nappytabs Hip-Hop (“Putting On the Ritz”) with the Top 20 dancers and the choreographers, judges and other extras

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(The Sean Cheesman Top 6 Afro Jazz should also be on this list–you can consider this tied in the #1 spot. )

Biggest misfire:
Cat’s “grandma” dress

CatsMawMawDress

Is this going to be an annual thing? This one was nicer than last year’s dress, but TOO old-fashioned.

Best guest judges
Christina Applegate never fails to disappoint, and the professional stalwarts go without saying, but the highlight of the guest panel this season was Wayne Brady. Anybody who’s a big enough fan to reference Season 1 dancers in comparison to the current competitors AND give them technical and showmanship advice can come back whenever he wants to.

Best guest performances

Only two this season, and both were in the finale–the Battle Of The Year crew and Movement Box, the dance/beatbox duo from the Boston audition stop. Both were good but not stellar enough for me to single one over the other. So I’m giving this year’s honors to the judges and choreographers who participated onstage this season….and with the finale offering of the Hot Tamale and the English Muffin with a side of Ham Shankman notwithstanding, I think Travis Wall’s diva strut in the Putting On The Ritz one-shot just slightly edges them out.

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There are still a few things in need of correction before the next go-round:

–I think you guys learned your lesson about the top of the show elimination, so I won’t address that one again…..
–PLEASE get the rookies off the audio board! Three years running now and there are still mics wide open when they should be clipped. Do I need to throw my resume into the mix?
–No more stunt guest judges. An extensive dance AND stage background are required. If Carly Rae Jepsen comes back to do anything more than sing, I’m flogging EVERYBODY.
–Cutting dance content. There is absolutely NO REASON WHATSOEVER that the viewing public should have missed seeing the Top 4 finalists’ group dance. Even if you had to post it as a YouTube exclusive (which I see you’re clearly learning that a YouTube presence for the show is highly desirable to the fans), that would have been more acceptable than us not seeing it at all.

FOX had the good sense to immediately greenlight Season 11–now if we could only get them to put up back to two nights instead of one….

What were your most memorable moments from this season?

*all images courtesy of 19 Entertainment, Dick Clark Productions, and FOX

SYTYCD Season 10 Finale: Untrained Melody

all images courtesy of 19 Entertainment, Dick Clark Productions and FOX Entertainment

all images courtesy of 19 Entertainment, Dick Clark Productions and FOX Entertainment

A night that will live in FAMY….. (the pun was RIGHT THERE….)

Season 10 of So You Think You Can Dance wraps up in its usual grand fashion and for the second time crowns a pair of dancers as America’s favorites.

Gracing the judges’ panel for this year’s finale are panel fixtures Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe, who are joined by Adam Shankman, two-time Season 10 judge Paula Abdul and the officially multifaceted Stephen “tWitch” Boss. Yes, kiddies, you read that right–Season 3’s finalist is now that much of a mover and shaker that he has a place on both sides of the stage.

The Season 10 Top 20 reunion dance–a lovely, lush, 40s-inspired Broadway spectacle worthy of the silver screen–is made more special by both the inclusion of contestant Jade Zuberi as the bartender (to accommodate his recovery from surgery on the competition-ending injury he endured), and the announcement that this piece of genius was choreographed by Season 2 contestant Ivan Koumaev. Any of you who can go that far back as a fan knows that Ivan entered the competition under hip-hop and largely untrained, and for him to have amassed that much expertise since his time on the show to create such a beautifully classic and complex number practically shouts the merits of this show’s existence. FOX execs, the next time you have a question as to why this show needs renewing, watch this.

Moving to the “best of/future Tour pics” section, we have not only picks from the judging panel and the finalists themselves, Cat again get to pick a favorite and, in a first, so did the audience via Web vote. First up is Paula Abdul’s choice of Mandy Moore’s Edge of Glory with Makenzie and Paul as forbidden lovers meeting in secret. Looking at Makenzie’s costume makes me think that the initial choice was Lindsay Nelko’s No Day But Today contemporary, as that’s the dress Makenzie’s wearing tonight. I would actually have picked that pairing over this one from these two, but this piece was good, too.

Adam is next, selecting the Double Diddy Twins Fik-Shun and tWitch and their Luther Brown hip-hop performed the previous week in the performance finale….as I predicted. So the sight of tWitch in a tuxedo on the judges’ panel didn’t throw me for one second–and neither did tWitch ripping off the tuxedo shirt and jacket and emerging from the table in the grey t-shirt, black pants and tennis toward the stage, leather jacket in tow. This dance will NEVER. GET. OLD. NE-VER.

Nigel, after delighting the crowd with the announcement of Season 11’s greenlight, goes for the completely obvious pick and resurrects the tap trio from the Meet the Top 20 show, choreographed by Anthony Morigerato and performed by Alexis, Curtis and finalist Aaron. Curtis has channeled his energy a lot since the first performance and that end pose was firmly nailed by all this go-’round. Oh PLEASE let Alexis and Curtis sneak on the tour….

Fresh from the stage and back in his seat and his formal wear, tWitch selects the wildly athletic and dramatic Sean Cheesman Kiss of the Spider Woman piece performed by Hayley and Nico. (Lovely of him to remind everyone his show debut was a Broadway number–and a damn good one, too.) This number will never cease to frighten me–I literally do not breathe until after that damn flip lift is done. A little less intense than the first one, but just as well danced.

Mary rounds out the judges’ choices with a redemptive offering from Travis Wall that wound up being a story unto itself: Tucker and Robert’s cathartic performance of Medicine. More technically perfect this time, but not as much emotional tether. I don’t much care which version we get, as long as we get it. Thanks for that, Mary.

As for the finalists, Jasmine chose the Ray Leeper jazz Blurred Lines with All-Star Marko Germar that challenged her the most; Aaron picked the Stacey Tookey contemporary I’m Kissing You with All-Star Kathryn McCormick that transformed his as both a performer and a person; and in the “We Really Shouldn’t Be Surprised” department, both Amy and Fik-Shun picked the Nappytabs hip-hop duet they performed with each other, the bellhops at the After Party.

This year repeats the selection of the Top 5 Audition Tour moments.

5. Mongolian bowl dancer Shanshan Qiao-Rothlisberger, who despite causing a minor controversy with her accent’s effect on the word HORSE performed so beautifully that she got a Vegas berth AND a pass through the first two rounds.

4. Hip-hop/animator Shane Garcia, who uses dance to help express everything his stilted speech is unable to. THIS should have been Number 1 on the list….and I most certainly DID NOT STUTTER. This was tops, hands down. I’m glad, though, it at least made the list.

3. “18” year old Anthony “J-Freeze” Naylor–this 4-year-old wonder apparently saw Cyrus on TV last season and began to teach himself to dance, resulting in the first audition in the history of the show to garner three judges yeses for a trip to Disneyland. Hey J-Freeze, Brandon Bryant lied about HIS age too and wound up a finalist and an All-Star. See you in 2027, kid.

2. Magic City comes to Detroit–Hip-Hop/Animator Will “Sysko” Green displays some other, ahem, talents, and invites Mary to a front-row seat onstage to witness them. It’s a really good thing Mary had on a dress with some red in it; otherwise, that facial flush would have looked more like sunburn.

Thanks to the return to the single-show-fits-all format, the season’s only two guest performances grace the stage tonight. Right after the obligatory Final Four field trip package to the movie preview of Battle of the Year (featuring Season 3’s Dominic Sandoval), the BOTY dance crew performs live on stage.

And no, I didn’t forget to complete my list, as the top audition moment went to John Tesoriero, a hip-hop/animator who came to the Boston auditions with his friend as musical accompaniment. The two, as duo Movement Box, were the second and final guest performance of the season.

Four more dances get an encore of sorts: we were treated to encores of the Sand dance performed in the Meet the Top 20 show by the male finalists, as well as the brilliant, beyond awesome one-shot take of Nappytabs’ MOBBED-inspired hip-hop with the Top 20 and the evening’s judges and choreographers. Christopher MF’ing Scott and Nappy MF’ing Tabs. All hail.

The third bonus number was a result of an incredibly risky but highly successful (and hopefully repeatable) experiment of using the All-Stars as both performers and choreographers. All of the numbers were incredible, but the jazz piece performed by Jenna and All-Star/choreographer Mark Kanemura simply HAD to be repeated live. (The eyeball artwork and lips couch were pretty much dead giveaways….although the more I watch this piece, the more I want that couch and a house worthy of displaying it. Not to mention Mark’s funky square glasses.) The weirdest, wildest, most wonderful number Mark has performed since he and Courtney Galliano did The Garden as contestants in Season 3. I Am The Best, indeed.

Last, and possibly least, we get an encore of Amy and Fik-Shun’s Christopher Scott café hip-hop…..from the couple that consistently does the most, Nigel and Mary. Nigel stumbles over props and Mary dolls up in a pink beehive wig (with TWO big plastic rollers in tow) and a pair of cat glasses. Frighteningly, THAT’S not the outrageous part–THAT honor belongs to the last 12 counts of the number as the daily special is served: a healthy helping of Ham Shankman upstaging the pair. This CANNOT be unseen.

As mentioned, this year the audience got to select a number: Travis Wall was a busy young man this season, and as such two of his numbers were selected for the audience to cast their votes for via Facebook and Twitter. The resounding winner was his offering for All-Stars Choreographers’ Night–the Wicked Game contemporary piece he performed with Amy.

Nappytabs is at it again for the 10 + 10, and as last year, this number did not disappoint. With some added filmed beauty shots of our Top 4 at play on the beach and a few stunning props, we get Beach Blanket Bingo revisited in the form of the B-52’s Rock Lobster. Bright, colorful, fast and awesome. And again, way too short. Although I will need the set crew to better secure those tall props–Robert was making me nervous dancing atop that shaky lifeguard’s chair.

FAMYWinningMoment

Winner’s moments are always great to watch, even though I would have been perfectly happy to have the show end right here and let all four wear the crown. I don’t believe there will ever be a more grateful or humble champion than Fik-Shun. At each stage leading up to the finals, you would find him thanking and congratulating his competitors. Let me say it again–he’s thanking and praising the guys he just BEAT. Guys he KNOWS have way more formal training than he does. Tonight’s victory as America’s Favorite Dancer was no exception–after breaking down in tears he immediately hugs Aaron, telling him “It’s been a pleasure.” Yes, the older dancer/tapper/New Orleans connection was my sentimental favorite, but I can’t say I’m disappointed with America’s choice. Call it validation from last year for the untrained dancer or simply laurels for a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime performer, Fik-Shun proved himself worthy of both a national stage AND a national title. And what could be a better cap to the evening than sharing it with the girl that brung him? Amy’s nearly equal reaction (and my nearly equal sentimental attachment to the other side) was just as heart-warming. Had Season 4 had an official Top Girl/Top Guy classification, this would just be a delightful repeat….but Amy and Fik-Shun are officially the first couple to go from beginning to end and make it to the top together. I can honestly declare that hearing any two of the 20 names called as champion would have made me happy, but Fik-Shun and Amy have that special ring to it that’s music to my ears.

Anxiously awaiting the Tour and the start of Season 11!

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SYTYCD Season 10, Week 10: Tall and FAMY, For The Win! (4TW)

The Top 4 in a Mandy Moore number half the country never saw....unwise move, Nigel.....

The Top 4 in a Mandy Moore number half the country never saw….unwise move, Nigel…..

It’s the last competitive go-’round as the Final 4 take the stage to claim the ultimate prize–the “America’s Favorite Dancer” title and the trapping that go along with it.

Guest judges:
Paula Abdul returns to the judges’ panel, along with Olympic Gold medalist Gabby Douglas. While I love her and know that some dance training is needed for those floor exercises, I’m not completely sold on how solid her critical skills are. Still, she’s still better than Carly Rae Jepsen. (Yes, THAT dead horse will NEVER stop getting beat….)

Top 4 Group
Jazz – Mandy Moore

Sorry, America—I’d LOVE to tell you more about the number, but someone in broadcasting didn’t think we needed to see it. (And, from what I’m gathering, neither did most of the country.) I’m all for trimming broadcast fat but a DANCE NUMBER—particularly one featuring the top 4 FINALISTS—should not have been at the top of the list. I remember on the first watch/skim-through that it was odd that I missed the group number, but I just thought I zipped by it by accident. This might be the stupidest move since the Bottom 6/elimination announcement at the top of the show. (And NO, it will NOT make us forget about that, and YES, I meant to say stupidest. That’s how colossally asinine that decision was.)

Tonight the kids, in addition to the group number America didn’t see, get to dance partnerships with each of their competitors as well as their solos and All-Star pair-ups (the dancers got to actually pick the style of dance they performed with their All-Star).

Amy/Aaron
Jazz – Ray Leeper

Sexy with a club feel. Ray’s words.

This is where we notice the variances in height and energy—even though Aaron’s putting out just as much as Amy is, hers seems to carry across to the audience that extra bit more. I see a lot of that champion’s attitude in her performance that Melanie and Jeanine exhibited. Aaron, despite his very good efforts, looked a bit lumbering and clunky next to his tiny dynamo of a partner. He maintained his stamina and performance level quite well—but when you put a Roman candle next to a brick of C4, the differences in impact are staggering. The costumes were funky—I really dug Amy’s; Aaron’s could have done without the vest—or something different with the vest—because it took away from the designs on the tat sleeve (which was oddly only on one arm….).

Nigel loved the costumes (and took a dig at Paula in the process), saying they laid down the gauntlet in this final; Mary agreed and loved the strength, energy and attack the two lent to the number; Gabby loved the spunk and attitude of the number; Paula thought it was a nice departure from their usual styles and was duly impressed with both Amy’s center and ability and Aaron’s strength of partnering and characterization.

Jasmine/Fik-Shun
Contemporary – Travis Wall

A couple growing apart, imagined in the middle of the ocean floating away from each other.

Visually, this piece reminded me of the Viennese Waltz Twitch and Kherrington did back in Season 4, and then Jasmine throws in that Eliana Girard-worthy Bang, Bang extension. Every time she throws a leg up I die a little inside knowing the short, aging stubs I walk on will never even come close to looking so magical. I was very impressed with their unison moments and Fik-Shun’s partnering skill (to borrow Debbie Allen’s vernacular from Season 5’s critique of Evan and Kayla, he “handled his big woman”). I’m not sure exactly how long this piece was, but it was over before it began…or at least it felt like it. I wasn’t finished watching them dance and then they ran out of steps. Sigh…..

Mary was moved to stand and the Deeley chills came into view. Mary was swept away by the movement and pleasantly surprised by Fik-Shun’s success with this partnership given all of the challenges and contrasts between the pair. Gabby also admitted to goosebumps and was drawn in by the performance, noting how impressed she was with Jasmine’s lines. Paula has another Cyd Charisse apparition in watching Jasmine and is again visibly moved by Fik-Shun’s transformation as a dancer. Nigel agreed with Gabby on Jasmine’s lines and with Paula on Fik-Shun’s development.

Aaron (with All-Star Melinda Sullivan)
Tap – Anthony Morigerato

Although he lauds their abilities in the pre-package, Anthony says absolutely nothing about the story behind Aaron and Melinda’s piece. It’s a slow syncopated number to Bruno Mars’ When I Was Your Man, a maudlin little ditty about the regrets a man has after losing his woman….so we’ll call that the theme. Bruno’s tortured vocals over a simple piano acoustic lend the greatest musical stage a tapper can hope to have to highlight their craft, and these two use it to full advantage and impact. The piece is deceptively simple-looking, and it is to a degree—there’s no big flash or trick movement to make the crowd jump up and gasp. But the clarity of the taps, particularly in concert with the music and each other, is the star of the show here. Aaron’s emotive abilities are always clearly obvious and in this, his own style, is no exception; however, the fact that he can keep that kind of consistent characterization for emotions not usually served in this genre gives just a small peek into the genius performer that he is. Melinda herself is amazing (said as more than a rabid, biased fan and minuscule investor in GONE, her recent Broadway project) and for Aaron to match that as if they had trained together for years proved that he’s got IT. Who pulls at heartstrings with a tap number? *points two fingers at the high-yella boy on my TV screen* THIS guy.

Oh, and by the way, thank you very much for the first tap number to grace the performance finale stage.

Full standing O, and rightly so….Gabby is awed speechless; Paula is beyond excited (remember her Straight Up and The Way That You Love Me videos showcased her hoofer’s grace) and hails Aaron as the ultimate storyteller of the season; Nigel loved the conversation the two “best tap dancers of the series” had with their feet; and Mary thought they were spectacular.

Jasmine (with All-Star Comfort Fedoke)
Hip-Hop – Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo

Throwing caution to the wind, contemporary dancer Jasmine goes full 180 and picks hip-hop. She is paired with Comfort in a Nappytabs joint all about flexing the girl power. I’m not sure about the presence of the bicycles—maybe if they’d be motorbikes or some kind of harder-looking scooter, I’d buy the whole strength and empowerment thing. (Watching the clip, I kinda wanted to see her do the number with Tabitha—who I’m still rolling my eyes at for looking (and dancing) like THAT a year after squeezing a small human out of her body. Ugh!)

I’m still seeing Jasmine’s stamina flag out mid-way….and she was definitely serving it the entire dance move for move. I can’t put my finger on why I’m seeing this energy drain in the face of fantastic dancing but it’s there in every non-contemporary number I see her in. It was expertly performed, though, especially with that bike sequence—one missed count would have thrown off the equilibrium of the entire piece. And I do applaud her for stepping outside of the box to be seen as an all-around dancer. This would be a good number to have on the tour, though….maybe a match-up with Hayley?

Paula is wowed and marvels at Jasmine’s ferocity and versatility; Nigel lauded her choice to display her versatility and her fighting spirit; Mary thought Jasmine danced the piece as if she had choreographed it herself and dubbed her “badass”; Gabby put it best and succinctly: “YOU BETTER WERK!” (Whatever your closed-captions said onscreen, the above is EXACTLY how she said it.) She also called for Beyoncé to grab them up and for some assistance with her next floor routine.

Amy/Fik-Shun
Argentine Tango/Paso Doble – Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

Power and passion.

They had my boy Fik-Shun WORKING tonight—still some posture issues but I could see him thinking and trying to apply former corrections along with the current choreography. Try as I might, Amy as smoldering temptress is a hard sell…at least from the neck up. She hit those skill moves well and exuded passion in her stance; it’s just not her fault I can’t look at her and not see Joey Potter playing dress-up. However, the chemistry manufactured between the two of them was believable.

Nigel thought Fik-Shun gave a brave attempt that fell just a bit short and that Amy displayed as much skill and strength as Jasmine displayed earlier and that both are worthy opponents and brilliant dancers. Mary loved the choreography and also noted Fik-Shun’s weak points but also praised the level of partnership, while calling Amy mind-blowing, strong and beautiful to watch. Gabby loved the chemistry and the emotion of the piece; Paula was also stunned by the choreography and thought Fik-Shun “handled his woman pretty darned well,” (I’ll get her later for stealing from my mama) while telling Amy that “it’s hard to comment on perfection.”

Jasmine

She’s way harder on herself than I could ever be. And who knew it was Cat that had to fight for Jasmine?

Y’all thought that duet flowed like water? This one really did….and I believe I saw more confidence exude from her in this piece than in any other.

Jasmine/Aaron
Samba – Dmitry Chaplin

“This samba is going to be a party starter.” The cocktail analogy was cute but y’all could have stopped at that one sentence and given the TV audience the group number instead….

Not quite Anya and Danny Girlfriend-worthy but not as strained as the Sasha/Tadd tango from Season 8. The skirt issue was well handled by Aaron but still slowed them down a bit. Jasmine stayed in vamp mode and carried it off well, and while I could have used a little more looseness and party feel from Aaron, I think with the exception of a couple of raised shoulder moments he did quite well with the forms and technique.

Mary thought while the choreography was brilliant, she didn’t feel that it was danced very well and pointed out a lot of the techniques issues I saw and more. Jasmine fared better than Aaron in the critique, but not by a whole lot. Gabby conceded to Mary’s expertise and agreed that the number wasn’t the strongest they had done tonight. Paula may have concurred with the technical assessments but chose to compliment the two on their energy and synergy both tonight and throughout the season. Nigel also wanted more and for once didn’t feel the chemistry between them, sensing discomfort instead.

Fik-Shun

It’s Fik-Shun’s world, and we’re all just puppets on the strings he’s pulling. I just LOVE him to pieces.

Gangnam Style annoys my toenails off. And yet I will watch that boy do that number ALL. DAMN. DAY. I just want a glimpse of his imagination….you know how Moses had to hide in the cracks of the cliffs covered in order to just have God’s presence pass over him? If there’s some way to get Fik-Shun’s imagination to wash over me like that, I’d be unstoppable.

Amy

The other half of the pocket duo takes the solo stage, and she makes me smile, too.

This was one of the most cohesive performances of the “same” contemporary dance she’s done yet. I really want to see her do something more light-hearted, but she’s using what works to win. And I can’t be mad at that….especially when it’s so GOOD.

Fik-Shun (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop – Luther Brown

“Dancing hip-hop with tWitch would make my life awesome.” Kid, do you have ANY idea what that’s about to do to OUR lives?!? Bring on the Swerve 500!

It must be time for Christmas dinner, ‘cause I just watched two of the biggest hams in SYTYCD history cooking. As much as I loved watching tWitch pair up with Joshua Allen and Cyrus Spencer, Fik-Shun is the perfect match to him—like someone took a rib out of tWitch and fashioned a mini-twin that came out Fik-Shun. (I don’t know WHY all these Biblical references are popping up, but I guess that’s more testament to Fik-Shun being the gospel truth.) That was fun and cheeky and popping and rough all at the same time. We’ll be seeing this in an hour. Bet on it.

Gabby was totally wowed, Paula liked watching the two talented goofballs in their hip-hop playground, Nigel even dubbed them tWitch and tWitch, Jr. and called it fantastic, and Mary even brought in Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb as a comparison and told Fik-Shun how proud he was going to be when he watched the number on video. Not even close to as proud as the rest of us, kiddo.

Aaron

Another year of history being made with the first tapper making the finals….what a blessing in disguise a twist of fate can be.

Subtle and sophisticated syncopation—and then he hefts that big body into the air in a straddle jump. Boy…….. *throwing my OWN tap shoes at this expensive ass TV*

Amy (with All-Star Robert Roldan)
Contemporary – Stacey Tookey

Courage and bad timing—“I Got You” with a sadder ending, where the girl realizes what she could have had as the guy is letting go.

I am constantly amazed at how Amy can take her physical strength and emotional vulnerability and just combine them so beautifully and seamlessly that it looks like she’s just walking through it. I might have chosen a slower arm drop at the very end, but that’s just the nitpicky artist in me….the number was impactful regardless.

Standing O across the board—Paula is choked up and completely moved; Nigel thought they were intoxicating, stunning and breathtaking; Mary marveled at the supernatural energy Amy radiates with each movement; Gabby seemed just as choked and just as stirred by the performance.

Aaron/Fik-Shun
Broadway – Tyce Diorio

Two guys in the hustle and bustle of the rough city, complete with suits, hats, briefcases, platforms, and….was that a treadmill?!? Alrighty then….

Too much going on, Tyce—and the few novel moments on the ‘mill didn’t quite justify its presence. The boys put out their best personas, though. Aaron looked a little reserved in places and that’s either a testament to his exhaustion or the megawatt level of Fik-Shun’s onstage energy. Must be that gentle giant syndrome we saw with Amy earlier.

Nigel was reminded of Michael Kidd (no lie, even I had to look him up, and am truly ashamed I knew his work but not his name); Mary thought this was feel-good choreography that charmed the pants off of everyone; Gabby loved the energy and the stunts and lauded the pair kept up an amazing show throughout; Paula thought they were both completely in their element and called them the top showmen of the season. (Had no idea Paula gave TYCE his first break…is there anyone you haven’t mentored in some way, woman?)

Amy/Jasmine
Jazz – Mark Kanemura

“A typically straightforward jazz rehearsal.” Cat, I don’t even know how you said that with a straight face. When Mark opens with the phrase, “It’s the age old tale of Siamese twins from the fierce jungles of Saturn……” you know you’re going on a trip that even acid can’t rival. (Not that I’d know PERSONALLY, mind you….) Lip-syncing with the body….of course, Mark. And the fact that the song is The Diva Dance just adds to the overflowing bowl of quirk you’re about to serve us.

Appropriately weird, as expected. As I watched I couldn’t help but make Jasmine comparisons: Jasmine Mason was pretty equal to Amy and, in my opinion, outshone her in moments during their “Meet the Top 20” duet; Jasmine Harper, while high-energy and syncopation all the way, got smoked by The Little Dancer That Could. All of the specific and peculiar shapes Mark gave them to do should have been more sharp, angular and precise on the tall dancer with the long limbs, but it was Amy attacking those forms with perfection. You can see the marked differences in still photos, and with costumes as specifically duplicate as these variations in form are glaringly obvious. This was a fast, tough piece, though….and the divas did the damn thing.

Mary loved the “crazy, creative and quirky” offering from our budding male Sonya clone; Gabby agreed and thought the fun number was a great way to end the evening; Paula evidently found her home planet in this number (which may explain a LOT of the past few years); Nigel is completely flabbergasted by both concept and performance and puts the girls as the top two in an overall perspective, then joins Paula in a belated standing ovation (with Mary and Gabby to follow suit)—a gesture I know is not only for this pair’s performance, but for the whole Top 4 and the excellence of the entire Top 20 this year.

All I did was divide my web votes—I simply cannot choose this year. Like last year I can’t pick between any of them; unlike last year I can’t settle on an actual favorite. There has yet to be a brown-skinned female champion (love Sabra and her win—at least on MY part—was truly vicarious) and Jasmine is only the third to make it to Top 4, and fourth to make to finals if you consider Season 6 Ellenore was one of SIX finalists; seeing very few of “us” even make it to the main stage, I’m hoping for history. The same goes with Aaron, who would be the first older dancer, first tapper, and would follow in Benji Schwimmer’s footsteps by going from alternate to champion….plus the New Orleans connection keeps him my sentimental favorite. Fik-Shun might be a validation to last year’s Cyrus fans that a truly untrained dancer CAN triumph—plus he’s so dang cute and larger than life I really would like to see his star launched into the stratosphere. And Amy….the girl’s just good. Even in that slip she keeps beating herself up on, she had more grace and style than the most perfect performances. Anybody who can look that good screwing up and then bring several of the most memorable performances of the season (quite a few of which I suspect we’ll be seeing tonight) is no sleeper. I’m leaning to Team Tall but I’ll be a FAMY monster all day, too….and any combination of those will be correct, as well. This year, the answer to the question “Who is America’s Favorite Dancer?” is a resounding and unqualified YES. Whatever names are called.

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?

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