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….

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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.