DANCE Opens in the Big Easy–SYTYCD 11 Live Tour

I cut it really close this year–a lot went on to where I didn’t think I’d even get to see the show this year…and considering the tour have never OPENED in New Orleans (I know the Season 6/7 mashup was the first to show in New Orleans but I don’t remember it being the FIRST show) I really wanted to have that experience.  Lack of availability to funds for the VIP Experience and to my buddy who usually goes to these things with me had me disappointed, and when you work at the station that airs the TV show and STILL can’t get ticket connections the writing’s pretty much on the wall.  Still, I gave a last-ditch, 11th hour effort and went straight to the theater box office….and walked out with a ticket for a REALLY good seat that didn’t cripple my budget. Yay me!

MAJOR HUMUNGOUS SPOILER ALERT: I will be revealing the swing dancers and describing the show in minute detail from beginning to end. So if you’re going and DON’T want to be surprised, read on. If you want to experience the show fresh, bookmark me and come back later. I’ll give you some time….

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Everybody here that still wants to be?  Okey-dokey!

The show opened with the Broadway number from the finale–Dr. Jazz choreographed by Warren Carlyle and danced by all 13 cast members (if you don’t stalk Twitter and Instagram the swings for this tour are Teddy Coffey, Emily James and Marcquet Hill), followed by the brief introduction of our Top 10 dancers and a quick greeting from Season 11 champion Ricky Ubeda before the full throttle pace of Act 1 got underway.  And I can’t think of a better way to start off my evening than with a solo from my future ex-baby daddy, Emilio Dosal. (My husband knows I’m drooling–he’s seen him dance with IaMme, so I get a pass.)

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The numbers this year appears to be grouped in choreographers’ samplers, so it stands to reason that Tour director Mandy Moore’s work is up first.  After a video introduction the numbers begin in rapid succession, beginning with the girls’ group My Immortal, followed by Foolish Games–originally performed on the show by Serge Onik and Carly Blaney, it was danced by Teddy Coffey and Emily James. (At least I think it was Emily; it may have been Jacque LeWarne.  Those of you with better seats and eyesight feel free to correct me.) Last in the Mandy trilogy–and a big surprise to me–was the Earth Song piece she did for Michael Jackson week.  Jessica Richens reprises her spot but is partnered with Zack Everhart for the Tour.  He does a fairly good job with this; filling Will Wingfield’s shoes is no easy task.

A quick change in pace with a choreo how-to moment from Nappytabs–there is a DANCE MOVE called the YOLO, y’all….I can’t….  Anyway, I recognize the move from a certain hip-hop routine and, sure enough, Emilio is seated on his pharaoh’s throne for Get Low awaiting his pet snake–which for the purposes of this Tour is one Tanisha Belnap.  Good choice, as she’s definitely got the height to match Jasmine Harper….and fortunately, also has the swag.  That costume needs some taking in, as it’s really loose in the hips and not very “snakeskin-like,” but I’ll attribute some of that to the quick costume changes that are going to be necessary as the kids roll along.  A solo break from Zack (speaking of quick changes) as he gives us a bigger taste of the rapid-fire taps he offered on the Hollywood stage, and then it’s Sonya Tayeh’s turn to gush on the kids and the season.  Her tour offerings include the jazz What You Need from Tanisha and Rudy Abreu, Latch–another number original to Serge and Carly but performed by Emilio and Jessica (that boy’s contemporary is really coming up!), and Europe After The Rain, Zack’s tour de force contemporary performance assisted by Tanisha.

Next choreographer up is Spencer Liff, and I have to say, the routines of his I loved I totally did not expect to see on Tour mostly because of the heavy prop factor.  Yet, Jessica and Zack get to play on the stairs at Hernando’s Hideaway, Casey Askew gets to break Bridget Whitman’s heart (instead of Kathryn McCormick’s) in Maybe This Time, and (big surprise–no sarcasm in that at ALL), Valerie Rockey and Ricky coming swinging in on a rainbow with I’ve Got The World On A String.  Having Spencer describe all of the fears and pitfalls this dance had in rehearsal did NOT reassure me, even though the kids pulled it off brilliantly….I was holding my breath the entire number.

Photo credit: Maryann DeAngelis

Photo credit: Maryann DeAngelis

Solo time for Tanisha–one of maybe two sections of ballroom in the entire show this year–and then Emilio and Bridget in the Ray Leeper jazz Long Road To Hell….which is an interesting and serendipitous segue into the Stacey Tookey portion of the program, which begins with Ricky’s Angels duet, performed on stage with Jessica.  They are followed by Take It Easy, Rudy’s week 1 routine with Carly performed with Valerie, and the Michael Jackson inspired She’s Out Of My Life–one of my favorites from that week and Tanisha’s chance to reprise with Casey as the crooner this time.

Quick mood break with a delightful pointe solo from Jacque and another routine I thought wouldn’t make it to Tour but should have–Bridget’s Bollywood Disco Disco Khisko.  That number had so much energy and fun on the show, and I was really happy to see it on Tour.  Naturally, such a fast-paced, high-energy number calls for the most megwatts in the cast, so it’s absolutely no surprised that Rudy won this lotto.  What WAS a surprise was how they pulled this next montage together, as Tanisha, Bridget AND Rudy had such quick changes to get back out.  They got a brief video and set change break so that the other famous set of stairs could come out–come on, two tappers ended up in the top FOUR…did you honestly expect them NOT to have Valerie and Zack come out and do Sing?  Amazing as always–and another heart-stopper, because I believe Valerie had a small slip on the stairs where she had to put her hand down to steady herself.  However, that did NOT stop her from slaying this yet again.  That set the pace to keep the high upbeat energy going into Rudy and Tanisha’s Broadway number Sing, Sing, Sing (part 2), Bridgilio’s Happy jive, and Ricky’s cheeky Bossa Nova Baby–with yet another neck-breaking costume change for Tanisha.  Y’all that girl was busy for the whole of Act 1.  But we couldn’t let Ricky and Tanisha have ALL the fun, as Valerie, Zack, Bridget and Emilio joined in with them for a good part of that number.  It looks good as a sextet, though I AM glad Mandy didn’t have all six of them on the floor trying that tangled up leg thingy.  It looked complicated enough for Ricky and Tanisha, who had a narrow strip of stage between the front edge and the stairs to knock it out.  Y’all DID that.

Still moving through Act 1 (yes, we are STILL in Act 1) with Casey’s solo, which gives us yet another quick change as Zack and Ricky bring out their regal thugly swag for their Two Kings hip-hop routine, The Antidote. The pace slows a little here with the first of only two full original pieces in this year’s Tour–a sextet to American Idol champion Caleb Johnson’s Fighting Gravity. Bridget, Casey, Marcquet, Jessica, Ricky and Jacque move beautifully across the stage in this one, which moves into Tanisha and Rudy again in their sultry Seduces You contemporary, and then finally moves into the Act 1 closer, a slightly remixed version of the group contemporary Take Me To The River. Because the piece is so laid back even with its driving downbeat, I was a little off-put by this being the cap to the first half–until Tanisha and Ricky (could’ve been Marcquet–it’s hard to write in the dark and look at the stage at the same time) busted out a quick cha-cha section and the guys added a little bit of hip-hop on the end. This was one of my lukewarm pieces when it was done on the show, and the lack of camera movement stole a little of the visual zing in person–but the end tweaks made me appreciate it a lot more.

Photo credit: Maryann DeAngelis

Act 2 begins and another of my wish list pieces begins–the Pharside/Phoenix group piece How It’s Done.  Having been a Top 18 number, I had squashed the hope of seeing this reimagined on Tour…and even discovering Marcquet, who danced the black King to Emilio’s white one, was a Tour swing didn’t revive that hope.  That number, if nothing else, was worth my full price of admission.  There was so much going on it that number I assume all of the kids danced a part of it–I am still trying to figure out how all of that went down with Zack and Ricky coming out to perform the Phillip Chbeeb hip-hop Sail.  If you thought I was happy about the previous piece, the show could have stopped right after this number and I would have been completely satisfied. (A little backstory: I had tickets to the SYTYCD Tour in Grand Prairie for Season 5, the year Phillip was a contestant.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I wound up having to sell my tickets and miss the show–which judging from the YouTube clips I scoured the Internet for, was EPIC.  My husband is STILL in the doghouse for making me miss the show, but getting to at least see Phillip’s WORK in person takes a link out of his chain.)  Rounding out this hip-hop section is Emilio and Bridget’s first number together, Luther Brown’s Work, and Tanisha and Rudy’s Good Kisser from Dave Scott.  A slight mood shift here into another Sonya Tayeh two-fer: Ricky and Jessica’s Vow and the group piece Broken.

After Bridget dazzles us with her solo, it’s Travis Wall’s turn in the spotlight. Beginning with the “Equality” piece choreographed for the Top 4 to Wind Beneath My Wings, we go from there to the Bridget and Emilio dark contemporary to The Leaving Song, and then Jessica’s turn with Robert Roldan in When I Go, with Zack once again filling some big All-Star shoes.

Photo credit: Maryann DeAngelis

Next we get a quick, powerful, faint-inducing solo from Rudy (some really lucky girl in the front section stage left went home with the shirt he took off mid-dance and tossed off-stage) and a hip-hop break from Jessica and Marcquet, performing the Nappytabs U Got Me Up hip-hop they affectionately dubbed “Bus Stop Booty.”  These kids are fearless–following well-loved All-Stars is a big enough task, but embracing it AND rising to the challenge?  They mean business.

From here we go into the Stacey Tookey section, spotlighting two of her pieces: Casey’s All-Star contemporary with Makenzie Dustman Over You, danced with Jacque; and the Top 14 contemporary vision of Heaven to the appropriately titled Last Moment.  This number is so much more striking in person, although the lighting and backdrop brought more Purgatory than Heaven to my mind.  Though that may well have been her vision….

Photo credit: Maryann DeAngelis

 

 

Photo credit: Maryann DeAngelis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A second brief video from Nakul Dev Mahajan (which leads me to believe some last-minute shuffles were made to the dance order to accommodate a better flow) has him gushing about the inclusion of all of the Bollywood numbers in the Tour.  While not totally accurate (as the Jessica/Valerie duet from the finale was not among them), it did include most of them, as this was the entrée for Valerie and Ricky’s routine to Dilliwaali Girlfriend. An atypical Tour move has two swing dancers spotlighted–Teddy and Emily get to reprise their week 2 hip-hop from Dave Scott to Ed Sheeran’s Don’t.  Just as I was marveling at the improved swag and more sedate costume change, I am suddenly blinded by the next segue.  The group hip-hop Bang Bang was way too well received for me not to expect it to be on tour, but with the strobes, blacklights and neon EVERYTHING,  I should have brought my shades.  Good LORD that number was loud–and then the music started.

 

Photo credit: Maryann DeAngelis

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Winding down to the end as the first of our Top 2 is up for a solo–Valerie finally comes out with her magic red taps on and dazzled the crowd.  I’m only SLIGHTLY disappointed she chose her Dance With Me Tonight solo over the eponymous Valerie she did for finale….but only slightly.  The girl’s magic no matter what she taps out. Following that is what I suppose were the three biggest crowd favorites but is really the Travis Wall Show, take two (and I’m not complaining AT ALL because I loved all three of these as well): a restaged version of the boys’ group Wave, followed by the stealthiest quick change from Casey I’ve ever seen to join Jessica in the “First Kiss” number Like Real People Do, and the group number ‘Til The Love Runs Out.  Ricky fans might be disappointed, as he’s not dancing this on Tour–that part was subbed out quite brilliantly by my papi Emilio–I mean, he REALLY did a great job with Ricky’s original part.  However, they get to get over it really quick, as Ricky’s solo immediately  follows…hence the substitution.  And he dances with just as much joy, energy and passion as in the first number.

For our finale and last original Tour piece, the kids bring out some Mickey/Bring It On video realness and channel Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, a fun little number that is an appropriate enough choice since Taylor had enough SYTYCD alums in the video to start an alternate tour.  Yeah, there’s dance technique in there but this is the one number that allows to kids to just be themselves and let loose.  I think we finally have this show format down to a science where I  can no longer expect the encores of tours past…which is disappointing as a longtime fan but understandable considering how much they’re now able to pack into a show and the speed with which the kids have to be in their places.  I mean look back, y’all–there might have been seven whole minutes out of a solid hour Tanisha was NOT on stage in Act 1, and Zack wasn’t that far behind her with his changes, either.

With the exception of the one slip on the stairs in Sing, I didn’t see too many first show hiccups, though each dancers assured us there were some.  Considering this was not only their first big show of the Tour but for many of them, their first big show EVER, I think they did an amazing job.  That’s not to say I wasn’t left with a few disappointments–the biggest being that in putting together the show, Mandy Moore completely forgot about Teddy’s tap skills.  When that boy Instagrammed he was going to be on Tour I had my hopes all set on a Piano Man duet with him and Zack.  I think a YouTube video of that in the off-time is owed us.  Also, a smidge more ballroom would have been nice–Tanisha’s solo and the Happy jive notwithstanding, the only other bit was the 32 counts snuck into Take Me To The River?  Rudy’s cha-cha to Maps, Jessica and Marcquet’s foxtrot, even Ricky and Valerie’s Viennese waltz were RIGHT THERE, man…..  I’m EXTREMELY surprised that Turn Down For What? didn’t make the final cut….I can deal with it, given what else did make it, but I really thought that one was a given.  And of course, I’m just not gonna be happy that I didn’t get to see my two boos do Night Shift in person–I got hugs from both of them, so I’ll let that slide.

So that ends another season…and I got to be there first this time.  Not a bad deal.  And if someone wants to bless me with tickets to another show so I can just be a fan, I wouldn’t be mad at that at ALL….. 😀

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Bienvenue–laissez les bon temps roule!

UPDATE: Carly Blaney fans don’t fret–according to her Instagram account she was a little under the weather for the New Orleans show. But she’s clearly feeling better now and ON THE TOUR!

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SYTYCD 11, Top 16–Broken Outlaws

Another week closer to revealing the Top 10….

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

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

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

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

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

Bollywood—Nakul Dev Mahajan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mini groups tonight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD 11, Top 18–Checkmate

Week 3 has begun and yet another round of eliminations is on the board for tonight.

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Guest judge: Misty Copeland apparently didn’t get enough last week, so she’s doing again this week.

Top 18—Hip-Hop
A battle on the chess board…Christopher Scott, with a technical assist from Sonya Tayeh.

Welp….didn’t see that one coming. Fresh blood—Christopher “Pharside” Jennings and Krystal “Phoenex” Meraz from Academy of Villains. Who, I will assume, is the crew on tap for tonight. Let’s find out. (No AoV tonight, but they’ll be performing in the weeks to come.)

Bottom 6:
Bridget, Emilio, Emily, Stanley, Jourdan, Teddy

America, you suck. Emilio is my highest concern, and I want Stanley to have a better shot…so that leaves Teddy. As for the girls, I’m calling Emily right now but that may change once everyone has danced.

Jacque/Zach
Hip-Hop—Keone and Mari Madrid

They’re back! I haven’t scoured their YouTube videos but hopefully this is totally fresh and a snarky fan won’t pull them up doing it after the show. The story is about a couple that’s about to get together, and the ballerina and the hoofer are both having trouble nailing down the intricacies of the choreography.

If acting could win this, Zach would have a lock on the finals. He seemed to grab on to the steps pretty well, and Jacque hung with it, too. Still a bit smiley, and though I’m sure there were probably some moments where she was supposed to gaze at him adoringly, it was more of a pasted performance smile than a “I think I’m falling for this guy” smile.

Cat had recollections of the Mark/Chelsea “Bleeding Love” routine from Season 4; I got more of a Phillip/Jeanine “Mad” vibe myself….Mary is enjoying the versatility coming from the two of them, and was impressed with the interaction between them; Nigel feels that Jacque is doing very well looking like she belongs in the styles she’s been given, and is thrilled by the high level of commitment Zach throws into his work; Misty co-signs with the others and praises them on the deepening and improvement of their partnership.

Jourdan/Marcquet
Contemporary—Dee Kaspery

A couple trying to disappear, and needing to find a place to be happy.

Trying to understand why the umbrellas are there and how they connect to disappearing (or not disappearing)….Dee and these props. They looked out of sync in the unison section and some parts had Marcquet looking like a solely hip-hop trained dancer attempting contemporary for the first time. Jourdan managed to take off enough of her edges to not be balletic in this.

Cat, don’t invoke that song…I beg of you….

Nigel thought the routine was challenging and they did well enough, but is not quite able to connect with them personally as a couple, acquiescing to Misty regarding Marcquet’s form—she notes his shakiness in his bottom half that could be better grounded by shifting his weight more forward over his toes, and also remarks on a lack of vulnerability in Jourdan’s facial expression detracting from everything else that she is executing well. Mary agrees with the other two but does note a bit of magic in their opening pose, as well as a connection with Marcquet in his partnering.

Jessica/Stanley
Jazz—Tyce Diorio

Funky carpet ride…and they have to make it fly with their performance.

I’m not sure exactly how complicated the choreography really was, but they made it look effortless. Not sure about their connection in such a short span of time.

Also, I’m not entirely sure I want to know what or where a mosquito’s tweeter is…. O.o

Misty thinks Jessica and Stanley are both overdoing it a touch with their faces and advises them to tone that down and let the superb work their bodies are doing shine; Mary is impressed with Stanley’s fearlessness and agrees about Jessica’s overselling the facial expressions; Nigel agrees with the others about Jessica and advises Stanley to rein in some of the strength and power flying through his limbs and channel it toward his core for a stronger dancing base.

Bridget/Emilio
Jive—Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev

Typical struggles of non-ballroom dancers trying to pick up one of the fastest styles in one week. Bridget, could you NOT try to break his nose again? I’d like Emilio to dance a few more weeks, please.

OK, y’all can’t possibly in good conscience vote off a couple that danced to “Happy”—that automatically has to be on tour, and thusly, you have to get these two to Top 10. Fortunately, they do a passable job in pulling off this jive. It does help that Anya and Pasha put in a lot of elements that are within their own styles and comfort levels, but from what I could see the flicks and kicks were sharp and the passes were decent.

Mary was impressed at how well they did with a foreign style (but she’s getting Sometimer’s disease or something, because she dubbed Anya the originator of the Hot Tamale Train, and I CLEARLY remember her putting Sabra and Dominic on with their rumba in Season 3. Maybe I need to go back a few episodes to double check….) and thought they had lots of energy, and while she gave Emilio feedback on improving his technique she felt Bridget seems to grasp and execute it quite well. Nigel commends Emilio on doing well with the very-outside-the-norm jive and thought Bridget was gorgeous in technique and appearance. Misty thought their performance level was on point and that Bridget embraced the note from last week about blending her strength and femininity.

Emily/Teddy
Contemporary—Tyce Diorio

A look deep into a soul that’s saying “Don’t ever leave me.” Well they’re definitely going to need to be connected tonight, aren’t they?

Very abstract and out there, but Teddy’s contemporary form is really something. Emily was good too, but that’s her area.

Nigel thought their performance got very close to touching the human spirit and they danced beautifully; Misty said even though Emily doesn’t speak French, her body does—and was delighted by the articulation in her feet (“you should dance like you’re barefoot every week”). She was also wowed by Teddy and feels that he translates into every genre with ease. Mary feels the same about Emily as Misty felt about Teddy, and was mesmerized for the first time by Teddy.

Brooklyn/Casey
Jazz—Bonnie Story

A boy at a high school prom who wants to ask a girl to dance. Bonnie is very adamant that they keep in character and away from the “technique face” while they’re dancing. I’ll look and see if I can tell what she’s talking about.

This should have been a jive, with Michael Bublé putting his jazzy spin on Freddie Mercury, but it was cute…except for that wanna-be beehive on Brooklyn’s head. That nearly distracted me from watching for the technique, which was really good especially in their unison sections. Didn’t see much face action, but I’m sure the judges will have something to say about it.

Misty was impressed by Brooklyn’s improvement (but noted a little “technique face” when performing outside of genre dance skills) and completely enamored by Casey; Mary thought it was really fun and agreed with Misty’s assessment on both dancers; Nigel makes three and while he did note that Brooklyn coped well with the difficulties of the routine compared to her skill set, he did caution her to dance up to Casey’s level in order to remain safe from possible elimination.

Valerie/Ricky
Viennese Waltz—Lacey Schwimmer

It’s nice to see both the Schwimmer kids working—first Benji last week, and now Lacey this week. I’m guessing the DWTS experience honed her Viennese waltz expertise, since I thought she was mostly Latin trained…but hey, she’s here and doing it, so let’s see what’s on tap. Or, it seems, I should have said on TAPE….did she really duct tape those children together?!? Yessss indeed….

I will say that Valerie is working her little fanny off to capture the styles thrown at her; while some of her attempts to hit certain positions seems a bit choppy she was rounding her arms and doing her damnedest to make them fluid. I’ll defer to Mary about Ricky’s posture and form but it seemed to me that his leading arm had a little too much play in it and should have held stronger. Still, the performance level and connection between these two is really something special. I liked it in spite of hearing this particular Jason Mraz song for the bazillionth time on this show…..

Damn—NIGEL stood up?!? Wow—can’t wait to hear these comments. Mary was quite taken with the pair—praising Ricky’s topline while cautioning him to smooth out the rise and fall in the lower half, and then giving Valerie’s performance glowing reviews while admonishing her to tighten her core to do the head lean instead of dropping into her sides. Nigel declined to speak on their technique and chose to hail their performance level as “beyond reproach,” and thought Valerie’s improvement in rising to Ricky’s standard was stunning and remarkable. Misty agreed with Nigel on all fronts.

(I don’t know what’s on these children’s faces, but as I didn’t see Sonya’s purple hair in the audience, I don’t think it’s her doing.)

Carly/Serge
Hip-Hop—Luther Brown

I haven’t mentioned anyone else’s “deep dark secret” this week, but I have to do this one: Serge—DUDE?!? You’re practically family with the Chmerkovskys and you didn’t channel Maks last week for that contemporary? I’mma need you to do better.

Skeleton people—not something I expected out of Luther Brown. He’s impressed with Carly’s swag, though (guess that dance team experience is paying off). Serge is trying to find his “creepy yet gangsta” sweet spot—I’m wondering if this will have any of the feel of the Pasha/Lauren G. routine from Season 3.

This was definitely more Carly than Serge, but he gave a really good effort. I think he put a little too much slouch in where he was trying to be less erect in his posture, which kind of made the creepy gangsta look more like slouchy sloth. Hard to tell if either did as expected since this number was incredibly laid back.

Nigel thinks this number may make it difficult for the public to rush to vote for them—not because of lack of execution but because the amount of intricacy and effort may not be readily picked out by the viewer. (In short, he basically gave voice to the misgivings I expressed above.) Misty somewhat disagrees, feeling that the public should be made to know how difficult it is for the dancers to switch genres, and ultimately gain a better appreciation for the routines and their execution. Having said that, she went on to compliment Serge on becoming an all-around dancer and Carly on shining in the number. (“But I’m from this generation….” Did she just get in a sly dig on Nigel? Misty, you bold, girl!) Mary also thought Carly was a beast and was fascinated with Serge’s efforts.

Tanisha/Rudy
Broadway—Warren Carlyle

Classic Broadway with canes. Let the mishaps ensue.

The number was “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the version from Fosse, and I dare say, Rudy pulled off some Fosse-like jumps in that. Mixed with a little Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and dare I say, Jess LeProtto—Rudy could get that role if he stays the course in this competition. I’m not particularly drawn in by Tanisha on a general basis, and as this is not as in-your-face as her jazz performance last week, my eyes were drawn to Rudy most of the time. She hit all of her steps but it wasn’t the same strong energy as I’m used to from her…either that, or Rudy’s star really was supernova bright tonight.

Standing O from the judges……Misty thought Rudy was IT, and said the pair danced in unison but let their individual personalities shine through. She did give Tanisha notes on lengthening herself in pirouette to stay on balance, but loved the number overall. Mary called it a showstopper, and was just as impressed with the pair; while Nigel thought their through-the-roof energy brought magic to the stage.

Now see, I was trying to be nice and give these children some breathing room, but since the “secrets” interviews pretty much outed Jacque and Rudy, Cat somehow feels compelled to put them on national blast. Those poor babies turned beet red under those hot lights and all that grilling….but this little crush is too cute!

A Great Big World (whose “Say Something” was probably heavily instrumental in securing Amy Yakima’s victory last year) performs on the stage tonight, reprising that tune on the stage where it made them household names, backed tonight by the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir.

Eliminations are up, and I dread hearing about the guys. I don’t want any of them to go, but again, if I have to go on weakest performance, I’m afraid my Stanley is next to go. I think Emily saved herself with the contemporary, so unless there are serious misgivings about Bridget’s jive that went unvoiced, that extremely abstract piece of Jourdan’s will be her swan song. Dee Kaspery numbers have not fared well on this show so far, so that’s another strike working against her chances.

After deliberating, the judges decide to go with America’s vote (more proof that y’all suck) that it is indeed Stanley and Jourdan going home. I hate that I called two weeks in a row correctly, and this week is a bigger shame because I think given the right number Stanley would have blown the voters away. Though I’m not particularly attached to any of the girls this season, it was my hope that both ballerinas could get to the Top 10. I can’t be totally angry, as one has already triumphed and there’s still one in this year’s race, but I’m still saddened for Jourdan. Her partner, Marcquet, will make Jessica’s third—the public saved her last week but as one-half in another weak number her chances are marginal.

I’m not sure exactly where America’s heads are at (I have an inkling, but I’m trying to be polite) as far as who is grabbing the popularity vote, but this is one crazy ride.

SYTYCD 11, Top 20–Dropped Calls

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

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

Top 18 group–Broadway

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

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

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

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

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

Tanisha/Rudy

Jazz–Sonya Tayeh

Cat and mouse power play.

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

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

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

Valerie/Ricky

Contemporary–Travis Wall

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

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

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

Bridget/Emilio

Hip-Hop–Luther Brown

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

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

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

Jessica/Nick

West Coast Swing–Benji Schwimmer

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

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

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

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

Carly/Serge

Contemporary– Sonya Tayeh

Unbreakable love.

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

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

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

Emily/Teddy

Hip-Hop–Dave Scott

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

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

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

Malene/Stanley

Broadway–Spencer Liff

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

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

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

Jourdan/Marcquet

Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

Brooklyn/Casey

Argentine Tango–Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

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

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

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

Jacque/Zach

African Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

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

*deep sigh* Results time….

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

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

Next week’s predictions:

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

This season is really going to be a challenge….

SYTYCD Season 11, Top 20–All About the Digits

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11 seasons, 200 live shows, 211 contestants on the Hollywood stage, countless routines and showstopping moments. What an amazing accomplishment for a show spotlighting the craft of dance.

No separate performance show this year, but the dancers don’t have to worry about leaving tonight; however, these performances will influence the vote and someone’s dancing for the last time next week.

Top 20 group—Jazz

It looked Sonya/Mia like but it was kinda sexy, so I was hedging bets. It indeed was the Purple-Haired one (Sonya’s color of the season, apparently…and it matched the costumes).

The contestants all dance in their own styles tonight—so basically we DO get a performance show, but it’s not an exhibition.

Judges this week are Nigel, Mary, and guest judge Jason DeRulo. He’s not new to the judging process and he’s got some badass moves, but since I’ve only seen snippets of his critiques I need to see what he’s made of. Oh…they’re letting him perform tonight as well? Well alrighty then….

(A role in a Broadway show is in the grand prize package this year—nice!)

Season 11 and the dancers get only 8 seconds…the cutbacks are THAT bad for this show?!?

Oh, and the new wipe is BOSS—I like the dancer silhouette as a change from elementary stuff like the star pattern.

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Brooklyn/Serge

Cha-Cha—Dmitry Chaplin

Serge is a sweater! And they have to get extra up close and personal…too funny. But they’re pros—they can handle it.

OK….WHY exactly did y’all make Serge wait a whole season to be on this show? Oh right….Y’ALL ARE IDIOTS. That dude is HAWT. Still sussing out Brooklyn—she dances straight up and down like Lindsay but there’s a hint of Witney bad girl in her, at least for this number. Solid number from the pair.

Mary thought it was hot but noticed Brooklyn’s nerves throwing off her timing a little, but proud of her for reeling it in; Jason thinks the number would look cool in his show; Nigel agreed with Mary on both counts and also noted Brooklyn’s slight lack of chemistry and connection with Serge.

(Cat, sweetie, you’ve done TEN seasons, unless you’ve recently changed your name to Lauren Sanchez….)

Voting has been shuttled to the digital world—online and app only. Phooey. But voting ends at 10 AM the next day…so the dancers get to campaign for themselves a little.

Emily/Casey

Contemporary—Travis Wall

A couple with relationship issues again. Lovely.

Casey is a very strong presence. Emily definitely matched him, but he’s got a pull she’s going to have to work hard to shine next to.

Jason was pulled in like he was watching The Haves and the Have Nots…and when did he and Jordin Sparks start dating? Nigel agreed and thought the excellent technique served to amplify the emotion and the story portrayed. He also took a moment to laud both Travis and Dmitry—coincidentally both Season 2 veterans (wow, this show HAS been here awhile….). Mary makes three and loves both the technique and the partnership, pronouncing it “yummy.”

Valerie/Zach

Tap—Anthony Morigerato

A staircase is involved…what fun.

It’s official—the ballroom round duet is what got them on the show. Yes, their taps are badass, but I believe that’s just a bonus. Their CHEMISTRY is incredible! And to keep up that pace AND have to run up and down stairs? Just awesome!

WOW. Nigel’s first eleven words. His only complaint was that the audience cheering was keeping him from hearing the fullness of the taps. Not a terribly wretched problem in the grand scheme of things…. Mary’s near screaming talking to the kids and is simply enamored, calling Zach a genius and Valerie a star; Jason refrained from swatting Mary away from his ear and just dropped the tap bomb—oh really, now? That’s an extra gold star on your resume, sir. (Even Cat is surprised.) Anyway, he thought it was unbelievable and notes the actual DANGER in dancing up and down stairs in tap shoes.

Bridget/Stanley

Contemporary—Bonnie Story

Yep—put the two kids together that lost their parent cheerleader. Aside from the obvious double heartstring pull (it is what it is, kids), their energies match well. Haven’t seen Bonnie Story since the bullying group routine last season, and tonight’s piece is yet another couple on the outs. What I’m seeing in rehearsals is bringing flashes of Caitlynn and Mitchell’s “Turning Tables” from Season 8…their forms are SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICK. Lord Jesus, I could watch that boy dance all day. I love you too, Bridget, but DAMN. They’re struggling a bit with chemistry but they’re determined.

This is gonna look SO good on tour….

Yes, Jason DeRulo is sniffling. Dude–Mary is touched but still dry-eyed, mayn! Mary says they both have it all going on, Jason felt the story and thought they looked effortless when they danced (and actually asked Bridget for a foot massage since she has this foot thing according to the 8 second bio. Nigel’s trying to cause trouble, but we ALL know Jordin ain’t touching them bunions!), and Nigel thought they were tremendous and display classical technique brilliantly.

They really meant they were pairing the people with regard to their own style….I had hoped but didn’t really expect it. But…..

Jourdan/Jacque

Ballet—Marat Daukeyev (did Eliana and Chehon’s pas de deux in Season 9)

SKKKKKKKRRRRRR!!!!! Hold up…did this girl just say she has a PRE-MED DEGREE?!? I’m impressed. Grueling, old-style, Russian classical duet. This should be good….

Sure, let’s START the number with 15 straight fouettes….one girl is a little better that the other—saw a couple of bobbles from Jacque in the last part of the number. She covered well, and that’s a monster pointe routine, but the judges are going to notice…and speak on it.

And now Jason comes from a POINTE background…boy, have several seats! Too foolish. Cat and Nigel had good jokes, though…..he was definitely wowed. Nigel introduced the American viewing public to the Vaganova technique (took two semesters of it in college—definitely culture shock from growing up on Cecchetti) and acknowledged the 15 fouettes (Jason, the 16th count was them landing so they could shake off the semi-dizziness and launch into the next section of balletic insanity) while cautioning Jacque on her turnout in attitude and Jourdan on her elevation. Mary marveled about the near-synchronicity between the two girls. And Marat seemed pleased.

Jason DeRulo and Snoop Dogg Wiggle break!!!!!!! (I’m sorry, that cat and Shaquille O’Neill will NOT get out of my head!)

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Malene/Marcquet

Samba—Louis van Amstel

I feel better misspelling your name now that I know you WERE named after the university….

Louis’s getting dangerous like Darkwing Duck…and Malene is not quite here for it. But the kids are giving it their all.

*checking for which part of Africa lies in Louis van Amstel’s family tree* DAMN LOUIS! That was awesomely tribal! Both were stunning and Marcquet took those connection/chemistry notes to heart. He’s got a good shot at Top 10, especially judging from his non-ballroom performances in the callbacks. Malene is doing quite well, too—as long as she stays open to adventure and keeps pushing into the discomfort she’ll go far.

Nigel praised the “bull out of the chute” energy coming from Malene and called Marcquet a force to be reckoned with. Mary was amazed and impressed, equally enamored with Malene’s energy and intention…though I thought I was gonna have to cut her for a minute, daring to use the words “worst” and “Marcquet” in the same breath—since I didn’t SEE Marcquet’s jive in callbacks I’ll give her some rope. But watch it, sister…. Jason thought they were in their element and displayed it perfectly.

Carly/Rudy

Contemporary—Stacey Tookey

Cuban Redneck?!? SMH Though the Cubans and the Italians must have some very similar characteristics…probably why the buds gave me that Jersey vibe. (Is THAT why he and Nick remind me of Jesse?) Anyway, a piece about slowing down and enjoying life, trying to get two goofballs to get serious.

Never have I seen a choreographer take their lyrics so literally. I really don’t remember seeing ANY of Carly onscreen before tonight—my initial WTF during the announcement process has been instantly replaced with OTW…oh, THAT’S why. I like Rudy’s power, and Stacey got some of the edges to soften for this piece. I’m concerned that he had to force that fourth pirouette around in the middle, but he got it in and kept the flow of the piece. Mary thought the passion was palpable, but also noticed some of Rudy’s technical bobbles. Didn’t stop her from choking up and virtually ignoring it for the tremendous heart he displays when he dances, though…or from marveling at Carly’s stunning ability. Jason thought they amplified the intensity and sense of possibility, and proclaimed that they would not be among the number going home next week. (Are FOUR people going home? No, Nigel says two.) Nigel called this the best Top 20 group ever (Eh. We’ll see.), praising Carly’s technique and Rudy’s likability and vulnerability—and agrees with Jason.

Emilio/Teddy

Hip-Hop—Christopher Scott

I knew this is where they were putting the boy-on-boy pair. I saw Teddy’s swag in the Top 20 intro, and knowing already what Milli brings to the party, I’m excited to see this.

(Teddy just SANG his eight seconds and Emilio got his mack daddy on. Yeah, I’m married…..and I’m STILL throwing my panties at the screen. I’ll be Hispanic in a minute…don’t make me Google the last four digits of that phone number…. (getting my language CDs polished up and back in the CD player. BTW, props for shouting out the crew. IaMmE for LIFE, YO!))

These two hip-hop hotties, a mop and bucket, and Christopher MF’ing Scott. You had me at hello.

THEY. ARE. DANCING. TO. NIGHTSHIFT. THE FREAKIN’ COMMODORES. The sentimental value of that song has just skyrocketed this for me.

I’m about to be extremely selfish and possibly mean right now—I’m really glad Emilio broke his nose. The world really needed to see Aaron Turner last year, and Emilio needed the year off to come back and look like THAT. Papi, I’m renaming you Carlos and renaming Teddy Santana, ‘cause that $#!t was SMOOOOOTH. Y’all got skills, y’all got charisma, y’all got energy—and as long as y’all don’t pull Russian folk dancing or something off the wall like that, y’all got two Top 10 and Tour spots on LOCK. I will have found my Nightshift dance school graduation line jacket by then, so be ready for pics. (Small pause to pick up all the panties and shoes that just got hurled at my TV.)

(Second viewing….did Emilio just do an air flare ON THE EDGE OF THE DESK?!? Boyyyyyyyyeeeeeee……..)

Jason is claiming a hip-hop background—hell, I’d jump on that bandwagon too behind these guys, with or without the skills. Super dope is not enough to cover it, but that’ll do for now…Nigel marveling at their connection and Emilio’s tricks, while outing Teddy as the third tapper in the bunch. I see you, boo! Mary was mesmerized and dubbed them strong enough to be featured in the next Step Up movie. Guess I gotta watch the others so I can eventually see these guys on the big screen (a girl can hope, can’t she?).

And leave it to Emilio to work in some hand motions despite not having a phone number to pitch…..sigh. Those undies are just gonna have to stay on the floor.

(I’m sorry….whose bright idea was it to put two couples after these two hams? Hope these kids have enough in the tank to make a gigantic impression.)

Jessica/Ricky

Contemporary—Sonya Tayeh
(Somebody else that will eat spaghetti sauce but not tomatoes—I am NOT crazy, Ma!)

The ultimate connection—literally and figuratively. And dangerously, looking at that in-rehearsal head butt—yikes!

Gigantic impression….yep, that oughta do it. Jessica is compelling (and at the risk of sounding mean again, she is what Alexa Anderson wanted to be on this show). Ricky was captivating throughout the entire audition process, so I expected no less on the competition stage. Other world beautiful indeed, Cat.

Nigel agrees with Cat’s pronouncement, and judging from the near-silent audience during and the stuttering Nigel afterwards, I think we can take that as gospel. He also said though he was sad this partnership would be splitting last week, it’s a good thing because they’d have walked away with the titles otherwise. Ones to watch on the Top 10 track, y’all…. (Harry Potter, Nigel? That “magician of dance” comment did NOT save you. Though I CAN see Puck/Robin Goodfellow there, Cat….) And as we move to Mary, Nigel goes from stuttering idiot to completely unable to STFU, gushing about the technique and putting the number in the all-time best list. Mary says it came from heaven and put voice to my thoughts about her having to dance for her life in callbacks—I see it as evidence of her fighting spirit as a competitor, though. Mary seconds the best and catches Nigel’s diarrhea of the mouth, giving Jason mere seconds to give any perspective on the number, but he thanks them for stealing his breath and blessing us with their performance.

Tanisha/Nick

Cha-Cha—Louis van Amstel

Well, they certainly picked the right four to follow the Hip-Hop Hams….

Kids, holy rollers and old people, cover your eyes, ‘cause I’m about to curse.
FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.

Mayn…..I mean…..OK, Nigel, you were right. I cannot find fault with the technique of any one of these 20, plus their performance energy is beyond insane. I’m stealing from all my favorite bloggers right now…I can’t, I’m unable to can, I am in a state of unablement, I am done as bread. (OK, the last one I stole from my childhood hairdresser, but I am as speechless as Nigel was a minute ago.)

Speed critiques that gave high praise (and Mary even worked in a correction)…and where was that kiss?!? Rewinding the TiVo….

Next week is the hat-draw for couples and styles, and the first elimination. I have mixed feelings about this—everybody at least got the opportunity to burn the floor in their own styles but risks leaving right before they get the chance to branch out into the other styles.

200 looks good on you, babe….