SYTYCD 11, Top 10–Counting (All) Stars

The Top 10 are in and rolling with the All-Stars for the first time this week–and the judges’ influence no longer applies. The decisions are all on America now.

Olympic gold medalist, figure skater and actress Tara Lipinski is on the performance show panel for the first time. I love Tara but I’m not overly sure about this; while I realize figure skaters do have to have some dance training to smooth out their routines and now a thing or two about intense competition, being able to critique dance technique is an entirely different scenario.

Image courtesy of  19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Top 10 group–Hip-Hop

Last Chance Saloon—good LORD that’s a loud number. And that’s just the costumes and scenery. The song of the night should have been “Sunglasses at Night.” At least that’s how I had to watch it to see the choreography. I’m surprised that I’m not more familiar with Jamal Sims–I certainly recognize a lot of his work outside of this first SYTYCD appearance.

Bridget (with All-Star Brandon Bryant)
Bollywood Disco(?!?)—Nakul Dev Mahajan

Good Lord! Two of the fastest, most intricate dance styles meshed into one? And poor Brandon might as well have just trained in disco because it seems like he’s the only All-Star that’s called back to do either of them.

This was fast and furious and Bridget was here for all of it—she had the sass Valerie needed a few weeks ago and then some. Brandon did a great job recovering from the underrotation of that aerial cartwheel…good thing he isn’t being judged.

Tara loved the performance—how interactive and rhythmic it was and thought it was a moving puzzle; Mary threw out the five Ss: strength, stamina, speed, skill and spirit…and of course she added a sixth S–SCREAM ; Nigel thought it was inspirational and that Bridget did well keeping up with the insanely fast and physical routine. Though I wish he’d left the corny jokes where he found them.

(And to announce right after that performance that she’s in the bottom of the votes SUCKS.)

Tanisha (with All-Star Ryan Dilello)
Argentine Tango—Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

Miriam and Leonardo take the fact that they have two stellar ballroom dancers and run with it, throwing in every complicated move and lift they can imagine.

WTH? As if that lingering star lift wasn’t enough, Ryan basically tossed Tanisha in the air, spun her around his neck and dropped her into a mermaid pose in 4.7 seconds….technically it was brilliant but the passion seems a bit forced and over the top for me. Tanisha by herself though was ON FIRE.

Mary’s excited—about both technique and stage presence; Nigel thinks she hasn’t put a foot wrong since she’s been on the show; Tara was impressed by the smoldering sexiness of the solo opening. (Tanisha’s safe going in.)

Emilio (with All-Star Jasmine Harper)
Hip-Hop—Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo

Cue the Degree dancer montage….. *eye roll* Guess they had to put it somewhere….

It’s a Nappytabs sighting! King Emilio and his pet snake who’s trying to take over the throne. Ooooookay…..

Choreography was dope, and the right dancer got it. I’m thinking Jasmine would have been better suited in that silver snakeskin number she wore with Aaron last season, but she is definitely exuding some serious sexy here…and once again proving that she can hang with hip-hop.

Nigel praises Emilio’s improvement; Tara’s mind is blown; Mary thought it was sensational.
(Emilio is the first in the bottom for the guys…have I mentioned how much this BLOWS?)

Valerie (with All-Star Ade Obayomi)
Jazz—Tyce Diorio

Tyce Diorio is challenging Valerie to go into her meaner, more aggressive side.

It’s difficult to believe that Valerie is a tap specialist when she pulls out these amazing performances in contemporary and contemporary-looking dance styles. Although I think choreographically, Ade did most of the heavy lifting (both figurative and literal), Valerie did come across well and complemented his movement. On a side note, that boy is getting thicker and I’m not sure how I feel about it…maybe it’s because the shirt is ON….

Tara called it interesting—didn’t see the connection with the character’s anger throughout the piece but thought her physicality in the lifts was very strong; Mary agrees to a point but thinks she’s progressed another step in her development; Nigel rounds it out, loving the works but thought Valerie came across as tight and self-conscious. (Valerie is safe.)

Rudy (with All-Star Jenna Johnson)
Cha-Cha—Louis van Amstel

Louis van Amstel has them “dancing out their attraction to each other.”

And Rudy is doing quite well at pulling that off. I know from the first performance videos he’s got at least a little bit of ballroom training in him, but with the skills he’s displaying coupled with his magnetic stage presence, you’d think it would have been him instead of his buddy Nick that would have auditioned under the ballroom genre. I saw what looked like a mishap on that last move and end pose, but if it was, he made it look intentional. He and Jenna were evenly matched in this routine.
Mary thought they were hot, and that Rudy was full of chemistry and power….so naturally Rudy gets a ticket on the train; Nigel apologizes to Rudy for thinking his being full of life was him being full of himself, though he did caution Rudy not to go over the top with the winks and asides since his personality was plenty; Tara thought that Jenna set the bar high, and Rudy matched it brilliantly. (Rudy is safe.)

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Jacque (with All-Star Chehon Wespi-Tchopp)
Contemporary Ballet—Travis Wall

Of all of the choreographers I would have figured to be on tap for this—Dwight Rhoden, Desmond Richardson, etc.—I would not have even put Travis Wall on my radar. I know he’s a contemporary dance genius, but I have no knowledge of his expertise with ballet. Still, his expansive creativity gives him credence in my book. Another piece that’s all about the connection between the dancers rather than portraying a story.

Choreography was executed perfectly—the worst part about the number is that it ended. There was simply not enough dance there…it could have gone on much longer despite the fact that there were more contestants to perform and it’s only a two-hour show. (And I had to watch it several times before I could apply my television professional eye to that Steadicam one-shot–that really was an excellent choice to showcase this particular piece.)

Nigel was wowed and thought Jacque elevated her technique and performance energy elevated to a higher level; Tara thought it was flawless overall; Mary agrees and called the performance—as well as Jacque—exquisite.

(Jacque is the other girl in the bottom….had I watched before I spoiled the results to go vote, the writing would have already been on the wall here.)

Ricky (with All-Star Lauren Frodeman)
Jazz—Mandy Moore

Mandy Moore does a nod toward rockabilly and wants the dance to have a fun party feel in spite of all of the difficulty and complexity she’s throwing into it.

Mandy Moore is psycho. Who throws that much into one dance? I have to say that Lauren really nailed down why she won—the first person this season to pull focus from Ricky. That’s not an easy thing to do, either. I will say he held his own with the choreography and did a good balancing act of letting loose and hitting his forms and marks with precision. And those last eight counts of Kama Sutra-esque, Twister-like leg wrapping was mind-blowing….

Nigel praised Ricky (as expected) for raising his dance level and for taking some complicated choreography and making it look simple; Tara was enjoying the number so much she was dancing in her seat; Mary buys the third ticket on the Love Train and says that there’s nothing he can’t do. (Ricky is safe—and I’m typing this before they even open the envelope.)

Casey (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Broadway—Spencer Liff

Spencer Liff and the “he loves me, he loves me not” game. Casey’s acting skills are called upon this week, which seems to be a challenge to layer those on top of the impeccable technique.

He does OK emoting his movements but he’s right on the line of “over the top.” Not going to bother re-typing the same stuff I’ve been saying for weeks about his technique…y’all already know….

Mary thinks Casey is quickly becoming a star and thought he dug into the character work very well; Nigel thought the style really suits Casey coupled with his technique and amplified by the breakout performance with Jessica last week…and even ventures to class him as not only a contender but a threat in relation to Saint Ricky; Tara was equally enamored and thought his performance was wholly believable. (Casey is safe…which automatically puts Zach in the bottom with Emilio.)

Jessica (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo

Another Nappytabs joint tonight…in this one Jessica’s a pin-up girl passing by this “old cat” at the bus stop (when one of the dancers you pretty much watched grow up in his career is not only referred to as an “old cat” but says himself that he’s “dancing like he’s 20 again,” it’s time to re-evaluate how close you are to that AARP notice in the mail). Jessica is beyond thrilled to have the triple dream trifecta of a Nappytabs duet with tWitch on SYTYCD just dropped in her lap. Let’s see if she really can hang….

I’m sorry….I’m supposed to be judging Jessica but all I can see is this pot belly and gray hair on tWitch and I can’t help but hear the words “Lemme holla at cha” looped in my head. Too damn funny. However, for the speed, precision and synchronization required for this number Jessica did very well. I’m a little unsure about her characterization, but some of her over the top was necessary in her case.

Tara called it unreal and thought Jessica exceeded every expectation; Mary said it was off the charts and memorable; Nigel notes that Jessica has again lived up to her potential…and that she’s classed as a jazz dancer, which I honestly didn’t remember. I had her in contemporary with the rest of the viewing public. (Since Jessica went in safe, she was more at ease with her performance.)

Zach (with All-Star Amy Yakima)
Contemporary—Sonya Tayeh

Sonya Tayeh offers an emotional tribute to a friend who’s passed all too soon. (Side note: I started typing my notes after hearing of Robin Williams’s untimely passing, so there’s a different tinge to my view than if I’d done this the night of like I usually do.)
Honestly, Zack is this season’s Fik-Shun. He’s more trained, but as his area of specialty is in something that one would not expect him to be able to branch out from, he’s been quite impressive week after week in styles not his own. Not to mention this is the second time he’s wowed Sonya. I’m ready to see what Fik-Shun’s partner will bring out of him.

Y’all can sleep on Zack if y’all want to—that boy is more well-rounded than we think. I believed him way back to that Keone and Mari hip-hop, and this is a WAY deeper level of emotion. Not to mention the exquisite and impressive form and technique—you really can’t just look at him and see the word “TAP” in flashing neon letters. Bravo, sweetie.

OK, with both Sonya and Amy near tears and the entire audience and panel on their feet, this critique session is gonna be stellar….Nigel is momentarily speechless, and in the midst of genuflecting at Sonya Tayeh’s well-deserving feet (and stunning everyone with the announcement of her new—and equally well deserved—assignment with the Martha Graham company), hailed Zack as stunning. Tara thought that Amy’s pronouncement of a “wow” moment was an understatement and is equally speechless, and Mary proclaimed it a masterpiece through tears and a lump in her throat.

(I am saddened that the choice came down to Emilio and Zack….no matter how this came down or when I saw it, I was destined to hate America for this. However, it just goes to further prove what I said about the high bar the guys have set this year.)

Christina Perri’s career was made on this show when Stacey Tookey heard her not even released yet song “Jar of Hearts”, choreographed a routine to it and put it on display for the SYTYCD audience. Christina returns to the stage that helped make her with an assist from Kathryn and Chehon. What a lovely trio.

By now I already know that Bridget and my beloved Emilio are leaving tonight, and while I realize it’s a difficult decision between the four in the bottom I am no less angry at America’s decision…almost to the point of not even wanting to finish out the season as a viewer and reviewer. All four of these dancers have given the performances of their lives on this evening’s stage, and sadly it’s of no consequence at this stage. Not even the comfort of them being solidly committed for the Tour is enough to pacify me. Te quiero mucho indeed, papi….

Anywho, I shall regroup and realign my allegiances….and continue to watch my creative lifeline. After all, it’s just too much talent to just ignore.

On tap for next week are the following All-Star pairings (I kind of like the heads-up, as it’s a different kind of anticipation to see where the kids take things):

Tanisha gets Season 1 champion Nick Lazzarini
Ryan Dilello’s back next week, and coming for Valerie this time
Mrs. Boss hits the stage next week—Allison Holker dances with Rudy
And of course, Mr. Boss tags along for a repeat….and the irony of tWitch pairing with Jacque is not lost on me
Jaimie Goodwin makes an appearance as an All-Star, and Ricky looks like his bucket list just got completed with one check
Casey earns this week’s head-tilting pairing, as he’s slated to dance with Comfort Fedoke
Jessica gets blessed by the heavenly presence that is Will Wingfield….I’m excited for her and pray she lives up to him (yeah, I’m biased dammit)
And last, but not least, another underrated dancer gets her due—last season’s Makenzie Dustman is coming back for Zack. I smell another emotional breakthrough coming.

AND it’s Michael Jackson week….Y’all just knew I couldn’t quit you, didn’t ya?

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(OK…the fact that both Bridget and Emilio just came barreling from the sidelines toward their friends with huge smiles and big hugs takes again some of my bitterness….what champs these kids are. Long live Bridgilio!)

Long Live Bridgilio!

Long Live Bridgilio!

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SYTYCD 11, Top 20–Dropped Calls

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

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

Top 18 group–Broadway

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

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

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

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

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

Tanisha/Rudy

Jazz–Sonya Tayeh

Cat and mouse power play.

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

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

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

Valerie/Ricky

Contemporary–Travis Wall

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

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

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

Bridget/Emilio

Hip-Hop–Luther Brown

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

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

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

Jessica/Nick

West Coast Swing–Benji Schwimmer

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

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

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

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

Carly/Serge

Contemporary– Sonya Tayeh

Unbreakable love.

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

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

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

Emily/Teddy

Hip-Hop–Dave Scott

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

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

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

Malene/Stanley

Broadway–Spencer Liff

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

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

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

Jourdan/Marcquet

Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

Brooklyn/Casey

Argentine Tango–Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

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

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

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

Jacque/Zach

African Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

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

*deep sigh* Results time….

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

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

Next week’s predictions:

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

This season is really going to be a challenge….

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

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

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

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

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

Top 4 Group
Jazz – Mandy Moore

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

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

Amy/Aaron
Jazz – Ray Leeper

Sexy with a club feel. Ray’s words.

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

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

Jasmine/Fik-Shun
Contemporary – Travis Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power and passion.

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

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

Jasmine

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

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

Jasmine/Aaron
Samba – Dmitry Chaplin

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

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

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

Fik-Shun

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

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

Amy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron/Fik-Shun
Broadway – Tyce Diorio

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

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

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

Amy/Jasmine
Jazz – Mark Kanemura

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 5: All Tapped Out

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenna/Tucker
Hip-Hop – Luther Brown

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis/Nico
Contemporary – Sonya Tayeh

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

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

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

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

Hayley
Argentine Tango – Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

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

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

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

Makenzie/Paul
Jazz – Sonya Tayeh

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

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

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

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

Jasmine H./Aaron
Contemporary – Justin Giles

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

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

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

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

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

Amy/Fik-Shun
Hip-Hop – Christopher Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Week 7, Top 8—Review, Interrupted (or Parent/Teacher Night)

courtesy 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Ah, fate is a cruel bitch—lost power Tuesday at my home due to Isaac mixing things up in the Gulf (yet the FOX affiliate I work for never lost power, but I was off work), so I’m REALLY late watching this week’s show. Gotta love those rabid YouTube fans. Tonight the dancers all get to do solos in addition to their all-star partnerships.

Guest judge: Self-proclaimed fanboy Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Putnam County and Modern Family fame makes a return visit. Shenanigans will most certainly ensue.

(Note: As I’m having to watch the show piecemeal and not in the exact order everything aired, the commentary on the solo profile packages will be in parentheses under the dance review.)

Top 8 contemporary
There must be something these choreographers find fascinating with the whole Eastern/Asian motif in contemporary….Sonya’s number from Season 8, Wade’s Top 10 piece from Season 6—and all with a funky twist. New to me choreographer Peter Chu adds his take with a Kill Bill/Big Trouble In Little China motif. Another clear winner of the Tour Lineup sweepstakes.

Witney
Witney gets ratched (ratchet?) with Twitch in new to SYTYCD-US choreographer Luther Brown’s hip-hop piece. Don’t worry, Witney—I STILL don’t know what “ratched/ratchet” is either, and I supposedly have my urban card. But you hung in well, sweetie. Almost reminded me of Natalie Fotopoulos’s swag in the “Promiscuous” hip-hop of Season 2. Witney’s cha-cha/samba inspired solo to Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” had me a little worried—a lot less than her usual substance but the sexpot was turned all the way up, so there was definitely a draw there.

*Side note: upon tracking down the “definition” of ratchet as per the Hip Hop Archive and finding its origins in Lil Boosie, I am still not much clearer on the subject, as I have also never figured out what a Lil Boosie is. Y’all can keep that card.*

(LMAO! Witney’s dad is such a….dad. She is amazingly evocative for an 18 year old, so I get it. Plus, little girls never really grow up in their fathers’ eyes, so I think it’d probably be hard on him anyway. That bundle of energy thing explains a LOT.)

Cole
Cole gets another contemporary (this time from a more girlie-looking Sonya Tayeh) where he can channel his emotions from the depths of his soul to be…soulless. Shades of Gravity AND Alex Wong come out in his stature and, well, Allison Holker makes anybody look phenomenal. Her job tonight was quite easy, though. The boy is good…and matches her move for move, step for step. That assisted lift/jump that hovered in mid-air for a few seconds—wow. Cole’s martial arts themed solo was our first reminder in a long time that he has consistently been dancing out of his style.

(Shy, socially awkward, outcast, baby of the family–if I didn’t know exactly how much older than you I am, I’d swear we were separated at birth. His mom reminds me strongly of Rita Moreno.)

Eliana
My darling Eliana pulls two of my favorite cuties—Jonathan Roberts and Season 6’s Ryan Di Lello—for a quickstep. I don’t know why the bored/agitated housewife theme keeps popping up on this show, but it is a very interesting shade to paint onto a ballroom number. Thank goodness for those ballerina lines, because I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled that off like that, especially in such a leg-revealing costume. And yay to the vampy alpha female she brought out tonight—THIS is some of what I was looking for in Mercy. Eliana’s solo evokes a Black Swan air—and, as usual, is flawless. (ANYBODY who can pull off a front walkover in both heels and pointe shoes is the BOMB dot com in my book.)

(Love the “close with Mom” stories. “I moved to New York to study with the Joffrey Ballet….I think it worked out, because I’m here now.” Biggest DUH statement of the millennium, my love.)

Lindsay
In an unprecedented move, Cole gets to reunite with Lindsay and do another Sonya Tayeh routine…oh wait, that really IS Alex Wong this time. Lindsay and Alex put their tensions on display for this jazz piece, and it’s really technically good. You can see the pre-ballroom dance training coming out of Lindsay. She’s still very exact for me, though—some things that should just flow you can see her counting on, and while that does satisfy the needs of the choreographer and the work, sometimes a little too much precision makes it more of a dance routine than a performance experience. There’s no doubt that she’s a talented dancer; I would just like to see a little less polish on her performances that require an emotional commitment. (And I see that Nigel, Mary AND Jesse agree with me.) The ballroom solo was just as technically perfect.

(A studio kid…figures. Keep working with the Ballases, particularly on your performance level. Mark’s gotten a DWTS trophy or two out of it. Brilliant technique, but I think you need life to get a little messy to color your life experience enough to muddy the emotional waters and give your dancing that extra depth the judges keep asking for.)

Will
Our loveable goofball has to get serious tonight, literally dancing away his pain (in the guise of Lauren Gottlieb) in this Christopher Scott hip-hop number. And he does so—quite well, actually. He stays in sync and well connected with Lauren in a very separatist routine, and manages to pull a little swag out of his back pocket. Will’s solo? Technically OK (I need those long limbs to stretch more, if that’s possible) but emotionally brilliant. Reminds me of a taller Teddy Tedholm.

(*sniff* “I think dance saved my life.” The little oddball outcast in me just gave you a standing ovation for that. Keep dancing–you radiate joy when you do.)

Cyrus
Gimme gimme Moore—and we got it, in both Mandy and Melanie. Basically “two cool kids strutting around town,” we get treated to a Fossesque, “Sweet Charity” revamp of Rich Man’s Frug. Once again, Cyrus rises to the challenge. It’s very good for him that the choreography has elements of Broadway and hip-hop in it because, as previously demonstrated, Cyrus can pull them off with ease. Matching Melanie’s energy and presence was just as easy. I will repeatedly acknowledge my bias toward Cyrus, but even if I weren’t a fan I’d have to be simply for the degree to which he dedicates himself to matching all of these incompatible styles and selling them as if he’s being doing them all of his life. I am really most interested in seeing where his career goes post-show and tour. Getting such a wealth of dance history and education in doing SYTYCD can only serve to make his hip-hop and animation PHENOMENAL. Which is also the word I’m using for that solo.

(You REALLY look like your dad. I see shades of both parents in you, but you look a lot like your dad. And how great is it to have such a supportive mom? She can be proud of the young man she raised.)

Chehon
The tango “look” in the rehearsal clip just cracked me up. However, if there’s anyone who could carry the swagger of a Miriam and Leonardo tango and go toe to toe with Anya Garis, it’s our Chehon. It definitely didn’t hurt to put a few balletlike jumps and stances in there because it helped to give him that sense of imposing height and stature required of the male tango partner. The paso doble segments added to the drama of the connection, though some of tango form looked off (are the feet supposed to be pointed in the ganchos?). But it was an excellent turn….and the ONLY time you’ll hear me say I liked Anya as a blonde for once. No words to be said on the solo…it was the usual mind-blowing fabulosity.

(I’m not really sure how I got the air of “adopted kid” from Chehon without knowing anything in-depth about his background, but seeing it confirmed was not a big surprise to me. It’s my experience that adoption tends to bring some of the greatest people into your life–I figure I can call myself an expert since I married one. 😉 Parents who can send their kids away to study, train and follow their passions have to be some of the bravest people on the planet, and I take this opportunity now to thank Beat Wespi and Edith Tchopp for taking that chance and sharing their precious gift with the rest of us.)

Tiffany
Tiffany gets to be thrown around the stage by Ade Obayami to Mandy Moore’s choreography and Celine Dion’s epic vocals. Seems like I’ve seen this before….Caitlyn and Mitchell, much? (Though the sight of her carrying Ade in the rehearsal package was too funny for words—how do you watch her seriously after that?) But it was just as good as the previous Mandy/Celine collab—Tiffany has got to be a good dancer to be able to be seemingly tossed by Ade from one lift to the next like she was a featherweight streamer and not a 100+ pound girl. She has managed to make beautiful pictures with every frame she’s danced this season, and though I’ve pretty much come down on her (along with Janaya and Audrey) for being “invisible,” her work clearly speaks for itself. You can see it in her solo, as well—floating with an assist from an able-bodied male is one thing, but being able to recreate that same sense of fluidity BY YOUR DAMN SELF?!? I tip my hat to you, young lady….and that standing ovation is well deserved.

(Awww! Too stinkin’ cute! Her technique was excellent even at a young age–I’ve taught advanced students that never had that good a point in the toe and stretch in the leg. You were clearly born to do this.)

Bottom 4:
Witney (saved)
Lindsay
Cole (saved)
Will

As a turn of the last judges’ save of the season, Lindsay and Will bow out of the competition, which is not wholly unexpected. If looked at overall—from auditions to Vegas to the competition stage—Witney and Cole had way more grab-you-by-the-throat standout moments. The caliber of dancing and performance is really tightly knit, so I imagine this was an extremely difficult decision for the judges to make. At this stage, the blow is not as keenly felt since all of the night’s performers have already been locked into the tour; still, I’m sure there’s some smarting about not being in contention for the top title. But even without the tour berths, there are no losers here. Each dancer has brought their own special shine to this season, and we viewers wouldn’t have it any other

SYTYCD Top 20, Week 2–The Eliminations Begin

courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Production

For this week’s show I typed my commentary as I watched, so with only a few minor edits, these are my actual, in-the-moment comments on the show.

Top 20 – Character (Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo)
It looked like a Mia Michaels piece, to tell you the truth—I don’t know if Nappytabs had assistance or if they’re branching out into contemporary, but I liked it. Showcasing Cyrus was pretty much a given considering the theme and the music—at this stage he’s much less trained than Twitch was on entering this competition, but as noticed and mentioned by many, he is the consummate student, and the opportunity of this show is going to do wonders for his career future.

Guest judge: Adam Shankman, who just happens to be the producer of “Step Up Revolution,” opening in theaters the following week.

Lindsay/Cole – Hip-Hop (Christopher Scott)
She’d have been hotter in a black skintight catsuit, and Cole as nerd scares me. Nigel commented on Lindsay playing to the audience rather to the vampish character; Mary agreed and so do I. She looks a lot like Lo-Fro (Lauren Frodeman, Season 7’s champion), and if SHE could pull it off Lindsay has a great chance if she works at it. Cole has a future in entertainment even if he never dances again.

Amelia/Will – Contemporary (Sonya Tayeh)
Wow. Will is really good at contemporary. I no longer question his presence. Amelia was her usual engaging quirky, but definitely at home in her own style. Adam commented on not noticing the size difference between the pair—I have to agree with that, too. See all that bending and melding you did, Will? That there is what Nigel was talking about. More of that, please.

Amber/Nick – Tango (Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo)
Amber looks mean and Nick’s coat is not only too big, but wholly unnecessary. He does look a lot sexier tonight but they’re still hesitant with each other. Should have been a little more push and pull between the two of them. Nigel and Mary were quite impressed with Amber, though. (On a second look, some of her solo performance persona in that was really well done.) Nick is an excellent partner, no doubt—the problem is that in THIS competition, stars win.

Audrey/Matthew – Jazz (Sonya Tayeh)
Girlie’s got dance skills, but I’m just not believing the whole tough, strong woman bit from her. FYI—if you want somebody that little and innocent looking to be a warrior, the French braid ponytail is NOT the way to go. Matthew’s really good. Almost reminded me of Baryshnikov for a hot second…although I still need some more power out of him. Maybe Daniel can give him some pointers….

Janelle/Dareian – Lyrical Hip-Hop (Christopher Scott)
Awwwww……that was cute. And they’re both really good at it. Got lukewarm reception from the judges, and they may have something there. Dareian did have a performance edge over Janelle—he was definitely living the piece, while she was simply dancing it.

Janaya/Brandon – Broadway (Sean Cheesman)
Eh. Well danced, I’ll give them that. I really liked that last lift. Janaya was definitely in character. But I’mma need Cat Deeley to NEVER utter the words “cray-cray” AGAIN. Well received by the judges.

Eliana/Cyrus – Jive (Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith)
Valiant effort by Cyrus, but this one was ALL Eliana. He was telegraphing too many transitions, his feet were horrible but he held the swag in the poses—and he did get the speed in some of those unison moves. I also have to commend him on the lifts. But this was Eliana’s spotlight tonight! I daresay she about matched up to Melanie’s competitive days with Tony on the ballroom floor.

Alexa/Daniel – Contemporary (Dee Caspary)
Damn. Veddy interestink……don’t really get the bathtub part of the story but OK. The judges connected with the technical but not the emotional/audience connection. I have to agree. Alexa ought to be tired of hearing this by now. (Although now that I get that she was supposed to be water, I’ll cut her a small break. Personifying water would be difficult for emotive experts.)

Tiffany/George – Foxtrot (Melanie LaPatin and Tony Meredith)
I could so see George at the Cotton Club. His ballroom form wasn’t perfect but it was very good for just learning it. Almost makes you want to give him the last name Nicholas. (Dance history, kiddies—look it up.) Tiffany has finally impressed me, though. In-freakin’-credible indeed, Adam.

Witney/Chehon – Bollywood (Nakul Dev Mahajan)
WHAT. THE. BLEEP?!? This Latin ballroom dancer and contemporary ballet dancer just did the HELL out of Bollywood. That was awesome—on par with Season 4’s Katee and Joshua (Dhoom Taana) and Season 5’s Caitlin and Jason (Jai Ho). I think some of Chehon’s energy flagged at the end of that, but Nakul’s pieces are never cute as far as the fast pace goes, so that’s not only understandable but forgivable.

Now for the elimination section:

Janaya
Alexa
Witney (saved)
Nick
Daniel
Chehon (saved)

courtesy 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

I pretty much called the first four but can’t understand the lack of fan votes for Witney and Chehon. Even considering that the votes were based on the so-so samba, there were numbers from that previous week’s show that were not nearly as strong as that one. The judges did not need to see a “dance for your life”—I don’t appreciate that or them padding the extra time with a full-on “Step Up Revolution” promo blitz. I don’t care if a bunch of my favorite alums were in the number; those kids should have had that opportunity.

Of the four, I’m sorriest to see Daniel go—he had great potential and I liked his performance energy. It was just too much for America to keep two male ballet dancers in the running. Janaya fell victim to that invisibility factor I mentioned in the first blog, and Alexa and Nick just never fully ignited between technique and performance. I am surprised to see the split between the Janaya/Brandon and Amber/Nick partnerships. We’ll see what comes of the new Amber/Brandon partnership in the next episode.

Next week’s projected Bottom 6 (trying to do this while blocking out the tvline.com review spoilers):

Janelle
Dareian
Lindsay
Matthew
Audrey
Brandon or Cyrus (though I really believe Cyrus’s fan base is going to drag him up to the Top 10)

Based on last week’s votes, I fear Witney and Chehon will be in the bottom again…but hopefully that kick-ass Bollywood performance will keep them safe.

I know we’re going to be subjected to more stunt promotion given that it’s Step Up Revolution opening weekend AND National Dance Day weekend, but with any luck that will die off a little as the weeks go on. I will go on record as saying the choreography was much better this week. Let’s hope the content keeps getting better.