Generation NEXT: SYTYCD Season 13

So-You-Think-You-Can-Dance-Results-July-25-2016

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 9: People’s Choice

images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

A new week of competition that will reveal who fights it out for the title and the prize money….and it’s no easy feat. We get three performances from each contestant tonight: an All-Star pairing, a solo and a match-up with one of their fellow contestants.

Straight to the Top 6 intro—aight. (I eventually figured out why–this was a pure, unadulterated results show with some performances thrown in. I almost cussed folks out behind not being able to vote, but it did sink in after a while that I saw no phone numbers during the show.)

Guest judge:
Jesse Tyler Ferguson – he’s so cute when he’s on the show. And he’s such a fanboy—I know he’s glad he doesn’t have to make the hard choices…or that he got out of jury duty.

Top 6 Group
Afro Jazz – Sean Cheesman

If this Aileyesque Revelations wannabe doesn’t wind up on the Tour, I want my friggin’ money back. So joyful. The first time I’ve seen Paul dance less than, and even that was pretty good.

Paul (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Jazz – Tyce Diorio

Struggle for power between the sexes, or “the most enjoyable fight with a girl I’ve ever had.”

LOVE the starting pose—reminiscent of Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker. Was hoping for it to be most intense than it was. It was an enjoyable dance, but not enough tension came across as advertised.

Nigel thought it was a great routine and compliments Paul’s ability to adapt to and conquer every style given to him; Mary was wowed by the opening/entrance and thought they were magnificent; Jesse is also thrilled with Paul’s rise to the top and has gained an affinity for leather pants. (I hope someone told him about breathable pleather….)

Amy
That solo, though….yes, it looks like the same choreography she throws into every solo. And she somehow still manages to blend it together and dance it in such a way that each performance is its own unique and intense experience.

Hayley (with All-Star Joshua Allen)
Hip-Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo)

Million Dollar Baby in dance. (Naps, you gon’ stop clowning my boo about his “eye of the tiger” t-shirt….)

And Season 10’s “Witney Carson Total 180 Moment Award” goes to…..say what you want about Hayley, the girl thoroughly absorbs and embodies the characters she’s given. This time, she lost herself in the dance style as well. I believed her more this week than I did in last week’s rumba with Dmitry. She matched Joshua move for move and got grittier than I ever would have expected. Way to go, Hayley! (Joshua, you DO know we aren’t looking at that belt, right?)

Mary thought Hayley was as strong as anyone who has danced hip-hop on the show; Jesse called them “the greatest workout video of all time” and also noticed her embracing the “hardass” role so completely; Nigel pulls the MDB comparison and thought she gave quite an impressive fight to hang on in the competition.

Fik-Shun
Maaaaaaaayn……..I can’t even LISTEN to Busta Rhymes rap those lyrics clearly (and will never dare attempt to SAY them) and this boy is articulating every word and beat with the movement of his body. And speaking of stuff I’ll never dare attempt—even WITH dance training I couldn’t pull off a lot of that in my prime. As freestyle as it looks, it took a clever imagination to put THAT together and come away with a fascinating bit of story AND dance. This child WILL NOT be dancing on the streets again unless he just feels like it for shiggles.

Aaron (with All-Star Melanie)
Broadway – Spencer Liff

A loving (and fighting) couple.

Those first 16 counts of Aaron dancing was so totally Broadway I really had to keep pushing the word “tap” into my brain. If that Melanie drop was a missed hold or a scripted fall I’ll never be sure—at least not the way these two played it. What a showman.

Jesse thinks Aaron is unbelievable and has risen even higher; Nigel praises Aaron on his strength as a dancer but again reminds him to pay attention to the little nuances and focus on lowering his shoulders; Mary was concerned about Aaron’s shoulder injury but was duly impressed, especially by the height of all the kicks he had to do and the near-expert partnering skill he’s picked up over the weeks.

Jasmine
A repeat of our audition song—this rendition must mean a great deal to her for a turn on the Hollywood stage. I think if I put her side by side on a stage with Sasha Mallory it would be like seeing two halves of the same whole, dancing in tandem with complementing contrasts. The angularity that comes with Jasmine’s height and build is softened by the ease and flow of movement.

Paul
There’s a reason I call him “Ballroom Chehon”—he moves so gracefully and has such an engaging expression when he dances, yet every now and then he’ll throw in a move so totally unexpected and seemingly out of character that you’re taken aback for about a second….and then accept its presence as if it belonged from the get-go. I always managed to have that same sense of absorption and wonder when watching Chehon dance—Paul is of the same caliber. I think you have a lot of work in your future, sweetie.

Fik-Shun (with All-Star Witney Carson)
Foxtrot – Jonathan Roberts

Sexy, fast and too hot to handle…you know who else was told something similar before their foxtrot? Russell Ferguson. Perhaps there’s some providence involved here…. And Jonathan, I love you, but you keep endangering my Fik-Shun and Anna (Trebunskya, Jonathan’s wife) is gonna have to scoop you up off the sidewalk.

OK, I’m thinking Gene Kelly and Sammy Davis, Jr. got together in heaven and said, “This kid’s got something. Let’s jump in tonight and give him a little assist—Sammy, I’ll take the legs and you can handle the arms and the personality.” His shoulders are greatly improved and his ballroom style is even a little more polished since his and Amy’s Viennese Waltz.

Mary noted some rough spots in the performance with some not-so-great lines and quality of movement, but she did praise Fik-Shun on his closed dance position; Jesse thought Witney was the dominant force in this piece but thinks on the whole, Fik-Shun as a general performer is a bright and amazing force in dance; Nigel agreed on Witney’s dominance and cautioned Fik-Shun on the transitions being closed and open hold, saying that though this piece was not his strongest work the previous week’s vote should help carry him into the finale.

Hayley
Skill set has always been there and has been impressive—it’s been the emoting and expression that has been sketchy. It was much better in this number but still needs more work. If she could bodily throw herself into the emotion like she did in the hip-hop with Joshua, she could go a long way.

Jasmine (with All-Star Neil Haskell)
Jazz – Tyce Diorio

I am feeling some kind of way watching this piece on THIS evening—the 8th anniversary of That Storm That Shall Not Be Named; however, since this show is largely responsible for helping me hold on to my sanity and survive that time until I could get back home, I stomped all of the painful memories down and tried to give this piece an objective eye. Approaching the storms and devastations in the past years and the damage/suffering caused by them is a weighty emotional subject to tackle in dance—these two dancers can surely handle it…but can I?

The choreography, emotion and staging/scenery captured the desperation of such a situation and the aftermath it has on the places and people devastated by it. I think that’s all I will say before I go too deeply into memories I’d like to keep in the past.

It gets a standing O from the panel, though….Nigel thought the routine was beautiful and is still enthralled with Jasmine and her talent, envisioning a career with a company after the Tour is done. “Mary’s sniveling, as usual,” says Nigel as Cat tries to start the panel discussion with her. Mary thought Jasmine was spectacular and gave this bit of inspirational wisdom: “It’s history books that will tell us what happened [with all these tragedies], but it’s dance that will tell us how we felt about them.” (That and the seeing rainbows thing were pretty deep.) Jesse thought she and Neil had the heart and humanity to elevate the social relevance of the piece and, with all due respect to her competitors, was so happy to be there to witness his “favorite dancer” of the season.

Aaron
“Gene, you go on ahead—I’mma hang back with this cat for a minute then I’ll catch up.” Aaron channels Sammy’s showmanship and does with his tap solo what Fik-Shun did with his hip-hop/freestyle. I mean, who can add THAT much syncopation to a mid-tempo Bill Withers soul track? *Points two index fingers at my frozen TV screen* THIS sexy cat.

Amy (with All-Star Alex Wong)
Bollywood – Nakul Dev Mahajan

Amy as Bollywood bombshell diva, with Alex as her servant—but they’re in love, which according to the social structure, leans to the forbidden.

Nice job, as Alex FINALLY gets to perform Bollywood on the SYTYCD stage. (You might remember that the week Alex tore his ACL and had to withdraw from the competition, he was in rehearsals for a Bollywood duet with Adechike Torbert.) Amy playing flirty and forbidden love quite well, though she does need to strengthen up her vamp and vixen a little more. But the choreography was nailed so well I will accept any Ellen DeGeneres references that might pop up. That side by side turning switch leap?!? BANANAS!!!!!

Another standing O from the panel—Mary is reduced to “WOW” (which I can totally get) and “NUTS”; Jesse breaks out with “Good golly Miss Bollywood!” (which I’ll also let slide) thought it was fantastic; Nigel addresses the Bollywood Botch with Alex—who was totally excited about the chance for a redo—and while the number made him smile, he marveled at the level of difficulty infused in the choreography and the expert execution of it by the two dancers.

Hayley/Paul
Contemporary – Dee Caspary

Reassurance, commitment and connection are the hallmarks of this piece, and newly-minted couple Hayley and Paul have to find what gels between them fast.

A Dee Caspary piece I didn’t stare at in utter confusion…amazing. I think it’s Paul—that manufactured pre-package about the difficulties in connecting was definitely to be taken with a grain of salt. It felt a lot like the [choreographer] piece Paul did with Makenzie a few weeks back.

2/3 of a standing O here….this should be interesting. Jesse thought it was amazing and that their connection was so vivid and clear. No, Jesse—attempting to enter the phrase “Carly Rae Jepsen short” into the critical lexicon will not work, sweetie……no matter HOW cute you are. Nigel loved the flow of the movement and called the two complete dancers (though he was a bit disconcerted by the presence of the flexed foot in the choreography :-/ ); Mary sees a young James Dean in Paul and loved the connection (Nigel sees Elvis and elicited an impression out of Paul), and also expressed her amazement with the contrast in Hayley’s two performances—and the excellent execution of both.

Amy/Fik-Shun
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

Boyfriend gets to check out his girlfriend’s shopping finds. Hard and sexy is the feel Dave is going for, or as he put it, “imagine two krumpers in love.”

OH JUST GO OFF AND GET MARRIED ALREADY! These two fit like the only two pieces of a puzzle, and I’m amazed at the improvement in Amy with her hip-hop swag from the bellhop number to this one. Fik-Shun just WAS. Maybe I WILL need to use “Carly Rae Jepsen short” after all……

Nigel…..ooh, did he just slam Miley Cyrus?!? I see YOURS are brass and hang low, too….can’t argue with you though. Nigel praised the number, stating that the pair’s chemistry tends to bring out the best in each other’s work, and noted the range of styles Amy performed over the evening…and that “you don’t have to put it in someone’s face to be sexy.” [He’s not wrong….] Mary loved watching the “Dream Team” dancing together again and recognized the life-force that dance is in Amy. And I LOVE the Tom Clancy quote applied to Fik-Shun, because he most certainly DOES make sense. (Hopefully, after the show and this Tour, he’ll be pulling down DOLLARS, too.) Jesse loved the FAMY reunion and called Fik-Shun a megastar.

Aaron/Jasmine
Jazz – Sean Cheesman

Aaron is entranced by the essence of a woman trapped in a mirror that only he can see. I’ve seen stranger concepts….. (Dee and the bathtub, anyone?)

Really, Jasmine?!? A 6:15? Good Lord, woman…..She stole the thunder of this piece, and while as the main “character” of the piece that’s acceptable, Aaron for all of his effort looked like he was holding back more than he should have. Although Jasmine’s stamina toward the end of these high energy pieces still seems to be dropping at a noticeable and alarming rate—I can’t be sure if it’s purely physical or a combination of physical flagging and emotional withdrawal before the work is done. All of this is not to say that the piece wasn’t phenomenal; I guess this is testament to their excellence that I hold such incredibly high standards for them.

The judges were definitely wowed—yet another standing O. Mary loved the concept and noted a deep conviction in the way Aaron and Jasmine dance; Jesse agrees and said in one sentence what I just stuttered above: “I hate you because I can’t BE you,” and also reveals his “guy-crush” on Aaron (that damn guyliner!); Nigel praised Team Tall on their enduring chemistry and also took notice of Aaron’s embracing the note about his ever-rising shoulders and Jasmine’s freak-of-nature flexibility, stated that the gauntlet has been thrown down with this dance and it will be difficult for their fellow contestants to pick it up.

I felt going in exactly who was staying around for the Final Four, but didn’t settle on it because all of the performances were very strong. But the fact that next week’s blog title came to me well before I finished last week’s piece gave me an inkling, and it’s Hayley and Paul just getting edged out of the championship round. And even with that, each was congratulating the other….did you note the embraces between Jasmine and Hayley and Paul and Fik-Shun…not to mention Fik-Shun repeatedly telling Paul how amazing he is while leaving the stage? Genuine admiration and class, people.

These results boasts a myriad of firsts: Aaron now holds the distinction of the oldest finalist and the first tapper EVER in the finals; the first finale I’ve seen with 75% of the finalists being African-American, and the first time I remember two original couples making it to the finals intact. (And I have wracked my brain on that last one—I’m nearly confident that’s correct but feel free to let me know if that’s wrong.) However the votes fell, the competition was going to be worthy AND fierce. The people have a massive job to do next week.

The Top 4 dancers of Season 10! (credits to 19, DCP and FOX)

The Top 4 dancers of Season 10! (credits to 19, DCP and FOX)

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 8: Last Call

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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

Bottom 4:
Fik-Shun
Jenna
Tucker
Hayley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 7: DANCE is a Battlefield

image courtesy of 19 Productions and Dick Clark Entertainment

image courtesy of 19 Productions and Dick Clark Entertainment

The Tour is set and the talent is fierce. Now it’s time to duke it out for the title.

Top 10 Group
Contemporary – Christopher Scott

Wow–the top 10 are candidates for the nursing home already….either that or Christopher Scott has got some interesting ideas about the kids’ futures.

Guest judge:
Debbie Allen, world-renowned dancer/choreographer/actress/director/singer/producer/living legend. It’s a little known fact that Debbie Allen is my adoptive mother. Well, OK, she doesn’t know about it either, but don’t say anything to her about it, alright?

Top 10 come out as soloists for the first time, and Tucker looks like he’s in tip-top shape. Hopefully his work tonight will keep him safe.

Bottom 4 this week:
Tucker
Makenzie
Nico
Jenna

I actually expected Jasmine over Jenna, but that hip-hop last week must have gone full-throttle past the paso doble. Nigel dismissed seeing the solos tonight based on the magnificence of the dancers thus far, and so on with the competition we go.

Amy (with All-Star Brandon Bryant)
Disco – Doriana Sanchez

OK, is Brandon the designated disco boy? I bet when he lied about his age in Season 1 he never expected to go from a contemporary dancer to a disco don….Doriana gives a nice shout-out to Whitney Houston on what would have been her 50th birthday week. Busy and energetic as usual, and the “Disco Location” (was that the attitude pot stirrers or that last drop lift?)?!? The usual glittery, death-defying cardio sprint Doriana is famous for creating. Amy reminded me of the number he did with Tiffany last year.

Mary, don’t make me shank you in your sleep behind Whitney Houston—you could put a Russian folk beat behind I Will Always Love You and it’ll still be fly. But she definitely loved the number and Amy in it. Debbie thought they were well paired in energy, size, dynamic and spirit, and thought Amy was dynamite. Nigel called her vivacious and said the energy she radiated made it appear as if she were dancing on ice. And then he had to go and steal her breath and make her cry by comparing her to Melanie Moore, and said that she is growing into a high-caliber All-Star in her own right.

Aaron (with All-Star Kathryn McCormick)
Contemporary – Stacey Tookey

Stacey channels her love for her husband and gives us this piece celebrating unconditional love.

Damn, boy…just damn. I need to schedule him a screen test, like, RIGHT NOW. I’m almost at Anna Kendrick stage talking about how good this tapper is at contemporary. I’m not gonna say a word—I’ll just let the judges’ standing O and Stacey looking like she’s about to cry from the sheer beauty of it say everything for me.

Debbie was having some moments during the dance—Aaron gets the Dominic Sandoval “Call the fire department” kudos and the pair is praised as a magical couple, saying that Aaron’s performance and his growth over the weeks has raised the bar for the evening and the competition. And she’s ready to go buy her Tour ticket right now….if you can just wire me the money for my seat, Mom, that’d be great. Nigel also give praises and states that the highest praise he can give is noticing the look of pride and happiness in Kathryn’s eyes after the performance (and tears, according to Kathryn), knowing they had danced a winner. Mary adds to the Aaron Adoration Club and agrees with all previous stated accolades and thinks Aaron is inspirational in his growth as well. Poor Aaron looks like he got the same speck in his eye that Amy did because he’s so amazed by what he just accomplished that he’s overwhelmed by it all. Greater things are coming, sweets—buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Fik-Shun (with All-Star Melanie Moore)
Jazz – Mandy Moore

And speaking of our Season 8 champion, here she is with her heir-apparent Amy’s former partner. Melanie and Fik-Shun take on this steamy jazz piece where Melanie’s a performer whose ex-lover come to town and heats things up. Mandy is really pushing Fik-Shun’s dance boundaries—let’s see how well he stepped it up.

Get yo swag on, lil daddy! I still see cutie-pie written all over you but that’s because you’re barely legal; however I could see you smoldering and cranking up the machismo while hitting all those moves. A little more muscle on you and I can see Joshua Allen in you. Well done!

Well, MANDY’S certainly “feeling good”…as is the once again standing panel of judges. Nigel is proud of Fik-Shun’s growth and the improvement of technique, as is Mary, whose also happy with his focus on and improving of his lines, carriage and technique. And the Debbie Allen quote of the night? “Honey, they can say your name is Fik-Shun, but that was real what we saw tonight…..that was the truth.”

Paul (with All-Star Witney Carson)
Cha-Cha – Jean-Marc Genereux

Fresh from the DWTS troupe, Miss Carson is back to create some cha-cha chemistry with Paul. Why Jean-Marc is standing in the middle of rehearsal in a Thomas Dolby-style labcoat and goggles is beyond me….Ballroom Chehon—I mean Paul is in his element here. I mean, since last season and all throughout this past season of Dancing With The Stars I have NEVER seen anybody outdance Witney…until now. THIS is what we should have seen on the Meet the Top 20 show. Paul’s got all cylinders firing now, and he’s fighting for his US crown.

The set design budget is going to be well-extended, because clearly nobody is using those chairs tonight. Mary is trying to downplay again but nobody’s buying it—just tell us what we already know, that he’s dancing his patootie off. She does, and also says that his volume in his dancing has increased—I guess that’s her way of saying that his personality is projecting to the rafters now. Either way, the pair is riding the Hot Tamale Train tonight. Debbie’s having hot flashes again (and, she surmises, so is her husband Norm Nixon and the rest of his NBA buddies over that almost dress Witney has on), and is impressed by the way Paul seamlessly handled the intricate and difficult choreography. Nigel says the two were born to partner each other (He’s got the Chehon vibe and Chehon’s partner….no surprises there), and that with Paul’s skill and personality he is going to make a very, very interesting challenge to win the competition. Happy birthday to PAUL!

Hayley (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop – Christopher Scott

Twitch is trying to get a loan from hard-nosed banking agent Hayley, and turns on whatever charms he can to get it.

It was pretty smooth as cute hip-hop goes, and she carried the character well. I was just a little biased, though—in the “corporate dance” world, the table AND the floor still belong to Sabra Johnson.

Debbie thought the piece was theatrical—props, table, hair toss, etc.—and with that, Twitch stole some of the initial focus from Hayley. But she did think Hayley turned on the character a lot more after the hair came down, and it was a great routine. Nigel waxed nostalgic about Twitch’s journey to commercial success and loved that Hayley got a funkier, fun piece of hip-hop to tackle. He classed her as a dark horse in the competition and lauded her ability to be a dance chameleon—that is, to be able to adapt to each choreographer’s vision and give them exactly what they’re asking form. Nigel thinks that may be enough for her to stay in the game. Mary also thinks that even though she’s sailing under the radar, she’s on the rise to excel in the competition and in her future career. On a side note (since Mary threw it out there), Mary’s face looks a bit thinner. I guess that no-carb, no pancake diet is the culprit…though she’s sounding a bit testy from the lack of them. I’m just sayin’….

Jenna (with All-Star Neil Haskell)
Contemporary – Mandy Moore

Another break-up dance…Mandy is hoping this partnership with Neil forces Jenna to be more engaged with this piece. She had some pretty good moments with last week’s dance at the fountain, so….

Mark Masri—so now I know whose voice has been ringing in my head all season. You do realize how hard it is to NOT visualize those Vegas group dances, right? But oh, how I’ve missed Neil Haskell dancing. (Still kicking myself in the ass for not going to see Bring It On when I had the opportunity.) That last sequence of turns that just melted to the floor? *sigh* Breathtaking.

Nigel gets a Mary age dig in about all the candles onstage—never learned not to poke a hungry bear, did you, Nigel? The censors are going to be working overtime if you keep messing with that woman! He loved the fluidity (and also mentioned that last fluid sink to the floor), and thinks Jenna is probably one of the best all-around dancers with ballroom as a specialty, commending her on her strength in taking those opportunities at the bottom of the votes to come back blazing, strong and in control. Mary was moved by the couple’s movement together and also loved the end sequence—likening it to caramel being laid on top of her favorite ice cream. While I do agree with that visual, Mary—for the love of God, just go eat a cheeseburger! Toss the bun if you have to, mayn! Debbie just made MANDY cry by calling her one of her favorite choreographers in the business, and called Jenna a choreographer’s dream despite her continuous trips to the bottom three/bottom two. She just might have done enough to hang in one more week….we’ll have to see what Makenzie does later. Had she been head to head with Hayley, based on tonight’s performances Jenna would definitely have had the edge.

Jasmine H. (with All Star Marko Germar)
Jazz – Ray Leeper

I remember being nose to nose with Marko at the Season 8 Tour meet and greet, so unless there are lifts in his shoes, Jasmine HAD to be on a lower step going into the break. OK, I guess I’m just that short…or remembering it wrong. Anyway, a hip, cool, slick jazz routine with a little bit of arrogance involved, yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sounds like the dance with the bowler hats Marko did with Melanie, but I’ll watch my boy toy do anything. Oh, and I like seeing Jasmine dance, too.

Aw, $#!t—we’re blurring lines, y’all! Jas put a little too much English on her moves; while Marko had that chill, laid-back vibe happening, Jasmine had a barely restrained energy burst she was trying to contain. She reminded me of a kid with his or her mom in the supermarket checkout line who’s just seen the candy display but can’t reach it from their seat in the basket. Choreography was definitely locked down, but their energies didn’t match—one or the other should have moved to meet in the middle, and considering Marko’s already ridden in this rodeo, it should have been her.

While those chairs are gonna be like new from the lack of sitting, that “happy dance” is getting old. If you stop REMINDING Cat about it, she’s stop DOING it…smh…… Oh, brother—et tu, Jasmine? Y’all gon’ stop the madness…. Mary was more drawn to Jasmine in the number and seems to love that energy she emitted. Debbie was also drawn more to Jasmine, and offered a second apology (the first being from Mary) to Marko for virtually “ignoring” him. And Nigel just compared Jasmine to Michael Jackson and the All-Star dancers in the same breath….in his notes he wrote, “style, class, sharp, neat, fun and sassy”—and capped it off with a big ol’ FANTASTIC. Guess they liked it, huh? 😉

Makenzie (with All-Star Jakob Kerr)
Broadway – Spencer Liff

Two people meet in a crowded, smoky club, and it’s a whirlwind. So clearly, we have another fast-paced scorcher. OK…whose idea was it to put arguably the two best sets of legs and pointed feet in the history of the entire series together as partners? Whoever it was, they need a raise and a promotion YESTERDAY. They had the sync I thought Jasmine and Marko should have had, and that was seriously a Broadway revue caliber performance. Different kinds of fabulous from both her and Jenna, so it’s back to being a draw.

Debbie is wowed, literally, and saw old Hollywood starlet in Makenzie’s gait (Cyd Charisse got tossed around again, and Nigel brought out Rita Hayworth. I’m thinking more Leslie Caron. Look ‘em up, younguns.) Nigel echoed my comments about their feet, and is at the end of his rope trying to figure out America’s disconnect with Makenzie. Mary also thought they were amazing and also picked up on the perfect unison the pair danced with.

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

Reptiles at play, or something like that. I’m not gonna lie, I said this would be Nico’s death knell and the choice would be easy. I was ALLLLLLL kinds of wrong. Nico rode the character development wave in from last week and put it into this hip-hop—AND hit all the moves alongside one of the best (if not THE best) girl hip-hop dancers in the show’s history. Despite all of that rolling around on the ground, Nico was not taking his position lying down and went out fighting strong.

Nigel even noticed Nico embracing the quirky as well as the technical, despite the fact that he didn’t like the routine as much as the audience did. And even though I’m sure he knows what he said, Nigel was not giving the satisfaction of pun acknowledge after speaking about Nico’s ability to stay in the character’s “comfort zone.” Mary thought he pulled it off, giving a very deliberate, precise and hard-hitting routine. She, unlike Nigel, liked the “oddly freaky” routine. Debbie caught shades of Jurassic Park with the sharpness of Nico’s head isolations, and thought that amongst the tight competition, he did himself proud.

Tucker (with All-Star Robert Roldan)
Contemporary – Travis Wall

Another guys’ contemporary from Travis, this time about two brothers, one of whom has hit rock bottom and gotten a second chance, and the other who is standing by as a support system. Um, from this point forward, I’m going to need all tall contemporary male dancers to avoid cars entirely—what’s this I hear about an accident last year, Robert?!? Between you, Tucker and Marshea Mason, I just can’t wrap my mind around that kind of potential artistic loss. I’ll even hire a chauffeur for you if you need me to.

Tucker lost a few moments of sync with Robert but it’s clear to see that both of these young men just laid their lives out on the stage for everyone to see. Fix You meets When It Ends and gets a happier, more poignant ending. I’m pretty sure by the time the Tour is over, Tucker will not only have had the biggest, most public cathartic release from his haunts, but he will have developed an acumen for portraying them with powerful restraint. Almost got something in my eye, there….

Mary’s about to lose it, and if she breaks the way she usually does the guys (Travis included) are going to crack, too, and there will be tissue boxes flying left and right. Well damn—even Debbie’s got a lump in her throat…and reminded me of the brotherly bond between Travis and Danny Tidwell as the inspiration for this piece. Nigel did manage to hold it together long enough to acknowledge and praise all of the challenges and triumphs that contributed to the perfect storm that was this piece. All three judges were unanimous in pronouncing the dance amazing.

Thanks to constant interruptions from the hubby I had to break from the show and vote blind on the app to try to preserve the suspense, but I could see Tucker’s brightly illuminated face and knew Nico was on his way home. I thought just by the numbers it would be him, but nobody danced like going home was even a remote possibility—as if the potential miracle of everyone staying was possible. Makenzie’s run also comes to an end tonight, despite Nigel’s best efforts, and Team Tuna slides into the Top 8. Seems that according to the clips we’re losing the two biggest goofballs in the cast; the cuts at this point are based on popularity at this point, as there are no slouches in this Tour cast.

I think Hayley’s performance being the weakest this week (and again, because of everyone’s stellar talent, “weakest” is being used VERY loosely) may put her in danger, unless the public is really that unmoved by Jenna…though I’m hard pressed to understand how anyone could just NOT vote for that performance. I also believe Amy’s safe—who’s seriously gonna vote Joey Potter off the show?—but Jasmine has also been in the bottom, so it will be a very tough call. The boys are in a dead heat—Aaron and Tucker’s Twitter fan clubs (@aaronturnerfans and @TuckerKnoxEmOut) may keep these two off the edge, which spells trouble for my boo Fik-Shun. I don’t know exactly how rabid Paul’s fans are, but aside from Tucker none of the remaining guys has ever been in the bottom, and the law of diminishing numbers means somebody’s got to be down there. And although my main vote support is oldhead first (whoever’s closest to my age I can best live vicariously through, and given that Aaron spent some years here in New Orleans, I gotta back him first), each successive vote-off for the guys is going to break my heart. My only consolations are that I will be all up in the house in New Orleans on November 5 come hell or high water (and considering this is one of the first events back at the Saenger since that most notorious of “high waters” bullied her way through town, I might not want to say THAT too loudly), and each one of them is going to have a blazing career—and most definitely a fan in me for life.

Next week, my All-Stars are going to dip their toes in the choreography pool as well as performing—I know I’m probably not going to get a pairing of anyone with Travis Wall, but maybe if I wish it hard enough…especially since I’ve never seen Travis dance in person. (I only got to see Seasons 3, 4, 8 and 9 onstage. Season 5 is a story best left untold so I can keep my anger at missing it buried, and a new job conflicted with the Season 6/7-All Star tour. Even though I was about 5 minutes away.) Whoever comes in, I’m just so excited to see many of my favorites flexing their multi-talented dance muscles on the show that afforded them the spotlight in the first place.

Wish me luck and lots of 5-Hour Energy shots that I got some good seats for the concert!

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 6: Injured Reserve

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

So a Sweet Sixteen Laser Tag party and a temperamental TiVo almost took me out this time–the Internet is a marvelous, glorious wonderland which made the difference between this review being a performance recap and a profanity-laden diatribe.

It’s the last week of couples competition before ten of the kids are paired with their All-Stars and get guaranteed Tour bus passes….

One moment, please. Ahem….

Lovely dress, but no ma'am.....

Lovely dress, but no ma’am…..

Cat, that it a maw-maw dress. A pretty maw-maw dress, but a maw-maw dress nonetheless. Maybe if they’d done your hair in a half-updo?

Fashion rant over. Back to the DANCE action!

Top 12 Group: (Nakul Dev Mahajan…duh!)
First group Bollywood we’ve had in ages. But there are only 11 dancers on stage. (I saw the spoilers on the voting app, so I know Tucker was missing, but I don’t yet know why.)

An infection in his KNEE?!? *sigh* Poor kid just can’t catch a break. I am publicly and selfishly hoping that clears up in time for the Tour and he can get to be a swing or something. Though if he “survived” he would automatically be in danger for the next show…. (And they let him do the intro, as well…hmm….)

Guest judge:
Kenny Ortega. Hells yeah!

Bottom 6:
Jenna
Alan
Malece
Nico
Amy
Tucker

The last two get a WTF? on GP…even without Tucker’s knee infection. Jenna and Nico go straight through into Top 10, which grabs another WTF?, followed by the fact that despite said infection, Tucker CAN dance for his life. That gets a WHAT IN THE BLUE HELL?!?!?!? However, thems is the breaks and we have four solos going.

Tucker
Always a joy to watch dance, but I’m fearing the Jessie Peralta treatment got invoked here. I’ll wait to see how the show unfolds…. (Thankfully he didn’t get booted straight away–I suppose the automatic bottom two is objectively fair, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.)

Amy
I already had a spoiler on my FB wall from Donovan Gibbs (“AMY’s SOLO!!!! YESSS”), so I figured it was intense….but isn’t that what she did for her audition piece? Still, moving nonetheless.

Malece
Much better than her last solo but not as intense as Amy’s. And intensity usually pulls more influence.

Alan
Got some fuzz on his chin and some wardrobe advice from Dmitry Chaplin and did a fun samba. The most comfortable and relaxed I’ve seen him on stage yet. (And again, Cat is stealing my lines.) However, given the options (and the results I’m unfortunately aware of), the writing is on the wall at this stage.

Dirt-dishing amongst the couples this week….as expected, nothing particularly juicy. So I’ll leave it on the tape this week.

Hayley/Nico
Broadway – Sean Cheesman

Gypsy fortune-teller trying to steal his soul with a kiss….

Yes, Kiss of the Spider Woman is an appropriate choice…that inverted split flip, though! Man! The rest was really a blur but I do know it was well danced AND well-acted by both of them.

Garnered a standing O from EV-ER-Y-BOD-Y. Judges, audience, backstage techs….EVERYBODY. Nigel deemed it the best Broadway routine on the series, with an aside from Kenny that it could have well fit into the original musical (if, of course, Aurora had played a gypsy in one of those movies Molina kept fantasizing about in prison). He thought they both danced it magnificently, and was just as awed about the lifts as the rest of us. Rightly so, as a few inches in any direction could have been disastrous for the routine, show and potentially Hayley’s dance career. He also commented that Hayley never ceases to surprise him, and that he was impressed with Nico’s growth and improved transitions. Mary thought it was outrageous (as was that outfit—what is this, ugly dress night?) and loved the dance and the new partnership, calling it a breakthrough for both of them. Kenny commended Sean’s courage in creating the piece and giving it to these young dancers to tackle, saying Chita Rivera herself would be proud. Sean certainly was, because he looked like he was going to weep with joy at any second.

Malece/Alan
Jazz – Mandy Moore

Channeling the old Hollywood classics…I’m sorry, Alan, but in this day and age of 50 million TV channels and lots of them exclusively dedicated to movies, there’s absolutely no excuse ESPECIALLY as a dance to not have seen at least ONE Gene Kelly movie. Hell, I might even have accepted Xanadu, mayn….Anywho, that’s the mood Mandy’s going for with this jazz number. (At least Malece knew who Audrey Hepburn was.)

Very cute—not quite fully Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, but they really worked hard on the attitude of the piece…which, while it could have been a smidge more natural was very commendable. (Yeah, Cat, they’re not out of breath and anxious enough awaiting reviews…REMIND them they’re in the bottom. You get the side eye for the rest of the night.)

Kenny made sure to ask Alan if he went to find some Gene Kelly movies after being asked about seeing any (and to his credit, he did—yay for Alan!), told Malece she had the sparkle of a young Judy Holliday or Goldie Hawn and said that while their chemistry didn’t fully gel, he loved their dancing both as a couple and as individuals. Nigel thought the piece was a little uncomfortable, lacking the plié and contractions indicative of the style and also was disappointed with the chemistry. Mary thought it was fun and entertaining, but also agreed that they both tightened up in places where the fit of the dance should have had more of an ease—though she did think their chemistry felt very good.

Jenna
Paso Doble – Jean-Marc Genereux

Paired with All-Star Alex Wong (in for Tucker who couldn’t rehearse because of the infection); this should be interesting….Jenna’s a ballroom babe, but I don’t ever recall seeing Alex do ballroom before. The Pirates of Paso Doble, Jean-Marc? Really? Done before, but OK.

First of all, I LOVE me some Alex Wong….really I do. Loved him way before SYTYCD when I found him dancing all over YouTube. But while he was capable, he was not the best choice to pair up with Jenna (I’m sure Cole Horibe would have dropped everything to help you guys out; he’s proven worthy of the paso). I couldn’t get the emotion and the storytelling out of the piece, although the choreography was stunning. And I was trying really hard to focus on mostly her, too….

Mary came out with the milquetoast swerve—“It was good…if you like that kind of thing.” Nigel and Kenny were unanimous in their delight, so she did her faux 180 and exclaimed how much she loved it, saying how much it blazed with passion, precision and intensity. (She thought Alex looked amazing in the style, though.) Jenna had Kenny declaring adorations in Spanish…so I guess he really DID like the number. 😉 Her passion and precision, especially in the face of getting a last-minute partner, propelled Jenna to the top of his favorites list. A girl could do worse than to be adored by Kenny Ortega…. Between Cat’s return to the Lollipop Guild dance and Nigel’s bad pirate jokes, I’m banishing those two to the corner for a few days…smh…but Nigel does at least commend both Jenna and Alex (who, indeed, had never gotten the opportunity to do ballroom on the show) for an incredible job, deeming Alex’s All-Star presence as a game-raising element to Jenna’s performance.

Makenzie/Paul
Contemporary – Mandy Moore

Girl loves bad boy and they meet in secret….wasn’t that West Side Story? We’ll see what Mandy’s spin on it does for the number.

Am I really supposed to buy sweet, smiley, cutie-pie Paul as a “bad boy”? The dance was gorgeous, though—I didn’t get the whole forbidden love/voyeuristic feel Mandy was going for but I did see those shapes. Simply marvelous.

Standing O again from the judges—Nigel thought the choreography was magnificent and the feeling put forth was expansive. He also complimented them on their breathing in the moments of the routine, calling it more beautiful to watch than the technique exhibited, and expressed his anticipation for next week’s growth as they pair with their All-Star partners. Mary agreed and was just as amazed with both the choreography and the seeming effortlessness displayed in the performance. Kenny makes it unanimous and confers favored status to the two of them as well, also agreeing that Makenzie’s place in the competition and subsequent Top 10 is merited and that Paul embodied the passion and love for dance displayed by the Paul character in A Chorus Line in everything he’s done. He was also very taken with the powerful soulful connection the two shared in this piece.

Amy/Fik-Shun
Viennese Waltz – Jean-Marc Genereux

Fik-Shun gets a traditional ballroom piece tonight—can’t wait to see it! No characters—just a celebration of Team Famy as they come to the end of this part of their journey. You better have worked on those posture issues, though…..Oh. Em. Gee. Did Amy just kick Jean-Marc in the nether regions?!? Oh dear….maybe I should worry more about her than Fik-Shun……..

Awwwww…..you still need a little more stretch and extension in your reach and movements, but I could see you trying really hard, Fik-Shun, and I thought you did a remarkable job. The chemistry was a no-brainer, as y’all have never had to fake a connection and this was just as delightful as all the other numbers. Amy did pretty well, too, though I couldn’t help but think back to Week 1 with Makenzie and Paul’s waltz where Mary swooned over her feet in those shoes. Amy’s point and turnout was not quite as pronounced, and I think I can now see the difference with that. Which is not to say Amy didn’t do well with it…just something I couldn’t help but notice.

Mary noticed some of the technical glitches but was clearly moved by the magical draw that is Famy. She did commend Fik-Shun on his progress and praised him for applying the note about his shoulders (which I also noted—you go, boy!) and was enamored by Amy. Kenny likened Amy to a music-box dancer and told Fik-Shun, “If a choreographer asked you to fly, I believe you would figure out a way to do it.” Me too, Kenny….even beyond what I believe he’s gonna do in this competition, this boy is a special, one in a billion type of dancer. He is destined for greater things. Nigel felt transported by the pair with this dance, remarking that the lack of flash and bang in the Viennese Waltz tends to make doing so difficult. He praised Fik-Shun for learning and growing, complimenting his coreection of form from rehearsal to stage, and reaffirmed to Amy that she is a beautiful dancer and he would be really surprised if she wasn’t among the Top 10 on next week’s show. I think he knew right then and there she really wasn’t leaving the show, but he barely survive that top of the show cut debacle—favoring Amy at that point would have not only messed with Malece’s head for her group number but incited another mini-riot with the public.

Jasmine/Alan
Hip-Hop – Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo

Stage coach robber meets saloon girl….the prototype for the modern gold-digger. Um, did I just hear Naps say “48 moves in 7 seconds?!?” I think Team Tall can take ‘em….

That was fast, alright, but they hung with it. Lost a little steam toward the end (at least I saw Jasmine puffing) but they never dropped swagger. And that Aaron….something tells me actor is going to be added to his career description in the very near future….

And yet another standing O….nice! Kenny proclaimed that after SYTYCD was done, choreographers would have to have a lottery to see who gets to work with these two smoking guns first. Nigel was so excited he was quoting Ellen DeGeneres (the carpenter/nailed it bit), and Mary thought the routine was money in the bank.

Top 6 Guys
Hip-Hop – Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo

So Aaron’s the winner of this week’s quick turnaround, and I really hope he’s got a second wind in his back pocket. It appears Tucker will at least get to do the hip-hop number, as his bros carried him in to rehearsal to “learn by chair.” A tug-of-war (with actual rope) representing the struggle men have to pull their own weight in a relationship. (OAN, what girl was stupid enough to break Fik-Shun’s heart? I want to kick her in the shins myself.)

Can’t EVEN tell you how tickled I am that they’re using Joshua Ledet’s version of It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World—still hate AI with every fiber of my being, but that’s my homeboy, and home turf trumps everything. But there’s so much going on, I’m going to need to watch this a few times to catch all the little nuances Nappytabs threw in there. What I could discern is the dominance of Paul and Aaron (sadly, still no Tucker for the routine, and I’m torn because it looked good as a quintet).

Mary and Kenny were up standing but not Nigel…I see wheels turning and I wonder if I’ve accurately predict what he’s going to say. He did say it was a strong, interesting routine and that it was tough to pick out the guys individually, though he did compliment Paul’s chainé turns at the beginning as well as the aerials from Nico (and I’m guessing that well-timed diving forward roll from Fik-Shun), and note that Alan still needed to loosen up in his movements. (I thought he was going to say something about Tucker’s absence–proved me wrong.) Mary swooned and loved every second, taking a moment to spotlight Aaron’s solo turn and subsequent interaction with Paul. Kenny actually praised Alan for the way he threw himself into this routine, more than any other in his opinion, and also praised Paul’s efforts.

Top 6 Girls
Contemporary – Stacey Tookey

Starlets gathering at the fountain of youth….but the ultimate end is to embrace and accept their personal worth over their physical beauty. Jasmine is the “dude” of the piece, lifting and carrying everybody. Hey, YOU said you were a tomboy…channel it, mama.

This is Amy’s kind of piece—the emotion she’s putting out is so palpable I think it physically grabs people through their TV screens (or computer monitors, as the case may be). Jenna has that but not as much of the technical prowess; Makenzie has the prowess but not Amy’s level of intensity. Malece and Jasmine were kind of lost in this piece: Jasmine because she was literally a supporting dancer and Malese because the other three girls were so strong.

Nigel stood up for this one though, didn’t he? Another full-panel standing O. Mary proclaimed both dancers and choreographer out of the ordinary, calling the sextet the best group of girls over 10 seasons without a flaw or misstep among them in the number. Kenny dubbed them divas in the making and was honored to be in their presence. Nigel thought the girls were all beautiful doing beautiful choreography, and that all six looked like professional contemporary dancers. Considering Amy’s classed as a jazz dancer and Jenna is Latin ballroom, that’s pretty high praise.

Nigel actually liked all of the solos tonight, and intends to throw his backing behind the departing dancers being selected for the Tour swing positions (so that seems more or less like a definite green light). I thought sure as producer and co-creator, he had more of a hand in the shape and direction of the tours, but apparently he does not.

I figured going in that this would be Alan and Malece’s last show—Alan just didn’t have the necessary fan base and kept having issues relaxing in anything that was outside his style (and a couple of moments in his own style), and Malese was the weakest of the six girls left, even with the amazing amount of technical talent and presence she has. If Nigel goes strictly by Top 12 like he did last season, they’ll be Tour swings, although personally Alexis’s stage presence edges over Malece by a good bit, and despite his short run, Carlos was a better all-around dancer. Nevertheless, Alan’s really all that’s left of the guys, with Jade and Curtis being injured and BluPrint being…well, not one-note exactly, but a bit limited in his ability to be a chameleon in all styles of dance at the rapid clip required to carry this Tour. However, if Nigel’s recommendation really carries that kind of weight with the Tour producers, those two will be on the bus. Still a little bit hard to watch the show’s two biggest crybabies leave the stage–but, in the truest form of friendship and solidarity (and the first time I’VE ever seen it), the pair gets treatment usually reserved for the show’s champions and are hoisted into the air onto the other dancers’ shoulders.

Next week brings in the All-Stars and hopefully a much better Tucker so he can dance his way back out of the bottom—though judging from fan popularity, it’s going to be a battle between him and Nico, and the comparison is just not fair. For the judges, that’s going to be like choosing which one of your Siamese twin sons is your favorite. The girls will probably come to a choice between Makenzie and Jasmine merely because the three-way hero worship between Amy, Jenna and Hayley and the consistent lack of public support for Makenzie (and the consensus I’ve seen online that Jasmine is riding Cyrus’s name to the top *TOTAL bunch of rubbish*) seems to be where the lot will fall.

Meanwhile, I’ve got some Tour tickets to buy….

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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 Season 10, Week 4: Making Transitions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Missed the show live despite my best efforts—had a whole lot of people to visit and not enough time. Thankfully, my Season Pass and save lock functions on my TiVo guaranteed a fresh view DESPITE FB page spoilers from the show. -__- (Next time guys, late Wednesday evening or Thursday morning would be the best times to post results for those of us who have to tape-delay.)

Top 16 open
This looks like Mia with a touch of Ailey’s Memoria. Has the look of a tour piece. Did not expect the stripping…but definitely an allegory of the exposure the contestants must submit to as part of this process. Aaron stands out again, but check Fik-Shun lifting Jasmine—you handle your tall woman, boy! Stacey Tookey and Peter Chu knocked out this one; this seems to now be a trend, pairing choreographers who are powerhouses in their own rights.

Guest judge – Carly Rae Jepsen
Hmm. All I know about is her music career, and she’s getting slams for that. You’d better know what you’re talking about, or else maybe is NOT the word I’ll use to call you.

7 Emmy nods for the show—lighting, 4 choreographers, Cat again for host, and the show as a whole

Bottom 6 announced:
Ominous foreshadowing in the recap clips….
Mariah
Alan
Makenzie
BluPrint
Jenna
Curtis

That’s about right…none of these six in this number seem to have a rabid fan base, and with the level of talent and skill this year the fan votes are everything to their survival. Jenna was spared dancing for her life since she had done so the previous week.

Makenzie
Contemporary to classical music—I do appreciate the artist in her. Hopefully America will soon.

Alan
Cape was unnecessary if you’re gonna pick it up at the 10 seconds remaining mark. However, paso solos are usually the most dramatic, so I applaud your choice as far as an instrument to grab audience attention. Could have used a little more footwork but the stance and presence was there.

Curtis
Looka you putting on some big boy muscles! I like the swag to that—can’t have been easy mixing smooth and syncopated to a John Legend song. Not positive it was attention-grabbing enough but it was better balanced than your initial “all tricks and the kitchen sink” audition solo.

Mariah
The ‘tude is there but not enough moves. She might need to actually let the ponytail down and deal with hair flying in her eyes. Not many girls can—or even choose to—krump with any level of believability, and being a little blond girl with skills, it needs to be more in-your-face. Less cozy campfire, more forest blaze.

BluPrint
I don’t know what more to suggest to get his face more engaged, but that solo was SICK. He REALLY has to have gotten something effed up for couples.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Into the competition round, where our dancers reveal little known tidbits about themselves to remind us who they are…. [Those will be set apart in brackets]

Alexis/Nico
Jive – Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin

[Nico is half Colombian and half British….that explains a lot.]

This was weak out of the gate for Alexis. As a tapper her legs and feet should be flicking fast and furiously…plus considering how much the bent knee stance means to footwork, her bounce should have been much better. As a couple, the number didn’t connect well—it was more like them mentally checking off the list of combos (OK, NOW see what we can do…) than doing a whole piece. Not enough high energy or bounce to it, either—this might be the thing that keeps them from Top 10 and tour. I also didn’t believe her character this time around.

Nigel agreed about the connections being clunky and them losing the bounce and energy halfway through…said OK but not great. Mary enjoyed the routine and was impressed by the kicks and flicks, but also noted the flagging energy…but praised the dancing. Carly Rae speaks as a fan—loved the dance, impressed that they danced out of their genre, loved the dress. Yawn. Gimme something to work with, Carly.

Jenna/Tucker
Contemporary – Travis Wall

Team Tuna pulls contemporary—maybe Tucker can escape unbeaten this week?
Tucker is Jenna’s strength this week, with her character having lost all self-control. Tucker is pulling from the near-death experience memories, so this should be a gut-wrencher. One little hiccup in transition with her climb on Tucker’s shoulder leading into the spin on the silks and a timing mishap with taking the last restraint loose, but a very good job from the two of them. (Especially considering they only had the dress rehearsal to work with those.)

Mary’s emotional and thinks they were spectacular—too choked up to properly put them on the Hot Tamale Train, even; Carly Rae impressed by the choreography and the contrast between the pair’s stage and rehearsal personas; Nigel was impressed with Jenna’s grasp of classic contemporary (being a ballroom dancer) and by Tucker’s grasp of presence in a routine that could have easily overshadowed him.

Mariah/BluPrint
Jazz – Brian Friedman

I don’t think we’ve seen HIM since Season 1….welcome back Brian. A Greek goddess falls for a mortal man.

[Mariah is a “girly girl”—cheerleader and everything. Maybe that’s why her krump is not pulling enough grunge.]

Yeah, this piece did them in. Mariah had that supernatural regal power thing going up until that middle partner section…after that, both of them looked like they were out of breath stumbling through the rest of the choreography, and she went from goddess to vestal virgin being sacrificed to the volcanoes. The emotional depth in her contemporary duo with Carlos was sorely needed here, and sadly, nowhere to be found. BluPrint was so far out to sea, lifeguards couldn’t find him in the daylight with a flashlight. He was definitely caught in the undertow.

Carly Rae thought the routine was “fun” and energetic, and thought the end was striking and powerful. Still not one concrete technical comment. Judging table FAIL. Nigel thought even though the end lift was clunky, the two hip-hoppers did a serviceable job with jazz—gave it a good-ish rating. Mary loved the beginning and was delighted with the synchronization, though she thought it lacked a little toward the end.

Malece/Alan
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

[Malece is tiny and eats like a linebacker. Big surprise.]

Alan is in danger, in a new partnership and dancing hip-hop. Lord help him.
Futuristic hip-hop—“the finders” (Malece and Alan) have to go and steal hip-hop back from the aliens. Oooookay.

Malece had some swag going there. The transitions are KILLING folks tonight—Malece almost got a full A plus up to telegraphing that flip over Alan’s back. Alan is too soft and fluid for this particular number…Dave said robotic and to my mind, that’s more angular and slightly sharper than what Alan was giving us.

Nigel applauded the “badass Tinkerbell” while admonishing Alan on taking on the full persona of the dance style and not coming off as stiff as he did; Mary didn’t think Alan grabbed onto the style but thought he came across as strong—though Malece did overtake him. (Didn’t I tell you about that “in the pocket” business last time, woman?). Carly Rae praised them both (generically, big surprise) and called Malece her favorite of the evening. I’m almost tempted to just forego chronicling her observations—Hannah Simone (of New Girl fame) at least knew some terminology.

Hayley/Curtis
Contemporary – Dee Caspary

[Didn’t realize Curtis was 6’1”….]

Two people trying to climb the ladder of success….

Dee Caspary has yet to really wow me but this was the best of his works that I’ve seen yet. I almost forgot that contemporary was the round where Curtis had that cathartic breakthrough…he did really well. Getting into that end pose was clunky but considering they were climbing a ladder while doing it AND Hayley’s got an issue with heights, I’ll give them a small break on that.

Mary thought the number was creative and interesting, and thought the connections flowed; she also slapped Curtis on the hand about lowering his shoulders to create better lines. However, Hayley got high praise. Carly Rae praised the partnership and the chemistry between the two…it only took half the show to get a comment of substance from her….. *golf claps* Nigel was disappointed with Curtis’s ignoring the shoulder note as well (and was disappointed with his solo) but praised his emotional work, and gave Hayley the thumbs-up. (And did we REALLY have to put the children on the spot about going out on a date? They’re gonna be blushing well into the next few weeks.)

Amy/Fik-Shun
Jazz – Tyce Diorio

[Fik-Shun is a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Badass. Cute, kid, but Cole still has my heart there…. ;-)]

Hobo jazz—of course the Wade Robson Triplets of Belleville number with Jesus and Sara comes immediately to mind, but I’ll try to be open.

You’ve GOT to be effin’ kidding me…..the same SOUNDTRACK, Tyce?!? Way to keep it original….luckily, Team Famy does character stuff very well. The track itself took too long to pick up steam so the number dragged a little—but again, that part was the choreographer’s fault. (I think this music contributes as well–I remember watching the Sara/Jesus incarnation several times before I could grasp the rhythm properly, and I did start hearing Fik-Shun and Amy’s piece differently after a few watches.) I can’t help comparing it to its Season 3 predecessor and finding it less than captivating. The fact that they’re good AND popular should get them to Top 10 territory in spite of this performance.

Carly thought they were adorable and flawless, and steals the favorite mantle from Malece and gives it to their number. Nigel calls this the best work Tyce has ever done and throws us a swerve—saying the pair grew ENORMOUSLY in stature as opposed to a little bit, and gave them “couple to beat” status. I’ll watch it again, Nigel, but I’m not that impressed…and again, through no fault on the dancers’ part. Though I WILL agree that this partnership is bananas—I maintain that these two are going to the finals. Mary thought this was as sweet as the Twinkie comeback (really though?), clever and fun and amazing. The hobos get to hop on the “train,” and Mary has a new phrase to retire—no more “hitting it out of the ballpark,” please. (Nigel must have known I was going to slam him on his comment because he worked in Tyce’s Season 5 breast cancer contemporary before I could even type up this note.)

Makenzie/Paul
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

1930s model and her photographer….hoping this version comes off better than the Chaplinesque piece from Vitolio and Asuka from Season 5….Who knew you could put 21st century swag on 1930s Charleston? There were a few moments I would have liked to have seen more sway in Makenzie’s back on those body rolls and bent-over poses, but she hit those moves very sharply. Paul’s character in the first few bars looked just as intimidated by Makenzie’s character as he himself was in the rehearsal, but once the Robin Thicke verses came in he was all flow and fluid with his own smooth sense of swag.

Standing O from the panel there…..Nigel needs a fan (and Mary obliges off-camera. LOL)—deems it the sexiest number of the night and puts his own Hot Tamale Train on the tracks just for them. Mary wholeheartedly agrees, amazed that Paul had some “soul in his bowl”. Carly thought the number was incredible and was on the edge of her seat. Cat keeps invoking Baz Luhrmann (I haven’t seen his take on Great Gatsby yet but my memories of his Moulin Rouge visuals are much more larger-than-life than this number was….which is not to take anything away from that amazing performance.)

Aaron/Jasmine H.
Quickstep – Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin

The Jazz Age roars back up again with Team Tall jumping way out from under their respective styles of contemporary and tap and launching not only into traditional ballroom, but the HARDEST dance of traditional ballroom. I have the utmost confidence in their drive, so I’m hoping any potential shortcomings in executing the choreography get steamrolled by that. Aaron’s posture (or lack thereof) make this look more like a jive; he should have looked 7 feet tall instead of slumped over. They were both selling the hell of this dance, though, and the footwork looked clean. That last pose was a snoozer given the lead-in from the preceding lift sequence—I’d have preferred some more dramatic-looking. Jasmine was certainly channeling Eartha Kitt again this week, and even her hair was dancing along with her.

Mary loves that they went for it, saying that while they still need work with the framing it was super-fantastic….and clearly bought what Aaron was selling with his personality. Carly Rae thought they made a difficult dance look easy. Nigel thought they looked magnificent and got lucky with being able to fully employ their personalities in the performance. (Looking at the slo-mo clip, I did get a Wild Party feel from the couple.)

I really have to stay off of Facebook before I initially watch (or take the like off the SYTYCD page during the season so nothing shows up in my News Feed), because I knew going in who had left the show. But even if I hadn’t had the spoilers, I’d probably have picked Mariah to go, since of the remaining two girls her solo was the weaker. I’d have personally been torn between Alan and BluPrint as they were about evenly matched with good solos and OK couples’ performances. However, looking at Alan’s across the board performance and the repeated mentions to BluPrint about raising personality level, I can’t say I’m surprised BluPrint was the one to be voted off. I’m really disappointed for Mariah as the only female krumper EVER gets squeezed out before Top 10. I’ll have to look and see if Curtis got slammed as hard as Alexis did by the fans for not taking notes and improving but still remaining on the show.

My bottom 6 predictions for next week:
Alexis
Nico
Makenzie
Alan
Hayley (it could possibly be Jenna as history has shown, but I think her contemporary performance was a little more complete than Hayley’s, and may just edge her to safety.)
Curtis

Nigel has been knocking himself out to hold onto the tappers—Season 6 saw all three of their tappers squeezed out before Top 10, and Season 8’s Nick Young managed to make the tour as an alternate despite his early exit from the competition–so anytime he can preserve his dance “soft spot,” you know Nigel’s gonna go for it. Alexis is going to have to pull stellar performances all around out of her AND somebody else’s wazoo in order to make it there, and Curtis is really going to have to start applying those notes. It’s hard to understand Makenzie’s lack of traction—she’s just as much performance beast as Amy but her fan presence is not as rabid. She’s got Danny Tidwell syndrome—stellar technique but not projecting a whole lot of personal warmth to the viewers (not so much an air of aloofness but there’s some wall of separation she can’t seem to hurdle…and it’s a shame). Alan needs a breakout moment similar to that blindfold contemporary in order to stay through Top 10. And as it seems that Amy and Jasmine Harper (and to some degree, Malece) have a lock on the top votes, it’s down to either Jenna or Hayley despite them both being incredible dancers. Jenna being the last ballroom girl may give her the edge over Hayley, who is stacked against a jazz dancer and THREE other contemporary girls. There’s just no easy way to call the girls. I think Nico’s fan base has been pulling him up since that lackluster hip-hop, but you never know how the vote will go.

Next episode has Anna Kendrick guest judging (who got the merit of pre-hyping in the commercials); I had to go Google her to realize I’d seen her in Pitch Perfect and was delighted to discover a stellar Broadway background in her resume. I pray she adds more teeth to her reviews…Carly Rae can go back to singing.

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