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.

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SYTYCD 11 Finale–Victor Victorious: The Ricky Redemption

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

It’s the finale of Season 11 and the results are in!

As has been standard over the past few seasons, several dances from the season are revisited based on judges’ choices, finalists’ faves and a fan pick based on social media vote…with all of the choices being likely fodder for the upcoming concert tour.

Tonight’s judging panel, along with stalwarts Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, include early judges Tara Lipinski and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and in their first panel appearances this season, legends Adam Shankman and Debbie Allen.

Mary Murphy is up first and picks Casey and Jessica’s Week 5 breakout contemporary, Travis Wall’s “Like Real People Do.” It lost some of the first time organics but it’s still a good piece, and they naturally nailed it technically, as usual.  They’ll get it hammered out for the Tour….Debbie Allen makes her first appearance this season and picks Valerie and Ricky’s hip-hop duo courtesy of Pharside and Phoenix.  The minute I heard “Turn Down For What” start I knew this was destined for heavy repetition.  Considering it actually made me like the song, that’s a pretty good thing.  Nigel’s choice was a nice little brag session, picking Rudy’s duet with FORMER All-Star Allison Holker–now a cast member and the latest SYTYCD alum on Dancing With The Stars–in the Ray Leeper “Dirty Diana” jazz from Michael Jackson Week. Nice cross plugs, Nigel…but how you mentioned everybody BUT Chelsie Hightower in that list is unfathomable.  For shame!  Jenna loves her some Rudy as well, as her selection is the Sonya Tayeh jazz piece “What You Need” performed with Tanisha in Top 20 week 2.  That was a good piece and an excellent showcase for Tanisha’s abilities. Adam Shankman, also in the studio for the first time this season, gives the best intro EVER: “I want to let those two kings know that THIS queen is a fan!”  Naturally, he’s referring to the fresh from last week Pharside and Phoenix hip-hop number “The Antidote,” given to Zack and Ricky, and I have to say those boys were just as filthy (Adam’s words) this week as they were last week.  Tara brings back the Nappytabs hip-hop “Get Low,” performed by my boo Emilio Dosal and All-Star and Degree pitchwoman Jasmine Harper, which is lucky for them as you’ll see a few paragraphs down.

Blessedly, there was no official ranking this year, but we were still treated to memorable moments from the auditions.  Most were expected–Courtney “How you doing?” Barnes, Jerrod “Hey Ms. Mary!” Swain and the 18 1/2 year old J4–but also included, and greatly appreciated, was Dani Platz, a young lady re-entering the dance world after a stint in recovery for an eating disorder.  Her emotive expression of her experience through her dancing, and judge Christina Applegate’s recognition of her voice in that piece, was touching and inspiring, and I applaud the producers for including it.

The top four kids also get to pick their favorites:

Zack goes with his breakthrough contemporary, Sonya Tayeh’s “Europe After the Rain” with All-Star Amy Yakima; Valerie sticks to her roots and picks the “Sing” tap Anthony Morigerato created for her and fellow finalist Zach Everhart; Jessica reprised the “When I Go” contemporary from the previous week, choreographed by Stacey Tookey and performed with All-Star Robert Roldan; and Ricky went all the way back to the first performance show and pulled his “Vow” contemporary from Sonya Tayeh, that he performed with fellow finalist Jessica Richens.

The evening would not be complete with an over-the-top foray from Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who not only “attempts” some Travis Wall choreography onstage but whips out his own ticket to Vegas for next season…who’s gonna tell him they’re back in Pasadena now?

Since we’re back to a single champion, we get that dramatic drawn-out results reveal, and the 4th place contestant is announced–Zack Everhart.  (Objectively, I have to finish this piece, but know that I call complete and total bullshit on America’s vote.  At the very least I think he should have been Top 2 for the astronomical growth he’s had this year.)

The audience got to select from three hip-hop numbers in the course of the season: the snake piece from Emilio and All-Star Jasmine Harper (#SYTYCDgetlow), the skeleton piece from Serge and Carly (#SYTYCDskeleton), and the piece from Week 4 with Casey and Brooklyn (#SYTYCDhustle). In a move that once again proves I TOTALLY cannot read the America audience, the popular vote went to #SYTYCDskeleton, the piece “Senile” with Carly and Serge.  Whaddayaknow, the audience can appreciate subtle skill after all. (However, I was partially correct in my surety that we’d be seeing “Get Low,” since as mentioned above it wound up being Tara Lipinski’s choice for an encore.)

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Also on tap were the clear and overwhelming winners of the Crew contest–The Wanted Ashiqz.  All four crews were great and had their own something special, but there was that extra edge from Wanted Ashiqz that gave me the feeling that they would wind up on the finale….and they did not disappoint.  The hip-hop/Bollywood fusion group has an incredibly high production value with moves and precision to match.

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Alright, it needs to be said–Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott, just get married already and have a SYTYCD baby!  The Top 10 + 10 get blessed by the Miracle Duo’s latest concept piece, which is basically just  people helping people and being kind whenever you can.  I sure hope they can make this work with 13 people, because this not being on the Tour would be criminal.

Even Cat gets in a pick, and as it happens, it’s a duet from what is determined as the top two finalists–Ricky and Valerie reprising their very first partnership, the contemporary “Oh Darling” from Travis Wall.  Which, of course, means that Jessica falls short of the title in 3rd place…and, like Zack before her, is eliminated immediately after her last performance of the night.  Something tells me more people knew the results beforehand than have let on….

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

So it’s down to another couple, and America’s vote goes exactly where I thought it would (despite my hopes for a surprise win from a tap dancer): Ricky Ubeda.  Honestly, I really have nothing against the kid other than it’s yet another contemporary dancer taking the title.  But that’s not really fair to let my hang-ups and wishes color his victory.  In truth, any of the four finalists possess a level of technique and passion that was worthy of a win.  But you could definitely see something extra special in Ricky.  On top of that absolutely insane level of technique embedded in his muscle memory, the high degree of passion displayed every time he stepped onto the stage essentially cemented America’s choice.  Nigel called him a magician of dance very early on, and I have to admit that he’s right.  The combination of skill and joy is entrancing, and what makes the experience even more profound is watching Ricky AFTER performing.  The boy was literally spent and either near or in tears after every single performance–I honestly believe we as an audience felt a mere fraction of everything he put into his routines, which were often superhuman but looked as natural as breathing.

So Ricky is the latest So You Think dance ambassador, and he definitely earned it.  As a former teacher myself–and as a big fan of Ricky’s teacher, Season 6 contestant Victor Smalley–there’s a certain feeling of pride and joy when you see one of your students excel at pursuing their dreams…and when those dreams just happen to be ones you yourself reached for and just missed, that extra vicarious thrill of victory has got to feel incredible.  I imagine both of these Miami boys are over the moon right now, with no signs of coming down anytime soon.

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Miami boys represent!

UPDATE: I am ashamed to say that in my haste to publish on time I missed a few things. Enrique’s performance was lovely (and why is he doing the one name thing? SMH), but I was focused on the dancing. And I have to go watch again and fully appreciate the Les Twins performance. But it is absolutely shameful that I did not even mention Michael Demecki, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Australia….where do I even begin? That boy has moves Blake McGrath can only dream of….and I LOVE me some Blake McGrath. AND he danced to Cole and Lindsay’s paso song? Let’s just say it’s a good thing Ricky wasn’t competing there. Bravo, young man.

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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SYTYCD 11, Top 4–Gimme the 4-11

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This is it–the last competitive performance show of the season! The top 4 dance in as many incarnations as can be thought of…group, duets, All-Stars and solos.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson makes his first appearance of the season on the judges’ panel, thus a guarantee that hilarity will ensue over the course of this evening….

Top 4 group
Contemporary–Travis Wall

A piece essentially about equality, the four dance to “Wind Beneath My Wings” in a physical personification of their dance journeys to this point. I’m not sure what’s with this trend of the all white color scheme on the final four group number…probably just coincidence, but you know I notice stuff like that….

Along with pairing configurations, we also have every conceivable dance style in existence represented this evening…observe:

Valerie/Ricky
African Jazz–Sean Cheesman

“Survival of the Fittest”–the kids are racing to get to the finish.

They got the mechanics but not the organics; the athleticism was high level, though.

Nigel was breathless watching and thought stamina was high; Mary marveled about their athleticism and energy and called the number animalistic and uninhibited; Jesse was just thrilled to see them and thought they were already at at high level coming into the competition.

Jessica/Zack
Broadway–Spencer Liff

Two lovers at their secret rendezvous, complete with 1940s noir feel and a staircase as a prop.

Jessica had some Cyd Charisse vamp happening (Jessica Rabbit had to have SOME inspiration), and Zack is very engaging and personable with flashes of technical brilliance. I can’t quite figure out who he reminds me of–perhaps a bit of a Tommy Tune vibe because of his build, but there’s an extra something I can’t yet place.

Mary said it was sexy, sensational and stunning stair work, and gave kudos to Zack’s legs, too, stating they were just as noticeable and impressive as Jessica’s; Jesse thinks Zack and Jessica could hit the Broadway stage tomorrow with no problem; Nigel commended both of their growth, calling Zack gifted and Jessica a standout.

Viewers’ choice this year is between three average hip-hop numbers: the snake piece from Emilio and All-Star Jasmine Harper (#SYTYCDgetlow), the skeleton piece from Serge and Carly (#SYTYCDskeleton), and the piece from Week 4 with Casey and Brooklyn (#SYTYCDhustle). The Casey/Brooklyn piece is off my radar mainly because of that unfortunate costume choice, and that skeleton piece was underappreciated, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jazzy and my boo take the stage tonight.

Valerie/Zack
Contemporary–Tyce Diorio

Yes darlings, you read that right–the two tappers left standing are paired in a contemporary piece. This will be the defining, game-changing number of the evening, having them dance against type and dig deep into their emotional wellsprings. Tyce has them portraying lovers overcoming an obstacle…the obstacle being the woman’s blindness and physical limitations.

The choreography itself is nothing above ordinary; what transforms it is the characterization these two moving actors bring to it.

And Cat says the same….

Jesse: commended Valerie on her characterization and ability to connect with Zack while keeping her “handicap” in place; Nigel called it a remarkable blend of artistry and tough subject matter; Mary proclaimed that it’s no longer a surprise why they’re top 4, and found the honesty of their portrayals moving.

Jessica/Ricky
Jazz–Ray Leeper

No concept, just a push for excellence. The best they have to offer.

Great work from them. Technically solid.

Nigel: Loves the two as a couple since the first Top 20 show, perfect fit; Mary: clean, concise, full of power; Jesse: adorable little sprockets and topped even his own fanboy levels to take a selfie with the kids from his seat.

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Jason Mraz music break….I’m not NOT a fan, but I wanna see the kids dance.

Valerie/Jessica
Bollywood–Nakul Dev Mahajan

“Bollywood Divas”…Feminine/classical mix–could this be the girls’ take on Robert and Billy’s routine from Season 7?

No…not as much palpable energy from the girls. But it was fun, clean and well executed.

Mary hailed them as stunning Bollywood divas and thought they did an amazing job; Jesse was impressed with the expressive joy and athleticism; Nigel stated that Bollywood was a fusion of all dancing and it makes him smile….so I’m going to assume he liked it. 😉

Zack/Ricky
Hip-Hop–Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz

Season 3 had the two princes; Season 11 brings you the two kings in this piece called “Crowd Favorite.” (Or is that Crown? Either works for me.) The King of Diamonds and the King of Clubs duke it out.

Of the two Zack has a slight swag edge. However, Ricky ain’t no punk…..

Jesse jokingly dubbed them the personification of Nigel and Mary’s relationship, but called the pair spectacular; Nigel stated they were the “two least likely urban, swagtastic dancing dudes ever on the show”; Mary said they were amazing with a side of scream, and that it was totally unexpected.

And now that the kids have been properly shuffled amongst each other, time for their All-Star pieces in their own style (more or less) and their final defining solos.

Valerie (with All-Star Aaron Turner)
Tap–Anthony Morigerato

Absolutely no reason not to take advantage of the show’s highest ranking tapper when there are two in the final four this year, right? Aaron returns and in his pairing with Valerie gets involved in yet another tumultuous relationship. The choreography is precise and exacting (Anthony’s words) so the two have to be clean and stylish.

This was some insane syncopation accompanying Sammy Davis Jr.’s vocals, particularly in the scat section. Heels would have been nice for the look since we kind of had that 1940s glam happening, but I know those are more difficult shoes to navigate with this kind of fast footwork. And Valerie’s trademark red shoes were really cute, so I’ll take it. Marvelous job.

Nigel thought the piece was so full of love; Mary dubbed them “perfect partners”; Jesse likened Valerie to being the “Michael Jordan” of the show, a nod to her excellence in outside style but being total magic in her own most comfortable one. I got it, Jesse…it only seemed like you were rambling aimlessly.

Ricky’s first up for retrospective and solo duty…his passion was on display for sure, but the technique is so embedded in this boy’s muscle memory that the two are indistinguishable at this point. Dance is the reason that Ricky Ubeda exists.

He has a quick change over the commercial break to go right into his All-Star duet.

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

Ricky is at rock bottom, with Kathryn acting as his angel on Earth–the force to lift him from his troubles and worries into a lighter, happier being.

So much joy expressed in movement….and Ricky’s sobbing again. I mean really–you hear people use the phrase “dance is in my DNA” but you can only have an abstract grasp on that concept until you watch Ricky. He is a literal personification of that.

Mary thought it was spectacular and breathtaking; Jesse had no other commentary outside calling it a brilliant performance and delivering a blushworthy takeoff on Toni Basil’s “Mickey” (or Weird Al’s “Ricky,” since the name fit); Nigel said Ricky is the perfect ambassador for the show.

Valerie is next, and it’s very telling that the song used for her retrospective package is titled “Unbreakable”….well dammit, if you’re gonna go out with a bang and there’s an upbeat, tappable song out there with your name literally on it, you might as well go for it, right? Using your music and your feet to remind the people what your name is–go ‘head, girl!

Zack (with All-Star Aaron Turner)
Tap–Anthony Morigerato

Boys’ duet, with Aaron as the bartender and Zack as the weary patron coming in to tip a glass and spill all his troubles. I did not notice that Zack and Aaron had crossed paths before back in Season 9’s auditions. Both were cut back then…and look at them now. Awesome.

Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is the tune of choice for this piece, and a more appropriate song you cannot find.

OK, I’m not even gonna review this. I’m just gonna post the screenshot of the Facebook message I left on Anthony’s wall immediately after I watched them.

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Cat actually used the words spiritual and divine, and the judges gave a well-deserved standing ovation.

Jesse sat marveling at Zack’s growth, brilliance and malleability; Nigel attempted to pull a Christina Applegate and told Anthony, SHUT UP! (It’s actually “Shut your face!” Nigel but don’t worry, I said it for you); Mary saw passion from the guys from the beginning, and simply loved it.

Jessica’s solo turn brings it back to the beginning–a revisit to the audition piece that got her the ticket in the first place. It might be a man’s world in the song, but Jessica is putting y’all on notice with the rest of that lyric: “….wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.”

Jessica also has a quick change moment to prep for her duo.

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

I guess they said jazz and contemporary were close enough (unless Jessica pulled a Jasmine Harper and actually REQUESTED contemporary)….

According to Travis, the piece essentially asks this one question: “Will he miss me if I leave?” Jessica is trying as best she can to stop playing it safe with her dancing and just let loose and get involved in the character of the piece.

Jessica has gotten stronger as a moving actor; her technique was always good but she’s letting that take more of a backseat to her emotional projection.

Nigel was just as impressed with her acting improvement as well as dance ability, and dubbed her his favorite girl this season (“I love you to bits”); Mary got choked up, but used spontaneous combustion and electrifying to describe her experience of the piece; Jesse named it his favorite of the night, and hailed Travis Wall as an “unending well of creativity.”

Zack closes out the night with the evening’s final solo. This dude is too cool for school….smooth style, ridiculous rhythms and an out-of-the-box song choice. I’m rooting for you, kiddo….

And that puts a wrap on Season 11–it’s all over but the voting results. It’s clearly no secret that of the remaining four, I’m putting all my chips on Zack. Which is not to say that any of the other three finalists are any less talented, because each one of them is stellar in their technique and specialty styles as well as being able to adapt brilliantly to all of the other styles. But after 11 seasons and 211 contestants, there have only been 8 classified tap dancers on the show, and only 3 of those have gotten to the final four. All of the other dance styles are represented somehow, and it would be nice to see either Zack or Valerie take the title. But I’m thinking of the total packages–both the prize package and what each contestant brings to the table–and with a show like On The Town, Zack has the most comprehensive skill set combined with the biggest exponential growth to flourish in that featured role. Plus, I like an underdog.

We’ll get the skinny soon enough…..

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

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

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

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

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

Top 4 Group
Jazz – Mandy Moore

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

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

Amy/Aaron
Jazz – Ray Leeper

Sexy with a club feel. Ray’s words.

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

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

Jasmine/Fik-Shun
Contemporary – Travis Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power and passion.

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

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

Jasmine

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

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

Jasmine/Aaron
Samba – Dmitry Chaplin

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

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

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

Fik-Shun

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

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

Amy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron/Fik-Shun
Broadway – Tyce Diorio

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

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

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

Amy/Jasmine
Jazz – Mark Kanemura

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 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!