The Total Package: SYTYCD Season 12, Week 3 Hollywood

Another week, another round of exciting competition…..

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Top 18 group – Samba/Jazz (?)
Choreographers Asiel Hardin and Reina Hidalgo

Nothing could prepare me for this Brazilian samba-like rhythm and the song title super….Let The Groove Get In by Justin Timberlake?!? Alrighty then….it’s a fun number, though. I can see this being a tour piece.  First-time choreographers Reina Hidalgo and Asiel Hardin are welcome back anytime.

Not caring for this Stage/Street percentage announcement….

JaJa, Derek and Alexia – Contemporary
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Song: All Waters, Perfume Genius

Bravery in different forms. The dancers are cast as a war veteran, an abused woman and a single mother, and each has to draw on their own emotions to convey experiences they have no direct way of relating to.

I still wholeheartedly believe JaJa was ready last season, but she is really morphing well into the stage styles. A bobble here and there but for the most part she matched Alexia the whole time. Derek’s salute was weak but that may have been intentional given the theme of the piece….plus he also had some off moments. Considering he had two girls to partner and his own character to portray through all of it, I think he did an admirable job. Alexia danced very well–it’s hard to focus on Stacey Tookey’s choreography as there are several things happening at once. But I think she delivered everything Stacey asked.  The lighting was spectacular.

Nigel thinks Alexia danced tall and Derek did well in concert with the girls, and is also impressed with JaJa’s chameleon-like abilities. Paula lauds Stacey for the piece and agrees on all three, and dubs this as Derek’s best work yet. Jason makes three and appreciates the timeliness of such a piece, feeling connected to the story and the emotion. Cat drags out the results for effect, scaring poor Derek unnecessarily….all three are safe.

Megz, Moises and Jim – Hip-Hop
Choreographer JaQuel Knight
Song: Whuteva, Remy Ma

Choreographer JaQuel Knight (famous for Beyoncé’s Single Ladies choreography) gives the trio a piece that “lets everybody knows you’re here to stay, and ‘whuteva to the haters.’ ” Megz still looks the toughest in the bunch regardless of style, but the guys are really trying to find their cockiness and swag.

Jim tried, and held on to the choreography fairly well, but the swag rested in the not-so-good stank face he was bringing. Moises did better and I thought he gave the necessary attitude. Megz clearly danced more in pocket to help the boys match.

Paula thought their commitment to character, vibe and feel could have been stronger, though she did applaud Jim for being able to more fully express it; Jason thought it was cool, but thought Megz petered off in energy at the last quarter, and the guys gave mediocre backup dancer; Nigel didn’t think the piece worked at all.  Results save Jim and Megz but puts Moises in danger again.

Edson, JJ and Yorelis – Jazz Funk
Choreographer Tovaris Wilson
Song: Restart, Sam Smith

A jazz/hip-hop fusion with Edson as the ladies’ man working two women. Coach Travis wants Edson to own his sex appeal in this piece, while Coach tWitch is impressed with the girls’ grasp on the choreography.

Great sync from all three. Not sure about the level of stage training JJ has had but she’s proving equal to her partners. Also, Edson holds his own extremely well alongside two of the strongest performing personalities in the competition–I got some nice suave pretty boy vibes from him. The jazz technical sections seemed more drawn out and heavy compared to the fun, hip-hop inspired parts, but the execution was strong and precise.

Jason thought it was entertaining and that Edson had some great moments, but could have been more free with his interactions “flirting” with the ladies. Nigel thought the girls are very strong–dubbed them two of his favorites–and said they caught the groove but need to be careful polishing the technique, while telling Edson to embrace his sexuality and infuse his performances with it. Paula agrees on both points about the girls regarding vibe and technique, and notes Yorelis had a slightly better hold on the latter than JJ. Edson got a favorable review on his vibe as well. Yorelis and JJ move forward while Edson falls to the bottom.

Marissa and Asaf – Club Cha-Cha
Choreographer Jean Marc Genereux
Song: +1, Martin Solveig featuring Sam White

A rock star and groupie/plus one connection. Asaf gets to use some of his cocky bravado if he can grasp all of that complicated choreography, and Marissa gets to amp up her sex appeal once she can more fully let loose and be confident in her partner’s abilities. Coach tWitch is just happy Asaf is working hard and doesn’t have to be pulled aside this week. (As are we all, tWitch…as are we all.) Jean Marc gives Asaf a plate to work with to help him maintain his arm space…..now Jean Marc, was the duct tape under yours really necessary?

He tried. I will give it to him–Asaf really tried, and was physically strong and present. But I now see what Mary Murphy has been yammering about regarding foot placement and rhythmic hips…because it was badly lacking. This hampered Asaf’s ability to infuse his persona into the dance, while Marissa thrived in that, making it seem like SHE was the rock star character in this instead of the man.

The judges were unanimous in noting that Marissa, in her effort to dance down to Asaf’s level, danced below her own as well. She is safe to come back next week, though, as Asaf heads the bottom 6.

Gaby, Burim and Ariana – African Jazz
Choreographer Sean Cheesman
Song: Gorilla, Lord KraVen

Choreographer Sean Cheesman casts the trio as animalistic, beasty creatures and themes the piece “dance of the blood moon.” Canes are involved–the girls are grasping it; Burim is not. We’ll see what happens on stage.

Arachnophobes, do not adjust your sets–that is not a spider in the opening shot. Very ethnic and earthy movements, and Burim caught on better than I thought, but this number belonged to the girls. Total powerhouses, those two. Between wardrobe, hair and lighting this was a visually spectacular piece.

Paula thought it was strong, and inadvertently made a reference to the video introduction that triggered the 12 year old boys flanking her at the judges’ table. Thanks to a save from Cat Deeley (because you will NOT drag me into pre-pubescent boy world), she is able to articulate how proud and impressed she is that he’s overcoming his struggles. She also marvels at the girls’ strength and power, and loves the overall visual presentation. Jason noticed a slight misstep on Burim’s part and gave him some advice, but overall loved the concept and the number. Nigel called it one of the best of the evening, praising the two girls and giving Burim his due on keeping pace. He also gives Burim tips on using his second position and plié to get further down into the movement…..then quickly reverts back to his inner teenage horndog. *facepalm* Ariana is in danger again as well as Burim this week, but Gaby comes up safe.

Neptune and Kate – Contemporary
Choreographer Justin Giles
Song: Promise, Ben Howard

Oh goody–an established married couple having to do the long-distance/separation thing. A little too close to my personal home. Both dancers are having to pull on their full emotional range for this piece to prove to the judges and to the viewing audience what their capabilities are.

Good routine. Neptune’s movements need a little more power and completion but he had them and the emotional execution down. Kate is a very fluid dancer, and that tends to imply that there are no drastic levels to her performances. I saw a few sharply defined moments, so she may be able to get better remarks from the judges this week.

Jason enjoyed the chemistry and the “filling in of spaces”, and applauded Kate for breaking out of her shell. Likewise, he praised Neptune’s efforts and intimated that he just might be this week’s favorite. Nigel marveled at the dichotomy of such a limited scope of steps giving off such an expansive aura, and also commented on the progression of audience acceptance regarding pairs of mixed races. (Trust me, Nigel, the ignorance is still out there…..they just don’t say it in the general public.) Paula also sees Kate’s emotional progress and claims Neptune as a favorite as well. Neptune is safe this week with the audience vote, but Kate is in danger.

Virgil and Hailee – Hip-Hop
Choreographers Phoenix and Pharcyde
Song: Runnin, Noahplause

Robots. They’re playing robots. From outer space, even. This should be good. Hailee is picking this up…..wise girl, studying some hip-hop for the show. Virgil is having to bring a harder game to keep up. I’m not worried, though. Coach tWitch described him as “Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Pryor wrapped up in a little nugget of a man.” That’s about right.

Ummmm……damn. Dizamn, y’all. I was watching the beginning thinking Hailee needed to bring up her energy and precision…and then I noticed the height difference. Briefly mistaking her for Virgil is about the highest compliment I can give her. That, and I see shades of Eliana. Virgil was no slouch either. These two were virtual dynamite. This is touring.

Nigel dubs them the two brightest personalities on the show, and these two personalities proceed to try to snag the Cole Horibe Award for not breaking character. Paula thought it was fantastic, and Jason is floored by the wacky pair.

So the bottom 6 this week are Edson, Moises and Kate for Team Stage, and Ariana, Asaf and Burim for Team Street.

Team Stage group dance – Contemporary
Choreographer Jaci Royal
Song: For My Help, Hayden Calnin

Choreographer Jaci Royal crafts a piece about needing others to overcome obstacles. Focusing on emotion and connectedness as opposed to the power and aggression of last week, Coach Travis is hoping something new comes across this time.

Still a lot of power and aggressive energy, but the slow motion moves are impressive with the strength and fluidity displayed. Kate’s expressiveness is really palpable in this one.

Team Street group dance – Hip-Hop
Choreographer Marty Kudelka
Song: Break Ya Neck, Busta Rhymes

Legendary choreographer Marty Kudelka gives Team Street a smoother, groovier piece than the previous offerings.

Pretty funky. Squad is in the house.

Twitter saves Ariana and Kate, which drops all of the boys in jeopardy. After the judges’ deliberations, Asaf is the last B-boy standing, while Edson gets the contemporary save. So Burim and Moises–the two I DIDN’T want to leave–are going home this week. Boo hiss. Oh well, the show goes on. We’ll see what new challenges are in store for next week.
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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 11, Top 6–Boogie Nights and Technicolor Dreams

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Last show before the final choice is made!

Christina Applegate is back for another week of judging

Top 6 group–Hip-Hop

Blacklights, makeup and props…choreo looks Dave Scott but concept looks Pharside and Phoenix.  But no, it’s Nick DeMoura…the Biebs’s choreographer, “co-host” for the Crew Challenge, and purveyor of a new instructional dance video.

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All-Star pairs, contestant pairs (which by chance or choice happen to be original pairings) and solos for the crew tonight….and we start by reuniting Valerie and Ricky

Valerie/Ricky
Broadway—Spencer Liff

Spencer is choreographing a Technicolor dream….

Valerie’s in this aqua frothy dress and the kids get to play with a swing.  Spencer’s combined a little Fosse with a little Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse (or Leslie Caron, if you prefer)—Valerie actually reminds me of Singin’ in the Rain era Debbie Reynolds…and Ricky has the physique of Bob Fosse with the technique of James Mitchell or Jacques d’Amboise.  I was quite impressed with that jump through the swing.

No they DID NOT embarrass that poor girl with rehearsal footage of her slip getting caught on the swing!

Nigel loved the feel and thought that either of them would make a welcome addition to the On The Town cast should they win, and upon him bringing up and instant replaying Ricky’s jump I’m even more impressed that it was a jeté; Christina thinks they both have That Thing to take home the win; Mary that their chemistry was honest and thought it was breezy and sweet.

Jessica and Casey are teased up to their disco finest going into the break….wonder what they’re doing….

Jessica/Casey
Disco—Doriana Sanchez

Didn’t see that one coming…. -_-

A “sexy, fun and technical” disco…do you teach any other kind, Doriana?

Casey just might give Brandon Bryant some relief as a future disco All-Star—the kid was just the right amount of clean and kitschy.  Jessica did well though some moments of hesitation were visible, particularly in landing that end pose, but she definitely threw her whole self into the experience.

Christina “ages” herself by bringing up Denny Terrio and Charo to compare the kids—she kinda has a point, which dates me too, but whatever—but she thought it was fabulous, but noticed a shade of fear in Jessica’s expression on a few moves (in a most indelicate fashion….snot, Christina? Really?); Mary was thrilled dizzy by the kids’ performance; Nigel proclaimed it tremendous and agreed that the kids did very well.

(Coming up, cooling off Nigel’s hot head and making the kids cry with family videos tonight….starting with Ricky.)

Ricky—Solo

Dude, please…shut your face.  Just shut it.  You might not be my vote but you definitely have skills and passion.

Jacque/Zack
Foxtrot—Jean-Marc Genereux

“Zack Astaire and Jacque Rogers”—seriously, J-M?  Them’s big shoes to fill.

A little rocky in spots, and Jacque REALLY has to break out of that “smiley” face and present something more genuine, but it was a very nice number.

Mary called it, too—though she called it “snazzy and jazzy” she also said it was rough around the edges, showing signs of promise in areas but clunky footwork in closed hold and tension in other areas; Nigel agrees and actually used the words “herky-jerky”—Sir Lythgoe was not impressed; Christina thought the faces were a bit disingenuous and forced, and didn’t feel the chemistry as much from them…”dance from your souls, first….”

Jessica—Solo

This solo was basically a turnfest, but it was one of the most honest performances I’ve seen from her.  I’m guessing she actually saw that package with her family before she danced….

Musical interlude IN THE MIDDLE of the show…a-ha.  I have actually heard this song by Rixton before, but I wouldn’t be able to pick these children out of a lineup if they were wearing nametags.

Valerie (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Will “Willdabeast” Adams

Newlywed couple’s first dance at the reception….a) does Allison know about this? and b) that is possibly the stuffiest wedding dress I have ever seen…this is not Green Gables, folks….

Thank GOD that skirt disappeared….Valerie still has some funk to her, and plenty enough to hang with tWitch.

Nigel enjoying the fun and entertainment brought to the piece—and rightly shouting out Nappytabs’s Emmy win this past weekend—and acknowledging the entertainer’s spirit in Valerie; Christina called Valerie amazing…and I’m not sure exactly where the Diet Coke came in with the crotch roll and side of rice in this hip-hop wedding joke, but I’ll let her have her “away from the kid” fun; Mary thought it was a wedding routine to remember and dubbed Valerie “swaggerocious.”

Casey—Solo

A little more quirk with the spins tonight, and lots of emotion.

Valerie—Solo

High octane like last week, but not quite as cohesive.  It was definitely fun, though.

Jacque (with All-Star Will Wingfield)
Jazz—Sean Cheesman

The innocence of young love….with a Pilates ball.  You choreographers and your crazy, abstract concepts…. “I wish I could say we had a ball, but….” Really, Jacque? *groan*

Awwww…..that was really sweet.  Jacque got to pull from her innate innocence and make this organic.  And without seeing that rehearsal footage, you’d think that ball sequence was a breeze for the two of them….awesome work.

Christina praised Sean first for the choreography and then Jacque for rising to the occasion and bringing forth character organically; Mary described Jacque with the words “class, grace, elegance and control,” and acknowledged the difficulty of working with the ball; Nigel called it brilliant and said it wiped that foxtrot from his memory.

Zack—Solo

First of all, he’s in black, dancing against a brightly colored backdrop, to a song called “Butterfly.”  Whycome them feet are moving like a hummingbird’s wings?  He is determined to leave a fabulous impression on the audience’s minds.

Jessica (with All-Star Ade Obayomi)
Jazz—Ray Leeper

The most fabulous couple in the Tokyo club…and I see they recycled Zack and Jacque’s getups from Top 20 Week 1…..

If those costumes weren’t so godawful ugly, I’d have enjoyed the dance MUCH more.  But I managed to tune them out aurally and visually to focus on the execution of the choreography—which was well in sync and quite sassy.   Jessica really held her own with Ade.  And while my knowledge of clubs is probably just as expansive as Jessica’s, I think the pair carried the vibe pretty well.

Christina makes a bad lost cat joke (no self-respecting cat would sacrifice itself for those UG-A-LEE boots) but loved Jessica’s performance and the ponytail strut; Mary thought it was fun and crazy and envisions Cat and Nigel doing that at the club (thanks Mary—it’s gonna take me the rest of the season to unsee THAT), and manages to praise Jessica for her razor-sharp focus; Nigel wasn’t thrilled—it was just OK and didn’t connect with him, and he also takes the moment to tell Jessica not to rely on turns and beef up her solos.  I’m not the biggest Jessica fan, but that there was unfair—I don’t recall him saying that to Casey last week….

Jacque—Solo

Well, if you’re gonna do an eye-catching, Final Four worthy solo, you might as well pull out a flowing skirt and WAC hat and do a pointe solo to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”.  That was the nicest blend of classical and contemporary, reminding me of something the Joffrey might stage—much like the suite they did to Prince’s music.

Ricky (with All-Star Anya Garis)
Cha-Cha—Jean-Marc Genereux

Cha-Cha—Cuban in origin.  Ricky Ubeda—Cuban in origin.  He gets to go from cutesy to sexy in this piece, and if anybody can pull it out of him, it’s the original Hot Tamale.

Eh—lukewarm.  I can’t help but wish it was Rudy doing this one.  Still, Ricky’s technique looked really sharp….just needed way more sexy.

Nigel thought he looked like he’d been doing it for years, at least in stature and bravado; Christina bought it wholesale and said he actually drew her attention with Anya on the stage (is that SEN-sational or SIN-sational, Christina?); Mary thinks Ricky brought it, was solid on his feet and in his lead, and she totally bought it.

Casey (with All-Star Makenzie Dustman)
Contemporary—Stacey Tookey

Didn’t Makenzie already do the “little time to live” thing in her season?  We’ll see what Stacey’s take is on finding out you may have only one day left with the one you love…..though technical, Stacey hopes Casey focuses on the feeling and tells the story with his movement.

Y’all really didn’t need to put the boy in an asymmetrical mini-dress to get a nice fluid effect—his dancing was plenty.  I saw only glimpses of his expression but his movement, connection and flow were airtight.  That counterbalance move was wicked.

Christina took the Iyanla route and asked Casey how the dance made him feel—upon his not being able to describe it, she said that he’d done his job and it was wonderful; Mary really felt it and thought everything blended and smoldered and proclaimed it his best of the season; Nigel thought the piece made sense from beginning to end and dubbed it remarkable.

DAMMIT—NIGEL STOLE MY IDEA!  Or at least my prop, if someone has the unmitigated gall to challenge me….

Zack (with All-Star DuShant “Fik-Shun” Steagal)
Hip-Hop—Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb

My boo Phillip’s choreographic debut, and he’s inspired by a Rorschach blot….well, the boy WAS studying engineering, so I’m not surprised where he can take his mind….

Fascinating bit of work….reminiscent of what he and IaMmE Crew did with their finale piece on America’s Best Dance Crew, and some of the armwork he did with Jeanine in “Mad”.  I love me some him….and them.  Though I did see some subtle differences in head movements in two different sections, I thought the boys shaped that well.

Even Cat’s impressed…..

Mary screams fabulous and loved every second of it; Nigel is impressed at tonight’s performance as well as every other dance and characterization Zack has been asked to perform over the season….then gives this backhanded wish for success and luck getting into the finale :-/ (he saved himself by amended that to being “shocked and thrilled” to see him in the finale….hmph….); Christina is proud of Zack’s ability to not only hang with Fik-Shun but to transcend any dance boxes he might have put himself into.

Now to the last elimination for the Big One:

Jessica (no surprise)
Ricky (also no surprise)
Valerie (HELL YEAH!)
Zach (F’IN RIGHT!)

Did I actually just channel Drake? Lord help me…..

Hard call if you look at tonight, but I tell you, Valerie and Zach have been proving their versatility since the ballroom round of callbacks.  I’m amazed with all of the bottom placements that Jacque got as far as she did, and there can only be one pretty boy, so poor Casey didn’t really stand that much of a chance.

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(Why does the final four lineup look like a scene out of Boogie Nights?  Some of the most unfortunate costumes to get good news in….)

Next week’s All-Stars: Kathryn (presumably for Ricky), Robert (apparently doing double duty with both Valerie and Jessica) and Aaron (with Zack, natch).  Plus, if the format holds, everybody dances duets with each other in addition to their solos….let’s make sure we don’t cut the Final Four group number this year…..

And as I really don’t remember seeing them, we should get a performance from Wanted Ashiqz before the grand finale….no mention of them but a performance from Jason Mraz?  Hmmm…..

Gonna be a packed show!

SYTYCD 11, Top 20–Dropped Calls

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

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

Top 18 group–Broadway

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

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

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

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

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

Tanisha/Rudy

Jazz–Sonya Tayeh

Cat and mouse power play.

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

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

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

Valerie/Ricky

Contemporary–Travis Wall

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

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

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

Bridget/Emilio

Hip-Hop–Luther Brown

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

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

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

Jessica/Nick

West Coast Swing–Benji Schwimmer

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

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

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

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

Carly/Serge

Contemporary– Sonya Tayeh

Unbreakable love.

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

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

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

Emily/Teddy

Hip-Hop–Dave Scott

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

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

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

Malene/Stanley

Broadway–Spencer Liff

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

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

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

Jourdan/Marcquet

Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

Brooklyn/Casey

Argentine Tango–Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

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

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

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

Jacque/Zach

African Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

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

*deep sigh* Results time….

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

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

Next week’s predictions:

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

This season is really going to be a challenge….

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 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 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 3: (Into The) Fire and (Soul on) Ice

image copyright 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image copyright 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

There is more dancing and drama as we enter week 3 of the competition.

Top 18 Opening Number
Contemporary – This has got to be Stacey, Mia or Sonya….

Sonya and Christopher MF’ing Scott. Do I need to start calling y’all Mr. and Ms. Jones, ‘cause y’all seem to have a thing going on…..

The set looked like a cross between the barricades in Les Miserablés and a fiery volcano into which everyone was throwing themselves to appease the dance gods before the results were announced. It looked good, and I see that Aaron is featured prominently in the front. Again. Boy’s got versatility.

One dancer missing already…damn Jade, when I messaged you “break a leg,” I REALLY meant it in the theatrical sense! Poor baby tore his meniscus, aggravated an old injury and requiring surgery and rest. So he’s out of the competition anyway.

Cat announces the format change….(duh!) As if third-world countries weren’t threatening to tar and feather Nigel for last week’s results debacle…..

FOUR people on the judges’ panel?!?
Guest judges: Erin Andrews (DWTS gives her a little knowledge, I guess) for a FOX 1 push, and Paula Abdul (so the rumors ARE true). Happy Birthday, Mr. Executive Producer!

Bottom 6 (there’s still 6)
Jasmine M.
BluPrint
Jenna
Curtis
Alexis
Jade

BluPrint and Curtis are automatically saved due to Jade’s withdrawal, and as there are only three dancers remaining in peril, all three girls are dancing for their lives.

Three unique styles, three stellar solos. I would hate to see Jasmine go, but 1 tap dancer = 1 ballroom dancer = 2 jazz girls. Doesn’t bode well.

We will wait and see (as promised), as the competition begins…..

Amy/Fik-Shun
Paso Doble – Jean Marc Genereux

Aw s**t nah! I can’t wait to see this one. The Evolution of Paso Doble—the two dancers in a fight to the death. The boy’s got a good stance, though…..

Cole, baby….I think you have to move over. Fik-Shun smashed that. Sweetie, I need the truth now—you took classes somewhere, didn’t you? You cannot possibly be this good of a chameleon. Amy, you were on fire, too….had some Pink Power Ranger swag on you. And those are the best paso costumes since Jeanine and Brandon did their Matrix number in Season 5. (Jean Paul, does Pee Wee Herman know you stole his clothes?)

Mary is loud from the beginning—this is a good sign. Though she did critique Fik-Shun’s form (a lot of minutiae), she was really happy with both him and Amy. Erin hailed Fik-Shun for “taming The Beast” and told the pair to keep up their high level as the couple to beat. Paula praised their commitment to the emotion, put powerhouse Amy “front row center” and is proud of Fik-Shun’s progress. And now I have to go search for “Live To Dance” clips to find a 16 year old Fik-Shun….damn, I should have watched that whole show’s run! Nigel said even minus his usual jovial personality, he still demanded attention onstage…and also critiqued his form. But, like Mary, it was mostly posture issues (raised shoulders and the like).

Jasmine H./Aaron
Broadway – Spencer Liff

That’s an ugly nightgown on Jasmine…and a Columbo-style trenchcoat for Aaron. The detective on the case gets visited by the “spirit” of the victim.

OK, how am I supposed to concentrate when you plucked a Smash tune? Sigh…..but DAMN that boy’s got some grace! Jasmine was a bit stiff—pun intended and, I assume, choreographer intended as well. I have to watch this again and erase the song context from my mind so I can get the full effect.

Erin loved the number, Paula thought Aaron embodied the character and looked like a Golden Age MGM contract dancer….and wants to be reincarnated as one of Jasmine’s legs. (They ARE amazing, though.) Said she reminded her of Cyd Charisse, and while I can definitely agree with that, I imagine she could also rival Eartha Kitt in her heyday. Nigel thought the two of them worthy of the Broadway stage, and Mary said this week was about style and class, and it would be a crime if they wound up in the bottom next week. *weak rimshot*

Makenzie/Paul
Contemporary – Lindsay Nelko (new choreographer)

Terminally ill woman trying to help her sweetheart accept the circumstances. The choreographer’s asking for organics, and Makenzie’s all about the artistry. Let’s see what happens.

Now a Rent song sung by Idina Menzel?!? C’mon y’all—you’re killing my focus! But perfect rendition for the number. Paul’s emotional performance brought back memories of Chehon’s breakthrough last season in the park bench redux, and I no longer see that artistic focus of Makenzie’s as a weakness–she reminds me of Season 3’s Jessica King…and I dare say, has the potential to be the next Allison Holker. We can call this the sequel to “Fix You”—the complement to Travis Wall’s vision from Season 7: simply beautiful and tragic and heartfelt. Welcome to the family, Lindsay. I look forward to seeing more of you.

Paula believed the emotion and thought the piece had life; Nigel praises Makenzie’s technical prowess but also praised both her and Paul for letting some of it go; Mary cried, praising Makenzie’s ability and admitting surprise with Paul’s honesty in the performance.

Jasmine M./Alan
Jazz – Sean Cheesman
Regality and “the mundane life of being a royal” – hopefully it carries better than Thayne and Chelsea Trail’s turn (which I personally loved, BTW)

Bits of “Alice in Mialand”—I liked it. Quirky yet refined. Jasmine is showing some very Sabra-like tendencies here, and I’m starting to see Alan flesh out into more of a three-dimensional, versatile dancer with his performance this week.

Nigel praises Alan’s strength in the lifts and thought they could have added more quirkiness to the number; Mary loved the sharpness and precision and was impressed with Alan on the one-leg lift, and also would have appreciated a little more fun; Erin and Paula also agreed the pair should have let go and “gone for it” more.

Jenna/Tucker
Hip-Hop – Keone and Mari Madrid (new choreographers)

Poor Tucker can’t catch a break—Jenna’s leading him around by the nose again. And unless you’re getting a REALLY good spray tan, I don’t think we’ll mistake you for Comfort, love….but give it your all.

Oh come on—MICHAEL?!? Y’all are trying to kill me…..I WILL concentrate on this blog…. I WILL concentrate on this blog….

I liked it for two really white-bread non-hip-hop dancers doing hip-hop. Very stylistic. An eagle-eyed viewer indignantly noted seeing this dance before, and it wasn’t until I did some Googling that I also finally recognized the routine from the choreographers themselves on Urban Dance Camp’s YouTube channel. I suppose in comparison Team Tuna floundered a bit (now Mary’s got me doing it) but they danced what they were given. Besides, it was the choreographers’ own work that the couple performed….it’s not like this was the Les Twins controversy OR like everybody scours YouTube like that bellowing blowhard. Give it a rest, mayn……

Mary thought the hip-hop was jazzy, and liked it….very impressed with Jenna and thought it sat well on Tucker; Erin was jazzed by Jenna and saw shades of Mike in some of Tucker’s moves; Paula thought they had great energy and moved strategically through the various tempos, thinking them a powerful couple; Nigel thought Jenna channeled Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face persona and deemed the number one of his favorites of the evening.

Malece
Contemporary – Sonya Tayeh

I’m really saddened not to be able to see Jade do contemporary (and somehow I knew it was Sonya before going through the commercial break), though he looked very good in the clips.
Maintaining a legacy? We’ll see. Malece is the first to dance with an All-Star due to Jade’s injury and withdrawal, and is dancing with my boy-toy Marko.

I’ve been comparing her to Melanie from the beginning, and watching her dance with Marko spotlights a lot of the areas she needs to strengthen and develop. Just a little more forceful with her stage energy and she’ll be unstoppable….right now, to me, she’s just really, really good.

She was apparently good enough to get a standing O from the ENTIRE panel and a giddy, dancing Sonya in the aisles of the audience. Partner Jade’s smile says everything. Erin “Sonya, I can’t…” Andrews brings in the Tinkerbell references again (clearly a celebrity Superfan—her panel cred just went up) and loved everything; Paula dubs THIS one her favorite and those Malece was astonishing and gorgeous; Nigel praises the maturity that developed in Malece (in part due to Marko’s delightful yet sadly necessary presence) and said they made the piece look unchoreographed; Mary makes four and said she knew Malece’s captivating moment would come. The FIRST to actually say she looks like Melanie, too.

Cat, get your lips off my man!

Hayley/Curtis
Samba – Jean Marc Genereux

Alright, he’s looking halfway sexy in that outfit there….this’ll be interesting. Curtis, don’t you break that girl!

OK, now THAT’S a man. Needs a little more lift in the posture—he was lifting but it always seems more exaggerated than what he was doing—and the last lift sequence hit a snag, but well done. Those bachacadas on both of them were working as hard as that fringe Hayley was wearing, though I could have used a little extra oomph from her too. I could see Elvis in his heyday doing this samba in our of those beach movies….

Paula liked the sauciness and sexiness of the number, praising Hayley’s hips and Curtis’s effort, all while giving him notes on being more grounded, attacking it more and taking control; Nigel thought Hayley dominated Curtis in a routine where his maturity and machismo were required, saying that he came off a little young, but he praised Hayley’s feet and hips; Mary gave Curtis tips on shifting his weight properly in the samba walks but thought he tackled it well…and also caught the hiccup in the last lifts (Hayley got a “Holy Smokes”); Erin told Curtis to roll with and apply the critiques and called Hayley a vixen who kept getting better every week.

Alexis/Nico
Jazz – Spencer Liff

Alexis hypnotizing Nico so she can have her way with him…..Thank GOD he picked the Nina Simone version of that song—if Screamin’ Jay Hawkins had come out of those speakers this review would have been OVER…..

Some of the side-by-side sync was off but Alexis definitely had the attitude. Nico seemed a little more in control than he should have been–either that, or he was playing it as unwilling under Alexis’s spell and being fascinated and perplexed by it at the same time.

Paula was mesmerized; Nigel was impressed with their unity and thought the routine was interesting; Mary was in a trance—thought Nico was brilliant and was surprised by her presence in the bottom; Erin thought Alexis adapted to the style very well and that their sync was improved from the dress rehearsals.

Mariah/BluPrint
Hip-Hop – Luther Brown

The newly minted couple draws their own genre this week. Luther’s worried about Mariah’s “soul” and BluPrint facial animation….let’s “go!”

They were definitely together on that—strange number, but they danced it well.

Mary thought he danced well but still needed to project more with his face, but loved Mariah. Too cute how Mary has classified sick as a step down from ill….trying hard to get that ‘hood card, are you? Erin was floored by the energy, enjoying Mariah and piggybacking on Mary’s commentary about projection; Paula loved the beginning sync and energy but thinks BluPrint is holding back some, and Mariah’s was personality times 10. Nigel cautioned BluPrint about the history of personality winning over technical prowess (bringing up Sabra and Benji’s victories, though how he couldn’t remember Travis Wall–SYTYCD choreographic staple and BROTHER TO DANNY TIDWELL–is beyond me) and said that he has to dig for it and pull out the charm to stay in the running.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And NOW the eliminations (where they should have been last week):
Jenna wasn’t going home and I knew that before Nigel opened his mouth; Nigel noted some self-doubt in Jasmine over the weeks and lack of adhesion with corrections and notes with Alexis. It’s Jasmine who is eliminated tonight, and we’re treated to our first set of flashbacks.

(I don’t know who selects the music for these things, but I am digging the fact that their love for Christian Contemporary artists seems to be the prominent choices.)

Any choice was going to be tough, but I called that equation at the start of this. Though, judging from some of the fan reaction in the social media outlets, Alexis has to nail EVERYTHING she does AND not be in the bottom with any of the powerhouses like Makenzie or Jenna in order to survive the next round of cuts. Fortunately, she gets a one-week reprieve as FOX and this All-Star Game/new sports channel launch takes over next week. Rounding out the potential Bottom 6 are:

Hayley (HER fans have a pretty strong voice, though….)
Jenna or Mariah
BluPrint
Curtis
Alan or maybe Tucker (whose rabid fan base may keep him safe)

There have been little hitches here and there but still no major dropped balls yet. This truly is the best cast the show has ever had, and the voting is strictly based on popularity this season. The competition resumes after the brief All-Star baseball game holiday, so we’ll see what new surprises are in store for us then.

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