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 Finale–Victor Victorious: The Ricky Redemption

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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

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

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

The top four kids also get to pick their favorites:

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

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

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

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

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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Miami boys represent!

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

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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SYTYCD 11, Top 4–Gimme the 4-11

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

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

Top 4 group
Contemporary–Travis Wall

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

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

Valerie/Ricky
African Jazz–Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

Jessica/Zack
Broadway–Spencer Liff

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

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

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

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

Valerie/Zack
Contemporary–Tyce Diorio

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

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

And Cat says the same….

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

Jessica/Ricky
Jazz–Ray Leeper

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

Great work from them. Technically solid.

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

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

Valerie/Jessica
Bollywood–Nakul Dev Mahajan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll get the skinny soon enough…..

SYTYCD 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 8–Dancing Machine

We’re closing in on the end of Season 11!

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Tonight’s guest judge is Jenna Dewan-Tatum, star of the original Step Up movie and former background dancer to the likes of Pink, Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson. This is her second stint on the competition panel, and her second appearance this year (she sat in on the Atlanta auditions).

Top 8 group
Well if anybody was going to choreograph a group number for Michael Jackson night, might as well get the man’s own choreographer Travis Payne. Very futuristic looking and probably could have jumped out of the Cirque de Soleil Xscape show.

Tonight the kids get to do their solos in addition to the All-Star duets slated.

Tanisha kicks off the solos—she throws every possible skill known to man in, with the ballroom prowess seeming almost secondary. I really wish I liked her personal solos more…I can appreciate the skill and technique but Mary has ruined me for wanting more ballroom content from ballroom contestants.

(This week gives us words from the teachers, relatives and fellow performers that most inspired and influenced the kids in their development as dancers.)

Ricky (with All-Star Jaimie Goodwin)
Contemporary—Travis Wall

Whoa—Season 11’s Ricky has Season 6’s Victor Smalley (of Dance Moms: Miami fame as well) to thank for his early dance education; Victor gave the kid a scholarship. Nice redemption for Victor, because I maintain that he got hosed during his season.

Ricky is the positive light, the best friend that can always raise your spirits. Travis is pushing Ricky beyond his technical limits to try and help him put a lock on the win.

Dancing to Michael’s cover of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” this routine’s Melanie/Marko “I Got You” in feeling layered on top of Robert/Allison “Fix You” in technique. And while it looks terribly simplistic, the lines and pictures the dancers produce are exquisite.

Jenna’s word of the night is “incredible”—from the technique to the partner connection and everything in between, she’s completely enamored with both this routine and with Ricky. Mary marvels at the effortlessness and high echelon of technical prowess that Ricky has continued to display week upon week. Nigel feels that Ricky has grown to the point of transcending his already incredible skill and technique and becoming the dance.

(I see they’re going to continue this “results as they go” BS….of course Ricky is safe….you expected less?)

AND as they’re announced safe, they’re immediately paired with their next All-Star…so Ricky will be doing some sort of ballroom routine with Anya “Hot Tamale Train” Garis

Zack gets to dance in his specialty tonight, and dude throws in enough slides and fast footwork–not to mention the attire–to be the tap reincarnation of Michael Jackson. Even Sandman Sims would have looked at that bit and said, “DAMN!”

Valerie (with All-Star Ryan Dilello)
Samba—Jean-Marc Genereux

Dance break with Jean-Marc first….oh, THAT’S how you spell “batucada!” Phonetics only take you so far in another language…..

(Valerie’s dance inspiration is Kathy Simpson, her teacher since she was 3 years old. Now if SHE had a show instead of Abby Lee, I’d watch that…she looks like she’s professional AND nice.)

Valerie “Wanna Be Starting Something” battling with Ryan, the Samba King.

She was working her fanny off to nail that technique and I give her props for that—AND she got a smidgen of sexy out in her performance demeanor. However, she still needed some more oomph in her execution. I’d love to just say that she did an admirable job as a non-ballroom dancer, but considering we’re at Top 8 and shooting for a Top 6 berth it’s too late for that…it’s go big or go home time, and I fear this may hasten the latter.

Mary said, in her delightful Mary fashion, that the samba was well done and Valerie attacked every move with the exception of some hesitation on the samba runs (which I saw as well as the area of most discomfort in her); Nigel calls Valerie vivacious and says this bit of brilliance cancels out any complaints he had about the previous week, although he did express worry that if she were to depart tonight that would be why…and it would be a shame on the heels of tonight’s success. Jenna tells Valerie that her dancing gives her joy but there was an added sexiness and attitude (that’s basically the translation for “face” people) in her performance.

(Valerie, amazingly, is safe this week. And apparently Mr. Boss really needed to get out of the house this summer because after tonight he belongs to Valerie. Having already proven she can “turn up,” this should be a thrilling pair.)

Casey leaps and spins and dives his way through his solo…..we know, we know—you’re a maestro with all of it. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Rudy’s up next with a variation of Casey’s magical spinfest layered on top of the beastly style he brought to the auditions, and you can see a lot of technical improvement in him. He’s a little too happy for that now (or maybe the flash of cutie-pie I saw was just a result of him quickly dropping character at the end of the solo….Jacque might me making you a little too mellow, boo….IJS)

Casey (with All-Star Comfort Fedoke)
Hip-Hop—Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz

(Miss Terri [Schulke] and Miss Mandy [Rogers], his two dance teachers who have trained him for the past 4 years, are Casey’s inspirations…and both ladies are deeply moved by the nomination.)

OK, if Academy of Villains doesn’t get that finale berth it doesn’t really matter because Pharside and Phoenix are solidly IN as choreographers. So in honor of MJ Week they’ve created a theatrical, over-the-top routine called “8 Legged Love.” Um….yeah. Good thing I already know they do some killer work because there isn’t a side eye strong enough to give them for THAT description. Black Widow meets Fatal Attraction, or Kiss of the Hip-Hop Spider Woman, if you will. Casey has to bring out strong characterization again this week….the last effort at hip-hop landed him in the bottom. Hopefully the costume’s better this go-around.

“Xscape,” the song that titles the Cirque de Soleil show, is the tune for this piece. Casey had moments of looking tortured and seduced—good things for this particular number—and he was really working to hit those shapes and positions. Plus I imagine jumping on and off of a spiderweb-shaped cargo net dangling had to be taxing as well. Not quite the Nico benchmark from last season’s Spider Woman interpretation, but a reasonably good effort. (On another note, wardrobe let Comfort borrow Tanisha’s catsuit and seriously vamped her up with the makeup—she’s come a long way from the thunderstruck girl in a bra and beads…..

Nigel acknowledges Casey’s further growth as a performer while advising him to get more into the style, however foreign to him. Jenna admires his stage presence and his ability to perform “in the moment” and in step with Comfort. Mary admired the strength and commitment, and also recognized the increased sharpness and precision as the number built.

(Casey is in the bottom of the votes this week—not unexpected with fan favorites Ricky and Rudy as his competition. Zack, who I fully expect to be down there with him, is the sleeper contestant of this pair and may edge him out for Top 6.)

Jacque’s up with her solo and it’s very light and effortless and danced with so much joy she’s practically levitating. Whether this will aid her chances of staying remains to be seen.

Tanisha (with All-Star Nick Lazarrini)
Contemporary—Stacey Tookey

(Kelly Messerly, Tanisha’s teacher and mentor, is her dance inspiration.)

Nick’s a crooner reliving the memory of the One That Got Away (embodied by Tanisha). So I probably should have expected “She’s Out Of My Life” to be the song of choice.

I know I’m supposed to focus on the contestants, but I really have to pause and acknowledge Nick’s growth as a dancer over the years. He was neither my choice nor my expectation for SYTYCD’s first champion and I’ve watched him dance before wondering how and why that was. I’m liking what I’m seeing now. *exhale* Now, back to the task at hand: Tanisha really should consider shifting to the cabaret division if she means to stay in the ballroom world—whatever Latin training she has is nowhere near as good as the contemporary skills she’s exhibited since she’s been on the show. Very nice work from her again this evening.

Jenna is astounding by her strength and the couple’s fluidity, and called for a bit more angst to her emotional expression to enhance the feeling of the number; Mary hailed Tanisha for keeping pace with Nick and is amazed by her consistency and quality of movement; Nigel is equally impressed by her physical strength but admonishes her to tap into and release more of her vulnerable side as a counterbalance.

(Tanisha is the first girl in the bottom two this week; considering Valerie skated through this week I imagined that would be a probability as Jessica’s fan base seems incredibly strong and loyal.)

Jessica takes the “massive tricks and levels to a Celine Dion power ballad” route in her solo tonight…way too much to visually process but again….these fans are lo-yalllllllll……..

Rudy (with All-Star Allison Holker)
Contemporary—Ray Leeper

(Kevin “Tokyo” Inouye—you KNOW I’m Googling to find out if he’s any relation to the late Hawaiian senator….dude’s honest, I gotta give it to him. Not many teachers would admit on national television that their student, despite their heart and passion, was just not good at it. Of course, not many would take them under their wing anyway and try to mold something out of them, either. I think I rather like you, sir….. *side note: Google results inconclusive, particularly since there’s a professor and martial arts coach in the biz with the same name–hence, this Kevin going by “Tokyo.” If any of you readers find out, holla.)

A tale of obsession—Allison is focused on getting Rudy, but he’s taken and trying to push her away….despite the small part of him deep inside that kinda does want her. Unhealthy dysfunction at its best. Ray’s concerned about Rudy tapping into his vulnerability and letting go of some of the aggression inherent in his personal style.

I was thinking “Leave Me Alone,” but “Dirty Diana” makes much more logical sense considering the darkness of tone and the storyline itself (I don’t know HOW I forgot about that song). Rudy is fighting for his spot. I mean really, seriously, both dukes up, all guns blazing FIGHTING to get to the end—and the top—of this competition. He is determined to be standing under that confetti, and powerwise he could do it. I saw more tortured anger than vulnerability in him, but that may have been moments of “seeing him thinking.” I will say that for him to evenly match Allison Holker in a number so powerful is an impressive accomplishment, and that may just be the thing that America eats up with a spoon.

People are standing and hollering—more importantly, THESE people are standing and hollering: Ray, Mary, Nigel and Jenna. This bodes well….that and the fact that Rudy is doubled over, gasping for breath and doing that high-pitched Dino from The Flintstones babble-scream he does when he’s overexcited.

Mary is just as flushed as Rudy is, but manages to find words and breath to agree with me about the pair going in whole hog and matching each other toe to toe, dubbing them spectacular. Nigel’s only complaint was a brief lapse in character to focus on technique (during a pirouette section) that broke from the story, but otherwise commended Rudy for morphing into a completely different person. Jenna calls Rudy phenomenal and also commends him for rising to and matching Allison’s level.

(Rudy is in the bottom this week, saving Zack this time. If I know anything—and history is to be believed, Rudy’s larger than life personality will probably elevate him over Casey’s insane technique. We’ll see at the end of the show….)

Valerie taps her way out in her magic ruby slippers and has vastly improved with projecting energy from her upper body and face as her feet are going a mile a minute. She’s the better of the two tap solos this evening.

Zack (with All-Star Makenzie Dustman)
Broadway—Spencer Liff

(Mark Goodman, tap legend I’m not familiar with but I guess I’d better research….he’s danced with some legends himself: Gregory Hines, Sandman Sims, Savion Glover–very impressive.)

Naïve girl fresh off the train in the big city meets slick smooth talker Zach, who tries everything he can to tell this girl “The Way You Make Me Feel”….the boy looks like Howdy Doody meets Opie; I just can’t see him being a Lothario. Still, he and Rudy have a similar drive to prove themselves, so I know he’s gonna knock himself out trying.

Makenzie looks thick in that dress. Marilyn Monroe thick. Not a bad thing at all—in fact it transforms her character—but it just threw me off for a second to see her serving Ava Gardner realness and I know she’s barely hit adulthood yet. Zach looked more smitten than smarmy half the time but that character focus was razor sharp. He knew just when to switch his gaze from the audience to his potential conquest while executing all of his moves perfectly and in sync. The end was clunky, but that wasn’t the dancers’ fault: it was the music mix, adding an additional unnecessary beat to the end.

(Since Zack knows he’s safe, Cat reveals his partner….and just as I was saying that we were about due for a boy pairing, who does nuFik-Shun get but the original himself? I am extremely intrigued to see how that plays out.)

Nigel would have liked to see a little more groundedness from Zack, but was overall pleased….and is especially tickled like the rest of us about next week’s matchup. Jenna mused about the incredible amount of control and showmanship needed—and employed by Zack—to successfully pull off a Broadway routine; she thought he was believable and was completely sold by his performance. Mary also notes Zack’s growth, spirit and wholehearted embracing of everything he’s been given to date.

Ricky closes out the solos, and….hold up, pause. WTF was that, dude?!? You just did a nosebleed induced leap, landed on cotton and slid into one of the sickest, most tightly controlled straddles like you were made of melting butter….the old, fat creaky dancer in me hates you and is sobbing in the corner. And continues to do so after you laid in a straddle ON YOUR BACK and then just stepped up into a layout. Boy go sit down somewhere before I start throwing stuff at my TV……

How am I JUST noticing the Moonwalk logo on the backdrop and in the wipes tonight?

Jacque (with All-Star Stephen “tWitch” Boss)
Hip-Hop—Dave Scott

(Older cousin Christianne Jordan is Jacque’s inspiration….way to go, Pookie!)

Ionkno if ballerina Jacque is gonna let street Jacque out to play—she’d better do something to hang with the Boss since Jessica’s efforts were so well received last week….

“Slave To The Rhythm” is the song of choice, and we have some post-apocalyptic, Terminator futuristic type scenery happening here, and these two look like they survived the war and are hooking back up to kick it. Jacque got looser than I gave her credit for, though she looked like her biggest struggle was controlling her face. I think I saw one smiley moment before she masked it with the hardcore, serious badass look she was supposed to be serving. Both Melissa and Eliana proved that ballerinas can get down and dirty, and Jacque’s climbing into that class. Hopefully, it’s not too little, too late….

Jenna thought Jacque did extremely well and really got into the groove of the style; Mary also felt that Jacque conquered the groove and was impressed by her growth and synchronicity; Nigel was duly impressed by her embodiment of the style and thought she and tWitch complemented each other well, even daring to use the word “swag.”

(As expected, Jacque is the second girl in the bottom two. Not positive how the decision is going to shake down between her and Tanisha….)

Jessica (with All-Star Will Wingfield)
Contemporary—Mandy Moore

(Talia Favia, Jessica’s teacher, sounds a lot like my own—always picking and pushing. In love, of course….)

Earth and mankind….Jessica is being asked to be uncomfortable in this piece, portraying someone being callous and careless with the planet.

Jessica is really trying to embrace her artistry and incorporate it with her technical abilities—there are moments when she looks like she’s mimicking Will as a young dance pupil tries to mirror their teacher. That’s a good thing, as she matches him move for move, height for height, and all other nuances in between. The lighting was inspired, and told the story as much as the two dancers illuminated by it. Characterization is hard to read on her, so I can’t be sure if she embodied everything Mandy asked of her. But it was a very good performance from her.

Standing Os from the panel, so I’m expecting a good bit….

(Jessica’s All-Star is Ade…going from one big-league dancer to another. You gotta work, honey….)

Mary feels that the stars have aligned with the perfect music, choreography and dancers, and is pleased and proud of Jessica’s growth and passion displayed; Nigel ticks off a litany of favorites in all aspects of the piece—which include the stellar presence of William Wingfield (that man is a blessing to dance in general, and I will wax poetic about him whenever I can. Deal with it.)—and is moved by her magnificence; Jenna is also duly impressed with Jessica’s incredible growth and also throws around the words “favorite” and “magnificent.”

Three weeks from the finale, and we’re presented with the third of our crews up for an encore performance on that night. Tonight it’s Control Freakz turn….and it’s worth noting that the spoken word intro sounds a lot like the voice that introduced us to Will Wingfield in Los Angeles back in Season 4….just after he’s left the stage tonight. Serendipity, perhaps?

Damn…..what? I dare anyone to ever again set their lips to say that popping and hip-hop are any lesser forms of the art of dance. Every bit of that looked almost balletic—and that smoothness and grace is hard to accomplish coming out of a back flip. I am duly impressed. And I do have to say—though in this day and age I shouldn’t have to—how beautiful it is to see some many different looks and shades of my people given the opportunity to express their artistic selves on a national stage. It might be more commonplace in this day and age, but as a young girl with aspirations of dance those images were extremely scarce…and it makes my heart smile.

(I did have to actually spoil results to go vote, but I’m still going to give my assessment as if I hadn’t.) So it’s down to Rudy, Casey, Jacque and Tanisha. If I go by past opinions and votes, Jacque has been in the bottom the most out of the four, and I don’t recall ever seeing Rudy there (though I could be wrong). Young fans might be reluctant to break up the reported lovebirds, but have also repeatedly been reluctant to send Tanisha home, as well. I’d venture based on all of that, Jacque has run out of chances…and with Rudy being the less polished of the guys, he may be leaving with her.

Of course, America seldom behaves as I’d expect—while I don’t deny Tanisha has some great ability I thought she would have gone home long before now…and tonight she’s going out with her original partner. Rudy leaving just breaks my heart…and that was BEFORE he started crying. I really saw a Benji-esque victory as a possibility with that one, but apparently the contemporary seduction continues. Zack is the last odd man standing, and as I had hoped Aaron would be the first tapper to take the crown last year, I feel compelled to throw my remaining support behind him. The girls’ diversity is still intact, just minus a ballroom specialist. So of the jazz dancer, tapper and ballerina remaining, I feel like the larger push is going to go to Jessica. However, with Jacque’s miracle save and Valerie’s sleeper performances, anything could happen there. With us back to a single winner I dare not even venture who has the best shot at that right now….but it’s gonna be a rollercoaster ride.

(The survivors get their All-Star pairings: Casey gets Makenzie and Jacque gets Will. *moment of silent praise that I get blessed with him a second week in a row*)

SYTYCD 11, Top 14–Ten at 11

A quadruple elimination looms tonight (thanks SO much FOX executives for shrinking the show’s air time *raises sarcasm sign*)

Christina Applegate makes her first appearance this season, joining the usual suspects on the judges’ panel tonight.

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Top 14 contemporary

A meeting of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus—it’s very smooth and non-quirky so on surface value Sonya Tayeh is not jumping out at me.  I’m not ruling her out, though…

It’s a Stacey Tookey joint, and apparently Ricky is the new soul being welcomed into heaven. Close enough.

The Top 14 dancers are called out to whittle down to 8—the top vote getters’ names are read this week instead of the Bottom 6, who will actually be dancing for their lives on top of their other performances.  Let’s see who America wanted to see on Tour……

Bridget, Emilio, Jacque, Ricky, Tanisha, Rudy, Valerie, and Zach.  Four couples immediately through, and not many surprises on my end.  That leaves Casey, Jessica, Emily, Teddy, Carly and Serge in the Bottom 6.  I’m kind of surprised about Carly and Serge—Serge has been in the bottom before and danced his way out to two judgment-free week; considering he had one of his better performances last week it’s a bit of a head scratcher.  I have NO CLUE why Carly’s down there.  Truthfully though, all six have had really great moments on the show and as two are staying instead of leaving this week this decision is going to be brutal.  Yeah sure, any or all of these cut tonight have strong possibilities to be chosen as Tour alternates, but still….

This week’s theme: the kids give kudos about their partners’ strengths

Emilio/Bridget (Miss Congeniality and the potty mouth…hey, if you gotta cuss, you gotta cuss.)

Jazz—Ray Leeper

“So you’re on a mission from Hell……”  Well that’s attention grabbing, Ray….kind of S3 Neil/Lauren G. but with both dancers hunting souls. Let’s see if they can lure us in.

OK, the theme of “Night of the Dancing Flame” but the feel of that Season 8 jazz Melanie and Marko did.  Definitely hip but not disturbing.

Nigel thought it was fun and thought Emilio was fabulous, though he cautioned him to work on lowering his shoulders; he thought Bridget was a little too cautious and upright and could have sunken more into the movement (I got that vibe too—she played it a little TOO cool).  Christina dug the routine and is impressed with Emilio’s transformation into a more all-around dancer, and gave both Emilio and Bridget advice about maintaining their intention in their heads to hold the “face” of the routine.  Mary agrees as well and thought the number suited them well.

Tanisha/Rudy (Hiccups? Quiet demeanor—Rudy?)

Contemporary—Mandy Moore

A story of seduction…not sure who’s seducing who but let’s take a look.

This is worthy of a ballroom cabaret competition—all those lifts and throws, and the actual on-the-ground choreography feels very rumba-like.  Tanisha pulled focus as usual, but Rudy’s got to be putting in great work in order for that to happen.  I don’t understand why she registered as a ballroom dance, as I have enjoyed all of her routines EXCEPT the ballroom number.

(And now Cat is starting mess with Rudy and Jacque’s two older brothers sitting in the audience…..SMH)

Christina stands clapping, entranced.  AND she can’t speak.  I can’t be positive, but I think she liked it. 😉  She did manage to string together a few syllables about how connected the partnership was, though.  First Mary screams of the evening, so I’m guessing she’s cool with it, too…strong, powerful and dynamic only a few of the words thrown around.  Nigel just told Rudy that he’s so loud he keeps thinking he’s Mary’s love child (they DO match each other holler for holler) but praised their lifts and called them tremendous.

First solo of the night and it’s Serge…that boy has some fast feet, and the fact that he’s hot doesn’t hurt one bit.  I think it’s safe to say that barring a colossal meltdown on his other numbers he’s going on tour as the last ballroom man standing—whether that’s a Top 10 position remains to be seen.

Jacque/Zack (Excellent customer service skills and rapping….okey-dokey)

Paso Doble—Jean Marc Genereux

“A bloodsucking paso doble” (Cat’s words), and the couple walks in to Jean Marc as a Moulin Rouge version of Lestat.  Silly as he is, I know he knows his ballroom, so this should be a power packed dance if they can master the choreography.

Had Zach been a vampire in Twilight, I might have paid attention.  That boy had command of the stage from the first note.  Have no idea where Mary’s gonna rip into his technique but he had that bravado down cold.  Jacque was a little too reserved for me—she was probably trying to keep to the technique but her sinister personality did not come through well enough for me.

WHYYYYYYYYYY are the three of these goofballs wearing fangs?!? *facepalm*  Mary said this different take on the Spanish paso was “love at first bite.”  Mary loved their shapes but thought the routine lost a little steam at the end (I noticed that as well, right after that jump Zach did).  Nigel agrees and was glad the concept didn’t overshadow the execution of the routine.  Christina makes three and hails Zach’s growth and his presence in the routine, as well as Jacque’s abilities.

Second of the solos—Carly.  She had a very good sampling of skill and technique, and that turn combination was insane; however, it was a bit slender in the connecting moves, which is something that has been criticized greatly on this show. This could possibly hurt her chances at Top 10.

Emily/Teddy (Ah, the business degree….and Teddy’s elasticity)

Broadway—Warren Carlyle

A game of cat and mouse, for sophisticated actors who dance.

Nice nod to Fosse and Kiss Me Kate in the opening bars—not quite as loose as Bob would have been but Teddy danced admirably.  Emily dialed back just enough to let Teddy shine alongside her without muscling over him with her personality.  Not sure what went on with that end pose…..

Nigel acknowledged the stamina and skill it takes to perform that style, but was disappointed with the end of the number, calling for more elevation and saying that it was not as strong as it needed to be particularly on such a difficult night.  Christina did note that they got a little wobbly but did praise Teddy’s growth (and his arms) and Emily’s technique—and also urged them to watch the inspiration number in KMK to absorb the nuances of the style.  Mary thought the routine went in and out but enjoyed it.

Time for Casey’s solo—he’s a turnmaster just like Carly but not enough wow in that solo.  Not solid on his chances, as there’s already a pretty boy in the Top 10 in Ricky.

A commercial break, costume change and regroup and then Emily’s right back out on the stage performing her solo…which is awesome.  Beautiful flow and technique and just the right amounts of power and reserve—so far the best of the solos. If she gets to the Top 10 this will be why.

And then Casey’s also gets a quick turnaround for his duet with Jessica….

Casey/Jessica (Awkwardness/turning ability)

Contemporary—Travis Wall

Finding the person that centers you and you can escape from the world with—complete with stage kiss.

Didn’t like the end pose.

That was it.  Everything else was flawless—beautifully in sync and fluid and perfect.  Jessica might have gone a little over with the movement amplification, but they danced well.

Screams and standing Os from audience and judges alike, leaving Jessica surprised and overwhelmed in tears….. “Travis Wall—shut your face!”  So I think Christina might have liked this a little. 😉  Totally enthralled with the performance, the intention, the technique—and not only reaffirmed her assertion that Jessica could win the title but that Casey could give her a solid run for the money…as well as threatening America within an inch of their lives if the two of them ever wound up in the bottom again.  Throwing out words like “life changing” means she ain’t coming over for tea.  Mary absolutely seconds those sentiments and adds breathtaking and amazing to the mix, praising their fast chemistry and performance.  Nigel muses about Casey’s nerves following the loss of both of Jessica’s partners—I swear this old man needs to pay attention…she lost THREE partners—but acknowledges the magic that exuded from the new partnership to make this dance so special.  (Cat, you can encourage free kissing in there all you want, but remember how out of hand the shenanigans got in Season 8 after Melanie and Marko did “I Got You”….)

Teddy’s the final guy solo of the night—and he does this hip-hop/contemporary/Broadway-ish hybrid of a number in a full tux with ankle wiper pants.  Kind of smooth and quirky and offbeat, and a little more understated than I thought he would go for in a winner-take-all situation like this.  Hard to call where the judges will go on this.

Carly/Serge (emotions, and the “bronytail”?  No sir—not even Pat Morita could pull that off in the Karate Kid movies.  Get a headband, I beg of you.)

Quickstep—Jean Marc Genereux

“Let me tell you about the quickstep: the upper body needs to take a chill pill, and the lower body needs to be on four espressos.”  (You have to layer on Jean Marc’s French accent for the full effect.)

Serge is smooth like Godiva chocolate—I don’t know how much traditional ballroom experience he has but he performed well (and I guarantee you Mary is not gonna be all up in his DNA about his technique like she was with Marcquet last week….). Carly was lovely to watch and it seemed to me like she held her upper body frame really upright.

Mary thought they coped well with adjusting to the framework—and true to form only criticized the lack of power through his legs but was otherwise pleased with him as well as with Carly.  Nigel liked the piece and liked that they enjoyed themselves and continue to grow every week.  Christina channels her inner Carrie Anne Inaba and takes a poke at DWTS, but called it sexy without being vulgar, flirty yet demure and fabulous.

Our final solo and quick turnaround from Jessica, who composed herself well enough to display her musicality and technique to Beyoncé’s version of Fever.

Valerie/Ricky (Tomboy energy and Cuban coffee. I have a feeling there’s gonna be an extra tour bus just to haul the coffee….)

Hip-Hop—Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz

And just before Academy of Villains hits the stage tonight, Pharside and Phoenix are back to do a funky/scary twisted hip-hop routine.  The witch doctor is struggling to bring the voodoo doll to life.

That was pretty tight hip-hop out of a pretty boy contemporary dancer and a cutie-patootie tapper.  Props to the choreographers, even though I know that’s going to be a problem for the Syncopated Ladies.  That leg lunge/weight transfer (or leg wave, as Nigel puts it) from a seated straddle that Valerie pulled off was DOPE—and difficult.  I kept thinking about Dmitry and Ashley from Season 2 with this, only more hip.  Turn down for what?  For Tour, that’s what.

Nigel thought they were outstanding and was just as wowed as I was about the leg wave, but also praised Ricky for transforming and adapting into an entirely different dance style with as much ease as weeks past, calling him outstanding.  Christina just fangirled over the pair, saying she’d been watching for weeks and looking forward to meeting the two, and not adding much more than “I could watch that all night.”  Mary’s best number of the night as well, and she was impressed with the musicality—so much so that she threw out every possible hip-hop descriptor imaginable (sick, frozen, buck, ridiculous, a crime scene and “murdered it”)

More small groups—girls and guys this week….

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Girls—Contemporary, Mandy Moore

Mandy doesn’t want pretty, she wants powerful—strong women dancing together.

I already love “My Immortal” for so many reasons, and putting it on these ladies tonight was a great choice.  It had the same feel and strength of the fountain piece (“Young and Beautiful”) from last season.  The unison and sharpness and flow were phenomenal, and when you consider that there’s a ballerina, tapper and ballroom specialist among contemporary girls, that’s an amazing feat.  Although I’m gonna need to re-check Tanisha’s qualifications and experience….personally I think she took enough ballroom classes to look polished and is really a jazz and contemporary superstar.

A room full of applauding, standing people has GOT to be a good sign that it wasn’t just pretty, but also powerful, Mandy….Christina has again lost her breath and the power to speak coherently, but she spits out enough to hail Valerie and Jessica—as well as the other ladies, because they rocked as a unit—and said they were all at eleven.  (Spinal Tap reference might be a little out there for them but I think they can grasp a 1 to 10 scale analogy.  Try that next time.) Mary is choked up by the symbolic sisterhood of it all, and Nigel reaffirms Christina’s comment about the piece being a gift and extends to defy Misty Copeland’s pronouncement about the boys being at a higher level this season.  No Nigel, she was right—the girls just put on their big girl dance trunks and brought it up a level this week.  NOW we’ve got a battle coming.

Brief pause to allow the Academy of Villains their shot at the finale spot…and I already see blacklight ready material….LEGGO!  That was a lot to look at in low light but there was a little bit of everything in that—breaking, tutting, acrobatics, jazz/contemporary…you name it, they threw it in there.  The elaborate skeletal/animalistic face paint helped blend the dancers together as a unit instead of delineating gender, which might prove a smart move as it focused our attention to their strengths as dancers without qualification.  Good effort from the group.

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Guys—Contemporary, Travis Wall

Before the break Cat announced that the boys are going to be up close and personal with the front row.  I’m sure all of those spectators are SOOOOO disappointed…..

From Sonya’s Broken People last week to Travis’s Lost Souls of the Sea this week….boy oh boy do y’all have some imaginations!  Travis decides Emilio needs to go flying in the air with a basket toss…you let that boy break his nose again and love or no love, I’m coming after you. *side eye*

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is how you present boys in skirts.  The apron over straight but loose pants is perfect….and seven extremely yummy-looking chests don’t hurt things at all.  Since they’re a nice sea-colored blue-gray I’ll even forgive you for shoving the waistlines under their armpits again.  The boys did well keeping the movement liquid and synchronized, though there was one person in the center that was off by a fraction in the middle section (I think it was Casey), but I’m really splitting hairs here.  That ending visual with them just falling off the edge into the deep end….I mean, what?!?  Dude….I can’t even….and I’m well past the age where that phrase is appropriate.

I think Travis just broke Christina….Mary starts off with memorable, smart and important, and continues to gush from there. Nigel likened them to a coral reef in the deep sea with the ebb and flow of their movement and was equally appreciative of Travis’s “gift” to the audience.  “Maybe Misty was a little right (about the boys).” I done told you about doubting me, Nigel…. Christina said “Shut your face” and “I can’t stand you” to Travis this time—I actually expected her to say the second one once her jaw hit the floor and she grabbed her forehead—she’s so emotional.  “Do you know why I come here? Because I get to have THIS.” Yeah…pretty much the reason I still watch and write faithfully whether I agree with the choices and decisions or not—because we ALL get to have this.  LOVE that she lightened her own heavy mood by telling the guys that their boobs were showing….but shut up, mayn—I was enjoying that view!

Time to reveal the last two in the Top 10—and sadly, the next four dancers to leave the competition.  Best solos came out of Serge and Emily, best duet came from Casey and Jessica.  I’m still thinking Serge for the boys because he was most solid all around AND because he’s ballroom, and probably Jessica for that duet.  Carly and Emily are on pretty equal ground in the face of that, and Casey and Teddy’s solos were good and OK, respectively.  Still, who knows what criteria the judges will employ to make this tough choice?

That duet was the clincher—Casey and Jessica round out the Top 10.  Serge got about three more rounds than his original partner Brittany Cherry, and I claim validation for the both of them in that.  Plus, like I said, I’m betting all six of these kids are going to wind up on the Tour.

Now for the final bit of business—the freshly minted Top 10 get their All Stars!

Rudy gets Jenna Johnson (Season 10)

Jacque gets Chehon Wespi-Tchopp (Season 9)

Zach gets Amy Yakima (Season 10)

Bridget gets Brandon Bryant (Season 5)

Ricky gets LoFro (Lauren Frodeman, Season 7)

Tanisha gets Ryan Dilello (Season 6)

Emilio gets Jasmine Harper (Season 10 and new Degree spokesdancer)

Valerie gets Ade Obayomi (Season 4)

Casey gets Kathryn McCormick (Season 6)

Jessica gets….tWitch?!? (Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Season 4)
I don’t remember her hip-hop in callback week, but we’ll see what happens….

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

PRE-SENT All-Stars–time to crank it up, Season 11!

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….

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