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…..

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SYTYCD 11, Top 10–Counting (All) Stars

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

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

Image courtesy of  19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Top 10 group–Hip-Hop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long Live Bridgilio!

Long Live Bridgilio!

SYTYCD 11, Top 18–Checkmate

Week 3 has begun and yet another round of eliminations is on the board for tonight.

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Image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

Guest judge: Misty Copeland apparently didn’t get enough last week, so she’s doing again this week.

Top 18—Hip-Hop
A battle on the chess board…Christopher Scott, with a technical assist from Sonya Tayeh.

Welp….didn’t see that one coming. Fresh blood—Christopher “Pharside” Jennings and Krystal “Phoenex” Meraz from Academy of Villains. Who, I will assume, is the crew on tap for tonight. Let’s find out. (No AoV tonight, but they’ll be performing in the weeks to come.)

Bottom 6:
Bridget, Emilio, Emily, Stanley, Jourdan, Teddy

America, you suck. Emilio is my highest concern, and I want Stanley to have a better shot…so that leaves Teddy. As for the girls, I’m calling Emily right now but that may change once everyone has danced.

Jacque/Zach
Hip-Hop—Keone and Mari Madrid

They’re back! I haven’t scoured their YouTube videos but hopefully this is totally fresh and a snarky fan won’t pull them up doing it after the show. The story is about a couple that’s about to get together, and the ballerina and the hoofer are both having trouble nailing down the intricacies of the choreography.

If acting could win this, Zach would have a lock on the finals. He seemed to grab on to the steps pretty well, and Jacque hung with it, too. Still a bit smiley, and though I’m sure there were probably some moments where she was supposed to gaze at him adoringly, it was more of a pasted performance smile than a “I think I’m falling for this guy” smile.

Cat had recollections of the Mark/Chelsea “Bleeding Love” routine from Season 4; I got more of a Phillip/Jeanine “Mad” vibe myself….Mary is enjoying the versatility coming from the two of them, and was impressed with the interaction between them; Nigel feels that Jacque is doing very well looking like she belongs in the styles she’s been given, and is thrilled by the high level of commitment Zach throws into his work; Misty co-signs with the others and praises them on the deepening and improvement of their partnership.

Jourdan/Marcquet
Contemporary—Dee Kaspery

A couple trying to disappear, and needing to find a place to be happy.

Trying to understand why the umbrellas are there and how they connect to disappearing (or not disappearing)….Dee and these props. They looked out of sync in the unison section and some parts had Marcquet looking like a solely hip-hop trained dancer attempting contemporary for the first time. Jourdan managed to take off enough of her edges to not be balletic in this.

Cat, don’t invoke that song…I beg of you….

Nigel thought the routine was challenging and they did well enough, but is not quite able to connect with them personally as a couple, acquiescing to Misty regarding Marcquet’s form—she notes his shakiness in his bottom half that could be better grounded by shifting his weight more forward over his toes, and also remarks on a lack of vulnerability in Jourdan’s facial expression detracting from everything else that she is executing well. Mary agrees with the other two but does note a bit of magic in their opening pose, as well as a connection with Marcquet in his partnering.

Jessica/Stanley
Jazz—Tyce Diorio

Funky carpet ride…and they have to make it fly with their performance.

I’m not sure exactly how complicated the choreography really was, but they made it look effortless. Not sure about their connection in such a short span of time.

Also, I’m not entirely sure I want to know what or where a mosquito’s tweeter is…. O.o

Misty thinks Jessica and Stanley are both overdoing it a touch with their faces and advises them to tone that down and let the superb work their bodies are doing shine; Mary is impressed with Stanley’s fearlessness and agrees about Jessica’s overselling the facial expressions; Nigel agrees with the others about Jessica and advises Stanley to rein in some of the strength and power flying through his limbs and channel it toward his core for a stronger dancing base.

Bridget/Emilio
Jive—Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev

Typical struggles of non-ballroom dancers trying to pick up one of the fastest styles in one week. Bridget, could you NOT try to break his nose again? I’d like Emilio to dance a few more weeks, please.

OK, y’all can’t possibly in good conscience vote off a couple that danced to “Happy”—that automatically has to be on tour, and thusly, you have to get these two to Top 10. Fortunately, they do a passable job in pulling off this jive. It does help that Anya and Pasha put in a lot of elements that are within their own styles and comfort levels, but from what I could see the flicks and kicks were sharp and the passes were decent.

Mary was impressed at how well they did with a foreign style (but she’s getting Sometimer’s disease or something, because she dubbed Anya the originator of the Hot Tamale Train, and I CLEARLY remember her putting Sabra and Dominic on with their rumba in Season 3. Maybe I need to go back a few episodes to double check….) and thought they had lots of energy, and while she gave Emilio feedback on improving his technique she felt Bridget seems to grasp and execute it quite well. Nigel commends Emilio on doing well with the very-outside-the-norm jive and thought Bridget was gorgeous in technique and appearance. Misty thought their performance level was on point and that Bridget embraced the note from last week about blending her strength and femininity.

Emily/Teddy
Contemporary—Tyce Diorio

A look deep into a soul that’s saying “Don’t ever leave me.” Well they’re definitely going to need to be connected tonight, aren’t they?

Very abstract and out there, but Teddy’s contemporary form is really something. Emily was good too, but that’s her area.

Nigel thought their performance got very close to touching the human spirit and they danced beautifully; Misty said even though Emily doesn’t speak French, her body does—and was delighted by the articulation in her feet (“you should dance like you’re barefoot every week”). She was also wowed by Teddy and feels that he translates into every genre with ease. Mary feels the same about Emily as Misty felt about Teddy, and was mesmerized for the first time by Teddy.

Brooklyn/Casey
Jazz—Bonnie Story

A boy at a high school prom who wants to ask a girl to dance. Bonnie is very adamant that they keep in character and away from the “technique face” while they’re dancing. I’ll look and see if I can tell what she’s talking about.

This should have been a jive, with Michael Bublé putting his jazzy spin on Freddie Mercury, but it was cute…except for that wanna-be beehive on Brooklyn’s head. That nearly distracted me from watching for the technique, which was really good especially in their unison sections. Didn’t see much face action, but I’m sure the judges will have something to say about it.

Misty was impressed by Brooklyn’s improvement (but noted a little “technique face” when performing outside of genre dance skills) and completely enamored by Casey; Mary thought it was really fun and agreed with Misty’s assessment on both dancers; Nigel makes three and while he did note that Brooklyn coped well with the difficulties of the routine compared to her skill set, he did caution her to dance up to Casey’s level in order to remain safe from possible elimination.

Valerie/Ricky
Viennese Waltz—Lacey Schwimmer

It’s nice to see both the Schwimmer kids working—first Benji last week, and now Lacey this week. I’m guessing the DWTS experience honed her Viennese waltz expertise, since I thought she was mostly Latin trained…but hey, she’s here and doing it, so let’s see what’s on tap. Or, it seems, I should have said on TAPE….did she really duct tape those children together?!? Yessss indeed….

I will say that Valerie is working her little fanny off to capture the styles thrown at her; while some of her attempts to hit certain positions seems a bit choppy she was rounding her arms and doing her damnedest to make them fluid. I’ll defer to Mary about Ricky’s posture and form but it seemed to me that his leading arm had a little too much play in it and should have held stronger. Still, the performance level and connection between these two is really something special. I liked it in spite of hearing this particular Jason Mraz song for the bazillionth time on this show…..

Damn—NIGEL stood up?!? Wow—can’t wait to hear these comments. Mary was quite taken with the pair—praising Ricky’s topline while cautioning him to smooth out the rise and fall in the lower half, and then giving Valerie’s performance glowing reviews while admonishing her to tighten her core to do the head lean instead of dropping into her sides. Nigel declined to speak on their technique and chose to hail their performance level as “beyond reproach,” and thought Valerie’s improvement in rising to Ricky’s standard was stunning and remarkable. Misty agreed with Nigel on all fronts.

(I don’t know what’s on these children’s faces, but as I didn’t see Sonya’s purple hair in the audience, I don’t think it’s her doing.)

Carly/Serge
Hip-Hop—Luther Brown

I haven’t mentioned anyone else’s “deep dark secret” this week, but I have to do this one: Serge—DUDE?!? You’re practically family with the Chmerkovskys and you didn’t channel Maks last week for that contemporary? I’mma need you to do better.

Skeleton people—not something I expected out of Luther Brown. He’s impressed with Carly’s swag, though (guess that dance team experience is paying off). Serge is trying to find his “creepy yet gangsta” sweet spot—I’m wondering if this will have any of the feel of the Pasha/Lauren G. routine from Season 3.

This was definitely more Carly than Serge, but he gave a really good effort. I think he put a little too much slouch in where he was trying to be less erect in his posture, which kind of made the creepy gangsta look more like slouchy sloth. Hard to tell if either did as expected since this number was incredibly laid back.

Nigel thinks this number may make it difficult for the public to rush to vote for them—not because of lack of execution but because the amount of intricacy and effort may not be readily picked out by the viewer. (In short, he basically gave voice to the misgivings I expressed above.) Misty somewhat disagrees, feeling that the public should be made to know how difficult it is for the dancers to switch genres, and ultimately gain a better appreciation for the routines and their execution. Having said that, she went on to compliment Serge on becoming an all-around dancer and Carly on shining in the number. (“But I’m from this generation….” Did she just get in a sly dig on Nigel? Misty, you bold, girl!) Mary also thought Carly was a beast and was fascinated with Serge’s efforts.

Tanisha/Rudy
Broadway—Warren Carlyle

Classic Broadway with canes. Let the mishaps ensue.

The number was “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the version from Fosse, and I dare say, Rudy pulled off some Fosse-like jumps in that. Mixed with a little Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and dare I say, Jess LeProtto—Rudy could get that role if he stays the course in this competition. I’m not particularly drawn in by Tanisha on a general basis, and as this is not as in-your-face as her jazz performance last week, my eyes were drawn to Rudy most of the time. She hit all of her steps but it wasn’t the same strong energy as I’m used to from her…either that, or Rudy’s star really was supernova bright tonight.

Standing O from the judges……Misty thought Rudy was IT, and said the pair danced in unison but let their individual personalities shine through. She did give Tanisha notes on lengthening herself in pirouette to stay on balance, but loved the number overall. Mary called it a showstopper, and was just as impressed with the pair; while Nigel thought their through-the-roof energy brought magic to the stage.

Now see, I was trying to be nice and give these children some breathing room, but since the “secrets” interviews pretty much outed Jacque and Rudy, Cat somehow feels compelled to put them on national blast. Those poor babies turned beet red under those hot lights and all that grilling….but this little crush is too cute!

A Great Big World (whose “Say Something” was probably heavily instrumental in securing Amy Yakima’s victory last year) performs on the stage tonight, reprising that tune on the stage where it made them household names, backed tonight by the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir.

Eliminations are up, and I dread hearing about the guys. I don’t want any of them to go, but again, if I have to go on weakest performance, I’m afraid my Stanley is next to go. I think Emily saved herself with the contemporary, so unless there are serious misgivings about Bridget’s jive that went unvoiced, that extremely abstract piece of Jourdan’s will be her swan song. Dee Kaspery numbers have not fared well on this show so far, so that’s another strike working against her chances.

After deliberating, the judges decide to go with America’s vote (more proof that y’all suck) that it is indeed Stanley and Jourdan going home. I hate that I called two weeks in a row correctly, and this week is a bigger shame because I think given the right number Stanley would have blown the voters away. Though I’m not particularly attached to any of the girls this season, it was my hope that both ballerinas could get to the Top 10. I can’t be totally angry, as one has already triumphed and there’s still one in this year’s race, but I’m still saddened for Jourdan. Her partner, Marcquet, will make Jessica’s third—the public saved her last week but as one-half in another weak number her chances are marginal.

I’m not sure exactly where America’s heads are at (I have an inkling, but I’m trying to be polite) as far as who is grabbing the popularity vote, but this is one crazy ride.

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

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

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

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

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

Top 4 Group
Jazz – Mandy Moore

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

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

Amy/Aaron
Jazz – Ray Leeper

Sexy with a club feel. Ray’s words.

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

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

Jasmine/Fik-Shun
Contemporary – Travis Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power and passion.

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

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

Jasmine

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

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

Jasmine/Aaron
Samba – Dmitry Chaplin

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

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

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

Fik-Shun

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

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

Amy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron/Fik-Shun
Broadway – Tyce Diorio

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

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

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

Amy/Jasmine
Jazz – Mark Kanemura

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 9: People’s Choice

images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

images courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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

Top 6 Group
Afro Jazz – Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A loving (and fighting) couple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hayley/Paul
Contemporary – Dee Caspary

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

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

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

Amy/Fik-Shun
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

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

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

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

Aaron/Jasmine
Jazz – Sean Cheesman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 4: Making Transitions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis/Nico
Jive – Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin

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

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

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

Jenna/Tucker
Contemporary – Travis Wall

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

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

Mariah/BluPrint
Jazz – Brian Friedman

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

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

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

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

Malece/Alan
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

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

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

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

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

Hayley/Curtis
Contemporary – Dee Caspary

[Didn’t realize Curtis was 6’1”….]

Two people trying to climb the ladder of success….

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

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

Amy/Fik-Shun
Jazz – Tyce Diorio

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

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

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

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

Makenzie/Paul
Hip-Hop – Dave Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SYTYCD Season 10, Week 2: Don’t Be Cruel

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

image courtesy of 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions

It’s the start of week 2 where things get real fast: at least two dancers are potentially going home tonight (unless hope springs eternal like in Season 8 where no one went home, but faced a double elimination the following week). Let’s see what’s in store for us tonight….

Top 20: Opening number
OK, weird, twisted and fantastical—either Mia or Tyce. Mm-hmmm….Tyce. I’m getting good at calling his numbers.

Guest judge: Christina Applegate

Introducing the judges before the dancers—interesting. Maybe that was actually a live performance and not a look-live….ahhh, bottom 3 reveal at the top of the show, with imminent elimination. AAAAND the eliminated contestants have to still perform with their original partners. Yes, as a matter of fact, that decision DOES blow. At least they get to dance for their lives.

Makenzie (saved)
Alan (saved)

Both were immediately saved by the judges and spared the solos under pressure, though the mere announcement has to have done a number on their confidence.

The four remaining contestants were called to the dance floor right then and there:

Mariah
It would be foolish, IMO, to cut the only girl krumper the show has ever had. But I also think her Season 9 audition was stronger than this dance for her life.

Jade
Still smooth as hell. Hope it’s enough.

Brittany
Very versatile solo—she might have the edge over Mariah.

Carlos
Power-packed solo—may or may not be enough.

Nigel was disappointed in the solos, and announces Carlos and Brittany’s departure. So Mariah has a bittersweet victory as she dances her last with her partner and will be paired with Brittany’s former partner BluPrint next week. I did figure he would make that particular call, though.

Let me state AGAIN for the record how colossally bad of an idea this is; not only do you throw the ones that have been eliminated off-kilter but you get in the heads of their saved partners. This here some bullsh….. (Thankfully, enough fans raised enough hell for Nigel to change his mind…a little. At least the buzzkill cut announcement no longer stains the remainder of the show.)

Anyway, after that major downer, the competition for the evening actually begins.

Hayley/Curtis
Jazz – Ray Leeper

Hayley doing damage to poor Curtis again, with his silly behind trying to be hard. Sweetie, I love you, but I can’t even look at that baby face without expecting the words “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” to come out of your mouth….

Didn’t we do this costume concept with Caitlynn and Mitchell already? Though I would try to rock that outfit (after a round of Insanity and a couple sets of Spanx)….Curtis, bless his heart, really did try to infuse that bad boy attitude, but Hayley ate him up. He is getting more comfortable with the hands and the closeness thing, though.

Nigel thought it was sexy and well danced, and that Hayley was the main draw. Well yeah, a see-through/pleather leotard and ho boots will do that for any man, but she did crank up the sexy even more tonight. Mary needs to stop encouraging Cat to do the “Munchkin happy dance” (‘cause that’s what it looks like), but apparently is in agreement with Nigel. And she was impressed with Curtis’s bad boy persona. Christina makes three and suggested focusing more on balancing dancing to the words as well as the beats to more fully bring the mood across and increase the audience anticipation. As a liturgical dancer, I can see the merit in that suggestion—you often have to depend less on even counts and more on the singer’s message to fully convey your theme.

Jasmine H./Aaron
Lyrical Hip-Hop – Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo
Jasmine and Aaron are worried about getting the chemistry and connection down; with Aaron playing a musician, I wonder if he’s going to channel his dad….

Aaron really is a big dude, and that’s really obvious when he tries to do smooth moves like that. Not that he wasn’t hitting them and keeping good sync with Jasmine, but it’s hard not to think of the term “lumbering” with some of the steps. Plus I think, as least on this first pass, that he was more smiley than seductive. That taking the shirt off move was well-practiced, because I didn’t see it coming even AFTER it happened. Looking again, if I were Aaron I would have lingered a bit on those last moves–stared at Jasmine a beat more, a slower stroke of the hat brow, and a slightly more stretched out turn and walk away, just to heighten that “rambling man” persona. Those few nuances might have made the difference between the good that it was and the great that it could have been.

Mary bought the chemistry, though, and praised Jasmine’s acting ability (which really is good, as we discovered in the Vegas contemporary round) and Aaron’s sex appeal. Christina praised Jasmine’s star quality, called them the couple to beat and tossed her dress rehearsal notes out the window (I’m going to guess they were working at 50% and turned it up to 150% for the show.) Nigel thought there was great honesty in the chemistry and once again commented on the blurring of the tap lines as he did previously with Curtis. He even dubs Aaron a “major asset” to the show, and considering he almost wasn’t on, that’s pretty high praise. (Yeah, he’s 23, but I’m no cougar; thus, he’s still jailbait. I will try to look for the sexy, though)

Are they changing the phone numbers every week? Just noticed Aaron and Jasmine H.’s number were 02 instead of 08. They really want to make sure you’re watching and paying attention, don’t they?

Malece/Jade
Bollywood – Nakul Dev Mahajan

Silliness reigned at the rehearsal—and for someone who’s afraid of clowns, Jade sure talks about them a lot….

This one was sloppy. More hip-hop infused than most of Nakul’s other creations, and Malece was up and down with her energy. Not sure if they were supposed to fall into that end pose like that…. Jade gave me shades of Joshua there.

Christina enjoyed it and thought it was fun; commended both for doing this dance so far out of either’s style. Took the time to admonish Jade for his “laid back” approach to his bottom 3 performance and said he should immerse himself in everything as much as he could and pull out all the stops to stay. Nigel was drawn to Malece and shocked that Jade picked up Bollywood as well as he did. Mary was pleased with their prowess and energy. I will take Mary’s note about the heaviness of Malece’s headdress into account regarding my perceptions of her energy…she did get some good jumps in there….

Alexis/Nico
Contemporary – Stacey Tookey

Stacey’s doing the sequel to Season 7’s war story with Robert Roldan and All-Star Kathryn McCormick; Alexis takes over Kathryn’s role and is coming back home. Nice move on Stacey’s part to bring the original two in to help…at least I THINK that’s what they were there for.

There will be the inevitable comparisons to another war-themed dance—the “Coming Home” lyrical hip-hop with Season 8’s Sasha Mallory and Alexander Fost. The chemistry between Alexis and Nico, once they actually connected, was believable; I’m a little lost as to why Nico just moved the duffel as if he’d already seen her come in and then showed surprise, though–probably blocking to clear stage space but thematically it didn’t fit for me. This should be a redeeming number for them, though, and considering their fan base kept them completely out of the bottom 3 after last week’s lukewarm hip-hop, they should have an easier time of it.

Nigel thought they were lovely and that both need to continue working harder every week; Mary love watching them and was moved by their uninhibited abandon; Christina is really following her dress notes and complimented Nico on a simple technique change he made in the choreography and thinks Alexis has an extraordinary quality about her.

Brittany/BluPrint
Broadway – Spencer Liff
Late night cram session in the library – a la Cyrus and Tiffany alone in the parents’ living room “studying.” That plus Broadway made the song choice obvious.

The first of our split couples to perform—the side by side section was really nice. This number highlighted Brittany more than anything, which along with BluPrint’s fan base, will be very helpful in saving him again next week. Too bad her fate was already sealed.

Mary thought it was fun and is really sorry to see Brittany go, but called BluPrint out on working on his lines and staying in the moment, asking him to dig deeper. Christina thought he was wonderful as well, but gives him the advice to just let go and tell the story in Broadway rather than focus so hard on the technical. Nigel agrees and also laments Brittany’s departure.

Jasmine M./Alan
Tango – Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

That’s a really short dress for her to be tangoing in….Jasmine plays the innocent as Alan is the “evil” luring her. Tables turn this week as Alan dances his own style. There’s lifts in it, so unless it’s show tango, I’m assuming Argentine.

Cat says it was like Dracula and his prey. Alan was a very strong presence but I got more of a “skeevy old lecher” vibe than pure evil. Jasmine’s inexperience did show, but she hit some of those tango forms and flicks well.

Christina thought they stepped up to last week’s performance; Nigel was also duly impressed and thought Alan did just as well as he did last week and was nonplussed at his appearance in the bottom 3, and praised Jasmine for her intensity; Mary thought the passion level was off-the-charts crazy and was also pleased with their mastery of the level of difficulty in the routine, particularly the last lift sequence.

Makenzie/Paul
Jazz – Sean Cheesman
Mad scientist creates sexy fembot…uh-huh. Paul’s next up to bat in the “drop the shy boy” sweepstakes.

Weird Science, the dance number. Paul kinda looked like Napoleon there. Did a good job hanging in but some of those tricky spins and connections were not as smooth as they could have been. Makenzie makes a good vamp.

Cat, stop stealing my lines–I said Weird Science first! Nigel loved it (and clearly Sean did too) and was very impressed with Paul’s prowess. (Took a sidebar to point out a very pregnant Melissa Sandvig, the naughty ballerina from Season 6 who with one week to go is out and about at SYTYCD. My feet would SO be up on my couch at home—hope the emergency bag’s in the trunk of the car….) Mary thought it was terrific and was also impressed with Paul. Christina makes three and sees a young Patrick Dempsey (pre-McDreamy) in Paul (yeah, I can kind of see that), pausing to give him a small note to lose his practiced carriage a little in loose, free-moving numbers like this. All three judges were baffled at Makenzie’s appearance in the bottom 3, and unless her fan base fights for her, the panel is going to have to keep saving her for as long as they can.

Mariah/Carlos
Contemporary – Stacey Tookey

Carlos as an amnesiac accident victim and Mariah as his beleaguered love. At least he gets his own style to go out with, and the early elimination may just add to her performance anguish—if something good was to come out of that asinine decision by the producers.

Mariah is STILL broken up by this—and as expected, she used it in her movement. Carlos, naturally, was fantastic.

Mary’s flabbergasted and thinks Carlos’s absence will be America’s loss, and was truly impressed with Mariah’s passion. Christina also thought America got it wrong and thought their connection was the tightest and strongest of the evening. Nigel make it a unanimity about Mariah’s passion and wished Carlos well.

Amy/Fik-Shun
Hip-Hop – Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo

They’re dressed as bellhops. Oooookay……Amy’s in Fik-Shun’s territory this week and feeling a little out of her depth. It’s set to be a fun routine, so hopefully, that’ll loosen her up.

Get yo’ swag on, Joey Potter! And unless they weighted that luggage rack a little, those are some tricky buggers to keep swinging on and through, so they both get props for THAT prop. Granted, the crawling “booty pop” section was a little off, but even I can’t do it, and I’m a big-booty black girl.

Christina loved it, and had to praise them for last week as well. Nigel was uplifted by their personalities and is still calling finals for both of them. Mary was just as enamored with the total package.

Jenna/Tucker
Cha-Cha – Dmitry Chaplin

We’re in Jenna’s world this week and she’s bringing Tucker along for the ride. Team Tuna works with Captain Shirtless to be the sleazy club guy and the sassy upstart. Given Tucker’s adorably clear dorkiness, this ought to be interesting.

He held character well….I’m not absolutely sure about the ballroom form, at least what little actual form Dmitry put in there for him. Clearly, this was Jenna’s spotlight all the way.

Mary praised Jenna’s ability but extended that praise to all forms of dance she’s seen from her since auditions and Vegas, calling her a chameleon; called out the precious few moments of actual form for Tucker but praised his partnering. Christina was thoroughly entertained and drawn into the story, praising Tucker for picking up as much as he did as a contemporary dancer. Nigel plays Debbie Downer and basically cracks on Dmitry for lack of cha-cha content. As nice a story as it was, I have to agree. He should well know this from his season on here as well as the many criticisms on DWTS about too much freestyle content and not enough classic form.

OK, so again, depends solely on dance critique, these dancers could land in the bottom 6:

Tucker
Jenna
Malece
Jade
Mariah
BluPrint or Nico

I can’t read the fan support yet, so more than likely, maybe two of this list will actually BE in the bottom 6. If social media follows are to be believed, Makenzie and Jade have the most to fear. No one has made an actual misstep yet; however, it is a competition and someone has to go whether we want them to or not. Hopefully, whoever falls into the bottom will bring their best, breakneck, kick-ass solo to convince the judges to keep them.

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