‘so you think you can dance’: let’s hear it for the boys.

This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance marked the first time that a dance has moved me to actual tears. Sure, many of the routines have evoked strong emotions, but I’m talking tears in the eyes, threatening to spill over onto my face. More on that routine later. While I wasn’t getting weepy, I was swooning over the male dancers on the show. Contestants and all-stars alike made me wish I still had a Trapper Keeper so I could write “Alison ❤ Neil” on it (among other names.)

The injuries plague that claimed dearly departed Alex Wong last week struck again, this time in the form of a rib injury for Ashley. Forgettable as she may be, she’s a consistently good dancer, so I hope there isn’t an early departure in her future.

The last time SYTYCD attempted a foray into cultural dance, it resulted in the Russian folk dance fiasco that Jeanine and Phillip were saddled with in season 5. When I heard that Lauren would be dancing a Tahitian dance with Mark, I feared the worst. Before I get into the dance, I would like to thank the Dance gods for bringing Mark back to our TV screen this week; an episode without Mark is an episode without joy. I can’t imagine a better partner than him for this dance, because he brought the perfect amount of masculinity and strength. Lauren got that swively hip action just right, and while I can’t say I want to see this dance every week, it was a welcome
departure from the overwhelming amount of angsty contemporary pieces.

I was all for Adechike and Anya’s salsa last night, but the more I think about it, the less sure I am about its awesomeness. The tricks were great, especially Anya’s prolonged backbend and Adechike’s cartwheel over her arm, but the rest of the dance seemed to be lacking. It was a bit too stop-and-go to accommodate the tricks and lacked the fiery feel of a salsa. Choreography aside, Adechike did a great job of stepping out of his technical comfort zone and attacking something completely different.

One dance that I definitely did not like was Jose and Courtney’s Broadway routine. Joey Dowling’s choreography is hit-or-miss for me, and last night was for sure a miss. I get that they didn’t dance together due to the story of the dance, but the meager steps Jose did perform were executed poorly. I would have rather watched Courtney shimmy around the stage in that ridiculous showgirl costume by herself for the entirety of the dance. Don’t even get me started on that wounded puppy face Jose was pulling during his judging…

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, it was Travis Wall’s contemporary, danced by Robert and Allison, that moved me to tears. The one-two punch of Coldplay’s “Fix You” and the emotional backstory of his mom recovering from surgery was too much for my fragile emotions to handle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Travis Wall is a genius. His choreography was so strong and so lovely that it would have been just as breathtaking without knowing the inspiration behind the piece. Robert put a lid on his oversized personality and allowed himself to connect with the piece, which definitely showed. I’m going to make a bold statement here and name Allison the best female contemporary dancer in SYTYCD history.

I’d like to thank the Dance gods again for the return of Dancing With the Stars pro Louis van Amstel as a choreographer. I missed him last season, when the new fall format of SYTYCD conflicted with DWTS. I love the jive as much as I love Louis, so one choreographing the other must equal greatness, right? Almost. Billy was able to overcome his nervous laughter from rehearsal and connect with Anya, but I wouldn’t rank this among the show’s top jives. Chopping up Meatloaf’s epic “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” into a minute and thirty seconds seems sacrilegious, and it gave the routine a slightly disjointed feel.

Let me offer another hearty “amen” for Neil. Not just last night, but in general. If they changed the title of the show to So You Think You Can Watch Neil Dance Solo For an Hour, I’d be all for it. I know this season is about the contestants and not the all-stars, but I thought Neil totally ruled this dance last night. Tyce Diorio’s Damn Yankees-themed Broadway piece was shockingly enjoyable. Okay, so Kent was good in this routine, too, because it allowed him to fully embrace his “gee-shucks-Kent!” persona, but I can’t believe Nigel told Neil he was outdanced. No way, no how.

Moving on to the contestants-only dances, (which I’m glad they’re continuing with) Lauren and Billy had a fun jazz from Mandy Moore. Her choreography isn’t usually that great, but this funky, peppy routine to “Boogie Shoes” was enjoyable to watch. (Not to mention I want a pair of those bejeweled Chuck Taylors they were wearing.) Adam was right; Billy truly did just let go and dance, and it showed.

I was shocked at the praise the judges were throwing at Jose after his b-boy dance with Dominic, who he was paired with since there was an odd number of contestants left. There is no way that you could sit there and watch that routine and not see that Jose is nowhere near as good at b-boying as Dominic. This was so obvious when they were dancing side-by-side; the leg windmills (or whatever they’re called) come to mind. I’m sick of all the passes Jose gets from the judges. He needs to be in the bottom three tonight.

Not taking into account the weird story behind the dance, (Kent’s girlfriend is a chair and Adechike doesn’t like her?) Dee Caspary’s contemporary piece was strong, masculine and really used the strengths of both dancers. The use of chairs could have hindered the routine, but the choreography was interesting and different.

The last dance of the night was the first disco of the season, and while I had been wondering when we were going to finally see it, I realized after last night’s routine with Robert and Kathryn that I didn’t really miss it that much. Doriana Sanchez’s choreography used to be non-stop good times, but now it’s evolved into death-defying trick after death-defying trick. Robert wasn’t fabulous in this, but he and Kathryn worked well together considering she had to fill in for the injured Ashley.

I think Jose and Billy or Robert will be joining Ashley in the bottom three tonight, and hopefully she’ll be well enough to continue on in the competition and Jose will be b-boying his way back to Miami.

Photo courtesy of Mark Kanemura’s Twitter account, @mKiK808.

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so you think you can dance: judges gone wild

Greetings, Dance fans. Let’s take a journey…through this week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance. I love how the producers are, in essence, making this up as they go along, changing the format this week to include an all-star pairing as well as a pairing with another competitor. Wise choice. There’s lots of dancing to be done, so let’s get right into this, shall we?

Lauren started the night doing a cha-cha with Pasha and his ballroom jeans. Her costume made her look like a sexy skunk, but she worked every last centimeter of that fringe. Her athleticism definitely worked in her favor this week, as her moves were strong and commanding. When the camera pulled away to a long shot, I could have sworn it was Anya up there. That’s how effortless Lauren made it look. She is improving every week, but I still can’t fully embrace her. I don’t know what it is about her…

Jose and all-star Lauren (she of the bodacious booty,) were the lucky recipients of another 80’s power ballad contemporary courtesy of Mandy Moore. INXS this time, for those of you keeping score. The choreography was weird; Jose barely danced, instead acting as a human prop for Lauren to twirl around. The judges, of course, loved it, praising his “technique” and growth and whatever other cliche phrase they dragged out in their critiques. I understood what Nigel was saying about Jose being true to himself, willing to learn, willing to grow, etc., but the bottom line is that the kid’s technique will never rival any of his competitors’, even on their worst day.

Kent and hip-hop should, in theory, go together about as well as Lindsay Lohan and alcohol, so I was pleasantly surprised by his routine with Comfort. He brought a crisp jazziness (not a real word, but work with me here) to the moves, which at first I thought to be his spin on the moves, but I think it was actually Dave Scott’s smart choreography. Cat was right; there was a bit of a Timberlake-ish vibe from Kent.

Adechike and Courtney’s jazz split the judges, but I thought it was sweet and charming. There was a bit too much prop work at the beginning with the counter and stools, but as Nigel pointed out, the part where they danced off to the side was sublime. Courtney is just adorable and radiant in anything she does, and I don’t care what McBitchy Mia had to say; I thought Adechike was personable and fun to watch. I think her headband was cutting off all blood flow to her brain.

I’m sure Billy and Allison’s Broadway would have been lovely, had the all-star not suffered a flare-up of a rib injury. Have no fear, for season 4’s favorite female dancer, Katee, was conveniently nearby to fill in for Allison. Spencer Liff has proven to be the most consistently great Broadway choreographer on the show, and this thief-themed piece really brought out the precise nature of Billy’s dancing. Katee’s great, but I had my eyes on Billy the whole time.

I was unable to properly assess Ashley and Dominic’s Nap/Tab hip-hop routine because my judgment was clouded by the horrendous song chosen to accompany the number. Ludacris’ “How Low” is one of the most inane songs to ever grace the radio, and now it’s stuck in my head. Thanks, Tabitha and Napoleon. I was also dismayed by the costuming for the dance; I get that it was a ninja theme, but someone in the costume department must really hate Ashley, because those drop-crotch Hammer pants were hideous. Regardless, it was refreshing to see her do something other than contemporary, and she kept up with Dominic quite well.

Robert and Kathryn, or should I say “Bob” and “Kathie,” were dolls come to life in Sean Cheeseman’s jazz. The concept was great, and it played up to Robert’s inherent cheesiness, but the synchronization was very off at the beginning when they were dancing in the boxes. Robert stumbled few a through lifts and turns with Kathryn, bumping her butt on the ground and making her seem awkward and cumbersome. Something was just a smidge off throughout the entire dance.

I have to applaud Nigel and crew for allowing the actual contestants to dance together last night. Some people think this make-it-up-as-we-go format of season 7 is unprofessional, but I think it shows flexibility on the producers’ part and a willingness to try something new. (Take note, American Idol producers.)

Alex and Adechike should have danced a powerful Bollywood together, but an Achilles’ tendon injury sidelined Alex last night. Now, this was definitely not the sharpest Bollywood I’ve ever seen danced, but I think the judges failed to give Adechike any credit. Not only was he dancing with a new (and female) partner, but I’m sure some of the choreography at the end was tweaked to make up for Alex’s absence. Did any of the judges acknowledge this? Of course not. Instead we got freaking Mia Michaels snidely declaring she “missed Alex so much right now.” You know who I missed so much last night? Mary Murphy. Props to Cat, though, for calling out the judges on their hypocrisy. How dare they praise Jose for doing a more lackluster Bollywood a few weeks ago, yet rip Adechike apart for doing the same, if not better? I could have strangled Mia with her stupid headband after she responded, “Jose has heart…” Bring back Mary. Please.

Lauren and Kent’s contemporary was the highlight of the night. Travis Wall is such a genius when it comes to choreography, and last night’s piece was a great showcase for both dancers. The prom story behind the dance was subtle and relatable for Kent and Lauren, considering they both just graduated from high school. This is one of the most emotionally real dances on SYTYCD thus far, and that’s counting standouts like “Bleeding Love,” “No Air,” and “Addiction.” And then there was that kiss at the end….wow.

The producers were cruel enough to “randomly” give Ashley and Robert the quickstep, aka the kiss of death on SYTYCD. This leads me to ask, why continue to include this dance? If it consistently leads to eliminated dancers, then drop it from the lineup. Robert and Ashley did the best they could with this dreaded dance, although the music Jean-Marc and France picked was awful. Fingers crossed that these dancers are spared the fate of other quicksteppers.

The final dance of the evening was an African Jazz, danced by Billy and Jose. This was a meeting of the two SYTYCD staples: personality vs. technique. The premise involved Jose’s hunter preying on Billy’s panther, but I’d say the panther ended up victorious. For a routine that required power, strength and athleticism, Billy excelled while Jose floundered.

If I had to pick a bottom three for tonight, I would say Jose, Robert and maybe Adechike, but I think he’ll get enough sympathy votes to be safe this week.

‘so you think you can dance’ update/reactions/etc.

So I’ve dropped the ball on the past two performance episodes of SYTYCD, but in my defense I was traveling last week and room renovations this week have left me without constant access to my laptop. Here are my thoughts on last week’s performances and this week’s show, fresh off the eliminations.

I watched half of last week’s dances on YouTube, and the other half in a karaoke bar in Atlantic City. I wasn’t very impressed with many of the routines; standouts included Randi and Evan’s ode to the female rump, choreographed by Mia Michaels, and Melissa and Ade’s rumba. I don’t know if it’s the dancers or the choreographers, but save the awesomeness of the top 20, I’ve been left kind of unenthused so far after each performance show.

This week was the same mixed bag of dancing, but I absolutely am head-over-heels in love with Melissa and Ade’s classical pas de deux. In the five seasons that SYTYCD has been on air, I’ve been dying for a classical ballet piece, but I had to wait until almost the 100th episode before I saw any true ballet dancing. Sure, I call shenanigans on the “randomness” of ballerina Melissa drawing the pas de deux, but I really don’t care because what resulted was one minute and 30 seconds of truly beautiful dancing. I obviously like dance more than the average person, and while I’ve seen countless ballet routines in my life, I literally got chills watching Melissa and Ade dance last night. I always laughed at Cat Deeley when she claimed dances gave her chills, but I was truly moved by Thordal Christensen’s simplistically beautiful choreography.

Here’s the dance for those of you who missed it and anyone who wants to see it again:

Speaking of shenanigans, I’m outraged at Vitolio’s elimination over Kupono, especially after the latter delivered one of the worst solos to grace the SYTYCD stage. I think the producers (Nigel included) are so giddy over the pairing of Kayla and Kupono that they couldn’t bear to part with their beloved Hawaiian contemporary dancer. It just doesn’t make sense.

‘so you think you can dance’ recap: top 18

Last night’s show was rough. Some of last week’s top performers were not good, and most of the routines were just so-so. Other highlights of the show included Cat Deeley wearing a human-sized ruffled pillowcase, and the dancers revealing “secrets” about their partners.

Evan and Randi: We learned that Evan likes to build cars and that Randi’s dog is like her child. Yawn. I enjoyed their jive upon first watch because the two of them can sell a routine like no other, but after watching it a second time, I noticed all of the things the judges pointed out. I doubt many viewers, aside from those who are trained ballroom dancers, noticed the errors because Randi and Evan are truly fun to watch. (Oops…I tried so hard not to say “fun” in my recap.)

Ade and Melissa: We learned that Melissa and her sister are married to brothers, and that Ade’s full name is Adetokunbo Isaac Kayode Obayomi. Again, not very exciting. Moving on to the dancing…I have never been able to get behind Sonya Tayeh’s choreography, probably because I just don’t understand it, but I do know that these two performed it well last night. Melissa is a walking example of the idea that having a strong foundation in ballet translates well across all dance genres, and Ade is just great at anything he does.

Jason and Caitlin: Jason’s big secret is that he used to do Michael Jackson impressions as a child, and aside from the tragic mullet he sported, I wasn’t exactly falling off my couch in shock by this revelation. Caitlin’s secret is that she talks in baby voices and does a velociraptor imitation that annoys Jason. Come on, dancers, where’s the dirt? I want to be shocked and amazed! One thing that did not shock or amaze me was Shane Sparks’ hip-hop choreography for these two. It’s hard to make a great performance out of lackluster moves. Jason was much better than Caitlin, and even though you could tell she was trying, it was nowhere near as enjoyable as their week one Bollywood routine.

Brandon and Janette: Janette used to have busted teeth, (her orthodontist must have specialized in miracles) and incredibly ripped Brandon says he has never set foot in a gym. The clueless preteens in the audience audibly gasped at this revelation, but then again, saying the words “Jonas” or “Brothers” could send them all into catatonic fits. It’s called a dancer’s body, people! I always thought disco was simply a music genre until SYTYCD proved me wrong. Doriana Sanchez (who may or may not be made entirely out of plastic) choreographed possibly the fastest disco routine to grace a dance floor, but that didn’t hinder Janette and Brandon. I thought Janette’s facial mugging was a bit distracting, but I come from the school of “less is more” when it comes to facial expressions.

Vitolio and Asukah: I cannot for the life of me remember what their secrets were, so that shows you they probably weren’t very exciting. Their waltz is one of those dances where the emotional back story far outweighs any technical mishaps (see: Kherington and Twitch’s Viennese waltz from last season). Inspired by Vitolio’s plight as an orphan, Louis van Amstel crafted a beautiful waltz that wasn’t technically stunning, but it was emotional and they definitely connected more with the piece than they did with last week’s Broadway disaster.

Max and Kayla: Max is called a “housewife” by his fellow dancers because he likes to cook, and Kayla likes to text. Wow…an 18-year-old girl likes to text. Who would have seen that coming? Having been a teenager during the glory days of pop in the early 2000s, I was extremely familiar with Brian Friedman’s choreographic resume (Britney Spears, ‘NSync, P!nk, etc.). I was very happy to see him return to SYTYCD after a brief absence. Kayla and Max perfectly captured his pop-jazz routine, and I have to say, this week, I watched Max more than Kayla. Yes, Kayla is good, but I don’t really get all the hype from the judges. All I noted about her dancing last night is that she’s what I like to call a “fish face dancer,” meaning she dances with her mouth hanging open in a very unattractive way.

Jonathan and Karla: We learned that Jonathan (who my sister pointed out is a David Archuleta lookalike,) is tone deaf but sings all the time and that Karla, despite being labeled by Fox as a contemporary dancer, is actually a member of hip-hop crew Boogie Bots, as seen on season two of America’s Best Dance Crew. Ballroom dancing and ballet/lyrical/contemporary are both very technical genres, but each has its own specific technique. I was very surprised to see that ballroom dancer Jonathan was able to effortlessly slip into the contemporary technique, and I think he matched contemporary dancer Karla’s skill level.

Philip and Jeanine: We learned that Philip is a science nerd and has close to 40 reptiles in his room. We also learned that Jeanine has a teddy bear named Spanky that she dresses in coordinating clothes and claims is “better than a boyfriend.” What a perfect match: science nerd with a reptile fixation and crazy girl in love with a bear. “Hot mess” is the only thing that comes to mind when I think of their routine last night. Philip’s lack of technical training was glaringly obvious while attempting the tango, and Jeanine, probably sensing this, seemed to be working twice as hard to sell it. It was painfully awkward to watch.

Kupono and Ashley: We learned that Kupono is OCD to the point of irritation, (explains his lists) and that Ashley projectile vomited on her first-grade classmates. Really Ashley? That’s what you choose to tell America about you? Nothing else about you is as remarkable as the fact that you spewed barf before Show and Tell? Okay then…This was another Shane Sparks routine that I didn’t really like. Nigel claimed it was the dancers, but I think the source of the problem is Mr. Sparks himself. Two bad routines in one show points to the creator of said routines. Ashley was much better than Kupono. There were moments where she was hitting the choreography just right, and I just wanted to shake Kupono and say, “Can’t you synchronize yourself with her for one 8-count? Please?”

Predictions: It’s hard for me to pick three couples this week, because the ones who slipped are frontrunners/favorites. I can’t tell if America is going to vote based on who they like vs. who danced the best. (I only vote during the finale…I have better things to do with my time than repeatedly press redial for two hours after the show.) If I had to predict, I would say Asukah and Vitolio are going to be in the bottom, simply because neither of them has really connected with the audience. Ashley and Kupono could also see themselves dancing for their lives, and I think a third couple could be Philip and Jeanine. Based on the bottom three I chose, I think Asukah and Vitolio could be going home.

Tune in to Fox tonight at 9 p.m. EST to see who will be packing up their dance shoes.