‘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”: handicapping the top 20

Even though it seems like we just crowned Jeanine Mason “America’s Favorite Dancer,” So You Think You Can Dance has quickly segued into their first fall season, giving us another group of talented dancers to entertain us each week. Here are my thoughts on the top 20.

I love tappers, and I loved Phillip Attmore’s audition, but last night’s conveniently placed clip of his backtalk to the judges will surely turn some people off to him. I think a lot of Phillip’s success rides on which female dancer he’s paired with.

Billy Bell is an early favorite of mine. The strength of his dancing comes as somewhat of a shock, as though it’s not possible for this skinny, pale kid to bring Adam Shankman to tears. I really look forward to seeing Billy’s growth in the top 20.

My spotty viewing of the audition rounds prevented me from seeing Channing Cooke before last night. Athletic strength doesn’t always translate to strong dancing, but she seems to have a balance of both. She’s like the Kherington of season 6, albeit less annoying, so I think viewers will become well acquainted with her.

I’ve literally never seen Ariana DeBose before finding out she was in the top 20, and the producers couldn’t be bothered to show much of her dancing. Depending on her partner, Ariana could make an early exit just from the fact that the viewers don’t have much of a rapport with her.

The less I have to see of Ashleigh DiLello, the better. She’s clearly hamming it up for the cameras every chance she gets, and the faces she makes while both dancing and talking are obnoxious. I get the whole husband and wife shtick the producers are going for, but her dancing is mediocre, and “personality” can only get you so far.

Ryan DiLello is far more talented than his elastic-faced wife. A strong male ballroom dancer has been missing from SYTYCD for the past few seasons, so if Ryan’s prowess extends beyond ballroom floor, I think he has a good chance of making the top 10.

Russell Ferguson is the earliest of my early favorites. When I saw this krumper excel at Louis van Amstel’s insane cha-cha-cha during Vegas week, I was shocked. Russell further shocked me by completely killing it in the following jazz, contemporary and Broadway routines. The cynic in me finds his claims of having no previous training suspect, but I hope it’s true and he’s simply a wealth of untapped talent.

Detest is not a strong enough word to describe my dislike for Mollee Gray. Nigel was completely spot-on when he told her that she dances like a 14 or 15-year-old. I’d place her maturity level at about the same age. Sure, she has great technique, but the emotional connection to her dances is lacking. Can she master the fiery paso doble? The sultry rumba? A hard-hitting hip hop? Mollee will definitely alienate older viewers, but the younger crowd will text enough votes to keep her around for longer than I’d like.

As far as female ballroom dancers go, I’ll take Karen Hauer over Ashleigh any day. Her audition was strong, but her lack of camera time throughout Vegas could hurt her.

Hip-hop is often over-represented in the SYTYCD top 20, but this season, Kevin Hunte is the sole hip-hopper (not counting krumper Russell or b-boy Legacy). He’s very versatile, as glimpses of him in Vegas showed, but there are a lot of strong males this season, so Kevin’s versatility will have to go a long way.

We haven’t seen much of contemporary dancer Jakob Karr thus far, but the little we have seen shows a lot of promise. I hope he does better than my early contemporary favorite from last season, Jason Glover, who was kind of a disappointment.

The only thing Noelle Marsh has going for her is that she’s mildly less obnoxious than her “best friend” Mollee. (Side note: How fast can one become someone’s best friend? Apparently for these two, it’s the length of time it took some random PA to put them in the same hotel room.) We haven’t seen much of her dancing, so Noelle’s run in the top 20 is TBD.

Throughout Vegas, Paulina Mata was one to watch for me, so when she suffered that terrible ankle injury before the Broadway round, I thought she was a goner. Her spirit seemed a little beaten post-injury, so hopefully being in the top 20 gives Paulina the spark she needs to become a true contender.

Kathryn McCormick is a great dancer, as seen in the clips we saw last night. Viewers may have a hard time remembering her talent, however, after witnessing the horrible sound of her voice when she cries. When the tears started, her voice reached octaves that only dogs and dolphins can hear. Unless Kathryn can pull it together and keep the tears in check, she’s going to have a hard time getting votes.

I’ll keep my thoughts about Jonathan “Legacy” Perez short: he’s annoying, and I don’t get the hype. The end.

Tapper Bianca Revels is very talented and has a lot of personality to back it up. She also has quite a fan following, as this is her third season on SYTYCD. Her tapping is great, but I fear she may struggle with ballroom or contemporary.

Peter Sabasino rounds out the trifecta of tappers this season, and while we haven’t seen much of him yet, I have to applaud Nigel and the rest of the judges for not pulling the “we need to keep the genres equally represented” card when it came to the tap dancers. Now if only we could get some more ballet dancers on the show…

All I can really recall about Ellenore Scott is that I declared her “really obnoxious” after her audition. We know Nigel loves personality, and Ellenore has plenty to go around.

Victor Smalley’s curly Mohawk suffered the same fate as Kupono’s floppy Mohawk last season: shorn off in a Las Vegas bathroom. The haircut is definitely an improvement, and from what I saw of Victor last night, he has great technique.

Nathan Trasoras has the advantage of being a favorite from way back in season 5. His audition was phenomenal, but he was too young to qualify. Nigel, in a rare moment of clarity, saw Nathan’s potential and gave him a ticket for Vegas in season 6. For being so young, Nathan is a great dancer, and I think he’ll fit nicely into the requisite non-threatening male that makes the teen voters go crazy.

Be sure to tune in on Monday October 26 for “So You Think You Can Dance: Meet the Top 20,” where viewers will get to see each dancer perform in their own style, as well as in choreographed group numbers. The judges will then pair up the dancers at the end of this SYTYCD special.

Photo courtesy of Fox.com

‘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.

‘so you think you can dance’ recap: top 20

Last night was the first performance show of season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance, which has easily overshadowed its reality TV cousin American Idol in showcasing talent and keeping viewers (namely, me) interested. The first week can often be shaky as dancers adjust to their partners and the show’s format, but this season’s top 20 proved otherwise. Here’s my take on the ten performances.

Philip and Jeanine: Freaky popper meets unknown contemporary dancer. I think Philip lucked out by getting hip-hop his first week, and despite Jeanine’s lack of hip-hop training, she really kept up with him during Tabitha and Napoleon’s routine. I wouldn’t rank it among SYTYCD’s most memorable dances, but it was good.

Vitolio and Asukah: This was the one routine that really missed the mark throughout the 2-hour show. Both dancers focused way too much on their technique instead of really embodying the characters of Tyce Diorio’s Broadway number. Technically, the dancing was great, but it was lacking the personality that was so desperately needed to turn the choreography into a true performance.

Jonathan and Karla: A cha-cha to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” sounds terrible, but these two made it work. I expected Jonathan, a ballroom dancer, to do well, but Karla’s skill was surprising given her contemporary background.

Evan and Randi: Another Tyce Diorio routine, this time jazz, and this time executed much better than his previous piece. It was very obvious tonight that Evan’s dancing skills go far beyond his Broadway stylings. Randi (formerly known as Unitard Girl,) was wonderful too, and the whole dance was fluid and beautiful.

Tony and Paris: Another weak routine in an otherwise strong first episode. I liked the choreography (again, Tabitha and Napleon,) but I didn’t like the performance. Something was off. It seemed like both Paris and Tony were trying too hard, which is something that becomes very evident on a show full of natural talent. I agree with Nigel that their costumes were too distracting, but that’s an issue to take up with the costume department, not the dancers.

Jason and Caitlin: The Bollywood style of dance has become a great addition to the show, and all of the numbers thus far have been energetic and sharp, Caitlin and Jason’s included. This is definitely a couple to watch this season. While I don’t think the number was as perfect as the judges claimed it to be, (some sloppy feet and weak arms) it was definitely memorable and great to watch. I’m just glad they didn’t dance to the Pussycat Dolls’ version of “Jai Ho” and stuck with the original instead.

Brandon and Janette: Usually, the mention of a foxtrot makes me want to change the channel, but tonight I actually found it enjoyable to watch. Dancing with the Stars pro Louis van Amstel’s choreography was great, although he was mysteriously absent from the audience while the judges were showering his work with praise.  Brandon may be this season’s most controversial contestant, only because of Mia Michaels’ inexplicable hatred, but I think he’ll be around to have a dance studio showdown with her if he continues to dance as well as he did last night.

Kupono and Ashley: Wade Robson’s routine about crash test dummies falling in love was very strange, but that’s what any regular viewer of SYTYCD has come to expect from him. Both Kupono and Ashley fully embraced their characters and made them believable, something Asukah and Vitolio should have done earlier in the night. The dancing was great, too, but it was hard to focus on the steps when the dancers’ skin was painted white and there were robotic dogs and flying tires onstage.

Ade and Melissa: Having taken ballet for most of my life, it’s only natural that I want to see Melissa do well, since other ballet dancers have short shelf lives on SYTYCD. She may be the oldest contestant at 29, but I don’t think that’s a handicap at all. It seems to be more of an advantage, because while younger dancers were still eating Cap’n Crunch and watching Full House before going to school, Melissa was already five years into her dance training. The contemporary routine, choreographed by Mandy Moore (not the one married to Ryan Adams,) was beautiful and even made judge Adam Shankman tear up.

Max and Kayla: Wow. Talk about ending the night on a high note. Their samba, another Louis van Amstel masterpiece, was phenomenal. I think that ballroom dancer Max was outperformed by Kayla, a contemporary dancer, but as Adam Shankman pointed out, Kayla wouldn’t have looked half as good as she did without the strong partnering that Max provided.

Bottom 3 predictions: I think it’s a safe bet that Paris and Tony will be in the bottom 3 couples, as well as Asukah and Vitolio, but I honestly have no idea who could be joining them. If I absolutely had to choose, I would say Ashley and Kupono, simply because Wade Robson’s number may have been too strange for America to understand. Out of those six dancers, I think that Paris and Vitolio will be going home.

Check out the results show tonight on Fox to see whose dancing days are over.