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 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.