so you think you can dance: thoughts on season 7 so far

I’ve been unable to catch the entirety of both performance episodes so far, (reason #69263 why we need a DVR, parents!) so I haven’t been able to write recaps like I had wanted. I’m not totally wowed by anyone yet, and I’m still unsure if I like the all-stars format or not. Here is my take on the remaining nine dancers.
I don’t know if it’s the extremely high bar he set for himself during his brief appearance in season six, but Billy Bell has been just so-so in his first two performances. Lame choreography dragged him down in his Tyce Diorio Broadway number, and the poor kid never stood a chance next to Comfort in a krump routine. He needs a contemporary or jazz piece soon to really shine.
Kent Boyd is the cutest, most adorable thing to grace my TV screen since the Gosselin sextuplets. He has enough personality for three people, and regardless if you find him entertaining or not, there’s no denying the boy’s got legitimate dance talent. It was impossible not to smile during his cha-cha-cha with Anya, and even though the costume department saddled him with some heinous S&M-type getup in his jazz with Courtney this week, his technical ability shone through any sartorial missteps. I can’t wait to see him in a hip-hop or Broadway number.
I was ready to send Lauren Froderman back to her cheerleading squad after week one’s disastrous pop-jazz with Ade. Technically, it was great, but that cheesy perma-smile was so off-putting. Her redemption came in the form of a Tessandra Chavez lyrical hip-hop. The cheerleader-y grin was gone and she absolutely nailed the choreography. I’ll warily give her my support, but I’m unsure how successful she’ll be with ballroom or something more obscure, like African Jazz.
I keep forgetting that Ashley Galvan is even on the show; the little airtime she received before the top 11 combined with two routines that didn’t really stand out make for a forgettable dancer. Her contemporary with Neil during week one was okay, although I was confused by her declaration to the judges after she danced that she thought she might be in love. With Neil? You best step off, sister. Week two’s jazz (or contemporary if you’re Nigel Lythgoe,) was better, but she needs something really different to make her stand out next week. Give her a hip-hop with Twitch or a jive with Pasha.
Robert Roldan seems to be doing everything in his power to make himself extremely unlikable. The hammy antics and the spastic mugging for the camera have got to go. Personality aside, I think he has a lot of talent left to show us. The guy’s in an Alvin Ailey dance troupe, for crying out loud. I thought he was better than his all-star counterpart, Courtney, in week one’s African Jazz, and while I missed his Argentine tango with Anya last week, from what I saw, he seemed to hold his own. If he could just stop trying so damn hard to be funny, he could make it pretty far.
Jose Ruiz fashions himself to be Legacy 2.0, but he’s not even close. Legacy rose to the occasion each week and made it seem like he’d been doing whatever given genre his entire life, whereas Jose seems very limited in what he can do outside of the b-boy style. Take this week’s Bollywood number, for example. The judges praised him to no end, but I thought it was the sloppiest performance in that style throughout the entire show’s history. I dread the week where Jose picks contemporary.
Judging by the fact that she’s been in the bottom three both weeks so far, I seem to be in the minority of people who like Melinda Sullivan. Nigel sees an inability to connect with the audience; I see someone who isn’t trying desperately to get votes (I’m looking at you, Robert.) Her week one jive with Pasha was a bit off, and terrible costuming and choreography ruined her week two contemporary piece for me, but I’ve loved both of her “dance for your life” solos so far. I do wish the judges would stop praising her technique for being “just a tapper,” though, because Melinda has repeatedly admitted to taking classes in other styles of dance.
Towards the end of Vegas week, I had hoped that Adechike Torbert would survive and make it to the top ten/eleven/whatever number the producers decided to settle on. I’m starting to forget why I wanted him to move on, because his two performances so far have been less than memorable. In his defense, he was forced to stand out while dancing with all-stars Kathryn and Allison, a seemingly insurmountable task. He needs a dance this week that forces him to show some personality, otherwise he could be gone before top five.
Alex Wong‘s technique is so perfect that even Baryshnikov would feel inadequate. However, I don’t foresee him winning, because as SYTYCD history shows, technically flawless male dancers never win. Just ask Danny, Brandon, Jakob, etc. I don’t think he needs to win this show to have success in the dance industry, though. His Broadway number with Lauren was fun, so I hope he gets something like hip-hop or an upbeat ballroom number to showcase his personality and take some of the focus away from his freakishly amazing technical skills.
As far as the new all-star format, I love it and I hate it. I love it because I get to see people like Neil, Pasha, Mark, Kathryn and Courtney dance again, but that’s also the reason why I hate it. Sometimes I’m so focused on watching the all-star dance that the actual contestant becomes an afterthought. I understand what Nigel and co. wanted to accomplish with the all-stars, but I think cutting down the field from 20 to 10 and putting well-known and well-loved dancers into the mix alters the natural balance of SYTYCD.

“so you think you can dance”: random thoughts and judging the top 10

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on So You Think You Can Dance, and a lot has happened since then. We’ve had injured dancers (RIP Billy Bell), eliminations on performance nights thanks to the World Series, and some semi-interesting dances. No dancer has really reached out and grabbed my attention like previous seasons, but the top 10 will definitely show who the true front runners are, and who will be heading home soon.

Before I get to my thoughts on the top 10 dancers, I need to take a moment to address the atrocity that is Victor Smalley’s elimination last night. His solo was so much stronger than Nathan’s last night, and I’m perplexed as to how Victor went home while the judges’ personal punching bag will live on to annoy for another week. Victor was never a standout to me, but I felt the grounds of his elimination were unfair, and for once, I actually agreed with Nigel Lythgoe. Scary. Also, I’ve been in love with Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” since the first time I heard it on the radio, and I knew it was just a matter of time before it would make an appearance on SYTYCD. Imagine my disgust when terror queen Laurieann Gibson choreographed a clunky, forgettable routine for sparkle twins Mollee and Nathan. So disappointing. I wish we could put the song back into the rotation for, say, a Nap/Tab routine for Jakob and Kathryn. Someone make this happen, please!

On to the top 10…

I expressed my dislike of Ashleigh at the start of the top 20, and while I was able to quash my annoyance so far, I feel like her gig is up soon after leaving her partnership with Jakob. Her obnoxious facial expressions have been kept to a minimum, but after each routine, I couldn’t help but notice she never did much dancing. A lot of hair whipping and posing, sure, but nothing incredibly substantial. The judges have fallen over themselves to praise her, constantly raving over how much she’s grown. I have to challenge them on that…I think people who have been voting for Jakob and Ashleigh are only voting for one half of the partnership. Also, expect Ashleigh to “randomly” draw her husband as a partner in the upcoming weeks.

Male ballroom dancers usually light up the stage on SYTYCD (see: Dmitry, Pasha, Artem and Ivan), but Ryan has left me unimpressed so far. He’s a good dancer, but he’s really nothing special. I think his overt masculinity was nicely balanced out by Ellenore’s quirky grace. He has no discernible personality outside of working out, doing extreme sports, and obsessively waxing his eyebrows. He’ll go pretty far in the top 10, but I don’t think he’ll crack the top four.

Russell was an early favorite of mine, but there hasn’t been much to keep him on my favorites list since the top 20 started. So far, it’s been a lackluster foxtrot, an awkward hip-hop, a pretty good Afro-jazz, another lackluster foxtrot, a clunky samba and an overpraised contemporary piece. That track record doesn’t exactly scream top four to me. I do love Russell’s personality, and when he performs in his own style, I remember why I loved him so much in the Vegas round. He really needs to step it up and be more consistent if he wants to make it far.

Mollee, Mollee, Mollee. SYTYCD‘s resident Cindy Brady (thank you to Entertainment Weekly for making that comparison) annoys me more and more each week, a feat I didn’t think possible. Despite having been in the bottom a few times and delivering solos that were nothing but glorified gymnastics routines, Mollee is still in the competition. She is a pretty decent dancer, but we haven’t really seen her in a genre that she’s completely owned. She can’t do sexy, she can’t do hip-hop, and everything else has been just so-so. I’m waiting for her to blossom into the woman the judges repeatedly claim her to be, because right now, she really does look like a graduate of “Dolly Dinkle’s regional hip-hop class 101.” (Help…I’m agreeing with Grandpa Nigel again!)

Jakob has been the shining star of season six thus far. His technical ability seems to be endless, and he comes across as very personable in his interview packages (not to mention he’s BFFs with season five winner Jeanine…can they please do a duet on the finale episode? How awesome would that be?) I think Jakob will excel even more once he’s ditched his cheese ball, coattail riding partner. I beg you to show me a genre this guy can’t do, therefore making him a lock for the top four.

I’m pretty lukewarm about Noelle, considering she’s had the same middling lineup of dances as Russell. She’s definitely got great lines and technique, as shown in her contemporary piece this week, but her attempt at sexiness in the samba was kind of hard to watch. I think my biggest problem with Noelle is that she reeks of dance school competitions. The cheesy grins and some of her posturing are so reminiscent of my own dance school experience, and I don’t think that kind of dancing will get her very far into the top 10.

There is nothing I love more than a relative unknown at the start of the top 20 turning into an absolute dynamo by the top 10. This is how Jeanine evolved last season, and I think Kathryn is following the same trajectory. She’s gone from unknown crying girl to talented tamer of emotional b-boys. From a cave woman in a Dave Scott hip hop to a fiery vixen in a Tony Meredith paso doble, Kathryn has handled whatever she’s been given with her extensive talent. I absolutely adored her partnership with Legacy, and while I’m sad to see them break up, I’m anxious to see how she’ll grow with other partners.

I was unnecessarily harsh on Legacy before the top 20, thinking him irritating and overhyped. I am definitely eating my words now. What I used to think was insincere is now an emotional dancer learning a lot on a once in a lifetime journey. His lack of technique is sometimes very evident, but the fact that he was able to pull of a haunting contemporary piece, an attention-grabbing paso doble and an emotional Viennese waltz speaks to his ability to learn quickly. Kathryn has definitely taught him a lot, and I fear that Legacy may falter without her helpful partnership, but his sincerity and eagerness will hopefully carry him far.

I can’t really recall why I thought Ellenore was annoying during the Vegas round. Sure, she’s quirky and definitely unique, but I’ve enjoyed watching her dance. She is so versatile and so good at what she does. I don’t think I even watched Ryan during their Broadway piece this week because Ellenore was just so phenomenal. The idea of a potential partnership between her and Jakob has me anxious for Tuesday nights.

Oh, Nathan. How quickly you’ve gone from young upstart to judges’ punching bag. As soon as I found out he was paired with Susie Sunshine, I knew things couldn’t be good for him. I knew Nathan had talent, but there was something about his partnership that brought out the irritating brat in him. The judges latched on to this, with both Nigel and Adam Shankman taking turns handing him slices of humble pie. I think he would have been so much better off with someone else as a partner, because he’s now been so strongly associated with giggles, skipping and annoyance. It will be interesting to see how Nathan internalizes Adam’s advice to watch what he says, as well as how he fares with a less obnoxious partner.

“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’ 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.