‘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.

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’ 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.