So You Think You Can Dance — Vegas Hell Week

11 06 2011

Vegas week for So You Think You Can Dance is for dancers what Navy Seal hell week is for those candidates. All the candidates are the best of the best. For these dancers, it will be the ultimate battle of mind versus body. Some are at SYTYCD hell week for the first time; others have been here before. They started out with 160 contestants and soon they would be whittled down to American’s Top 20.

Joining them on Day 1 were judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, a casted Adam Shankman, Robin Antin, Debbie Allen and Tyce DiOrio. After their solos, the dancers would be performing routines in hip-hop, Broadway, ballroom, and then the group round and onto contemporary.

Going in a completely opposite direction of this champion ballroom dancer, Iveta Lukosiute comes out wearing a very naughty outfit. Having been cut 2 times before in previous seasons during hell week, she sets her sights on Nigel. She captivates the judges as well as the “Woo-Hoo” man, (Robert Taylor, Jr.). It is very difficult when your strength is in ballroom, who is used to dancing with a partner, to do a solo, but her unique performance and nice cha-cha moves will leave an impression on the judges. After the first 15 perform, Iveta moves on.

Unfortunately, the only thing memorable about Marlin Pelayo’s performance was his unitard, made by his mother and painted by his friend. I understand the desire about standing out, but your dancing has to be equally impressive (like Iveta’s). After the first 15 performed, he was sent packing.

Pelayo_Unitard

Marlin Pelayo's unitard

I was worried about Wadi Jones’ b-boy performance when it first began, remembering the critiques they gave Legacy in seasons’ past about the pauses in between moves. He has a lot of great moves and I look forward to seeing more of him. I loved, too, his blue sneakers matching his shirt.

The final dancers of the solo rounds were Sasha and Natalia Mallory. I love the energy of them together. While Sasha is a typically built dancer, the rebel in me roots for Natalia is breaking stereotypes. The dance reflects the nature of their relationship: Playful, fun, teasing, antagonistic.

After the cuts from the solo rounds, the number of contestants dropped from 160 to 114.

The hip-hop round was choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, a.k.a. NappyTabs for those unfamiliar with the show. Chyna Lee Smith (from Idaho “where the potatoes grow”) apparently started to lose her mind at this point during the warm-up, and it went downhill from there. Wadi Jones develops intense muscle spasms in his legs. Three couples took the stage to perform the routine. Chyna’s mind goes totally blank and she begins to just make up the moves. I almost felt like maybe she was intoxicated, but sleep deprivation has been known to cause similar symptoms. Because of her audition in Salt Lake, she is given the first “dance for your life” card from the judges and asked to do the routine again later. Surprise cuts, and some of my favorites, included Hero McRae (from Japan), Patty Anne Miller (the drummer/Berkeley School of Music grad), Mary Kate Sheehan (the Irish step-dancer), Kristen Dobson (the young lady with only 3 years of Latin dance experience) and Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen, a total of 14 cuts.

Wadi Jones works through his pain and is rewarded with a pass to the next round. Eight contestants had to return to dance for their lives including Chyna and Iveta. Nigel does not understand why some of the contestants did bad earlier but now are so much better. This is not rocket science; the first group had to perform soon after learning the routine; each subsequent group had that much longer to practice. The people dancing for their lives had hours and hours. They are all put through the next round.

Day 2

Tyce DiOrio teaches the group a very sexy Broadway routine. On the judges’ panel, Jason Gilkison sits in while Adam Shankman gets his knee checked out at the hospital. A fully recovered Wadi Jones pairs up with Jordan Casanova, who caught Tyce and Nigel’s eye in the original auditions. Also joining these two on stage were Jessica Watanabe and Virgil “Li’l O” Gadson. Jason said Jessica “owned” that routine. All four are put through to the next round.

Chyna Smith, Jess LeProtto, Sasha Mallory, Natalia Mallory, Derion “DC” Chapman, and the “Woo Man” Robert Taylor, Jr. did a fabulous job and moved through to the next round.

Rebecca Hart and Jeremiah Hughes have been to Vegas many times in the past, hoping 8 will be their lucky number. Jeremiah is notorious for having lost his temper previously. Time matures people, however. Despite his timing being off, the judges will let him through; however, Jeremiah needs to work on his facial expressions though because the anger is still there. People have to be able to take constructive criticism so that they will grow; he seems to find any criticism a personal attack. If Debbie Allen says you’re off, you…are…off. A tearful Rebecca, however, is sent to pack her bags once again. “Krumping for Christ” Brian Henry was given a ticket home.

Jason Gilkison teaches the group a jive dance, a notoriously fast dance, in the afternoon. The female dancers have their podiatrists or orthopedists on speed dial as their heels give them hell and ice packs are helping the economic downturn. Ryan Ramirez came inches close to being in the top 10 last season (all-stars round was the top 10 dancers instead of top 20 in a usual season). After delivering that sad news, Lil’C asked her to return to audition the next year. Her toenail is bleeding and I feel horrible for her.

In the first group, Natalia and her partner Josh Williams are given another opportunity but will be paired up with different partners.

In the second group are Sasha Mallory and Ryan Ramirez. Nigel tells Sasha that her knees are supposed to be together, but hers were open. She’s brought enough in previous rounds to get her through. Everyone else gets through as well.

Natalia performs her routine with Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson and moves on to the next round.

The last group to appear on camera was Alexia Mason, sister of Jeanine Mason, winner of season 5. She does not do well; there is no joy in the jive. She gets the second “dance for your life pass” and returns to dance contemporary. After watching her solo, her level of dance is not up to the other contestants, especially in those facial expressions. Her lines needed to reach greater heights and deeper, but I believe because of Jeanine, she is given the pass to the next round.

At 10 p.m., there are 39 guys and 35 girls left. They are asked to stay up through the night and learn a group choreography number. Nigel says they will be looking for creativity and entertainment. This is when the drama occurs as people are nearing physical and mental exhaustion. This is when emotionality rules. All the dance numbers go well and no one is sent home.

After a break for lunch in the pool, contemporary style is on the dance card for this day. Cat Deeley says 67 remain, but the math does not add up (39 guys + 35 girls before group round = 72). Choreographing this year is the fantabulous Travis Wall, a former contestant from season 2 who has shown his extraordinary choreography skills during the last few seasons. Assisting were former contestants Jamie Goodwin (season 3) and Robert Roldan (from season 7). Ryan Ramirez hurts her back during practice and goes to the hospital. Natalia also goes to the hospital because her blood glucose level dropped.

Sasha and Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson are in the first group to perform for the judges. I think contemporary is one of my favorites to watch. It is so beautiful and emotional. Both are put through.

More groups perform and more favorites like Robert Taylor, Jr. (The Woo Man), Wadi Jones, and Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson.

After returning from the hospital, Ryan gets a refresher with Jamie and Robert. She is paired up with the handsome Robert. They are a stunning pair. Debbie Allen tells her to ice her butt; she’s made it through to the next round.

The final group performs. In this group are Jeremiah Hughes and Arielle Coker. Both had made it to the contemporary round, 2 and 4 times respectively, and were cut. Derion “DC” Chapman is also in this final group. DC looks lost. Airelle looks shocked when she is sent home yet again and does not know how to respond to Debbie Allen’s remarks. Three times is the charm for Jeremiah who is overcome with emotion. DC makes an emotional appeal and Debbie Allen gives him a “man-up” speech and gives him free dance lessons.

At the end of the day 12 more dancers are sent home including Chyna Lee Smith.

The remaining contestants have to perform their solo and tell the judges why they deserve to be there. Natalia is given a free pass through the contemporary round. None are given “formal” feedback during the solos, but there are comments from the judges’ gallery, especially for Clarice Ordaz. Going home is Kelsey from the first group. Twenty-four more dancers were sent home including Kimalee Piedad, Chase Thomas, and Amber Williams. Alexis Mason danced her solo but showed her immaturity not only in her moves (when comparing her with others that made it through) but also her facial expressions. She has the ability to grow so much since she is only 18.

Thirty-one dancers remain, but, there is still one final cut to be made and only 20 will be dancing for American’s votes.


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