So You Think You Can Dance — Top 20 Performance

16 06 2011

Tonight’s performance proved that season 8 has the most collectively talented group of dancers out of all the previous seasons. What sets them apart this year may actually be the choreography rather than the execution.

Judging this evening were Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and a guest judge, Megan Mullally. What? Why? Although I appreciated her humility about her not being an expert, I prefer real choreographers. I’ll be interested to see what kind of feedback she is able to give the contestants.

In order to get to know the contestants better, they are going to have 8 seconds to share some insights about themselves.

Birthday girl, Jordan, is paired with Tadd for an African jazz routine choreographed by Sean Cheesman. Jordan is 19 today. She wants to be a Pussycat Doll. But can you sing, Jordan? The howling like a dog does not sell me on an American Idol title, although she did make me laugh. Jordan loves food and her favorite color is blue. Tadd is 25. He played a dancing taco in a movie. He almost died doing Bollywood (one of my favorite dances). When he was a kid, he thought he was Caucasian. He cannot ride a bike. And world peace. Endearing. He is adorable. Dancing to the song, “Riding the Waves” by Afro Celt Sound System, it was a nice start to the show. Did it feel like a dance about lava? Yes. There were a few spots where their movements were not synchronized (jumping up in the air together, for example), but considering Tadd is a b-boy, he did a great job. This is jazz so it plays to Jordan’s strengths. I liked the little b-boy moves that Sean put into the dance for Tadd to showcase his strengths, too.

Jordan and Tadd

Jordan and Tadd

Sasha is 23 and is already forgetting her age (wait until she is my age). Her favorite color is purple. Alexander, her partner this week, age 20, lives in California, and speaks Spanish. With both of their backgrounds being contemporary, they were relieved to see their style for this week was a contemporary style from the immensely talented Travis Wall to the song, “Stupid” by Sarah McLachlan. Travis always has an amazing story to go with his dances. Poor Alexander got beat up during rehearsals because of the nature of the choreography. The song has some excellent rhythms that Travis capitalizes upon in his interpretative dance. Sasha and Alexander did him proud. I found myself breathing and moving to the deep beats. I was completely mesmerized by this routine. At this point, this is my favorite out of the two routines presented.

Sasha and Alexander

Sasha and Alexander

Clarice is 19 and her eyes “change colors.” She tends to be shy but opens up after you get to know her. Hailing from New Jersey, Jess, her partner, is 18. He loves Broadway and to sing and dance (I would hope so). He likes to make weird noises. Somehow I do not think these dance choices are by chance anymore as they get a Broadway routine, Jess’ strength. Our resident Broadway choreographer, Tyce DiOrio, welcomes them to rehearsal. I think Jess liked the butt slapping a little bit too much, but it makes him endearing. That is part of what makes people vote. They dance to Liza Minnelli’s “Me and My Baby.” It was an upbeat, fun routine. Tyce is very pleased as well. When Nigel praises him, Jess looks like he is going to cry. (If you remember back, Nigel had said something negatively about his arrogance during the auditions).

Jess and Clarice

Jess and Clarice

Nineteen-year-old Ryan talks very fast. She is a Sagittarius who loves Law & Order: SVU and Mexican food. Ricky, her partner, was originally born in Miami and moved to Tampa when he was 15. He loves cheer music. These two contemporary dancers get lyrical hip-hop which is pretty close to contemporary. Think Mark & Chelsie’s routine to “Bleeding Love” in season 4, which is one of my favorites. Christopher Scott choreographs the story here which is important. The characters are in love, but the female is “gone,” and it’s driving the male character slowly insane. When I hear a character is “gone” I immediately think “dead.” The song chosen was “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Lighthouse Family. Ryan did a great job at the hip-hop movements. It is crazy that a simple facial expression could throw off a routine that was meant to be a sensual powerhouse. Ryan explained her interpretation of the dance. However, the lyrics of the song should have dictated her facial expression. This is about there being NO sunshine, but Ryan was beaming full of it. Ricky was quick-witted with his comment about leaving Ryan for Cat. If you are going to leave the beautiful Ryan for some reason, that would be a good one.

Ricky and Ryan

Ricky and Ryan

Small-town girl Caitlynn is 18 and a senior in high school but has her first-year of college done (AP classes, I imagine). She loves the color green and Disney movies. She is partnered with Mitchell who injured his arm during rehearsal and will not be able to dance this evening. (A shout-out to Mitchell who follows me on Twitter–Get better soon.) You could see how visibly upset he was in the audience and I felt so bad for him. In his 8 seconds to get to know him better, we find out he is allergic to onions (watch your back). He loves chocolate and childhood movies. I would suggest the movies, “UP” and “How To Train Your Dragon” while he recuperates. His favorite color is orange. They were dancing a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine celebrating fearlessness in the warrior spirit. Robert Roldan from season 7 steps in for Mitchell. The song is “In For the Kill” by La Roux. The moves are complicated, as I would expect from Sonya, with a lot of shoulder moves. Caitlynn’s moves WERE fearless and made warrior mother spirit Sonya proud.

Caitlynn and substitute partner Robert

Caitlynn and substitute partner Robert

Miranda is from Pittsburgh. Don’t worry, Miranda–I still need a nightlight, too and I’m much older than you. She likes spicy food. Robert (Woo-Man) gets to be her partner. He is from Brooklyn (where I was born). He loves to cook, play video games, wrestling, dogs and cats. They get a Latin dance and Jason Gilkison has a jive for them. Huh? How is a jive a Latin dance? I am a little worried that they are trying to make Robert like Twitch, especially with the signature glasses. Twitch was an original. The song is “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars. It was fast and fun. Robert’s feet are flat instead of pointed. They pretty much stay together with the music (that is difficult to do with such a fast song with fast moves). Afterwards, Robert works the crowd. Mary felt that Robert stole the show tonight. Nigel cautioned him that his “woo” could endear him or make him annoying.

Miranda and Robert

Miranda and Robert

Missy likes yoga, lipstick, long walks, eating, her family and talking in a Jamaican accent. She would like to marry an Australian (perhaps the show “Outback Jack” will be back someday). Wadi, coincidentally, was born in Jamaica. He is 24 years old and loves the Japanese culture. They got the jazz dance card with Sean Cheesman. Pandora’s Box is being opened and sexy, evil demon clones of you get revealed. The first prop of the season is brought out–the box. “Judas” by Lady Gaga is the song. Some of the box work is not synchronized, but it is difficult to do that when you can’t see your partner. I felt like there was some holding back. They could have gone absolutely nuts to make this crazy sensual, but as a viewer, I felt a wall up. It looked like they were thinking too much about the dance. The jumping skills of Wadi worked well here. This was Wadi’s first time ever in his life partnering with someone. Given that, I’ll give them a bit of a pass on the routine.

Missy and Wadi

Missy and Wadi

Melanie is from Georgia and likes chocolate chip cookies. She collects nail polish. Interesting tidbit is that she used to suffer from narcolepsy and had to wear a helmet. She wants to be on Ellen’s show. Marko will be Melanie’s partner. He is from Guam. He loves to eat. He reassures us that his voice is his; he is not sick or has a sore throat. Once again, they get the not-random choice of contemporary with Travis Wall. It is “Night at the Museum” with a twist: The male dancer wants to become one statue with the female statue. The song is “Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson. This is my favorite dance of the night. It moves me emotionally and gives me goosebumps. Nigel goes so far as to say it might be the first Emmy-nominated routine of this season. About this time, Travis Wall began trending on Twitter. Mary holds back her tears. Nigel calls Melanie the queen bee of the beasts.

Melanie and Marko

Melanie and Marko

Next up is Ashley. She loves food and the color magenta. She is paired with hip-hop dancer Chris who was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He is one of seven children. Chris likes ice cream, biking, movies and going out with friends. Their routine will be hip-hop, choreographed by Christopher Scott, danced to the song, “Forget You“, by Cee Lo Green. The story is that the couple has been cheating on each other and find out at the same time about the other’s infidelity. Apparently this hits close to home for Chris (who would cheat on him?). The lyrics of this song does not fit this story. The routine is cute, but it lacks synchronicity and better hip-hop moves were coming from Ashley.

Ashley and Chris

Ashley and Chris

The last dance of the night pairs up Nick and Iveta. That was a good pairing. Iveta is intimidating with her ballroom championships in 10 different styles. Iveta is 30 and lives in New York City. She is originally from Lithuania. She wants a pet monkey and she is hot for dance. Nick plays with the camera and talks really slowly for his 8 seconds. He’s just fun. They are dancing ballroom and they act surprised. Doing the quick step, the kiss of death on this show, is Jason Gilkison. They dance to one of my childhood favorites, “Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet, which is fitting considering poor Nick just went through Ballroom Boot Camp, and the song has his name in it at the beginning. I loved it. It was a great way to close the show. Although we won’t know until Thursday night, I think the curse of the quick step has been broken.

Iveta and Nick

Iveta and Nick

To sum-up, my favorite routine of the night was Melanie and Marko. But who will be in the bottom 3 couples? Unfortunately I think Jordan and Tadd might be in trouble for two reasons: They went first and the dancing just got better. However, I know they have a large fan base. We know Mitchell is going to be in the bottom because of his injury, but I am unsure if that means Caitlynn automatically goes there with him. For me, the third couple would have to be Ryan and Ricky or Ashley and Chris just because of the reasons stated above. Both routines were choreographed by Chris Scott. It is difficult to even pick a bottom 3; we are talking differences between 3 teaspoons of sugar versus 2 teaspoons of sugar.

One thing that needs to change is the assignment of the dances. The cards need to be put in a box and shaken up before each couple chooses. The show is about challenging the dancers beyond their comfort zones. Let’s see Iveta do hip-hop. Let’s see any of the hip-hop boys do ballroom.

Who are your top performers? Who do you think will be going home?


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