So You Think You Can Dance — Vegas Hell Week Recap

23 06 2012

So You Think You Can Dance: Vegas Hell Week

By Hilda Clark Bowen (PBMom)

Vegas week–the dancers’ equivalent to Navy SEAL hell week. Eight grueling rounds. Late nights. Early mornings. No sleep. Pushing themselves to the brink physically, mentally, emotionally. That is what it takes on the road to becoming America’s Favorite Dancer. There were 8 rounds. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Adam Shankman, Debbie Allen, Tyce DiOrio, and Lil’C were the primary judges with others sitting in to comment on their own choreographed segments.

Round 1: Solos

Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams from Richardson, Texas (Dallas auditions) danced his unique style to Evanescence’s “My Immortal.” He was mouthing the words to the song which I did not like. Debbie Allen was crying. It was very similar to his Dallas audition. After 10 solos, Jennifer and Briana go home. Hampton and 7 other dancers make it through to the next round.

Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams

Next bunch included Janelle Issis, the belly dancer from Birmingham, Alabama. Both Tyce and Adam loved her. By the end of the round, 51 dancers were cut, including martial arts expert Tim Conkel.

Round 2: Hip-Hop with tWitch and Comfort

This proved too much for two contestants. Hampton felt that the choreography was too difficult to learn left the competition. I praise the respect he showed the judges by coming up on stage and sharing that. Andre Rucker, from the Dragon House trio, just left. Good impressions are won, and you just do not up and leave. It’s too easy just to quit. I hope that Hampton gets some experience in some other areas and comes back to the competition next year. The song chosen was “B.O.B.” by OutKast. It was fast and slick. After the first group, Boris Penton from Dragon House was cut as was Gene Lonardo (the praying mantis guy), and Bree Hafen. After the last group performed, and Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer. Glitch meets tWitch and I’m loving this. All the members of the final group survived, which totaled 105 dancers surviving to the next round.

Round 3 (Day 2): Broadway with Tyce DiOrio

Tyce comes with a story about dancers in a club at 2 a.m. and drinking water and then POW!…a lust force seizes them. Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold, from the Salt Lake City auditions, are out of their comfort zones. They have known each other since age 9 and found out they were roommates in Las Vegas. The song, “Must Be the Water” by Marc Broussard. Everyone who danced in the morning made it through. The judges gave Alexa Anderson a stern lecture about lacking an emotional connection and getting tired of fighting for her. I think she is terrified that she will not make it through again at the very last moment and she is guarding her heart. Joseph and Trey were gone. Teddy Tedholm went home. After this round another 23 dancers went home, which by my count 105 minus 23 leaves 82 dancers for the next round.

Round 4: Jazz with Sonya Tayeh

Eighty-two contestants remain. Sonya is looking for strength, aggression, texture, and musicality. Shafeek Westbrook is struggling, but bacon-girl Danielle Dominguez is trying to be supportive. The song is “Freak Out (Gold Chains, Panique Mix) by Brightest Diamond. Shafeek was cut and left with a terrible attitude. Danielle steps forward to partner with Giovanni and is rewarded with a big smack to her head. She is sent to the hospital; he is sent home. Cyrus partners with Lindsay and does an adequate job. I think his uniqueness and the judges desire to have him through to the top 20 is allowing them to forgive mistakes. This is about the favorite dancer and not necessarily the best dancer. They ask Amelia Lowe to dance for her life. Rachel Applehans is asked to dance for her life (It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World by Leela James). Sonya, Nigel, Mary and Tyce all say no. I have to say I am glad about Rachel because she just did not fit into the show. It’s fine to turn on the sex appeal once or twice, but every time it makes me uncomfortable, like she is dancing for men at a strip club. Amelia danced to “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Elmer Bernstein. Adam is visibly moved. Sonya is smiling and says she wants to get her hands on her. Sonya, Mary, Lil’C, Tyce and Debbie say yes. Adam says “yes” and thanks her. Nigel gave a surprising no.

Round 5: Groups

It’s now day 2 at 10 p.m., and it is group time. The twist this year was that the people got to pick their own groups (about 5-6 people). The first group up on day 3 in the morning includes Daniel Baker, Audrey Case, Danielle Dominguez. Danielle got back late from the hospital. They danced to Gotye’s song, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Charlie and Danielle are sent home. The judges should have allowed Danielle to at least dance for her life. She did not have to volunteer to partner in the previous round a second time. Boo to the judges on that. In the next group, Taylor Giri (? spelling) was sent home. The next dance, choreographed by Aubrey Klinger, was praised by Nigel, and he complimented her by calling her a mini Mia Michaels. Aubrey danced with 4 other guys. The story was that she was the only girl at the prom and they called themselves the “High Schoolers.” The song was Side Project’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.” The entire group is sent through to the next round.

The High Schoolers

The first group in the afternoon were The Wolfpack which included Dres Reid, Adrian Lee and Alexa Alexander, all who auditioned in previous seasons and danced to “I’m Glad You Came” by The Wanted. Alexa was called out again by the judges. They prodded her until tears flowed. They allow her one more chance. Sixty-one contestants now remain for the next round.

Wolfpack

Round 6: Ballroom, specifically the cha-cha with Jason Gilkison.

The song: “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez. I was shouting GO CYRUS. I just love this guy’s attitude and energy. He is asked to dance for his life. It was a no to Asher Walker, Dee Tomasetta, and a huge surprise Aubrey Klinger who had just been highly praised in the group round. My heart was hurting for her as she said she was not able to get work as a dancer audition after audition. While hurting for her, it reminded me what is so fantastic about this show: Even dancers who are not crowned the winners are getting work in the industry as evidenced by the many times I’ve seen them especially on Fox shows. Witney, Stepheon Stewart (great hip work!), Eliana Girard and Alexa (who was being cheered from the sidelines by Tyce and Adam) all received a yes to the next round. Cyrus dances to “Holy Ghost (Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo Remix) by Messinian. He BLOWS my mind. I was so glad he got to dance for Lil’C who thought it was EXTRA BUCK. I loved the support he was also receiving from his fellow contestants in the audience. A total of 52 contestants are put through to contemporary.

Round 7: Contemporary with Travis Wall

The contestants only have 1 hour to get the steps down. That’s insane. Travis says, “Technically I’m looking for perception.” Travis, your standards are set so low. The song is “I Won’t Give Up” Jason Mraz. Cyrus, Eliana, Lindsay, Janelle, Trenton, Daniel, Witney, Amelia, Luciano, Cyrus and Tiffany are all put through. Eighteen dancers’ fates were in question. The judges asked them to perform again and only Joshua and Abigail make it through. I was so sad about white-girl krumper Mariah. I thought she did very well.

Round 8: Final solos

Trying to stand-out, Joshua attempted to do a new trick in the waiting area and fell smack to the ground. The medics are called and he is taken away. He was not able to perform his final solo. Alexa Anderson was first, dancing to The Naked and Famous’ “Young Blood (White Sea Remix)”.  (PS Thank you Warren for the correction on this).  Debbie Allen said to her fellow judges that “This child could win” but Tyce balked at that observation. The last solo was Chehon Wespi-Tschopp of Zurich, Switzerland, the ballet dancer. The heights he could reach were phenomenal. The song to which he danced was “Suite of the Winter Songbirds,” by Noah Lifschey.

The guys were called up. Adrian Lee, who almost made it in season 7, and whose mother stopped watching the show because of it, was cut. Nigel reminded the group that they were not going for the “best dancers” but the uniqueness. The girls get called up; no one is cut….at this point.

There are 35 in the end. Next week, they will have to cut that down to 20 people. Joshua will find out if his stunt to try to impress will cost him a spot in the final 20.

Who are your favorites? I think Chehon and Cyrus are going to make it simply because of their unique styles. Cyrus improves with each lesson and America adores him. Chehon is, I think, the only ballet dancer in the group and they tend to like a diverse group of individuals. I am unsure about the girls. Amelia is very unique. I was truly rooting for Mariah. Janelle should make it.





So You Think You Can Dance — LA Auditions — Season 9

3 06 2012

So You Think You Can Dance — Season 9 —  Los Angeles Auditions

By Hilda Clark Bowen

On Twitter, East Coast people are complaining that New York only got 1 hour of airtime last week while California got 2 this week. Judges for this panel were Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Who I liked a LOT

Eliana Girad; West Palm Beach, Florida. She has an impressive resume including Joffrey Ballet. She does pole dancing. I got distracted on Twitter by the reminder to people that our local Fox 26 Houston did a story about Pole Dancing for Jesus, a group here locally, which then brought up images and comments for me of, “So that was what Christ and his disciples were looking at on the other side of the table in “The Last Supper!” I understand empowerment, I understand exercise, but I don’t envision pole dancing to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Dive.” I do see pole dancing to “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse. Her routine mesmerized me. The judges give her a standing ovation. Vegas baby.

Eliana Girad

Cole Horibe; Honolulu, Hawaii; contemporary. He combined his training in martial arts (silver in the junior Olympics) and dance. He presented a powerful piece. He could be the “Marko” of this year. He is sent straight through to Vegas.

Cole Horibe

Jasmine Mason; Placentia, California; jazz: She was in a wreck 6 weeks prior with Marshae Kidd. She had beautiful lines. Her dance was sultry and sexy. She is sent to Vegas.

Marshae Kidd; Placentia, California: He broke his neck in a car accident 6 weeks prior to the audition. I don’t know if I’d even be out of bed after breaking my neck. I think he has grown since trying out previously. He also gets to go to Vegas.

Jasmine Mason and Marshae Kidd

Who I thought was average

Alexa Anderson; Chandler, Arizona; contemporary: She was on last year, but Ryan Ramirez was picked instead. She had a very strong dance. Quite beautiful. She is through to Vegas.

Sam Lenarz; Lavergne, California; contemporary: Her story was oh-so-familiar-to-me. She was kicked out of the house by her mother (mine occurred when I was 14). She had great fluidity but she wasn’t emotionally connecting with the dance. “You can always believe in yourself.” I felt that way, too: You can take responsibility for your own life and be the captain of your own destiny. It also helps when there is someone there as a safety net as it appears we both did. She is sent to choreography and then to Vegas.

Megan Branch; Gilbert, Arizona; contemporary: She did a great job. She is sent to Vegas.

Who needs improvement

Jontel “Johnny Waacks” Gibson; Portland, Oregon; waacking. The judges could not stop saying “waack” without breaking into hysterics. Johnny was such a good sport and his answers just fed into the hilarity. Jesse called him a Lenny Kravitz nesting doll. While he definitely is no Princess Lockeroo, they put him through to choreography. Unfortunately, Johnny will have to come back another year.

Jontel “Johnny Waacks” Gibson

Jonathan Anzolone; Milan, Italy; B-boying: He was good, but not spectacular. He had tried out previously on SYTYCD. He’s toned down his narcissistic persona, but I get a really negative energy from him. The judges send him to choreography but he did not prove himself worthy of a Vegas ticket.

The Odd-Ball Lot

Nick and James Aragon, contemporary, age 32. (a.k.a. the Ninja Twins). Although they are past the age limit of 30 for the show, these two young men deserve to have a reality show of their own. I LOVE them. They are not only terrific dancers, but charismatic and funny as hell. The judges and the audience gave them a standing ovation.

The Nina Twins: Nick and James Aragon — Someone PLEASE give them their own reality show!!!

Caley Carr; Huntington Beach, California, tapper: He surfs and dances. This is a case where what he looks like on the outside deceives you to what kind of talent he has on the inside. One immediately stereotypes him as a surfer. I did and I’m glad when I am reminded not to do such things. He is sent to choreography and not sent to Vegas.

David Marz; Los Angeles, California; Cyr wheel. What is a cyr wheel? Per Wiki: “The Cyr wheel (also known as the roue Cyr or simple wheel) is an acrobatic device popularized in the early 21st century. It consists of a single large, metal hoop, and is used in a similar manner to a German wheel, with the acrobat rolling the wheel around the stage from the inside. The Cyr wheel was popularized by Daniel Cyr from 2003. There are records of others using a similar apparatus during the 19th and 20th centuries, but Daniel Cyr is known to have popularized it, and claims he created it without any awareness of previous similar devices. It is now used in performance by hundreds of performers around the world.”.  I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was mesmerizing and beautiful. He is sent to choreography and leaves on his own when he finds the choreography difficult.

David Marz using a Cyr wheel for his dance audition.

Stephen Jacobsen; Cincinnati, Ohio; ballet: I wonder if the audition dance was some kind of plant by the producers because it was horrible. However, when Nigel had him do a ballet routine, which was incredible, they put him straight through to Vegas.

Vegas bound

Eliana Girad; contestant numbers 20515 (tapper Aaron Turner?, son of the famous Earl Turner); contestant 20323 (inspired by Desmond); and contestant 20429 (inspired by Sasha); Megan Branch, contestants 20273, 20309; Cole Horibe; Stephen Jacobsen; Jasmine Mason; Marshae Kidd; Sam Lenarz.





So You Think You Can Dance — America’s Top 20 Revealed

12 06 2011

Vegas Hell week is over. Of the 31 dancers that remain, America’s Top 20 will be chosen. I loved having the all-stars last year. It immediately elevated the dance contestants to a higher level, but having only 10 of them go through was difficult. Some gifted dancers, like Ryan Ramirez, did not make the cut, but surely if there had been a top 20, she would have. A decision was made to bring together the best of both worlds: Have a top 20 and when it whittles down to the top 10, bring in the all-stars. I LOVE IT! Tonight they combine 2 shows into one, grouping the announcement of what dancers have made the cut into their dancing styles. Some of these dancers we’ve seen on screen before; some are new to us. After they were announced we would get to see the group dance.

Ricky Jamie auditioned in Salt Lake but this is the first time he has really been featured. He has been dancing since he was 9. He has great height and lines. He is confident that his answer will be a yes, and it is. Miranda Maleski then took the long walk to hear her fate. Nigel plays with her heartstrings, doing the bait and switch to pretend like she is leaving, but she is also in the top 20. One of my early favorites, Melanie Moore, from my sister’s former town of Marietta, Georgia, also joins the top 20. I look forward to her enchanting us with her pixie dust. Abigail Ruiz and Kate Linetka would not be part of this year’s competition. The Mallory sisters started this journey together and then walked together to receive the news of their fate: Sasha would be the one moving forward. I’ve known of Sasha since September of 2010 when I saw her performing with the Adam Lambert tour.

Melanie, Miranda, Ricky and Sasha then took the stage to dance a routine choreographed by Stacey Tookey to the song, “In This Shirt” by The Irrepressibles. In the champagne-colored outfits, they glided about the floor in an ethereal way. They all partnered well together, each being there for the other for some intricate movement. Since no one goes home tonight, there are no critiques, just praise.

Contemporary

Melanie, Miranda, Ricky and Sasha perform Stacey Tookey's routine

Back to the green mile, Chris Koehl of Texas has taken this trip before in season 7. Mary Murphy delivers the good news that he will be a part of season 8. Tadd Gadduang (from the Salt Lake auditions, who reminded me of Dominic) and Wadi Jones will be joining him. Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson, however, did not make it through, although Nigel complimented him on his wonderful personality; perhaps next year. Drace Reed was also eliminated. Robert Taylor (the Woo man) was not feeling confident about his chances to make it to the top 20. Being 30, this was his last year to try out. Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson also wondered if there would be room for him. It was “Woo” versus “Indubitably.Robert, who previously auditioned in season 3 for American Idol, was in and Bryce was out.

Chris, Robert, Tadd and Wadi took to the stage to perform a routine by Dave Scott to the song “Everyday (Coolin’) by Swizz Beatz featuring Eve. Robert almost looked with Twitch with the red glasses on. I’ll have to say that Tadd had the best moves, but Robert’s personality stood out. The boys got swagga.

HipHop

Chris, Robert, Tadd and Wadi performed Dave Scott's hip-hop.

Ballrooms dancers are up next and out of everyone that made it to Vegas only 2 survived: Iveta Lukosiute and Lenny Progue. My guess is that both of them would make it as it is a male/female partnership. Mary delivers the news straight-up to Lenny: He was too weak in his other styles. Would 10-dance World Champion Iveta be in? This is her last year to compete in this competition. Mary Murphy is very emotional delivering the news to Iveta and it did not look like she would make it either. Iveta makes it!

They brought in Pasha to dance with Iveta, dancing to a Jason Gilkison routine to the song, “Ven a Bailar (On the Floor)” by Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull. She looked stunning as Pasha expertly guided her along the dance floor, in a paso doble complete with skirt-yanking-turned-cape. While Iveta showed us why she is a world champion, I still adore Pasha and Anya’s partnership. It’s hard to build chemistry with someone you’ve just met. When Iveta is described as a 10-dance World Champion, it is not that she won 10 different competitions, but rather is the champion in all the different ballroom dances.

Ballroom

Iveta finishes performing Jason Gilkison's routine.

Jazz dancers were highlighted next. Clarice Ordaz and Bridget Krouse were nervously awaiting their fate. Clarice received good news; Bridget was sent home as was someone named Tae Kwon. Another one of my favorites, Marko Germar, is the young man who was shot in the shoulder, the bullet still embedded inside. We will be seeing him in our top 20. Missy Morelli and Jordan Casanova (another of my early favorites) are the little vixens vying for our attention of their seductive prowess. Could the top 20 handle both of them? Yes we can!

Performing a dance choreographed by Sonya Tayeh to the song “Vanguardian” by Steed Lord, Clarice, Jordan, Marko and Missy took the stage. By Sonya’s standards, this was pretty tame, but was still fierce. Sonya’s describes her dance style as “combat jazz.” They all made her proud and had Tyce on his feet.

Jazz

Clarice, Jordan, Marko and Missy perform Sonya Tayeh's routine.

Broadway/Tap dancers were the next group. Although he auditioned in Atlanta, Nick Young was not one of the featured dancers, so we have not learned much about him. He is from Wisconsin and played sports in high school. Back in the early 2000’s, he toured with Kenny Rogers Christmas show as an actor/singer. Jesse LeProtto was one of my early favorites, reminding me a great deal of Evan’s dancing, but with a little bit more attitude, which actually bothered the judges. Jesse knows he is good and I feel sometimes that is not a bad thing. He also has a great sense of humor, saying that hip-hop was the dance he excelled in. He is in, as was Nick.

Nick and Jesse came together on stage to perform Christopher Scott’s immensely entertaining routine to Nina Simone’s “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter.” It showcased the dancer’s fun personalities and their mad skills as tappers. If I had to choose who the better tapper was Nick would have the edge. Jesse hams it up with the audience which brings a smile to my face. Nigel tells us that 4 of the girls are also tappers. He also said, “This warmed the cockles of my heart.”

Contemporary dancers were last. Caitlynn Lawson auditioned in Salt Lake City but was not one of the featured dancers on that show. She hails from Washington State and is a senior in high school. A bit of a tomboy, she likes to fish, camp and go four-wheeling with her family. She kind of reminds me of Lacy Schwimmer around the eyes. She sails into the top 20. Ashley Rich would also be joining her. With only one spot left for the girls, Ryan Ramirez found herself in a similar predicament as last year. Alexa Anderson waited nervously along with her. Only one of them would be moving on. However, they would have to wait as Mitchell Kelly’s fate would be determined next. Mitchell auditioned in Atlanta, but again was not a featured dancer on that show. Chicago, Illinois is his hometown, and started dancing relatively late at the age of 15. He receives a “yes” from the judges. Alexander Fost and Jeremiah Hughes were vying for the last spot for the males. Alexander receives the last spot. Would it be Alexa or Ryan? Both young ladies are very emotional. Ryan receives that coveted last spot.

Travis Wall has become a choreographer who has moved me to goosebumps and tears. He was on season 2 of “So You Think You Can Dance” and came in second, proving that you do not actually have to win on this show to become successful. “Moth’s Wings” by Passion Pit played while Alexander, Ashley, Caitlynn, Mitchell and Ryan took the stage. The dance was celebratory, soft and spiritful, floating and fluid. While everyone should be commended on a job well done, my eye was particular drawn to Ryan. All the judges were on their feet clapping for this one. Cat loves Travis’ bow tie.

Contemporary2

Alexander, Ashley, Caitlynn, Mitchell and Ryan dance to Travis Wall's routine

But wait, that is not it. The audience is to be treated to three more routines. The 10 guys perform to a routine by Christopher Scott, where he mixes hip-hop with contemporary and pulls it off. The song is “Velocity” by Nathan Lanier. It was reminding me for some reason of The Matrix when all the infected versions of Agent Smith come out of the doors (ha, I wrote that about The Matrix before Nigel said the same thing in his critique). I have a harder time finding small faults with a large group, so for me, bravo to all of them for a job well done. Interesting comment from Nigel when he says that “this show doesn’t favor the boys all the time” (reference to American Idol).

The routine for the top 10 girls was done by Sonya Tayeh. Her theme is to “make a geisha girl creepy and twisted and excited.” Sonya is the perfect mama cub who pushes her pups to work hard but at the end of the day is the one hooting and hollering in the crowd in thunderous support and pride. The song is Pop Drop and Roll by Chonique Sneed and Lisette Bustamante. The timing and precision of the girls are flawless. Mary needs a bigger Hot Tamale Train. Lil’C has words for Sonya for the acronym of her hand which moves Nigel to come over and hug him.

After commercial, Nigel says that next week 2 dancers will go home, one male and one female. This year, we will be allowed up to 50 votes on-line for our favorite dancer.

The top 20 then performs to a Tyce Diorio routine to the song “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox. Some of Tyce’s routines have also made me cry in the past, but tonight it is about celebration and being upbeat. The show closes out without any comments but the pictures and names of this season’s SYTYCD.

Tyce

All the contestants perform Tyce's number

Good luck to all the contestants next week!