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!





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.





So You Think You Can Dance — Altanta/San Francisco auditions

1 06 2011

I have watched SYTYCD since season 2 (much like American Idol). There have been amazing dances that have left me sobbing, made my heart race, given me goosebumps, and made me get up and dance. I cannot get enough of this show.

Since Adam Shankman is off doing a movie, they are going back to two fixed judges (Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe) with one rotating judge. Mary Murphy was greatly missed last year, but I also adore Mia Michaels.

The Atlanta auditions brought out Lil’C, Mary Murphy and Nigel. I’ve never seen faster moves in Colombia salsa dancing than Bianka Hinklerian. Dean and Damon hip-hop dance was a lot of fun. Marko Germar’s story of being shot in the arm after he was robbed at gunpoint was inspiring. But the standout for me on day 1 of the Atlanta auditions was Melanie Moore, a contemporary dancer majoring in art at Fordham University. She hails from Marietta, Georgia, where my sister formerly resided. She brought me in and I found myself breathing when she did. She had some awesome beautiful lines and extensions. Along with her bubbly personality, she is adorable with that retro 50’s look with her pin curls. This show is not all about dancing; the contestants need to make connections with the audience.

A day two favorite of mine was Kimalee Piedad. She had a lot of acrobatic moves. Kyre Bustiste’s grandmother was a lot of fun as she was called up to help in the judges’ panel of her own grandson.

On to San Francisco with judges Tyce Diorio, Toni Redpath and Nigel Lythgoe and where the contestants brought their hearts to the stage. Amber Williams, a slightly insane contemporary dancer, is someone to watch with interest. Timothy Joseph performed great hip-hop but dropped out of the competition during choreography. Danielle Ihle’s story of going from a middle-income family to being homeless was, at the same time, sad but inspiring. This young lady has had to overcome a lot of obstacles. She was sent on to choreography where she then earned her ticket to Vegas. Ashley Rich is another contemporary dancer to watch. Jeffery McCann did such an excellent hip-hop routine; it earned him a ticket straight to Vegas. Back again after being in the top 24 last season was Ryan Ramirez. She said she debated coming back to audition, but I’m glad she did.

We were introduced to a new style of dance for the show called “turfing.” It involves 1) swagger; 2) feet work; 3) pantomime; and 4) storytelling. Levi Allen glided across the floor, but failed to impress in choreography.

Who are your favorites so far?