So You Think You Can Dance Mia Michaels’ Night

21 08 2012

This is my 100th blog post since moving to this site. Exciting, yes? I had a fabulous trip to New York and will have some blogs, including my moving trip to the 9/11 Memorial Site.

I know. I’m very late with this review. I was behind before I went on vacation and I’m even further behind now that I am back. Tonight the top 14 faced a third elimination. The dancers had two weeks off. The Olympics gave my DVR a break from exploding from overuse. Tonight two very special judges were in town after performing for the Dizzyfeet Foundation’s National Dance Day gala, Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt of The BalletBoyz from the UK. While the show was away, Tabitha and Napoleon welcomed their son, London Riley D’Umo, into the world.  Of note, someone on Facebook has been pretending to be them, but this is the legitimate Facebook page for them, and you can see pictures of the baby on there.  Congratulations!

Tonight’s show would see the return of our favorite Mia Michaels’ routines. Mia Michaels and Travis Wall are my favorite contemporary choreographers on So You Think You Can Dance. They seem to be able to tap into the emotional center of my brain that leaves the deepest, long-lasting impressions. Whether it be chills or tears, I have never forgotten the original dances.

Mary and Nigel will be bringing bias to the table tonight since they were present for the original Mia choreography where Billy and Michael would be bringing a fresh perspective, judging the dances on tonight’s performances alone.

The opening group number showed us a new dance from Mia. The song was “Hanging On” by Active Child. Was this the first group CPR by our dancers? I could feel the power of the fine line between life and death, although I could see where it could also be the symbolism of the life and death of a relationship on a more simple level. I also hoped those roses were de-thorned.

Dancers: Cyrus and Eliana
Inspired Dances: Cyrus had been inspired by Brian Gaynor’s audition. Brian is now one of Cyrus’ roommates at Dragon House. Eliana’s inspiration was Wade Robson’s Peace Dance with 10 dancers interpreting the same movement.
Mia’s Dance: The Door Dance originally performed by tWitch and Katee Shean
Song: “Mercy” by Duffy

My thoughts: Cyrus’ and Eliana’s kiss looked “icky” and not full of hot passion. Cyrus was able to ignite his own locking/popping style that made it stand apart from tWitch. I would never believe that Eliana is a ballet dancer because she was that awesome at contemporary.

The judges: Nigel pointed out Cyrus bringing out his own flair but also that he needs to drop the tension in his shoulders. Eliana showed us that she is great at creating these characters because ballet dancers usually focus on technique first and character second. Mary said Eliana was “swagger-welcious” and that Cyrus brought his own swagger to the group. Michael said they were strong performers. Eliana would have him begging for mercy for sure and there was a good use of props. Billy said that something that should not have worked did work fantastically.

Next we saw some clips of National Dance Day and how much it was spreading globally.

Dancers: George and Tiffany
Inspired Dances: For George it was Wade Robinson’s Ramalama group dance from season 2. For Tiffany it was when Ellen was on the other side of the door on Mia’s door dance and moving into the tWitch/Alex Wong “Out of Your Mind” dance. She hopes to be on The Ellen Show.
Mia’s Dance: The Hometown Glory dance originally performed by Katee Shean and Joshua Allen in Season 4.
Song: “Hometown Glory” by Adele

My thoughts: I had chills from the beginning. It was phenomenal. I know it was only two dances so far tonight, but this one became my favorite of the night (until the last routine).

The judges: Mary felt like we needed to call 911 because we witnessed a murder this evening on stage. She thought it was phenomenal, that Tiffany was soft when she needed to be and powerful when that was needed. The assisted lift was perfect (my note–did she mean the assisted run?) She said George elevated the role today. Michael felt like it had fantastic energy. It was a great match up to each other. Tiffany got so into character, but maybe too much because she didn’t look like she needed any help whatsoever from George in the assisted run and that was the point (she needed to be lifted). He felt like she needed to pull it back a bit. Nigel felt like we finally saw the best from George this evening. Tiffany over-egged the pudding, but would prefer that and trying to calm it down, versus not giving enough energy and having to ramp it up.

Dancers: Will and Amelia
Inspired Dances: For Will it was the group routine where Nigel got kidnapped in season 4. For Amelia it was Melanie and Neal’s routine “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Mia’s Dance: The Butt Dance made famous by Evan Kasprzak and Randy Evans. Interestingly, Amelia seemed surprised, but there is a French feel for it and her audition was French-inspired. Mia was probably remembering that when this routine was assigned. Amelia looked like she might feel uncomfortable with everyone looking at her butt for the evening.
Song: “Koop Island Blues” by Koop

My thoughts: While it might be technically challenging and does elicit an emotional response from me, it was not goosebumps. I could feel Amelia’s discomfort at the thought of everyone looking at her butt. There was a height difference, too. Evan and Randy were shorter. Also Evan’s Broadway experience allowed him to shine the character more than Will’s contemporary background. Please also see my notes after hearing what Nigel had to say. George and Tiffany’s routine still my favorite at this point.

The judges: Nigel felt that Will was trying to bring the character out. He said Amelia needed to bring more character. He noticed that she was looking at the floor much of the routine. At this point, that comment from Nigel made me feel like, “Yeah, do you think so?” Perhaps knowing everyone was looking at her butt made her a little self-conscious and perhaps psyched her out a bit. The first thing Nigel said was that he had Randy’s butt in his mind for the last 3 years! I like Nigel but that is a little creepy. Even the most seasoned dancer would have felt weird hearing that. Mary liked it. Felt it was too big and maybe the character needed to be pulled back more. Was Will entranced by Amelia’s butt? Absolutely. She also felt that Amelia maybe looking down at the floor was her attempt at being coy. Having nothing to compare it to, Billy felt it was very strong, musical, and endearing. Both dancers were wonderfully in character. There were moments when subtlety would have been good, but it overall was great.

Dancers: Janelle and Dareian
Inspired Dances: For Janelle, it was the Mark Kanemura and Chelsie Hightower’s “Bleeding Love” routine. For Dareian, it was Kent and Neal’s Season 7 routine by Travis Wall “In The End” routine.
Mia’s Routine: The “bed” routine done by tWitch and Kherington Payne
Song: “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” by John Mayer

My thoughts: This might be their strongest routine yet, but I did not have chills, the kind I got seeing the original. They might be bringing their A-game too late.

The judges: Michael thought it was “wow!” The choreography and the ideas about it were wonderful. He was worried about Dareian’s lines. If he gets over that hurdle, he’s got it. Janelle had a great performance but he found himself looking at her hair oddly rather than the choreography. He did not know why but he just did. Billy said that it was difficult or Janelle because the movement is all about Dareian and not her, but they did well. Nigel said this was Mia Michaels at her best. For Dareian it was the first time he felt personality out of him and Nigel felt what Dareian was feeling. Janelle is at her best when he can see Janelle’s eyes smiling and her hips moving. She did not stand out tonight. Dareian’s technique was stronger than the original done by tWitch. Mary agrees with the comment on technique. There was no passion and at the end felt that it was overacted by Janelle. Dareian needs to fix his feet.

Dancers: Audrey and Matthew
Inspired Dances: For Audrey it was season 1’s Brian Friedman’s disco routine performed by Melody Lacayanga and Nick Lazzarini. (I did not watch season 1 of this show). For Matthew it was the 80’s jazz piece in season 7 by Ade Torbert and Lauren Froderman.
Mia’s Dance: The loss of Mia’s father and the reunion in heaven originally performed By Lacey Schwimmer and Neil Haskell.
Song: “Time” by Billy Porter

My thoughts: I thought Matthew was the star in this piece. Just watching the “making of/behind the scenes practice” brought tears to my eyes, but watching Mathew at the beginning where he smiles at first seeing his daughter (Audrey) and then the breath he took was he first caught sight of her had me in tears. Audrey was great, too, but I was watching Matthew more. They were able to make the transition I thought between the chemistry of a couple in love from previous weeks to the energy of a father and daughter. My new favorite of the night. I was a little shocked at what the judges had to say about Matthew, so after hearing their comments I watched it again and I could see some of what they were saying that he could have been more playful, but I think their comments were a bit too harsh.

The judges: Mary was very emotional, sharing that when Mia originally choreographed the song that Mary’s father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and the song gave her courage to take leave from her business to go be with her father in those final times. Mary, however, did not feel the passion or truth in this piece tonight from Matthew. She thought Audrey was the shining star. Billy said there were amazing things from Audrey and the first pirouette was flawless. He felt Matthew needed to disguise the effort of the dancing that weighed into it. Nigel felt that when Neil did the dance, it showed the playful man that Mia’s father was, that Matthew needed to bring fun into Audrey’s life. He felt Matthew was a little too focused on the dance steps rather than being a dad joined up with his daughter. That character that was needed did not come across.

Dancers: Witney and Chehon
Inspired Dances: For Chehon it was Melanie Moore’s Atlanta audition. For Witney it was “Danielle’s” audition in S4 (that turned out to be Travis Wall in drag).
Mia’s Dance: The bench routine performed by Season 2 Travis Wall and Heidi Groskreutz
Song: “Calling You” by Celine Dion

My thoughts: It was hard for a ballet dancer like Chehon to move into a contemporary style that requires him to loosening up a little. Regardless I still got chills when Chehon was lying on the bench with Witney under it. Not as good as Heidi and Travis’ routine, but that is some hard competition to live up to. They did a good job, but this dance is so iconic and it was TRAVIS WALL.

The judges: Nigel was pleased. He felt the passion came across. He also explained what the dance was about. Apparently Mia was in love with a gay man who was not going to be able to return the same kind of love to her. Mary felt they pulled it off. She wants Chehon to let go a bit more. She thought Witney was “wow” and was remarkable tonight. Michael asked Witney is she was a Salt Lake City girl, and said that Salt Lake is a fantastic place for dance (without really commenting on Witney’s dance tonight). He told Chehon he always had a job with The BalletBoyz if he ever wanted one.

Dancers: Lindsay and Cole
Inspired Dances: For Cole, it was Mark Kanemura in Season 4. They are friends and are from the same dance studio. Lindsay was inspired was Travis Wall and Benji Schwimmer’s nerd dance on the finale of season 2.
Mia’s Dance: The “Addiction” routine originally performed by Kupono Aweau and Kayla Radomski in season 5.
Song: “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles

My thoughts: Cole was spectacular. This was indeed my favorite routine of the night. When he ran his lips up her leg in a gesture of him “the addiction” consuming the whole of her, I got chills. Lindsay did a great job, too, but Cole was mesmerizing in his robotic-like movements.

The judges: Billy was impressed. Both have versatility in bucket loads, something that is needed for the business. Mary said this was the best performance from both of them. Kupono was a bit more sinister, but Cole was a quirky kind of demented, but it worked. Lindsay was amazing. Nigel said they came out on top tonight of everyone. Cole’s performance was quite chilling.

Eliminations

George, Dareian and Matthew are in the bottom 3 for the guys and Amelia, Janelle and Lindsay are in the bottom 3 for the girls. The judges wanted to see all of them perform solos before they made their decisions.

Amelia danced to “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I prefer Kris Allen’s version. It does not look like she is dancing for her life. Janelle did a belly dance routine to “Inta Omri” by Elie Attieh and she, too, does not look like she wants it. It was fun but there was nothing remarkable or stand-out about it. Lindsay did a dance to “Hip Hip Chin Chin” by Club des Belugas. I felt like out of the three girls she wanted it more and I think her routine with Cole tonight is likely to save her.

The guys looked more poised to fight for their spots. George danced to “So Long, Lonesome” by Exploding in the Sky. He really wants it. There is something about George that reminds me of the painter Thomas Kinkade. When George dances, he lights up the stage. Dareian came out fighting, dancing to “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by Joshua Ledet. Unfortunately he has underperformed his peers most of the season and has not made a real connection with the audience. Matthew danced to “Delicate” by Damien Rice. Out of the three guys, I was not so sure he wanted that spot so badly, like he had written it off that it would not be his. But out of the three guys, I think they’ll put George through.

Nigel said the judges would save Lindsay mostly because of her performance in tonight’s routines. For the boys, they would save George. Dareian really needed to fix his feet and they felt Matthew was not connecting with the audience (I would disagree with them on that).

As a personal note, I think that Cyrus, as much as I adore him, should have been up there instead of Matthew because he has been getting by without a great technique, but it is about America’s favorite dancers, not the “best” technical dancer. Next week the couples will be broken up and they will be paired with all-stars from previous seasons.

Who will go home this week based on their performances on Wednesday? I think Cyrus should be in the bottom 2 and maybe Will is in trouble. Witney and Audrey might be in the bottom 2 for the girls. The voting is going to get more difficult. I am looking forward to seeing Eliana paired with an all-star. She, I think, is the most underappreciated dancer in the show. It’s time for her to have a moment in the sun.





So You Think You Can Dance–Top 8 Performance

28 07 2011

With the departure of the fabulous Mitchell and Clarice last week, we are winding down to the end of the season. With each dance, it gets more difficult to pick which talented powerhouse will be in the bottom.

Guest judges for this evening were the legendary Rob Marshall (director/choreographer, and Lady Gaga who needs no introduction. I am hoping she will be a better judge on this show than she was a mentor on American Idol. Her outfit tonight is much better than the one at the Grammy’s. I remember hearing on Oprah that her sister designs her outfits; I’d never let my sisters dress me.

Top8

The Top 8 Perform

Dancers: Sasha and all-star Pasha Kovalev
Song: “Puttin’ on the Ritz”
Artist: Terry Snyder
Choreographer: Jonathan Roberts
Style: Quickstep
Story: A world turned upside down in an alternate reality.

I enjoyed seeing Sasha have chemistry with yet another all-star (other than Twitch). A fast dance with tons of footwork, Sasha and Pasha carried it out effortlessly. Sasha added her own Sasha-licious flair to some of the moves (in parts as if she was trying to merge the quickstep with an African dance). Rob Marshall is a fan of Sasha and gave her high praise for not only this dance but also her overall work in the competition. Mary Murphy complimented her body positioning as being the best she has seen yet this season for this dance. For Nigel, Sasha is his favorite in the competition (by a hair) who put on a 5-star performance this evening. A congested Lady Gaga enjoyed the dance and loves Sasha inside and out (that she has a beautiful soul).

Dancers: Caitlynn and all-star Ivan Koumaev
Song: “Let Me Love You”
Artist: Mario
Choreographer: Marty Kudelka
Style: Lyrical hip-hop
Story: Caitlynn is fed up with her man; Ivan shows up and wins her over.

Caitlynn continues to grow every week. She had lovely chemistry with Ivan. Even though it was well-danced, it didn’t move me emotionally to the point of goosebumps although I was still drawn into the story. Mary was not wowed, but felt she did a really good job. Nigel offered her some advice about “opening her legs more” (which elicited a juvenile giggle from me, and a comment from Lady Gaga) to help her find her swagga, but complimented her on staying in character. While praising Caitlynn on certain aspects of her dancing, Lady Gaga offered some great advice about her not having similar flowing movements that Ivan had. Tempered with praise, Rob felt she needed to lose herself in the dance more.

Dancers: Jordan and all-star Ade Obayomi
Song: “Nutbush City Limits”
Artist: Tina Turner
Choreographer: Tyce DiOrio
Style: Pop jazz
Story: Being bad together during a secret rendezvous.

The athleticism both Jordan and Ade possess almost made Tyce’s dance flawless. There was one thing that bothered me: Instead of looking and being totally involved with her partner, Jordan was looking out at the audience too much, and one time I even caught her looking at the judges at a crucial point in the dance when her eyes really did need to be on her partner. Because of this, I did not buy into any chemistry between them, critical for the dance (being bad “together”). Nigel loved it. Lady Gaga enjoyed the fact that Jordan was looking at the camera and assertively announcing that she was a star. Rob adores her. Mary gave her a scream of approval. So, hey, what do I know, right?

Dancers: Melanie and all-star Neal Haskell
Song: “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Artist: Bonnie Tyler
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Style: Contemporary
Story: A crossroads in a relationship.

Ah, my first goosebumps for the evening. I do have a bias for contemporary and hip-hop routines; they seem to move me emotionally more often than other styles of dance. This was my favorite dance routine of the evening (thus far). Melanie delivered another stellar performance. I am amazed at dancers who have to show complete and total trust in partners they have barely met. When she took a running start from one corner of the stage and leaped into his arms from mid-stage to the opposite corner of the stage was both a feat of technique and trust. It took my breath away. All the judges are standing in applause. Melanie is Lady Gaga’s favorite and she would hire Melanie tomorrow. She is poetry in motion, according to Rob. Mary has run out of adjectives for her. Melanie won over Nigel’s heart for the time being from Sasha. The final scene where Melanie is in the light and Neal was in the darkness reflected beautiful the lyrics being played in the song.

Dancers: Ricky and all-star Anya Garnis
Song: “River Deep, Mountain High”
Artist: Celine Dion
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Style: Jive
Story: None, just complicated moves.

If you are not up to Anya’s level of expertise, your weaknesses are going to show. Ricky executed the performance as best he could, but I don’t think it was good enough to get him into the safety zone tomorrow during the elimination. The moves were intense, especially the flip over the head. The dead-drop at the end made me gasp. Rob applauds his personality and technique for the most part, but offers that he needs to dig a little deeper into the floor. Ballroom-dancer Mary had better technical advice to give to Ricky. Nigel felt Ricky’s posture should have been more “river deeper rather than mountain higher.” Lady Gaga has a sweet spot for Ricky and likes his posture.

At this point I begin wondering where the solos are and am grateful they decided to change up the format and do pairs with other contestants again.

Dancers: Jess and all-star Lauren Gottleib
Song: “Take a Bow”
Artist: Rhianna
Choreographer: Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo (NappyTabs)
Style: Lyrical hip-hop
Story: A man who has cheated on his girl and he is trying to apologize.

Jess did a much better job this week. He took in Neil Patrick Harris’ advice about not overdoing the faces. Mary felt that his dance came from his soul this time (I agree) and he had the swag. Nigel commented about how much he has grown and listened to the comments to help him grow. When Lady Gaga made points about the choreography, I wondered if Tabitha had to dig her fingernails into Napoleon’s arm to keep her from saying something. Rob has known Jess since he was little, Jess having worked on Broadway. You could see how proud Rob was of Jess and his growth.

Dancers: Tadd and all-star Lauren Froderman
Song: “Another One Bites the Dust”
Artist: Queen
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Style: Jazz
Story: Pulling off a heist (Smooth Criminal?)

This is another favorite routine of mine this evening. Tadd and Lauren were a great partnership. I was thinking during the routine about how Lauren was not everyone’s favorite at the beginning of her season and turned things around to win. He did not flinch when Lauren accidentally smacked him in the face. He was not jarred when he lost his hat, either. Tadd is a dark horse, one I never expected to be possibly in the final 4 at the end of the season. Nigel called Tadd a sponge and suspected he would not be going home this week. Lady Gaga is much better suited to be a judge on this show. I like the way she interpreted the song to Tadd, enjoying the muggy look like, “Yeah, I just robbed a bank and got away with it.” Rob Marshall thought he was very special and acted like a true professional during the mishaps. Mary predicts he will be in the finale.

Dancers: Marko and all-star Allison Holker
Song: “I Know It’s Over”
Artist: Jeff Buckley
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Contemporary
Story: Causing damage to a person, basking in the guilt because of it, but it moves you to change.

Allison brought the magic back out in Marko and another box in my favorite dances this week. Marko will be in the top 4. Pain and hurt came through on both their faces and although I had no goosebumps, I found myself crying because of the song’s message. What a time to shine with his mother in the audience! In this unedited, entitled society hiding behind internet anonymity and cyber bullying, people hurt others without a second thought. When attention is called to the hurt, people go on the defensive (because it is all about them) instead of listening to the grievance, acknowledging it and apologizing for it. Whether or not you think you did wrong to that person, if that person felt that way and you love them, it matters. Once you accomplish that, then you can use those new skills to open up to the world around you. Lady Gaga was also in tears and the panel gave them a standing ovation. In an act of contrition, Lady Gaga remembered all the mistakes she made in her past. Marko is deeply moved by his mother’s presence and he confesses and apologizes for his hurts. Rob appreciated the fluidity of the movements and the partnership between Allison and Marko. Mary chokes back her tears and says Marko is her favorite dancer on the show. Nigel remarks about the sheer moment of this, that a dance could affect such a change so quickly, and that people need to say what they need to their moms (and I would like to extend that to not just moms but everyone) before they are no longer walking among us here on planet Earth.

Dancers: Caitlynn and Tadd
Song: “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails”
Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Choreographer: Jonathan Roberts
Style: Foxtrot
Story: Classic boy meets girl

Caitlynn’s dress was stunning and Tadd looked hot in a tux. Wait for it….Yep, Season 8: The Kissing Season did not let me down. Tadd gave Caitlynn a kiss on the cheek midway through the routine. Caitlynn seemed more at ease with this genre, although Tadd was not awful. I would hate to be them coming off that Marko and Allison number. After that, ANYTHING is going to look boring. “Sparkling” is what Rob thought, a “black and white movie come to life.” Mary thought it was beautiful and elegant but she needed more powerful and did not think this would be a memorable dance from this evening. Nigel was heaven and wanted to dance with Caitlynn. Lady Gaga loved the routine but offered that every now and then Caitlynn’s hands say, “I won a lot of trophies!”

Dancers: Marko and Ricky
Song: “Bad Boy For Life”
Artist: Diddy featuring Black Rob and Mark Curry
Choreographers: Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo (aka NappyTabs)
Style: Hip-hop
Story: They are waste management technicians.

This dance was better than the Emilio Estevez/Charlie Sheen movie, “Garbage Men.” Sometimes throughout the routine, I felt Marko had more swagga and other times Ricky. It was moving along at a slow pace. Knowing what NappyTabs has choreographed for SYTYCD over the years, just when I was expecting there to be more, more was delivered. The pace quickened, and then it was abruptly over. I was left disappointed; the pickup in tempo should have occurred sooner. Perhaps they were trying to recapture the magic of the Alex/Twitch routine, but it fell short. A quick camera shot to the audience and Tabitha was caught taking a deep breath, looking over at the judges. Mary Murphy was standing in applause and she loved it. Nigel felt it was fun, but Ricky was still a bit too high versus being lower to the ground for hip-hop. He feels Ricky might be in the bottom this week and I agree. Lady Gaga took a swipe at NappyTabs basing her opinion on her days when stomp was emerging and her own choreographer. Picking NappyTabs back up, Rob applauded their routine.

Dancers: Jordan and Jess
Song: “Set Fire to the Rain”
Artist: Adele
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Style: Rumba
Story: A woman in a controlling relationship and she is blinded by her love for him.

Jordan did a better job in this dance. Jess’ Broadway face came out several times. But did they set fire to the rain? No. I am sorry Jordan and Jess fans. They gave it a good try, but at this point in the competition; it is not okay just to dance the routine. There has to be that extra “oomph.” Nigel did not think they had chemistry. She called Jordan on her sway-back. It was not his favorite routine this night. Lady Gaga did not think there was anything “wrong” with it, but as an artist, she would have interpreted the song differently–two elements that do not fit together–and faulted the choreography and not the dancers. Rob thought they brought out the best in each other and sees theater careers for both of them. Mary said the back-split/lift was the best she had seen all season. What was lacking for her was the elasticity of the rumba and the sensuality that develops from that.

Dancers: Sasha and Melanie
Song: “Game On”
Artist: District 78
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Jazz
Story: None, just the combination powerhouse of their two styles for an ultimately beastly creation.

Warrior Sonya concocted a powerful dance routine that showcased each of these ladies quite well. These dynamic dynamos deserved the last spot of the evening and had the judges on their feet. Who was better? I would give a slight edge to Sasha. They will be in the top 4. In the audience, passionate Sonya beamed with pride at her lionesses. Lady Gaga threw her shoe at them, the highest form of compliment. She claimed it to be the performance of the evening. Rob adored it. Mary thought they put it all out there. She thought it was the best number Sonya’s ever done and proclaimed it to be the performance of the evening. Nigel thinks only a tissue paper separates the two of them on who is the best dancer. Sasha and Melanie bowed in homage to their Mother Goddess (Sonya). Either one of them can be this year’s champion, according to Nigel.

The bottom 2 girls will be Caitlynn and Jordan. The bottom 2 guys will be Ricky and Jess.  Whoever does get through, they will need to dance like there is no tomorrow because Marko, Melanie, Sasha and Tadd have made a definitive move to the head of the pack.

Update to Miranda’s fans on the contest going on: According to @mirandacandance on Twitter, they are holding a contest to find the most creative way to express your fan love for Miranda, with Miranda picking the winner. For details, please click here.





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 14 Performance

7 07 2011

Tonight viewers were in for a special treat. Travis Wall, previous contestant on So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 and choreographer for the last few years, was asked to sit in to judge tonight. Is there anywhere Travis does not fit like a hand in a glove? His critiques were deadly accurate with lavish praise for the high points and technical pointers for the weaker points to help the dancers learn. When I heard Carmen Electra was going to judge, I had no idea she had a background in dance. I enjoyed her in “Meet the Spartans.” I loved Cat Deeley’s earrings tonight that had the number 8 on them for season 8.

Tonight we will find out more about the contestants. There are also new choreographers to the show. According to http://www.markmeismer.com, Justin began his training in South Carolina. He was the winner of Star Search and Destination Stardom in Hawaii. In 2001, he worked with the Poz Dance Theater in Seoul, Korea. Soon thereafter he opened a dance company in Dallas, Texas and has been with LA Dance Magic for the past 5 years. Ray Leeper has worked in film and theater and for big names singers such as Cher and Elton John.

Dancers: Boys’ Group Number
Song: “Prague”
Artist: Damien Rice
Choreographer: Justin Giles
Story: The seven stages of grief after a breakup: Shock, anger, denial, depression, guilt, bargaining, and acceptance.

It was a beautiful contemporary number. Chris, unfortunately, was off in his timing with the other dancers. Although the judges are not offering critiques, performances in the group number will be taken into consideration for elimination eve. A warm welcome to Justin. I hope we see more of his work on this show.

Dancers: Melanie & Marko
Song: “Americano”
Artist: Lady Gaga
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: Young Latin couple whose families have been fighting like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, now run off and want to get married.

Marko had auditioned before but had not won over the judges until this year. He is from Guam and most of his family became lawyers and doctors. There were not many dance opportunities on the island. The one job he had was on a cruise ship and the hazing ritual was dressing up as a girl (in homage to the drag queen show where he was not–and he repeats was NOT–the drag queen). Melanie is from Marietta, Georgia (woo-hoo, my sister lived there for many years), but she left to attend Fordham University in New York City, majoring in art. Her boyfriend, Mitchell, whom she has dated since the 10th grade in high school, came to see her perform last week, the week of the Marko kiss.

There was a moment at the beginning of the dance where I thought, “Oh my” with regards to hand placement. She had to be deadly accurate or risk incapacitating her partner!

Melanie & Marko

Hand placement must be precise!

It was a fantastic way to start the show off on a high note. Cat Deeley says Marko looks like a sexy fireman in that outfit. Travis tells Melanie she is, by far, his favorite dancer in the competition. He also comments that he has been taking Ray’s class since he was 9 years old (great way to make someone feel old, Travis!). Mary loved their passion and heat. I enjoyed this number a great deal. This was Ray’s first appearance on SYTYCD as well and a hearty hello to him as well. Nigel reassures Marko that he is a fan now.

Dancers: Sasha & Alexander
Song: “To the Moon”
Artist: Miguel
Choreographer: Shawn Evaristo
Style: Hip-Hop
Story: A first date and Alex wants a kiss at the end of the night from Sasha.

Sasha spoke lovingly of her family, especially of her sister and having her sister with her through her journey on SYTYCD. She comes from a large Trinidadian family who now lives in Bakersfield, CA and there is always a party going on–lots of food, drinks, dancing, and singing. It sounds like Sasha’s family knows how to live in the moment and express joy of just being alive. Dancing began for Alexander at the age of 17. Instead of going to college, he was accepted into a ballet school where he fell in love with ballet. He grew up in Alhambra. His father used to be an actor on such shows (that I remember) as Barney Miller, TJ Hooker, Hill Street Blues, shows Alex says he has never heard of. Psssst. Alex. I probably saw your dad at some point on those shows and not on the reruns.

Alex is swagger-challenged. One might say because of the natural of ballet, it is trained out of them because posture has to be perfect, lines have to be straight, etc. However, one day ballet dancer Alex Wong walked into our lives and performed one of the best routines ever in the history of SYTYCD with Twitch, choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon. Click here to watch. Alex Wong made a bold statement that ballet dancers CAN do hip-hop. Compared to the level of what we’ve seen in the competition thus far, this was below the bar. I think it will put them in danger. Carmen articulated it best when she was not feeling them as a couple. When I see Alex in his natural environment, he seems like a different person than he is on stage. The “ballet face” comes on when he dances on stage and because Sasha is operating from a different point of view, trying to get into whatever character she needs to be, that is where the disconnect is happening.

Dancers: Jordan & Tadd
Song: “Nocturne”
Artist: Secret Garden
Choreographer: Toni Redpath
Style: Smooth Jazz
Story: Jordan is a siren, a black widow spider of the deep sea.

Jordan’s story brought tears to my eyes as she shared the depth of her family’s sacrifices so she could dance and the level of appreciation she has for it. After seeing the fun side of Jordan, it was moving to see she has a vulnerable side. She hopes that this is a reward for them as well after all they have done. Tadd grew up in Salt Lake City and because of the lack of Filipino culture there when he was young, grew up thinking he was Caucasian. Once he got to meet extended family in San Francisco, California, his world grew much bigger.

Let’s think of Jordan being a siren of dance (not voice, LOL, sorry babe, your talent is in dancing, not singing). I loved the hair extensions; I don’t think I would have recognized her on the street with them. Her costume was beautiful; she did look like a goddess from the sea. Being a hip-hop dancer, Tadd did a super job. His posture was superb; his arms were high. He died well.

Dancers: Clarice & Jess
Song: “Light Through the Branches”
Artist: Celeste Lear
Choreographer: Justin Giles
Style: Contemporary
Story: A super intense love affair that is coming to an end.

Clarice also appreciates the sacrifices her family has made for her.  Although she grew up in Hollywood, California, she now studies dance at California State University at Long Beach. After a long day, she drives her sister to dance and then teaches dance later on after that. Clarice enjoys spending time with her family after a long day. Jess grew up in Little Falls, New Jersey with family members who are also entertainers. Jess’ father was an actor, but is now a teacher. While many of us would like to forget our high school experience, Jess has wonderful memories, being part of all the performing arts clubs.

Clarice is a contemporary dancer and Jess is used to Broadway. My eye was drawn to Clarice during the routine. Jess is growing as a dancer in this area but I would compare his performance to Tadd’s in ballet. Although not his style, he did try to rise to meet the challenge. Unlike Alex and Sasha, Clarice and Jess are developing chemistry between them and that shone through during the routine. In this routine, it demanded that it did or it would have fallen apart. I agree with Travis that it is my favorite routine they have done all season. Carmen and Mary said they felt the anger they were feeling. Maybe that was true in the studio. As a TV viewer, I saw the anger between the two of them, but they did not bring me along for the ride.

Dancers: Ashley & Chris
Song: “Mambo Beat”
Artist: Tito Puente
Choreographer: Liz Lira
Style: Salsa
Story: None, just fast, lots of tricks, etc.

From Antioch, California, Ashley grew up as the daughter of a deacon, surrounded by music and dance her entire life, her mom being director of the dance program. She loves to cook (perhaps we will see her on a future episode of Masterchef). Chris comes from a large family in Dallas which gives them always something to do and always something to clean. He was diagnosed with dyslexia and credits his parents for him graduating high school because the challenges for him were that difficult.

I understand the choreographers wanting to do a challenging dance, but they also need to take into consideration the level of ability of the dancers. Latin dances need a strong male partner who is sure of himself and Chris even verbalized his awkwardness in this style. I was worried for them seeing the rehearsals. The actual dance was better than rehearsals. You could see Chris thinking all the steps so he could complete the dance without his partner getting hurt, but because of that, the heat was missing. Ashley did a nice job and it was so lovely of her to tell him how proud she was of him as they stood next to Cat Deeley. Sadly, I think this is going to put them in the bottom 3. I’m certain that if this is the case, Chris will be the guy going home because of the comment Nigel said last week about him needing to grow faster, and because of the off-timing in tonight’s group routine.

Dancers: Ryan & Ricky
Song: “Fashion”
Artist: David Bowie
Choreographer: Chucky Klapow
Style: Jazz
Story: Two members of a cult of fashion. Following what was hot and hip eventually “did them in.” They got hit by a car they were so into themselves they wouldn’t even take the time to look left or right to cross the street. Elaborate story.

Ryan was raised in Morgan Hill, California. She went to Sacramento and got an opportunity to work with Mia Michaels during a convention. Because of economic hardships, Ryan had to give up dancing for awhile. She reunited with Mia Michaels on the “House” episode “Bombshells.” Ricky is from Miami and loves the beach because it allows him to spend time with his family. When he was 15, his mother said they were moving to Tampa (and they made it sound like it was such a horrible thing to happen. I lived in St. Petersburg for a year of my life; Tampa is not a bad place). But apparently there is not a lot of dancing in Tampa (ah, code word for a lot of old people live there). He was not only the first male cheerleader at his new high school, but also became co-captain.

This dance was “Ghouls Gone to Vogue Hell” to the PERFECT song choice. It was so enjoyable. It made me want to learn the steps so I could follow along. How do you judge such a thing? Fun? Check. Did I believe they were zombies? Check. Did I believe they were once fashion icons? Check. When they were required to dance in sync, did they? Check. Bonus points: It was quirky; I adore quirky. They are absolutely safe with this one.

Some trivia about Chucky Klapow. He was one of the main dancers in Michael Jackson’s tour “This Is It” and has been Kenny Ortega’s co-choreographer in the High School Musical movies. Kenny Ortega did a season of judging on SYTYCD. He also choreographed another Fox show, Bones, “The Girl With The Curl.”

Dancers: Caitlynn & Mitchell
Song: “To Love You More”
Artist: Celine Dion
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Style: Contemporary
Story: A couple falling in love.

Caitlynn was a tomboy growing up in Moses Lake, Washington and loves engaging in outdoor activities from snowboarding to fishing. Her father works overseas and is home only every other month. Thank goodness she lives in an age where there is Skype and other type of networking; back when I was her age there was two methods of communication: Telephone and snail-mail. Mitchell’s backstory made me cry. His father died when he was 2. When he was 8, he and his mother moved from Chicago to Atlanta and wound up sleeping in their car for a full year. They were homeless. His mother was able to find a job and wanted Mitchell to fulfill his dreams there. His mother is so inspiring. It is so difficult to break out of the cycle of homeless and there is such a horrible stereotype about the face of the homeless, people mischaracterizing the group as lazy, not wanting to work, etc. I know that just is not true and to hear people’s ignorance when they speak of such things irritates me greatly. Mitchell, to his credit, could have turned to a life of drugs or gangs, but did not. It says a lot about his personal character as a mere 8-year-old child. He is such a great role model.

Wait, what? Caitlynn spills secrets that Marko reads romance novels. Too funny.

Remember that Mitchell is still trying to recover from his injury from week 1, but he continues to push through to stay in the competition. Caitlynn has complete trust that he will be there for her as her partner. They have the coveted last spot of the evening, so I’m preparing to be wowed. I love this song and the romantic in me loved this dance. It was my favorite of the evening. I know it is a wonderful dance when I’m breathing with the dancers. It was absolutely PERFECT and Mitchell knows they NAILED it. He is overwhelmed with emotion.

Dancers: The Girls aka “The Beasts”
Song: “My Discarded Men”
Artist: Eartha Kitt with Bronski Beat
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: Seven girlfriends ridding the world of evil men. (Hmm, femme fatales?)

It was a great dance and everyone worked well together as a group. A nice way to end the show.

So based on their dancing tonight, I think Sasha and Alexander and Ashley and Chris are in trouble. But Sasha has a lot of Adam Lambert fans voting, so I’m not sure if they will be in the bottom 3. I’m not sure who the other couple would be. I am certain Chris is going home Thursday night if he is among the bottom 3 males.

Who were your favorites? Who do you think will be in the bottom three?