So You Think You Can Dance — Top 4 Perform

13 09 2012

Tuesday night was the last time we could vote on our favorites, the finale sort-of version. One more episode to go–to crown not just one winner but two: America’s favorite girl and guy. Lending critiques to the evening’s performances are resident judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy. Award-winner Rob Marshall was in the house lending his extensive knowledge to the mix.

Dancers: Eliana and Cyrus
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Style: Paso Doble (Eliana is the matador and Cyrus the bull)
Song: “The Game Has Changed” by Daft Punk

My thoughts: Cyrus is one determined bull, but was ultimately defeated by the lovely Eliana who continues to bring her strength of character to each role she embodies. It was a great opening number and a very smart move on the part of the choreographer, knowing that Cyrus’ lack of technique would not work in this situation.

The judges: Nigel thought Eliana had secured her place in the industry. He pointed out some things to Cyrus to help him improve and commended him on good partnering. Mary said that Cyrus conquering the paso doble must have felt like skinny dipping with snapping turtles and was very masculine. Eliana was on fire tonight. Rob loved how Eliana threw away technique and focused on the story. He told Cyrus it was exciting to watch them let it happen in the moment.

Dancers: Tiffany and Will Wingfield (Season 4 All Star)
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Jazz
Song: “The Time is Now” by Moloko

My thoughts: Tiffany was really enjoying herself. She is a little spitfire with a lot of grace and strength. It was nice to see Will back, too. The music was a bit boring.

The judges: Mary that she was a star tonight. She loved it and felt there was great partnering. Rob thought Tiffany was great–fearless. Nigel said Tiffany is so little but her lines are so strong, so big. She is a tremendous dancer.

Dancers: Chehon and Eliana
Choreographer: Marat Daukayev
Style: Ballet
Song: “The Nutcracker Suite (Pas De Deux)” by Bruton APM Studios

My thoughts: FINALLY! The first time two ballet contestants were paired up with each other to actually do ballet. I had chills. The dance was exquisite. Poor Eliana almost had a wardrobe malfunction.

The judges: Rob said it showed their versatility. Eliana’s extensions were breath-taking. Nigel made mention that the choreographer, Marat Daukayev, was the principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet. He said that Chehon made it look so easy. Mary thought it was spectacular.

Dancers: Tiffany and Cyrus
Choreographer: Tessandra Chavez
Style: Lyrical hip-hop (story is that Cyrus has broken Tiffany’s heart).
Song: “Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyonce

My thoughts: It was a good pairing. I did get chills (or was it just the air conditioning?) I still have not been WOWED tonight.

The judges: Nigel mentioned that neither of them had been in the bottom 2 or 3 the entire competition. Both were so good at emotional routines and were incredible. Mary thought they killed it. Rob thought that they had “abandon”. He said it was his favorite so far of the evening.

Dancers: Tiffany, Cyrus, Chehon and Eliana
Choreographer: Tyce Diorio
Style: Quirky (is that a style?) I guess Broadway
Song: “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (District 78 remix) by KPM Studio Artists

My thoughts: That must have been the most difficult piece to showcase all their unique, diverse skills. I did not care for it personally, but I respect Tyce’s challenge.

Dancers: Chehon & Allison Holker
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Style: Contemporary
Song: “Leave” by Once–A New Musical (Original Broadway Cast)

My thoughts: My favorite so far tonight. Those leaps Chehon does are incredible. Allison’s face was so full of expression. I think Chehon is finally peaking, taking in all the feedback he has been given and applying it.

The judges: They received a standing ovation. Mary had a WOOOOO yell. She said that Chehon was free at last, free at last, and that his performance ability was growing and growing. Rob thought the height on his leaps was unbelievable. Allison was fierce. Nigel thought Allison should be an actress. With Allison, Chehon came alive.

Dancers: Eliana and Tiffany
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Pole dancing? (Broadway)
Song: “When You’re Good to Mama” by Chicago–The Musical (1996 Broadway Revival Cast)

My thoughts: I did not care for it. I understand it is difficult and some of the moves defied gravity. It’s okay; one does not have to like all the dances.

The judges: Another standing ovation. Rob (who won an Academy Award in 2002 for the movie Chicago) said he was trying to imagine Queen Latifah doing that. Mary said the two ladies were extraordinary. It was fun and sassy. Nigel said he could not say anything that would not get him into trouble.

Dancers: Cyrus and Chehon
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Jazz — (story is their struggle for the top)
Song: “Fangs (District 78 Remix)” by Little Red Lung

My thoughts: These are always weird dances. They are either hits or misses. Benji and Travis’ dance of the nerds was memorable. Alex Wong’s dance with Twitch was memorable. This was okay for me. Chehon is definitely the better dancer but Cyrus always tries to keep up and should be commended for that as well.

The judges: No standing ovation this time. Nigel thought Sonya choreographed this well. Cyrus has improved so much as a dancer and he is so proud. Chehon has also grown as a person and is his favorite dancer. Both were inspirational. Mary thought both have had a tremendous journey. Rob felt like they were lifting each other up as dancers always do.

Dancers: Eliana and Alex Wong
Choreographer: Travis Wall
Style: Contemporary
Song: “Without You” by Harry Nilsson

My thoughts: Two ballet dancers doing contemporary. Usually I have chills with every dance Travis choreographs, but this one not. The dancing was awesome, but I think I would have chosen the slower Mariah Carey version of the song. I think that is what was not resonating with me.

The judges: Were on their feet. Rob said it was poetry. They (Eliana and Alex) got lost in it and we (the judges) did, too. Nigel said it was his favorite routine of the night and that Eliana was his favorite of all time on the series. (Nigel–Melanie Moore will be very hurt). Mary said it was her favorite of the night as well. Eliana had extraordinary passion that oozes from her body.

Dancers: Tiffany and Chehon
Choreographer: Dmitry Chaplin
Style: Rumba
Song: “Love Me Tender” by Adam Levy and Norah Jones

My thoughts: Wooooo Tiffany! You have been cute, but this was sexy and sophisticated. It must have been hard to come out and dance like that after hearing all this gush about Eliana. Well done young lady. Dmitry said during the rehearsal shots that this dance you have to feel uncomfortable watching it. Was I? No. And I think that was an issue with Chehon. He needed to bring more Latin steam.

The judges: Mary thought it was beautiful. She did not believe the chemistry but the movement was gorgeous. Tiffany was fabulous. Rob thought it was sexy. He thought the connection was beautiful. Nigel said this dance was so much sexier than the pole dance. He commented to Chehon that they couldn’t find a shirt with buttons for him? Mary laughed and said, “Dmitry was the choreographer!”

Dancers: Cyrus and Twitch (Glitch meets tWitch)
Choreographer: Christopher Scott (with the assistance of Madd Chadd, an animator)
Style: Animator (story is they are robots in a secret lab).
Song: “Like A Criminal” by District 78

My thoughts: THAT ROCKED!!!! It was so Terminator-like. Rise of the Machines. Watch out. My favorite routine of the night.

The judges: Standing ovation. Rob said it was crazy; the two guys were superstars. Mary loved it. Nigel wanted people to know that tWitch worked so hard at that because he is not an animator. Hip hop and animation are so very different. He mentioned that Christopher Scott felt they were world class in what they do.

Then Nigel really upset me. Cyrus is having a moment, the time of his life, and Nigel drops a spirit-crushing blow to Cyrus: I am supporting Chehon for my own personal reasons. And goes on and on about it. That Nigel “loved his bones, but won’t vote for him.” Nigel has been a mentor to Cyrus. Nigel’s opinions hold great weight to Cyrus. I remember thinking, “Why don’t you just tear out his heart and stomp on it, Nigel?” Did you really HAVE to say that? Could you have just critiqued his performance and left it at that?

I have always respected Nigel. In that moment, I lost a generous portion of that respect. Did Nigel just have a gaffe on live TV where he said something he should not have? It reminded me of his comments last year to the two guys that one of the girls would win the competition for which he later apologized. Again a spirit-crushing moment to Tadd and Marko. Or are you trying to manipulate voters? Either way, it is not cool, dude. Nigel, I love your bones but that move made me not vote for either one. I do not appreciate being manipulated into voting.

Solos

Eliana danced to “Passacaglia” by Johann Johannsson. Interestingly, she said in her interview that she did not want to be typecast as just ballet, but then she does a ballet number. It’s beautiful but I see no risk-taking here. Cyrus decided to go with something we’ve already seen–his solo during Vegas week to “Holy Ghost (Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo Remix)” by Messinian. It would have been nice to have seen something different. Tiffany danced to “I Believe” by Fantasia. With her, too, I think I have seen all these moves in previous solos. Chehon’s solo was the best. He danced to “How It Ends” by DeVotchKa. I liked the use of a prop other than a costume. I liked it already. His solo incorporated all that he has learned and not just another ballet routine, which is his strength. It was risky and I admired him for it.

Guest Performance

A B-boy dancer named Jean Sok from Paris, France took the stage. The young man only has one leg and uses crutches sometimes. It was a beautiful combination of strength and grace. I stopped breathing for a moment. He danced to the song, “Expression” by Helen Jane Long.

Who will be the winners?  I think it could go either way.





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.