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 — 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.