Glee Preview: The New Rachel

12 09 2012

Thanks to FOX VIP, I had the privilege of viewing episode 1 of Season 4 of Glee, “The New Rachel.” Not only does the title reflect what is going on with Rachel (Lea Michele) in her new surroundings in New York City, but also back in Lima, people are wondering, “Who is the next Rachel Berry?” Artie (Kevin McHale), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Blaine (Darren Criss) or Brittany (Heather Morris)?

When we last saw Glee, Rachel Berry was off to New York City ready to conquer the world. Like many freshman at universities all over the world, she has to find her way, to reinvent herself, dealing with life on her own, with a roommate, and in the big city. She will have her successes, failures, and temptations, but she is an adult now, making her own decisions.

Some of the new faces we see in this episode are: Kate Hudson (Cassandra July), the Sue Sylvester of NYADA; Becca Robin (Kitty), the new old-Quinn of Lima; Alex Newell (Wade “Unique” Adams); Melissa Benoist (Marley Rose); Jacob Artist (Jake Puckerman), Whoopi Goldberg (Carmen Tibideaux); and Dean Geyer (Brody Weston).

The NYADA scenes have a feel of the original Fame movie. The comedy as always is spot-on. Was that Melanie Moore from SYTYCD on there in the background? It is! It is! And oh Lord, Dean Geyer in a towel. And about halfway through I swear I saw Kent Boyd from So You Think You Can Dance, too.

I was curious how they were going to be able to meld the two locations into a show without losing from either one. Would they focus on one location and alternate it all season or mix the two up? I should have never doubted. Both are highlighted without detracting from each other, in fact, enhancing one another.

It would not be a good Glee episode if it didn’t have its moments of tear-shed, and indeed I did, briefly. There is a break-up, updated information on some of our graduates, and a happy reunion at the end. You could not ask for a better way to start a new season, a new sound, and a new chapter. It works.  Make sure to watch Glee on Thursday, September 13, 2012, on Fox starting at 8:00 Eastern/7:00 Central.





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: Atlanta

10 06 2012

Season 9 – Atlanta auditions

Mother Nature decided to interfere with my television viewing of this episode, but most of it was aired. My satellite carrier apparently does not have on-demand services, so if I fail to mention someone, I apologize in advance.

After seeing how many contestants went through from this city, I think it might have been cheaper to buy out an entire plane (just an expression; I know they all are not going to be flying out of Atlanta). This is the city which gave us last year’s champion, Melanie Moore, and usually after a win like that, the hometown of the winner is an ideal site for next year’s auditions. People who were possibly holding back will look at her as an example that they, too, could win it.

Judges for this segment were Debbie Allen, Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe.

Who I Liked A LOT

Audrey Case; Edmond, Oklahoma; contemporary. The woman who can apparently fart with her neck and elbow (actually her neck thing was more like a squeak). She had a beautiful smile and beautiful lines. It was a great way to start off this segment’s audition.

Audrey Case

Dragon House Boys; Atlanta, Georgia. I adored Boris Penton’s blue hair and his colorful shoes. His popping was extraordinary but will he be able to do the different styles of dance that will be required? I did find my eyes were fixed on him and I was anticipatory of what he would do next in his dance. I assumed they would put him through to choreography, but it was a ticket to Vegas for him.

Boris Penton from Dragon House.

Andre Rucker of Dragon House was also fantastic, and I knew a ticket to Vegas was in the cards for him.

Andre Rucker from Dragon House

However, I was not prepared for Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer at all. I have never seen anything so amazing in popping before on the 8 previous seasons of this show. He wanted to be a robot-animated popper and every movement of every muscle of his body was involved in this audition. All my hopes are with them that they will be able to make it through SYTYCD’s version of Navy Seal Hell week.

Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer

Danielle Dominguez; Tampa, Florida; contemporary. Her dancing was different due to her double-jointed body. Her choice of song was terrific. Her mom was a former cheerleader and Nigel asked her to do a cheer in the audience. And she loves bacon. She could eat 10 slices a bacon every day. She went through to Vegas.

Danielle Dominguez

George Lawrence, II; Atlanta, Georgia; contemporary. One of the best male contemporary potentials for this season. He is a track star turned dancer. His father is not convinced yet of his talent. After seeing him dance, that made me incredibly sad. This young man has a future in dance ahead of him.

George Lawrence II

Who I Thought Was Average

Joshua Alexander; Columbia, South Carolina; contemporary. I thought he wasn’t as powerful as I have seen from past male contemporary contestants but he is through to Vegas. Debbie Allen felt like his dancing was “testifying.”

Joshua Alexander

Courtney Kirby; Lutz, Florida; contemporary. Her dancing is average and I’ll probably get hate mail for this. Her personality, her name, and her beauty are all what they are looking for in a contestant. The song choice was great (it sounded like music from The Hunger Games). I’ll need to see more of her dancing to decide. Nigel had a great time with her grandmother, dancer Eva Dean Booth. Sometimes I looked at Courtney and wondered if she was dying on the inside that her grandmother was embarrassing her and/or possibly messing up her audition because the attention was truly on the grandmother. You know how young people are. Her grandmother was delightful and judges certainly enjoyed her. Nigel, however, put Courtney through to choreography. Debbie Allen put her through to Vegas. Mary looked like a deer in the headlights and gave it a great deal of consideration before being handed a ticket to Vegas. Eva asked Nigel if perhaps he should reconsider his decision so as not to look foolish.

Courtney Kirby

The Odd-Ball Lot

Tim Conkel; Atlanta, Georgia; breakdancer. One thing that Tim does not lack is an ego. Initially borderline annoying, he grows on you. After showing the judges what he learned during his 7 full days of ballet training, he sails right through to Vegas versus choreography. Debbie Allen calls him a wolfman.

Tim Conkel

Janelle Issis; Birmingham, Alabama; a belly dancer, I did not get to see because my power was out, but I did catch her during choreography. It did pop in long enough for me to hear she learned this way of dancing at church. Interesting. She and 13 other dancers from day 1 who were not shown are headed to Vegas.

Asher Walker; Glade Hill, Virginia. He wants to be a backup dancer for Justin Bieber. His break dancing was fun and he told a story during the dance, interjecting moves with humor. His All-American look and what he brought to his dancing earned him a ticket to Vegas. He differs from Tim Conkel in that he is more humble, not cocky. While conceit can get you far, if you’ve noticed dancers like that in the past, it eventually got them voted off, so Asher’s humbleness might take him far. However, he is going to need to get through Hell Week in order to get on the show’s top 20. He does have a Kent Boyd of season 7 feel about him.

Asher Walker

Brittany Ornter; Ovideo, Florida; contemporary. Also known as “the chicken lady.” When I saw the chickens roaming free in town, I thought it would funny to have a Chick-Fil-A or a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the backdrop when showing them in a scene. Just proved to me that Florida has some wacky laws (because the chickens have laws to protect them). Brittany reminded me of Jordan Cassanova from Season 8. She is put through to choreography but then on to Vegas.

Brittany Ornter

Damon Bellmon and Deon Lewis: The whole world thought these two ripped off choreography directly from You Tube “Les Twins” because the dances were identical and the judges complimented them on their original choreography. They got hate mail and the ire of the dance world. Indeed this time around, the show ran the interview with Cat Deeley from season 8 auditions where they said they were doing the dance as a tribute to Les Twins. They danced an original choreographed piece. They were sent to choreography. It was a “no” to Deon for Vegas, but a “yes” for Damon.

Damon Bellmon and Deon Lewis

Don’t Know Enough About to Have an Opinion Yet

Jason Alvarez; Maiden, North Carolina: Just from what I saw–my power to my home glitched about here because of the storm–but his dancing was not on the same level as the Dragon House boys. He was sent to choreography and then to Vegas.

Abigail Ruiz, Goose Creek, South Carolina; Calvin Turner, Jr., Las Vegas, Nevada (auditioning in Atlanta, weird); Aubrey Klinger, Chicago, Illinois — All Vegas bound.

Vegas Bound

Audrey Case; Boris Penton; Joshua Alexander; contestant 2193 from Chicago, who had a rough life and had Debbie Allen in tears….

Contestant 2193 from Chicago, Illinois

Contestant 2255 who deals with Tourette syndrome, and who thinks it has improved because of dance…

Contestant 2255 who deals with Tourette syndrome

Contestant 2537 whose mother died when he was young

Contestant 2537 whose mother died when he was very young.

along with Tim Conkel; Jason Alvarez; Daniele Dominguez: Janelle Issis; Courtney Kirby; Asher Walker; George Lawrence, II; Abigail Ruiz; Calvin Turner; Aubrey Klinger; Brittany Ornter; Damon Bellmon.





So You Think You Can Dance — Finale Performance Show

11 08 2011

It has been a wonderful journey with the best group of dancers to ever be picked in the Top 20 of So You Think You Can Dance. Tonight, the four favorites who flitted into our hearts were: Marko, Melanie, Sasha and Tadd. Katie Holmes and Kenny Ortega served as guest judges for this evening (I just LOVE Kenny Ortega).

Final4

The final 4: Marko, Sasha, Melanie, Tadd

Dancers: Melanie and Marko
Song: “I Feel Love”
Artist: Donna Summer
Choreographer: Doriana Sanchez
Style: Disco
Story: None, just high-energy disco.

I was wondering when disco was going to show up. This song was a blast to my past. It was lovely seeing them partner again. Dressed like John Travolta, Marko did a slightly better job than Melanie with a bit more energy into all his movements. While it was danced well and it was fun to watch, there was no emotional investment in it for me and did not bring me back to that golden era. Kenny thought it was electric, sizzling and great. Katie loved it and said it was like watching Saturday Night Fever. Mary Murphy pointed out that the lifts were not great and they went in and out of the style. Nigel agreed with Mary and felt they were uncomfortable in the style and hoped that they do better in their other routines this evening.

Dancers: Sasha and all-star Mark Kanemura
Song: “Raise Your Weapon”
Artist: Deadmau5
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Contemporary
Story: Ode to Sasha from Sonya, that Sasha handles all the struggles in her life with such grace and integrity, fueling her and giving her power. Mark represents the obstacles.

Another emotional dance for Sasha. This dance brought both goosebumps and tears and then a “hell-yah” out of me during the final sequence when she throws her obstacles to the ground (i.e., Mark). What a powerhouse duo in this pairing (Are you ready to join Lady Gaga’s tour, Sasha, with Mark?)! It stung me in all my emotionally vulnerable hotspots. Sasha has had some incredible performances, but this one tops them all. Mark is the perfect example of someone who did not win the show who went on to do fantastic things in the dance world. Like a fine wine, he has gotten better with age. Katie loved it, especially that walk at the end. Mary pulled out her train-whistled woo-hoo for this and called her a champion and a star. Nigel thought Sasha just threw down the gauntlet to the other three contestants.
Before getting to Sasha’s critique, Kenny had glowing things to say to Sonya who was deeply moved by his accolades. Turning to Sasha, he cited her struggles this week–an injury, battling against Melanie–but claimed her “Sasha, Warrior Princess.”

Dancers: Tadd and all-star Joshua Allen
Song: “Hustle Hard” (Traditional)
Artists: Ace Hood
Choreographer: Lil’C
Style: Hip-hop
Story: None, just the hustle.

Lil’C choreographed a very difficult routine. Tadd is the dark horse in this race, but having Joshua dance with him did not help him, like watching a master and his apprentice. Joshua was crouching lower and hitting harder. Tadd made it this far not only because of his dance technique but also his personality. Just looking at Tadd though, this is the best I have seen him dance all season. Mary said his difficulty is the “sweetie-pie” factor, but was able to pull off a hard-hitting hip-hop style. “Hustle Hard” was Tadd’s theme song for this season. Nigel complimented the moves on the knees, but still felt he was too sweet. Kenny thought the pairing was perfect and wants a pair of the red shoes. Katie thought his hustling was terrific and she loved the pairing. The red shoes helped to highlight how fast of a dancer he was.

Dancers: Melanie and all-star Robert Roldan
Song: “Sacrifice”
Artist: Sinead O’Connor
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Style: Contemporary
Story: Unrequited love; in order to save herself, she has to say good-bye.

My goosebumps started halfway through and were at standing straight up on my arm and traveling down my legs by the time the song was over, a lovely rendition of the famous Elton John song. I loved this pairing as well, as each complimented each other. Nigel felt like Sasha threw down the gauntlet and the challenge was accepted. Kenny would push himself to the front of the line to have a chance to work with Melanie. At this point, Cat announced that he would be resurrecting “Dirty Dancing” and got Melanie her first job after SYTYCD. Katie thinks she is a magical dancer and loves how she creates stories. Mary feels like she is in a class of her own and is so proud of her. Melanie feels so blessed for the journey.

Dancers: Sasha and Marko
Song: “Whatever Lola Wants”
Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Choreographer: Spencer Liff
Style: Broadway
Story: A restaurant scene. Marko is the waiter, Sasha an elegant dinner who wants to order something off menu.

Hot and spicy, both Sasha and Marko played their roles well. She looked elegant in her purple gown, showing off her cougaress cavort, going after what appeared to be a younger, geeky waiter, portrayed by Marko. Kenny thought it was fun, and their character conversions were fantastic. He had a few extra words of praise for Sasha about her giving her all for every performance. Katie compared Sasha to the legendary Cyd Charisse and thought Marko was great. Mary did not initially recognize Marko and thought he was perhaps one of the all-stars. She was surprised at what a wonderful actor he is, saying that it is not easy to pull off comedy and dance at the same time. The dance, however, did not wow Nigel. He thought Sasha was a better warrior princess than a vamp. He did not understand Marko’s character at all.

Taking a break in the dance action, Cat showed some interviews that she had with all the contestants. Melanie’s favorite moment was dancing with Neil Haskell (with the launch she did into his arms halfway across the stage). Her closest buddy in the competition is Ricky because he can make anyone smile and was such a fighter regardless of the criticism each week. Out of the four remaining, she feels closest to Marko. She misses her father and knows that he would be very proud of her. She then performed her solo to “Song for Viola” by Peter Bradley Adams. I cried, feeling like she was dancing that for her father.

Cat asked Marko what he was thinking when she read his name as the first one through to the finale. He had closed his eyes and wondered why she was waiting (she was waiting for him to open his eyes). His favorite performance was “Turned to Stone” with Melanie. She asked him what it was like to have his mother in the audience, and he again shared that he was not always the most grateful child growing up. Winning would mean “everything” to him. When he got shot, he was searching for the reasons why he survived and perhaps this show was a vehicle for that. He then performed his solo to “The Fear You Won’t Fall” by Joshua Radin, incorporating all he has learned, growing a great deal since his original audition. Tonight, his father was in the audience for the first time, giving him an extra boost.

Dancers: Sasha and Tadd
Song: “Raindrops”
Artist: Basement Jaxx
Choreographer: Mark Ballas
Style: Cha-cha
Story: None, just fun and sassy.

This was not finale-quality dancing. Both looked uncomfortable in the style. Because of that, they did not have that hot, spicy chemistry. The height difference was an issue for me. Katie completely bypassed saying anything about the dance itself and just complimented them on the journey. I think Katie did not want to be booed. Although agreeing with Katie, Mary had to talk about the dance. It just did not work–the connections, the body positions, missing hand connections, lack of chemistry, although Sasha fared a little bit better than Tadd. Nigel agrees with Mary, saying it was uncomfortable to watch. While Sasha did a bit better, Nigel felt it did not bear well for her either. Kenny said it was too ambitious for the last show and for them to walk it off and come back and blow us all away.

Dancers: Marko and all-star Lauren Froderman
Song: “Shirk”
Artist: Me’Shell Ndegedcello
Choreographer: Tessandra Chavez
Style: Contemporary
Story: Two people drawn to each other who can’t seem to find a way to make it work.

Setting the tone for the routine, Lauren was already in character, shedding tears when the dance started. This was another dance that drew me in emotionally, taking me on a journey of moments of my own life. My goosebumps never lie. Mary thought it was beautiful, provoking honest communication in the dance, feeling his soul. Nigel felt like it was a fabulous performance, redeeming his past dances of the evening. Kenny again complimented the outstanding choreography. He felt this was perfect partnering for him, that their spirits became alive, taking him to a distant place. Whatever Marko was doing in that dance, he needed to continue doing it. Katie also thanked Tessandra for the piece. He thanked Marko for creating these picture moments for her while he danced and deemed him magical (Magical Marko–it works–Cat stop stealing my phrases).

Tadd’s interview and solo were next. He thought and dreamed about being in the finale but cannot believe he is here. He thinks America is connecting to him in his solos. His favorite routine was the vulture dance with Jordan that Travis Wall choreographed. Most nervous performance was the first show when they had to make a first impression. There is web site apparently called: The Official “Keep Your Shirt Off Tadd” Fan Club. He said for some reason people want him to be naked, but Cat points out there is a difference between shirtless and naked. Winning would change his and his family’s lives. Dancing his last solo before voting to “Momma Knows Best” by Jessie J, Tadd showed off why we love him so. It was playful and creative.

Dancers: Tadd and Melanie
Song: “Show Me What You’re Working With”
Artist: Sista Monica
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: A guy cheats on his girlfriend and she catches him in the act. Sexy, naughty with a little dysfunction thrown in.

This dance showcased Tadd much better. Since he was comfortable, the chemistry flowed like river rapids between them. I got sexy, naughty and the dysfunction. It must have been difficult for Melanie to dance that short while with one heel on and one off; I can barely walk that way. The routine was a lot of good fun. The strip-tease of Tadd for his fan-base was a great touch after the comments made in his interview. The routine brought Nigel’s evening to life. He praised Tadd for a job well done, while complimenting Melanie for selling the character before the dancing ever began. Kenny apparently let out a “woo” during the dance. He loved everything about it and felt the choreographer delivered the perfect routine to showcase their strengths during a finale show. Katie felt like it was a breath of fresh air. Mary thought Tadd brought the sexy back and Melanie’s strut was like no other.

In the final interview and solo, Sasha never thought she would make it this far, loving that her sister has been with her the entire journey. Her favorite moment was when Lady Gaga threw her shoe. Several routines stood out to her, but she asked Cat which one she liked and Cat said the routine with Twitch. She talked more about the wonderful routine with Kent Boyd (with the wall), saying she had to go to a very dark place, and she had to put her journey into the dance. Seeing people affected emotionally in response to her dancing meant a great deal to her. Dancing to “Be Be Your Love” by Rachael Yamagata, Sasha also showed the audience the growth attained this season from that of her first audition.

Dancers: Sasha and Melanie
Song: “Heart Asks Pleasure First”
Artist: Anh Trio
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Style: Contemporary
Story: Suppressed housewives in the 1950s, feelings of isolation and loneliness. The two join forces to break free.

Extremely beautiful. Melanie and Sasha are in direct competition with each other, yet they dance and support each other every time they dance together like true professionals. Another moment of chills for me. Kenny thought the picket fences were symbolic of prison bars and the space in the yard the only place where these women could express themselves. It made him feel hopeless and he wanted to rush in and free them. It also made him curious about their paths, where these characters came from and where they were going. Katie loved the message about friendship and the power that two women can give to each other. Mary enjoyed every second of it, enjoying the movement and musicality. Nigel shared with the audience what we did not see–that each of them hugged each other and wished each other luck before the show came back on air. He said it did not matter who won because they would both grace any dance company they would join.

Dancers: Marko and Tadd
Song: “B.O.B.”
Artist: Outkast
Choreographer: Chuck Maldonado
Style: Gumboot stepping (hip-hop)
Story: Form of dance that was used to communicate in the mines of South Africa

A fantastic, high-energy way to close the show. Tadd had the slight edge in this dance, but Marko was not too shabby. The timing was a little off, but I noticed Tadd looking over at Marko at times to try to get them back in sync again. Katie enjoyed the athletic ability in this number, but it also sound like she was holding something back. Mary felt like it was solid gold for her. Nigel pointed out the rhythms were not together in this routine. Then he crushed them by saying he has felt all along a girl would win this season and that hadn’t changed although they stood up well for themselves tonight. Kenny thanked the dancers and the choreographer.

If it was simply based on dancing tonight, it would have to be Melanie, Marko, Sasha and Tadd. If it came down to most improved dancers over the season, it would be Tadd, Sasha, Marko and Melanie since Tadd, the b-boy held his own outside his own style of dance. Then Sasha was finally partnered with someone who brought out the best in her during the all-stars, and Marko and Melanie have remained pretty level throughout the competition. If it is based on the dancing all season it would be a tie between Melanie/Sasha then Marko and Tadd. However, the show is about America’s favorite dancer. Sasha has an overwhelming fan base and it will come down to who voted more, Melanie’s fans or Sasha’s fans. The margin of votes will be very, very close.  I predict Sasha is going to win.  But Nigel is right:  Both Melanie and Sasha will have tremendous careers after this (and I believe Marko and Tadd will, too).

Hilda Clark Bowen (a.k.a. PBMom)

Hilda Bowen (a.k.a. PBMom)





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 6 Performance

4 08 2011

After tomorrow night’s show, we will be down to our final 4 contestants and our season finale show. Last week we said goodbye to our favorite J’s: Jordan and Jess. Each was the consummate professional full of gratitude the journey and for the fans. Even for a brief moment when Jordan looked like she was about to fall apart, she took a deep breath and remained positive and hopeful for her career, a trail both will blaze after the tour.

Top6

2011 So You Think You Can Dance Top 6 --Season 8

Guest judges for this evening were the lovely Christina Applegate, and the loquacious Lil’C. They discussed the stupendous success of National Day Dance on July 30, 2011. Perhaps it needs to be renamed “International Dance Day” as people across the world celebrated dance, including physicists in Switzerland. Although not shown on the show this evening, even Vancouver, BC got into the fun.

Dancers: Melanie and all-star Twitch Boss
Song: “Roman’s Revenge”
Artist: Nicki Minaj featuring Lil Wayne
Choreographers: Napoleon & Tabitha Dumo (aka NappyTabs)
Style: Hip-hop
Story: Little Red Riding Hood with a twist

Melanie did well, but I’ve seen some of the other ladies do a better job with hip-hop. The routine was weird. I might have liked it better if in the end she would have slay the big bad wolf versus tame him, but that is the choreography and not the dancers. I think she might have needed to be lower to the ground. Lil’C felt she got off to a rough start but found her ghetto groove and ascended. Christina agreed with Lil’C. Mary felt she was on fire. Nigel loved the dance as well. He confronted internet allegations that Melanie has never been given a dance out of her style, but he dispelled that quickly, saying she was good at everything. Itsy bitsy problem with that. If they are randomly drawing dance styles out of a hat, and last week the talk on the internet was the biggest it’s been about this issue, and she suddenly gets hip-hop, it doesn’t help the argument that these dances are random. It is, however, one of these no-win situations. You will have a group of people who will believe it and some that will not, and like politics, there is no changing anybody’s mind about it.

Dancers: Sasha and all-star Kent Boyd
Song: “Fool on Me”
Artist: Me’Shell Ndegeocello
Choreographer: Tyce DiOrio
Style: Contemporary
Story: Two people who have hit a wall in their relationship and the emotions you go through when someone hurts you.

During the rehearsal taping about the song, Sasha began to cry. The meaning of the dance runs deep for her and I was sure it would come through in her dance–and it did. I had goosebumps but I lost my breath at the moment of the lift that had her legs upside down on the wall, a great symbolism for how upside-down you can feel when you are hurting inside when someone you love hurts you. You love them, you hate them, you want them stay, you want them to go. All the feelings are taken the n’th level. Sometimes you can bust through that wall and sometimes you cannot. I love when Tyce choreographs dances like this (like the dance he created for his friend who had cancer, danced who beautifully by Ade and Melissa). They have a way of reaching a place deep inside your soul that is universal to everyone. Christina described the difference between technicians of dance and dancers like Sasha who can affect your heart, and thanking her for being so courageous as to share with us whatever it was that hurt her so badly in this life. Mary called her intoxicating and got all choked up about the move of when Kent threw her to the floor, and that it only matters that you get back up. When she said that, I was thinking of Mary’s courageous battle with her thyroid cancer. Nigel also complimented Tyce, as did Mary, at this routine being at his best, as was Sasha. Sasha then won Nigel’s “favorite” dancer something that he ping-pongs between Melanie and Sasha. Lil’C was trying not to cry, having identified personally with the dance with experiences in his own life. He wishes that he could have worked with Sasha this season and called her phenomenal. Oh, and did I mention, first kiss on tonight’s show. The kissing season, season 8.

Dancers: Marko and all-star Janette Manrara
Song: “Zorongo” (Traditional)
Artists: Antonia Gomez, Ely “La Gambita”, Guillermo Basilisco and Paco Pena
Choreographer: Dmitry Chaplin
Style: Paso doble
Story: Marko is the matador and Janette is an activist trying to keep him away from killing the bull. (I laughed).

I didn’t recognize Dmitry with his beard. Has it been that long? You have to been pretty beautiful and passionate to sway a matador from his mission. How could Janette be ignored? I had a problem at first with that story stuck in my head since we are so used to the woman being the bull or the cape, but after a minute, I concentrated on the actual dance and let the story go. After Cat drew comparisons to the matador costume and Mary Murphy’s shoulder pads, she complimented him for being spot-on at the arrogance that was necessary for the dance. She pointed out that he lost his footing from time-to-time, but most of the time, he nailed it. Nigel loved the twirls that mimicked the movement of the matador’s cape (as did Mary). However, Nigel said it left him feeling cold. He was looking for more passion. I think it is difficult to bring a ballroom routine up against a brilliantly danced contemporary piece. It’s like coming back from San Diego Comic Con. You are on this incredible high and then–CRASH–everything around you seems so boring and mundane. Lil’C loved his stoic performance which was necessary to this particular dance. Christina wanted him to drop it down a little (lower in his crotch level), but loved the bravado.

They took a break in the action to listen to messages from home. The love and pride of all the contestants’ families touched my heart and my tear ducts. Then Ricky took the stage to dance his solo to “After Tonight” by Justin Nozuka. It was lovely.

Dancers: Tadd and all-star Ellenore Scott
Song: “The Gulag Orkestar”
Artist: Beirut
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Contemporary?/Jazz?
Story: A period piece where everyone was prim and proper, but once they touch, everything gets thrown out the window and becomes with wild, reckless, lustful.

Sonya Tayeh is the goddess of strange and Ellenore was the perfect all-star to fill that role. I was not feeling the passion that Sonya demands from her dancers coming from Tadd. The spin on the chandelier was reminiscent of Cirque de Soleil. It was an interesting prop. Nigel had no words and said he felt like it needed more time to develop, that he was left “hanging.” (Oh, Nigel, you make me laugh). Lil’C complimented Sonya’s talent of showcasing a dancer’s unique abilities. He felt like Tadd was just going through the movements instead of making them last a lifetime. Christina likes the dirtier side of dance, and complimented Tadd that he is a b-beat pointing his toes and how great is that. Mary felt Tadd was still growing and complimented Sonya’s trust in doing such a dangerous thing with a prop.

Next was Caitlynn’s mom sharing that she one day said she was going to be on this show. Via the internet, Caitlynn’s dad, away on business, shared his pride. Caitlynn then performed her solo to “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Katie Thompson. Afterwards, Caitlynn was crying, moved from the words from her parents, the song, the moment or all the above.

Dancers: Ricky and all-star Jaimie Goodwin
Song: “Inside These Lines”
Artist: Trent Dabbs
Choreographer: Dee Caspary
Style: Contemporary
Story: A couple trying to stay together, but he feels her slipping away so he tries to control her. (I call this The Puppetmaster.)

I noticed that when Ricky was close to Jaimie during the routine, he didn’t extend himself as you would see him do when they were apart. Perhaps he was concentrating on the sticks and not hurting his partner. While the sticks did enhance the routine, you can’t forsake the dance for the prop. At the end of the dance, Jaimie did what I was hoping–she took the sticks and threw them to the ground. Lil’C gave props to him and the props (and Cat Deeley just stole my line, damn). As usual Lil’C had a mouthful, “What a magically, magnificent puppeteer of physically rhythmic artistry you are.” In other words, buckness. Christina said he was a beautiful dancer, but wanted to help him grow and said he does not always dance with the clearest intention, like a push and a pull, like when he reached for Jaimie, it was harder to let her go away from him. That would help take him up another notch, which was great advice. Mary added, “All of that” plus that it was beautiful, free-flowing movement. Nigel loved the story of the dance from Dee. The only advice Nigel had to help Ricky was that he wants him to feel the movement more in his gut because he is so up and high in his dancing.

Tadd’s parents, and his entire Filipino community, are very proud of his accomplishments (and the first story that did not make me cry but smile). His song selection also made me laugh, “We Speak No Americano” by Yolanda B Cool and DCup. Tadd’s solos have always been interesting in that he is a b-boy and he chooses all these songs from eras past that make for a weird and wonderful combination. It has become his signature.

Returning from the break, Sasha’s solo was shown but not before her parents got to boast about their beautiful, bubbly baby girl. I smiled, too, when I saw Sasha picked “Teeth” by Lady Gaga after she received such high praise from Lady Gaga last week (and her shoe!). Again she did a terrific job.

Dancers: Caitlynn and all-star Pasha Kovalev
Song: “Drop It Low (District 78 Remix)”
Artist: Kat DeLuna
Choreographer: Dmitry Chaplin
Style: Samba
Story: None, just sexy, great music and being sexy.

Pasha and Dmitry behind one dance? Wow. Double boiler kind of hot. Was it sexy? YES IT WAS! Was there great music. YES , THERE WAS! And was it really sexy? SIZZLING. At that precise moment, I desperately wished to have use of the communication stones that are used in the show Stargate Universe (where people can swap consciousness with another body–yes, I’m a geek). I wanted to be dancing with Pasha. Be still my heart. Wait, this is about Caitlynn. She did a fabulous job. I have to remind myself she is just a senior in high school (or was). Christina loved it. Mary thought it was great, especially on the reverse samba rolls. Her only criticism were some of her facial expressions. Nigel ad Lil’C had similar advice.

Marko’s mother was very emotional about his journey to the show. Dancing to “Wonderful World” By James Morrison, Marko combined a lot of technique with acrobatics. I always enjoy his solos.

Then Melanie’s mother had a message for her. Instead of talking, she sang; instead of walking, she danced. Melanie chose to dance to “Cracks (Flux Pavilion Remix)” by Freestylers featuring Belle Humble. Some truth rang to me with the name “Belle” and “Humble” to describe Melanie. Her solos have become more complex as she incorporates what she has learned over the weeks into her dance. She is both beautiful and humble.  It was the best solo of the night.

Dancers: Sasha and Ricky
Song: “Schoolin’ Life”
Artist: Beyonce
Choreographer: Kumari Suraj
Style: Waacking
Story: None.

Waacking is a new style of dance to SYTYCD, the origins from Los Angeles in the 1970’s. It’s about the individual and who you are right now in your life. It’s about skill, precision and control. After watching the routine, it does bring fond memories of the 70’s back to me. Sasha was great; Ricky less so. He was too stiff once again. I would have hoped he would have taken to heart the earlier critique and applied it to this dance. Mary never liked this type of dance until Samara “Princess” Lockeroo, who was the first to audition and win to a ticket to Vegas with this type of dance. She felt like Sasha had the edge in the dancing. Both were out of their styles, but neither could take it to Princess Lockeroo’s level. Nigel says when Ricky is thinking about dancing, he does lose a little bit. Then Nigel took a comment that they said to Caitlynn and applied it to Sasha, saying she did not have to act sexy because she is sexy. Oops! Lil’C wishes both of them would have enjoyed it more because he felt they were so focused on the steps and speed. Christina enjoyed it and thought perhaps they could have “whacked it harder.” She’s so funny.

Dancers: Melanie and Tadd
Song: “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story (Away Team Mix)
Artist: Shirley Bassey
Choreographer: Spencer Liff
Style: Broadway/Jazz?
Story: A rehearsal within a rehearsal. Tadd uses Melanie’s crush on him to bring out the best dance in her, but she discovers her feelings are not reciprocated.

They paired well together. It was a lovely dance that did not affect me on any emotional level but just was fun to watch. The use of the mirror where Melanie’s hands touched it and it got these weird distortions to it made me think, yes, just like the relationship between this dancer in the dance and the choreographer in the dance, played by Tadd. The relationship is not what it seems to be to Melanie’s character. I look for meaning sometimes that may or may not be in subtle things. Lots of prop use tonight. Cat compared it to “Black Swan” (which I have not seen yet). Nigel complimented Melanie on her solo as the best solo across all the seasons. She is not only the original beast, but a great actress and a great dancer. She now stole Sasha’s earlier place of the evening and is now Nigel’s favorite again. I think if SYTYCD could have a tie, he would be happy having the two of them there. To Tadd he said, “…to say you didn’t suck is a compliment.” He pointed out the things he did well in the routine. Lil’C says Melanie has a quiet fire and Melanie is EXTREMELY buck. Lil’C also wanted to give accolades to her solo performance that it was so beefy. And as an afterthought, he told Tadd he was growing by leaps and bounds and to continue doing so. Christina also commented on her solo, saying they were all banging on the table. She described Melanie’s performance as being better than that of Donna McKechnie in “A Chorus Line.” Tadd continues to surprise Christina with his technique since he is a b-boy. Mary says America has fallen in love with them and they are brilliant in their styles. She got all choked up that she was able to be here for this wonderful season to see it.

Dancers: Caitlynn and Marko
Song: “Heavy in Your Arms”
Artist: Florence and the Machine
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Jazz
Story: Marko is a controlling, overbearing man and Caitlynn is trying to break free.

Perfect song to close the show. This was dynamite and gave me goosebumps. It was much better than the Puppeteer routine performed by Ricky. My breaths felt heavy of the weight of this relationship. The judges were standing in ovation of their performance. Lil’C thought this was double-hashtag buck (#buck #buck or ##buck)? “Reckless and convicted, it was murderous,” according to Lil’C. Translation: Lil’C loved it. Christina makes Marko join the beasts. Christina believes that was Caitlynn’s moment (maybe, but she had one with Mitchell, too). Mary thought it was Caitlynn’s best routines ever. She brought the grit to it and brought it to another level. Marko is Mary’s favorite dancer (I bet Mary and Nigel have a friendly bet going on the side as to who is going to win). Nigel thought this routine redeemed Sonya from her earlier Cirque de Soleil choreography. Regarding Caitlynn, she came of age today, he felt. She is a brilliant dancer. Marko is sensation. Cat added, “But you’re very pretty, too” to Marko.

Common sense would dictate that Marko, Melanie, and Sasha will be in the top 4. Up in the air is whether Tadd or Ricky gets into the final 4.  Or we could use any number of science-fiction shows and their technologies to merge Ricky and Tadd into 1 dancer to get Radd or Ticky so we don’t have to make up our minds.  Of course, it would be temporary….unless…well, they are wearing a red shirt that evening.  What do you say?

Stay tuned tomorrow about more news regarding Miranda’s and Jordan’s fan clubs and what they are doing to show them their love.