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 — Season 9 — Top 20

28 06 2012

So You Think You Can Dance — Season 9 — Top 20 Revealed and Performance Show

What a great night to not only celebrate the 200th episode of So You Think You Can Dance, but to also welcome back the magnificent Mia Michaels. Cat Deeley looked particularly stunning this evening as she opened the show. Nigel Lythgoe announced that there would be two winners this season: One from the girls and one from the guys. On the judges panel this evening where our regulars, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, and guest judge is adorkable Zooey Deschanel from Fox’s hit show “New Girl.

Learning Their Fate — Whittling down 35 to the Top 20

People who are in: The first 3 people receiving a yes from the judges were Alexa Alexander, George Lawrence II and Will Thomas. Amber Jackson who had auditioned in season 6, got to the Green Mile, did not make it, auditioned again, and did not even get that far, and said she would not audition again was through. She had grown a great deal emotionally and came back. Perseverance and a positive attitude paid off well for her. After a fake out that made Lindsay think she was out, Witney Carson and friend Lindsay Arnold were both in. Nick Bloxson-Carson also won a spot. Daniel Baker, who had left his job in the San Francisco Ballet and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp who left his job in New York City, both were in. Eliana Girard in her blue-suede shoes and bubbly personality was also on the show. Both Tiffany Maher and Audrey Case went in together. Debbie Allen said she was almost invisible but then she pushed her way to the front. As Tiffany receives a yes, Audrey looks worried. Adam Shankman breaks the news that she made it as well. She cannot believe it and asks, “Wait….are you sure?” She goes and calls her mom. Janelle Issis also was in disbelief as Adam welcomed her into the top 20. Adam said, “Honey, OWN this. You’re the first belly dancer in the top 20.” Janelle is a bit accident prone. She smacked her nose going back through the door to the waiting area and was ill this evening and told not to dance in the performance show. Mary Murphy did a silly version of Simon Says with Ryan-Gosling-look-alike Matthew Kazmierczak with which he readily complied and then received a yes. Dareian Kujawa told the panel he was working on his feet positioning, but they are like brutes. Lil’C tells him to keep working on that because he is in to the top 20. Janaya French moved to Los Angeles after she Vegas week and has had some highs and lows. She is through. After telling the last two girls that they were looking for star quality this year, Tyce Diorio  informed Amelia Lowe she was put through as the final female contestant.  Mary was telling Cole Horibe about hills and valleys in a dancer’s life and compliments him on his uniqueness. She sees no valleys for him–he is put through to the top 20. Namaste, Cole. Stepper Brandon Mitchell joined the top 20. Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer, who struggled with choreography in Vegas, but always had a great attitude, showed an ability to adapt quickly, and has that special “it” factor. Not only does he radiate this wonderful energy, but he has quite the fan base in America. Even though his dancing might not be up to par with some of the others, his personality will take him far. Nigel commented that he has “never seen anybody like Cyrus in my entire life.”

People who are out: I was surprised by the no given to Megan Branch. She was really good, but they are looking for variety. Abigail Ruz, Kaitlynn Edgar, Katie Muth, and Rebecca Hart were encouraged to come back next year. Sadly, Joshua Alexander was a no this season. No one can really know if the trip to the emergency room that stopped him from performing his final solo became a factor. They insisted Joshua return next season and I hope he does as well. He is a tremendous dancer. They also passed this year on Blake Zelesnikar, Jasmine Mason, and Daniel Kermidas. Jill Johnson, who went into the judges’ room together with Amelia Lowe, was sent home. Tappers did not fare well this season, sending Aaron Turner and Zack Everheart home. Going into the judges’ room with Brandon Mitchell was Devon McCullough. Adam said they would see Devon next year. With Cyrus in, that meant that Feliciano Turk, who had wonderful moments in Vegas, was out.

Dance #1


Dancers: Alexa, George, Will, Amber
Song: “We Found Love (BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge)” by JessieJ
Choreographer: Tyce Diorio

My thoughts: They had great expression, reach, lines, timing, partnering. They blended and complimented each other with a very fluid flow. I got goosebumps (and if you haven’t read my blog before, my goosebumps never lie) towards the end.

The Judges: Nigel gave constructive criticism to Will about keeping up with the shorter dancers. He had encouraging words for Alexa and Amber. To George, Nigel said that if every light in the studio went out, he would still shine. Mary complimented Will’s partnering skills. She complimented Alexa on dealing with her demons. George’s leaps were phenomenal and Amber shed her emotional baggage. Zooey complimented the team work; she could not wait to see more.

Dance #2


Dancers: Witney, Lindsay and Nick
Song: “Dance Again” by Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison

My thoughts: It had great energy and great partnering. It didn’t floor me (sorry).

The judges: Mary gave a “woo” that sounded like the train was still in the station and not the hot tamale train that was moving. Zooey said the girls looked like twins and were incredible. Nick kept up with them as well.

Dance #3


Dancers: Daniel, Chehon, and Eliana
Song: “Romantic Inclinations/Like a Shot/Fury” by P. Mottram/S. Everitt/G Shadid, T. Marberger
Choreographer: Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden

My thoughts: Goosebumps, but not the entire song. It looked like at times the boys were flinching when they got too close to Eliana, and then when the judges were commenting, it was apparent that the costume was inflicting wounds on them. Boo to the costuming department on that one.

The judges: Nigel commented the boys on their bravery at leaving paying jobs to come to the show. He also complimented Eliana on her classical skills. Mary called Eliana a ballet warrior. Mary went from “wow” or “woo” in her hot-tamale-train voice but her train whistle did not sound like it was quite fully on the train.

Dance #4


Dancers: Audrey and Tiffany (Janelle was out per doctor’s orders)
Song: “Sail” by AWOLNATION
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh (assisted by Season 8 winner Melanie Moore)

My thoughts: Audrey and Tiffany had great timing, wonderful warrior spirit and great team work. It did not give me the goosebumps though.

The judges: Zooey said they made an amazing, great pair. The choreography was incredible. Tiffany was very strong and Audrey was graceful, which made for a good pairing. Nigel said that they looked like Pebbles (of the Flintstones) dancing.

Dance #5


Dancers: Dareian, Amelia, Janaya, and Matthew
Song: “Modern Drift” by Efterklang
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey

My thoughts: My eyes were fixed on Amelia. She reminded me of my favorite from last season, Melanie Moore, especially in the jump into Dareian’s arms.

The judges: Zooey thought it was delicate and beautiful, like watching a painting move. Amelia shines like she irradiates light. Mary gave accolades to Stacy Tookey for the routine. She said Dareian had great strength, power and partnering. Amelia was fabulous. Janaya was not on their radar at first, but she is “now out of that radar.” I think Mary meant to say she was now ON their radar. Mary still loves Matthew.

Dance #6


Dancers: Brandon, Cole, Cyrus
Song: “Resolve” by Nathan Lanier
Choreographer: Christopher Scott (and Marko Germar said on Twitter he assisted in this routine)

My thoughts: I loved the baseball voiceover using their real names. Very clever, very inventive. It was a fantastic idea for a routine especially with the baseball all-stars game coming up on Fox. Christopher Scott did a wonderful job highlight each one of their strengths but blended with perfection. I did not get chills but I enjoyed it immensely.

The judges: Cat Deeley said she had the first chills of the season (I know she is not a judge but I love her as a host). Nigel commented that in front of them was a stepper, an animator and a martial artist and that they complimented each other, and complimented Christopher for highlighting each one of their strengths. Mary said they “hit it out of the ballpark with that one.”

Dance #7


Dancers: The girls
Song: “Where The Light Gets In” by Sennen
Choreographer: Travis Wall
Story: The door is the gateway to the afterlife.

My thoughts: Travis Wall’s choreography always seems to elicit a deep emotional response from me, much like Mia Michaels. It was like watching angels dancing on the plane of existence between the two worlds. I got goosebumps about halfway in and had tears in my eyes by the end of the routine.

The judges: Nigel said it was like frieze on a Greek vase and complimented Travis on his growth since being a contestant on SYTYCD. Zooey said it was a beautiful routine for beautiful girls. Cat mentioned the word “ethereal.”

Dance #8


Dancers: The boys
Song: “Precognition (Steed Lord Machine Mix)” by Steed Lord
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Story: They had to fight to win on the show. During the footage of learning the routine, she said having this group is like releasing the wolves to the masses (and I instantly pictured “Twilight”). She wants them to be exposed physically to expose the inner man. Brandon was comfortable with the male-male partnering ’cause he “likes the ladies.”

My thoughts: Each group of guys got to show their strengths but it did not illicit an emotional response from me like the girls did. I definitely did not like the high-waisted costumes. The guys looked very uncomfortable in them.

The judges: Nigel does not like the pants either (called them maternity pants). He chuckles at Will because he is not as buff as the other guys. The routine was athletic, gymnastic and strong, and the boys had to be that way now. Mary enjoyed George’s assisted lift. She loved the routine and thought the guys were great. Zooey would love to join in with them, and the boys were encouraging her to come up and do so. She thought it was all fantastic.

Dance #9


Dancers:
The top 20
Song:
“Eyes (Coachella Live 2012 Version)” by Kaskade
Choreographer:
MIA MICHAELS IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My thoughts: I love Mia and have missed her being on the show. I got goosebumps when they moved their sunglasses off their eyes onto their heads right at the part of the show that said, “look into my eyes.” Eyes are the window into a person’s soul. The choreography keeps building throughout the entire song. I had goosebumps the entire song. And everyone stepped up.

The judges: Nigel kept it short and sweet, “Welcome home momma; you’ve been missed.”

It was a phenomenal ending to a terrific beginning for the journey of season 9’s top 20. They take a week off for our United States July 4th birthday, and will be back on July 11th.

My Early Favorites (in no particular order and I reserve the right to change my mind at any time)


Guys: Cole Horibe, Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer, Daniel Baker, George Lawrence II, Dareian Kujawa
Girls: Amelia Lowe, Janelle Issis, Eliana Gerard, Amber Jackson, Alexa Anderson

Who are yours?

National Dance Day

The third-annual National Dance Day will take place on Saturday, July 28. There is a hip-hop master class with Lauren Gottlieb, Lauren Froderman, and Brandon Bryant video and a Zumba fitness video for people of all levels with Kass Martin, Gina Grant and SYTYCD All-Stars Allison Holker and Ade Obayomi. That Saturday evening, there will be a Dizzy Feet Foundation Gala at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Music Center. Desmond Richardson will be performing as will Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theater, LXD, and the All-Stars from SYTYCD (past and present). Click on the logos below to learn more.





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 8 Performance

28 07 2011

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

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

Top8

The Top 8 Perform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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