So You Think You Can Dance — Top 16 Performance Show

30 06 2011

Saying goodbye to the talents of Iveta, Missy, Nick and Wadi last week was difficult. There is a written guarantee it will not get any easier.

Our judges for this evening are permanent judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, rotating judge Lil’C, and guest judge Kristen Chenoweth of Broadway fame (and Glee!). Lil’C has been off maintaining his “buckness” and is producing some rap music. Tonight in addition to the couples’ performance, there will be two group numbers which will be taken into consideration on the night of elimination.

Tyce DiOrio choreographed the first group number for the evening with dancers Chris, Clarice, Marko, Miranda, Mitchell, Ryan, Sasha and Tadd. Using props brings the dance up a notch in the degree of difficulty. The song was “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles. Tyce captures the strength of the girls without diminishing the talents of the guys. It was a fun routine.

The stories tonight are about the dancers’ first stage experience. Sasha was a tomboy always playing sports. Her first performance was as a frog in Thumbelina and her experience turned her off to frogs for the rest of her life. Alexander loved bow-ties. A tribute to the Lion King was his first dance at his performance at his birthday party. Caitlynn was also a tomboy who played in dirt. Her first performance was the “Duck Dance.” When Mitchell was a child, he was a ham for the camera. He began dancing at age 16. Miranda’s first dance was a tap dance and she was not camera shy. Robert enjoyed taking on the role of other characters growing up, especially Michael Jackson. Realizing her stage potential early in life, Melanie took up dancing after her sister did. Her first stage performance was that of Little Bo Peep. Marko was a self-described “brat” until he started dance class at which point he calmed down. His first dance contested started later in his childhood, at age 10. Ashley considers herself to be shy until you get to know her. Her first dance on stage was at the age of 3. Reciting poetry was Chris‘ first stage performance. Clarice grew up performing everywhere she could no matter where it was. Her first stage performance was at age 2-1/2. Jess thinks he was a crazy kid. During his first stage performance, instead of doing the steps, he would wave to his mother. Ricky had been dancing throughout his childhood, but has bad memories of his first time on stage, performing his friend’s choreography instead of his own. Ryan was put in dance classes to help her through her shyness. Her first stage performance was at age 4. Jordan also described herself as a “crazy kid.” Her first performance was in the 1st grade and it was then her parents realized they needed to take her to dance classes. Tadd considered himself to be a huge nerd growing up. His first dancing in public took place in cultural dances of Filipino culture.

Dancers: Sasha & Alexander
Song: “Belong” by Cary Brothers
Choreographer: Dee Caspary
Style: Contemporary
Dance Story: A love story. Sasha has been locked away for a long time and will remind Alexander how special their relationship was. The piano is the center and it represents the keys to his heart.

I am not sure why they are getting lucky enough to pick contemporary out of the hat each week. Granted, the performance was stellar. It was a great way to open the show. The lines of each dancer are beautiful. The height of Alexander’s jumps is wonderful. I saw Sasha dance during the Adam Lambert tour, and I can see how much she has already grown as a dancer. Both dancers throw their souls into the song. For a moment, at opposite ends of the piano, you can feel the moment that there is still some distance that needs to be bridged which gets back to the prop of the piano. Even when Sasha disappears into the piano, we can see her convey the emotional depth and connection to her partner Alexander. It was well received by all the judges as well as the audience. I do agree with Nigel’s comment that there is a disconnect between Alexander and the viewers. Perhaps it is the facial expressions. After that performance, they will be safe.

Dancers: Caitlynn & Mitchell
Song: “Put it In A Love Song” by Alicia Keys
Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereaux
Style: Samba, hot and spicy and sexy.
Story: The voice of the samba has to come out of the hips.

The Foxtrot notoriously puts the couple in the bottom. It is unfair, but that is how it is. Caitlynn and Mitchell danced it technically very well. Mitchell danced with great strength. For the first time tonight, Kristen told the people to “SHUT THAT DOOR.”

Dancers: Miranda & Robert
Song: “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If You Ain’t Got That Swing), from the 1981 soundtrack of Sophisticated Ladies
Choreographer: Tyce DiOrio
Style: Broadway
Story: Miranda is an upper class working girl & Robert is a groovy cat who loves his music.

Tyce has a great way to incorporate the strengths of a dancer into a routine. It starts out slow and sultry, highlighting Miranda’s beautiful lines and extensions. Going into a faster tempo, helped Robert. Both played their roles in Tyce’s story well and had great partnering. The judges loved it. I enjoy Lil’C making up words like “metamorphosizing.”

Dancers: Melanie & Marko
Song: “I Got You” by Leona Lewis
Choreographers: Tabitha and Napoleon
Style: Lyrical Hip-Hop
Story: They are best friends. Marko was about to get married but was left at the altar. Halfway through the dance, he realizes that the woman he should be with forever is Melanie.

The description of the dance gave me goose bumps. I’m a sucker for all things beautiful and romantic. Melanie and Marko are the definite favorite of the competition thus far. I predict we will see them in the final 2. Once again, the dance moved me with emotion, long before their kiss. The only thing that stood out as a nonchoreographed event was I think there was a pause because of the way Melanie landed after a lift before they moved forward with the dance shortly after the kiss (might have knocked me off balance as well!). After the dance Tabitha and Napoleon shared a moment in the audience where they looked into each other’s eyes with the “you are my soul mate” look and shared a quick kiss. Nigel proclaimed them as the couple to beat. When Mary was sharing her thoughts, Nigel leaned over and gave her a big kiss which Cat thought was gross because it reminded her of watching her parents. Then Mary gave Kristen a kiss on the cheek. Yes, wait, there is even MORE kissing. Kristen turns and kisses Lil’C. A dazed Lil’C rises from his seat and then Nigel goes over and hugs and kisses Lil’C. This is a LOT of fun. Then in the audience, Jean-Marc Genereaux kisses Tabitha. Then Marko gets into the fun and tries to kiss Cat. That is just the kissing that got on camera.

It was not the best segue ever written with Cat’s announcement that they were going from dances and smoothing to the announcement of the next group number while Mary Murphy laughs at the judges’ table.

Dancers: Ashley & Chris
Song: “Lights Go Down (District 78 Remix)” by Telepathe
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Jazz
Story: About the two sides of yourself. Inspired by Beetlejuice. Basically half human-half zombie.

I would hate having to perform after Marko and Melanie. But Sonya is a fierce choreographer, so I have high hopes. It also goes back to the first comment I made that in this season, it might come down to the choreographer since all the dancers are technically great. I feel disconnected in this song which I guess is the point (having two sides). It does not hit me in any emotional place, whether that be relating to the story, or just enjoying the fun of the dance. Technically it was very good, but whether it was the choreography that did not grab me or the emotions of the dance not coming across through Ashley and Chris I don’t know. The judges have similar comments. Mary and Kristen had some words of encouragement about how far they had come and how technically good it was. I think they will be in the bottom 3.

Dancers: Clarice & Jess
Song: “Fly Me To The Moon” Frank Sinatra
Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereaux
Style: Foxtrot
Story: A singer who instead of singing, goes into the audience to dance.

Visually, it was quite beautiful. I am not a professional dancer so I don’t know if the feet work was correct or the hand placement was accurate. Clarice looked stunning. Jess looked quite dapper. I worry for them because the younger crowd will think this is a boring dance. Mary, the ballroom expert, thought it was perfect. It was Kristen’s favorite performance of the night and compared them to Fred and Ginger, or Gene Kelly. Lil’C and Nigel loved this, too. I hope that the judges’ comments made people up the phone and vote.

Dancers: Ryan & Ricky
Song: “With Every Heartbeat” by Robyn
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Style: Contemporary
Story: About a couple in love and it’s ending, but we don’t know why. It’s the story about the fight to let go.

The premise gave me chills. The difficulty of the dance was accentuated with the use of a long ribbon tied between them. One wrong move and they could try or be injured. I was glad that Ryan did not do a lot of smiling in this piece because in the previous dances it was a distraction. There was a great deal of emotion coming from both Ryan and Ricky. Lil’C also claims that they are a power couple. Sonya looks like she is about to cry from the compliment Lil’C gave her. Nigel explains further that he understood that Sonya created this dance because of her father; Ricky used similar imagery to get into the character of the piece.

Dancers: Jordan & Tadd
Song: “Memories” by David Guetta, featuring Kid Cud
Choreographers: Tabitha and Napoleon
Style: Hip-Hop
Story: A college student after a wild night out.

It was surprising to see in the rehearsals how uncomfortable Jordan is, given the performances she likes to give and wanting to be part of the Pussycat Dolls. It was nice to see a different side of her. During her interview, she looks like she was blushing. What an interesting dichotomy. Tadd was very sexy emerging from the covers, which elicited a “woo” from the girls in the audience; I imagine none of them thought he was a nerd now. Jordan and Tadd did a fabulous job. It was my second favorite routine of the night. All the right emotions of what people go through waking up to a stranger in their bed was conveyed. But most of all, it was a BLAST. I love NappyTabs’ choreography.

The evening ends with the second group number with Alexander, Ashley, Caitlynn, Jess, Jordan, Melanie, Ricky, and Robert. Choreographed by Dee Caspary, this contemporary dance is set to a story of the women of a medieval town wanting to poison the men, danced to the song “Poison and Wine” by The Civil Wars. It was a great finish to a remarkable evening.

Who are your top choices? What were your favorite routines? Who do you think will be going home Thursday night?





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 20 Elimination

18 06 2011

As the minutes ticked down on Thursday night on “So You Think You Can Dance,” my nails were getting shorter. I went from disliking Nigel to loving Nigel in a matter of a minute. Was he dragging out the drama of an impossible decision or was it truly too tough to call? I have felt that suspense at the finale but never on decision night after the first week’s competition. I can only imagine what the nerves must have been like for the contestants.

Dancing to Sonya Tayeh’s choreographed routine to the song “XR2” by MIA, the group looked like futuristic military ninjas. Nigel announces that National Dance Day will be July 30, 2011. There will be three levels of dance routines. He encourages everyone to get out there and organize flash mobs for charity to celebrate dance.

Group dance

Group dance

The first group is called to the stage. In this group are Melanie and Marko, Missy and Wadi, and Iveta and Nick. It was pretty safe to say Melanie and Marko were safe after the Travis Wall routine. Would Iveta and Nick break the quickstep curse? All three couples are safe.

Mitchell was cleared to dance his solo later on the show after having an injury prevented him from performing on Wednesday night. I worried for him. If he was sent home, I hoped they would allow him a pass to Vegas next year.

The second group was called to the stage: Ashley and Chris, Jordan and Tadd. I predicted Jordan and Tadd would be in the bottom three couples for the simple fact that they went first, all this amazing choreography followed with other stellar performances. People have short attention spans. In part two of this group were Caitlynn (who danced with Robert Roldan instead of Mitchell), and Jess and Clarice. The next couple in the bottom three was Jess and Clarice. I think the challenge there is that many young people are voting and they don’t understand Broadway or ballroom dancing like the waltz, etc. Contemporary, hip-hop, krump, and dances along those lines sway those crowds.

Time to take a break with a performance of “Lose Control” by Keri Hilson.

Ryan and Ricky, in the next group, are safe, leaving Miranda and Robert, and Sasha and Alexander. The final couple dancing for their lives would be Miranda and Robert, totaling 7 dancers.

The Gopak was attempted in a previous season of SYTYCD with disastrous results. Tonight to perform how it SHOULD look was Gennadi Saveliev, formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet and co-founder of Youth America Grand Prix, the largest scholarship program for ballet dancers. It was beautiful.

Mitchell was up first with his solo. He reminded us who he was as a dancer and why he made it through during Vegas week. It was too soon for him to go home. Up until this season of SYTYCD, it was pretty easy to pick who was the weakest contestant sometimes up to the top 12. Then it was Jordan’s turn, followed by Tadd and Clarice. After a commercial break, Jess, Miranda and finally Robert perform their solos. I found it just as difficult as the judges, but my choices would have to be Clarice and Robert based on the solos only comparing them to the others in the group.

Lady Gaga’s video for “The Edge of Glory” debuted. I kept waiting for something outrageous to occur, but the video was cut off by a commercial. With no accompanying dancers either, I thought the video was the new victim of the economy. The live performance of this song at the American Idol finale was better (at least what I saw as a home viewer).

After coming back, it was announced that Clarence Clemons who played the saxophone in the Lady Gaga’s video suffered a stroke. Clarence was playing the sax at the American Idol finale. Shocking news. The judges asked Mitchell and Robert to dance again. I felt there was hope for Mitchell. Still not being able to make a decision, they call the girls out one-by-one and give them a critique. Then he makes the girls wait. Nigel calls the guys out and gives them a critique. The decision is: NO ONE LEAVES. A first in SYTYCD history. While that is great news for this week, 4 people will leave next week. If trying to pick out 2 to send home, how will it even be possible to pick out 4? Tune in to find out. See if history is made again.





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 20 Performance

16 06 2011

Tonight’s performance proved that season 8 has the most collectively talented group of dancers out of all the previous seasons. What sets them apart this year may actually be the choreography rather than the execution.

Judging this evening were Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and a guest judge, Megan Mullally. What? Why? Although I appreciated her humility about her not being an expert, I prefer real choreographers. I’ll be interested to see what kind of feedback she is able to give the contestants.

In order to get to know the contestants better, they are going to have 8 seconds to share some insights about themselves.

Birthday girl, Jordan, is paired with Tadd for an African jazz routine choreographed by Sean Cheesman. Jordan is 19 today. She wants to be a Pussycat Doll. But can you sing, Jordan? The howling like a dog does not sell me on an American Idol title, although she did make me laugh. Jordan loves food and her favorite color is blue. Tadd is 25. He played a dancing taco in a movie. He almost died doing Bollywood (one of my favorite dances). When he was a kid, he thought he was Caucasian. He cannot ride a bike. And world peace. Endearing. He is adorable. Dancing to the song, “Riding the Waves” by Afro Celt Sound System, it was a nice start to the show. Did it feel like a dance about lava? Yes. There were a few spots where their movements were not synchronized (jumping up in the air together, for example), but considering Tadd is a b-boy, he did a great job. This is jazz so it plays to Jordan’s strengths. I liked the little b-boy moves that Sean put into the dance for Tadd to showcase his strengths, too.

Jordan and Tadd

Jordan and Tadd

Sasha is 23 and is already forgetting her age (wait until she is my age). Her favorite color is purple. Alexander, her partner this week, age 20, lives in California, and speaks Spanish. With both of their backgrounds being contemporary, they were relieved to see their style for this week was a contemporary style from the immensely talented Travis Wall to the song, “Stupid” by Sarah McLachlan. Travis always has an amazing story to go with his dances. Poor Alexander got beat up during rehearsals because of the nature of the choreography. The song has some excellent rhythms that Travis capitalizes upon in his interpretative dance. Sasha and Alexander did him proud. I found myself breathing and moving to the deep beats. I was completely mesmerized by this routine. At this point, this is my favorite out of the two routines presented.

Sasha and Alexander

Sasha and Alexander

Clarice is 19 and her eyes “change colors.” She tends to be shy but opens up after you get to know her. Hailing from New Jersey, Jess, her partner, is 18. He loves Broadway and to sing and dance (I would hope so). He likes to make weird noises. Somehow I do not think these dance choices are by chance anymore as they get a Broadway routine, Jess’ strength. Our resident Broadway choreographer, Tyce DiOrio, welcomes them to rehearsal. I think Jess liked the butt slapping a little bit too much, but it makes him endearing. That is part of what makes people vote. They dance to Liza Minnelli’s “Me and My Baby.” It was an upbeat, fun routine. Tyce is very pleased as well. When Nigel praises him, Jess looks like he is going to cry. (If you remember back, Nigel had said something negatively about his arrogance during the auditions).

Jess and Clarice

Jess and Clarice

Nineteen-year-old Ryan talks very fast. She is a Sagittarius who loves Law & Order: SVU and Mexican food. Ricky, her partner, was originally born in Miami and moved to Tampa when he was 15. He loves cheer music. These two contemporary dancers get lyrical hip-hop which is pretty close to contemporary. Think Mark & Chelsie’s routine to “Bleeding Love” in season 4, which is one of my favorites. Christopher Scott choreographs the story here which is important. The characters are in love, but the female is “gone,” and it’s driving the male character slowly insane. When I hear a character is “gone” I immediately think “dead.” The song chosen was “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Lighthouse Family. Ryan did a great job at the hip-hop movements. It is crazy that a simple facial expression could throw off a routine that was meant to be a sensual powerhouse. Ryan explained her interpretation of the dance. However, the lyrics of the song should have dictated her facial expression. This is about there being NO sunshine, but Ryan was beaming full of it. Ricky was quick-witted with his comment about leaving Ryan for Cat. If you are going to leave the beautiful Ryan for some reason, that would be a good one.

Ricky and Ryan

Ricky and Ryan

Small-town girl Caitlynn is 18 and a senior in high school but has her first-year of college done (AP classes, I imagine). She loves the color green and Disney movies. She is partnered with Mitchell who injured his arm during rehearsal and will not be able to dance this evening. (A shout-out to Mitchell who follows me on Twitter–Get better soon.) You could see how visibly upset he was in the audience and I felt so bad for him. In his 8 seconds to get to know him better, we find out he is allergic to onions (watch your back). He loves chocolate and childhood movies. I would suggest the movies, “UP” and “How To Train Your Dragon” while he recuperates. His favorite color is orange. They were dancing a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine celebrating fearlessness in the warrior spirit. Robert Roldan from season 7 steps in for Mitchell. The song is “In For the Kill” by La Roux. The moves are complicated, as I would expect from Sonya, with a lot of shoulder moves. Caitlynn’s moves WERE fearless and made warrior mother spirit Sonya proud.

Caitlynn and substitute partner Robert

Caitlynn and substitute partner Robert

Miranda is from Pittsburgh. Don’t worry, Miranda–I still need a nightlight, too and I’m much older than you. She likes spicy food. Robert (Woo-Man) gets to be her partner. He is from Brooklyn (where I was born). He loves to cook, play video games, wrestling, dogs and cats. They get a Latin dance and Jason Gilkison has a jive for them. Huh? How is a jive a Latin dance? I am a little worried that they are trying to make Robert like Twitch, especially with the signature glasses. Twitch was an original. The song is “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars. It was fast and fun. Robert’s feet are flat instead of pointed. They pretty much stay together with the music (that is difficult to do with such a fast song with fast moves). Afterwards, Robert works the crowd. Mary felt that Robert stole the show tonight. Nigel cautioned him that his “woo” could endear him or make him annoying.

Miranda and Robert

Miranda and Robert

Missy likes yoga, lipstick, long walks, eating, her family and talking in a Jamaican accent. She would like to marry an Australian (perhaps the show “Outback Jack” will be back someday). Wadi, coincidentally, was born in Jamaica. He is 24 years old and loves the Japanese culture. They got the jazz dance card with Sean Cheesman. Pandora’s Box is being opened and sexy, evil demon clones of you get revealed. The first prop of the season is brought out–the box. “Judas” by Lady Gaga is the song. Some of the box work is not synchronized, but it is difficult to do that when you can’t see your partner. I felt like there was some holding back. They could have gone absolutely nuts to make this crazy sensual, but as a viewer, I felt a wall up. It looked like they were thinking too much about the dance. The jumping skills of Wadi worked well here. This was Wadi’s first time ever in his life partnering with someone. Given that, I’ll give them a bit of a pass on the routine.

Missy and Wadi

Missy and Wadi

Melanie is from Georgia and likes chocolate chip cookies. She collects nail polish. Interesting tidbit is that she used to suffer from narcolepsy and had to wear a helmet. She wants to be on Ellen’s show. Marko will be Melanie’s partner. He is from Guam. He loves to eat. He reassures us that his voice is his; he is not sick or has a sore throat. Once again, they get the not-random choice of contemporary with Travis Wall. It is “Night at the Museum” with a twist: The male dancer wants to become one statue with the female statue. The song is “Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson. This is my favorite dance of the night. It moves me emotionally and gives me goosebumps. Nigel goes so far as to say it might be the first Emmy-nominated routine of this season. About this time, Travis Wall began trending on Twitter. Mary holds back her tears. Nigel calls Melanie the queen bee of the beasts.

Melanie and Marko

Melanie and Marko

Next up is Ashley. She loves food and the color magenta. She is paired with hip-hop dancer Chris who was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He is one of seven children. Chris likes ice cream, biking, movies and going out with friends. Their routine will be hip-hop, choreographed by Christopher Scott, danced to the song, “Forget You“, by Cee Lo Green. The story is that the couple has been cheating on each other and find out at the same time about the other’s infidelity. Apparently this hits close to home for Chris (who would cheat on him?). The lyrics of this song does not fit this story. The routine is cute, but it lacks synchronicity and better hip-hop moves were coming from Ashley.

Ashley and Chris

Ashley and Chris

The last dance of the night pairs up Nick and Iveta. That was a good pairing. Iveta is intimidating with her ballroom championships in 10 different styles. Iveta is 30 and lives in New York City. She is originally from Lithuania. She wants a pet monkey and she is hot for dance. Nick plays with the camera and talks really slowly for his 8 seconds. He’s just fun. They are dancing ballroom and they act surprised. Doing the quick step, the kiss of death on this show, is Jason Gilkison. They dance to one of my childhood favorites, “Ballroom Blitz” by Sweet, which is fitting considering poor Nick just went through Ballroom Boot Camp, and the song has his name in it at the beginning. I loved it. It was a great way to close the show. Although we won’t know until Thursday night, I think the curse of the quick step has been broken.

Iveta and Nick

Iveta and Nick

To sum-up, my favorite routine of the night was Melanie and Marko. But who will be in the bottom 3 couples? Unfortunately I think Jordan and Tadd might be in trouble for two reasons: They went first and the dancing just got better. However, I know they have a large fan base. We know Mitchell is going to be in the bottom because of his injury, but I am unsure if that means Caitlynn automatically goes there with him. For me, the third couple would have to be Ryan and Ricky or Ashley and Chris just because of the reasons stated above. Both routines were choreographed by Chris Scott. It is difficult to even pick a bottom 3; we are talking differences between 3 teaspoons of sugar versus 2 teaspoons of sugar.

One thing that needs to change is the assignment of the dances. The cards need to be put in a box and shaken up before each couple chooses. The show is about challenging the dancers beyond their comfort zones. Let’s see Iveta do hip-hop. Let’s see any of the hip-hop boys do ballroom.

Who are your top performers? Who do you think will be going home?