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 — Vegas Hell Week Recap

23 06 2012

So You Think You Can Dance: Vegas Hell Week

By Hilda Clark Bowen (PBMom)

Vegas week–the dancers’ equivalent to Navy SEAL hell week. Eight grueling rounds. Late nights. Early mornings. No sleep. Pushing themselves to the brink physically, mentally, emotionally. That is what it takes on the road to becoming America’s Favorite Dancer. There were 8 rounds. Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Adam Shankman, Debbie Allen, Tyce DiOrio, and Lil’C were the primary judges with others sitting in to comment on their own choreographed segments.

Round 1: Solos

Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams from Richardson, Texas (Dallas auditions) danced his unique style to Evanescence’s “My Immortal.” He was mouthing the words to the song which I did not like. Debbie Allen was crying. It was very similar to his Dallas audition. After 10 solos, Jennifer and Briana go home. Hampton and 7 other dancers make it through to the next round.

Hampton “The Exorcist” Williams

Next bunch included Janelle Issis, the belly dancer from Birmingham, Alabama. Both Tyce and Adam loved her. By the end of the round, 51 dancers were cut, including martial arts expert Tim Conkel.

Round 2: Hip-Hop with tWitch and Comfort

This proved too much for two contestants. Hampton felt that the choreography was too difficult to learn left the competition. I praise the respect he showed the judges by coming up on stage and sharing that. Andre Rucker, from the Dragon House trio, just left. Good impressions are won, and you just do not up and leave. It’s too easy just to quit. I hope that Hampton gets some experience in some other areas and comes back to the competition next year. The song chosen was “B.O.B.” by OutKast. It was fast and slick. After the first group, Boris Penton from Dragon House was cut as was Gene Lonardo (the praying mantis guy), and Bree Hafen. After the last group performed, and Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer. Glitch meets tWitch and I’m loving this. All the members of the final group survived, which totaled 105 dancers surviving to the next round.

Round 3 (Day 2): Broadway with Tyce DiOrio

Tyce comes with a story about dancers in a club at 2 a.m. and drinking water and then POW!…a lust force seizes them. Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold, from the Salt Lake City auditions, are out of their comfort zones. They have known each other since age 9 and found out they were roommates in Las Vegas. The song, “Must Be the Water” by Marc Broussard. Everyone who danced in the morning made it through. The judges gave Alexa Anderson a stern lecture about lacking an emotional connection and getting tired of fighting for her. I think she is terrified that she will not make it through again at the very last moment and she is guarding her heart. Joseph and Trey were gone. Teddy Tedholm went home. After this round another 23 dancers went home, which by my count 105 minus 23 leaves 82 dancers for the next round.

Round 4: Jazz with Sonya Tayeh

Eighty-two contestants remain. Sonya is looking for strength, aggression, texture, and musicality. Shafeek Westbrook is struggling, but bacon-girl Danielle Dominguez is trying to be supportive. The song is “Freak Out (Gold Chains, Panique Mix) by Brightest Diamond. Shafeek was cut and left with a terrible attitude. Danielle steps forward to partner with Giovanni and is rewarded with a big smack to her head. She is sent to the hospital; he is sent home. Cyrus partners with Lindsay and does an adequate job. I think his uniqueness and the judges desire to have him through to the top 20 is allowing them to forgive mistakes. This is about the favorite dancer and not necessarily the best dancer. They ask Amelia Lowe to dance for her life. Rachel Applehans is asked to dance for her life (It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World by Leela James). Sonya, Nigel, Mary and Tyce all say no. I have to say I am glad about Rachel because she just did not fit into the show. It’s fine to turn on the sex appeal once or twice, but every time it makes me uncomfortable, like she is dancing for men at a strip club. Amelia danced to “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Elmer Bernstein. Adam is visibly moved. Sonya is smiling and says she wants to get her hands on her. Sonya, Mary, Lil’C, Tyce and Debbie say yes. Adam says “yes” and thanks her. Nigel gave a surprising no.

Round 5: Groups

It’s now day 2 at 10 p.m., and it is group time. The twist this year was that the people got to pick their own groups (about 5-6 people). The first group up on day 3 in the morning includes Daniel Baker, Audrey Case, Danielle Dominguez. Danielle got back late from the hospital. They danced to Gotye’s song, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Charlie and Danielle are sent home. The judges should have allowed Danielle to at least dance for her life. She did not have to volunteer to partner in the previous round a second time. Boo to the judges on that. In the next group, Taylor Giri (? spelling) was sent home. The next dance, choreographed by Aubrey Klinger, was praised by Nigel, and he complimented her by calling her a mini Mia Michaels. Aubrey danced with 4 other guys. The story was that she was the only girl at the prom and they called themselves the “High Schoolers.” The song was Side Project’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.” The entire group is sent through to the next round.

The High Schoolers

The first group in the afternoon were The Wolfpack which included Dres Reid, Adrian Lee and Alexa Alexander, all who auditioned in previous seasons and danced to “I’m Glad You Came” by The Wanted. Alexa was called out again by the judges. They prodded her until tears flowed. They allow her one more chance. Sixty-one contestants now remain for the next round.

Wolfpack

Round 6: Ballroom, specifically the cha-cha with Jason Gilkison.

The song: “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez. I was shouting GO CYRUS. I just love this guy’s attitude and energy. He is asked to dance for his life. It was a no to Asher Walker, Dee Tomasetta, and a huge surprise Aubrey Klinger who had just been highly praised in the group round. My heart was hurting for her as she said she was not able to get work as a dancer audition after audition. While hurting for her, it reminded me what is so fantastic about this show: Even dancers who are not crowned the winners are getting work in the industry as evidenced by the many times I’ve seen them especially on Fox shows. Witney, Stepheon Stewart (great hip work!), Eliana Girard and Alexa (who was being cheered from the sidelines by Tyce and Adam) all received a yes to the next round. Cyrus dances to “Holy Ghost (Helicopter Showdown and Sluggo Remix) by Messinian. He BLOWS my mind. I was so glad he got to dance for Lil’C who thought it was EXTRA BUCK. I loved the support he was also receiving from his fellow contestants in the audience. A total of 52 contestants are put through to contemporary.

Round 7: Contemporary with Travis Wall

The contestants only have 1 hour to get the steps down. That’s insane. Travis says, “Technically I’m looking for perception.” Travis, your standards are set so low. The song is “I Won’t Give Up” Jason Mraz. Cyrus, Eliana, Lindsay, Janelle, Trenton, Daniel, Witney, Amelia, Luciano, Cyrus and Tiffany are all put through. Eighteen dancers’ fates were in question. The judges asked them to perform again and only Joshua and Abigail make it through. I was so sad about white-girl krumper Mariah. I thought she did very well.

Round 8: Final solos

Trying to stand-out, Joshua attempted to do a new trick in the waiting area and fell smack to the ground. The medics are called and he is taken away. He was not able to perform his final solo. Alexa Anderson was first, dancing to The Naked and Famous’ “Young Blood (White Sea Remix)”.  (PS Thank you Warren for the correction on this).  Debbie Allen said to her fellow judges that “This child could win” but Tyce balked at that observation. The last solo was Chehon Wespi-Tschopp of Zurich, Switzerland, the ballet dancer. The heights he could reach were phenomenal. The song to which he danced was “Suite of the Winter Songbirds,” by Noah Lifschey.

The guys were called up. Adrian Lee, who almost made it in season 7, and whose mother stopped watching the show because of it, was cut. Nigel reminded the group that they were not going for the “best dancers” but the uniqueness. The girls get called up; no one is cut….at this point.

There are 35 in the end. Next week, they will have to cut that down to 20 people. Joshua will find out if his stunt to try to impress will cost him a spot in the final 20.

Who are your favorites? I think Chehon and Cyrus are going to make it simply because of their unique styles. Cyrus improves with each lesson and America adores him. Chehon is, I think, the only ballet dancer in the group and they tend to like a diverse group of individuals. I am unsure about the girls. Amelia is very unique. I was truly rooting for Mariah. Janelle should make it.





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.





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 16 Elimination

4 07 2011

Elimination day is always a mixture of angst for the dancers and the viewers who love then, but it also gives other dance troupes throughout the world a chance to shine. Tonight’s episode had a dance that touched me deeply. The top 16 came out to perform a spy-like routine to the song, “The Incredits” from The Incredibles (soundtrack). The dance was choreographed by Michael Rooney.

Kristen Chenoweth pushed her new CD, coming out September 13. A clip of her first music video was played. I remember Kristen when she was on Broadway in “Wicked” and sang these songs on Good Morning America.

The first bunch of contestants was brought up: Melanie & Marko, Ryan & Ricky, Ashley & Chris. Ashley and Chris were in the bottom and would need to perform solos. This was not surprising. There was something missing from either the choreography of the dance, or the dancers’ ability to pump more soul into the dance itself.

The second group is called up: Jordan & Tadd, Sasha & Alexander, Miranda & Robert. Cat announced that Miranda and Robert were in the bottom 3. After they had this group together, I knew Miranda and Robert would be in the ones whose names were called just because the others had some outstanding dances and once again, when going up against contemporary and hip-hop, ballroom or Broadway will lose every time.

Finally, the last group appeared on stage: Clarice & Jess, Caitlynn & Mitchell. I had worried about Caitlynn and Mitchell being in the bottom 3 just because of the foxtrot. The young people voting just do not understand ballroom dancing.

While the contestants prepared for their solos, we were treated to a remarkable dance routine from Axis Dance Company. The mission of Axis is 1) to create and perform contemporary dance that is developed through the collaboration of dancers with and without disabilities; 2) to teach dance and educate about collaboration and disability through community education and outreach programs; 3) to promote and support physically integrated dance locally, nationally and internationally. Dancers Sonsheree Giles and Rodney Bell moved me to tears with their compelling routine set to “Partita for Violin Solo No 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: V. Ciaccona” by Janine Jansen. Please click on the below link to visit their site and see their stunning choreography.

Axis Dance Company

Click here to visit Axis Dance Company

After the break, Ashley danced her contemporary solo to “For You” by David Ryan Harris. Performing to “You’re Going to Make It” by KJ-52 (featuring Blanca Reyes), Chris showed the judges why he deserved to stay with his hip-hop moves. Miranda reminded the judges of her beauty and grace while dancing to “Unthinkable” by Maria Zouroudis. Robert then took the stage to dance his hip-hop style to “I Don’t Need It” by Jamie Foxx. Returning from commercial, Caitlynn performed to “It Doesn’t Hurt” by Katie Thompson. Rounding out the solos was contemporary dancer, Mitchell, performing to “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele.

Judging strictly on the solos, I would have had to pick Caitlynn as the girl. Miranda and Ashley had better solos. For the guys, I would have picked Chris because Robert and Mitchell had more stand-out solos. However, we know that the judges take everything into consideration: Past performances, the group performance from Wednesday night, the popularity with the viewers, etc.

Cat dismisses the judges who have a tough decision to make. While they are contemplating that, the current United States and world theatrical ballroom dancers/choreographers, Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian, performed to “Calypso” from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” Judging from their dancing and the crowd’s appreciation of it, I may have to take back my earlier opinion on the young people not understanding ballroom dancing. If they were contestants performing like this, they would not be in the bottom 3.

LunaAmbarian

Click here to visit Eric & Georgia's website

The judges return with their decision and the girl’s choice was not unanimous. Miranda would be leaving the group this evening. For the guys, it would be Robert, but Chris was told that he must grow faster.

I tweet with many Miranda fans who were understandably upset. I told them to remember this competition is about America’s favorite dancer. Skill does play into the final decision, but so many other factors contribute: Luck of the draw of dances, the vision of the choreographer for that dance, partnering, personality, standing out in the crowd, etc. What is so wonderful about this show is that you do not have to win in order to have a long and wonderful career in dance. Look at Mark Kanemura. He finished 5th in season 4 and this past year I’ve seen him in Glee (in the Britney Spears episode) and was on tour with Lady Gaga. Kherington Payne was eliminated in week 6 of season 4 and went on to star in the remake of “Fame” and was also on a Glee episode. To all the fans of people being eliminated, please keep this in mind. Sadly someone has to leave each week. This truly is the most talented top 20 the show has ever had and the competition is fierce.





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 — America’s Top 20 Revealed

12 06 2011

Vegas Hell week is over. Of the 31 dancers that remain, America’s Top 20 will be chosen. I loved having the all-stars last year. It immediately elevated the dance contestants to a higher level, but having only 10 of them go through was difficult. Some gifted dancers, like Ryan Ramirez, did not make the cut, but surely if there had been a top 20, she would have. A decision was made to bring together the best of both worlds: Have a top 20 and when it whittles down to the top 10, bring in the all-stars. I LOVE IT! Tonight they combine 2 shows into one, grouping the announcement of what dancers have made the cut into their dancing styles. Some of these dancers we’ve seen on screen before; some are new to us. After they were announced we would get to see the group dance.

Ricky Jamie auditioned in Salt Lake but this is the first time he has really been featured. He has been dancing since he was 9. He has great height and lines. He is confident that his answer will be a yes, and it is. Miranda Maleski then took the long walk to hear her fate. Nigel plays with her heartstrings, doing the bait and switch to pretend like she is leaving, but she is also in the top 20. One of my early favorites, Melanie Moore, from my sister’s former town of Marietta, Georgia, also joins the top 20. I look forward to her enchanting us with her pixie dust. Abigail Ruiz and Kate Linetka would not be part of this year’s competition. The Mallory sisters started this journey together and then walked together to receive the news of their fate: Sasha would be the one moving forward. I’ve known of Sasha since September of 2010 when I saw her performing with the Adam Lambert tour.

Melanie, Miranda, Ricky and Sasha then took the stage to dance a routine choreographed by Stacey Tookey to the song, “In This Shirt” by The Irrepressibles. In the champagne-colored outfits, they glided about the floor in an ethereal way. They all partnered well together, each being there for the other for some intricate movement. Since no one goes home tonight, there are no critiques, just praise.

Contemporary

Melanie, Miranda, Ricky and Sasha perform Stacey Tookey's routine

Back to the green mile, Chris Koehl of Texas has taken this trip before in season 7. Mary Murphy delivers the good news that he will be a part of season 8. Tadd Gadduang (from the Salt Lake auditions, who reminded me of Dominic) and Wadi Jones will be joining him. Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson, however, did not make it through, although Nigel complimented him on his wonderful personality; perhaps next year. Drace Reed was also eliminated. Robert Taylor (the Woo man) was not feeling confident about his chances to make it to the top 20. Being 30, this was his last year to try out. Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson also wondered if there would be room for him. It was “Woo” versus “Indubitably.Robert, who previously auditioned in season 3 for American Idol, was in and Bryce was out.

Chris, Robert, Tadd and Wadi took to the stage to perform a routine by Dave Scott to the song “Everyday (Coolin’) by Swizz Beatz featuring Eve. Robert almost looked with Twitch with the red glasses on. I’ll have to say that Tadd had the best moves, but Robert’s personality stood out. The boys got swagga.

HipHop

Chris, Robert, Tadd and Wadi performed Dave Scott's hip-hop.

Ballrooms dancers are up next and out of everyone that made it to Vegas only 2 survived: Iveta Lukosiute and Lenny Progue. My guess is that both of them would make it as it is a male/female partnership. Mary delivers the news straight-up to Lenny: He was too weak in his other styles. Would 10-dance World Champion Iveta be in? This is her last year to compete in this competition. Mary Murphy is very emotional delivering the news to Iveta and it did not look like she would make it either. Iveta makes it!

They brought in Pasha to dance with Iveta, dancing to a Jason Gilkison routine to the song, “Ven a Bailar (On the Floor)” by Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull. She looked stunning as Pasha expertly guided her along the dance floor, in a paso doble complete with skirt-yanking-turned-cape. While Iveta showed us why she is a world champion, I still adore Pasha and Anya’s partnership. It’s hard to build chemistry with someone you’ve just met. When Iveta is described as a 10-dance World Champion, it is not that she won 10 different competitions, but rather is the champion in all the different ballroom dances.

Ballroom

Iveta finishes performing Jason Gilkison's routine.

Jazz dancers were highlighted next. Clarice Ordaz and Bridget Krouse were nervously awaiting their fate. Clarice received good news; Bridget was sent home as was someone named Tae Kwon. Another one of my favorites, Marko Germar, is the young man who was shot in the shoulder, the bullet still embedded inside. We will be seeing him in our top 20. Missy Morelli and Jordan Casanova (another of my early favorites) are the little vixens vying for our attention of their seductive prowess. Could the top 20 handle both of them? Yes we can!

Performing a dance choreographed by Sonya Tayeh to the song “Vanguardian” by Steed Lord, Clarice, Jordan, Marko and Missy took the stage. By Sonya’s standards, this was pretty tame, but was still fierce. Sonya’s describes her dance style as “combat jazz.” They all made her proud and had Tyce on his feet.

Jazz

Clarice, Jordan, Marko and Missy perform Sonya Tayeh's routine.

Broadway/Tap dancers were the next group. Although he auditioned in Atlanta, Nick Young was not one of the featured dancers, so we have not learned much about him. He is from Wisconsin and played sports in high school. Back in the early 2000’s, he toured with Kenny Rogers Christmas show as an actor/singer. Jesse LeProtto was one of my early favorites, reminding me a great deal of Evan’s dancing, but with a little bit more attitude, which actually bothered the judges. Jesse knows he is good and I feel sometimes that is not a bad thing. He also has a great sense of humor, saying that hip-hop was the dance he excelled in. He is in, as was Nick.

Nick and Jesse came together on stage to perform Christopher Scott’s immensely entertaining routine to Nina Simone’s “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter.” It showcased the dancer’s fun personalities and their mad skills as tappers. If I had to choose who the better tapper was Nick would have the edge. Jesse hams it up with the audience which brings a smile to my face. Nigel tells us that 4 of the girls are also tappers. He also said, “This warmed the cockles of my heart.”

Contemporary dancers were last. Caitlynn Lawson auditioned in Salt Lake City but was not one of the featured dancers on that show. She hails from Washington State and is a senior in high school. A bit of a tomboy, she likes to fish, camp and go four-wheeling with her family. She kind of reminds me of Lacy Schwimmer around the eyes. She sails into the top 20. Ashley Rich would also be joining her. With only one spot left for the girls, Ryan Ramirez found herself in a similar predicament as last year. Alexa Anderson waited nervously along with her. Only one of them would be moving on. However, they would have to wait as Mitchell Kelly’s fate would be determined next. Mitchell auditioned in Atlanta, but again was not a featured dancer on that show. Chicago, Illinois is his hometown, and started dancing relatively late at the age of 15. He receives a “yes” from the judges. Alexander Fost and Jeremiah Hughes were vying for the last spot for the males. Alexander receives the last spot. Would it be Alexa or Ryan? Both young ladies are very emotional. Ryan receives that coveted last spot.

Travis Wall has become a choreographer who has moved me to goosebumps and tears. He was on season 2 of “So You Think You Can Dance” and came in second, proving that you do not actually have to win on this show to become successful. “Moth’s Wings” by Passion Pit played while Alexander, Ashley, Caitlynn, Mitchell and Ryan took the stage. The dance was celebratory, soft and spiritful, floating and fluid. While everyone should be commended on a job well done, my eye was particular drawn to Ryan. All the judges were on their feet clapping for this one. Cat loves Travis’ bow tie.

Contemporary2

Alexander, Ashley, Caitlynn, Mitchell and Ryan dance to Travis Wall's routine

But wait, that is not it. The audience is to be treated to three more routines. The 10 guys perform to a routine by Christopher Scott, where he mixes hip-hop with contemporary and pulls it off. The song is “Velocity” by Nathan Lanier. It was reminding me for some reason of The Matrix when all the infected versions of Agent Smith come out of the doors (ha, I wrote that about The Matrix before Nigel said the same thing in his critique). I have a harder time finding small faults with a large group, so for me, bravo to all of them for a job well done. Interesting comment from Nigel when he says that “this show doesn’t favor the boys all the time” (reference to American Idol).

The routine for the top 10 girls was done by Sonya Tayeh. Her theme is to “make a geisha girl creepy and twisted and excited.” Sonya is the perfect mama cub who pushes her pups to work hard but at the end of the day is the one hooting and hollering in the crowd in thunderous support and pride. The song is Pop Drop and Roll by Chonique Sneed and Lisette Bustamante. The timing and precision of the girls are flawless. Mary needs a bigger Hot Tamale Train. Lil’C has words for Sonya for the acronym of her hand which moves Nigel to come over and hug him.

After commercial, Nigel says that next week 2 dancers will go home, one male and one female. This year, we will be allowed up to 50 votes on-line for our favorite dancer.

The top 20 then performs to a Tyce Diorio routine to the song “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox. Some of Tyce’s routines have also made me cry in the past, but tonight it is about celebration and being upbeat. The show closes out without any comments but the pictures and names of this season’s SYTYCD.

Tyce

All the contestants perform Tyce's number

Good luck to all the contestants next week!