So You Think You Can Dance–Top 8 Performance

28 07 2011

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

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

Top8

The Top 8 Perform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 10 Performance

21 07 2011

Congratulations to So You Think You Can Dance for the well-deserved 8 Emmy nominations.

Tonight was a game-changer in the format of the show. The contestant would now be paired up with former alumni of the show, affectionately known as the all-stars. Neil Patrick Harris was the guest judge this evening. Tickets for the tour go on sale July 29 which kicks off in Orlando, Florida.

Dancers: Marko & all-star Chelsie Hightower
Song: “Cinema Italiano” (The Ron Fair Remix)
Artist: Kate Hudson
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Style: Samba
Story: A photographer and his muse.

The big question of the night is this: Will Marko and Melanie shine being apart? While Marko did well, it was not his best dance. Perhaps Melanie is his muse. There was a lot of footwork, but there were spots where I felt his arms could have been up higher and his legs could have been together more than apart. But Mary Murphy is the expert in ballroom and she loved it. He does get kudos for those massive lift/twirls.

Dancers: Jordan & all-star Brandon Bryant
Song: “Who You Are”
Artist: Jessie J
Choreographers: Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson
Style: Contemporary
Story: The highs and lows of love.

This was a wonderful partnering. Brandon’s age and experience brought more out of Jordan as did the beautiful choreography which left me with goosebumps. The combination gave her a deepened maturity in her dancing. This is one of the reasons why I love the all-stars so much. The contestants seem to rise up to their level. Jordan received high praise from all the judges including a plea from Nigel to keep her in the competition.

Dancers: Tadd and all-star Comfort Fedoke
Song: “Look At Me Now”
Artist: Chris Brown (featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes)
Choreographer: Chuck Maldonado
Style: Hip-hop
Story: None.

Once again, having Comfort in the mix elevated Tadd’s level of dance. The choreography was also very complex to a very fast beat, but Tadd rose to the challenge. It played to Tadd’s strengths. There was very good chemistry between the two dancers. Nigel and Neil both felt he out-danced Comfort. Mary thought he was ghetto-licious.

Dancers: Mitchell and all-star Melody Lacayanga
Song: “Take Off With Us”
Artist: All That Jazz Soundtrack
Choreographer: Tyce DiOrio
Style: Broadway/jazz
Story: Taking flight.

Once again I’m afraid for Mitchell because Broadway does not bring in the votes. I did not watch SYTYCD in season 1, so Melody is new for me as well. Mitchell had great height in his leaps. There was something awkward about the routine, but I think it was in the height difference actually. I thought Mitchell out-danced Melody. The judges did not like it with Neil Patrick Harris taking aim more at Tyce’s choreography. It was like someone tried to make Boeing, Boeing a musical. It just did not work. Sometimes the dancers are at the mercy of the choreography. Perhaps the awkwardness was not in the height difference, but the fact that the dancers were not feeling it so they overperformed.

Dancers: Caitlynn and all-star Pasha Kovalev
Song: “Malajunta”
Artist: Orquesta Color Tango
Choreographers: Leonardo Barrionueva and Miriam Larici
Style: Argentine tango
Story: A disconnected couple from the 1930’s era falling in love.

This LA-noire-type tango was on fire. With a partner like Pasha how could you not get totally wrapped up in the chemistry? The intricate steps with the interlocking legs are very difficult and I hope the audience can appreciate that. I still worry for Caitlynn because Broadway and ballroom do not do so well with voters. Mary Murphy gave Caitlynn a standing ovation and was near tears. Nigel commented that she used to be a girl dancing but now he saw a woman dance. Neil stated it took a little bit for him to get into it but he was completely mesmerized by it.

Dancers: Sasha and all-star Twitch
Song: “Misty Blue”
Artist: Dorothy Moore
Choreographer: Christopher Scott
Style: Hip-hop
Story: A couple’s whose love has burned out and they try to rekindle the magic.

As much as I enjoyed Alexander, there was a disconnection for me since the first week between the two of them. Tonight, Sasha was partnered with someone who not only had the chemistry but also had the skills to match her. As a married person of 19 years now, I appreciated this dance a great deal and could relate to it. This routine sizzled with sensuality. It was very nice to hear this song again. The routine was received quite well by the audience based on the level of clapping and hooting they did. I just love Twitch and everything he does. Nigel could not even speak. Neil called it the best routine so far in the evening. The routine brought Mary Murphy to swearing, calling it a “sexy-ass number.”

Dancers: Jess and all-star Kathryn McCormick
Song: “The Lonely”
Artist: Christina Perri
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Style: Contemporary
Story: Not being able to see what is right in front of you.

This routine required Jess to give all his eye contact to Kathryn while Kathryn is basically ignoring him. There was not a flowing movement that I would have liked to have seen with the routine. Even dancing separately, there still has to be a bond between them for the audience to be pulled in–a difficult order to be filled by even seasoned dancers. Kathryn did a beautiful job and I have missed seeing her dance. Neil thought the choreography was magnificent but pointed out Jess’ facial expressions that are typical of a Broadway dancer, but thought it was the best he has seen Jess dance. Mary concurred that it was her favorite piece Jess has done to date. Nigel thought Jess did a great job.

Dancers: Melanie and all-star Pasha
Song: “Everybody Hurts”
Artist: Tina Arena
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Style: Viennese waltz
Story: A guy who has lost his will to live with Melanie as the friend who is nurturing him through it.

Melanie did not lose herself without Marko. This was the second time this evening I got the chills. Melanie’s movements were ethereal and she looked like a guardian angel cradling Pasha’s troubled soul. I am not really sure what might be troubling Pasha’s soul since he got to dance with two beautiful women this evening! Mary complimented her on her effortless lifts and felt she was right up there on the top of the leaderboard. Nigel called her a solid, brilliant dancer. Neil thinks Melanie looks like she is from the past but dances like she is from the future and is easily his favorite dancer on the show.

Dancers: Ricky and all-star Allison Holker
Song: “Precious Things”
Artist: Tori Amos
Choreographer: Tyce DiOrio
Style: Jazz
Story: A bad dream (Ricky being Allison’s worst nightmare).

It’s hard to imagine cheerful Ricky as anybody’s worst nightmare, but he pulled this dance off. The lift where Allison is in a curved position and Ricky’s arms are straight up took my breath away. There was great power in his movements. Both Neil and Nigel were impressed with both the choreography and Ricky’s performance. Mary thought it was raw, reckless, passionate, intense and committed.

Dancers: Clarice and all-star Robert Roldan
Song: “Aila Re Aila”
Artist: Khatta Meetha
Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan
Style: Bollywood
Story: A game of cat and mouse.

Nakul threw everything except the kitchen sink into this dance routine. Clarice did a fantastic job keeping up with all-star Robert. This season of SYTYCD has got to be labeled the kissing season. This sexy dance was fast with intricate moves. Everyone loved it. It was a great way to end this wonderful show.

Solos

Sasha‘s routine to “Syrup and Honey” by Duffy had very complex moves and good emotional connectivity. It reminded me of a little dragonfly. Jess performed his solo to “Come By Me” by Harry Connick, Jr., utilizing the entire stage very well with his Broadway-like routine. He always has a lot of good energy. Melanie danced beautifully to “You’re The One That I Want” by Angus and Julia Stone. Ricky performed a lovely solo to “Daylight Breaks” by Cassidy Haley. Clarice danced her solo with a Latin-vibe to “Royal T” from Crookers featuring Roison Murphy. Performing to “This Time” by John Legend, Mitchell redeemed himself from his all-star routine. Jordan danced to “Tonight” by Lykee L., taking to heart the judge’s advice last week that they needed to see something different from her. Tadd provided an entertaining solo to “Everything I Can’t Have” by Robin Thicke. Caitlynn’s contemporary piece was lovely to Florence and The Machine’s “Cosmic Love.”  Marko closed out the solo performances of the night with a song from Gavin DeGraw, “More Than Anyone”, reminding us what a beautiful dancer he is.

For me, my least favorite dance this evening was Jess, but I am very worried for Mitchell because he was the only one to receive negative feedback. It would be difficult to say exactly which my favorite was because I had so many. All the solos were stupendous.

I would like to pass on some news from Miranda’s fans at @mirandacandance on Twitter. On Saturday they have an exciting announcement to pass to everyone and a chance to win some really great prizes, so make sure you stay glued to Twitter on Saturday.

Who were your favorites and least favorites this evening?