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)