So You Think You Can Dance — Top 14 Performance

7 07 2011

Tonight viewers were in for a special treat. Travis Wall, previous contestant on So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 and choreographer for the last few years, was asked to sit in to judge tonight. Is there anywhere Travis does not fit like a hand in a glove? His critiques were deadly accurate with lavish praise for the high points and technical pointers for the weaker points to help the dancers learn. When I heard Carmen Electra was going to judge, I had no idea she had a background in dance. I enjoyed her in “Meet the Spartans.” I loved Cat Deeley’s earrings tonight that had the number 8 on them for season 8.

Tonight we will find out more about the contestants. There are also new choreographers to the show. According to http://www.markmeismer.com, Justin began his training in South Carolina. He was the winner of Star Search and Destination Stardom in Hawaii. In 2001, he worked with the Poz Dance Theater in Seoul, Korea. Soon thereafter he opened a dance company in Dallas, Texas and has been with LA Dance Magic for the past 5 years. Ray Leeper has worked in film and theater and for big names singers such as Cher and Elton John.

Dancers: Boys’ Group Number
Song: “Prague”
Artist: Damien Rice
Choreographer: Justin Giles
Story: The seven stages of grief after a breakup: Shock, anger, denial, depression, guilt, bargaining, and acceptance.

It was a beautiful contemporary number. Chris, unfortunately, was off in his timing with the other dancers. Although the judges are not offering critiques, performances in the group number will be taken into consideration for elimination eve. A warm welcome to Justin. I hope we see more of his work on this show.

Dancers: Melanie & Marko
Song: “Americano”
Artist: Lady Gaga
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: Young Latin couple whose families have been fighting like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, now run off and want to get married.

Marko had auditioned before but had not won over the judges until this year. He is from Guam and most of his family became lawyers and doctors. There were not many dance opportunities on the island. The one job he had was on a cruise ship and the hazing ritual was dressing up as a girl (in homage to the drag queen show where he was not–and he repeats was NOT–the drag queen). Melanie is from Marietta, Georgia (woo-hoo, my sister lived there for many years), but she left to attend Fordham University in New York City, majoring in art. Her boyfriend, Mitchell, whom she has dated since the 10th grade in high school, came to see her perform last week, the week of the Marko kiss.

There was a moment at the beginning of the dance where I thought, “Oh my” with regards to hand placement. She had to be deadly accurate or risk incapacitating her partner!

Melanie & Marko

Hand placement must be precise!

It was a fantastic way to start the show off on a high note. Cat Deeley says Marko looks like a sexy fireman in that outfit. Travis tells Melanie she is, by far, his favorite dancer in the competition. He also comments that he has been taking Ray’s class since he was 9 years old (great way to make someone feel old, Travis!). Mary loved their passion and heat. I enjoyed this number a great deal. This was Ray’s first appearance on SYTYCD as well and a hearty hello to him as well. Nigel reassures Marko that he is a fan now.

Dancers: Sasha & Alexander
Song: “To the Moon”
Artist: Miguel
Choreographer: Shawn Evaristo
Style: Hip-Hop
Story: A first date and Alex wants a kiss at the end of the night from Sasha.

Sasha spoke lovingly of her family, especially of her sister and having her sister with her through her journey on SYTYCD. She comes from a large Trinidadian family who now lives in Bakersfield, CA and there is always a party going on–lots of food, drinks, dancing, and singing. It sounds like Sasha’s family knows how to live in the moment and express joy of just being alive. Dancing began for Alexander at the age of 17. Instead of going to college, he was accepted into a ballet school where he fell in love with ballet. He grew up in Alhambra. His father used to be an actor on such shows (that I remember) as Barney Miller, TJ Hooker, Hill Street Blues, shows Alex says he has never heard of. Psssst. Alex. I probably saw your dad at some point on those shows and not on the reruns.

Alex is swagger-challenged. One might say because of the natural of ballet, it is trained out of them because posture has to be perfect, lines have to be straight, etc. However, one day ballet dancer Alex Wong walked into our lives and performed one of the best routines ever in the history of SYTYCD with Twitch, choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon. Click here to watch. Alex Wong made a bold statement that ballet dancers CAN do hip-hop. Compared to the level of what we’ve seen in the competition thus far, this was below the bar. I think it will put them in danger. Carmen articulated it best when she was not feeling them as a couple. When I see Alex in his natural environment, he seems like a different person than he is on stage. The “ballet face” comes on when he dances on stage and because Sasha is operating from a different point of view, trying to get into whatever character she needs to be, that is where the disconnect is happening.

Dancers: Jordan & Tadd
Song: “Nocturne”
Artist: Secret Garden
Choreographer: Toni Redpath
Style: Smooth Jazz
Story: Jordan is a siren, a black widow spider of the deep sea.

Jordan’s story brought tears to my eyes as she shared the depth of her family’s sacrifices so she could dance and the level of appreciation she has for it. After seeing the fun side of Jordan, it was moving to see she has a vulnerable side. She hopes that this is a reward for them as well after all they have done. Tadd grew up in Salt Lake City and because of the lack of Filipino culture there when he was young, grew up thinking he was Caucasian. Once he got to meet extended family in San Francisco, California, his world grew much bigger.

Let’s think of Jordan being a siren of dance (not voice, LOL, sorry babe, your talent is in dancing, not singing). I loved the hair extensions; I don’t think I would have recognized her on the street with them. Her costume was beautiful; she did look like a goddess from the sea. Being a hip-hop dancer, Tadd did a super job. His posture was superb; his arms were high. He died well.

Dancers: Clarice & Jess
Song: “Light Through the Branches”
Artist: Celeste Lear
Choreographer: Justin Giles
Style: Contemporary
Story: A super intense love affair that is coming to an end.

Clarice also appreciates the sacrifices her family has made for her.  Although she grew up in Hollywood, California, she now studies dance at California State University at Long Beach. After a long day, she drives her sister to dance and then teaches dance later on after that. Clarice enjoys spending time with her family after a long day. Jess grew up in Little Falls, New Jersey with family members who are also entertainers. Jess’ father was an actor, but is now a teacher. While many of us would like to forget our high school experience, Jess has wonderful memories, being part of all the performing arts clubs.

Clarice is a contemporary dancer and Jess is used to Broadway. My eye was drawn to Clarice during the routine. Jess is growing as a dancer in this area but I would compare his performance to Tadd’s in ballet. Although not his style, he did try to rise to meet the challenge. Unlike Alex and Sasha, Clarice and Jess are developing chemistry between them and that shone through during the routine. In this routine, it demanded that it did or it would have fallen apart. I agree with Travis that it is my favorite routine they have done all season. Carmen and Mary said they felt the anger they were feeling. Maybe that was true in the studio. As a TV viewer, I saw the anger between the two of them, but they did not bring me along for the ride.

Dancers: Ashley & Chris
Song: “Mambo Beat”
Artist: Tito Puente
Choreographer: Liz Lira
Style: Salsa
Story: None, just fast, lots of tricks, etc.

From Antioch, California, Ashley grew up as the daughter of a deacon, surrounded by music and dance her entire life, her mom being director of the dance program. She loves to cook (perhaps we will see her on a future episode of Masterchef). Chris comes from a large family in Dallas which gives them always something to do and always something to clean. He was diagnosed with dyslexia and credits his parents for him graduating high school because the challenges for him were that difficult.

I understand the choreographers wanting to do a challenging dance, but they also need to take into consideration the level of ability of the dancers. Latin dances need a strong male partner who is sure of himself and Chris even verbalized his awkwardness in this style. I was worried for them seeing the rehearsals. The actual dance was better than rehearsals. You could see Chris thinking all the steps so he could complete the dance without his partner getting hurt, but because of that, the heat was missing. Ashley did a nice job and it was so lovely of her to tell him how proud she was of him as they stood next to Cat Deeley. Sadly, I think this is going to put them in the bottom 3. I’m certain that if this is the case, Chris will be the guy going home because of the comment Nigel said last week about him needing to grow faster, and because of the off-timing in tonight’s group routine.

Dancers: Ryan & Ricky
Song: “Fashion”
Artist: David Bowie
Choreographer: Chucky Klapow
Style: Jazz
Story: Two members of a cult of fashion. Following what was hot and hip eventually “did them in.” They got hit by a car they were so into themselves they wouldn’t even take the time to look left or right to cross the street. Elaborate story.

Ryan was raised in Morgan Hill, California. She went to Sacramento and got an opportunity to work with Mia Michaels during a convention. Because of economic hardships, Ryan had to give up dancing for awhile. She reunited with Mia Michaels on the “House” episode “Bombshells.” Ricky is from Miami and loves the beach because it allows him to spend time with his family. When he was 15, his mother said they were moving to Tampa (and they made it sound like it was such a horrible thing to happen. I lived in St. Petersburg for a year of my life; Tampa is not a bad place). But apparently there is not a lot of dancing in Tampa (ah, code word for a lot of old people live there). He was not only the first male cheerleader at his new high school, but also became co-captain.

This dance was “Ghouls Gone to Vogue Hell” to the PERFECT song choice. It was so enjoyable. It made me want to learn the steps so I could follow along. How do you judge such a thing? Fun? Check. Did I believe they were zombies? Check. Did I believe they were once fashion icons? Check. When they were required to dance in sync, did they? Check. Bonus points: It was quirky; I adore quirky. They are absolutely safe with this one.

Some trivia about Chucky Klapow. He was one of the main dancers in Michael Jackson’s tour “This Is It” and has been Kenny Ortega’s co-choreographer in the High School Musical movies. Kenny Ortega did a season of judging on SYTYCD. He also choreographed another Fox show, Bones, “The Girl With The Curl.”

Dancers: Caitlynn & Mitchell
Song: “To Love You More”
Artist: Celine Dion
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Style: Contemporary
Story: A couple falling in love.

Caitlynn was a tomboy growing up in Moses Lake, Washington and loves engaging in outdoor activities from snowboarding to fishing. Her father works overseas and is home only every other month. Thank goodness she lives in an age where there is Skype and other type of networking; back when I was her age there was two methods of communication: Telephone and snail-mail. Mitchell’s backstory made me cry. His father died when he was 2. When he was 8, he and his mother moved from Chicago to Atlanta and wound up sleeping in their car for a full year. They were homeless. His mother was able to find a job and wanted Mitchell to fulfill his dreams there. His mother is so inspiring. It is so difficult to break out of the cycle of homeless and there is such a horrible stereotype about the face of the homeless, people mischaracterizing the group as lazy, not wanting to work, etc. I know that just is not true and to hear people’s ignorance when they speak of such things irritates me greatly. Mitchell, to his credit, could have turned to a life of drugs or gangs, but did not. It says a lot about his personal character as a mere 8-year-old child. He is such a great role model.

Wait, what? Caitlynn spills secrets that Marko reads romance novels. Too funny.

Remember that Mitchell is still trying to recover from his injury from week 1, but he continues to push through to stay in the competition. Caitlynn has complete trust that he will be there for her as her partner. They have the coveted last spot of the evening, so I’m preparing to be wowed. I love this song and the romantic in me loved this dance. It was my favorite of the evening. I know it is a wonderful dance when I’m breathing with the dancers. It was absolutely PERFECT and Mitchell knows they NAILED it. He is overwhelmed with emotion.

Dancers: The Girls aka “The Beasts”
Song: “My Discarded Men”
Artist: Eartha Kitt with Bronski Beat
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: Seven girlfriends ridding the world of evil men. (Hmm, femme fatales?)

It was a great dance and everyone worked well together as a group. A nice way to end the show.

So based on their dancing tonight, I think Sasha and Alexander and Ashley and Chris are in trouble. But Sasha has a lot of Adam Lambert fans voting, so I’m not sure if they will be in the bottom 3. I’m not sure who the other couple would be. I am certain Chris is going home Thursday night if he is among the bottom 3 males.

Who were your favorites? Who do you think will be in the bottom three?





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 — Vegas Hell Week

11 06 2011

Vegas week for So You Think You Can Dance is for dancers what Navy Seal hell week is for those candidates. All the candidates are the best of the best. For these dancers, it will be the ultimate battle of mind versus body. Some are at SYTYCD hell week for the first time; others have been here before. They started out with 160 contestants and soon they would be whittled down to American’s Top 20.

Joining them on Day 1 were judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, a casted Adam Shankman, Robin Antin, Debbie Allen and Tyce DiOrio. After their solos, the dancers would be performing routines in hip-hop, Broadway, ballroom, and then the group round and onto contemporary.

Going in a completely opposite direction of this champion ballroom dancer, Iveta Lukosiute comes out wearing a very naughty outfit. Having been cut 2 times before in previous seasons during hell week, she sets her sights on Nigel. She captivates the judges as well as the “Woo-Hoo” man, (Robert Taylor, Jr.). It is very difficult when your strength is in ballroom, who is used to dancing with a partner, to do a solo, but her unique performance and nice cha-cha moves will leave an impression on the judges. After the first 15 perform, Iveta moves on.

Unfortunately, the only thing memorable about Marlin Pelayo’s performance was his unitard, made by his mother and painted by his friend. I understand the desire about standing out, but your dancing has to be equally impressive (like Iveta’s). After the first 15 performed, he was sent packing.

Pelayo_Unitard

Marlin Pelayo's unitard

I was worried about Wadi Jones’ b-boy performance when it first began, remembering the critiques they gave Legacy in seasons’ past about the pauses in between moves. He has a lot of great moves and I look forward to seeing more of him. I loved, too, his blue sneakers matching his shirt.

The final dancers of the solo rounds were Sasha and Natalia Mallory. I love the energy of them together. While Sasha is a typically built dancer, the rebel in me roots for Natalia is breaking stereotypes. The dance reflects the nature of their relationship: Playful, fun, teasing, antagonistic.

After the cuts from the solo rounds, the number of contestants dropped from 160 to 114.

The hip-hop round was choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, a.k.a. NappyTabs for those unfamiliar with the show. Chyna Lee Smith (from Idaho “where the potatoes grow”) apparently started to lose her mind at this point during the warm-up, and it went downhill from there. Wadi Jones develops intense muscle spasms in his legs. Three couples took the stage to perform the routine. Chyna’s mind goes totally blank and she begins to just make up the moves. I almost felt like maybe she was intoxicated, but sleep deprivation has been known to cause similar symptoms. Because of her audition in Salt Lake, she is given the first “dance for your life” card from the judges and asked to do the routine again later. Surprise cuts, and some of my favorites, included Hero McRae (from Japan), Patty Anne Miller (the drummer/Berkeley School of Music grad), Mary Kate Sheehan (the Irish step-dancer), Kristen Dobson (the young lady with only 3 years of Latin dance experience) and Samara “Princess Lockeroo” Cohen, a total of 14 cuts.

Wadi Jones works through his pain and is rewarded with a pass to the next round. Eight contestants had to return to dance for their lives including Chyna and Iveta. Nigel does not understand why some of the contestants did bad earlier but now are so much better. This is not rocket science; the first group had to perform soon after learning the routine; each subsequent group had that much longer to practice. The people dancing for their lives had hours and hours. They are all put through the next round.

Day 2

Tyce DiOrio teaches the group a very sexy Broadway routine. On the judges’ panel, Jason Gilkison sits in while Adam Shankman gets his knee checked out at the hospital. A fully recovered Wadi Jones pairs up with Jordan Casanova, who caught Tyce and Nigel’s eye in the original auditions. Also joining these two on stage were Jessica Watanabe and Virgil “Li’l O” Gadson. Jason said Jessica “owned” that routine. All four are put through to the next round.

Chyna Smith, Jess LeProtto, Sasha Mallory, Natalia Mallory, Derion “DC” Chapman, and the “Woo Man” Robert Taylor, Jr. did a fabulous job and moved through to the next round.

Rebecca Hart and Jeremiah Hughes have been to Vegas many times in the past, hoping 8 will be their lucky number. Jeremiah is notorious for having lost his temper previously. Time matures people, however. Despite his timing being off, the judges will let him through; however, Jeremiah needs to work on his facial expressions though because the anger is still there. People have to be able to take constructive criticism so that they will grow; he seems to find any criticism a personal attack. If Debbie Allen says you’re off, you…are…off. A tearful Rebecca, however, is sent to pack her bags once again. “Krumping for Christ” Brian Henry was given a ticket home.

Jason Gilkison teaches the group a jive dance, a notoriously fast dance, in the afternoon. The female dancers have their podiatrists or orthopedists on speed dial as their heels give them hell and ice packs are helping the economic downturn. Ryan Ramirez came inches close to being in the top 10 last season (all-stars round was the top 10 dancers instead of top 20 in a usual season). After delivering that sad news, Lil’C asked her to return to audition the next year. Her toenail is bleeding and I feel horrible for her.

In the first group, Natalia and her partner Josh Williams are given another opportunity but will be paired up with different partners.

In the second group are Sasha Mallory and Ryan Ramirez. Nigel tells Sasha that her knees are supposed to be together, but hers were open. She’s brought enough in previous rounds to get her through. Everyone else gets through as well.

Natalia performs her routine with Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson and moves on to the next round.

The last group to appear on camera was Alexia Mason, sister of Jeanine Mason, winner of season 5. She does not do well; there is no joy in the jive. She gets the second “dance for your life pass” and returns to dance contemporary. After watching her solo, her level of dance is not up to the other contestants, especially in those facial expressions. Her lines needed to reach greater heights and deeper, but I believe because of Jeanine, she is given the pass to the next round.

At 10 p.m., there are 39 guys and 35 girls left. They are asked to stay up through the night and learn a group choreography number. Nigel says they will be looking for creativity and entertainment. This is when the drama occurs as people are nearing physical and mental exhaustion. This is when emotionality rules. All the dance numbers go well and no one is sent home.

After a break for lunch in the pool, contemporary style is on the dance card for this day. Cat Deeley says 67 remain, but the math does not add up (39 guys + 35 girls before group round = 72). Choreographing this year is the fantabulous Travis Wall, a former contestant from season 2 who has shown his extraordinary choreography skills during the last few seasons. Assisting were former contestants Jamie Goodwin (season 3) and Robert Roldan (from season 7). Ryan Ramirez hurts her back during practice and goes to the hospital. Natalia also goes to the hospital because her blood glucose level dropped.

Sasha and Bryce “Professor Lock” Johnson are in the first group to perform for the judges. I think contemporary is one of my favorites to watch. It is so beautiful and emotional. Both are put through.

More groups perform and more favorites like Robert Taylor, Jr. (The Woo Man), Wadi Jones, and Virgil “Lil’O” Gadson.

After returning from the hospital, Ryan gets a refresher with Jamie and Robert. She is paired up with the handsome Robert. They are a stunning pair. Debbie Allen tells her to ice her butt; she’s made it through to the next round.

The final group performs. In this group are Jeremiah Hughes and Arielle Coker. Both had made it to the contemporary round, 2 and 4 times respectively, and were cut. Derion “DC” Chapman is also in this final group. DC looks lost. Airelle looks shocked when she is sent home yet again and does not know how to respond to Debbie Allen’s remarks. Three times is the charm for Jeremiah who is overcome with emotion. DC makes an emotional appeal and Debbie Allen gives him a “man-up” speech and gives him free dance lessons.

At the end of the day 12 more dancers are sent home including Chyna Lee Smith.

The remaining contestants have to perform their solo and tell the judges why they deserve to be there. Natalia is given a free pass through the contemporary round. None are given “formal” feedback during the solos, but there are comments from the judges’ gallery, especially for Clarice Ordaz. Going home is Kelsey from the first group. Twenty-four more dancers were sent home including Kimalee Piedad, Chase Thomas, and Amber Williams. Alexis Mason danced her solo but showed her immaturity not only in her moves (when comparing her with others that made it through) but also her facial expressions. She has the ability to grow so much since she is only 18.

Thirty-one dancers remain, but, there is still one final cut to be made and only 20 will be dancing for American’s votes.