Thursday, June 28, 2012

SYTYCD Recap: The Roaring 20...

I figured since I've been watching So You Think You Can Dance since the middle of Season 5, and always have something to say (shocking, isn't it), I'd start recapping this show, too. I mean, if all of my snark builds up with no outlet, what am I going to do?

Last night was the 200th episode of the show, and although Cat and Nigel Lythgoe (evening, sir) mentioned it several times, there was no celebration, no marking the occasion with clips or balloons or the return of former winners (save last season's winner, Melanie Moore, sporting a jaunty chapeau). What we did have, however, was an absolutely fantastic top 20 (save a questionable choice, IMHO), some great routines with the contestants dancing in their own styles, and the return of the ever-fabulous (as long as she's only choreographing) Mia Michaels.

Phew! I'm tired already. But a marvelously befrocked Cat kept the jam-packed show flowing. She introduced us to our (say it with me) JUDGES!, which included the ever-effervescent Mary Murphy, Nigel, and Katy Perry, err, Zooey Deschanel, in the "I don't know a thing about dance but I'm on one of Fox's most popular shows" slot.

Basically, 35 dancers left Vegas and returned to Hollywood, where the panel of Nigel, Mary, Adam "Rock of Ages Sunk Like a Rock" Shankman, Lil C, Debbie Allen, and Keith-Tyce Diorio delivered their final judgments to the dancers, while sitting on the American Idol final judgment set. (I kept waiting for Steven Tyler to jump in the pool.)

First up, talented-but-dead-inside Alexa Anderson, who as we've been reminded an infinite amount of times so far this season, made it thisclose last season, only to be cut in favor of immensely uncharismatic Ryan Ramirez. Would someone with this much camera time get cut at this same point? Keith-Tyce (who clearly is having Seinfeld-esque low flow shower head issues) semi-apologized for tearing Alexa apart during Vegas week, telling her, "You showed great fight, but was it enough?" But of course it was!

George Lawrence II came next, and Debbie Allen told him during his audition that he "was born to dance." George rocked a dress shirt, bow tie, and shorts, and Debbie said, "My dear, welcome to the Top 20." But of course.

We apparently met Will Thomas during the LA auditions (although by "we," I'm guessing they meant the people running the cameras, because he wasn't featured), but the super-tall dancer made it into the top 20. Sadly, Megan Branch and Colin Fuller had their dreams dashed, but since they didn't get camera time, we didn't mourn as much.

Amber Jackson (of the Rihanna haircut) auditioned in Seasons 6 and 7; in Season 6 she was cut at the very end, while in Season 7 she was cut during Vegas week. She vowed she wouldn't come back, but here she is in Season 9...and she made it!!

Alexa, George, Will, and Amber danced to a Keith-Tyce choreographed contemporary routine to a Jessie J remake of We Found Love (originally recorded by Rihanna and Calvin Harris, coincidentally). I really enjoy his non-Broadway routines, and I thought this one showcased each of the dancers well. George's spins and his flexibility are out of this world. Their ending move, with all four standing on a bench-like platform and leaning to the side, was beautiful.

Nigel called Will a "really big, tall man" (he even towered over Cat, who you know rocks the heels) but said he needed to move his body faster, like a smaller guy. He told Amber how unattractive she looked in the clip from Season 7 when she said she wouldn't come back to the show, but called her a beautiful star now. He praised Alexa for "finding her performance" and told George, "If every light in this studio went out, you'd still be shining," and told the other dancers that everyone needs to be at George's level. Zooey gave the first of her non-comment comments, saying how hard it was to say anything. Clearly.

Next up: the ballroom kids. Nick Bloxsom-Carter, another dancer I don't recall seeing, was already crying on his way to the judges, and they (especially Keith-Tyce) looked at him as if he were drooling or something. Keith-Tyce couldn't stand it any longer, so he snapped, "You're in the Top 20, stop crying!" (I guess that's his "There's no crying in dancing.")

We were reminded how close childhood dancing friends Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold, even though they were competing against each other. Witney even said, "Our friendship is even more than any competition." (Uh huh.) The judges told them there was only room for one female ballroom dancer, and our ever-stoic Adam Shankman proclaimed, "This totally makes me sick." Mary told Witney she made it into the top 20, and they told Lindsay how great they thought she was, and thanked her...then told her they couldn't think of a top 20 without her! Fake out!

The ballroom routine for Nick, Lindsay, and Witney was choreographed by my fave Jason Gilkison, to J.Lo's Dance Again. (Note: If this show becomes another J.Lo promo-fest, someone's going to get cut.) It was a fun routine, but in general, ballroom routines don't give the guy as much to do, so Nick didn't have as much of a chance to show off as the girls did. I thought Lindsay's lines were just phenomenal.

Mary said, "The train has pulled up to Sizzle Station! Whoo, whoo!" She said that Nick needed to be more grounded when he came down from his leaps, but called Witney and Lindsay "Two of the hottest tamales we've ever seen!" Zooey said it was incredible, blah blah blah, firecrackers, blah blah blah...

Cirque du Soleil aerialist and pole dancer Eliana Girard explained that Vegas week was a "clusterball of emotions," and then proceeded to demonstrate them. She reminds me a bit of Ellenore from Season 6. Walking down the green mile, rocking peacock earrings and blue suede high heels, Debbie told her, "Walk on, girl. Walk on into that top 20."

Next up, our two professional ballet dancers, Australian hunk Daniel Baker, who left the San Francisco Ballet to audition, and Swiss stud Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, who danced in New York. They both expressed concern about putting their lives on hold to audition and wondered what getting cut would mean to their careers. Nigel mentioned that Daniel exceeded the judges' hopes throughout Vegas week but underwhelmed with his final solo, while Chehon struggled in Vegas but his solo was absolutely magnificent. Daniel was told he made it into the top 20, and then, just as Chehon stoically tried to deal with being cut, Nigel told him he made it as well, which made him cry.

Our ballet trio danced to a Desmond Richardson/Dwight Rhoden-choreographed routine to Romantic Inclinations/Like a Shot/Fury, clad in what looked like aluminum foil. (But both guys were shirtless, so why quibble?) Eliana was almost unrecognizable with her hair slicked back. I found the routine beautiful in places and slow in others, and I didn't feel it really allowed the male dancers to shine. Mary called Eliana a "ballet warrior," saying, "We haven't seen the likes of you!" And of course, she shrieked about both guys.

Jazz dancers Tiffany Maher (I don't remember her) and Audrey Case (of the "farting" shoulder thing) were concerned that they both wouldn't get into the top 20 because they had similar looks and styles. Debbie told Tiffany that during Vegas week she was "invisible, but like a great racehorse, you pulled up to that finish line like a champ." She made it through. Cue looks of concern on Audrey's face. Adam told Audrey that there were a lot of good girls in these genres...which should make it sweeter now that she made it through. He asked her what she was going to do, and she honestly said, "Cry. And call my mom." Cue adorable phone call.

Poor Caitlin Edgar, cut again during this phase of competition. Don't remember her from last year either. And for dancers named Abigail, Katie, and Rebecca, it was sayonara as well.

Belly dancer Janelle Issis became the first one of her genre to make it into the top 20, and Adam told her to "own her moment." Debbie remarked, "Honey, own this!" (Everything sounds much more important when Debbie Allen calls you "honey" or "child.") When she went back into the holding room, she proceeded to whip her head into the door frame—not as bad as Joshua Alexander's back flip into unconsciousness, but equally awkward.

Cat announced that Janelle was "sick" but the doctors said she could perform once the show resumes. (Rumor has it she needed some stitches after the door frame incident, but no one is talking.) Tiffany and Audrey danced a vintage Sonya routine, jerky movements and all, to Sail by AWOL Nation. The two dancers were indistinguishable from each other. Zooey gushed over the performance, saying "I love to see ladies support one another." (Because ladies usually tear each other down, don't you know.) Nigel asked if Tiffany and Audrey were old enough to know what The Flinstones was (I would have died inside if someone said no), and told them they looked like "two dancing Pebbles."

In case you'd forgotten, Joshua Alexander knocked himself unconscious attempting a back flip, and they let him move into the top 35 without doing a solo. (But, of course, they cut Danielle Dominguez, who was injured when she helped another contestant after already getting through one round in Vegas. Ugh.) The judges told him they loved him, but it was a no this season. As it was for male dancers named Blake and Daniel, and Jasmine Mason.

Ryan Gosling lookalike (seriously) Matthew Kazmierczak was given some charade-like tasks by Mary, so it looked like he was opening a door. And then she proclaimed, "You just stepped into the top 20!" Nigel asked Dareian "Lousy Feet" Kujawa if he had done any more training to try and improve the way he points his feet when he dances, to which Dareian replied, "They're like bricks on the end of a leg." But he made it through!

There were two more spots among the top 10 girls left, and three contestants—Janaya "Who?" French, Jill "Never Saw You" Johnson, and our little 1920s ingenue, Amelia Lowe. Janaya made it through, so Jill and Amelia visited the judges together. Keith-Tyce mentioned they were looking for star quality, which is why they picked Amelia over Jill (and probably why Jill had no camera time). I'm either going to love her or loathe her, I haven't decided.

Matthew, Dareian, Janaya, and Amelia danced to a Stacey Tookey-choreographed contemporary routine to Efterklang's Modern Drift. Amelia had an amazing leap into Dareian's arms. As with many of the routines last night, it was partially terrific and partially underwhelming. In her most cogent comments of the night, Zooey called the routine "delicate and beautiful, like watching a painting move." She said that Amelia appeared to be "lit from within." (She's so pale, she's almost like the Cullen family in sunlight in the Twilight movies.) She also said that Janaya almost didn't belong in the routine, but she's just under the radar. Mary said that Dareian may be the smallest male dancer, but she praised his partnering. She continued the trend of calling Janaya "under the radar" (translation: among the first to be cut) and told Matthew they loved him before, and they still love him now.

Amazing martial artist Cole Horibe made it into the top 20. Tappers Aaron and Zack did not. This season two steppers made the final 35, and one, Brandon Mitchell, made it. Which left one slot and two dancers—animator Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer and hiphop dancer Feliciano Turk. To review: Feliciano excelled in every round of Vegas week, Cyrus was weak in every round and only made it through because the judges allowed him to dance his own style in the "dance for your life" round. But of course, Cyrus made it through, because Nigel has never seen anything like him before. Feliciano was rightfully pissed off, because the judges made it clear he was the better dancer.

Look, I like to watch Cyrus dance, too, but after a while it starts to look repetitive. I feel like they've made an exception in his case. Russell in Season 6 didn't need the help, he excelled in everything. They didn't give Legacy much slack. I just hope the choreographers don't create numbers around his animating to make it appear like he can dance.

Cole, Brandon, and Cyrus—dressed as baseball players to plug (repeatedly) Fox's airing of the MLB All-Star Game (July 10, if you care)—danced to a Christopher Scott routine to Nathan Lanier's Resolve. I was most impressed by Cole in this number. Nigel and Mary wore baseball caps when it came time for the judges' critiques, and Nigel explained, "I thought if we publicized the All-Star Game enough, perhaps Fox would pick us up early for Season 10." He said that when the show started nine seasons ago, he never would have believed that there would be a stepper, an animator, and a martial artist as contestants. And then, in the first instance of what I believe will be a long line of unnecessary pimping, Nigel saluted Cyrus for sticking with the competition when his roommates dropped out.

After a promo for National Dance Day (with Season 7 champ Lauren), the top 10 (well, 9) girls performed a Travis Wall routine to Sennen's Where the Light Gets In. The girls danced around a door, which represented the gateway to the afterlife, as well as the gateway into the competition. It was a cool concept, marred only by the fact that when the camera caught certain angles, the bright spotlight behind the door was utterly blinding. Nigel called the routine "like a frieze on a Greek vase."

Sonya choreographed the routine for the top 10 guys. She had them all take off their shirts (not a bad thing, I'm not gonna lie), and Will was concerned about his jiggling. "America doesn't need to see this," he said. The routine had a lot of partnering, as Sonya explained she liked a lot of body contact in her routines, whether the partnering was guy-guy, girl-girl, or guy-girl. Brandon fell out of my favor when he let everyone know "he loves the ladies" even though he has to partner with a guy. (Grow up.)

Dancing to Precognition by Steed Lord, all 10 guys were shirtless and wearing some weird maternity-type pants that looked like they had cummerbunds. It was a terrific routine, athletic yet artistic, and George really stood out. Cat said, "I smell man" afterwards.

And then, the moment hyped for most of the show—the return of Mia Michaels, as she choreographed a routine for the top 20. Clad in black outfits and sunglasses, they danced to Kaskade's Eyes. It had a really cool, flash mob-like quality that I loved. Her choreography is terrific and I hope they'll be using her more often, because as much as I love her group numbers, I love the intimacy of her routines for couples. After a standing ovation, Nigel had the last word: "Welcome home, mama! You've been missed." (Was that Mia's real hair or a frightening wig?)

With that, the evening ended. The show skips a week for July 4, but the top 20 start competing on July 11. How will things change with no more results show? Will the pimping of Cyrus continue? Will they find perceptive guest judges or more deadweight, a la Zooey and last season's Katie Holmes debacle?

Time will tell, my friends. But I hope you'll stay with me on this journey.

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