Thursday, July 26, 2012

SYTYCD Recap: Man, You're On My Man

Last night I realized that as much as I'm enjoying this season, I absolutely loathe this new format without a results show. To have contestants dance and then find out who was in the bottom three last week (despite this week's performance) doesn't make sense to me and, as was the case this week, will result in delayed eliminations, so the contestant who deserved to be eliminated one week will be eliminated the following week. (I believe both Amber and Brandon should have been eliminated along with Janaya and Nick last week as both were lackluster the previous week; instead, neither made the bottom three.) I wish they'd name the bottom three first, eliminate two people, then do the dancing. But what do I know? (Probably as much as Zooey Deschanel. Ouch.)

Cat was all Veronica Lake (or Kim Basinger in LA Confidential) with her super-glam tresses and crimson lips. She really is a joy to watch and clearly loves the contestants and her job.

The show opened with a Charlie Chaplin-meets-Travelers Insurance group number to Jun Miyake's The Here and After. Everyone was dressed like Chaplin, complete with little mustaches, canes, and bowlers, and they seemed to be passing around a red umbrella. I enjoyed the routine but with everyone dressed alike (and in such masquerade) it was difficult to tell anyone apart, which I don't like. But Amelia was fairly recognizable, perhaps because her mustache contrasted with her super-pale skin. (More on that later.) Lately with the group numbers whenever I play "Guess the Choreographer," I'm always wrong, and on this one I was wrong, too, because I would never have thought Keith-Tyce would have choreographed this number. But good on him.

Christina Applegate returned to the judges panel for another season. She's a great complement to Nigel and Mary, because she's knowledgeable without being a know-it-all, and she's not afraid to have an opinion different from theirs, but she seemed a little hesitant to criticize the dancers a few times, backpedaling with things like, "But you're a great couple." Leave the niceness to American Idol, Samantha Who.

Prior to each routine, the contestants shared something we might not know about their partners. Some things were stupid, some were gross, and some were endearing. Apparently George peed his pants the first time he heard the starter's pistol at a track meet, and Tiffany had a 5.22 gradepoint average in high school. (Now she's a student at UCF. Go, Knights!) The two performed a Nappy/Tabs routine to Out of My Mind by B.O.B. (featuring Nicki Minaj), which was about two babysitters who go crazy when their charge won't stop crying. It featured cartoon furniture straight out of SpongeBob, and it was definitely fun in pieces, but I expected more, although Tiffany was much harder hitting than George, who still threw in some great footwork.

Nigel asked that the hiphop routines start to get "grungier," but told Tiffany, "You got down there, girl!" He also accused "track star George" of getting tired and said he seemed out of breath. Not one to shy away from hyperbole, Mary said, "I'm out of my mind over this couple," and said they were fabulous together and lucky to have one another. Christina also praised Tiffany's "balance between sweetness and dirty," but said she wished the slower movements were "soupier."

New couple Brandon and Amber were up next. You may not know that Amber is a hairstylist, which explains why her hair never looks the same twice, and Brandon is in the main crew of Step Up: Revolution (which they didn't mention last week). Plus, Brandon has an awesome smile. (Umm, that was my note, not Amber's.) Ray Leeper was back and choreographed a jazz routine to Aretha's Dr. Feelgood, about a couple in the South that works hard every day but can't keep their hands off each other. It was a hot routine (although not as hot as Sasha and tWitch's routine to Misty Blue last season, which Cat compared this to) and I thought in particular, Amber was really fantastic. I didn't feel as if Brandon had a lot to do other than move Amber around, but he did that well, and with a strong gentleness.

After taking the Lord's name in vain (at least that's what I'm guessing she did, since she was bleeped for a bit), Christina said that she almost felt no one should have been in the room for that routine, it was so private. She said that Amber was the best she has been this season, calling her "passionate, sexy, and beautiful," and told Brandon she forgot in that routine that he was a stepper. Mary babbled something about cereal (maybe she was hungry), called Amber "sultry and soulful," and praised Brandon's "fabulous, unforced masculinity." (I'm not going to mention that she made yet another plug for the movie-that-was-promoted-ad-infinitum last week.) Creepy Nigel called it "baby making choreography," and took it one step further down Creepy Road by mentioning that Ray might have choreographed Napoleon and Tabitha. (And one word: gross.) He said that this was the first time Amber let it all out, and said that Brandon was so strong (and also grossly sweaty) but gentle and careful how he placed her. He did caution Brandon to lower his shoulders when he danced, which apparently is why his suspenders kept falling down. Learn something new every day.

Don't forget National Dance Day this Saturday, kids. And while SYTYCD's lighting crew got an Emmy nod this year, clearly the camera crew didn't, because Nigel kept mentioning people in the audience who the camera never showed. There's a celebrity gala that you can't afford to go to. And also: Shirley MacLaine.

Hottie Pasha returned to choreograph a cha cha for Dareian and Janelle. Janelle is apparently a wannabe rapper who shouldn't quit her day job, and Dareian likes to skateboard. Whoa. Pasha (who was entirely too clothed, even for choreographing) inexplicably chose the ubiquitous Call Me Maybe for their cha cha. Umm, wha? I still thought it was sexy despite the really wrong music, but I expected more from both of them.

Mary was unimpressed, although she said they had a few phenomenal couple tricks. She said their dancing was in and out, the transitions were rough, both had sickled feet (we know all about how bad Dareian's feet are), and while she called them an adorable couple, she said they had no chemistry. (That's the one thing I completely disagree with.) Christina said that Janelle sparkled, although she called out Dareian for doing strange things with his hands, which Nigel picked up on as well. (Apparently the arm that isn't doing work just sits there.) He also didn't like their feet, but more importantly, Nigel didn't think Janelle was sexy. Bam.

Next up were Lindsay and Cole, with a Mandy Moore contemporary number to Wild Horses by Charlotte Martin. BTW, did you know Lindsay has a foot fetish, err, phobia? Anyway, this routine is about the relationship between love and hate. Cole represents all of the hate in the world, and Lindsay is a bright light that Cole is trying to bring down. This routine was exquisite—the lighting was such that the dancers' shadows played out the entire routine on the wall behind them, I once again marveled at Cole's power, speed, and fluidity, and at one point, Lindsay's hair came over her face and it didn't stop her from dancing a beat. I thought this deserved a standing ovation—definitely more so than a number that got one (cough, Cyrus and Eliana, cough).

Nigel praised Mandy's choreography, told Lindsay that her spirit was in the right place but warned her that she had to point her toes better and straighten her legs. He also said that he marveled at how meticulously neat and tidy Cole is with every movement, and mentioned that this could become boring...but Cole could never be boring because he is "an absolute genius." Mary talked endlessly about how she had been forced by producers to fake Lindsay out during the green mile and make her believe there was room for only one ballroom dancer (Witney), but she loved Lindsay, thought she was mesmerizing and has "all the magic in the world." She praised Cole's versatility, asking him, "What can't you do?" She also called it a privilege to watch him each week. Christina called Cole an enigma, that he was a martial artist doing grand jetés, and said he was beautiful to watch. She also noticed how Lindsay's hair masked her face, but realized that she spoke volumes through her body. Cole's face when he is receiving positive feedback makes him look like a little boy.

According to Amelia, Will wishes he was in a boy band and sings all the time. (Wait, doesn't everybody?) And the secret to Amelia's pale skin, says Will, is the tube of "SPF 100" she carries with her everywhere. She also apparently wears a robe and a hat outside. Mandy Moore was back (already!) with a jazz routine about how opposites attract. (Did you totally think they'd do a routine with MC Skat Cat to Paula Abdul's song? I did.) During rehearsal, Mandy became seriously enamored with the big hunk of man Will is, and kept pushing Amelia to the side so she could dance with him instead. (She joked she might bump Amelia off.) Amelia play-acted jealously (at least I think so), saying, "Mandy, man, you're on my man." They danced to You! by The Creatures, clad in clashing black and white outfits. Amelia looked like Lisa Stansfield or the lead singer of 80s band Swing Out Sister. (Break out...) I thought the number was playful and well-danced, with some cool somersaults and intertwined footwork.

Christina called the couple "the dream team," saying their chemistry was palpable, and that they've embraced each of the different styles of their routines so well. Nigel felt quite the contrary, saying he didn't like the costumes, felt the routine didn't connect and that the pair had no chemistry (I don't know what show he was watching last night). He did say Will has the best personality of anyone on the show and he loves where Amelia "comes from" and where her head is at. Mary decided to sit on the fence, saying it wasn't the pair's strongest routine but it was still very good. She praised Will's partnering, saying he's the best partner in the competition and all the girls would clamor for him because of his strength and lifting ability. She also called Amelia "phenomenal to watch." Will adorably was rubbing Amelia's back when the pair received negative feedback. So cute, these two.

Audrey and Matt took on a Liz Lira-choreographed salsa next. Apparently Audrey wears glasses and a retainer to bed and sleeps with stuffed animals, while Matt only started dancing when he was 16, as before that he was Ryan Goslinga golfer. Rehearsals for the salsa didn't go well, and the actual performance, to Cinco Salsa by Sverre Indris Joner with HSC and Kork, didn't fare much better. It was really slow, and Audrey felt that just because she was wearing an outfit with fringe, shaking it equaled salsa. And while Matt is adorable, he's kinda bland. Like Ken doll bland.

Mary said that the two are one of her favorite couples, but the routine "was not on fire," as the chemistry and the connections were off. Christina found the music distracting and said the pair "looked lost." Nigel said he expects the salsa to be "a cocktail mix of dance, sex, and energy," but their routine was "a margarita mix on quarter speed." (Ouch.) He pointed out that one move, the pot stirrer, is usually low to the ground and very fast, but theirs was higher up and really slow. Points to the audience, however, for the "We Love Matt Gosling" sign.

Whitney Houston in Sparkle. Break, heart.

Next up, Chehon and Witney. Chehon is apparently an excellent violinist but puts orange juice in his cereal instead of milk. And Witney speaks a little German, but not enough so she and Chehon can talk about the other dancers secretly. They danced to a Stacey Tookey contemporary number about an impossible love story, where two people want to be together but can't. Chehon confided that he totally understood the mood of the number because he had been in a similar situation. (Was it wrong of me to wonder if it was with a girl or a guy?) They danced to, ironically, Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You (and Witney mentioned she was named for the late singer, apparently by parents who couldn't spell), and it was absolutely mesmerizing and emotional. The couple danced in blue light the entire routine, which gave it a more poignant quality, and Stacey's choreography played both to Chehon's balletic abilities and his strong partnering. There were some incredible lifts and catches in this number, and the pair acted so believably. Just wow.

The judges gave the routine a standing ovation. Christina said she was out of breath because the routine left her on the verge of tears, and told the pair, "You were not just muses, you were painters." She called Chehon "stunning," said that Witney was a "concert dancer," and called the routine "one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen." Mary also was in tears because of Whitney Houston's untimely death, and said the couple brought her music to life. She said that the exquisite catch jump was one of the most memorable moments she had ever seen, called Witney "Lindsay" (although she praised her), and said the routine was Chehon's "defining moment." Nigel also tripped up, saying this number showed why Stacey received "an Oscar nomination." (He also congratulated Cat on her Emmy nomination, and you could see her shyly trying to hide her excitement.) He told the couple he was proud the judges could save them last week because they were flawless and so beautiful. No freaking kidding.

Eliana and Cyrus got the pimp spot, and if you thought it would be for a hiphop routine, you are correct, sir! (Eliana probably will run afoul of PETA after Cyrus revealed that she once slept with a bird she raised in her bed and killed it.) So the pair danced to a Nappy/Tabs routine to a District 78 cover of Britney Spears' Toxic, and it portrayed Cyrus as—get this—A ROBOT, and he apparently changed Eliana's ballerina-on-a-jewelry-box into a robot, too. I wasn't nearly as impressed with the routine as I should have been given it played to Cyrus' strengths, although Eliana did quite well with the hiphop.

The judges undeservedly gave the pair a standing ovation (although Christina was reluctant to stand). Nigel said that it was great to see Cyrus finally get his own genre, but said Eliana was stronger than he was, and asked "Where do ballerinas get swag?" Christina was not as impressed with Cyrus, and said he was lucky he hadn't drawn contemporary yet. Bravo, Kelly Bundy, I'm on your side. I'm all for dancers getting their own genre, but to make him play a frigging robot? Seriously? If Cyrus does not improve in gigantic leaps and bounds really soon, he needs to go home, because if he impinges upon the territory of some of my favorites, my head could explode.

And now it was time to reveal last week's bottom three. The bottom three girls were Amber (okay), Lindsay (expected), and Eliana. No Janelle? Really? The bottom three guys were George (WHAT??), Brandon (I figured), and Dareian. (So no Janelle, but Eliana in the bottom three, and George instead of CYRUS? Are you kidding me?) Nigel announced that the judges wanted to see Amber, Eliana, Brandon, and Dareian dance for their lives, but not Lindsay or George, which I guess meant they would be saved.

Amber's solo to Lana Del Rey's This is What Makes Us Girls was as lackluster as her personality. Stepper Brandon danced to I Want it All Back by Tye Tribbett and GA, and he forgot he needed to step. Eliana's solo was exquisite, danced to Olafur Arnalds' Near Light, and Dareian threw in every trick and move in the book—pirouettes galore and a death defying horizontal leap—as he danced to John Legend's Ordinary People. But before the results, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dazzled with a routine called "The Hunt," danced to Jungle Jazz by Les Tambours du Bronx.

And it was judgment time. Nigel once again reminded everyone there were no adverse votes, just fewer votes in support of someone. He told Lindsay the judges thought she had more room to grow and the potential to do it, which is why they were saving her, and then announced they would be sending Amber home, despite a stellar routine and finally showing her potential. (Again, no personality at all.) He told George he had no idea why he was in the bottom three (perhaps because they don't stop pimping Cyrus) after his fantastic foxtrot last week, so he was safe. He said that Dareian danced the most incredible routine to save his life, and mentioned that they decided to expand the show from a top 16 to a top 20 to include Brandon in order to show the variety of dance styles out there, but it was time to send Brandon home. (Watching his journey made me sad he received no camera time during auditions and made me wish he at least did more stepping during his solo, but I'm glad Dareian was saved.)

Although there's no guessing what the voters will do now, here's what I think:

Should be bottom three guys: Dareian, Matthew, and George
Will be bottom three guys: Dareian, George, and Will (or Matthew)
Should be bottom three girls: Janelle, Tiffany, and Audrey
Will be bottom three girls: Janelle, Tiffany, and Audrey (or perhaps Eliana)

Personally, I think Cyrus and Janelle should go home (although I thought Cyrus was stronger this week), but I think Dareian and Janelle dodged a bullet this week but will lose out next time. The show will take a two-week break so as not to compete with the Olympics.

I feel we're due for Lil C or Debbie Allen on the judges' panel some time soon, and maybe Neil Patrick Harris. Or bring back Christina again. Just no more Shankman, k?

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