Thursday, July 12, 2012
SYTYCD Recap: Nobody puts Kenny in a corner...
Wonderful to have the show back after a hiatus for the 4th of July! I was really looking forward to this week's competition because I think there are a lot of terrific dancers, and I was pleased not to have been let down.
And the excitement started immediately, with the top 20 in a Mad Men-esque office number to Kerry Muzzey's Architect of the Mind, choreographed by Christopher Scott. There was so much going on in this number all at once that it was hard to focus on one particular dancer (although I was able to pick out Alexa and Amelia), but Dareian threw in some incredible pirouettes. Really fun.
And then came one of my favorite partsthe beginning mini-solos! I cannot dance (nor do I even think I can), but I totally dream up my own little solo whenever the introductions come on. And don't even get me started with the moves I want to bust out when Cat says, "These are the girls...and here are your guys." Love it!
Ok, I'm done.
A freshly blonded (new word) Cat helped us welcome our...JUDGES. She introduced Mary as Mia Michaels, which was kinda funny and kinda awkward; "our own Lord of the Dance," Mr. Nigel Lythgoe (evening, sir); and our guest judge, the returning Kenny Ortega. (What a difference from the last show's Zooey Deschanel debacle!)
To cram 10 routines and judging into a two-hour show (and, of course, have room for a National Dance Day promo), we were given nine seconds to get to know each contestant. First up, ballroom sex kitten Witney and Swiss ballerino hottie Chehon, who chose a samba choreographed by Louis Van Amstel. (I know that I'm still scarred from my early DWTS viewings when I'm still waiting for Lisa Rinna to show up around Louis.) Witney, of course, had no problem with this routine (Louis called her a "firecracker"), but Chehon's ballet training and proper carriage caused him to struggle with moving his hips and shaking his money-maker like the samba calls for.
The routine, to Jump by The Cube Guys and Luciana, was fun to watch. Witney was absolutely fantastic, without a lot of the pretend-sexy mugging she likes to do, and while he had some good non-samba leaps and footwork, you could tell Chehon was struggling. Nigel told Witney, "You look like a star, you dance like a star, you are a star," and told Chehon that while he is a fantastic dancer, he needed to relax more, because his overcompensating caused his feet to turn in and made him look bowlegged. Mary told Chehon that once he corrected his foot issues, he'd sail through the competition (although I worry he doesn't have the ability to relax that fellow ballerino Daniel seems to have), and while she had already put Witney on the Hot Tamale Train, promised her first class accommodation this time! And Kenny said that Witney was "like Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, only hotter." (If this were NBC I'd give them props for cross-promotion of Smash.) He also encouraged Chehon to "surrender, Mister!"
Absolutely love that the numbers for the dancers spell out "GO-HIM" or "GO-HER." Nicely done, Mr. Lythgoe, sir!
Tiffany and George were up next, and drew a contemporary routine choreographed by Sonya. This routine told the story of when the stars are perfectly aligned for two people and their love is so strong it takes their breath away. Danced to Sleeping at Last's Turning Page, it really was an exquisite, romantic routine, more like a Travis number than the typical Sonya routine. George's extensions were truly brilliant, and Tiffany brought a magical passion to the number as well.
Mary said the routine left her breathless. She said she had high expectations for George and he didn't disappoint, calling him one of the best dancers in the competition. (Absolutely true.) Of Tiffany, she said, "You may be a tiny little thing, but you looked like a powerhouse out there!" Kenny called the routine "exquisite to watch" and told the dancers, "You spilled it!" (I'm going to try and work that catchphrase into my all-day staff meeting today. Let's see how it works.) Nigel also praised the choreography, saying that we had the chance to see a more sensitive and romantic side of Sonya. (He also hinted that she had "found love," evidenced by her growing her hair out.) He told George and Tiffany that while they were both small in stature, they danced to the edge of their fingertips, and praised the vulnerability they brought to the performance.
Jazz dancer Janaya (who?) and stepper Brandon partnered on a Nappy/Tabs hip-hop number about a man forced to choose between his addiction to alcohol and his true love. (Is Tabitha one of the most adorably mega-pregnant women you've ever seen?) The routine, to Take Care by Drake with Rihanna, was a slower hip-hop than we've normally seen from Nappy/Tabs, without much of the hard-hitting moves. It felt more like an afterschool special than a hip-hop routine.
Kenny said that the routine turned hip-hop into a deeper language, and said that he believed every word of the story, as if the dancers were speaking. The judges' general consensus was that Janaya needed to give a little more (or get "down and dirty"), but they were told, "You'll both have to pull up your socks to become stars on this competition" because the routine didn't show much of their personality. I think both dancers may wind up in the bottom three.
In her intro, Alexa tried to pretend she was fun and giggly, and Daniel decided to play on all of the Aussie stereotypes, saying he throws boomerangs, is related to Crocodile Dundee, and only eats vegemite. (He has a super dynamic smile.) The two danced a jazz routine choreographed by Sean Cheesman, to Dennis Ferrer's Hey Hey. Both were fully resplendent in red outfits, with Daniel in a red suit (note to choreographers: this boy should be shirtless more) and Alexa looking awesome with straight hair. The routine had the dancers start out atop a metal scaffolding, which they then climbed down. Daniel had some great leaps, and it was a really fast-moving, complicated routine that I enjoyed.
The judges, on the other hand, while praising the difficulty of the routine, said it was difficult for the audience to forge a connection with the dancers because there was so much going on. Nigel said that both dancers "showed what you are capable of," but Kenny said that while he appreciated the exercise, he didn't feel that Daniel and Alexa were as invested in the performance. I completely disagree, and although this show is looking for America's "favorite" dancers rather than the best dancers, should mastery of complex routines count more than mugging and over-dramatization?
Rihanna-lookalike Amber (who has virtually no personality) and emotional ballroom boy Nick (who simultaneously looks like a Jonas brother and KD Lang) teamed up for a Viennese waltz (yawn) choreographed by Jason Gilkison. Because this dance is in Nick's genre, Jason was really hard on him for his failure to pick up the crispness of the moves quickly. But would the pair succeed? Dancing to a Tina Arena cover of The Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin, the number was lyrical and flowy (helped in part by Amber's flowy skirt), but the two had zero chemistry, and Nick made some dramatic faces (Nigel referred to them as "pulling anxious faces") that were distracting.
Kenny called it "fluid, flowing, and lovely," while Mary said it was "dreamy," calling Nick's performance "phenomenal." Nigel said it was danced well but it was difficult to get excited about the dance itself, and warned Amber to watch how her core collapses while dancing.
Nappy/Tabs returned with a hip-hop routine for Amelia and crazy big teddy bear Will. Calling it "character pop," Napoleon explained that Amelia was a sophisticated housecat, while Will was a laid-back cat daddy who became smitten with her. I expected an absolute fiasco. Dancing to The Lovecats by The Cure (although I was hoping they'd dance to Stray Cat Strut), it was a terrific, quirky, playful, sexy number. I really enjoyed it and thought both Amelia and Will were fantastic.
The judges praised the routine for the amount of personality it allowed the dancers to show, and said it would be a routine that viewers would talk about after the show. Kenny's one misstep of the night was when he said to Amelia, "If we had a kitty like you we would play with you all day long." (I guess it was less creepy than if Nigel had said it.) Nigel questioned whether the number was actually hip-hop rather than character-hop or pop-hop (Cat even weighed in saying, "Maybe a little Broadway?") but said it was danced brilliantly.
Klutzy belly dancer Janelle (back from medical leave) and dynamic contemporary dancer Dareian teamed up on a Sean Cheesman African jazz number to Jungle by Hilight Tribe. The routine was tremendously fast-paced, and even seemed to have some Bollywood-like moves in it. It showed off Dareian's athleticism and terrific moves, as well as Janelle's sex appeal, and there were some pretty tricky steps thrown in.
The judges went through Janelle's litany of recent injuries, including the replay of her hitting her head on the door frame shortly after being named to the top 20, but they praised her performance. Mary said that Dareian was so exciting and she never knows what to expect. Nigel said both dancers came out as winners, while Kenny proclaimed, "It was like watching two flames dance across the stage. You set the stage on fire." (See why I like him as a guest judge?)
The team of Eliana and Cyrus were up next, and took on a Broadway number choreographed by Keith-Tyce. The routine, to Run and Tell That from the musical Hairspray, was set in a classroom, so we had a blackboard as a prop and Eliana was dressed like a schoolgirl. I thought it was joyful and full of personality but not so much the complicated dance moves, although I will say that Cyrus did better than I expected. I'm not sure how he'll progress this season but I was thankful they didn't give him hip-hop right off the bat.
Keith-Tyce was utterly emotional after the routine, hollering and screaming and cheering, all while wearing a ridiculous scarf. (First of all, Keith-Tyce, it's July and you're in LA. Scarf not necessary. Second of all, you're not in your 20s so there's no reason to dress like Travis Wall. But it's nice to see you so happy.) The judges were also excited about the routine, but praised the contestants' personalities more than their dancing ability. Mary gave the "Winners are people with extraordinary heart, and Cyrus, you are a winner" speech, while Nigel acknowledged that although Cyrus is "not yet a great dancer," he immerses himself fully in every number. He also called Eliana "the benchmark for the girls this season," and while she's amazingly talented, nothing she did in this number warranted that praise.
Neck farter (she mentioned it again, what do you want from me?) Audrey and Ryan Gosling twin Matt partnered on a contemporary routine choreographed by Travis. The routine was set in the 1900s on the Titanic, and the dancers performed to Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers. Like so many of Travis' routines, this was beautiful and emotional and the dancers were fantastic. Audrey had some terrific splits and a death-defying leap off a sofa, and Matt was a romantic, emotional powerhouse. Travis is a genius, nine times out of 10.
The judges gave their first standing ovation of the evening. Kenny called the routine "gorgeously danced and exquisitely choreographed," while Nigel called it his "favorite routine of the evening." Mary said that Matt showed true emotional vulnerability, and Audrey was "just perfection." It is still inconceivable to me that Travis didn't win his season.
The final routine of the evening featured Lindsay and Cole in a Jason Gilkison-choreographed paso doble to E.S. Posthumus' Unstoppable. I am a sucker for a good paso doblewatch Apolo Ohno and Julianne Hough or Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff from Dancing with the Stars, or even Legacy and Kathryn's paso doble from Season 6. Cole and Lindsay were fantastic. Cole's martial arts training helped his carriage and some of his moves were amazing, and Lindsay looked phenomenal next to him.
Although short on time, the judges gave the routine their second standing ovation. Kenny called it electrifying and mesmerizing, and said that Cole and Lindsay gave two of the best performances he'd ever seen on the show. Mary called it the best paso doble ever on the show, and Nigel said that Cole gave the best male paso doble performance ever. "You have magic," he said, and he also said Lindsay did a terrific job. Nigel also told Jason that this number could be part of Burn the Floor (the show Jason created).
And with that, the first performance show ended. The weakest male performers for me were Nick, Brandon, and Cyrus, while the three weakest female performers were Janaya, Amber and, I don't know, maybe Alexa? Two guys and two girls go home next week...and you know they won't send Cyrus home!!
So until next week, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars! (Yeah, that's Casey Kasem, but whatever.)