Thursday, August 23, 2012

SYTYCD Recap: Hey Now, You're An All-Star...

Where has this season gone? I realize that next Saturday marks the first of September, but I feel like the season really just got started, and Cat (sporting slightly messy hair and a silvery sack mini-dress) mentioned last night we're only three weeks until the performance finahle. Obviously we took a break for July 4 and a two-week break for the Olympics, which necessitated the brutal cuts of eight dancers in two shows, but all this does is further undercut how much I've disliked this season's format. Like we couldn't have a 30-minute results show? Like American Idol needs an hour-long results crapfest, but SYTYCD can't?

Quelle dommage, Fox. Quelle dommage, indeed.

The show opened with an old-time Hollywood tribute group number to Cool World Stomp by Mark Isham. Eliana was the star of the number, glammed up like a starlet and treated like royalty. Cyrus lumbered around the stage as he is wont to do (and I don't seem to remember the golden age of Hollywood seeing a lot of animation dancing, save those creations of Walt Disney) and, as I mentioned last week, it gets harder and harder to watch group numbers when so much is going on at once.

I was confused when I didn't recognize one of the guys dancing in the number. I wondered if something had happened and someone had to be replaced by Dareian, but then I realized—why, golly gee—it was Keith-Tyce! Dancing in his own routine! (It turns out K-T was filling in for a "slightly injured" Cole, although the interwebs are swarming with the theory that Keith-Tyce wanted time in the spotlight after the Mia fest last week.) The number, as we've learned, was a tribute to Gene Kelly's 100th birthday (which is today). His widow, Patricia (who must have been about eight when he died), was there. Lovely lady. She's probably like my age. Sigh.

Mini-solos! Witney looked super-hot with her wavy throwback hair. Chehon once again sported his "Che Force" tshirt. Lindsay wore the yellow version of the pink gown she danced her solo in last week. (Why do I notice these things?)

Joining Nigel and Mary on the judges panel this week, the very dapper (and sangfroid) Benjamin Millipied, ballet dancer, choreographer, and Mr. Natalie Portman. The man certainly knows what he's talking about, but I wonder if he was at all rattled by Mary's brand of cray-cray.

Of course, this week marked the return of the All-Stars. First up, Tiffany was paired with Season 5's Brandon (I. Love. This. Man.) on a Doriana Sanchez disco routine to, strangely, a remix of Cobra Starship's You Make Me Feel (la la la la la). The thing with Doriana's routines is they're either spot-on fast, furious and fabulous, or just gimmicky. This routine—with 11 eye-popping lifts—was definitely the former. Brandon, adorable and muscle-bound as always, was a frigging dynamo, tossing Tiffany every which way but loose, above his head, over his shoulder, on the floor, and the two like literally spun a few times. Tiffany really tore into this routine in a way I didn't see her dance while partnered with George.

Nigel was thrilled to have Doriana back and said that Tiffany was sensational and fantastic, although "it is difficult to talk about your dancing, because your feet never were on the floor!" Mary said she set the dance floor on fire, and praised Brandon's strength and finesse through all the lifts, although she said Tiffany more than held up her end of the bargain. "It was a party!," she exclaimed. ("With connection," Nigel interjected.) Benjamin calmly said that Tiffany had the chance to be totally fearless in this routine, and also praised her "very expressive face, which reads well on camera."

Witney was paired up with Season 1 winner Nick for a Travis Wall jazz routine, set to Moloko's Sing It Back. (Hey, now we have half the cast of Travis' show All the Right Moves. Bonus!) This routine takes place in an abandoned lounge, and the dancers play two ghosts who don't want the show to end. Travis' goal was for Witney to be as sexy as possible, since she hasn't had that opportunity on the show. (Plus she's 18, but why let that stop us?) Again, I thought Witney was hot and the pair had super chemistry, but I felt like this number had more wow moments for Nick than her.

Monsieur Portman thought Witney was excellent, and said the routine was difficult because of the transitions between release and tension. (Don't know what that meant but it was far more impressive said with a French accent.) Nigel blathered on about how when the all-stars come back you have to dance and live up to great dancers as well as great choreographers, but Witney was "totally committed." He said "you're sexy when you breathe, darling" and told her she's a star who could go all the way. "Lord have Murphy," said our ballroom diva. She called Witney "smoking" and agreed with Nigel's calling her a star. When Nick left the stage he said to Witney, "You're brilliant." Nice touch.

Our ballroom bombshell Anya (newly blonde) returned to dance the cha-cha with Cole, choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin to The Wanted's Glad You Came. (No mention of Cole's "slight injury." Hmm.) Cole mentioned he was hoping to be the first of the top 10 on the hot tamale train. I thought the cha cha was pretty sexy, and thought the pair had good chemistry, but thought Cole made dance-y faces like Kent used to all the time. (I guess the cha-cha brings out that Dancing with the Stars-esque cheesiness.)

The judges didn't much agree with me. Although Mary called the number "amazing" and reminded everyone that Anya was the original hot tamale, she said that she thought Cole's performance was a little sloppy, uncharacteristically. She cautioned him about applying more pressure to the balls of his feet. She also said the chemistry wasn't hot enough and that the routine wasn't believable (umm, no), and that, while Cole's bags were packed and he was standing on the platform, but he was not yet ready to board the hot tamale train. (It's ok, Cole. The train breaks down a lot. Oh, wait, that's the DC Metro.) Benjamin said Cole partnered well but needed to think about contrast in his movements. Creepy Uncle Nigel told Anya, "I'm glad you came" (gross), but told Cole he was disappointed in his lack of contact with Anya. He said the routine had no rise and fall, and said (accurately) that Cole "was performing to us [the audience], not Anya." All in all though, he called the performance "good, not bad for your first cha-cha." Cole didn't seem particularly amused. (So wait, was he injured? I kept waiting for the judges to temper their criticism with a "but I know you were hurt this week, so..." but it never came. This boy better not go home.)

Much to my immense pleasure, Season 6's Jakob returned (albeit an oranger, more, umm, gay version of himself) to dance with Lindsay. The pair would be performing a Spencer Liff Broadway routine to Dancin' Dan (Me and My Shadow) from Fosse. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not routinely impressed with Spencer Liff's routines, despite how adorable he is, and they usually spell doom for the dancers. This routine, however, which played with light and imagination and shadow, was fantastic. Lindsay danced in front of a screen with Jakob as her shadow, and the two had to perfectly mirror each other's movements, both with and without the screen. (Jakob scarily had a more feminine-looking line than Lindsay, but I don't judge.) I thought Lindsay was fantastic and Jakob really is an incredible dancer, and Spencer gave them both a lot to do.

Nigel told Lindsay she was "magnificent yet again," but she still "had a lot to learn," and it was amazing that she "almost went home two weeks ago." (Almost? Really? You didn't even ask her to do a solo that week.) Rubbing salt in Cole's wounds, Mary put Lindsay on the hot tamale train, saying, "you keep hitting us every single week!" Benjamin called the two a "fantastic pair," and said the number was incredibly well-executed and musical, and praised its "great crescendo." (BalletBoyz, hope you see what a real judge says.)

Will paired up with Season 6's Kathryn (and, of course, the star of Step Up: Revolution) for a Nakul-choreographed Bollywood number about a snake charmer who is charming a sexy woman that turns out to be a snake. The routine, to Ooh La La (The Dirty Picture Soundtrack), was everything a Bollywood routine should be, fast and joyful and playful and sexy and fun. Kathryn continues to amaze me with how her dancing gets better and better (not so much the scintillating personality, but what can you do), and this was the perfect number for Will's goofiness, plus he and Kathryn had great chemistry.

Mary said Will is one of the most likeable contestants on the show, and called him an Energizer Bunny, but also praised his amazing control in his forward ronde. (I love talking dance.) Benjamin called the number charming and engaging, and said that Will "took advantage of every moment." After praising Kathryn's movie stardom (and all but congratulating himself for discovering her), Nigel said to Will, "There are times when I want to tell you to calm down and take things a little more seriously, but then I say, 'Shut up, Nigel.'" (Believe me, I do, too.)

Cyrus finally drew the contemporary straw, pairing with Season 3's Jaimie on a Travis Wall routine about life after destruction, to M83's Outro. It was very dramatic, and Cyrus even did sort of a leap, and his partnering was good, but he's just not a strong enough dancer. I'm starting to really worry about whether he's going to win this competition this season.

I was waiting for Benjamin to criticize Cyrus, but he praised his "raw energy," which he called compelling and exciting. (Oh yeah, Benjamin? Well, your wife didn't deserve the Oscar. So there.) Nigel said that he got a lot of letters at the start of the season from people angry that they put Cyrus on the show because he wasn't a strong dancer (I call BS, because no one writes letters to television shows anymore), but it was that "people just don't understand dance." He quoted George Balanchine, who said, "Don't give me dancers who want to dance, give me dancers who have to dance." He said that Cyrus doesn't point his toes or do other moves cleanly, but "you're still brilliant." Seriously. Mary praised the connections and transitions between lifts, calling them "amazing" (umm, okay) and said that Cyrus' feet and legs "were not the best" but his passion touched everyone. What's the point of the show if he gets a pass every week for not being a strong dancer. I realize that sometimes the entertainment factor has an edge over technicality, but really? Not a good dancer, but brilliant anyway?

In the second "should be interesting" number of the evening, Chehon paired up with Lauren Gottlieb from Season 3 on a Dave Scott hiphop routine to Maxwell's Pretty Wings. The routine was about a pair of best friends who always lean on each other. I found the number much more of a lyrical hiphop than an actual hiphop routine, but Chehon did do some terrific moves.

Nigel said, "Dave finally took the stick out of you." He said Chehon finally had a smile on his face (and cool hair), and seemed so much warmer than he has previously. He lectured Chehon a bit about technique versus passion, and praised him for "setting the hook out there and reeling us in." Mary said she wanted it to be funkier (because that's how she rolls, yo) and said it was in and out for her, but Benjamin praised Chehon's spontaneous-seeming performance, saying it looked like he had fun, although he told him to focus more on "looseness."

Keith-Tyce returned to choreograph a jazz routine for George and Season 2's Allison to Hazmat Modine's Bahamut. The routine took place in Paris, where George is a rich man waiting for a train but Allison distracts him, and the two spend a raunchy night together. Allison (with darker hair) is sexy as hell, and again this week, George was technically terrific but his performance lacked personality and passion, which was strange for a number that was supposed to be passionate and raunchy. (The boy wears bow ties and shorts. Raunch and George don't seem to mesh that well, do they?)

Mary said that Nigel would have missed his train, too (I love it when the other judges and Cat preempt Nigel's creepiness), and called the routine "fun to watch." Benjamin admitted he was a fan of George's, and called him "exceptional" and "an amazing mover" who "can do almost anything." Nigel called George's technique tremendous, but said he didn't believe the character he played, calling it "immature." He said that George was just dancing, and Allison wouldn't have thought he was raunchy at all.

I'm sure that Eliana breathed a sigh of relief when she learned it was finally time to dance with an all-star instead of Cyrus, and I'm sure she utterly freaked out when she found out she'd be paired up with Season 7's doomed Alex Freakin' Wong! The two took on a Stacey Tookey routine to Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), about an on-again, off-again relationship. Lord have Murphy! Eliana was absolutely incredible—technically brilliant, sexy, and powerful, and Alex showed what a force he would have been had he been able to actually compete on the show. Best routine of the night, although it seemed much shorter than the others.

The judges gave them a standing ovation (although Benjamin hesitated in his very French way). Nigel proclaimed, "If anyone is unsure what it means to have maturity in movement, they need to watch this routine." He called Eliana his favorite girl this season, and praised her perfection in both technique and performance. He, too, said the number was too short. Mary called Eliana the star of the show, saying this routine was her favorite of the night. She said it was "perfectly layered, like the perfect tiramisu." (Yummy.) Benjamin said the routine was executed beautifully and driven by so much passion that everyone felt it.

The final routine of the evening paired Audrey with the always-amazing tWitch (aka "Titch") on a Dave Scott hiphop number to Sincerely Jane by Janelle Monae. The routine was about a 400-year-old couple who both love and hate each other and Dave said that "on a scale of 1-10, this routine is a 12." (Don't know what that meant, but it wasn't. In any way.) The couple started out in a coffin and all I kept thinking was, "Boy, Audrey is out of her league." (And besides, I haven't seen a zombie-themed routine I've enjoyed since Jason and Kayla danced to Izza Kizza's They're Everywhere in Season 5.) Audrey also looked like a little girl dancing with a man.

Benjamin said it was unfair that Audrey had to dance with tWitch, and he wanted more from her. Mary Mary Quite Contrary said that Audrey made her watch her, not tWitch (yeah, right) and called her "a little dance angel." Nigel said he would have liked to see a little more character, and said, in an utterly unconnected remark, that Audrey reminded him of Helena Bonham Carter. Wha? Because of her ability to do British costume dramas? Nigel also said how amazing tWitch is, and how proud he is of his success in Step Up: Revolution (I kept expecting Shankman to poke his head in every time the movie was mentioned). tWitch was surprisingly emotional about this praise.

Cat then rushed the top 10 into the dreaded results. (Like they couldn't have paused for a commercial? They had 30 minutes left. Has anyone ever watched American Idol and noticed how they draw...everything...out...and...time for a break!) She revealed that, unsurprisingly, Audrey was in the bottom two (should have gone home last week, grumble grumble) and that Witney joined her. Really? The bottom two guys were George (for the third week in a row—should have gone home last week, grumble grumble) and Chehon. No Cyrus. Again.

Given that there was a ton of time left, it was no surprise when Nigel said he wanted all four to dance their solos. Witney brought her hotness to Santigold's You'll Find a Way and did a terrific job; Audrey danced to the appropriate And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going by Jennifer Holliday, and was appropriately fierce and determined; Chehon was absolutely magnificent in his solo to Olafur Arnalds' Til Enda, bringing one of the highest leaps I've ever seen and a magnificent pirouette series; and George, also trotting out the Olafur Arnalds (he danced to Brotsjor), was tremendously strong as well. I had a feeling they'd let Audrey go but wasn't sure if they'd save George for the third time.

But before the death blows were loosed, Benjamin's LA Dance Project performed to Nico Muhly's Trio. And if Eliana and Alex's routine earlier was a tiramisu, this was a soufflé—lovely to look at but kind of boring.

In revealing the results, Nigel mentioned that the decision to save Witney wasn't unanimous. (Wha? Who didn't want to save Witney? Audrey was weak two weeks in a row. Is Witney a bitch to the choreographers or something?) Audrey was sad, but surprisingly the cameras didn't cut to Matthew Gosling in the audience, which they had earlier.

Of the guys, Nigel mentioned that both have had trouble connecting with the audience. He said George danced the best solo they'd ever seen him dance, and said that Chehon takes their breath away with his solos but they don't understand why he can't translate that into his performances. However, because he takes the judges' breath away, they decided to save Chehon. (I would have thrown a fit if George was saved again, considering that clearly he hasn't connected with the audience almost ever.) George's farewell montage reminded me he rocked the shorts and bow tie combination even when he made it into the top 20.

It's interesting. For a season I thought had such tremendous promise, I'm a little baffled about where it's going. Who is going to win? For me, Cole has been superior every week, although I enjoy watching Will's performances and Chehon is a magnificent dancer. And then, of course, there's Cyrus. Short of an amazing—no, miraculous—transformation in the next three weeks, he should not win, and if he does, there's something wrong with the show. As far as the girls, I guess it's Eliana's to lose, but I'd guess any of the other three could win.

I just don't feel as strongly about these contestants as I did Melanie, Marko, and Sasha last season. And I have no idea who will be in the bottom two next week—I'm guessing it will be Chehon and Cole (or Will), with Chehon or Will going home, and I'd guess for the girls, anyone but Eliana will go home next week.

For a show I enjoy so much, I wish I didn't feel so ambivalent. But maybe it will change next week, should (fingers crossed) it be Cyrus' turn to say adieu.

Lord have Murphy, indeed.


  1. I think the dances were made for these guys while pushing them at the same time since they had “real” dancers with them. Will isn’t really my favorite as a dancer, but the routine really fit his playful personality and that made the whole thing so entertaining. I think Nigel’s comments about Cyrus were both brilliant (the “have to dance” bit) and lame (bad dancers should get to win), but I like your pointing that out. Lately, I’ve also come to realize that my schedule is just too unpredictable to watch live TV, so I’m really appreciating how my PrimeTime Anytime recordings help me watch the shows I follow. I used to let the shows pile up, but now I get so excited that I can watch without commercials because of Auto Hop that sometimes I get my shows in before I go to work (and more watched each week) while I’m getting ready for going to my job at Dish.

  2. Thanks. I find Will just a lot of fun, and he has turned out to be a stronger dancer than I thought he'd be. (And I never thought he'd outlast Amelia.) Cyrus is excellent in his own genre, but to me, that's it.