Thursday, July 19, 2012

SYTYCD Recap: Stepping Up

Wow, last night's show was jam-packed! Ten routines, a group routine from the Adam Shankman-produced Step Up: Revolution, endless plugs for said movie, and, sadly, the elimination of four(!) dancers. And while I didn't care much about three of the four jettisoned from the competition, I realized that I like so many dancers this season, the eliminations are going to start irritating me more than they usually do. Oh well, if I didn't have something to be irritated about, people would start to worry.

The show opened with a wild routine to Marilyn Manson's Beautiful People, inspired, it seemed to me, by Snow White and the Huntsman, complete with Cyrus as the Phantom of the Opera meets Magic Mirror, dancers in masks and feathers, and lots of frenetic, jerky movements that clearly spelled a Sonya Tayeh routine, didn't it? But no, it was Nappy/Tabs. Go figure. Look at what pregnancy is bringing to this couple—this routine was dynamite.

Intro mini-solos done as couples. Not sure I like that. But here are your girls...and here are your guys!

Cat (sporting bad post-pool hair) promised a "spectacular night of dancing and drama," so it seemed only natural that the king of drama himself, Adam "Step Up" Shankman, was tonight's guest judge. He told Cat she looked like "a big, sexy tomato," so she invited him to "take a bite." So cheeky, our Cat.

National Dance Day plug blah blah blah. Although the choreographer stamps featuring Katherine Dunham, Bob Fosse, Isadora Duncan, and Jose Limon are pretty cool. It's July 28, BTW.

Super-hot paso doble pair Lindsay and Cole opened the evening with a Christopher Scott-choreographed hiphop routine, about a nerdy patient (Cole) who visits a sexy dentist (Lindsay), set to (go figure) Lady GaGa's Teeth. Cole had the nerdy persona down pat, complete with suspenders, high-waisted pants, and black-framed glasses. Lindsay tried vamping it up. It was cute, and I marveled at Cole's fluidity as he moved through the dance, but all in all, I wasn't wowed by the routine. Amazingly, Cole (who was given a lollipop by the sexy dentist) stayed in character during the entire time the judges gave their feedback.

Nigel told Lindsay she should go the UK, because "we need more help with our teeth, and more people would definitely go to the dentist if you were there." He called Lindsay's performance "a little immature," and said she needed to play more to Cole than to the audience. Mary also knocked Lindsay's performance a bit, but called Cole, "A lean, mean dancing machine" and "the nerd of all nerds," although she said, "I find the fact that you're still in character a little unnerving." (Didn't make him shake it, though.) Adam suggested that the American Dental Association adopt the routine to get more people to go to the dentist. He didn't like that people were paying more attention to Cole than him, so he said, "Cole, you're stressing me out here. Dude, let it go!" (He didn't.) He told Lindsay she needed to have a deeper investment in her character. And then Cat took Cole's lollipop and put it in her mouth. "It matched my outfit," she said.

Hot cats Will and Amelia took on a Sonya contemporary routine, to 3326 by Olafur Arnalds. (Anyone catch how many times Will kissed the top of Amelia's head or her forehead in the lead-in to their performance, or during the judges' feedback? Discuss.) Will and Amelia played two souls carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. I thought this was a brilliant routine; both dancers had amazing extensions, and I particularly loved the part when Will was hanging on to Amelia's leg and she kept dragging him. Amelia looked particularly lovely tonight, I thought, although she's so pale she makes porcelain look dirty.

Mary gave the performance her trademark scream, saying Will and Amelia brought the routine to life and had "gone up another floor" in her eyes. Adam—who called the routine—"sickness" (in a good way)—gave the performance a standing ovation. He said Amelia was brilliant, and praised her ability to get lost in the piece. He also said Will "stepped it up" (shameless plug, and one of many), and that their performances were so good that he wasn't aware of the difference in their sizes. Nigel praised Sonya's choreography, saying it went "from strength to strength," and singled out Amelia's full immersion in her character. He then called the pair "lucky": lucky they're both contemporary dancers, lucky to have great choreography, lucky to have each other, and lucky they're "both brilliant dancers." Easily one of my favorite routines of the night.

Amber and Nick drew ballroom again, this time dancing a tango choreographed by Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, to Sexteto Mayor's Tanguera. In the brief snippet before the performance, Amber mentioned that she and Nick got along as well as "bubblegum and oil." (Sounds like a Selena Gomez song, don't you think?) It was a good tango, not a great tango (like Ellenore and Ryan's from Season 6, or Janette and Brandon's from Season 5), although Amber looked really good. It's amazing how in two dances in his genre Nick hasn't blown me away. I did think they had really good leg movements, though.

Adam called it "hot" and praised Amber's lines, and said that Nick was such a brilliant partner that all Adam could look at was Amber. (He giveth and he taketh away, that Adam.) Nigel disagreed that Nick made Amber look good, saying "Amber made herself look good." He said Nick was very, very strong, although he was quick to point out Nick was in his element. Mary explained that the routine was extremely difficult and demanding, but they made it look effortless. She said Amber was "on fire out there," while she praised Nick for doing so many reverse pivots on his hip, although she, too, pointed out he was in his genre.

Sonya was back again, this time choreographing a contemporary routine for Audrey and guyliner-wearing Matthew (who was also shirtless; thank you, costumers). The routine depicted a robotic power struggle between a man and a woman, and it was danced to Steed Lord's Hear Me Now. (Sonya loves Steed Lord; this is the second song of theirs she's used this season, and she's used at least a few before.) It was a very acrobatic performance—Audrey did an amazing split while being lifted above Matthew's head, and the whole routine was vintage Sonya playing to her strengths. (Oh, and Matthew looks hot in guyliner. I'm just saying.)

Nigel praised the darker style of the routine and called both dancers incredible, saying "you're definitely one of America's favorite couples." Mary also called them one of her favorite couples, saying that they "maximized everything—projection, acceleration, intensity." Adam admitted that until the Green Mile, he had doubts about Audrey, but with her "freaking brilliant" performance, she wiped away all of his doubts. He also told Matt that "if you keep it up like that, it's yours to lose."

Janelle and Dareian took on a Christopher Scott-choreopgraphed lyrical hiphop number to My Girl by The Temptations. (I love when hiphop routines are set to non-traditional songs.) In this routine, Dareian takes Janelle on an elaborate date, and at the end of the date, he plans to propose. (During the mini-intro to the routine, Janelle said, "Marry Dareian? He's like Donald Duck!" Cue Donald Duck imitation...) While I absolutely love Dareian, and think he had some strong moments in the routine, overall, this fell flat. It seemed a little, well, Disney theme park-y, and there wasn't much dancing. But the routine ended with a fairly hot kiss between the two. No quacking then...

Adam said that Dareian was more invested in his character than Janelle was, and explained that this was as important a component of a strong performance as was "dancing a grand jeté." He also said the performance suited Dareian perfectly. Nigel sharpened his claws on Christopher Scott, saying that the routine "felt uninspiring, with the music" and that he had let the dancers down, because "both were capable of more than they were given." Mary said she felt nervous, because the last time two dancers kissed during a routine, Nigel kissed her, so of course, Adam didn't want anyone to upstage him, so he "kissed" Nigel. (You know, when you pretend to kiss someone by putting a hand over their mouth and then kissing the hand. Like you did when you were five.) Time to kill this gag, folks. It actually isn't funny. Mary then called the routine "light and airy" and said the dancers "did it okay." (Again, this underscores one of my problems with this show. The dancers pick a routine and a choreographer at random; it's not their fault if they get too easy or too complex a routine, so they really shouldn't be at risk because of that. If you suck in an easy routine, sure, you should be eliminated, but if you give it your all and the routine sucks, it just doesn't seem fair.)

Watch out, Keith-Tyce, because Sean Cheesman choreographs Broadway numbers, too! This routine, for Janaya and Brandon, took place at a bus stop, where a woman was reading a racy novel and it makes her get a little aggressive with her fellow passenger. (Not as aggressive as it was during rehearsals, apparently, when Brandon took a hit to his "precious jewels.") The routine, to Bring on the Men by Linda Eder (from Jekyll and Hyde) was cute and fun, a little more challenging than Dareian and Janelle's non-hiphop hiphop number. Ironically (in terms of what happened later), Janaya showed lots of personality, and both appeared to have a lot of fun. (Points—not that they matter at this point—to Janaya, for dancing even after losing a shoe.)

Adam called it "super fun," saying that Brandon took a huge "step up" (ugh) and said, "Janaya, this was actually great for you." (Ouch.) Nigel, too, damned Janaya with faint praise, saying "you brought something this week." Mary called it one of the most entertaining numbers of the evening (inasmuch as you could say that Mary is your favorite female judge on the show), said that Brandon "stepped it up" (seriously, people, enough) and praised Janaya for her crazy somersault. Meh.

Can I mention how psyched I was to see Melanie Lapatin on the show? Love her, love her attitude, and can't forget how danced the foxtrot with Russell during Season 6 when his partner, Noelle, was injured.

Anyway, Melanie and Tony Meredith choreographed the jive for Cyrus and Eliana, set to I'm Shakin' by Jack White. If you thought the words "Cyrus" and "jive" might not mesh well, you're pretty much correct. I thought the routine was fun (and Eliana was hot) but Cyrus was just a mess technically, although he did bring a great deal of personality to the number. Some of the footwork was good, but is personality really enough? I feel like it just wasn't fair to some of the other dancers who got cut before the top 20 that Cyrus remains a work in progress. It certainly isn't fair to Eliana, who is an excellent dancer.

Mary pointed out some of Cyrus' weaknesses in the routine—his transitions were rough, his posture went in and out—but praised him for being there to support Eliana, and said, "It looked like you were having fun out there." She told Eliana her star was shining, and called her a phenomenal dancer. Adam said that Cyrus was a good partner, but called Eliana "the hardest working woman in show business," because she needed to make Cyrus look good while still concentrating on her performance. He also praised her tour en l'air, or turn in the air. (Look at me, I can't dance but I can Google dance vocabulary!!) Nigel asked Cyrus what other routines they had to choose from, and he mentioned that only the jive, foxtrot, tango, and Bollywood routines were left when it was their turn to choose. Nigel said that with Cyrus "sometimes it's like a brick wall" in terms of his performance, and that he needed to "connect the dots better" instead of just standing there and being a good partner. He also acknowledged the difficult job Eliana had compensating for Cyrus. (Gee, who thought this would happen? Anyone? Bueller?)

Alexa and Daniel (who was shirtless this week, so thanks to the costumers for heeding my plea in last week's recap) took on a contemporary routine choreographed by Dee Caspary, to So Long My Friend by Yanni(!). The routine was about a couple with a tremendously strong emotional connection, and they danced in and out of a bathtub, because the water in the bathtub drowned out the words. (As much as I love contemporary routines, I do love that the ballroom routines have little or no back story, it's all about dance.) Poor Alexa and Daniel, though, for a second successive dance with a controlling prop. (Ironic moment: dead-faced Alexa talking in the intro about the need to have a strong emotional connection with Daniel.) There were some beautiful moments, but there was just too much bathtub stuff for me, and not enough dancing. (Props to Cat for calling the routine "very Splash.")

Adam praised the absolute beauty of the routine and its difficulty, but called it "chilly," saying that there was no passion in the performance. Mary wondered if the routine would lead to the rise of a new dance genre, "dance bathing" and cautioned viewers "don't try this at home." She said that everything in the routine was executed to a "T," and praised the dancers' extraordinary ability, but said there was absolutely no chemistry between them. (As much as I'd like to blame this entirely on Alexa, it appears that other than a beautiful smile, Daniel doesn't give off a lot of warmth or personality either.) Daniel and Alexa seemed crestfallen, at least as much as you can be while showing no expression, and their lack of chemistry continued as they walked off stage.

Super-adorable couple Tiffany and George danced the foxtrot, choreographed by Tony and Melanie, to I Want to Be Loved by You by Sinead O'Connor. I loved every single minute of it. They have tremendous chemistry and phenomenal ability; some of George's spins looked like he was a figure skater.

Mary explained that the foxtrot is one of the most difficult dances, and it requires the dancers to glide and float. "Man, did these two do that or what?," she proclaimed. She praised George as a great partner and said Tiffany was just "living it up there." Adam said he was "mad about the routine," saying that it reminded him of the vintage MGM musicals, which got him interested in dance in the first place. He said that both dancers took a "step up" (I was about ready to put my fist through the television at this point) and called their performance "infreakingcredible." Nigel commented that "the plugs on this show are horrible," to which Adam replied, "Better than those in your hair." Nigel then got the show back to business by telling Tiffany and George that they gave a "lesson to the other couples about connecting" with one another, and said the routine made him happy and put a smile on his face.

After their questionable samba last week (at least on Chehon's part), Witney and Chehon (I'd like to take one of the "h's" from Chehon's name and give it to Witney) took on a Bollywood routine, choreographed by the amazing Nakul Dev Mahajan, to Aatish Kapadia's Tandav Music. Their costumes looked like I Dream of Jeannie meets Aladdin but the routine was joyful, well-executed, and it looked like Chehon was almost having fun. (It wasn't as good as Katee and Joshua's routine from Season 4, or Jason and Caitlin's from Season 5, but I liked it.)

Adam called the routine fantastic, said that Witney needed to dance with a longer neck, and commented that this was the first time he saw joy on Chehon's face. Mary said Chehon was so much better than last week, and that he was on fire, praising him for letting go and enjoying. She told her favorite hot tamale Witney that she, too, was "still on fire." Nigel praised Witney for doing knee turns, asking if she had ever done a plié or a demi-plié. He said he was delighted to see the pair of them do so well, after "not doing yourselves proud" last week. (Of course, Nigel praised Witney to high heaven last week, but who remembers such a thing other than me?)

The mood quickly shifted, as it was time to reveal the bottom three guys and the bottom three girls after last week's performances. The bottom three girls were Janaya (wow, what a shock), Alexa (no reaction), and Witney (wha?), and the bottom three guys were Nick (of course), Chehon (justified), and Daniel (really?). Nigel explained that they had spoken with the choreographers from last week and this week, and they didn't need anyone to dance again, as their minds were already made up.

But first, an extended plug for Step Up: Revolution, which stars Season 6's Kathryn, and also features tWitch, as well as Season 5's Phillip Chbeeb and Tony Bellissimo. (Mia and Christopher Scott are also in the movie, and Mia and Travis were choreographers.) I didn't pay much attention to the plot, but it's something about dance mobs making some sort of statement. Yeah, ok. Then they danced. (Funny thing, I remember not being wowed by Kathryn when she was first on the show, probably because of her lack of any outward personality, but she appears to have grown into herself.)

And then it was time to reveal the judges' decisions, which were none too surprising. Nigel explained how voting worked (in case after nine seasons you were confused), and then announced that they had decided to save Witney and Chehon, thereby sending home Janaya, Alexa, Daniel, and Nick. I'm a little grumpy about Daniel going (and not all because he looks good shirtless), because I think Brandon or, of course, Cyrus, should have been in the bottom three instead of him, and it would have been interesting to see if his lack of chemistry was Alexa's fault or his. But what can you do?

Next week will be tougher, because the bottom three will probably include people I really like, simply because there were some weaker routines this week.

Who should be in the bottom three (guys): Cyrus, Dareian, Brandon
Who will be in the bottom three (guys): Dareian, Cole, Brandon (if Cyrus is in the bottom three with Dareian and Cole and he doesn't go home, I may lose myself)
Who should be in the bottom three (girls): Janelle, Lindsay, Amber
Who will be in the bottom three (girls): Janelle, Lindsay, Eliana

Actually, I'm not so sure who will be in the bottom three because I don't know how people are voting quite yet. But I'm sure someone I like will get eliminated at the expense of someone who deserves to go (cough, Cyrus, cough), because it's a competition show, and that's what happens.

But still...thanks for stepping up (couldn't resist) and reading my recap! See y'all next week, dance fans!

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