E: I hope no one minds, but since The Good Wife was a repeat last night (? what gives?) I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the other non-World Series Fox event of the week – the start of So You Think You Can Dance’s performance shows! Monday, we were offered something the producers of So You Think You Can Dance just love – a first in their history! For the first time in SYTYCD history (all five years of it) the Top Twenty will be introduced via a special where they all get to dance in their own styles! And no one goes home! And lots of twinkly, happy host Cat Deeley! Hurrah!
I was actually thrilled about this. For any neophytes in the house, after auditioning thousands (hundreds? lots?) of dancers, and intensive call backs in Vegas, the judges pare the talent down to ten guys and ten girls, and pair them up to be the fabled Top Twenty. In the last season there were complaints from folks like me that we didn’t get enough time to appreciate the work of a lot of dancers before the voting began. Some people in the Top Twenty got lots of air time in the early auditions (among others, Philip Chbeeb) and others (like Jeanine Mason), not so much. The great thing about SYTYCD is that they really do want the dancers to succeed, and so they took Jeanine, who nobody had seen, and paired her with Philip, who already had a fan base, which ensured she wouldn’t get voted out right away. And in fact, she ended up winning the season. So in another instance of caring about the viewers and dancers, this season we got a special to make sure we had a better feel for everyone before we had to start voting them off. And because of the World Series, it aired on Monday (while the show usually airs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
So imagine my annoyance when I learned at the end of this extraordinary gift of time, this delicious dance extravaganza (the tap! the Mandy Moore contemporary! the hip hop!) that there was also going to be a performance show this week. BUT NO VOTING. That’s right, that means the judges kicked some contestants off last night. I thought this was supposed to be about America’s Favorite Dancer, y’all! Nigel Lithgoe, I’m growling at you. I’m not growling at you, friends. Please follow after the jump to see a quick rundown of the ten new couples, the styles they were assigned, how they did, and how they got cut down to nine couples. 😦
In performance order, we have:
1. Channing and Philip: Contemporary dancer/tomboy Channing bears a slight resemblance to Kristin Bell; tapper Philip bears a strong resemblance to Harry Belefonte (but with Billy Idol’s sneering lip). They drew a blindingly fast jive, which was general okay though the strain of it definitely showed in the lifts. What drew my attention the most? Philips’ hideous red pleated pants. I’d like to root for this so called classy pairing (Philip’s a tapper, Channing is a local girl) but right now I’m just meh.
2. Ashleigh and Jakob: Latin Ballroom dancer Ashleigh and contemporary dancer Jakob drew Tyce DiOrio (ick) and a sultry Broadway routine. Though the show alleged that Ashleigh was supposed to be seducing Jakob, the piece consisted of Ashleigh slinking across the stage and Jakob doing astounding leaps and flips and other ridiculously flexible tricks. I actually really liked the piece; these two hams are a better fit than I thought. Granted that Ashleigh had very little to do, what she did was fine, and Jakob definitely killed it. Not sure why the show is keeping up the fiction that Jakob could in any way make Ashleigh’s husband jealous, though.
3. Peter and Ariana: Despite the producers vow that we’d get to more of the eventual Top Twenty in the audition process, contemporary dancer Ariana was a mere blip on our radar screens. (Kathryn and Noelle had similarly little screen time, but have high impact personalities.) Boston-Italian tapper Peter fared better in the race for air time, but in this Tabatha and Napoleon hip hop routine about robots in love, neither one fared well. As the judges noted, their styles did not mesh at all. Cute idea – it makes a certain amount of sense when you hear the music – but not good hip hop.
4. Noelle and Russell: If there can be said to be a favorite early in the season, it’s preternaturally gifted krumper Russell (the first krumper on the show! history!) , the fierce Bostonian street dancer who has grace and gorgeous lines and glorious extension and musicality. This week he and giggly (but gifted) contemporary dancer Noelle were given a jazzy foxtrot (“I didn’t know if we were supposed to be imitating a fox,” the southern belle wondered); then Noelle did something nasty to her knee, and choreographer/former ballroom champion Melanie LePatin had to step in. Russell’s rise and fall, well, didn’t, but he cast a magical spell nonetheless, and the judges loved it. Lucky Noelle get a pass this week till she can find out whether or not the knee is wrecked.
5. Bianca and Victor: Tap dancer Bianca has be trying tenaciously to get on this show for years, and this is her turn. She’s been paired with contemporary dancer Victor (why did you make him shave the mohawk, judges? now he just looks like Diedrich Bader) , and given a Travis Wall contemporary piece. I loved this piece and I loved the two of them; I’d been rooting for Bianca, but didn’t really know how she’d do (she has stiff tapper’s shoulders) but WOW. The choreography told a clear, precise story; girl wants boy too much, boy leads girl on, uses her, rejects her, and repeats. Possibly my favorite of the night – clearly top two.
6. Karen and Kevin: SYTYCD’s most alliterative pair consists of a latin ballroom specialist bringing the flavor from Venezuela, and a hip hop dancer/model. Happily for Karen, they started off the competition with a cha cha so smoking it had judge Adam Shankman making like a cartoon wolf. (“And those of you who know me know that’s not usually my thing,” he added, doubling Cat and the dancers over with laughter.) Kevin was fine if not so striking as Russell (and also unflatteringly dressed) – and completely obscured by Karen’s J. Lo-like outrageous sexiness.
7. Ellenore and Ryan: Jazz choreographer Sonya Tayeh has her own delicious brand of crazy, and this is possibly the craziest she’s ever been (certainly, in her words, the most inspired) on this show: latin ballroom dancer (and husband of contestant Ashleigh) Ryan and jazz dancer (child of dancers) Ellenore were supposed to be angelic creatures: he dominates, she submits. I don’t know about the angelic bit (and I found their feather costumes distracting), but on a second viewing, I decided I did like the shuddery intensity of the piece. And the idea certainly make sense given his romance novel cover-boy looks. Sonya’s an unusual taste, however, and they might be lucky that there wasn’t any voting – experimental jazz doesn’t always fare well here.
8. Pauline and Brandon: Late Monday night, a press release informed us that contemporary virtuoso Billy “Elliott” Bell was sick and was (at the insistence of his doctor) dropping out of the competition. Hip Hop dancer Brandon was called in as a last minute replacement and joined jazz dancer Pauline in a smooth waltz. Poor Brandon. I actually really enjoyed their sweetness, their emotional connection, and the pretty sweep of the dance (or maybe it was just Pauline’s floaty dress, I don’t know) but the judges, man, they did not.
9. Kathryn and Legacy: I thought that the hilariously weepy southern sweetheart and the dangerously hot b-boy would be a disaster of a pairing, but I was so so wrong. I should have know that little is sexier than the good girl getting the bad boy. Now, you might think the two of them drawing hip hop would make it easy on Legacy, but he almost got cut during the hip hop round of Vegas week; for a b-boy, it’s all about originality, and choreography is anathema. Not so last night; Dave Scott’s prehistoric routine (which began with the two of them picking nits out of each other’s hair, like monkeys) was down and dirty and hard hitting and awesome. My other favorite of the night, from a super hot, exciting pairing.
10. Mollee and Nathan: My friends and I had been discussing who young, girlish jazz dancer Mollee would get paired with, and we came to the conclusion that it had to be one of the non-threatening gay boys, or (preferably) Taylor Lautner-esque young contemporary dancer Nathan. Anyone more mature, or darkly sexy, and it could get creepy real fast. And Nathan it is! They’re the tween super couple, the king and queen of dimples, a barrel full of puppies and kittens, an explosion of bright happy power, as cute and as bursting with personality as can be. Their Doriana Sanchez disco can’t compare to Brandon and Janette’s dazzling routine from last season, and given that I still think Mollee’s here for her personality more than the quality of her dancing, it was still very entertaining – better, even, on the second viewing.
Once all the routines had been performed, the judges announced their bottom four performers (another departure from ‘history’, since at this point people vote for pairs instead of individuals): Brandon (big surprise after he only got one day to rehearse, right?), Pauline, Ariana and – no, not Peter. Russell. Russell, who they praised to high heaven. Not without a measure of criticism, granted, but with far more enthusiasm than they showed Peter or Kevin. What the hell was that? It’s kind of funny to think, that if Billy Bell had been there, it would have kept Pauline safe – and if there was voting, Russell (Noelle’s injury or no) would never have touched the bottom. All I can think is that perhaps they didn’t want to put Peter in the bottom for fear that his solo might be lesser spectacular than Brandon’s and they might not be able to keep him? Or that they wanted to energize viewers to keep Russell around? Or make Russell himself work even harder, to become the champion we all think he can be?
Each kid dances for their lives, as it were (performs a very brief solo in their own style). Three quarters of this is pretty unremarkable, but Russell literally dances his hat off. The boy is amazing. Ariana and Brandon are summarily dismissed. On the other hand, Nigel does offer up one really nice consolation prize; Brandon was originally left out of the Top Twenty because they thought he needed more time to study and grow, and they don’t want to punish him for helping them out like this at the last minute, so they’re going to see if they can bend the rules and let him try out again next year. Thanks for that sop at least, Nigel. I hope it’s true for Billy as well! Next week, Pauline will dance with Peter (and I don’t see that working well, either, but who knows. I’ve been wrong before.) Ah, Ariana and Brandon, we hardly knew you. Seriously.