E: Here we are, the first night with the All Star format. How did it go? I’m not sure. The first week is never when you get the emotional heft of a partnership, so there isn’t much to have missed at this point. Either way, there was a lot that was magical, and some other pieces which were technically proficient but not emotionally connected. And, I have to add, some atrocious filming. Now, some dances were great, but in the opening sequence, we actually lost all of Ashley Galvan, among other people. Isn’t this stuff supposed to be blocked in advance? It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the camera person where the dancers are! Ridiculous. Even when we get to see a dancer, it’s usually only half of them. Their feet are important, folks! We want to see what’s going on from the waist down! There is no excuse for this, seriously.
Anyway, it was a good night, and I really enjoyed it. Cat wore a high and rather enormous bun with a turquoise dress with gold paisley applique. It’s fabulously 60s and vaguely classical. We got to see a dance – allegedly picked at random – for each dancer. They got to share one thing about themselves. Here’s the breakdown:
Billy danced first, and “drew” a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine with All Star Lauren. Tyce used the theme song from Footloose and a locker for the two to pound on. It was fast and fun and entertaining. There’s a lot of nice synchronization, but also lots of fun fighting and interplay. Billy and Lauren have great chemistry. The judges loved it, although Mia gives him a weird compliment – well, she clearly thinks its a compliment – about how he’s a boy and has to become a man. It’s a bit puzzling – but not as puzzling as the hair shirt (make that hair cardigan) she’s wearing. What’s that about? What is she punishing herself for? Billy, by the way, loves to do DIY carpentry projects, especially with his Dad. That’s a very butch hobby, Billy. And I love the spiky hair. But who do you remind me of? This has been seriously driving me nuts. Jaime Bell? Michael Urie? I feel like it’s someone from Ugly Betty, but I’m just not sure who, or if that’s even it at all.
The next dancer up is salsa girl Cristina, who wanted to be a singer years ago in Mexico. She’s ended up with a Sonya Tayeh routine with Mark. Ah, I knew it couldn’t be long before Sonya was back together with Mark. They’re such a perfect pairing. Gosh, I love Mark so much. And it’s all so very Sonya. The dance, set to Santigold’s “Starstruck”, is this sinuous, serpentine sexy bit, and everyone is pleased that Cristina can create movements that are so different from her area of expertise. So, good for her. Also? She seems to have braces. Impressive that she’d leave them in, considering she’s on camera, and they get right up in her face.
Yoga helps Jose with his flexibility, core strength, and also with keeping calm for the show . Comfort will help him with a NappyTabs routine. I’m sorry, but there is no way, just no way, that Jose happened to pick Comfort and hip hop out of a hat. No way. Set to the strains of Ne-Yo’s “Beautiful Monster”, there’s a lot of crawling around like animals and lots of attempts at making scary faces. (Tabitha and Comfort laugh at Jose’s attempts at a stank face, but I think he pulls it off in the end.) It’s all very primal. The judges are blown away by how much Jose has improved since Vegas week and even last week. So, excellent. Three dancers in and everyone is really pleased all around.
Oh, dear. You knew it couldn’t last. Adechike – who, we find, went to the Fame high school (whose alums include Tyce, Desmond Richardson, and Al Pacino) – draws contemporary with Travis, with Kathryn as a partner. He’s a businessman at a desk and she’s his sexy, sexy day dream, dancing to a stripped down version of “Addicted to Love” by Florence and the Machine. And damn, she is incredibly sexy. (Mia quotes Working Girl, saying she’s got a head for business and a body for sin.) The choreography is terrific. It gives them every chance. And he performs the moves perfectly, but there’s no sense of heat off him. Is it because we never get to see his face? Part of me thinks that would have helped him – he’s adorable and his emotions read clearly when she leaves and he’d left, stunned, with a red stiletto on his desk – but it isn’t everything. We should be able to read the lust in his body, and we can’t. The judges have exactly the same reaction, and while saying that he did the steps beautifully, they crash on him pretty hard. The poor kid looks like he’s going to cry. They’re completely right, but it can’t be easy.
Just like tapper Philip from last season, Melinda has drawn a jive. Again, this seems less than random to me, Despite all Pasha, Tony Meredith and Melanie LePatin can do, she draws fire for her legs and her ankles. I guess I can see what the judges mean (as best as I can tell when the camera work allows me to watch the dancers feet) but I also think her performance quality carried her through. They think she’s in trouble, but that she’ll learn a lot from watching the show back. Did I mention that her “what you don’t know about me” section included the fact that she was on As the World Turns and writes her own songs? Mark my words, if she’s in trouble it’s just as likely to be her naked ambition and her desire to be a star that ticks people off as it is her turn out.
Who is surprised that Alex can also play the piano and sing? That’s just the kind of Art genius he is, people. He and Allison have been graced with a Sonya Tayeh contemporary routine (there’s hilarious rehearsal footage of him doing an insane bend and leg extension and Sonya saying um, yeah, that’ll do, totally agog). The piece is perfect for Allison – all yearning and reaching towards sanctuary, set to Jeff Buckley’s “Halleluiah.” It’s glorious and almost unrecognizable as a Sonya piece (but in a good way). The places in which it was twitchy were emotionally convulsive; what usually comes off as stylized instead became naturalistic, which is impressive. It makes the dancers both cry. Then the judges make Alex cry by falling all over him. And they make Sonya cry, too, by telling her how she raised her game and showed them a totally different side. Nigel thinks it justifies the new All Star format, because it couldn’t have been so spectacular without Allison (who has apparently “lived a lot of life” since her time on the show). Cat gets the first Deeley chills of the season and says you could hear the dancers breathing together. Adam says it’s a performance level he’s never seen from Alex and name checks the Miami Ballet director who didn’t want to let him go. (Could they be contractually obliged to do that, do you think? I bet the man has never had his name in the national press so much.) Mia says it’s the best piece performed on any edition of SYTYCD, ever. I’m not willing to go that far, but I certainly loved it.
You know what else I loved? Sonya’s red lightning bolt earrings. She is so fun.
Poor Alexie – how do you follow that? Nappy Tabs created a cute little piece about a guy sneaking in his girlfriend’s window, and given her Twitch, a fake window, and Jason Mraz’s “Butterfly” to work with. It’s cute, light, sexy, lyrical hip hop. Of course, what it’s not is hard hitting, and the judges ding her for not putting enough resistance into her stops. And they thought she was cute rather than sexy. I can see that, so I guess I was just – as Nigel suggested – carried through on her charisma. And she really is just adorable. She’s got this 1000 watt smile and this effervescent quality that seems entirely genuine, and I hope she sticks around.
The next dancer up fared even worse. Lauren drew Ade and a Mandy Moore contemporary routine, telling the story of a first date. It’s set to Yello’s “Oh Yeah” (great song, so fun) and utilized a red leather couch. And wow, they made great use of the couch! There were some fantastic lifts and a crazy backbend. Very very cool. However, the judges returned to the theme of performance quality; it was technically perfect, but had no chemistry. No one says this – they’re careful to praise the choreography – but I couldn’t help being confused watching it. Why, if the idea is a first date, do the dancers almost never look at each other? They dance side by side, facing out to the audience. I can’t help thinking that their job would be a lot easier if they’d danced the whole thing looking at each other. Fine, you can have chemistry just sneaking glances at each other, but sometimes I think the choreography wrongs the contestants, sets them up to fail, and for me this was one of those times. Travis gave Adechike every chance to connect with his partner and the spirit of the dance; I’m not sure Lauren was afforded the same opportunity. Mandy Moore was not happy after the judging.
Interestingly, Nigel thinks Lauren is as secure in the competition as Kobe Bryant is with the Lakers. Does that mean he thinks she’s got enough fans to overcome anything, or is he saying he wouldn’t allow her to go home? Bah. Lauren also got a lecture from Adam, who didn’t think she was absorbing the criticism. Boo.
On a happier note, we get our second ballroom piece of the night, a cha cha created by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin for Kent and Anya. Anya is a whole lot of woman for one geeky 18 year old farm boy, but he holds his own, to pretty much everyone’s shock. You can even see flickers of a ballroom dancer in his quick hip action and quick feet. There’s maturity and intensity, but also the feeling that he’s just having a fantastic time. That kind of thrill is really necessary to good ballroom. (Dancing to “Lady Marmalade” helps with the sense of fun, too.) He doesn’t get dinged for the unevenness (for the space between movements) even though it’s much more obvious here than it was with others who were chastised for it. The judges caution him not to do one weird move, causing me to rewind to see what they meant. I couldn’t. Kent, by the way, was Homecoming King, and people make lots of jokes about Wapakoneta and homecoming and Kent snarks at Melanie, after successfully executing a sexy move, that “they taught me something on the farm.” Hee! That’s some farm, Kent!
Ashley Galvan (sorry for misspelling your name, honey!) draws Neil and a Tyce contemporary, set to “For All We Know” by Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway. Tyce goes on about how it’s a piece about the most startling, revelatory revolutionary important force in the world – love. That’s a set up to make you feel a bit cynical about it. Neil wears white, and Ashley wears a little blue floaty dress, as if they’re in love on a tropical island. It’s pretty but not mind-blowing, although you can see that Ashley and Neil are tremendously moved. Nigel starts a long winded critique about how the performance aspect requires young dancers to feel things they’ve never felt before, and asks 19 year old Ashley if she’s ever been in love. “I think I am,” she replies, and he’s stumped, which, good, patronizing twit. Mia calls her a special bunny and wants to hug her – so of course Cat steps in and does it for her. It boils down to the fact that like Lauren and Adechike, her technique is amazing but her performance quality isn’t quite in the same place. They felt something from her, but weren’t quite sure what.
There’s no getting around the awesomeness of her little personal anecdote, though. She was on Star Search as a kid, and was judged by one Adam Shankman, who hits the camera with more blue steel than I have maybe ever seen. Totally, unremittingly great. I couldn’t help thinking, though, when she started by saying “what America doesn’t know about me” is that the answer is EVERYTHING!
Robert once wanted to be a baseball player, and still hits some balls around with his dad. Seriously, did someone take these two aside and tell them they needed to look more manly on camera? Does the show think that poorly of America? Or is that all unkind and conspiracy theorist of me? Or should I be thinking worse of SYTYCD voters, too? Benji won, and he’s far from butch, so I feel like it wouldn’t matter. Anyway, Robert has this habit of dramatically hiding his face in his hands and peeking out. He does it once during his package and three times while the judges are talking. I’m just saying. He performs an exuberant African jazz with Courtney, choreographed by someone named Sean Cheesman. There’s crawling and thumping and rolling and twisting. It’s pretty terrific, even if it’s set to a piece of Cirque de Soleil music called “Norweg”, which I kind of hated. The judges love it. Nigel calls him a dark horse, Adam says there’s nothing dark about his chances on the show since he’s one of the best contemporary dancers they’ve ever had, and Mia loves his quirk factor and his beauty factor. They growl and snap at each other.
So who got votes, I wonder? Did Ashley and Robert make up for their ridiculous lack of pre-performance show air time? I’m especially curious to find out if Ashley’s brave little declaration of love will endear her to viewers despite less than glowing reviews from the judges. Will Melinda’s scads of air time (and possible soap opera fans) make up for her pidgeon toes? Will Lauren or Adechike feel the pain of not properly emoting their pieces, or will Alexie get burned by not hitting her stops hard enough?
And, I have to ask it – will we get Pasha and Anya every week? And will they be the only ones doing ballroom? Not that I’m complaining about seeing more of them, mind you. I still feel like I’m going to miss the spark that develops over time between partners, but I do love seeing the All Stars again. I haven’t made up my mind yet about how I feel about all that. Have you? Let me know!