E: I find that the second performance show is always a bit of a disappointment. The first week, even though they claim that the styles are chosen randomly, they usually make sure people end up somewhere they can shine. They ease everyone in. But in the second week, eh, not so much with the easing. And that’s when we had partnerships to invest in. So was this season’s lack luster second performance episode a case of the typical second week let down, or is it something more, like a failure of the All Star system? I don’t know.
What I do know is this. Nobody knocked my socks off this week, and I’m kind of used to these dancers knocking my socks off.
We started off with a montage of baby pictures (wee Alex had pinch-me cheeks!) and Cat in a white sheath with feathers at the hem and neck. I’m also extremely happy to report that we get to see the dancers entire bodies during their solos. There’s no switching of angles every 2 seconds; we get a moment from the waist up, then a full body shot. It’s a delight and a relief. I’d say they listened to all the criticism from last week, but I’m sure all they really had to do was watch the show back. Speaking of differences from last week, we also get to see the dancers pick their partner’s name out of a hat. Boys pull out a pink card, girls blue, and the All Star they choose tells them their style. Hmmm. Some of these are going to be easy, and some of them will be hard. But this time we can essentially see that there was a hat and that people did pick out of it.
First up, Cristina and Pasha take on a Jean-Marc and France Generoux paso doble. Now this is the dance they could have given her last week if they had really wanted to show her off. She knocks it out of the park; she’s fierce, and sexy, and puts her heart in every movement. Really, the best thing that I can say is that she was so impressive I didn’t spend the whole time looking at delicious, delicious Pasha. They do these amazing opposed spins; they stand looking at each other, spin in place in the opposite directions but meet back up with perfect, intense eye contact. It’s so impressive. And the music – “Ira Deorum/Sanctum” by James Dooley – doesn’t overwhelm them, which is always a risk in the paso. The piece ends with Cristina in silhouette over a prone Pasha, and Cat goes nuts. “I love it – girls on top!” The judges salivate. And they go nuts with the alliteration – Nigel and Mia are all about power, passion, perfect partnership, the whole package and Pasha. Adam, not to be outdone, highlight’s Cristina’s confidence and commitment to character.
Next up, Adechike is lucky enough to draw contemporary for the second week in a row, this time with Allison and Mandy Moore. They’re dancing to Edmee’s version of “Listen to Your Heart”. And Mandy cares enough that she structures the whole routine around the emotion of joyful love and spends all we see of the rehearsal package focusing on his facial expressions and performance quality. Mandy, that was pretty awesome of you. (Of course, now that I think about it, her Lauren/Ade routine got dinged for the emotional connection last week, too, so perhaps she’s extra sensitive.) Allison is really spectacular, isn’t she? Adechike is super light on his feet, and he is clearly making an effort to emote more, smiling in appropriate places. Nigel is thrilled with the improvement. And, somewhat oddly, the fact that Adechike isn’t wearing a shirt. Mia thinks it still reads false – and it’s right, he’s smiling in certain place like it’s part of the choreography, not an organic reaction. She cornily reminds him that dancing isn’t just an artform, it’s a heartform. So, not where they’d want him to be, but a huge leap forward.
Last week’s golden boy, Alex (who is preposterously adorable in home videos where he taps and does the worm as a tiny tyke) draws Lauryn and a Tyce Broadway routine. Lauryn seems to be their go to Broadway girl now, which fascinates me. Is this because of her Glee resume? Didn’t she used to be billed as a contemporary dancer? Anyway. They dance to “Summertime”, by Sylvester, with dark blue glittery suits and hats. It’s a Fosse tribute. Alex youtubes Fosse, since he has no previous knowledge of him, but it’s not enough for the judges. Alex was aiming for sexy cool, but he’s not emitting the hunched, internalized fire that makes Fosse Fosse. As Adam puts it, for Alex (and more than a few of his colleagues) it’s not about ability, it’s about versatility and growth. It was a lot of flash and no smolder, they say. Mia adds that the costumes are for winter, not summer, which is totally on point but hardly Alex’s fault. Generally I thought it was nice but not amazing; they moved nicely in unison, but Lauryn stood out more.
Ashley (shown as a ridiculously adorable and bouncy four year old) drew Mark and a Travis Wall jazz routine, in which Ashley is supposed to break up with Mark and then try to win him back. They dance to Annie Lennox’s “Wonderful.” I liked this dance so, so much – there was so much emotion, and some of the moves were fantastic and original, like the gorgeous somersaults and the dive/flip lift – but I don’t really get the story, which is very unusual in a Travis routine. The crowd cheers for Ashley’s upcoming birthday. Mark does a funny dance afterward, and Cat joins in: “It’s not attractive, but I’m doing it!” Nigel is mad at Travis because he feels like the routine is contemporary and not jazz as requested. Okay, I can totally see that (the difference between the two isn’t exactly pristine, but it did feel contemporary) but its hardly Ashley’s fault, and they continue to harp on it. We didn’t get to see you do something different, they wail. So not her fault, you turkeys. It’s like the costumes. Make your comment and move on.
Before he gets to dance, we see Billy as a tween in on stage in black pleather and flames. It’s pretty hilarious. Sadly, the style he’s drawn is also hilarious – krump with Comfort and Lil’C. Yikes. C wants to transform him into “Billy B. Buck” (?) . There’s a white picnic table covered with graffiti, and they have backpacks and attitudes. Now, I thought he did a surprisingly good job of matching Comfort’s movements. Comfort thought he was buck, and Lil’C gave him a standing ovation. The judges, not so much. Apparently because he is a guy, he’s supposed to be harder hitting than Comfort (or maybe they think she was pulling her punches so as not to make him look bad?). Nigel grandpas on about how much he hates the music (“So U Think U Can Krump” by Tha J-Squad) and that he wasn’t the warrior called for by the style. Mia says he knocked on the warrior’s door but didn’t walk in. Adam called it a bad experiment. Mr. E pointed out that for most of the judges time, they talked only about the spirit of the dance and not about what he might have done wrong; was their problem just that the idea of Billy Bell krumping is kind of ludicrous?
Jean-Marc and France Genereaux reappear to choreograph Robert and Anya in Argentine tango. He’s going to transform himself into Roberto Roldano. And you know, he kind of does. There are some gorgeous moments, and it’s all beautifully lit. It’s alternately fast and slow, as it should be. They look stunning. The – are they called gauchos? It’s something like that. The leg flicks when they’re in close hold? Those are amazing. They do a series of moves where Robert slowly lowers Anya into various dips and splits, and those smolder and burn. Really awesome. But he seemed to lose character in the middle, some of his slow spins are off, and you could see the work. Nigel loves it. Mia was not wowed. Adam is on the fence. Anya takes a page from Comfort’s book and defends her partner’s masculinity and ability to dominate her. Bah. I love the way he dances, but the mugging? The mugging must stop.
Stacey Tookey has a ripped from the headlines contemporary routine for Melinda and Ade, in which she’s Mother Earth and he’s humanity, and he has to learn to appreciate and not wreck her. While she’s perhaps not as flexible as some of the best contemporary dancers, Melinda’s really good here, even though she’s saddled with a green dress with flowers stuck all over it, making her look like Eve or the Chiquita Banana lady. Also, she’s covered with sweat (likely Ade’s – I remember that about him) by the end of the routine so the dress is a totally different color. Like it wasn’t bad enough to begin with! The music is right on target – Skunk Anansie’s “Squander” – and the piece is really cool. There’s a lot of tension. I love the bit where she pushes back at him with her head in his stomach (even if that caused some laughter during rehearsal). Nigel blathers about Stacey being Canadian – because Canadians love nature more than Americans and Brits? or live in a nicer country? – and Melinda looking high when she taps (what on earth?) but eventually says she did really well for a hoofer. (Mr. E: “Did he just call her a hooker?”) Mia hates the dress – and so did I, but it’s not Melinda’s fault! – but then adorably demurs “but what do I know? I’m wearing a bedspread.” All in all, one of the better routines.
Jose and Kathryn are lucky enough to get Nakul and Bollywood. Jose does not even know what Bollywood is. (We get a look at him, by the way, with a massive afro rather than corn rows. Somehow I never imagined his hair would look like that.) They dance to an exuberant piece from the Billu Barber soundtrack, wearing harem pants and vivid colors. Adam says later that he wants his clothes back. They look fantastic (Kathryn in red, purple and orange and Jose in green and blue), and they bounce in pretty decent unison, although as with Allison, Kathryn stands out more than Jose. Well, except when Jose has his b boy moment and does a minorly cool trick. (The choreographers can’t resist the tricks, can they? They’re always showing up no matter how inappropriate – same with Alex’s leaps.) Anyway, the judges basically call him a hot mess, but a joyful hot mess. Did he get it right? No. Do they care? No. They just look at his million watt smile and they don’t care. Oddly, them not caring makes me more critical.
Lauren gets a Tessandra Chavez (sorry, I really did get it wrong last week) lyrical hip hop routine with Dominic as her partner. They dance to “If I Were a Boy” by Beyonce, and the idea is that he hits her, and she stands up to him and eventually leaves him. Lauren is super hard hitting and really, really good. This surprised me by being one of my favorite performances of the night (which, granted, not the most amazing competition, but still). Dominic, by the way, does a trick that’s ten times as cool as Jose’s. It’s really a fantastic routine, but – as one of the judges (I think Mia) points out, the abuse was less clear as the “should I stay/should I go” tension. The performance is there, though, and the emotional connection between the dancers. Adam is so pleased she listened to his notes and succeeded at upping her game. Nigel tells her that she’s become an actor, though he ruins it by wondering if she has a sway back. Mia – and perhaps it’s her defense that ruins it – says it’s only that Lauren has a really good butt.
Finally we have everyone’s favorite farm boy, Kent, who used to have seizures on the stage, practically, he was such a frenetic performer as a little kid. He also can’t believe that Courtney lets him put his hands all over her for their Tyce jazz routine portraying a hot and cold couple. Cat shakes her head introducing them and says Courtney is going to eat him alive. He’s got a massive ring on his chest, and she looks like a busted up Amy Winehouse ballerina/fairy, as they dance to “Amy Amy Amy” by (yes) Amy Winehouse. Courtney is all smolder and passionate dark intensity and completely fierce, and yeah, she eats him alive. He does a completely awesome flip onto a round table, though. They judges laugh at him gaily, insisting that she did in fact eat him alive, and there’s a lot of uncomfortable bits about who eats who. Courtney – now that Comfort has broken the fourth wall – tells the judges he was fabulous at being sexy. Um, nice try, honey. He has moments, definitely, but as Mia observes, it’s all in Kent World. Nigel sighs that at least it was real jazz; cut to the audience with Tyce clapping for himself and Travis’s unhappy face.
And there it is. Who’ll be in trouble? It’s still too early to tell who might be popular (other than presumed favorites Kent, Billy and Alex) and who might be getting through on sympathy or talent. The judges kind of pleaded for voters not to forget the girls and get rid of them all first, and I certainly hope that doesn’t happen – although if it does, you have to feel like they’ll get rid of the All Star system so it might be a fair trade. Still to early to tell on that one. Anyway. I don’t think I’m going to offer predictions. I will say that last week’s bottom contestants Cristina and Melinda had two of my favorite performances, along with Lauren and Ashley. Can they escape the bottom three? Are the ladies cursed this season? We shall see soon enough!