E: There’s intense voice over to start about inspiration. The camera operators faithfully catch every dancer clearly from two if not three angles. Cat – slinky in a single shouldered dress made of some slippery looking metallic stuff with pink tones to it, like draped pink tinfoil – gives props to our “erudite” judges. Way to pull out the big words, Miss Deeley. I kind of wish Lil’C was there for that – he’s the king of vocabulary lane. He’d have had more fun with it. Kent begs not to have to be sexy again. Alex gets paired up with – Twitch?
I can list more than a few issues I’ve had with the All Star system. We don’t see growth within pairings, we’re having couple chemistry issues across the board, and we’re seeing a surplus of contemporary and jazz routines since the All Stars are primarily jazz and contemporary dancers. And the lack of female dancers is another huge detriment, quite likely to be made worse after this week’s results show.
BUT. Putting two guys in a pair? Brilliance. Why does a pairing have to be a coupling? Why can’t two men tell a story together on stage? Not all stories have to be romantic. So I’m thrilled, thrilled, that they lost the fear that same sex pairings mean something controversial (annoying fear by itself, but whatever) and just got on with it.
Aren’t you mad at me for hyping the last dance? We have 8 pair dances and 9 solos before we can talk about it! This was a long show, y’all.
First up, we have Adechike with Lauren, doing a Dave Scott hip hop routine. Adechike tells up that his inspiration (their question of the week) is Desmond Richardson, who showed a kid from Brooklyn he could be a dancer and still be masculine. (Matching that statement to a clip of Richardson dancing in briefs and a mesh belly shirt? Not the best idea, even if they could teach lessons on musculature based on Richardson’s fat free body.) Lauren is the most versatile All Star we’ve seen, don’t you think? I mean, she’s done first Broadway and now hip hop. I do wonder what happened to Comfort, but I think it’s great to see diversity within the All Stars’ areas of expertise. (Other than Anya and Pasha, who of course have performed a large variety of dances – though not, thus far, fox trot or waltz or quickstep. Will we see any of those this season? Anya and Pasha are Latin ballroom, not American Standard.) Anyhoo, they dance to “Hot N Fun” by N.E.R.D.S. featuring Nelly Furtardo, and they’re dressed up as nerds with briefcases (until, that is, they start rocking out and ripping their clothes open). They do this cool wobbly leg thing, and promenade around a couple times like they’re square dancing. It’s joyful and upbeat and Adechike is in the house! Suddenly there’s a swagger and humor, a playfulness and confidence I couldn’t even imagine coming from him.
The judges just love it. They praise his transformation, and the way Lauren and Dave have brought out the funk in Adechike. Dave, by the way, is looking dapper in a coat, hat and some sort of cravat. Even Cat loves a man in a cravat! It’s all good stuff. Adechike is in awe of his partners in crime. Adam stands up to clap through his critique. They’re that proud. “This is me, baby,” says the dancer, brimming with confidence and swagger.
I love it when Cat gives Ashley‘s name a little Gone With The Wind drawl. It’s so cute. And I’m glad her dance teacher is very supportive. At first I – and she – are really worried that she’s drawn Ade. If it’s contemporary for essentially the third week in a row, are the judges going to wreck her for it? That’s a really annoying possibility, because Ade can dance way more than contemporary (remember his rumba with Melissa? Damn!) and anyway, whose fault are the styles assigned to each All Star? Sure as heck not Ashley’s! Newbie choreographer Dee Caspary crafts a routine around the idea of one person who can’t walk or even stand on their own, having to be supported by another, and how the dependencies switch between people so closely linked. It’s danced to Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love,” which is quite cool. I don’t think I’d ever heard of that band before their previous *appearance* on the show. I love discovering new music here! I liked the routine a ton, but I thought the choreography paid far more attention to Ade. Especially in the first half of the piece, he’s maneuvering her. She’s barely moving herself. There’s a swing lift that’s amazing, though. (I will say, Ashley is the only girl this season who really throws herself into the lifts. She has no hesitation and no fear.) Nigel starts in on the whole “oh, no, contemporary again” and I almost throw something at the tv – but thankfully he shifts his critique, and everyone steps in to say how much they adored it. Nigel compares it to a glass of scotch for its fluidity, particularly Ashley’s action and reaction, and he wants Dee to come back. Mia says Ashley’s a hurricane, a breeze, a purple wind. What’s with the purple prose? I love the flights of fancy, but is Purple Wind an actual thing? What’s that supposed to mean? She says she’s the best girl in the competition. Adam calls her breath-taking.
Next up is the first solo of the night, by Billy Bell. Man, the kid is a kick butt soloist. He dances to Amanda Blank’s “Something Bigger, Something Better,” and he scuttles across the stage like a shuddering crab. He’s bendy and twisty (seriously, I cannot believe his back can move like that) and his choreography is both unusual for this show and perfectly attuned to the music.
When we return from the commercial, we see Robert walking through a field of flowers with his inspiration – his mom. I wanted to groan over this, but then he started listing her life challenges (3 miscarriages, 2 dead infants, divorce, breast cancer) and I started tearing up instead. Robert draws Courtney (again!) and jazz (again! but not African this time) with Sonya. Sonya wants to show Robert off, in part because she’s pissed American voted him into last week’s bottom three. They’re going to show us a creepy romance, set to the tune of “XXXO” by M.I.A. and they do it. Robert makes a few Mark faces. Courtney’s wearing sparkly rainbow pants which are edgier than they sound. There’s guyliner, choking, and an almost kiss.
Robert’s mom is in the audience wearing the field of flowers outfit. I guess the field is near the studio? She’s proud. Nigel think Robert is like Mark, too, and has a similarly organic relationship with Sonya. Mia wants him to take ballet so he can take it to the next level. Adam wants him to learn to not to jump down. (“Does that make any sense to you,” Mr. E wanted to know. I dunno – sort of? Makes you want to get up and experiment.)
Jose has the next solo, where he spins on his head to James Brown’s “Super Bad.” He’s good, no question, but he makes me long for Legacy and Hok and Twitch and Dominic. I don’t feel like he’s on the same level as the other b boys they’ve had on the show. There’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Harold Cromer, the tap legend who sat with Melinda as she got the news she made the show, is her inspiration. He can’t help her with Pasha and a Fabian Sanchez samba, though. Surprisingly, Melinda informs us that she’s used to Latin dancing because she’s Colombian. Probably not on the Sullivan side, huh? They dance to “Magdalena, Mi Amor” and she’s wearing a tiny gold/pink sparkly bathing suit with a tail, which immediately gets caught on her heel. She detaches it on the fly as quickly as possible. She’s stiff into the lifts, but her shakes and shimmies are terrific, and they do this one spectacular move where he jumps over her head, sort of knocking her down so she’s in a half back bend, and then he kicks her back up. It’s really cool and much less violent than it sounds. Pasha steps in to defend her when Nigel says she’s lacking musicality, but there’s nothing he can say when first Mia and then Adam say that they were wrong to keep her over Cristina last week. Guys, that’s just unnecessary. I thought you should have kept Cristina, too – I still have no idea what you were thinking – but what does it serve to say so now? It just beats poor Melinda down. It’s not like it’s going to make Cristina feel better, since you can’t bring her back on the show. They give Melinda points for gumption with the heel mishap, and begrudgingly admit that parts (the time when her pidgeon toes weren’t showing, apparently) were very good.
Man, that was hard to listen to.
Kent solos to “Down (Candlelight Remix)” by Jay Sean, and it’s got a lot of bouncing and tumbling. Cat snarkily laments that Kent lacks happiness.
Alex is up next with his solo, to “Rule the Planet” from the Planet of the Apes soundtrack, which he’s made into a sort of ape like ballet. It’s a treat. The solos are so short that in some ways, you can’t say much about them, although it’s blessing most of them are short because they can be so repetitive and uninteresting. This one does not fall into that category, though.
After chatting about an inspiring school teacher, Lauren and Neil get down to business with Joey Dowling. Lauren thinks it’ll be great because they’re both really cute – and thankfully, it doesn’t make them any less cute to hear her immodestly point that out. They’re doing a very campy Broadway bit about a newsboy daydreaming of a movie star. In case the scenario wasn’t vampy enough, Dowling chooses “Let Me Entertain You” by Broadway vet Debbie Gibson. (Yes, that Debbie Gibson.) Neil is adorable in a pageboy cap, and Lauren looks gorgeous in a silvery blue dress with a tear-away skirt. She’s got the vixen thing going, and he’s suitably wide eyed and thrilled. She glows, though she’s a bit stiff going into some of the lifts (another casualty of the All Star system, I fear – no time to develop trust with a partner) and over all, it’s cute. Or at least it is until he swings her on the ground and her strap (not an insubstantial strap at that) rips apart. Yikes! Not a great safety/modesty record for the wardrobe department tonight, is it?
“I enjoyed that tremendously,” Nigel volunteers once everyone calms down about the strap. “I’m sure you did,” Mia gasps out, and they’re all off laughing again. Live television! It is so fraught with danger! And seriously, it’s a wonder that there was no flashing. There must be a corset built into the bodysuit or that side would just have flopped right off. Neil has her cuddled up next to him so that his body holds up the strap. (He was pretty impressive during the dance with similar assists, too.) Mia apparently disagrees with the whole “sexy cheerleader” edit Lauren’s been getting from the show, and insists she’s too athletic to be properly slinky. Adam says in order to do that you have to imagine yourself moving underwater – but he thinks Lauren slinks like a young Syd Charisse. Oh, Adam. I like her, don’t get me wrong, but she’s not that type (or at that skill level) at all. Lauren is cute. Syd Charisse was never cute.
Ashley performs her solo to a song called “Royal T” by Crookers featuring the Roisin Murphys. It’s very stretchy and rolly and fluid, very musical. The Roisin Murphys cry out to be danced to, don’t you think?
We’re treated to a wacky small world moment when Billy explains that he became devoted to dance after seeing a hip hop/b boy show when he was 12. It wasn’t until Billy was preparing for his part in season 6 when he figured out that Legacy was part of that show, and thus a major factor in Billy becoming a dancer. After last week’s krump disaster, it’s fascinating to think that gentle Billy wanted to dance hip hop, no? This week he’s got Stacey Tookey and Kathryn. He’s thrilled to work with a pal from season 6. Stacey’s story – set to “Jar of Hearts” by Cristina Perri – is that Billy broke Kathryn’s heart, and now he’s trying to step back in. This is a great scenario (somewhat reminiscent of one of my favorite dances of last season, “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” with Ellenore and Ryan) and a terrific song, though I thought the line “you’re going to catch a cold from the ice inside your soul” was a bit overwrought. Anyway, in general, I loved the song and the dance. Stacey emphasizes Billy’s bendy back. There’s a lovely moment where they almost kiss, and another where Kathryn stands on Billy’s thighs and stretches away from him.
The judges are less pleased than I was. They basically think Kathryn was completely invested in the moment, giving them real emotion, and Billy wasn’t. I guess that’s fair? He’s not as expressive as she is, but few are. There’s another problem with the All Star method; to a degree, she’s made him look bad. He’s all technique, no soul (and I don’t think that’s fair at all). You’ll see it in playback says Adam for the 47th time. For Billy the brilliant soloist, the question is not so much “so you think you can dance” as “so you think you can partner.” A bit harsh!
Ray LaMontaigne’s “Hold You In My Arms” provides the backdrop for Robert’s solo. Cat says the combination is heavenly, but I can’t help feeling that it was even shorter than a normal solo. What did he even do?
We get to hear about Jose’s devotion to Bruce Lee and his zen way of life next. Interesting. Lee’s daughter is actually in the house. Former contestant Dimitry Chaplin (who’s also worked on Dancing With The Stars) has created a samba for Jose and Anya, which begins with a lift like Erin and Max did this past season of DWTS, where the girl leaps on to the guy with one leg over his shoulder and her (what’s a search term friendly way of putting this) unmentionables basically right in his face. Good thing no one asked Kent to do that! Anya performs this leap after twisting about on a mirrored table. This is my least favorite routine, due in part to a very slow, weird Shakira song (“Long Time”) and also to Jose. The routine is not without it’s charms (there are some neat moments with the table) but his frame is terrible, and Dimitry seems to have mostly given up on the close hold because they dance next to each other rather than with each other for most of the routine.
But the judges just don’t care. You’ve got magic in your eyes, says Nigel. You and Kent have it, which is something you can’t teach or learn. (He goes on to insist that Jose controlled Anya, which, first, get off that bandwagon, and second, really?) Mia tells him he’s clearly not a great dancer (ouch) and then wonders how he gets away with it. He’s got contagious joy and humility and he just makes them happy. Adam says he made the dance work for him, and Cat correctly assesses that he razzle dazzled ’em. Good Chicago reference, Cat!
Melinda taps her little heart out to Alicia Keyes’ “Empire State of Mind.” She does one neat little shuffle with her hands clasped over her chest and her arms pressed against her sides. I don’t know what could save you now, Melinda, I really don’t.
We meet Kent’s older brother, an aspiring youth pastor, who is his hero. They have the same nose and very nearly the same face. No mistaking them as brothers! Kent draws jazz for the second week in a row, but he gets more of a Broadway style jazz, with Allison and Mandy Moore. They insist his biggest challenge will be being a man, and try to teach him a more masculine walk. Youch! “Last I checked, I was a man,” Kent puzzles. To the strains of Alicia Keyes “Heartburn” Allison and Kent dance parallel to each other. They’re in white and black. He’s got off centered suspenders. It should tell you something that this is all I remember or noted about the dance. When the besotted audience stops shrieking, Nigel cautions Kent against getting too jazz hands, too fake, telling him that if he plays too much to the studio audience he’ll lose his connection to his partner and so to the audience at home. Hmmm – now there’s a solid critique. Mia tells him he came off as a competition dancer and he’s better than that. Adam says he’s incredibly commercial, but he needs to lose the “hungry jazz face.” Alrighty then.
Adechike has chosen Craig Armstrong’ “Ruthless Gravity” as his solo music, which is very tonal and beepy. I feel like I’d normally hate the music, he fit his movements to it so perfectly that I couldn’t. It’s really a gorgeous solo, which is so nice to see.
Lauren follows with her solo, set to Cyndi Lauper’s no so recognizable version of “Unchained Melody”. She rolls around a lot. Yeah, that’s about all there is to say, especially in comparison to Adechike’s compelling work. The solos are truly not easy.
Finally, we have the Alex/Twitch duo, choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon. Before we can begin, though, Alex tells us that his inspiration and hero is his old boss from the Miami ballet, Edward Villella, who showed him dancers (again with this) could be masculine. Seriously, either Alex is sucking up in hopes of getting his job back, or the show has a contractual obligation to get that guy’s name out there. Anyway, NappyTabs volunteer that they were at first shocked – shocked – to have to choreograph for two guys. They recovered admirably, however. The idea seems to be that Twitch is a shrink, sitting in a wingback chair, and Alex is his patient, stretched out on a fainting couch. They dance – appropriately – to Lil’ Jon and LM*AO’s “Outta Your Mind” which is fast with a driving beat. There are hip thrusts and leaping up and down on the couch (in an entirely un-Tom Cruise-like fashion) and then some supremely fast footwork. It’s really, really good, and everyone goes insane. The judges are on their feet. Cat says she’s never heard a roar from an audience like that before. Nigel says this justifies the All Star system (wrong) and he won’t listen to dissent from now on (bah) and that it’s the best routine Tabitha and Napoleon have ever done for the show (second to Bleeding Love) and is sure to merit an Emmy nomination. Mia wonders who the heck Alex is, when he can keep up with Twitch who is the best in the business. Twitch nods modestly. Adam stands up, yelling, on the verge of tears. Napoleon hip thrusts at Adam, and Nigel stands up to thrust back. Oh, dear God. Alex confesses to having been terrified that he would fail. Not today, buddy, not today.
And there it stands. I’m still dubious about the All Star System, and I’m really going to miss not only the female dancers but the male All Stars as the girls are whittled away. I’m relieved that they put out a much better show than last week, though. I’ve no idea who joins Melinda in the bottom three. Who do you guys think? I will tell you, though, that based on their facebook commentary, Kent has twice as many fans writing in to him as the nearest competitor. And that second place dancer, to my total surprise, is Adechike. Make of all that what you will. And finally, I’d like to spend a special shout out to our friend The Writer. I hope you can find the dances on youtube! Otherwise I’m really going to miss discussing the show with you, while you’re off on your adventures.