E: That did NOT just happen. Are you freaking kidding me? What is this, some weird sort of power of suggestion where everyone gets so paranoid of getting injured that they injure themselves? A self-fulfilling prophecy? I was joking to Mr. E about how finally we were going to get a week full of healthy dancers – I mean, how could we not – only to find Billy freaking Bell missing? Damn it, people! This cannot be possible.
We find out from Cat and Nigel that Billy has done something to his knee, and the doctors say he can dance whenever he feels ready, but he didn’t feel ready today. I hate that. I hate that so much. I mean, it’s good that he isn’t pushing it – we don’t want what happened to Alex to happen to anyone – but that just sucks. So, interesting. That means it’s not a forgone conclusion that he goes home, because he would be cleared to dance next week. Then again, he’s been in the bottom so much lately. I’d hate to think he’d given up. Nigel says they’re going to have someone come in to make sure they’re not doing something wrong, somehow. Alex, Billy and Alexie are all in the audience, looking adorable and relatively chipper.
In happier news, Cat (resplendent with a sleek pony tail, and a flesh toned sheath underpinning a poofy draped chiffon melody in crimson) tells us this is the 150th episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Happy sesquicentennial, SYTYCD! Hurrah! Cat, you look stunning. This dress, seriously, is a marvel. And the costume designer for the show has won an Emmy! What, they hand out the technical ones a month early? What’s up with that? I have to research that. Who else won? Sorry, a little obsessive here. In other happy news, we have an additional judge – the film director, Kenny Ortega, responsible for Footloose and This Is It and the High School Musical oeuvre. Nice to see you, sir! (The judges are all turned with their backs to the camera, the better to make a goofy entrance, my dear! Adam is so blue steel it’s hilarious.) Kenny loves the show. He’s watched every season, he’s familiar with the dancers, he loves the choreographers, he’s friends with Adam, he’s just so thrilled to be there and have such a great seat. Nigel just beams. And, I have to tell you, despite my sorrow for Billy, what follows is a pretty nice show. There’s a new dance style, sort of, and new approaches to dancing, and one totally knock out routine. It feels good. Cat’s adorable and extra chatty; they must have had a lot of time to play with, and she did her job beautifully. The extra judge didn’t even feel like a bore. Don’t mind me – I’m high on the dancing!
Lauren is up first with Twitch, doing a NappyTabs hip hop routine set in the Wild West. I’m expecting it to be good, because we’ve seen really good hip hop from Lauren before, and it is. Really good. They’re dressed in leather and denim, and they dance to Ludacris’s “My Chick Bad”, featuring Nicki Miraj, and it’s really musical and has more Western elements than just the costuming. It’s hard hitting, as much from Lauren as from Twitch, and there are a bunch of times when Twitch is on all fours and Lauren rides him, pretending to cock guns or check spurs, and she’s super cute. They have a fun chemistry. She does these unbelievable backward rolls. Really, really cute and sassy.
Adam says Lauren actually was quite bad at the hip hop in Vegas week, and he’s stunned by her now. That surprises me so much, because I thought she was really good in her earlier hip hop routine with Dominic – I’d have thought she came by this naturally. Mia giggles a giddyup and says how impressed she is that Lauren can hit that hard and not lose her flirty sexiness. Kenny thinks Lauren has always been amazing, and quotes the country song – “save a horse, ride a cowboy.” Nigel uses actual riding terms to say that Twitch looks like he’s been ridden hard and put away wet. If he were a horse, that’d mean that no one wiped his sweat off, which could give him the chills as well as being smelly and gross. But of course that’s not what Nigel means. He says that hard as it is for a Brit to use negative adjectives to mean good things, Lauren was bad, nasty, buck and sick.
Following that orgy of praise are Jose and Allison, dancing a Sonya Tayeh contemporary. Her concept is the entire life of a relationship, from courtship to break up, performed at the edge of the stage as a metaphor for the precariousness of romance, the fear of falling. Or not falling. Allison confides in the camera that she might have a crush on Jose, so don’t tell his girlfriend! She just falls into his smile. Jose’s wearing capri pants and a wife beater in yellowy beige, and Allison has a toga-like dress with tiny flowers and a cream background. They drape themselves over each other and the edge of the stage, and there’s a fascinating puppet-like quality. The movement – perhaps it’s more like marionettes? – is very appropriate to the music, John Brion’s theme for the film The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Jose falls off the stage at the end and walks away.
Adam jokes with Allison that the cat’s out of the bag and she better watch out for Jose’s girlfriend or she might get knifed. I hope he actually knows Jose’s girlfriend, because that joke was a little on the offensive side. Jose is a zen yoga dude – do we really want to imply that he’d date a gangbanger just because he’s a b boy from Miami? And is Hispanic? I suppose I’m being touchy, but I was shocked he’d say that even as a joke. Anyhow, Adam adds that he didn’t know quite how to judge the routine; great character, great commitment, great partnering, but not a lot of dancing. I’m kind of astounded someone other than My Movie Going Friend and I said that, for once. Mia agrees; she loved the meaning and the placement of the piece, but felt that the movement was more human than technical, which is a bad and pedestrian thing. Kenny loves Sonya and Allison. Nigel praises Jose’s commitment, and notes that Sonya gave Jose something he could do – she cleverly hid his lack of technique by simply not giving him difficult choreography. Then everyone tells him to stretch and point his feet.
Robert draws Lauren; Tyce has made a jazz piece for his good friend. Tyce and Lauren are always sitting together in the audience, have you noticed? Robert talks about how Jose may love her, but this week he’s got Lauren. “The bootie is mine!” Um, okay. That’s funny. The piece is just about seduction – no story, just steaminess. Lauren and Robert separately tell the camera how sexy the other is and how they could totally fall in love. Right. Of course they could. Is this supposed to be some sort of smoke screen? Not that it’s our business, but my impression of Robert has definitely not been that Lauren could be his type.
Anyhow. The dance. Which is set to “Wasted Time” by Thrill Kill Cult, something I liked a lot until the cacophonous saxophone craziness toward the end. They’re wearing black chiffon and pleather – she’s in hot pants, and he’s got a shredded shirt, and they dance side by side most of the time, which to me isn’t sexy because they’re not focused on each other, so who are they seducing? On the other hand, there’s a ton of actual dancing, by God, which is a very good thing. So I’m ambivalent about the choreography. Except the part where he licked her leg. That, not so much a fan, but that’s probably because he did it in a jokey way in rehearsal that was a little scary. On the plus side, they’re both insanely good looking and sexy, and the parts where they moved together were pretty steamy, and the rest was really intense and well done.
The judges, though, see only the positive. Adam thinks it was smoking, and “Rob” is a great partner. Mia says she can’t wait to watch Robert’s career, and lauds the fact that there was so much real dancing in the routine. Kenny feels that the choreography showed Robert off, showed that he has bottom (oh, Kenny), and that it was liquid and gorgeous. Nigel loved the smooth flow; he wants the show to inspire men to dance, and feels that Lauren’s a great aid to that cause.
We’re back to solos this week, and first up is Adechike. Before the solos, we’re going to hear the dancer’s parents speak about them (aw!) and Adechike’s mom is first up. “Ade has a heart you love,” she says. Aw! He’s got a solo I love, too. He dances to Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work,” which was what Tyce used for the Breast Cancer dance, so you’d think it’d be problematic, but it felt fresh instead. He’s amazing. His leaps and turns are ridiculous. I just don’t know what to say.
So I won’t even try. I’ll just move on to Kent and Kathryn, who’ve gotten a Sonya jazz. “Sonya at 8 am shouldn’t be legal,” Kathryn tells us. The routine is about the joy of dance; Sonya wants Kent to celebrate his wonderfulness, with all manner of leaping and fast footwork to help him glory in his body and the amazing things it can do. Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” provides the backdrop, and both dancers wear shorts and a striped top – Kathryn’s daisy dukes and a belly shirt in primary colors, the stripes cut on the bias. Kent’s got long cut off jeans and a vertically stripped oxford. They explode out of the wings, blowing up over and over, with great lifts and impressive athleticism. The crowd goes insane. I won’t say it’s as joyful as last week’s delightful “Boogie Shoes,” but it’s really fun. It’s Sonya’s not so cutesy version of that same place, I think.
Adam says Kent makes the show unique and special (referencing something Kent had said in Vegas, apparently) and he’s particularly astounded, as a gymnast, with the handspring Kent did off Kathryn’s back. Mia snarks “we all love you, apparently” and then goes on to call his facial expressions juvenile. She seems a bit mad, but pulls out of it, saying the dancing was great. His exuberance can be too much for her, sometimes. That’s funny, because I felt like the piece would have been a bit heavy if not for his obvious pleasure in it. Sonya wanted them to be having fun and celebrating, right? She said that specifically. Kenny likens Kent to a young Gene Kelly (and I don’t know how I feel about that; Kelly was very polished and smooth, so it’s an odd comparison) and that he adored the Gidget like energy of the piece. Now that part I think is perfectly on target. Cat interjects that Kent just can’t control his face; he wasn’t trying to mug, it just happens because he feels it. Nigel is thrilled with Sonya’s two totally different routines, and thinks Kent outdanced Kathryn. Really? Why must you say these things, Nigel? I really don’t think that’s true.
The next solo belongs to Robert. His mom tells how focused he is, and his dad is very proud of his son the man. The man has picked “Parachutes” by Trevor Hall, and his lines and extensions are just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I’m blown away. This is definitely the best solo I’ve ever seen him do. Cat tells us that today is Robert’s birthday, and he’s now 20 years old. “That’s offensive,” she says, and I can only agree. Twenty? How can he possibly be that young? He looks much older than that. I suppose that explains the mugging, though. (Which, so glad you’ve put a muzzle on that, Robert.) Cat finishes by telling the audience “I hope you all brought gifts!”
Itty bitty Lauren follows with her solo. We get to hear from both her proud parents; mom praises her maturity, and dad stands in awe of her wide ranging interests. He says he couldn’t be prouder of her, and that she’s a person people love to be with. Aw. We get to see her student teaching, and her little class (kindergarteners, I think) proclaims “we love you Miss Lauren!’ Cat then calls her Miss Lauren for the rest of the night. Miss Lauren dances to “The Waves” by Elisa, and it’s pretty and heartfelt, though since she’s about half Robert’s size, she doesn’t have his presence on the stage. I did not love having to watch a lot of it through the clapping arms of audience members, especially since they were clapping off the beat. Leave the swaybots to American Idol, please! They’re bad enough over there!
The final contestant/All Star pairing is Adechike and Comfort. He’s stoked. They have Tabitha and Napoleon for hip hop, and they’ve got an emotional piece brewing, about that place in a relationship where you know you need to leave but your heart keeps pulling you back. It’s the place where a touch makes you melt back into something you know is wrong, Tabitha says – but ouch, we also get to see a little bad touching when Comfort full on slaps Chike in the face. Yikes! That’ll leave a mark.
And not to sound like Nigel, but that routine left a mark. Wow. It begins with Comfort hurriedly packing a large red suitcase to the immediately recognizable notes of Alicia Keyes “Fallin'”. Adechike finds her, and goes to stop her. He’s angry. She’s afraid. He’s pleading. She’s angry. They’re both fierce. When they dance parallel to each other, they’re hard hitting, powerful in wide legged stances, in perfect unison. The choreography fits perfectly with the heartbeat of the song – and this song, it has a heartbeat. Everything is aggressive and difficult and lovely with emotion, and when it ends with Comfort off the stage with her suitcase, Chike is wracked, his body heaving to the rhythm of the music even after it’s stopped playing. When he finally turns to Cat, he’s bawling. “May I suggest therapy,” she jokes, but he can’t stop the tears.
Adam is aghast. “I felt like I was watching a movie,” he says, “and it’s horrifying and so my life right now.” Yikes, Adam! I guess I knew you were a drama queen, but that sort of bums me out. You cannot be happy for someone who looks at that routine and says “that’s so my life.” He can see that Adechike is still feeling the routine, and wants him to know he made us all feel the same way. Cat asks Mia how blown away she is by the emotional content in a hip hop routine, and Mia indeed loves that it all came from such a raw place. It was indeed like a movie, she says, and Comfort was like Mary J. Blige as a dancer (great, great observation – I love that). It was the highest level of dance, he left it all on the floor, and has just given the audience a taste of who he truly is. Not a lying cheating nasty boyfriend, I hope! I think what she means is that he was a character that is totally not based on himself, and that he has a power we couldn’t have suspected. Kenny calls him the Wesley Snipes of dance, and says both of them rose to the challenge of the choreography with all that’s in them. Nigel justly compares it to great emotional Nappy Tabs routines of the past like “Bleeding Love” and “No Air”. He goes on to say that he used to hate that song because so many people butchered it back when he worked on American Idol, and that he hopes Alicia Keyes gets to see this dance, because it might wipe away some of that horror for her, too. It’s a fitting tribute to great music.
I can’t imagine how anyone could follow that, but someone has to, and it’s Jose with a solo. His mom Brunhilda (yes, really) says she’s as proud as a parent can be, and his dad thought dancing would just be a hobby for his boy, but is amazed at his skill and success. “What more prouder can I be?” The emotion makes up for the mangled English. And the solo, surprisingly, is joyful and glowing and tricky and I’m impressed, when usually Jose’s solos leave me cold. He brought the fun with his megawatt smile and James Brown’s “Give It Up Or Turnita Lose.” (I swear that’s the way the show spelled it.)
So the last solo belongs to Kent. You can see the exact features he takes from each parent. They are adorable, and his mom chokes up, which, aw! Did anyone else think, however, that they were calling him Ken? Totally sounded like Ken. I did not hear the T at the end at all. Anyhow, he danced to an a capella version of Boys II Men’s “End of the Road,” and maybe because I hate that song, or maybe because Jose and Adechike and Robert all turned in such amazing solos, I was underwhelmed. The studio audience goes insane as usual. The volume for Kent is just eons louder than anyone else. It’s no wonder the judges keep telling him he’s the winner. Even if they don’t know more about the voting numbers than we do, the level of enthusiasm from the audience is undeniable.
Cat tells us that the contestants will now dance with each other. We’re going to be treated to a samba, a paso doble, and the show’s first stepping routine. And I can’t figure it out. There’s only one girl left. How will they do two ballroom routines? Did they replace Billy with a girl? Also, there was the “5 Guys Named Moe” routine Nigel choreographed for the top five guys (Twitch, Mark, Joshua, Will and – hmm, who was the fifth guy? Someone a bit pasty, I think) in which he incorporated some stepping. It wasn’t all stepping, so they must not count it as such or they wouldn’t keep repeating that it’s a new style.
Up first we have the samba, to be danced by Robert and Lauren. The choreographer is former contestant Dmitry Chaplin (why do they never get emotional about him choreographing they way they do about Travis, I wonder? He’s got two Emmy nods under his belt as of this year, Dmitry has.) and the music is a special SYTYCD remix of Debbie Nova’s “Drummer Boy.” You know, I didn’t like this song either time I’ve seen her perform it, but it fit really nicely here. Lauren’s dressed like Malibu Barbie in a slinky skirt and bikini top in purple, turquoise and white. (So, hmm, does that make her Miami Barbie instead?) Robert’s wearing jeans and white tank. She does a smooth leg crawl, they do a perfect move where he swings her through his legs and up behind him. I did think that they almost missed one hold, and (per usual) some of his lifts looked a bit labored, but really, it was super impressive. She’s amazing with the ballroom. They were just what Dmitry wanted them to be – she was flirtatious, and he was manly.
Adam thinks Lauren could have a career in ballroom. Ha, I was totally thinking that, too. Not that I know ballroom that well, but she looks fantastic to me. He loved Robert’s crispness. Mia thinks Robert looked like a true samba dancer, but Lauren – I don’t know, something about her technique that either she didn’t articulate properly or I couldn’t follow, but she thought it was off. Something to do with Lauren’s knees. Which is different, because usually the show is all about Lauren’s butt. Kenny was stunned by the choreography, and wants everyone know how impressive it is for a non-ballroom dancer not to look like a complete moron attempting the style. He credits Dmitry enormously. You know, Kenny Ortega is a very well spoken man; I don’t know if I’ve conveyed it well enough here, but I was really impressed with how articulate he is. He gives good notes and good intelligible tv. Nigel, finally, has to burst in to say how upset he is about all the nice parents and how he feels like he needs to call his kids and tell them how proud he is of them. Nigel has kids? That stuns me, somehow. (Okay, so I looked it up; he was married until 2007, and has two grown sons and four grandchildren. Wow.) Anyhow, I think he must mean upset in a good way? It’s made him emotional? He tells the birthday boy he’s done good, and congratulates Lauren for shaking everything she’s got to shake. Right. I’m not surprised he’s not married so much as amazed he ever was.
Alrighty then. Up next, we have the paso, and in answer to my question, it will be danced by Jose and Adechike. Same sex ballroom! Will wonders never cease? You can bet those auditioners (you know, the “Brokeback” pair) are smiling tonight. I love that they’re forced to do stuff like this. Jose and Chike are huge friends, and bounding around in their joy. They’re friends! They’re like brothers! They’re the East Coast Overdose! Aw, boys. You’re so cute. Dmitry and Legacy (woohoo, Legacy!) are there to explain that in a paso doble, the man is the matador and the woman is the cape – but in this case, we’re going to have two battling, choking, flying matadors. Ouch! “The Arrival/Rampage/Continued Existence” by James Dooley makes an appropriately aggressive and bombastic backdrop for this dance. They’re shirtless, and the posture is actually unflattering on Jose. Chike looks great, though; this has been a good night for him, costume wise. There’s a lot of cape twirls, and standing with purpose. There’s also so terrible filming. They just can’t get both of them in the shot, and half the time we end up with half of each dancer out of the frame. I’m really quite annoyed; this is the worst filmed show since the first performance episode. There’s leaping and rolling, which is nice (they leap over each other) and lots of circling, and posturing. Cat calls them her caped crusaders.
Adam thought they were completely connected, and that their strength took them through when the technique was lacking. Adechike wasn’t abandoned enough (really?) and Jose needs to extend his lines. Mia is clearly underwhelmed but trying not to be harsh; she says they didn’t inhabit the space properly and both looked like they were flailing, but she’s pleased with their focus and power and commitment. It’s like a pat on the head instead of a passionate kiss. Kenny calls it a valiant effort, and an interesting exercise in choreography, but too hard for them to carry off. Nigel thinks that “valiant effort” is definitely the right tack, referring to his “diplomatic colleagues” in a way that makes you think he’s going to unleash a storm of criticism. He doesn’t, not quite, but he’s very particular to say that it’s not about just having an angry look on your face. A Spanish paso dancer would have taken up the whole stage by himself. and Nigel wishes they had that sort of presence. I’m sure Nigel wishes HE had that sort of presence.
And it all comes to an end with Kent, who should have been paired with Billy for a Chuck Maldonado stepping routine. Oh, man. I am so displeased to have missed that. Chuck describes stepping as body percussion, a marching band without instruments. In practice, Billy picks it up much faster; there’s an a capella section, and if you get the slapping wrong, everyone knows because they can hear it, and Kent is petrified. To replace Billy, Kent will be dancing with – Twitch! Hey, that’s great. That makes up for the lack of Mark a little. “Pro Nails” the Rusko Remix – which, what a title – is the tune, and Kid Sister is the artist, and the guys are wearing letterman/fraternity sweaters and sit at a large folding table in some chairs. They’re studying (perhaps a nod to steppings black college roots?). It’s … different. It’s like hip hop fused with Eastern European folk dancing. Maybe because Twitch is like a foot taller than Kent, I feel like they look odd together. The clapping isn’t so much of an issue, though; them seem to be in synch, but even if they weren’t it’d be less obvious who messed up now that there are only two of them. But, probably because it’s Kent, the audience goes insane and the judges adore it. Adam cheers the style and the choreographer and Kent kicking butt. Mia calls it disgusting and filthy and gross (no wonder Nigel has issues with American idiom, what with Mia making up so much of it) and filled with great chemistry and tells Kent he’s the one to beat. And we say unto Mia, duh, Mia, of course he’s the one to beat. He always has been. In addition to loving the piece, Kenny wants us to know that he and Chuck put stepping in the Olympic opening ceremony (hmm, Atlanta or Salt Lake, I wonder?). And Nigel is very perturbed that no one remembers his “Five Guys Named Moe” routine (ha! I did!), which Chuck helped on. Now that bit I didn’t remember. I suspect the distinction must be that 5 Guys wasn’t solely stepping? There’s no way to know for sure. Anyway, Nigel thanks Twitch, and leaves us all with the sad thought of how great it’d be to have seen Billy kick butt. And it is a sad thought.
So how sad will tomorrow night be? My thoughts are these; even if he’s completely well, Billy has a very good shot of going home. But if Jose makes the bottom three, and Billy can dance, and can convey how much he wants it, I think the judges would save him over Jose. I don’t know who else they’d save him over, though, and I don’t at all know who’ll have in the bottom. Robert and Jose?