E: Kent. Billy. Robert. Lauren. Jose. Aaaaand, Adechike! All 6 dancers are healthy and dancing! Now that’s what I’m talking about. We can overlook the irony that last week we had 5 dancers for Top Six week, and this week we have 6 dancers for Top Five week. That’s all good.
Say it with me now: No more injuries! No more injuries!
Cat’s wearing a one shouldered minidress in a white and black pattern which looks a bit like a snake skin toga. She lets us know that the dancers will be dancing three times tonight, which must mean solos. Bah. Just cut the show to an hour and a half, people! Or even an hour! Solos aren’t always that thrilling (most dancers can’t choreograph for themselves) but more importantly, give these kids a break! It’s no coincidence we have a fourth judge again this week -a set up Nigel hates on principle because it wastes too much time. FOX, you don’t have anything else you can air? Not that I don’t love getting extra dances and moments, but honestly, I’d trade those extra hours in a snap to get Alex and Ashley back, and maybe if you weren’t overdancing them, it wouldn’t have happened.
You may have noticed in that tirade the mention of a fourth judge. This week we’ve got Toni Redpath (the ballroom expert otherwise known as Nazi Barbie) who we met in the auditions. Nice to see you, Toni, even if you aren’t the ballroom expert I’ve been missing. Cat reminds us that two dancers will go home this week. Jose and who else, I wonder? Either Billy or Robert, assuming that Kent, Lauren and Adechike stay safe. We’ll see what the judges think of that – and the Jose group dancing scandal – after the jump.
Kent and Anya are first up with a Jean-Marc and France Genereaux cha cha. This is Kent’s second attempt at a cha cha, and dancing it once, he tells us, does not make him an expert. Who would think that? But he’s better, so much better. The costuming is – interesting. Kent wears black Han Solo pants, a white shirt and a sleeveless black leather jacket. Anya’s dressed, a bit unflatteringly, in a high waisted black skirt and a sheer white blouse, with one half of her head in cornrows, wearing scarlet lipstick. The idea is that she’s the teacher, and he’s the bad boy, and it’s entitled and danced to “My First Kiss” by 30H!3 featuring Ke$ha. Almost immediately – after he’s stopped canoodling with a girl in the audience – Anya rips off her skirt to reveal some sort fringe number with a ruffled butt. Yes. A ruffled butt, like my baby’s bathing suit has, except in black and pink. The music’s got a nice cha cha beat, and Kent is crisp and sharp in his movements. And like I said, it’s way, way better than his first time. There’s a lot of fake kissing, and there’s a cool looking lift at the end which ends with Anya on the floor in a split; I wish they hadn’t given us an aerial shot of that, because it would have been nice to actually, you know, see. Aaaaand, there are the hungry jazz faces! Oh, Kent, you’re just going to get reamed for that. On the other hand, he’s more confident and manly, and you could see where even the extra vampy Anya might actually bother with him, which they’re going to like.
Nigel coos that the show has taken him from boy to man. Um, good? Toni is clearly pissed that he’d presume to use the word expert in relation to his ballroom dancing. She sounds really snotty about it. She thought his posture was hunchy. While I’m sure she’d know better than me, I didn’t notice that at all. Mia agrees, calling it crunchy and choppy, which I can’t agree with, and of course dings him big time for the faces. Well, we knew that was coming. She says his faces are like a Disney cartoon, and is annoyed that he hasn’t taken her notes. He tries, he says, and he thinks about it all week, but then in performance time when he’s going full throttle he can’t control it. It comes from an authentic place (which, though he doesn’t say it, is what Mia is always on them to be in). Adam blathers about more length and owning his fantasticness.
Robert draws contemporary, which is a Stacey Tookey routine he performs with Kathryn (ah, Kathryn). This is what, their third pairing? You can see there’s no attempt to make people do anything new this week. The routine is about going off to war, and the dread of it, holding on to your love until that last moment, wanting to pretend you won’t leave and knowing you will. These tortured romantic themes really speak to Stacey, don’t they? During the ‘package’ I find myself wondering if Robert’s going to be in camouflage, and then I wonder ugh, why did I think that? What makes me think he’s the soldier just because he’s the guy? Then he comes out in a white t-shirt and khaki pants, and Kathryn is in a glorified teddy, smelling an army shirt (or crying into it, maybe), which makes me think oh, maybe I was wrong. Why would she be smelling it if it were her own shirt? Anyway, the piece is lovely, full of lifts and sinewy twists and both performers throwing themselves at each other. I’m generally dubious about Robert’s lifts, but not today, baby. Not at all, and that impresses me even more because it’s normally a difficulty for him. (Heck, he dropped Kathryn on her butt in that Doll Jazz routine they did, though I think that was as much her fault and hidden so smoothly I had to watch it four or five times before I could tell for sure what had happened.) Anyway, they’re glorious. When the music (Kate Thompson’s cover of the classic 80s tune “Heaven is a Place on Earth”) slows, he picks up the duffel bag and the shirt, walks over to her – and, yes, I was right in the first place! She must have just been crying into the shirt, because she takes them and leaves. Nice. I swear I’m not making this up – I really did call it.
Nigel tells Robert he’s not goofy any more, he’s matured, and he’s “even better than I thought you would be.” Aw. And yeah, it’s much easier to see the amazing dancing when Robert isn’t mugging all over the place (fun as it would be to hang out with him). Nigel loved the routine and the twist. Toni says that as a ballroom dancer, she’s always looking for the man’s partnering skills. Would I want to be the woman you’re dancing with? The answer is yes. Nigel interjects that he could see the hair on Toni’s arms stand up during the routine. Mia felt it was sacred and tender, mature, selfless, and not overacted. Speak through your soul, not your steps. She’s said that before. Stacey keeps her on her toes, she says, which reminds me how much I’d rather have a rotating third judge so that Mia could be choreographing. Adam is so proud to see how dancers support each other, like no other group in the world (um, hello, isn’t this piece about military families?). He says Kathryn is so stunning it freaks him out, but Rob kept up with her. Do you think Robert goes by Rob and we just don’t hear it (like Anthony Hopkins is Tony to his friends) or if Adam is just weird about giving him a pet name without permission? Like the annoying guy who calls a James Jim just because he can? Erm, anyway. Moving on…
Jose dances his solo to “Giant Squid” by RJD2. I swear we have heard that song before. Could he have soloed to it before? They barely solo for what, twenty five seconds? Thirty? So he could easily reuse a song. Odd, however. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, though, or maybe he’s just used this band before and that’s what I’m remembering. Perhaps they have a song called “Giant Octopus”? But before he dances, his fellow contestants (in a new feature for tonight) described him as kind and wise. Billy said that if Jose were an animal, he’d be a tortoise. Is that a compliment to a dancer? I guess I can see it, though, if I think of the stoner/surfer turtles in Finding Nemo. Lauren calls him clueless, so when Cat introduces the solo, she calls him a clueless tortoise. Excellent instincts as always, Cat Deeley!
Oh. What? I didn’t describe his dancing? Let’s just say there was one moment where I said “oh!” (when he stood up on his toes, bent over backward at a crazy angle) and none that made me say wow. This is wow. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t get his style.
Adechike makes an unhappy face when he pulls jazz out of the box. Is it because he’s going to end up with Tyce, or because the last time he tried this – also with Courtney – it didn’t turn out so well? Tyce’s idea is that it’s late night in Spanish Harlem, and Chike and Courtney have let all their inhibitions fly in a jazz club. And, by gum, it’s some serious dancing to Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca.” (Chike is out of his mind over the music, in case you were wondering, because his family plays lots of jazz and he loves it. Cat loves it, too, because it reminds her of Sex and the City.) He’s wearing dark green pants without a shirt (not your average NYC club wear back int he day, I’m thinking) and she’s in dark green lace. There are huge leaps and jumps (unbelievable huge) and it’s all in all a really fun routine. I almost feel like Tyce has been stepping up his game lately – there’s been a lot of real dancing, not just partnering, and that’s so exciting to watch. I don’t quite love it, but I’m close.
Adam loved the routine. He calls it balls out dancing and then goes nuts because he literally said the words “balls out” on live tv. Can you not say balls on broadcast television? Really? The rest of the panel collapses in giggles. Cat says she’s never going to start the critiques with him again. He ruthlessly pulls it together to implore Adechike to loosen up his back and hips. That’s actually a really good point. Adechike’s back is stiff as a poker. I’m sure that’s what bothered them way back in his Bollywood routine, too. Mia says she’s breaking out in an anxiety rash over Adam’s comment, but that the music is everything and the routine was a great balance of athleticism and style. Yes, good point. She cautions Chike to look for the small moments, since he already excels at the large ones. Toni says it looks like so much fun to do. Nigel observes that the energy was there, but there were still inhibitions, and Adechike needs to let go of the choreography. This has been their critique of him from the start, and I do wonder if Mia hasn’t nailed it; his back is still, and so he doesn’t look like he’s feeling the movement all the way through. I would be fascinated to see whether they’d choose to lose Adechike (over, say, Robert) if given the opportunity.
Kent tells us that Lauren is a girl. The only girl. The only girl for him? That part we don’t find out. Rats. Billy tells us she lives in an imaginary world; she’s often riding an invisible horse (not as dirty as it sounds, they show a clip of it) and has bunny slippers named Joshua and Leviticus. Girl knows her Old Testament! She dances her solo to Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman”, and it seems more intentional than most solos, like she’s not just running around tossing random moves into it. Nice.
Jose has picked hip hop. Yes, they show him picking it out of the box, but what are the chances of all this? Oh, whatever. It’s not like he’s going to do that much better in hip hop than he would in contemporary. Hes got Comfort, Dana Wilson and Marty Kudelka. (Two of you will get why that name thrills me, assuming my sister actually reads this.) The idea is a pickup in a club, so Marty and Dana are looking for him to exude swag and chemistry. Comfort tells us that Jose has no game – but it works for him, because no game is actually game. That actually makes perfect sense. Weird. The dance itself catches me totally off guard, though. Comfort, dressed in a demur maroon gown with a huge flower, white gloves and granny boots, starts to move like a marionette – small, hard hitting robotic jerks – to Otis Reddings’ “Try a Little Tenderness.” This isn’t what I expected at all. Jose comes in. For nearly the entire routine, they dance parallel to each other, and the idea is that he’s showing off for her, so that by the end they’re dancing together. Except it doesn’t work. Her every movement shows him up; he’s like a regular guy dancing in a club. There’s no retraction. He just doesn’t look like a dancer to me. This routine does not use him well to say the least.
Nigel loved the old school vibe of the piece. And! Hey, I love this about this show. Proving once again that he reads the boards and cares about what the public thinks, Nigel brings up the fact that Jose hasn’t danced in the last two group numbers (claiming to have been totally ignorant of the fact, since the numbers are so short and chaotic) and explains that Jose has had a groin injury. We don’t find out why it was okay for him to rest himself, or whether it was Jose who asked not to do it, or the medics who wanted him out or what, or why the executive producer/head judge was apparently not told this was happening, but I’m glad to have someone acknowledge this. If the judges had know, would it have changed last week’s surprise decision to send no one home? Anyway, Nigel points out Jose isn’t getting enough resistance in his arms. He’s not hitting hard enough. Toni liked it, to the audience’s delight. Mia is displeased. It had no swag, she said, which is squandering the gift of choreographer Marty who despite looking like an emaciated mountain man apparently is the smoothest, filthiest swagster in the business. Jose made it bouncy and kooky and wrong. Adam agrees with everyone, and tells Jose to dance like the character’s intention. It was fun where it should have been sexy. The problem with the advice, however, is that poor Jose just doesn’t have the technique to get there. Even if he could have gotten the character right, the movement quality wouldn’t be there.
Before Billy dances his solo, we find out that he’s a helpful, funny slob. He dances to Telepathe’s “Lights Go Down” which is totally different from anything we’ve seen him do; it’s menacing and slightly robotic, not so bendy as usual. It ends with a finger gun and a wink. Cat notes that it was different, and he explains he’s supposed to be hunting someone. AH. So it was a Terminator type thing. That’s actually quite cool. I love Billy’s solos.
Next up is Lauren doing the first all girl routine of the season (seriously, this is so much fun), a Tyce Broadway routine with Allison. It’s all about girl power, which is sort of hilarious to hear Lauren say in her squeaky little voice. Allison has some serious guns, though. The two are dressed in a white pinstripes vest and hot pants combo (similar to what Allison wore in her Bob Fosse inspired number with Alex in week two) with a bit of spangled bra peaking out, and they dance to “Whose Got the Pain” from Damn Yankees. Does that song make sense? It’s fun music, but the lyrics? Whatever. They toss each other around, but mostly it’s parallel dancing, and they’re not in unison, not with the precision you’d expect in a Broadway show, and it bothers me. The routine picks up steam about half way through, and, it’s a ton of serious dancing, but it’s not entirely successful (or powerful) for me.
Adam tells Lauren he already thinks of her as an All Star. He wants the two ladies to do a variety show. He’s got no critique. Really? Were we watching the same performance? Not that I didn’t like it, but perfection? Seriously? Mia has nothing bad to say either. Lauren’s strength and agility has made her surge in front of all the men. Now that is a serious statement coming from Mia “I love boys” Michaels, and I’m at a loss to explain it. Tori says they proved strong is sexy (yes!) and that Lauren’s body was a tornado but her eyes were the eye of the storm, all of which means she didn’t make silly faces like Kent. Nigel mistakenly refers to the show as American Idol, and then laughs when Cat calls him on it; no one can be surprised that it’s on his mind, since he’s likely to return to his post as producer there, too. He asks Lauren is she watched the Gwen Verdon sequence from the movie (answer: yes) and tells her she’s not quite that good (duh! Verdon is one of the all time greats!) but she could be. Cat shoots us into the commercial, calling herself Ryan Seacrest. Oh, Cat, where is your Emmy nomination? I could cry.
Billy calls Robert the songbird of our generation; Lauren observes that not only does he sing all the time, he’s actually good. I’m not sure all of the boys agree. He’s the class clown, clearly. He dances to Jason Mraz’s lovely “A Beautiful Mess” and Cat tells him how much she loves the music he picks for his solos. Me too! This wasn’t one of his most impressive solos, though. Fine, but nothing to knock your socks off.
But if you want to have those socks blasted off your feet, you’re in luck, because Billy has drawn a Stacey Tookey contemporary piece with Ade as a partner. The notion is that powerful businessman Ade runs into desperate homeless person Billy, and only midway through the dance to they realize they are old friends. Stacey’s thrilled with the idea of showing two opposite ends of the spectrum – a loose, sloppy, pedestrian energy from Billy, and coiled, charismatic power from Ade. She’s set it to “Mad World”, a Gary Jules version (with Michael Andrews?) and there’s no way the opening chords can’t move you. Billy lolls about the edge of the stage, shivering. He’s got a knit cap pulled over his eyes and he dances that way for the first section of the piece, which is really impressive. His balance is kick-ass. I seriously don’t know how he does it. And then when they do meet eye to eye, the shock and fear and humiliation on Billy’s face is, in Mia’s parlance, everything. It’s just everything. Ade lifts a kicking, struggling Billy as if he were a feather. When it ends, all the judges but Nigel are on their feet.
Nigel considerately asks after Billy’s knee (holding up, in a brace) and tells him how glad he is that they didn’t send him home last week. Otherwise we’d have lost the privilege of watching that. Billy’s maturity and emotional expressiveness were revelatory. Toni calls the use of contrasting styles a choreographer’s dream. Mia calls it sheer perfection, and says Billy will be remembered, win or lose. Which is to say, when they send him home tomorrow, it will still have been worth it and we will remember his abandonment in character. Adam claims Billy was just born on the show (what about Macavity? Boogie Shoes? Bah, Mr. Hyperbole) and that it wasn’t anything short of magnificent.
Before Adechike can do his solo, we find out that he’s a magician with the ladies (ick, really?) and that he’s got a ton of nicknames, including Tico Chico and Cheeky Chike. He’s chosen Maxwell’s insipid “Pretty Wings” but manages to execute an astounding split leap in the middle of it. The girls in the audience go wild.
Now the All Stars are done. The first contestants to perform together are Kent and Jose, in a Spencer Liff Broadway routine. Oh, goody. I’ve liked his stuff a lot (hello, Macavity!). The idea is that the boys are movers, back in the 30s or 40s, but instead of really doing their job, they’re watching girls go by and trying to flirt with them. Kent is the younger, eager one, and Jose is the older, wiser, smoother one. They dance to “From This Moment On” from Kiss Me Kate rather than Shania Twain, and it’s got a fun Tom and Jerry energy to it. You know, they’re all cartoony, with exaggerated expressions and fake whistles and pratfalls. Jose wears overalls and uses a cigarette as a prop, and he gets slapped by an invisible girl – something he carried off well. There’s some nice gymnastics, not as impressive as Kent and Neil’s Damn Yankees routine, but it’s all full of character and very enjoyable. Kent ends the routine by literally throwing himself into the wings. I hope they had a soft place for him to land, because he went flat out! Cat wants to try it.
Adam trips over himself comparing it to Michael Kidd and Donald O’Connor and a bunch of less known greats from the age of the movie musical. He flat out adores the choreography. You might even say balls out. If you wanted to get bleeped and not have your comment make the West Coast edit, that is. He thinks Kent was born to be on Broadway, that Jose did well for a b boy, and that the finale is going to be Lauren and Kent. Mia thought it was amazing frigging fantabulous (which, you know, I liked it, but I’m not out of my mind like the jidges are). Kent, she says, this is your home! You can make you silly faces and they work! You should do this forever. The best she can say is that Jose kept up, which actually is high praise, considering. Toni wonders whether it was smart or lucky that the characters were such a perfect fit (smart, clearly smart) and that Jose’s more laid back character gave him an excuse for not jumping as high as Kent. She acknowledges she’s stating the obvious to call Kent a contender. The crowd, it goes wild. Nigel adores the choreography, the spirit of the dance. Kent was clearly the star, but Jose should be proud. And should know that he’s almost certainly going home. But hey, he’s going to be on the tour, so it’s all good.
Lauren and Adechike draw a Genereaux fox trot – a sultry, nontraditional fox trot. Oh, Jean-Marc, why must you push the envelope? How many times have you gotten your dancers in trouble by not giving Nigel the dance he wanted? I don’t expect this to go well. Adechike is a little dubious, too, because Lauren is like his little sister, and he just isn’t feeling the sexy vibe.
You can’t see that from what’s on stage, though. He’s in a white shirt, charcoal vest and black pants, and Lauren’s in a glittery long sleeved black dress with no back and no sides (which, wow) and no feathers on the bottom to give it that classic ballroom look. There are awesome lifts – the routine even starts with her sitting on one of his shoulders – and some languid, lovely side by side dancing, but there’s almost no frame at all. It looks more Broadway than ballroom, somehow. Maybe because they’re so seldom in hold?
Nigel felt it was more jazz than ballroom (fine, I accept that) and says they didn’t use their heels properly. It was sultry and well connected, good but not great, and he doesn’t think people will vote for it. I hate when he says that. Toni explains that they don’t have the muscle memory of ballroom dancers (duh) and that the frame was off (duh) and their footwork was off (well, that one I couldn’t tell). She further explains that it didn’t look like ballroom because they’re not ballroom dancers and aren’t doing it the way ballroom dancers would; she actually thinks it’s a great, challenging routine, which surprises me a little. Maybe more than a little. Mia calls out Cheeks (hee) on being a good partner but disconnected in the side to side passages. She praises Lauren’s grace and sexiness. Adam says while Adechike displayed a lot of admirable concern for Lauren’s safety, we shouldn’t actually see that he’s worried. There’s nothing Lauren can’t do.
Last in this long night are perpetual bottom dwellers Billy and Robert, with a Nakul Bollywood routine. Wow, that’s not going to be easy on Billy’s knee! Nakul explains that there are many many different styles of Indian dance, and for this piece he’s going to be using Garba and Bengra (sp?). Hey, wasn’t there Garba festival in Bride and Prejudice? I can’t believe I actually sort of know what he’s talking about. Billy and Robert are supposed to be actors battling it out for a role in a Bollywood epic. The song is “Ganesh” by Bombay Dreams; Robert is resplendent in a green sleeveless top and yellow pants, while Billy sports purple pants and a red top. There’s a ton of deep knee work (eek, Billy!), hip thrusts and crazy spins. There are aspects of a typical dance battle; they take turns executing moves. Nakul stands up for them. I don’t know. Their styles are so different – and Robert is so much taller and larger – that in this context, Billy looks diminished to me. I don’t think they showed each other off, anyway, sort of like the Twitch/Kent mismatch of last week. I still wish we’d gotten to see Kent and Billy dance together!
Nigel thought it was a fantastic finish to the show, and one of the best Bollywood routines he’s seen with two men. Danced by whom, I wonder? Robert had great finish to his hand movements. He notes that Billy’s shaking out his knee and hopes it’s okay. Billy says he’ll make it okay. Toni says that at this point, when everyone is so good, it’s just a question of personal preference. Do you want a hamburger or a pizza? They’re both good. Both satisfying. Robert, you are her hamburger, and she wants a bite (no matter what Nigel snarks about sequins undercutting Robert’s masculinity). Mia counters that she’s Italian and she wants the big old cheesy pizza that is Billy. Now, I like this. They can take sides and be funny rather than hurtful. Good metaphor, Toni! Adam thinks its a great night for both of them, and says he’s going to play sick tomorrow. Everyone seems to realize that Billy and Robert will likely be in the bottom no matter how amazing their work has been. One of them will probably go home with Jose. It’s lousy, but I think it’s likely to be the truth. Bah. I can’t imagine which of them they’ll pick, especially since they both did have a really good night. Maybe Billy’s was better? I don’t know.
Cat closes the show by letting us know we can’t relax; Lauren is being seen by the medics even as Cat speaks. Show, damn it. What the hell!