E: Ah, show. How can you be so expected and so surprising at the same time? The dancers go home who I hoped/feared would go home. The bottom three is not the group I was so totally sure it’d be. There is an astoundingly bad musical guest, balanced by the best group number of the season.
To open the show, Allison opens a present. A magical shower of bright confetti shoots up out of box. She’s wearing an enormous pink and peach tutu, with a lace up bustier in smudged yellow, blue and green (and possibly other colors) over the tutu’s bodice. Her leggings are in the same bright fabric, and she’s got butterflies in her hair. She sits on a black and white striped chair, which is quickly places on a black and white checked table by ten men – our contestants Adechike, Billy, Jose, Kent and Robert, and All Stars Ade, Dominic, Neil, Mark and Twitch. The men sport a variety of black and white clown inspired clothing, mixing sharp graphic prints, stripes and solids just like Uli used to do. Twitch has a metallic arm, Mark has a white neck ruffle, Kent has a pink florette in his hair, and Robert has googly goggles. I’m already entranced and blown away just by the costumes, and the white patterns painted into the men’s hair. Then with the back lighting, and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic?” to score it? Wow. It all makes me think immediately of the iconic tea party in Alice in Wonderland, but it’s so much more. The men gaze up at brilliant Allison with rapt adoration, and she capers with them in sheer delight. They writhe and twist below her, trying to catch her attention; the b boys do it upside down. When Sting sings out “to ask her if she’ll marry me/in some old fashioned way” of course it’s Kent who’s down on one knee. Allison is having none of exclusivity, however; she’s too wild and joyful to pick just one man when she can dance with so many. Somehow, though, there’s nothing lascivious about it; it’s very childlike. At one point, Robert pushes the chair across the long table: Allison sits with her knees up, and you can almost hear her go “wee!” Just when you think he’s going to push her off the table, he pulls her up and over the back of the chair. The coordination that must take… During the famous instrumental section, the ten men surround the table and spin in unison, pounding a fist on the table between each spin. It’s hypnotizing.
And of course, it’s a piece that only Mia Michaels can have choreographed. I feel certain of this by the half way mark, and it’s true. Is this a fair moment to say that as much as I like Mia as a judge (because I do), I would beg Nigel on my knees to bring Mary back to the panel so that Mia can give us her true genius? And, hey, wasn’t Mary supposed to choreograph this season? The time, it grows short.
Uh oh, says Mr. E a few seconds in, where’s Lauren? Shoot. Of course the role of the one girl is about Lauren, ought to be Lauren. (Does anyone know when they film the group number? Is it live, or not? Thursday, or not?) I’m almost glad it wasn’t her, though. In some ways, the piece plays so much to Lauren’s bright, perky cuteness that I’m almost glad to have the more chameleon-like Allison in the role of Lauren. Perhaps it’s just more dark without Lauren? I don’t know how to explain it, because I’m sure Lauren’s sunny personality and her position as the last girl inspired the piece. I hope she gets a chance to dance it for the finale, when they reprise the season’s best routines. And I do definitely rank it among the season’s best. Cat’s quick to let us know Lauren’s now fine. Phew! But did she miss too much rehearsal, or was it filmed earlier in the day (or even Wednesday night)? That’s what I want to know.
Cat, by the way, is wearing a t-shirt dress in violently hot pink with bedazzled flowers (and possibly butterflies?) studded on it. This seems a clear homage to Allison’s glorious tutu. She’s also got a ton of bangles on both arms. Mia’s wearing a shaggy fur, Nigel has ditched his tie, Adam’s in a vest (good man), and Toni’s in sunshine yellow. Nigel lets us know that a new element has been added to the Dance Spirit cover and oh yes $250,000 cash prize package for the winner; they’ll be featured in a Gatorade ad campaign. Gatorade, you see, has just acknowledged dance as a sport. Would I call it a sport? I don’t know, but dancers are way more fit than most professional athletes, and they should certainly be equivalent for Gatorade’s purposes. Also, the top 7 will be on the tour, in addition to Russell (aw, poor Jakob and Ellenore and Ashleigh and Ryan – they got hosed) and some All Stars.
Cat whips us right into the results. She’s brought Jose (in red shorts and t-shirt) out with Kent. Gee, I wonder how that’ll go. In the “look at what happened last night” piece, we can hear Kent hitting some sort of gym mat as he throws himself off the stage at the end of the Broadway number. Cat reiterates that she wants to try that. Then she tells Jose that he was in the bottom three last week. Will he be again? Yes. Jose smiles beatifically. He knows he’s going home and he’s clearly at peace with it.
Next up are Adechike and Billy. Sigh. I hate this. Adechike looks hot in jeans and a t-shirt, and all the judges criticism of his posture, etc, is edited out of his package. Billy’s wearing red skinny jeans, high tops, a gray jacket and a pink ascot. Is this a sort of kiss off to the judges or middle America? Looks like he’s letting his freak flag fly to me. Billy, Cat says, you were in the bottom three last week. Are you again? Yes.
Last up, Lauren, wearing some sort of jungle bikini, and Robert, who looks like an Abercrombie and Fitch model. Robert, says Cat, you were in the bottom three last week, and I suddenly get a queasy feeling. She’s set up a pattern, and we expect that Robert will be in the bottom. So that must mean that Lauren is? And yes. For the first time, Lauren is in the bottom three.
So, damn. I wasn’t sure who the judges would pick between Billy and Robert (Jose clearly being a goner) but there’s no choice now. Mia told her she was the best on the show, and Adam said she was a sure bet for the finale. There’s no way they’re sending her home – especially since she’s the only girl. And I can kind of see how this happened, even though I wasn’t expecting it at all. Ballroom numbers don’t generally motivate the public, and hers was nice but not tremendously memorable (like, say, Brandon and Janette’s Argentine Tango) and no matter what the judges might say about the Broadway routine, I’m clearly not the only one who was underwhelmed. But oh, poor Billy. How I love you, bendy Billy.
Next we get an extended commercial for Step Up 3D. I don’t have the smallest desire to see this in the theater – the acting looked atrocious – but I’m sure I’ll rent it. The first time I saw a commercial I got all fan girly because I could recognize Twitch and Legacy. Cat tells me that they aren’t the only alum in the film; there’s also Ashley from season 2, Musa, Ivan, and Joshua. There’s a video package, in which we get to see Adam trying to look relevant wearing a RunDMC t-shirt and a preposterously large gold chain which makes him look like a lilly white donkey. Oh, Adam. Trying way too hard. And dancing for us will be a collection of dancers from the movie and also Lil’C (yay!) and Tony Bellissimo from last summer. Does that mean they’re in the movie too? I can’t tell. I think this has taken the place of our All Star performance, and I’m ambivalent about that. There’s a large group of urban looking youths (lots of ethnicities and some edgy looking white kids), kind of a Rent-without-content look. There’s also Billy’s twin sister – which is to say, a girl in stripped leggings who is insanely flexible. And there’s a guy who keeps spinning on his head long after the music ends, and it’s insanely awesome. We go directly to an actual commercial for the movie, which displays the really bad acting – a shame, because at that point I was rethinking my stance on seeing it in the theater. When the Disney channel girl says “everything we had… was real” she made Miley Cyrus look like Meryl Streep. On the other hand, I was thrilled to see another familiar face – Harry Shum Jr, known to you and me as Glee‘s Mike Chang. Now I really hope this movie does well. We have to support Other Asian’s career, right?
Next up we have a musical performance from Christian TV (oi, the name), who’ll sing Britney Spears’ favorite song of the summer. And, yeah, her taste is just as bad as you’d imagine. The song (“When She Turns 18”) is unbelievably bad. At first, I suspect equipment malfunction, but then the backing track kicks in and it sounds exactly the same. Gosh, but I’d love to sic Simon Cowell on this kid. He’d totally be on the bad audition reel. Yuck. He’s got some back up dancers, however (not our All Stars, I don’t think) wearing swim suits and frilly bathing caps a la Ethel Merman (or the Nuva Ring commercial) and the patterns they make are at least interesting. Mr E. and I are spellbound by the badness of it. I wouldn’t even consider it singing, personally; it’s like what Rex Harrison does in My Fair Lady, speaking in tune because he can’t actually sing. Except Christian TV’s no where in Rex Harrison’t speak-singing league.
Nigel talks a bit more, and plays more videos of National Dance Day preparations. It’s Saturday, folks! Nigel’s especially excited about the planned events for the Mall in Washington DC (even if he calls it the Mah-l). Jose is first up with his solo to Soho’s “Hot Music.” He twists on his belly, and hops onto his feet at one point, so it’s not all the same thing. He’s glowing, which is really nice. Next up, doomed Billy Bell dances to Venetian Snares’s “Szerenscetlen,” which makes sense of his outfit a bit because there’s a very European, 19th touch to the music. It’s quirky and awesome and it feels like a real piece. I wonder if he choreographs for himself? If he does, this kid might have a post-dance future in that vein. I know I’m biased, but it’s marvelous. Lauren finishes up the solos to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” back in sexy cheerleader mode. She does an amazing split.
Our second musical guest is a marked improvement on the first (in that, you know, she can actually sing): American Idol‘s Allison Iraheta. Allison’s belting out “Don’t Waste the Pretty” (as in, on a guy who’s not good for you) , which is a very cool song. She’s got Orianthi backing her up, too; I was a bit surprised Cat didn’t mention this until after. Was that not planned? Mr E thought the constant soloing took away from the song. There’s some dancing on the side, but the camera doesn’t focus on it enough for me to tell you if it was actually any good.
Finally, the moment I’ve been fearing has arrived. Jose, Nigel says, you’ve picked up the equivalent of three languages in just a few weeks. You shine, and you’ve been better than we ever thought you could be. Billy, perhaps your androgynous style hasn’t connected with middle America (what with you being in the bottom five times), but we love you, and so do choreographers and creative directors across the country. Lauren, convention might say that the teen audience only votes for boys, but we’re going to give everyone a chance to vote for you again, and maybe they won’t be such sheep. We support you! Lauren of course is saved. Nigel says it was the hardest decision they’ve ever made, and he’s thrilled that the next two weeks will rely totally on the public vote. Cat introduces the dual goodbye package (Macavity! Homeless Man! Boogie Shoes! That sexy dance Jose did with Lauren!) and Jose tells us beautifully how blessed he’s been to have a new family of dance, and to be inspired so much. Billy mutters less articulately about the wonderful experience, and beams at his fellow contestants, who’ve made it all so wonderful. Sigh. I think I’m going to miss them both.