So You Think You Can Dance: The Top Twenty Again, 6/22/11

E: You remember last week when I said that week 2 is usually a disappointing week, because the dancers end up out of their styles and we see their weakness?

Yeah.  Not so much.  I thought this was pretty kick ass performance show.  I definitely wasn’t in love with every routine, but what a grouping over all!  Honestly, I couldn’t figure out who to vote for (something I’m almost sure to regret in tonight’s painful elimination) because there were just too many dances I loved.  I am so, so happy we got to see the Top Twenty dance again!

Happier even than me is our gorgeous English host, Cat Deeley.  She’s wearing what for her is a long dress – just below her knees, with a gorgeous classic shape, strapless with a sweetheart neckline and a lace overlay with short sleeves, but in lemon yellow on steroids.  It’s an “odi et amo” dress – I love it and I hate it.  We zip through the start (delayed by the Presidential press conference) so the dancers are introduced in pairs rather than individually.  As she introduces the judges, I wonder who the old lady on the right is, and I am completely gobsmacked when I find out.  It’s Debbie freaking Reynolds!  How frickin’ cool is that?  Maybe it’s only thrilling if you’re an enormous fan of Singing in the Rain like Cat and the Quibbling family – but why would you not be?  (Also, let me recommend the movie Mother; she received an Golden Globe nomination in the 90s for tormenting Albert Brooks.  It’s not even that it’s a great movie – she’s just so deliciously dreadful.  It’s worth renting for the ice cream scene alone.)

Anyway.  I am a jibbering mess of excitement of this. Debbie Reynolds!  All right!

As each pair is introduced, they’re invited to tell us something embarrassing about each other.  And the contestants, they sure follow suit with some weird personal details.  Ryan, it seems, has really fast growing leg hair (hey, it happens) and Ricky’s real name is Roderick.  Is that so much worse than Richard?  Or Ricky, for that matter?  Either way, he hates it, so when Cat introduces the duos sexy Mandy Moore jazz piece, she of course (and only for this time, she swears) calls them Ryan and Roderick.

Mandy has worried that Ryan and Ricky are too young, or too new to each other, to have the proper chemistry for this dance.  I think the problem is a little different.  Most of the choreography requires the dancers to look at the audience rather than each other, so for all the raunchy moves, the two didn’t have the same awareness of each other I felt in last week’s dance.  For sexy, to me, you need eye contact.  Anyway, the two are totally tarted up – he’s wearing a leather corset, for heaven’s sake, and she’s got on something black and maroon with keyhole cleavage (which, btw, gets accidentally ripped open when Ricky’s running his hands over her – not a glaring wardrobe malfunction, since she never actually popped out and I could really only see when it happened after a few viewings – mostly it was just clear the top looked different at the end).  Ryan also ends up with a massive hole in her fishnets on her inner thigh.  It’s all in the proper spirit of the dance, I guess. She’s got a high ponytail with odd curls on the top of her head (like a ponytail mullet?) and she tugs the ponytail oddly when she’s sitting up on his hip.  They really attack the dance, but I don’t love it like the judges did; Ricky executes some amazing moves (the pirouettes!  the flip!) but seems less connected, and Ryan smiles avidly though the whole thing, which felt off to me – mostly, again, because she was smiling at us and not looking at Ricky.  The energy seemed to me to be focused out at the audience instead of in at each other.

But the judges loved it.  Nigel wants to hose them off and jokes lamely that it’s like watching him and Mary.  But Debbie Reynolds, bless her heart, quips that Ryan gave us her all. Ha.  Debbie, you old ham, I love you.

What a joy to have Caitlynn and Mitchell up next!  I completely forget – no, her embarrassing thing has something to do with her favorite boots leaving marks on her feet. Well, leather will do that.  Mitchell is really into appearance, isn’t he?  But I do not care, not today, because they were just – sigh.  Stacey Tookey, who clearly has some significant relationship issues, gives them the story of a woman who dreams of leaving her partner but can’t bring herself to do it.  She imagines telling him she’s miserable, but she can’t.  I’m starting to think of this as the Odi et Amo episode; it’s all love/hate.  They’ve staged this concept beautifully; Caitlynn has a gorgeous leather arm chair and lamp in white, and Mitchell has the furniture equivalent of their dark shadow doppelganger, several feet behind.   Each chair sits in a pool of light; we see Caitlynn’s anxiety and Mitchell’s control and unconcern from their opening poses.  (Mitchell’s character reminds me quite a bit of Brandon and Kayla’s mistress/domineering businessman piece.)  She’s got on a vulnerable little floral dress, floaty and strapless with a large pattern, and he’s in a vest and tie, looking very sharp and forbidding.  They dance to Adele’s “Turning Tables” which pretty much gets them half way there on its own.   But what they do – oh.  We see Caitlynn thrash and contort in fantastic leaps and lifts, we see her force Mitchell to acknowledge her unhappiness,  and then it all collapses back into the chairs.  It was only her bravest dream.

The judges and the audience are blown away, but Cat pays no mind to anyone; turns out Mitchell kind of punched Caitlynn in the nose, leaving her with a bloody cut by her right eye.  (This was a little confusing at first; she was standing with that side of her face away from us, so we couldn’t see what Cat saw.  Eventually, someone trots out a handkerchief, and it’s all good.  Debbie’s so happy with their performance she sings.  Nigel’s thrilled they kept Mitchell, and I can’t but agree.  This pair is at the top of ballroom legend Melanie LePatin’s list as well as mine.

The delightfully daffy Jean Marc Genereux has a cha cha in store for Wadi and Missy, the hardest one he’s ever choreographed for the show, he says.  Wadi, by the way, used some Nair to get rid of his chest hair for the show, and thoughtfully did it on camera.  Missy has a really odd laugh – she starts and stops as if hiccuping. Then everyone makes fun of Missy for caring so much where her limbs are supposed to be at what point in the dance.  They’re cute.

The dance, though?  Not so much.  Jean-Marc’s set it to Ke$ha’s “Cannibal,”  which is kind of awful and entertaining at the same time.  Odi et amo, I’m telling you.   Missy’s wearing leopard print, and Wadi’s in black pants and a sleeveless tank.  They’re uneven.  The transitions aren’t great, and you can see Wadi struggling not only with the hip movement but with being where he’s supposed to, with maintaining the character of the dance.  It’s the first real misstep of the season, and it’s a shame, because he’s totally adorable. PLus, there’s good in it – some nice lifts and some good moments where you can see he does get it.  Nigel lauds Missy, but tells Wadi it wasn’t technically up to snuff and that he hasn’t coped with ballroom as well as most street dancers do.  Ouch. Mary softens the critique a little, saying it was respectable, but that it looked like an early week on Dancing With The Stars with Missy as the pro and Wadi as the hapless celebrity.  Ouch.  Debbie has had enough of them picking on poor little Wadi (and my God, that’s a kicked puppy face if every I’ve seen one) and tells him he can cha cha with her any time.  She goes into Betty White/sweet but randy old lady mode and says she wants to take Wadi home with her.  “At least I made someone’s night,” Wadi mopes pathetically.  Missy kisses his cheek and tells the judges how hard he’s worked.  Poor sad little guy!

Up next, tall skinny white people doing Bollywood.  I don’t feel like it’s a style that rewards tall beginners; the bigger you are, the more obvious a missed movement or tentative line is.  Iveta and Nick are the pale folk in question, and they of course have Nakul choreographing for them.  (Iveta likes to give herself pep talks in the mirror, in case you were wondering, and Nick wears shorts despite what his partner dismissively refers to as his chicken legs.)  They dance to “Baawre” from the soundtrack of Lucky by Chance.  They start in a backlit position, and do these nutty backbend things that would have looked cooler if Nick hadn’t been a little off balance.  The unison is off – I think Nick is a little slower than Iveta in most cases, especially with his arms, and the angles don’t always match up, but parts of it are fantastic, especially the one handed twirling lift, and that amazing thing where they undulated across the stage together.  Loved that.  I liked the bit where she was spinning and he flicked up the long strips of her skirt, too, though I’ve seen that done better.  They’re dressed in jewel tones (she’s in pink and blue, he’s in red and orange), and it makes Nick look more skinny and pale than usual, even.  Still,  it was a fun routine.

Nigel thinks it was good, but not on a level with Katee and Joshua.  Well, of course it wasn’t!  The show hasn’t been able to top it’s first Bollywood routine.  You know, the judges really can’t say much about Bollywood; it’s so far out of their styles that we don’t get a lot of cogent critique.  I’d be so curious to hear what a true expert had to say!  Debbie Reynolds is just happy to be here.

Miranda tells us that Robert is a grown man who goes around acting like a professional wrestler (ha!) and Robert retaliates for that piece of on point honesty by revealing Miranda’s crush on Tadd.  Dude!  Not cool!  In happier news, there’s no wooing in sight.  Someone’s taken Nigel’s critique to heart and dialed it back down from 11.  In what’s either an incredibly fortunate accident, or a play by the producers to keep the pair around, Robert and Miranda have drawn hip hop.  Tabitha and Napoleon – well, I cannot be the only person who thought they had to be kidding when they explained the premise of the piece, one woodpecker teaching another how to fly.  “I’m the baby pecker,” Miranda announces.  Oh, honey.

I didn’t think this could work, but wow.  The two are attired in black leather jackets with strips of red and black feathers, red sneakers and red and blue shirts.  The music?  Busta Rhymes “Break Ya Neck.” The pounding rhythm works with the jerky, bird-like movements.  And lots of head bobbing.  They’re crazy well matched – their angles in unison are surprisingly great – and the tricks are pretty breathtaking, even if Miranda falls forward out of her flip.  The piece ends with them “flying” – flipping off the stage into a pile of feathers. Cute.  Very cute.  The judges can’t believe Miranda’s swagger.  She hits has hard as Robert, if not harder!   Nigel overenthuses that she does the best hip hop of any contemporary dancer.  Really?  Remember Lauren and Jeanine?  She was terrific, but I’m not willing to give her that crown yet.  Oh, Hollywood.  You have no memory.  Nigel’s thrilled at the lack of woos, and that I can agree with.  Debbie brings down the house with a freakishly perfect Woody Woodpecker imitation, and Nigel professes to be worried at all the dancers she’s going to take home with her.

Clarice, it turns out, sleeps with her eyes open (eek!) and Jess – oh, this boy – draws stick figure orchestras.  He thinks this is entrancing rather than embarrassing.  Okay.  Stacey’s given them a Royal wedding routine; he’s the prince, she’s the commoner marrying into to the Royal family.  Right.  Clarice is in a dusty rose dress with a spangly front, flattering but not memorable, and Jess’s got on a black military style uniform, also unspectacular.  They dance to “Cathedrals” from Jump Little Children, which I totally love, but I find it generally unremarkable.  There’s no chemistry at all, even though the dancing itself is good and Clarice, in particular, is clearly feeling it.  Debbie Reynolds wants to take them both home (“I need more children” she says – I’m sure Carrie Fisher’s laughing bitterly somewhere) but Nigel’s underwhelmed.  If their perfect Broadway last week couldn’t keep them out of the bottom, this dull attempt at romance seems unlikely to change anything.  I’m curious about their future, no doubt.

Tadd color coordinates the clothes in his suitcase.  Eek.  He also packs so you can see each piece of clothing, and puts everything in ziplock bags.  That’s somehow surprising.  Jordan, on the other hand, thought her ticket to Vegas was an actual plane ticket on the So You Think You Can Dance fleet of private airplanes.  Oh, love.  Oh, oh, love.  The two have drawn a Jean-Marc Genereux Viennese Waltz.   Still no hip for Tadd, huh?  But he seems to be having an easier time with the concept than Jordan – she keeps violating his space, and gets frustrated as the men tease her about it.  The song is “Fade into Me” by David Cook, and the dance starts with Jordan sitting on a bench under a street lamp, in a flowing lavender ballroom style gown (that is, with cut outs and crystals) and Tadd looking spiffy in a sparkly vest and suit pants combo.  I didn’t think the judges would like the choreography – they ding Jean-Marc a lot for not doing including enough close hold – but they’re ecstatic.  Nigel thinks b boys shouldn’t be able to dance ballroom like that!  It was really very impressive, lyrical and floaty and just as it should be.  Mary praises the rise and fall and just generally falls to pieces, saying that Tadd’s the biggest surprise of the competition and then getting too choked up to continue.  Debbie Reynolds actually puts them in the class of Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.  Tadd jokes about his terror upon drawing the style, when he wondered what the “Vietnamese Waltz” was.  You’ve come a long way, baby.

Melanie can’t stand when people touch her ears. Ah, the perils of the pixie cut!  Marko reads romance novels.  Oh.My. God., is that the damn cutest embarrassing thing ever?  I mean, for the target audience of this show.  I’m sure that would actually be embarrassing to most guys in a lot of other contexts, but Marko is just so undaunted.  Mandy Moore’s got a Broadway routine for them involving bowler hats.  And yes, it’s all as adorable as you’d guess.  There’s a great song – “Sing with a Swing” (Raf Machesini Radio Edit) by DKS – and they’ve got this cross between vaudeville and circus clothing on; Marko’s wearing a red jacket like a ring master (as played by Don Johnson), and Melanie’s hat is purple, and she’s wearing spangly hot pants and a bow tie.  IT’s bloody fantastic, all kids and leaps and tricks and lifts and super fun dancing.  Melanie is sexy, and we see the beast side of her that Nigel referred to last week in her fierce attack.  Marko loses his hat and picks it up just in time for Melanie to run at him for a split lift, which is just sick.  “She knows I haven’t dropped her, and I never will,” says the romance novel enthusiast.  Aw.

The judges are out of their mind for this couple.  You’re stars!  You’re both stars!  You will never let us down, Mary Murphy insists (even though, technically, we haven’t seen them do anything actually outside their genres – I can’t wait until we do, though!).  Nigel blathers on about how he casts for the perfect balance of technique and passion, and these two have it.  Then he says the Gods of Terpsichory smiles when these two were paired.  Which, Terpsichory is the Muse of dance, and it was Nigel, I’m sure, who put them together, but I get the point.  Not every pairing that you think will work does (hello, Mollee and Nathan!) but this one has really lived beyond high expectations so far.

Sasha and Alexander, let’s face it, are a trickier pair.  He’s good, but he’s just not expressive in the same way she is.  Chances are that whatever two boys go home tonight will not be as disappointing as Alexander.  But she’s so damn fantastic I have trouble imagining them in the bottom.  Terpsichory, let’s say, was not smiling at this partnership, not in the same way.

We establish right off that she “sweats like a dude”  (“the girl is a waterslide”) and that he’s extra fond of looking at himself in the mirror.  So not surprising.  The two contemporary dancers have drawn a hip hop routine from Tabitha and Napoleon (I’m glad to see them, but I’m curious to know whether Christopher Scott is in the dog house after last week’s weakest routine).  The story?  A soldier comes home from Afghanistan; the dancers are intended to express her ambivalence and anxiety (has he changed? how will their lives be different?) that lasts to the instant she sees him.  Napoleon, it turns out, used to be in the military (wow, unexpected) and so the story hits close to home for them.

As the music – Dirty Diddy Money’s “Coming Home” (featuring soaring Skylar Grey) – begins, Sasha dances alone, and it bears repeating that she’s fierce.  Her anguish is as sharp and clear and large as her movements.  He moves behind her, running in slow motion (not as corny as it sounds, I promise you) and it’s just breathtaking.  It’s crisp and hard hitting and the unison is gorgeous.  There’s a moment when she gets down on all fours and he does a headstand on her back and flips forward off it, which is completely incredible.  When they finish, the applause is thunderous.  The choreographers leap to their feet.  Is Tabitha crying?  Debbie Reynolds calls Sasha a brilliant actress as well as dancer – and then she breaks down.  You made Debbie Reynolds cry, people!  So Mary picks up and she’s crying, because it hits too close to home for her, too.  Wow.

Ashley and Chris have the unenviable task of following that fantastic performance.  What’s with giving them these brutal slots? Except, hmm, this week they’re last, which is generally a good thing. They’ve got a Spencer Liff routine, which is also really promising – he’s responsible for Kathryn and Robert’s sexy Noir interrogation routine and the Macavity routine for Billy and Katee last season.  Amazing stuff!  So now I’m excited.  Chris, before we get started, gently mocks Ashley’s swag and her street gear, and Ashley perfectly describes Chris’s nervous smile.  The idea of the piece is a sort of conjugal visit, a girl coming to meet her boy in jail, and they’re just ready to rip each other’s clothes off.  Chris glows at the thought of Ashley visiting him; Ashley thinks lusting after Chris is a hilarious idea.  Aw.  Spencer’s provided them with a wall of bars to play off of, and Rachel Sweet’s “Please, Mr. Jailor” to romp around to.

Chris begins the piece suspended from the top of the wall, and he lowers his body with impressive strength and control until its parallel to the floor.  Damn.  His clothes take inspiration from Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock. Ashley’s luminous in a red 50s style dress and little lace gloves; we can see a black underskirt during the lifts.  It’s incredibly sexy, and Spencer plays to Chris’s strengths, allowing him to do all sort of cool athletic tricks on the bars.  They both do leaps and spins, and they’re each suspended in the air at different times.  The camera spins around them (how do they do that 360 effect with a live audience?) and it’s brilliant, intimate and steamy.  At one point, she gives him her hand and he tears off a glove with his teeth.  Damn.

The judges, again, are blown away.  Of course they are.  “The next time they put me in prison, I want you to visit me,” Nigel tells Ashley.  “I know, right?” nods a clearly enamored Chris.  “The next time?” wonders our clever Cat.  Everyone’s stunned at Chris succeeding so far outside his comfort zone, Nigel wants to keep watching them, Mary puts them on the hot tamale train, and Debbie Reynolds is going to take everyone home.  Good times!

So, seriously, that was a terrific show!  I’m dreading tonight, I tell you.  If Wadi and Missy fall to the bottom, he’s clearly out of luck.  I hate saying it, but it’s the case, unless his free running solo (parcour!) can save him.  But who else?  Robert might have just gotten the gift of life from the producers, but if this week’s hip hop can’t save him from the bottom three, nothing will. And then there’s Jess and Clarice.  I think they’re fantastic dancers, but I don’t think people like him, and we don’t really know her, so I fear for them, too.  And, let’s see.  Was last week’s trip to the bottom three an aberration for Jordan and Tadd, or do people actually not like her?  So many questions.  So very nervous for the answers, but still, absolutely loving the show!  What do you think?  Who’re your favorites?  Were you pleased to get the extra week with all the dancers?  Is it easier for you to pick out people to go home than it is for me?  Cause, yuck.  I’d like them all to stay this week, too!

2 comments on “So You Think You Can Dance: The Top Twenty Again, 6/22/11

  1. I think the Bollywood was my least favorite. I was surprised they got as much enthusiasm from the judges as they did.

    Overall, a brilliant night of dancing. There will be tears tonight because I’m certain someone I really like will be going home — I just don’t know who yet.

    I’m sure that would actually be embarrassing to most guys in a lot of other contexts, but Marko is just so undaunted.

    OMG the romance novel reading. I love him so. He’s probably thinking “hey, I should be dead. I’ll read romance novels if I want,” and I can’t see how anyone who knew him could give him crap about it.

    • E says:

      I agree, I was surprised at the level of enthusiasm from the judges. I think they have trouble offering a cogent critique of Bollywood dances because they’re not tremendously familiar with it, but they certainly could have mentioned the lack of unison. (Which, as I rewatched it, included slow movements from Iveta, too.) Some parts of it were fun (the undulating walk) but it just wasn’t there. It really did make the results brutal.

      Seriously, could Marko be any more adorable? You’re so right – once you’ve stared down the barrel of a gun (literally) are you really going to be fussed about admitting to liking romance novels? No. No you’re not.

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