So You Think You Can Dance: Top Ten Performance Show, 7/20/11

E: That was a good show, guys!  Neil Patrick Harris as our special guest judge, not only being funny but giving actual and sensible critiques.  Dwight Rodden and Desmond Richardson.  Two doses of Pasha.  Twitch.  Kathryn.  All That Jazz.  If we could have had Alex Freaking Wong, it would have been perfect.

I am going to say now; I wish we could eliminate from here on out without reference to gender. Also, I’m really hoping that for once, the final two are both girls.  Melanie and Sasha, to be precise.  Love you, Marko, but it has to be said.

And speaking of Marko, that super cutie starts the show!  Guess we’ll find out soon enough if he can only survive the curse of the opening act with Melanie, or if he remain danger free without her.  I’m getting ahead of myself, though.  Where’s the proper beginning?  Cat’s outfit, of course!  It’ s not one of my favorites today; black sequined dress with short bejeweled sleeves and a multicolored hemline.  Somehow the black looks like a vinyl or scuba gear when the light hits her midsection.  But this is what we love about Cat; she’s not safe, she’s daring.  It’s not all a parade of bland impeccable gowns, and when they fail (or just aren’t to my taste) they’re still never what anyone else would wear.  And of course all’s well when she introduces the panel “of professionals,” including the fabulous Neil Patrick Harris.  It’s still a miracle to me that this guy went from Dougie Howser and the atrocity that was Starship Troopers to Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog and the everything that he is now.   And yet, I’m so glad he did.

Anyway.  He’s a big fan of the show, blah blah blah.  And of Cat, too, which wins him more points, not that he needed any.  “Not popular at school, is he?” Cat quips as the crowd goes wild.  Seriously, when did he become the coolest person in show biz? He’s got on a gray striped suit, and he looks excellent, as always.  Of course he looks very natural in a suit.

And now we can move on to Marko and Chelsie Hightower (on loan from Dancing With The Stars).  Jason gilkerson has given them a samba with the idea that Marko is a photographer and Chelsie’s his insatiable muse.   But when the dance begins, what we really see is a scene from the movie musical version of Nine, a movie I still resent having to waste my time on despite the spectacular cast and despite the fact that I love musicals.  They’re using “Cinema Italiano” as sung by Kate Hudson, the only one I remember or like, and Chelsie’s got this sixties sex bomb thing going on (Nicole Kidman in the film) with black lace and big golden hair.  Marko’s in a suit with his hair slicked down, and somehow, I don’t love seeing him in suits.  I feel like he gets swallowed up, even though they fit his body well.  Eventually she rips off his jacket, and that helps.  There’s a foofie little ornate sofa for the opening seconds with the camera, and there’s really cool use of Marko’s gymnastic skills as he leaps over and off it (and over Chelsie) before they go into hold.  There are dives and rolls and there’s even a kiss.  It goes much better than the rehearsal (in which injury looks immanent) implies. It’s fast, and nicely done, but will it stick in voters minds?  I don’t know.

Jason’s thrilled, and bounces up and down in his seat.  Really, after seeing it more than once, I can see how well he’s doing, but at first, I don’t know, for me he’s just swallowed up by that heavy suit.  (Also, I can’t help wondering what people who aren’t familiar with the movie or the musical or the movie it was originally based on will think of the extended period where Hudson screams “Guido Guido Guido!”; would you guess that was the character’s name, or did you think she was insulting him?)  Cat’s thrilled to have Chelsie back, and remarks that you’d never know what a tomboy she is to look at dolled up Chelsie now.  “What a dirty way to start the show,” Neil Patrick Harris purrs.  The part where she scissor-kicked around your face?  I would have kissed her too.  (Which, hee.)  NPH explains that in his mind, Marko is the guy to beat (duh) and praises Marko for being so – symmetrical.  Okay.  You’re the real deal, Mary enthuses, so exciting that one of her earrings flies off (thankfully not taking out NPH in the process). As Cat notes, she spits out a lot of technical terms that come down to Marko doing the right things with his hips and feet.  Nigel (impressed with Marko’s ability to work hard enough to pull this off) clearly has been studying up to give us this witticism; “you’ve lost a really good partner, but now you’re dancing with the stars.”  Ugh.

Clearly someone up there (Nigel?) agrees with me that the quality of dance suffered last week because the contestants were asked to do two pair dances.  So instead of one dance with an All Star and one with a fellow contestant, we’ve got an All Star dance and a solo.  Generally, I’m not enamored of the solos and would rather see them mix it up with a fellow contestant, but after last week, we might be better off this way.  First up is Sasha, who clambers around like a crab in an olive colored shirt to Duffy’s “Syrup and Honey.”  Oooh, good song choice!  But if they didn’t like last week’s solo, the judges – who, mercifully, don’t comment – aren’t going to like this one.

Oh well.

When Cat announced at the start of the show that Rodden and Richardson were back choreographing, I of course wondered immediately who they were working with.  I don’t know if this is true, but I always feel like certain choreographers ask for particular dancers.  Like, Mia used to wait a few episodes and then pick people.  I mean, you know that the Butt Dance was all about Randy and Evan, and no one else would ever have gotten it.  Like wise, I can’t help thinking that you don’t just get someone like Desmond Richardson to come on the show and take whoever draws contemporary out of the hat.  No, you ask nicely who he’d like to work with and say “thank you, sir!”  So I have to admit I was stunned that he was choreographing for Jordan, whom I would have considered the weakest of the remaining girls.  Melanie, Sasha, Marko, Cailtynn, Ricky, Mitchell, Clarice – genuinely, Jordan would have been last on my list.  But there it is.  Either I’m wrong about how these things transpire (and it’s only a guess, so that could be) or she’s just much better than I think.

Anyway.  The routine is about the fearlessness of love, and it’s all fast movement and a lot of lifts.  I love the bit in the rehearsal package where the dancers explain that R&R’s instructions only come in musical noises (“ooohm”  “shwish” “boop”) rather than words.  Awesome.  Oh.  And.  Did I mention that Jordan’s All Star partner is Brandon?  Brandon of Brandon and Jeannette, season five supercouple?  Dude is all muscle; lifting girls is what he does for fun.  And lift Jordan he does.  He’s wearing gray jeans; she’s got on a purple negligee that’s alternately satin and sheer (one boob each, ew), and they’re dancing to a God awful acoustic live version of Jesse J’s “Who You Are” that immediately makes me hate the entire proceedings.  Must try to concentrate on Brandon’s spectacular physique and shut the sound off.  Dude has definition for years.  It’s ridiculous.  Also, he does some damn crazy stunts like diving onto the stage and rolling around and complete insanity.  To me, the piece is all about him. There’s lots of very impressive choreography, and really nice unison work (mostly), but I have trouble getting past the song.  There’s no stopping, which is cool though I’m sure exhausting; each move flows smoothly into the next.  Cat has chills.  It honestly didn’t do much for me – I didn’t really see there was a story to it or emotional connection between the dancers (atrocious music aside) but I can appreciate how hard it was and the beauty of the shapes they made.

Mary was thrilled with Brandon (duh) but thinks Jordan’s fearless, and that the choreographers pulled something out of her that she had no idea was there.  Nigel thinks the opposite; that Jordan’s a tool which allowed them to do their style, more so than anyone else they’ve worked with on the show.  Er, really?  Brandon made his eyes water (in a good way)but Jordan kept up with him.  I guess that’s true, but I just was so stunned by him and the extra snazzy bits they had him do that I didn’t notice her much.  NPH stand amazed that Brandon was there “shirtless and yoked” yet “I couldn’t take my eyes off of you.”  Really? Huh.

The next solo belongs to Jess, attired in a natty navy sweater vest (argyle, of course) with tan pants and a white t.  Harry Connick Jr’s “Come By Me” gives us the flavor. He slides to the edge of the stage to finish, elbow resting on his knee, fist propping up his chin.  Cat scoots over and rests her elbow on him so they can strike a cutesy, nonchallant pose together.  Ha.  It’s like she’s playing along but gently laughing at him at the same time.  “Help me up because I’ve got these silly shoes on,” she asks, and he pulls her up the steps.  Too cute!  Love that girl.  Wait, were you hoping to hear something about Jess?

Oh.  It was good.

Next up, Tadd and Comfort doing a Chuck Maldonato piece in which they need to be “guttah sexy.”  Does Tadd have swag? Maybe?  No?  Yes?  We’re in doubt about everything other than his abs, which – considering the amount of time he spends walking on his hands – are even better than you’d guess.  Sadly they’re covered up for the routine; gray long sleeve t, plaid vest, dark jeans.  Comfort is in plaid pants with a grey shirt and vest which do a lot to present her cleavage to the audience.  She’s got a lot of bright blue stuff in her hair; dye or extensions I don’t know, but it looks cool.

I’ve got to admit from the onset; I hated this song, too.  And that just gets in the way for me.  I don’t mind Chris Brown.  I even like some of his stuff a lot.  This piece, however, (“Look at Me Now”) featured the segments by Lil’Wayne and -largely – Busta Rhymes, and Busta, particularly, is not my thing.  There was no music to that music.  It was all fast unison work, and I can’t help thinking how much I would have enjoyed it if it weren’t set to a stuttering rap with no discernible beginning or end.

The judges don’t share my issues, however.  Nigel enjoyed the way it was like a run on sentence and – hush your mouth – says Tadd outdanced his All Star.  NPH agrees, and goes off on a charming tangent about how Spencer Liff has been choreographing a dance for How I Met Your Mother, and how the tiny hip hop section makes him feel utterly stupid, and how filled with admiration he is for it now.  Mary thought it had swagger all right, calling it ghetto-licious; Nigel makes some impertinent comment, and Cat advises Mary to thwack him.  “He’s on a wheelie chair, just knock him off [the judge’s platform].”

We get to see the first solo ever from Melanie, half of the lone couple never to grace the bottom three.  She dances to a funky folk version of “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease, this time by Angus and Julia Stone.  Genuinely, it’s sick.  She does this crazy roll thing out of a standing leg elevation, and a half split, and generally combines femininity with an angular quirkiness that I like tremendously.  She’s wearing an odd little pale dress with a sheer middle and ruffled bottom, and she’s just as adorable and strong as ever.

Nest to take the stage is Mitchell, accompanied by Melody (the season one runner up whom I’d never seen), dancing to a jazzy Broadway piece by Tyce.  And by jazzy, we mean Fosse-lite.  The song’s “Take Off With Us” from the All That Jazz soundtrack, and since the song is set on an airplane, the dance is about being the plane, and the pilot, and the luggage, and all aspects of flight.  Or so Tyce insists, wondering maniacally if planes can thrust. Riiiight.

So, it’s certainly got those sexy Fosse trappings. Melody’s in fishnets, sparkly hot pants and a captain’s hat.  Mitchell starts the routine on his back doing hip thrusts.  Not so very subtle.  I actually like it a lot, but there’s absolutely nothing tying it to the premise.  It’s not Mitchell’s fault, and he’s fun in it, and so is Melody, but there’s nothing in the thrusting and lifts that even really suggests the luggage, let alone the plane. There’s just the hat, which Melody tosses off immediately, and Mitchell’s teal shirt, which has some pilot-like decorations.

And the judges have the same issue, but they take it out on Mitchell.  I’m impressed by Neil saying flat out that he didn’t get the routine – as a guest judge and non-expert, he’s very clear and confident about expressing a negative opinion, so good for him – but I wish he could have separated out more what Mitchell was responsible for in the equation.  Which is not the choreography.  Mary thought it was a fun number (I agree) but also that Mitchell’s expressions were overbaked.  Hmm.  Possible.  I have to rewatch to find I agree.  Nigel wants Mitchell to think more about the Fosse style, the way that simple gestures like shrugging are brought off.  He even shrugs a bit so we’ll get the point, which amuses the audience to no end.  Again, after rewatching it I get his point, and it’s more fair than the others, but still.  The audience thinks it’s unkind.  Mitchell thought it was the most fun he’s had all season and loves Tyce beyond all other choreographers.  Well.

The next soloist is Ricky, who wears shorts and a plaid tie dye button down shirt (yes, for real) in an orchid color as he dances to “Daylight Breaks” by Cassidy Haley.  In case you’re wondering, it’s not cheer music.  After leaping and spinning like a mad thing, he runs right off the stage before Cat can have him read his number and mug for the camera.  “Don’t worry, nobody noticed a thing,” she assures him.  Hee.

He’s followed quickly by Clarice, who’s wearing a dance bikini with a crazy tulle fluff stuck on one hip.  The top has a sort of Elizabethan inspired ruff.  She’s quirky and fun, dancing to “Royal T” by Crookers featuring Roisin Murphy.  I’m kind of impressed.

And then we’ve got Caitlynn dancing with Pasha (roawr) to a Miriam and Leonardo Argentine Tango.  Huzzah!  They’re supposed to share an intimate reconnection, which we’re watching via a black and white movie.  The style is gorgeous, just gorgeous; Caitlynn’s got her hair tucked up and done in faux marcel waves, and she’s wearing a black lace gown with opera length lace gloves.  Gorgeous.  Pasha, resplendent in an era appropriate triple breasted suit, hair slicked back, adjusts a gramophone to play “Malajunta” by Orqueta Color Tango, which sounds suitably tango and antiquated.  It’s perfect.  The lighting is spectacular, too.  The fast footwork is perfectly timed, but it’s the slow moments that make me swoon.  Caitlynn’s unrecognizable, mysterious and sexy and utterly confident.  Pasha, of course, is Pasha.  Their angles add up to something glorious, and that moment when they slowly, slowly look across at each other, just staring into each other’s eyes as if ready to consume the other person?  It’s transporting.  I could watch this one all day, I really could.  Far and away the best thing Caitlynn’s done.

Mary gives them her own standing O.  It’s the first Argentine Tango of the season, and it was worth the wait.  She swoons for the effortless passion.  Caitlynn has often been criticized for looking like a girl on stage (huh? she has?  why don’t I remember this?) but she was all woman here.  It was me, Nigel confesses, I thought you weren’t mature enough seeming, but no more!  You’re as sexy as Miriam and Anya, he says.  (You know, if you’re going to praise Argentine tangos from the show’s past, don’t you have to mention Lauren and Jeanette?  Just saying.)  Neil Patrick Harris felt like it was great theater. He’s amazed at how in synch they were (me too!) and tells Miriam and Leonardo for the first time in his life, he wants to learn the tango.

White shorts are all Mitchell wears to his solo.  He looks fantastic in white, but the shorts bunch up unevenly, and that’s almost all I notice.  Which is not good, y’all!  “This Time” by John Legend was the soundtrack to that which I did not notice.

The crowd explodes when Cat announces that Sasha’s going to be partnered with Twitch for a Christopher Scott routine.  Well, I’m iffy on Scott partnerships (bullish on his group routines, of course) but I have trouble imagining a more exciting All Star match up.  Christopher’s idea is a couple, sitting glumly over breakfast, the passion gone.  Sasha, glaring at Twitch, decides to capture his attention.  You can’t let up against Sasha, Twitch tells us, because she’ll dance you off the floor.

And, damn.  We hear the completely unexpected piano of Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue” gently plink in; it’s bluesy, a Memphis kind of song, old and rich and glorious and nothing I’ve ever seen used with hip hop.  There’s an enormous table.  A glaring, furious Sasha slides a plate across to Twitch, who’s turned away, reading his newspaper, looking like a cop from Barney Miller in a baby blue jacket, skinny tie and tan pants.  (Seriously, this is the night of tan pants, just watch.)  Sasha’s in glasses, dark pants, a flowered top, and a fuschia belt with a huge bow.  Then she can’t stand it; she leaps up, sending her chair shooting across the stage with her backside, then leaping till she’s crouching on the table, wagging her bottom at him, stomping all over the place.  She’s got his attention, but she’s not done; off goes his jacket, down on the floor he goes, off goes her belt.  There are syncopated unison sections to the pounding piano which blow me away, and the feats of strength!  She rises up from the floor and holds a half backbend till he boosts her the rest of the way; then they chase each other, undulating perfectly to the music, where he’s doing some sort of insane variation on the worm.  It’s unreal.  And then she backs into him and they start dancing together, and it’s so hot it’s unreal, too.  I mean to say, damn. There are a lot of sexy routines on this show (the previous steamy tango being one of them), and many more that just try to be sexy, but, damn.

The judges are shaking their hands, indicating just hot how that was.  Cat sends Twitch off with a huge cheer and a little joke about sex being the breakfast of champions.  Nigel, for his part, is speechless. “All I got for breakfast were some cornflakes!”  Were they soggy, Cat wants to know?  They are now, Nigel gasps, and then collapses into giggles when he realizes that the audience clearly thinks he’s implied something a bit dirtier than he meant. He finally spits out some cogent praise about Twitch and his brilliant routine last season with Alex (“Outta Your Mind,” Entertainment Weekly‘s pick for the best SYTYCD’s best routine ever) and how Sasha’s finally got a partner worthy of her, and damn, the chemistry!  Neil Patrick Harris is similarly spluttering.  Best routine of the night, he says, which in my mind isn’t even near praise enough.  Christopher Scott is amazing, and this was like being at a play; I believed you were married, I believed you wanted each other, I bought it all. (Me too, Neil.)  You should do this routine on tour and in the finale and you should dance together everyday from now on ‘kaythanksbyeeeee.  Mary wants to call the sheriff, the fire department and the paramedics; first to arrest Christopher Scott for that “sexy-assed routine,” then to put out the smoke, and finally to revive her overtaxed heart.  Sasha keeps (subtly) begging for a train whistle; instead Mary tells her she’s an All Star.  And indeed.  She’s as good at hip hop as she as in contemporary, when she’s got the right routine.

Poor Jordan has to solo next, and does a credible bit to Lykke Li’s “Tonight” in a black baby doll dress.  “Love Lykke Li!” Cat coos.  I didn’t know I did, Cat, but I think I’m a believer.

Jess has drawn a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine with Kathryn.  You know, I don’t know if I came across as excited as I am about Kathryn in the All Stars announcement, but I adore her.  I kind of have a girl crush on her, actually; she’s so gorgeous, and she seems like a really lovely person, selfless and smart, and damn can she dance.  The idea of this is that Kathryn’s lonely and caught up in herself, and can’t see her best friend, Jess, supporting her and loving her.  Okay, that’s a variation of Stacey’s bad relationship dramas.  I’m down with it.  Jess admits that Stacey’s found his kryptonite: lifts.  Week in, week out, he gets dinged for lifts that look too labored, and what is this routine if not full of lifts?  Argh. Kathryn can practically levitate, Stacey tells us (and I believe in her magical powers) so if Jess can’t lift her, he’s in real trouble.

As the first several notes play, I’m strongly reminded of “Jar of Hearts,” the Christina Perri song made famous by Stacey’s Tookey’s routine for Kathryn and Billy – and sure enough, it’s another Christina Perri song, aptly titled “The Lonely.”  Kathryn’s wearing a dark dress with a lovely, unusual neckline (strong straps, almost square) and she dances like a broken thing, more angles than lift.  Everywhere she goes, tiny little Jess is there to hold her up, to keep her from sliding down into despair.  Genuinely, they don’t even look like lifts to me, it’s all so smooth.  Between the lighting and his role and his costume (white shirt, the inevitable tan pants) Jess is a shadow, a ghost.  Kathryn is just so stunning, and makes these amazing shapes with her body, and is so caught up in herself – ignoring him in favor of her own pain – that I kind of ignore him, too.

Neil Patrick Harris thinks it’s an extraordinarily designed piece, but cautions Jess not to mug and to be present in the moment.  Was he mugging this time?  The only time I can remember his face was in the last moment, when Kathryn sort of notices he’s there, and looks into his anguish with a quizzical, almost drugged puzzlement.  His anguish could have been a little muggish, I guess.  Anyway, this was as good as Neil’s seen him, but he was more focused on Kathryn.  Mary thinks it’s the best Jess has done.  How sad that I missed it!  I like Jess.  Mostly. She loved the music (which is much less overwrought than the very enjoyably oversteeped “Jar of Hearts”) and the choreography.  Nigel claims the routine has more lifts than Joan Rivers’ face (practicing our lines again, are we, Nigel?) and praises Stacey for her use of emotion. He too thinks it’s Jess’s best work to date. Hmm.  Not for me. But I guess I’d pick a routine where I was paying attention to him.

As is his wont, Tadd starts his solo off the stage.  He dances to Robin Thicke’s “Everything I Can’t Have” (genius song title).  He spends a great deal of time, as is his wont, showing us how he got those abs, standing on his hands doing upside down crunches.

Jason Gilkerson has prepared a Viennese Waltz for Melanie and Pasha.  Okay.  The idea is she’s his rock, and he’s lost his will to live, and she’s sort of guiding him through the dance, which is kind of tough to pull off in ballroom, right?  So, I didn’t see so much of that.  I mean, there were touches, and it was nice, and I liked the wind machine and her white draped gown (Grecian/fairy), and his white open shirt, and the way she sort of swirls around him in the opening pose.  She’s like a floating cloud.  But it’s maybe her least memorable routine for me.  They dance to a version of “Everybody Hurts” by Tina Arena, who sounds like Luna Lovegood to me.  (Mr. E thought I was smoking something, so maybe not; that was my first impression.)

Mary’s convinced Melanie’s feet didn’t touch the floor.  Their transitions were gorgeous.  And that’s quite true – it was all very seamless.  Melanie wrinkles up her little nose in joy; in the audience, her grandmother and mother wrinkle the self same little noses. Nigel agrees that the flow of movement was beautiful (so much so that he says it twice) and that it was a masterclass in lifting.  And that, he says, is the beauty of the Viennese Waltz.  And that, I say, is the beauty of Pasha.  NPH says huh, there were lifts?  Jason’s remarkable, but to him, Melanie’s a superhero; “you look like you’re from the past, but dance like you’re from the future, and it seems to come from inside.”  She’s his favorite dancer on the show.  Beautiful inside and out.  Well.

Caitlynn does her solo to Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love,” as played on the results show a few weeks ago.  Her hair’s down loose, but you can see the imprint of the marcel waves, which is nifty and wild.  Love the song, indifferent to the solo.  Still, her routine was so awesome.  Can’t we get rid of two guys this week?

Second to last (phew), Tyce has a jazz routine for Ricky and Allison.  Rehearsal package drama; Ricky has a sort of crush on Allison, and Tyce wants him to be the embodiment of her nightmares and whisper evil things into her ears.  What does he say?  “I love you!”  They laugh.  Ricky doubts his ability to torment her.  Remembering his acting from last week, I do too.

Tyce has picked Tori Amos’ “Precious Things.” Who better to speak to nightmares with?  Allison’s wearing a negligee in a tawny gold and wine, and she wakes with a start.  Breathing hard, Ricky moves in on her; I’m reminded forcibly of Kupono in “Gravity/Addiction” and Ricky seems lacking to me right away.  But then, Allison is such an actress, so invested, so present in every part of her body, that it’s hard for gentle Ricky to look like he’s inspiring such panic.  He’s wearing – wait for it – tan pants and a shredded black top, and lots of eye make up.  My favorite part (don’t judge) is probably the moment where he drags Allison back to him, tosses her onto the floor and crawls over her, because he does really seem to have the character there.  The dance is kind of awesome, actually, but I can’t help wishing it were Kupono or Mark with Allison.  Sorry, Ricky.  You dance the steps brilliantly, but you don’t scare me.

I am convinced that the judges are going to rip him like his shirt, and so I’m utterly shocked to hear Nigel praise not only the clever routine but Ricky’s ability to keep the character and Nigel’s attention.  Huh.  NPH tends to think Ricky dances young (YES) in part because he’s so lean (YES) and that Allison is so mature that it seems a mismatch (YES) but he believed it (HUH?).  The routine’s out of character for chirpy Tyce, but Mary loved it.  Deliciously dark, reckless and passionate.  She mentions this cool lift where Ricky drags Allison off the floor with one skinny arm and flings her around, and you know, it really was impressive.  I admit it. I wonder, though, if Ricky’s intensity came across better in person than on tv.  They mentioned they could hear him breathing, which I certainly couldn’t.  You could see him blowing out his lips, and I did like it better on repeat viewings, but still.

The last solo of the night belongs to Marko, and it’s our first time since his audition seeing this.  He’s wearing a grey button down and black shorts, and dances to Gavin DeGraw’s “More Than Anyone” (Stripped Version) and there’s cool tumbling. He’s so stinkin’ lovely.

Finishing off the night is Clarice, paired with Robert to do a Nakul Bollywood routine.  They’re to be engaged in the age old game of cat and mouse.  Indeed.  There might even be a kiss, he hints, and I don’t understand that.  Is it that it’s thrilling for him to be able to add one in, because it’s not okay in Indian culture?  And that’s fine, but I thought the point of this was – at least in part – to introduce American audiences to the awesomeness that is Bollywood dance.  Does it affect community pride in the dance?  The kisses (and this wouldn’t be the first) aren’t necessary.  That’s just how I feel.

Anyway.  As usual, the music is from a soundtrack – “Aila Re Aila” from Khatta Meetha.  Clarice’s wearing a skirt with vertical stripes of orange,  yellow and green, along with a midriff baring orange top and a pink and orange flower in her hair.  Robert has silvery lavender harem pants with matching tattoos circling his arms (such a cool look) and an enormous silver necklace.  Clarice is blinged out, too, but not quite so ostentatiously.  The dance is fun and flirty and – as always – super fast and athletic.  There’s a great sequence where she kicks him to make him spin, and of course there’s an absolutely huge kiss, his hands on each side of her face, total chaos. At some point, Robert dances the necklace clean off.  You always keep track of your jewelry, Cat admonishes him.

And the judges are standing.

Neil Patrick Harris loved it.  It was difficult, it was infectious, it was great.  He’d never felt connected to her before (watching her this whole season) but he does now.  You came alive for me, he says.  Mary found it exhilarating. It was designed for her like a well fitting Channel suit.  Nigel thinks she couldn’t have done it better.  He loves Bollywood; he can’t really critique it, but it just makes him happy.

We’ve got new All Stars next week, Cat says (er, is that good or bad?) and two guest judges – Rob Marshall (director of Oscar winning musical Chicago, as well as Dreamgirls and the aforementioned Oscar nominated travesty Nine) and Lady Gaga.  Ever heard of her, Cat wonders – but the crowd’s much more into NPH.  We’ll see how things go in the elimination first!  Top routines of the night for me; there was plenty of nice stuff, but it’s Caitlynn and – of course – Sasha for me.  What about you?  Who goes home?  Has Desmond Richardson saved Jordan?  Will Mitchell fly away home?  I’m a nervous Nelly, and I’m off to queue up my dvr.

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26 comments on “So You Think You Can Dance: Top Ten Performance Show, 7/20/11

  1. C says:

    I thought the kid who did the scary nightmare dance was good. I had never seen him before, so that probably helps with being convinced when he plays against type.

    But the breakfast one was def. the best, and then maybe the waltz and tango. I didn’t think the Bollywood one deserved the praise it got. It was just a typical Bollywood routine, which is fun, but not what I expect from these shows.

    • E says:

      Oh my gosh, I love that dance so much. I love Sasha. She auditioned with her sister Natalia, and seriously, their family should have their own reality show, they are so cool and so fun. But the judges are right; this is the first time Sasha had a partner who could keep up with her. It ruled!

      I agree with you about the Bollywood; it was good, but overpraised. (I find height difference in Bollywood kind of jarring to the necessary symmetry, actually, so that was a distraction for me.) But I really would have preferred to keep Clarice in the competition. 😦

      You know, the more I watch the nightmare jazz, the more I like it. My knowledge of Ricky definitely got in the way there. He’s an amazing dancing, but the acting component comes a lot harder for him.

  2. the presidentrix says:

    Let’s see… I meant to say something last week, and now my brain has kind of lapsed…

    1. I agree that the best dance of the night was the breakfast dance. Sasha is powerful beyond belief, and Twitch seems to inspire his dance partners to explode with so much energy that scenery gets destroyed. :o) Man, that was fun.

    2. I have such a hard time distinguishing ballroom excellence from ballroom mediocrity, that I rarely enjoy those routines as much – especially since I wince at cheesy contemporary music awkwardly coupled to very traditional movements – which sometimes seems to happen. I feel like, ‘Either be comfortable using the genuinely appropriate music (not necessarily nineteenth century or anything, just a real waltz or tango or cha cha) or use contemporary music and relax the definition of the dance, exchanging it for something more… concept. Anyway, to get to the point: I hate it when the music seems forced. But that waltz was gorgeous. It was everything everybody always says a waltz should be: a dream, a fairy tale.

    3. I believed in Ricky; he freaked me out! But I can simultaneously agree that he was a little outclassed by his partner; she was the one keeping me riveted on the stage.

    4. I was really surprised by Nigel’s sudden about-face on Jordan. Someone else on the judging panel had just mentioned that, once again, the choreography played to Jordan’s strengths and was loaded with high kicks, and I expected Nigel to point out that he wants to see something *different* from her. But instead, he said they didn’t have to suit the dance to her, because she has no weaknesses. And almost ordered the viewing audience to start voting for her. Is he doing his best to mitigated against the foregone conclusion that is Melanie and Sasha’s continued domination? With Ryan gone, is Jordan the only girl left with enough *personality* and recognition that she can be constructed as a threat to them? Surely there’s no (other) particular reason to push the audience to keep her, as opposed to Caitlyn or Clarice, who are also very good? I don’t get it. Nigel (and all the judges) seem to appreciate all five remaining women – as they justly deserve. But what’s the deal with Jordan? Why is she being protected/singled out?

    5. I’m glad Jess made it through his dance with all the lifts, but (perhaps because they had me looking for it), I did find them a bit labored. Poor kid! He just doesn’t have the height! Solos, as you say, are generally boring in comparison to the pairs dances, but it’s interesting to compare his solos to his partnering work. So much of his appeal is the unbelievable height he can get with each jump. A lot of that gets lost when he partners – perhaps for reasons of symmetry, perhaps because that lightness gets weighed down in partnering. It doesn’t make him the most well-rounded dancer in the competition, to be sure, but, man, I enjoy it when he does his own thing. Maybe if they do more same sex partnerships, he’ll be paired with an All-Star who can match him in size and nimbleness… It would certainly be fun to see before he eventually goes home. And I still like the idea of him dancing with Melanie, a notion that dates back to the Poison dance. I’d love to see the two of them get a full routine together…

    In other news, I need help from you and C! I want so badly to make a Harry Potter mix – a playlist that sounds like the *world* of the books, not necessarily the events of any particular book – but everything I can find online is angst, angst, angst, angst.

    Angst in moderation would be fine, especially if it’s not generalized but feels true to the story. Songs for individual characters would be fine, too. (I definitely wouldn’t sneeze at a World’s Awesomest Luna Lovegood song…) Magic-themed songs – or songs with a Magic feeling – are excellent, as are tweedy nerd songs, Hogsmeade on a Fall day songs, quirky, bubbly butterbeer songs. Just anything, as long as it’s cute and fun (even angst can be fun!) and sort of feels right.

    In my desperate search for ideas, I eventually googled ‘spinster academic playlist’, hoping that somebody had made one of those at some time or another. I figured it would be at least tangent on what I ultimately want… NO SUCH LUCK! (Any chance of a sequel to the Emo Tubercular Hotness list??? If there is no Spinster Academic Playlist, there should be!)

    Any suggestions at all are welcome. I just figured your family is so much better versed in music (and has so much better taste, heh) than me!

    • C says:

      Ohhh, I love this Potter mix idea. (Also: Prez! Yay!) You know, those Chuck mixes you made are still the #1 most highly requested item by anyone who rides in my car.

      Maybe my favorite fanmix I ever encountered on LJ was dedicated to Ron and Hermione, called “Books and Broomsticks.” That was some years ago, so it’s rather outdated now, and definitely not Spinster Academic themed. I’ll have to give it some thought.

      These were the songs on the mix, in case it sparks anything:
      What A Good Boy, Barenaked Ladies
      Exceptional Affair, Baumer
      By My Side, Ben Harper
      All At Once, The Fray
      Kathy’s Song, Eva Cassidy
      I Want You To Want Me, Letters to Cleo
      This Will Be Our Year, OK Go
      The Way, Billy Goodrum
      Fresh Feeling, Eels
      Nothing Like You And I, The Perishers
      To Make You Feel My Love, Josh Kelly
      Swallowed in the Sea, Coldplay
      I’ve Just Seen a Face, The Beatles

      • E says:

        Huh. I do not know all of these songs. Must look into them…

      • the presidentrix says:

        Thanks so much for the suggestions! I will certainly let you and E in on whatever my sister and I finally come up with and only regret that it won’t be done in time for your (practically our!) birthday this year. But I’ve got a half-finished Doctor Who Mix post languishing saved on lj right now… Maybe I should finish it up tonight before I go to bed? If lj lets me in (it wouldn’t last night – boo), perhaps I shall do just that!

        And if you think of anything else… *grin*

        • C says:

          I thought of something on my own steam this time! Brandon Flowers, “Only the Young.” This seems good for Harry Potter to me since it’s a bit epic in tone, but also because of the theme of the books, which is very much that the older generation can’t save you.

          Also, maybe Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” or something else from that album? It has that very “this is life-and-death stuff” feel to it, which I dig hugely.

          ETA: I think the other Coldplay song I was thinking of is “Lovers in Japan” – the whole “you’ve got to soldier on” just feels very Deathly Hallows to me.

          • E says:

            Oh, I was thinking about Viva La Vida, too. Sisters!

            • C says:

              We are funny. How was your chicken last night? 😉

              Also, A Fine Frenzy’s “Stood Up” is probably the awesomest resistance movement song ever. Though the lyric “there are two of us” doesn’t so much work for HP. Unless you think of this as Hermione’s voice while she and Harry are camping alone…

      • The Presidentrix says:

        Ugh, so frustrating! I finished typing my entry, and it’s 5am, and lj shows no sign of either saving or posting it. I will take my own measures, of course, but man! I was looking forward to being done with it!

    • E says:

      I don’t think we can remotely lay claim to being better versed in music than you – not after the amazing Chuck mixes – or remotely having better taste, but I love the idea too! I love thematic mixes. (Surprise!) First itty bitty thoughts:

      Valley Winter Song, Fountains of Wayne – if ever there was a butter beer/Hogsmeade on a blustery day sort of song, this could be it.

      As far as spinstery stuff, do you know these two by Simon and Garfunkel –

      The Dangling Conversation
      I Am a Rock

      More thoughts to come. (And, YAY, Prez! We are so your fan club.)

      • E says:

        (Although I should note that The Dangling Conversation is sort of more academic bad-romance-y than precisely spinstery.)

      • The Presidentrix says:

        Aw, gee. It looks like my comment got lost when my browser decided it wasn’t in the mood.

        Let’s see… Oh yeah: 1) Unfortunately, when you factor in the entire Chuck mix all coming from songs that were played on the show, I still don’t know that much music. For a lot of those bands, the only song I know is whatever one they played on Chuck!

        2) I realized maybe I should have explained the tenuous connection between the nascent Harry Potter Mix and the hypothetical Spinster Academic Playlist better, haha. (Not because you or C seemed to misunderstand; only because I looked back at what I wrote and discovered it didn’t strictly make sense!) One the one hand, it’s sort of a case of one aspirational project producing a second semi-related aspirational project, LOL. On the other hand, I think I’ve worked out that, however narcissistic this may be, I like any fanmixes I make to feel like being immersed in the world of the story (rather than, heh, you know, being about the actual characters as they already exist?). And I guess I have a deeply internalized desire to be an eccentric teacher at Hogwarts???

        Love those Simon and Garfunkle songs, btw!

        • E says:

          Okay, so, thoughts for the Academic Spinster mix: on the “i don’t need a man” kick ass end of the spectrum, Sara Bareilles “Love Song.” On the “why am I alone in my ivory tower” end, The Weepies “This is Not Your Year.”

          Some thoughts for the HP mix: “If it Kills Me” by Jason Mraz (do you remember this – the Necklace dance that Travis did for Jeanine and Jason?) for Ron and Hermione. So, clearly character driven rather than atmospheric per se, so perhaps it’s wrong. Mr. E suggests “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and “In the Air Tonight” (the latter for Draco, which, again, character driven). One song that I love is “Trouble” by Coldplay, which seems perfectly atmospheric but also perfectly right for Harry’s situation.

          PS – Happy birthday!

        • C says:

          “Sigh No More” by Mumford and Sons for a Spinster Academic song? It does talk about love at the end, but a) there’s original “sigh no more” lyrics, and b) there’s the whole idea of a song made up of Shakespeare quotations…

          Then again, this would presuppose that someone was teaching English at Hogwarts, which those wizards seem to feel no need for…

          • M says:

            Speaking of Mumford and Sons, I think “Winter Winds” has a sort of Half-Blood Prince feel to it, with the whole bad/doomed/wrong romance aspect. Plus, it’s very English, and uses words you don’t usually hear in contemporary music, like pestilence.

      • E says:

        Oh, and hmm – I bet the Valley Winter Song specifically mentions American geography, so it wouldn’t really work. Hmmm….

    • E says:

      So, okay, SYTYCD stuff:

      1. I cannot say enough good about the breakfast dance. And I’m so thrilled with that song, too – I didn’t know Dorothy Moore. I’m almost pathetically indebted to tv, and particularly SYTYCD, to introduce me to music.

      2. Ballroom is tough. I feel like I can tell when they’re struggling, but only in the vaguest way. When people pull something off with panache, though, it’s glorious to see. I have no idea if Caitlynn’s tango was technically correct, but I adored it anyway. I think with Melanie’s waltz I was too caught up in wondering how she was supporting him when the guy’s supposed to lead for it to feel as perfect for me as it did for most people. I totally admit that’s my bad, though.

      3. Ricky was quite probably my bad, too.

      4. Ugh, Nigel. Do you suppose he felt obliged to praise and keep Jordan in order to maintain his relationship with Desmond Richardson? I’m really at a loss to explain it otherwise. If tonight is not Jordan’s last, though, I will be extremely put out, and I will start to wonder who she is blackmailing in order to stay.

      Also, I need to add – WHEN are the judges going to stop picking who goes home? That was supposed to happen with the top ten, and I’m willing to bet it would have given perpetual bottom dweller Jordan the heave ho. (Now, I’m not saying she’s not a good dancer, or that I don’t like her as a person. I’d just rather have kept Clarice. And Ryan. And Iveta, not that anyone asked me.)

      5. Bring on the same sex partnerships! They got such amazing mileage out of that last year. I really hope there’s more of that before the finale show.

      • The Presidentrix says:

        I just realized I had completely forgotten about Caitlyn’s tango, and I *thoroughly* enjoyed that routine. Sorry, Caitlyn! Everything about it worked, and the connection between partners was glorious. Perhaps somewhat similarly to NPH, I wanted it to be me doing that dance! It just looked so amazing.

        With regard to Jordan, I had failed to factor in the famous choreographer…! It’s totally manipulative but oddly almost proper on Nigel’s end, if he has to accede to a visiting celebrity choreographer’s tastes for the week and keep the dude from embarrassment or outrage when his pet dancer goes home… Well, proper’s not the right word. It’s wrong to bypass the voters or give misleading (or just plain leading, depending on how you put it!) critique. But at least there’s some kind of propriety in play.

        Now I’m getting excited for tonight. Some unexpected pairings could be just the thing!

  3. E says:

    Yes please! We’ve got Neil, and he was so astounding last year with Kent. No Twitch, though. 😦

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