E: Wake up, folks – it’s Bollywood in Babies R Us! The guys are in blue tunics with loose pants and gold decorations; the girls are in gold-embroidered pink bikini tops and fluffy gold skirts. It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s flirty. It’s – holy crap, it’s five guys. We’re missing a guy. We’re missing another damn dancer! What the hell!
And Cat’s been shopping with Macklemore again, because she’s gone all vintage 60s with a long sleeve white mini-dress with leaves all over the bodice, a full skirt and a bow in the front. Seriously, how does she pull this stuff off? She’s gorgeous. Austin Powers would be in love. Even James Bond would bow before her. Bowing before her now – Nigel, the “meek and mild” Mary Murphy, and dance movie director, fan of the show and king of the too-complimentary comparisons, Kenny Ortega. Hey! We got an industry professional for once! That’s something, anyway.
Anyway, Cat’s here with even more than the customary bad news; Tucker has an infection in his knee, and he couldn’t practice this week, so he won’t be in any of the rehearsed dances. That’s not only lousy but also more than a little gross. Once we’ve returned to the customary bad news – recapping the last week’s events and announcing the bottom six (Alan, Malece, Tucker, Jenna, Nico and – Amy? WHAT?) – we find out that Tucker is able to dance now, so he can solo for his life. He just wasn’t able to learn the group routines or his final pair routine as a part of team Tuna. Not that an injury is ever a happy thing, but missing out on that’s just kind of sad.
Alright, let me get quickly back to the rest of the bottom six. Out of this group, Jenna and Alan are the perpetual bottom dwellers, but I’m under no illusion that the judges are going to stop trying to make Jenna work. Alan, on the other hand – sigh. Ballroom on this show is just cursed. I mean, Alan and Malece’s salsa last week was spectacular. Absolutely spectacular. It seems that Alan just hasn’t made enough fans, but Malece? Poor girl has never been in the bottom three and now she’s toast just at the point of the top ten. The fair thing, obviously, would be to boot Jenna, but it’s not going to happen.
With the boys, Alan is the obvious choice as well to go home, although I still think he’s a stronger dancer than Nico and I also could see sending previously supported Tucker home if they’re not sure about this knee infection and his ability to continue dancing in top form. But Nico and (no surprise) Jenna are sent to safety, so it looks worse and worse for Alan who probably could only have been saved if he’d stayed out of the bottom all together. And Malece? Total goner. No one could imagine they’d save her over Amy. Dressed in comfortable dance clothes, Tucker dances first of the four remaining dancers. It’s good, but I’m more excited to hear the main theme from The Holiday than anything else; I will say, the choreography is nicely in tune with the music. Next is Amy, wearing a spectacular embroidered costume with a ruffled butt that matches her angsty French music, “Je Suis Malade.” (I am sick.) It’s ridiculously amazing, and super emotional; she starts on the floor and ends there. Malece steps out of another era wearing something like marcel waves and a lovely red dress – she’s a fabulously little gymnastic pixie dancing to Passenger’s charming “Patient Love.” (Love love love that song – thanks for sharing it, Malece!) Finally, Alan does a really excellent ballroom solo to the Black Eyed Peas wearing black wide pants and an open sleeveless red shirt – what Cat laughingly refers to as part of the Dmitry Chaplin school of shirts.
First off is the “new” pair, Hayley and Nico. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about seeing Hayley with anyone other than Curtis; I just loved them together. There’s no help for it, however, so here we go. And oh dear, they have a Sean Cheesman Broadway routine? That’s weird. He does Broadway? Has he ever done that on the show? Before we can get to the rehearsal and rationale for the dance, however, Nico’s going to tell us something we don’t know about Hayley. This turns out to be that she loves animals; cue pictures of her holding a baby tiger, swimming with a dolphin, and volunteering at an animal shelter. Go, Hayley! For her part, Hayley lets us know that Nico has wild hair and needs to wear a knit cap all the time to preserve his Bieber-like look. Am I the only one who never thought about what it might take to achieve this hairstyle?
Alrighty. Here’s the premise of Sean’s routine: Hayley’s a fortune teller, and she wants to steal customer Nico’s soul with a kiss. So there’s that. We get a lot of would-be amusing “hey, put the camera away, we’re kissing” stuff, as well as the obligatory “oh my gosh, it’s so fast and hard, it’s killing us” lines. Yeah, whatever. Blah fake blah. I’m prepared to be underwhelmed.
But there’s something in the music – Chita Rivera and Jeffrey Huard’s “Kiss of the Spiderwoman” that’s as simple and infectious as a Disney tune, but filled with such creeping menace that it takes hold of me from the moment greaser-looking Nico (big hair, open short sleeve button down over wife beater) walks into the gypsy’s lair. She drips with golden coins and embroidery and fringe, a scarf over her head obscuring her face; she drags him to look into her crystal ball. Avid, greedy, hands gnarled and grasping, Hayley pulls Nico up for a kiss; he rebuffs her violently. They swoop together, swirling around each other. She falls back and pulls him over her body in an astounding flip. He rolls up, they fly to the edge of the stage, she pulls a leg up over her head, they spin, he grabs the foot that’s over her head, she holds his arm, and oh my God, he’s flipping her whole body up and over his head. She sails through the air, lands on one foot and sommersaults backwards, and I’m just aghast as he flips across the stage. I’m blown away.
She chases him back to the door, pins him there, where finally he accepts her kiss not with passion or anticipation of pleasure but with a fearful bowing to inevitability. Triumphant, she pushes him back, knocks him down, leaps onto the table and off it into his waiting. zombie-like arms. As they finish the routine she crouches over his supine body, her spine arching up, one fist full of his shirt and the other stabbing triumphantly over her head.
The audience goes absolutely insane, and the judges are on their feet. This is finale material for certain, this. Nigel makes sure we know his standing ovation is for them and for Sean as well. Those were outrageously difficult lifts magnificently danced – one of the best Broadway routines of the series. (By which I think he means the season, as that’s how the British style it, but that seems faint praise to me.) Those were the best transitions he’s ever seen Nico make. Hayley’s never been in the bottom and she won’t be next week, Nigel predicts; he gives the two top marks. Hardly less wordy, Mary praises their new partnership and instant chemistry and believe this raised both of their games. (Nico’s game for sure, anyway.) Nico’s gymnastics, lifts, passion and power were all laudable; Hayley’s little temptress soared. Kenny Ortega thinks Sean was very brave to give out choreography like that – or maybe not, since he knew the dancers could handle it? He thinks they did American institution Chita Rivera proud, and that’s saying something.
With a very tough act to follow, we have Malece (a shopaholic) and Alan (whose exotic accent belies the fact that he was born and raised in Minnesota). Poor kids. This can go one of two ways. They can say screw it, we know we’re toast and we’re going to show America what they’ve missed, or they can cave to the pressure and emotion of it. Because they are toast. They’re the walking dead. Malece is gone, and if Tucker’s healthy, there’s nothing Alan can do either. Mandy Moore’s given them a jazz routine based on the golden age of Hollywood; she wants them to dance like Gene Kelly. I’m 19, Alan grumbles, I don’t know who Gene Kelly is. Dude, you’re a dancer. A ballroom dancer. Plus, my four year old knows who Gene Kelly is. Your age is no excuse for that ignorance. You better hush your mouth, or I will retract my regret for your inevitable elimination.
“Come Dance With Me,” croons Michael Buble, and honestly, I think this piece is a adorable. Malece looks like Debbie Allen in that flirty little hounds-tooth dress, and Alan’s got a newsie cap and suspenders, and they’re just light and super cute. I feel like I’ve said this for about half of her routines, but her energy level starts flagging in the last third. Their synchronization isn’t absolutely perfect all the way through (and their height difference really shows off the mistakes) but for the most part, it was really sweet. And when they’re in synch, it’s just gorgeous. Not that it matters. Mandy’s making a face in the audience as she stands to clap for them, and at first I think it’s because she didn’t like what they did, but the more I watch, the more I think it’s just that she knows they’re toast.
Because of course he’s a classic film buff, Kenny immediately asks if Alan watched any Gene Kelly films after the rehearsal with Mandy. Oh yes, the pair nod. Good. You’d have been in for it if you hadn’t! Actually, they’re kind of in for it now – they didn’t meld as much as he wanted. Sigh. Though over-complimenter Kenny praises her as being like a young Goldie Hawn or Judy Holliday, Malece is already crying. Nigel goes further and says it was uncomfortable to watch. (What? You’re crazy. Well, aside from the past where Alan almost palms Malece’s boobs, but I doubt that’s what he meant.) He thought their chemistry was off and that they lacked proper retraction. Now there’s a joke waiting to be made… While she liked the partnering and the chemistry, Mary agrees that some of it was a little uncomfortable, like the shadow pivots. Yeah, I don’t get it. This all seems like justification for booting them, which is frankly unnecessary. They showered Alexis with praise before booting her. Come on.
Oh well. Nothing to be done here. Next we have Jenna (who snorts when she laughs, rather like a pig) and not Tucker (who smells great even when sweaty). This is actually quite an adorable exchange to my mind, because she’s picked an (implausibly) attractive quality to discuss and so squawks when his isn’t quite as flattering. Team Tuna’s last stand was supposed to be Paso Doble, which means that Jenna will get Jean-Marc Genereaux’s assistant, right? Or Dmitry or Pasha or Max or Ryan? You’d think so. Accompanying her in the Pirates of the Paso Doble sketch, the pirate who longs to woo her is – Alex Wong?
Er, they do remember he’s a ballet dancer, right? I mean, I love that boy like nobody’s business, but ballroom? Just because they both start with a ball doesn’t mean they’re the same thing.
I found this piece a little weird, frankly. Oh, Chris Joss and Klaus Badelt’s “He’s a Pirate” (Ship Ahoy Tribal Remix) was fun, and I loved Alex’s costume (Captain’s coat without sleeves, bandana), and the way Jenna’s bronze skirt could sub in for a typical Paso cape, but I don’t know. Her gold bikini top was a little much (especially for a character who I thought was supposed to be coy). Eh. Jenna’s great, but nothing about this really spoke to me. I love a good Paso, but this one felt a bit cheesy, no? I will be surprised if she doesn’t end up in next week’s bottom two; I’m sorry that people don’t get her, but they don’t, and I don’t see this routine doing anything to change that.
The judges loved it, though. Mary moves from a fake out to a happy dance, praising their blazing passion and fire. Intention, emotion, precision – she wishes she were up there doing it with Alex in Jenna’s place. The same words get tossed out in Kenny’s critique – passion, fire, confidence. Jenna’s at the top for him. After cracking a terrible pirate joke, Nigel lauds the concept (really?) and notes that Alex never did ballroom when he was a contestant. Sigh. It was tremendous; this is why we saved you. Sigh.
Speaking of dancers the public doesn’t love as much as the judges do, we’ve got Mackenzie (maker of awful faces) up next. She suggests that the editors look for footage of chronic nail-biter Paul biting his nails, and indeed, there’s a ton of it. The two have a Mandy Moore contemporary piece with a sort of odd plot. They’re clandestined lovers; rich girl Mackenzie sneaks over to the wrong side of the tracks to meet him, but they’re being photographed together. The dance is meant to look like a flip book of poses the private eye has caught them in. Very different indeed, certainly an intriguing twist on an old idea.
Their clothes are unremarkable – he’s in a henley and jeans, she’s in a very pretty dark blue halter dress with her hair up and make up done up. The song is a stripped down live version of Lady Gaga’s “On the Edge of Glory” and you can see that this is where Mandy found the idea of the boy from the wrong side of town, because she sure wasn’t inspired by squeaky clean Paul! That’s where the story breaks down for me – he’s nobody’s dirty little secret, but instead achingly sweet and tender. So the lyrics confuse the issue for me – I love the song, but that’s about down and dirty sex with a stranger rather than a secret love affair. That said, I liked the piece well enough in general. The shapes Mandy worked the dancers so hard to achieve are beautiful. The choreographer has happy tears in her eyes when it ends.
Everyone seems to have liked this way more than me. Nigel points out a fish lift and a hand stand, and congratulates Mackenzie for making it out of the bottom three and into the top ten. Sigh. He loved the moments of anticipation (what he likes to call the “Thelma and Louise Moment” between set pieces) and he thinks Paul just moves from strength to strength. Every single second was beautiful, Mary enthuses, from the perfect transitions Mandy does so well to the way they melted together. She was in it all the way. Mandy, you must be so satisfied, Kenny calls out. (She is.) You deserve to be here, Mackenzie, he says, which strikes me as a real kindness. (Knowing you’re good but not liked for something that might be more about people’s perception of your personality rather than your talent? That has to be difficult.) The pair of you share a soulful connection, he continues. Paul has a fire in his soul, a passion for dance that burns under everything he does.
Can Amy (who hums when she eats) and Fik-shun (who can sleep anywhere) compete with this? Jean-Marc thinks the way to finish their partnership is to celebrate it with a glorious Viennese Waltz. It’s just about being there, being themselves in the moment, breathing it in. Aw! I’ve never before heard Amy so tentative as when she declares that she can be elegant for a minute and half. She can, right? That breaks my heart a little; I would not have guessed grace would be an insecurity for her.
The song is Christina Perri’s “Thousand Years P2” with Steve Kazze (barely distinguishable from the radio version), which I love. Fik-shun’s wearing tuxedo pants and a white tuxedo shirt with the bow tie undone and sewn into it; Amy has on a modern twist of a classic 50s silhouette in white with sparkles and sheer panels. It’s far from perfect, but it’s still nice. They don’t spend a lot of time in close hold; in fact, she leaps on his back, and he does the waltz’s rise and fall while giving her a piggy back. There are a couple absolutely stunning lifts, and the routine ends with Amy and her skirt swirling around Fik-shun in a gorgeous lay back spin, one of those things that looks effortless yet you know has to be incredibly difficult. As the last notes of the song fade into darkness, Amy and Fik-shun turn their backs and walk off together, a shower of sparkles from her dress all we can see.
“And they lived happily ever after,” Cat sighs. Aw. “Let’s hope you end up like Bella and Edward…” what, as the undead? “and not like Rob and Kristin.” Ha ha.
While admitting that it wasn’t perfect, Mary gets all weepy over the end of this perfect pairing. She’s come to care deeply for them. Amy just floated across the floor, and Fik-shun really picked up the ballroom technique; he’s getting better and better. I notice the look you just gave Jean-Marc at Mary’s praise, Fik-shun, Kenny tells us. Clearly Jean-Marc is an excellent teacher as well as an excellent choreographer. (Aw. I love that wacky little guy!) Love is the story of their partnership. Amy’s like the dancer on top of a music box, and they’re both clearly going to be around for a while. And poor Malece pulls the knife out of her back backstage. Dude, seriously. You can’t say stuff like that, even when we all know it!
It wasn’t a flashy dance, but it was a hard one, Nigel affirms. It’s a hard style to pick up properly. It was a huge improvement over rehearsal, and – trying to pick up Kenny’s mess – he’d be very upset to lose Amy. Good try, Nigel, but it’s not fooling anyone.
You know, unless Amy’s endangerment has lit a fire under her fans, I could see this routine landing The Truth in the bottom two. And if she goes in against Jenna, I will be beyond curious to know which one the judges would choose to save. Or, does it go straight by votes now? It used to be purely on votes in the top ten, but in the last few seasons the judges have had a lot of trouble letting go of their power.
The last of the six pairs is, of course, our giants Jasmine (who is much sassier than she appears) and Aaron (a total party animal), and they’ve drawn another routine with Aaron’s old teacher Napoleon. You’ll get no complaints from me; hip hop served them extremely well the last time. We’re going for a very different style this time, however – it’s not lyrical but really hard hitting. And it’s – old west? He’s a stage coach robber and she’s the saloon girl who’s going to get his ill-gotten gold. At one point Aaron (going the “it’s so hard! it’s so fast!” route) tells us that they’ve got 48 different moves to do in 7 seconds, which does actually sound pretty hard. Especially, he says, when you’re as tell as we are. When the routine starts with some hokey gags out of a silent movie, I’m fearing it’s going to be kitschy. You know, the black hat, the tinkling piano, the saloon doors. Jasmine’s chicken-in-a-leather-corset costume doesn’t help much either, but you know what? Once the real hard stuff starts up, that was all kinds of buck.
Clinton Spankz’ “Gold Rush” seems to be a weirdly complimentary (and also Western leaning) way to categorize a money motivated woman while showing respect for her, um, fierceness and singularity of focus. And Jasmine, she is something fierce. I’ve never seen anyone get down and dirty quite the way she does, folding in on herself, punching the air. I love it. Aaron makes the first mistake, trying to woo her with his money; soon enough she’s sinking over him in a split and he’s tossing most of his cash in the air. So pleased with himself, he grins as she runs her hands down his sides – but then Aaron couldn’t look more appalled, standing there with his pockets empty, realizing he’s been hard. The audience and the judges leap to their feet, and Nappy Tabs howl with laughter in the audience. Is it just that face Aaron was making, or did we miss something? Just slightly different from The Giving Tree, Cat jokes.
“Two smoking guns!” Kenny calls out as congratulations to Napoleon and Tabitha. Choreographers around the country will have to start a lottery to figure out who gets the first shot at these two incredible dancers. Being tall might have been a handicap, Nigel almost agrees with Aaron, if you didn’t have Jasmine as your partner, because she nailed that in every way possible to do it. I didn’t know the pelvic girdle could move like that, and I haven’t seen one so active since Elvis the Pelvis, he declares. Ha. Kenny’s hyperbole is contagious. That gold digger just dug out the best routine, Mary quips. Jasmine’s isolates boggle the mind, and the synchronization between the two dancers was amazing.
Bye pairs! Aw! I’m excited to see the All Stars, but I am so sorry to let some of you go.
We do have a few mini-group routines left tonight, and this time it’s boys first and girls later. We get the four guys who were healthy enough to learn a NappyTabs original. Nice! The idea is tug of war in the battle of the sexes. NappyTabs; they just love their props, don’t they? The boys are dancing with a long thick rope.
And it works out pretty great for them. Of course, it’d be hard not for me to like something set to Joshua Ledet’s gorgeous “It’s A Man Man Man’s World,” but from the moment Paul and his flying sweat pirouette toward the steady cam operator, I’m in. As Paul holds the rope down, the others leap over and under it. It’s much more lyrical in feel, almost contemporary, although Aaron has a solo where he does so tutting. Again, I don’t care whether its real hip hop or not. Fik-shun and Paul have a fantastic little synchronized section. Surprising fact about Paul; he has a really loose, supple, bendy back, and his isolations are pretty impressive. Like Magic Mike with clothes on, Cat coos after Paul, Nico, Aaron and Alan leap into the audience. By the end Mary and Kenny and the audience are all standing. Nappy Tabs are never boring, Nigel declares with approval. He praises Paul and unnecessarily slags Alan. What a gift for me and Cat, Mary twitters; she was a big fan of Aaron’s solo. Kenny kindly praises Alan (finally! someone!) and Paul, and Cat susses out that half of them how have rope related injuries.
If you’ve been watching the choreographer’s clump in the audience, you can guess that the girls have a routine from the one remaining choreographer without a routine, Stacey Tookey. She’s got an idea for the strong top six girls; they’re starlets meeting at the fountain of youth. It’s meant to be a commentary on Hollywood’s obsession with beauty, and what that means for young women like these in Hollywood. Okay, interesting. We also get to see that Jasmine plays the guy in this routine; she’s placed on the bottom of all the lifts.
The girls all have identical black lace tops (long sleeves, slits in the front and open backs) over sheer long skirts in different colors. There’s a substantial crystal fountain in the middle of the stage, and the girls ebb toward and away from it like water. “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” Lana Del Rey sings (which is a kind of an apt question from Lana, since her voice is not entirely a pleasant one). “Will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul?” It’s a perfect accompaniment, really, to this vision of strong, graceful, beautiful girls. As Stacey promised, the highlight of the piece occurs when the dancers slows advance toward the front of the stage, their arms up by their heads, their eyes pleading, their very souls bared and open.
And the judges, of course, are on their feet. You know, I’ve said before that Stacey’s group routines don’t usually move me like her pair routines do, but this one work. (Also, I can’t get that damn song, “Young and Beautiful” from the Great Gatsby soundtrack, out of my head; this is really galling, because I can’t stand Del Rey.) The girls hold in each other in two groups of three with Cat in the middle, and she can’t get them to move. Amy and Malece embrace with Mackenzie between them. Lessons in the ordinary are all around us, Mary begins, but not on this show, not with that choreography, not with these girls. All six girls are extraordinary; there’s no weak link. (Sigh. Poor Alan.) These are the best top six they’ve ever had. (Not to take anything away from them, but she pretty much says that every year.) It was an honor and pleasure to be in your presence, Kenny adds. Like Anna Kendrick, he praises their commitment to dance. We find out from Nigel that So You Think You Can Dance: Canada has stopped production (boo!) but Canada’s loss is America’s gain, because we can have amazing Canadians Stacey, Sean and Jean-Marc on the American show. Er, haven’t we always? Whatever. All six girls looked like professionals.
Of course, this doesn’t stop him from cutting Malece and yes, Alan, loose. Paul’s been sobbing in the audience from the start, and Alan and Malece start bawling as Nigel tells them he has control over the tour, but he’s going to beg whoever does control it to take them on as “stringers.” Jenna and Amy are both utterly wrecked. Alan actually cracks a joke (he’ll miss the warm up comedian the most) and as the theme music plays, the top ten hoist Malece and Alan onto their shoulders as if they’d won the season. Sniffle! I want to hug them all for doing such a lovely thing.
So next week begins the reign of the All Stars! Who’re you looking forward to seeing? I’m sure we’re all hoping for some Alex Wong – and yeah, not in ballroom next time, okay? Call me dorky, but my dream All Star pairing for next week would be Bianca Revels or Melinda Sullivan to tap dance with Aaron – even Iveta Lukosiute would do, right? She taps, right? Come on! We’ve NEVER had a pairs tap routine. That would rock so flippin’ hard. You can make that happen, can’t you, Nigel?
Alas, my appreciation for whatever happens next week will have to wait, because I’ll be away on vacation. I may or may not be able to toss together a recap for that episode – we’ll see. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the show as soon as I get home, and I’ll post at least a reaction to it if not a full recap. Meanwhile, keep dancing, friends, and I’ll see you on the other side.