So You Think You Can Dance: Meet the Top Twenty

E: Sometimes, it’s so freakin’ awesome to be wrong, and this, my friend, this is one of those times.  Only slightly less wonderful than being a fly on the wall at Cat Deeley’s annual Fourth of July bbq for the contestants is this year’s Meet the Top Twenty episode!

The format differs from years past: instead of a plethora of group routines, the producers have paired the dancers with someone in or close to their own style.  These won’t be their official partners for the first half of the season – it’s just for tonight, babe. Though I miss the Top Ten Boys and Top Ten Girls routines which were, presumably, cut for time, I definitely enjoyed getting a closer look at contestants we’ve in some cases only glimpsed.  Long-time judges Nigel and Mary are joined by musical performer/celebrity friend to the show Jason Derulo, and despite his casual tank top and slumpy posture, Jason brings real dance expertise, ease and humor to the judging panel.

Cat opens the 200th episode of So You Think You Can Dance wearing a crimson sheath dress with flaps pinned under cut outs just above her hips.  There are jeweled buttons fastening the flaps down, which give the unfortunate effect of very spangly diaper pins; she’s a ray of sunshine as ever, though, and I’m happy to return to the portion of the show where we get more rather than less of her cheer and wit.  One awesome thing she lets us know?  Added to this year’s prize package is a part in a new Broadway production of On the Town!  Gah.  I’m such a dork for musicals; this makes me swoony.

The first group routine, while no where near as awesome as last year’s single shot masterpiece designed by Tabitha and Napoleon, is clearly the work of Sonya Tayeh and so not unwelcome.  The dancers clump together, flexing their hats to “Stalker Ha” by Kingdom; the boys wear shiny blue suits with loudly colored shirts and ties, and the girls purple suit jackets over hot pants and knee high fishnets, their shirts cropped to show toned midriffs.  It’s a little hard to tell everyone apart here, what with all the long brown ponytails especially, but Ricky (who’s taken Nigel’s facial hair comment so seriously that he’s grown a beard) and Emilio (who gets an extended solo, flipping across the stage) stand out, as does Tanisha with her short hair.  And, actually, Malene and Serge, for non-hairy reasons.  It’s not something I’ll remember all season, like last year’s effort, but I like the pulse of it, the convulsive feel.

Apparently the producers decided it would be way too much to give each dancer 11 seconds for a “get to know you” list, so instead of matching the number to the season as in the past, they’ve awarded each dancer an arbitrary 8 seconds.  And unhappily, they’ve done away with the snarky editor putting the comments in bullet points, which is shame not merely because some comments are unintelligible, but mostly because the snarky editor was quite funny. Mr. E. and I occasionally paused the program to speculate on what s/he might have made of different tidbits shared by the contestants.

First up are Latin ballroom dancers Brooklyn Fullmer (nicknamed B, loves popcorn and sharks, sleeps touching all four corners of the bed) and Serge Orik (Ukrainian born 2 months early – and looked like a dead bird at birth – obsessed with cheese, has visited 5 of the 7 continents).  They’ve drawn a Dmitri Chaplin cha cha, which seems like a nice and steamy place to start – although perhaps all that touching is less fun for Brooklyn since Serge sweats like a fountain. I’ve already told the front row to put their raincoats on, Cat confides.

Midnight Red’s “Hell Yeah” is just the kind of song you’d expect for a cha cha on this show, as is Serge’s bland black pants and shirt, and Brooklyn’s short fringed – err, what would you even call that, a teddy?  A leotard? Safer to just go with costume, I think.  The routine’s fun and high energy, with lots of kicks and shimmies and some fun tricks. “Extra, extra, read all about it!  The hot damn thing starts now,” Mary screams.  She critiques Brooklyn for nerves (she doesn’t have her feet under her, apparently?  I can’t tell) and lauds Serge for his hustle, his persistence and his devotion to making the show. That part, I get.   Jason found it an amazing steamy start, and goes so far as to say he wants to add ballroom to his show.  Right. I’ll believe that when I see it.  Nigel name checks the Savoy Players and Arts Education in Virginia before telling Serge he’s fabulously masculine and that all the hard work he’s obviously put in is all paying off.  I hope people vote for him – for Brooklyn, too, because I like her, but particularly for Serge because I just would hate for him to have tried for so long and then get only a little time on the show.

Next up we have contemporary dancers Emily James (another person who’s finally made the show after several tries) and Casey Askew, who have the good fortune to draw beloved choreographer Travis Wall for their first routine.  Before we get to Travis’s piece about a couple pushing, pulling and arguing to either the end or a new beginning for their relationship, we learn 8 seconds worth of details about the two dancers.  Emily started her own business (no wonder her folks were set on business school!), owns 15 fedoras, and is called Lucy by her family.  Is this a Lucille Ball reference, I wonder? Does she do pratfalls?  Or, I don’t know, pull footballs out from people’s feet like Lucy Van Pelt? I’m intrigued. Unless maybe I heard her wrong.  Where’s that editor when you need them?  I guess with two dancers on screen together, they have no room to write. Casey’s from Seattle but hates the rain (no but about it; I’d assume he hates the rain because he’s from Seattle), is obsessed with Disney, afraid of being choked but is planning to sky dive this summer. I found it interesting – and possibly telling – that Emily thought her own list was lame, but congratulated Casey happily on his.

It’s not about the technique, Casey tells us, it’s about the story; it’s about being memorable in a sea of contemporary routines, Travis adds. The first time I saw this routine, I think I was just a little bored with the use of John Legend’s “All Of Me,”  (even though it was the Spotify live at Milan version, whoa), because it didn’t hit me fully until later.  It was beautifully done, however, and the more I watch it, the more I like it. I feel like they really do give us an emotional arc; the music and the choreography and yes, the dancers, fit together to present a true glimpse into a moment in time.   Emily’s wavy sandy colored hair is worn long and loose (I sort of wish they hadn’t put her so close to Brooklyn, because they look kind of similar – similar hair, freckles, perky nose, both tall with the same lean build – but perhaps it’ll help showing them next to each other in such different styles?) and she’s wearing a short beige nightgown/dress with lace, while Casey’s shirtless with flowy beige pajama pants. There’s a sharpness and tension to the beginning, but it blends into a glorious stretch in the middle – Casey holds Emily’s arms as she bends forward, her legs in a split.  The piece ends with another split; Casey lies on his back on the floor, and Emily lowers herself slowly over his pelvis.  I guess they made up, huh?  Travis really loves these sex moves, doesn’t he?

I didn’t want that to end, Jason sighs, prompting Cat to call him a softy, which in turn makes Jordin Sparks laugh in the audience. It’s not about the technique, he quips, it’s about the touching. It’s about technique used with emotion, Nigel coos.  John Legend should be very happy with that, Nigel imagines, praising the way the choreography shifts from rough to gentle just as Legend hits his falsetto. Good call, Nigel; I hadn’t noticed that, but you’re exactly right.  He speaks to his pleasure in reinvesting in former contestants like Travis and Dmitri, and says that he’s sure the show will eventually re-invest in Emily and Casey, too, which just about makes them fall over with delight.  That was so yummy, Mary finishes; Casey’s a great partner and Emily’s extension and follow through are a joy to behold.

Pair number three is the two tappers, hurrah!  I’ve got chills.  20 year old Valerie Rockey was named Valerie because her birthday’s the day after Valentine’s Day, she loves the Midwest (um, good to know?), and makes a mean omelet.  Zack Everheart is also 20, is from Atlanta, loves rap, hates country music, hates cereal.  Get that stuff away from him!  I love that he speaks in his regular voice; he’s clear and droll.

Nigel has of course brought in Anthony Morigerato to choreograph for them, and Anthony, in turn, has brought in some steps.  Yikes, dude!  Steps are hard.  The dancers are supposed to look like they’re floating up and down the sides, and making something look easy is never an easy thing to do.  And wow, it’s clearly a really hard routine, but they do it with such incredible good humor and cuteness that I can’t even stand it.  Valerie’s wearing a kicky little black dress with dark red taps, and Zack’s got a dark red jacket to match the shoes over black pants and a black hoodie.  It’s kind of updated classic, not too formal, and they slide across the stage and charge up and down the steps to Ed Sheehan’s “Sing” which is pretty perfect.

Wow wow wow, Nigel enthuses, I wanted to make the crowd stop cheering so I could listen to your taps. He lets us know, also, that a Tony winning tap choreographer will be coming to the show in a few weeks (woot!) and he hopes that one of the tappers will get this mystery person.  Huh.  What that says to me – and I’ll be very curious to see if this is right – is that Valerie’s going to get paired with the other tapper in the competition, Teddy, so they can do a routine together.  I mean, they wouldn’t give a tap routine to someone who didn’t know how to tap, right?  Just like they wouldn’t give ballet; it’s just too hard.  And they won’t pair two official tappers together, but it could be okay since Teddy’s being pitched as hip hop.

Mary thought the pair were like the stars of another era, and loved their control.  Well, tap’s going to give that feeling anyway, right?  Jason manages to shock the entire audience yet again by confessing that he started out as a tapper (!) and gets super excited about the dangerous choreography. I did not expect that.

Contemporary dancers Bridget Whitman (collected rocks as a kid, loves peacocks and collects peacocks feathers but isn’t a hoarder, loves to give foot massages) and Stanley Glover (black belt in tai kwan do, loves Chinese martial arts movies, same birthday as Michael Jackson, likes to dye his hair many colors, wants to be a model)  have Bonnie Storey who did the bullying routine last season.  Nigel must be thrilled to have snagged her again; he went on and on last year about how much he loves her and has long pursued her for the show.  Like Travis, she’s put the two dancers in the aftermath of a terrible fight; will they stay together, or break up?  Well, we know these two have experienced tragedy in real  life; we’ll see how they do with emotion on stage.

There’s a rectangular table on the stage beneath a light fixture; Bridget sits on the far left, while Stanley sits behind the table, his back to us and her.  She’s wearing a short print dress, white and beige, and he’s in a button down over rolled up jeans fitted to his slender frame.  He turns, reaches out to her face, and she turns away.

I love the unison of this piece – I’m such a sucker for unison.  Stanley’s so tall and his extension and elevation are so crazy that I sort feared this would be unbalanced, but Bridget matches him stride and height; in turn, his tender emotion (which we had yet to see) blends perfectly with hers.   It’s pretty damn terrific, and I find it much more immediately prepossessing than the first contemporary piece.  Maybe part of that’s the music – Jon McLaughlin’s “Doesn’t Mean Goodbye,” which I’d never heard before but am all about now.  (Musical Mr. E, who loved it too, couldn’t help feeling that the line should have been “just cause we’re fighting, just cause we’re crying, doesn’t mean the stars in the sky aren’t aligning” versus “just cause the stars in the sky aren’t shining” – a missed opportunity for an SAT word?)  This song is probably going to be my second SYTYCD-inspired purchase of the summer, after Daughter’s “Smother.”  (Thanks for that one, Justine Lutz!)  Anyway, I just love it.  I love these two dancers, and I love this music, and I love the piece.  I’m sorry she left you, Stanley!  Speaking of Stanley, he bounces around like a big nut to get Bridget to come back out on the stage after she walks out on him to end the piece.  Love it.

Mary relishes how authentic the love story felt, and particularly mentions the “love roll” – the bit where the two dancers lie head to head – Bridget on her back and Stanley on his belly – and roll with their hands on each others faces, which can’t have been easy.  We were part of a story, Jason enthuses.  He praises the amazing elevation, and provokes Jordin’s laughter by telling Bridget he’s available any time she wants to massage his feet.  I want a love roll, Nigel whines (ugh), then goes on to talk about the cool spins (fouette turns) that were my favorite part, too, showing off the dancers’ classical technique.  Why are we changing partners, he complains, going on to say that whoever gets Bridget and Stanley will be really lucky.  So true.

Black swans in the house!  Ballerinas Jacque LeWarne (ears pierced as a baby, hates neck touching, fast talker – I’ll say – loves pistachio ice cream, drinks lots of coffee) and Jourdan Epstein (pre-med major, drinks pickle juice, loves her kitten, eats a lot, second level black belt, hates pigeons and drinks lots of coffee) get Marat Daukeyev, the scary Russian task master the show brought in for Eliana and Chehon’s classical piece two years ago.  Newsflash: he’s still intimidating as heck.

The girls get Tchaikovsky, as classical as its possible to be, with the Pas De Deux from Swan Lake, but of course changed up so there are two black swans and no prince.  The girls essentially mirror each other the entire time, including this ridiculous moment where they spin for days.  (Are those fouette turns again, or something else?  Mind-boggling.)  Seriously.  Holy Crap.  I will admit something here, though.  I love ballet, but I honestly like the chorus more than the principals; I like the row upon row of gorgeous perfect unison the most.  So unless you’re going to be leaping up to the sky, I’m not as rapturous about classical ballet as one might expect.  I mean, I know it’s incredibly hard and I really respect it.  I’ll be very curious to see how the voting goes here, especially since poor Jacque “Who Dat?” LeWarne got as little screen time as it is possible to get in the audition rounds.

When the dance ends (and was it just me or was Jourdan a little wobbly?), Cat confesses to a girl crush on the ballerinas.  I have a background in pointe, Jason begins, which is good with me because I love a good running gag; Cat leaps in on the action, saying she has a history of pointing here, and then there…  Nigel needs to make sure we all know that Marat was a principal at the Kirov and is a huge get for the show, and that he got the girls to do 15 turns in a row; with that out of the way, he slams Jacque for her turn out (I can’t decide if that’s supposed to get her booted or raise sympathy votes) and then praises Jourdan for her elevation, and trills about how we’ve never had two ballerinas before and isn’t that grand. Finally, Mary lauds their unbelievable strength and synchronicity. She can’t wait to see what they do next.  Me neither!  It was a gorgeous treat, Cat says, summing it all up.

From classical ballet, we ask the age old question: whatcha gonna do with your big fat butt?  Jason Derulo, I really want to like you.  Why must you make it so difficult?  The guest judge gives us a little musical intermission with an assist from Snoop Dogg (no longer Snoop Lion, I take it?) who’s wearing really unattractive medical scrubs.  Or masquerading as an old lady, I’m not sure which. An old lady doctor, perhaps?

Bringing us into the second half of the show are Malene Ostergaard (trilingual, comes from a small village, eats two packs of chocolate a day – does she want us to hate her – and wants a pet tiger) and Marcquet Hill (fears ants, went to three schools during second grade, used to only eat bread, named after a university he’s never been to) have a samba with Louis Van Amstel.  Funny that I’ve been misspelling her name this whole time, especially considering that Cat pronounces the R that isn’t there; I knew it wasn’t spelled Marlena even though that’s how it’s pronounced, but I was still off.  Also, the school Marcquet is named for is Marquette University, right? So I’m not the only creative speller out there. Anyway, Louis tells us that it’s a scary, risky Brazilian samba.  That’s okay, Malene smiles, I know how to shake it.  I can shake it in my sleep.

And hell yeah she can.  The girl is practically drowned in enormous sequins in a brilliant Brazilian green.  Is this Louis’ homage to the World Cup?  I don’t so much love the green shirt cut down to Marcquet’s navel, but okay, it’s ballroom, what’re you doing to do?  Is it weird to say he’s got beautiful skin?  Because he does – it’s this amazing color, and it just glows.  This pair is super easy on the eyes, and their unison is fantastic, especially during that little rippling walk.  Malene smiles for the camera like she’s a movie star from the Golden Age of Hollywood; honestly, this girl would have been a headlining her own films if she’d been born in that era, am I wrong?  If she can act and sing, forget it. She’s Vera Ellen’s dancing with Rita Hayworth’s body and face; add in the exotic name and accent, and she’s the swellest of the swell.

The dance itself is set to “Morning Drums” by Gregor Salto, and it’s perfect rolling samba music, and M & M dance and shake and roll their little hearts out. As much as I would have loved a flying phalanx of ballroom dancers, it’s fun to get a close look at all six members of Team Ballroom, isn’t it?

Because he’s all about the name checking, Nigel talks about how he loves stealing Louis from Dancing With the Stars, since they steal so many of their pros from SYTYCD (Dmitri, Chelsie, Lacey, Lindsay, Witney and Jenna an a sort of auxiliary, am I missing anyone?).  Malene reminds him of a bull charging out of the pen at a rodeo (you don’t look like a bull, he hastens to remind her); Marcquet, too, is a force to be reckoned with.  Hot rolls cooking in the kitchen, Mary squeals.  Malene’s full of fire and beauty.  She refers to some sort of jive misfire for Marcquet in Pasadena (huh?  this must have been his solo because ballroom round was a cha cha) but says he recovered nicely.  You’re in your element, Jason remarks somewhat lamely, and everybody loves a samba.  I saw that every day; everybody loves a samba.

From ballroom to contemporary.  The penultimate pairing is Carly Blaney (20, who used to pronounce her name Cah-wy Bwayney, because as a tyke she couldn’t say R or L, and still doesn’t know her left from her right) and Rudy Abreu (19, self-proclaimed Cuban Redneck, loves country music, pretends his abdominal scar is a shark bite, everyone in his family’s name starts with R).  I feel the same way about Carly as I do about Serge; she’s worked so hard to get here, and yet we don’t know her at all, and I really hope she does well. The word I can’t helping thinking of with Rudy is earnest.  Ugly crier, yes.  Braying, yes. In over his head, could be; I wasn’t sold on his audition and I resent the way the judges set him as up opposed to Erik “Silky” Moore and there’s something occasionally awkward about his shoulders and his hands.  But gods, the boy is as sincere and earnest and eager as a puppy.  He’s also a complete goofball in his session with Stacey Tookey, reducing Carly to a giggling inarticulate mess.  Stacey tells us that her piece is about them slowing down and really valuing this experience.

I have to tell you, I don’t get that from the piece at all, even though I like it quite a bit.  Carly and Rudy walk into each other, their arms up, pushing into each others torso’s.  Is the point that they’re slowing each other down?  I’m not seeing it.  The wind machine’s a key player in this routine, whipping Carly’s gorgeous floor length gray-black Grecian gown around her legs.  (I’m weirdly liking Rudy’s loose, hombred tank top over dark jeans, too.)  The song – Jetta’s “Take it Easy” is very pretty and mildly haunting, and I like the way the dancers wrap around each other.  A few times I feel like Carly’s watching to make sure Rudy’s where he ought to be, but otherwise, there’s feeling in every line.  When they’re done, Cat cuddles them to her (Carly’s so wee!) and explains that she calls Rudy Scarlett O’Hara “cause he likes a tear.” Which is not how I think of Scarlett, really, but I get the point.

Your passion poured all over the stage, Mary cries.  She does call Rudy on those sneaky shoulders, but loves to see his heart right there on the stage.  She’s touched by it, she says; he seal-laughs awkwardly.  As with Serge, Mary praises Carly for her persistence and particularly loves the wrap lift and all the swooping.  It gave me a very special new view of both of you, she finishes.  Jason incorrectly claims that four people will go home next week (my heart skips a beat) but he is convinced Carly and Rudy will not be among that number.  So immediately Nigel calms my poor heart and says no, it’s just two people, and then he makes me roll my eyes by proclaiming this to be the best top twenty ever (hyperbole and self-marketing, whatever – every year is awesome) and how lucky the dancers are to work with great choreographers like Stacey, and how she’s right to say enjoy the experience.  He then goes on about how likable Rudy is (I’m still not sold) and how his technique must improve. He – what?   Are you kidding me?  You say that to a STREET DANCER.  You don’t put contemporary dancers through when their technique is iffy!  You let contemporary dancers have another year. I want to smack Nigel.  No Silky for this, because Rudy wears his heart on his (currently non-existent) sleeve and has an appealing vulnerability?  UGH.

And I shouldn’t let that bother me, really, because I did enjoy his performance.  Shut up, Nigel!  Stop making me question you!  Stop setting up a story arc around Rudy (look at the improvement! or conversely, look at the failure!) and just let me respond to him!  (And I’ve been anticipating it all evening, but this pairing confirms it – the producers have put their two audition favorites together.  More on that soon enough.)

So speaking of hip hop dancers, and of people who got extra time to refine their technique, we have Emilio Dosal and Teddy Coffey.  It has to be said; I sort of want to smack Teddy for singing his 8 second information (19, loves to scuba and something about the radio?) and then being so very proud of himself for doing it.  And then it hits me that really, Silky was left off the show for this smirky fellow; why would they have two hip hop tappers?  They wouldn’t.  This is the real enemy.  Er, if I thought of anyone as an enemy.  Anyway.  That’s the judges’ decision and I won’t hold it against Teddy, or at least I’m going to try hard not to be unfair in that way.  Happily, Emilio is there to distract me, and he does so by explaining that he’s Puerto Rican by way of Texas, is part of Philip Chebeeb’s IME Crew, and has a weakness for the Latinas – and then gives out his phone number.  Which the show bleeps out, but still.

Of course they have Christopher Scott to guide them through a routine, and it’s Christopher in classic R&B mode, which I adore; security guard/night watchman Emilio sits at a desk, adjusting a radio until he reaches The Commodore’s gorgeous “Nightshift”; he springs up on to the desk and begins to dance along side janitor Teddy, Emilio with his flashlight and Teddy with his mop and pail.  During practice Teddy confessed to fearing the mop at first, but he seems to handle it pretty well.  It’s not perhaps as jaw dropping as last year’s animation routine,  but it’s light and fun; there’s good synchronization considering the striking height difference between the two dancers, and Emilio flips around a bit, which is nice.

Just so everyone knows, Jason Derullo says, I come from a hip hop background.  Running gags, how I love them.  He thought it was: dope, sick, well integrated and well-choreographed. (Cat, by the way, ruthlessly teases a shameless Emilio for turning his screen time into a personal ad.)  Christopher Scott gets his share of credit from Nigel as well, with the just observation that he doesn’t force his will on dancers but uses their skills as his inspiration.  Not to leave the dancers out of the equation, Nigel observes that they connected very well with each other considering that they’re both soloists.  Oh, and also?  He can’t wait to see Teddy tap.  (I’m totally expecting Teddy to be paired with Valerie now, that seals it.)  Mary too starts with Christopher Scott and his musicality, which is indeed wondrous, but moves quickly to Emilio and his tricks and his tutting.  Even Teddy’s eyebrows dance along with him, she smiles, and says they both should get parts in the next Step Up film.

And here it comes, the judges/producers perfect pairing, the competition’s lone jazz dancer Jessica Richens and contemporary vision Ricky Ueeda.  I’m so shocked they ended up together; shocked, I tell you.  The two are completely adorable and wacky, holding hands and laughing riotously at each other in front of the counting clock that measures out the 8 seconds.  Jessica believes mermaids are real (Ricky loses himself to silent convulsions at this admission), that sloths are the cutest animal, hates tomatoes but loves spaghetti sauce (me as a kid) and occasionally talks in her sleep; Ricky loves thrift stores, Cuban coffee, climbing trees and taking power naps, and was called Rene for the first 24 hours of his life.  Alrighty then.  The powers that be have gifted these two with Sonya Tayeh, who’s created them a routine about that connect that’s more than just love: it’s elemental, it’s a necessity.

There’s something elemental for sure in Meredith Monk’s moaning “Vow.”  Jessica wears a short, gray and white dress with tons of circles ruched on it, while shirtless Ricky sports some short gray pants.

And, okay.  I’m going to say something heretical.  I love Sonya.  I think these two are spectacular, and their movements are graceful and athletic and beautiful – I could watch Ricky twist his ankles and be mesmerized – but I hate this piece. And as magical as some of the visuals are (the extensions – Ricky raising Jessica to heaven on his shoulders, Ricky standing on his hands, Jessica draping her arm down to the floor) it doesn’t work at all for me.  I don’t feel Sonya’s intention in it, first of all (why does a love story start with his hands wrapped around her throat?), but worse than that, this music.  On my first viewing, I thought the sound itself was my main contention with the piece, but after repeatedly attempting to enjoy it,  I realized that the problem isn’t so much the music but the lack of musicality, of connection between the music and the dance; the choreography has nothing whatsoever to say to the music, which is a lot of soft, low a capella chanting.  The dance continues at its own pace whether or not Mink is chanting, which I just think is strange.  I feel like it’s possible to choreograph something to this music that I would actually like, but something that breathes when the music breathes, that sinks into the stillness of it, which is not this.

Of course the judges do not agree with me; they’re standing, prepared to heap an excesses of praise on the dancers. That was another level entirely, Nigel gushes.  It was a whole other something, I agree. It’s not the dancer’s fault, but ugh, seriously.  He whinges about how criminal it is that they won’t dance together all season – but then they’d just walk away with the competition, so maybe it’s fair this way.  Nigel cannot contain himself with merely handing them the Dance Spirit cover now; Ricky’s the Harry Potter of dance, a veritable magician (Cat thinks he’s more like the mischievous Puck from A Midsummer’s Night Dream) and it’s one of the best routines ever done on the show.  It’s like he’s at a loss for words but not, Cat quips.  (Like he’s at a loss to stop talking, you mean.) If you didn’t like that then there’s something wrong with you, Mary declares, and fine, you want to say there’s something wrong me, then there is.  Thank God we didn’t lose you in Pasadena, Mary tells Jessica.  Oh, thank God we didn’t miss that!   (I’m rolling my eyes now, can you tell?  I’m sorry.  I’m sure everyone else enjoyed that besides me and Mr. E. ) Jason Derullo, for example, feels blessed by it.  I forgot to breathe, he says.


Okay, ungrumping. In short: love choreographer, very much like dancers, liked vague suggestion of idea behind piece, liked choreography, even liked music, thought none of it went together.

Last but definitely not least, ballroom dancers Tanisha Belnap and Nick Garcia close the show.  Tanisha reiterates that she has 11 brothers and sisters (and adds in 26 nieces and nephews), can burp like a man, can touch her foot to her forehead, and is allergic to chlorine.  This last bit stuns Nick; he genuinely can’t imagine such suffering.  No swimming pools for you, blondie!  Nick speed talks in a monotone, telling us that he loves chocolate milk and his dog Rory the best dog ever in the whole world, has a scar on his face (what’s with these Miami boys and their scars?), sucks at math, and can’t burp as well as Tanisha.  I totally love that they’ve established a burping hierarchy between them.

Louis Van Amstel continues his domination by bring a playful cha cha (two cha chas in one show?  unprecedented!) – but demands that the two bring real chemistry, because the audience will not be fooled!  Um, but by your definition they can’t do anything to bring it, can they – they either have it or they don’t.

Wearing tuxedo pants and a short sleeved white button down with a sparkly bow tie sewed onto the top (as if just hanging there loose), Nick begins the routine closer to the audience but with his back to us, his frame perfect.  Tanisha’s in what looks like a neon orange vest over a purple skirt (the classiness of the look stopped with Nick) with a sparkly wide belt; when the music starts (Enrique Iglesias’s “I’m a Freak,” featuring Pitbull, which I quite like) her costume is revealed to be all long fringe.  And wow.  I’m not sure I’d necessarily say the two have chemistry, but Tanisha has enough for both of them; she’s playful and flirty and fun, and she has not only the high kicks mentioned but a ridiculously flexible, fluid back, and she is all up in Nick’s business, walking up his chest with her fingers, curling into him, eventually planting, as they say, a smackeroo on his kisser.  She goes into a death spin with one leg up over her head.  It’s awesome, and definitely my favorite of the three ballroom performances.

It’s obvious the judges have been told that they oohed and aahed for so long over Jessica and Ricky and so the show is getting close to running over, so their commentary to poor Tanisha and Nick is nearly monosyllabic.  Nick started off tight, Mary notes, but eased into it, and Tanisha was amazing!  She hit it hard, Jason observes, and Nick repeats him, hooting like a loon; “she hit it hard!” Not that loons hoot exactly.  Sorry, birders.  It was tremendous, Nigel says, and leaves it at that, but they’re not as close to the end of the show as feared and so Cat has to prompt the two dancers to spin things out.  They’re so humbled and blessed! It’s such an amazing experience!  They can’t thank everyone enough!  It’s bloody great!

And you know what?  It was bloody great, all of it, even with the one I didn’t like – and I know, it’s not like me to dislike a routine so strongly.  Sorry for ranting!  I’d love to know if I’m alone in that opinion, though.  Maybe I’m a free-eek!  I’m more than thrilled we had a non-competitive episode, and a better look at all the contestants. If I can make the time, I’ll try to speculate tomorrow on who’s going to end up as partners.  Who’ll get favored children Ricky and Jessica?  Am I right about Teddy and Valerie – who’re a good height pairing as well – and, have I even mentioned, shortest girl Carly with the shortest guy, Emilio?  They love putting those poppers with contemporary girls.  There’s just so much to wonder about!  If you have partner guesses, let me know.






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