So You Think You Can Dance: Season 11, Top Ten

E: Surprise!   Guess who was so panicked about packing (and so overtired when she last posted) that she got the dates of her own vacation wrong?  You’ve got me for this one more week.  Yay!  Don’t you feel lucky?

With all due respect to choreographer Jamal Sims, that neon cowboy routine left me cold.  Maybe I got too bogged down in the weirdness of the concept  – day glo 80s colors on the dancers, matching in their original pairs (eg, Rudy and Tanisha in red, Valerie and Ricky in blue), Dukes of Hazard style clothes.  Normally I’d enjoy the 80s flavors but they seemed too muddled, and the dance itself (on and off tables in a thin nod to a Western saloon) didn’t bring anything new to the stage.  My kids enjoyed it very much, so perhaps that was just me?

Anyway.  Cat, dressed in a sort of loose 70s damask tone on tone white shift with three quarter sleeves ending in two sets of ruffles, introduces guest judge Tara Lipinski and explains the new order: All Star partners, and results given to each contestant after they’ve danced.  Huh.  Since they can’t do anything to save themselves, maybe it’s better they don’t know they’re in danger?  We’re looking for the bottom two.

Bridget

First up, it’s not just the three Bs – Bridget, All Star Brandon and Bollywood – it’s the show’s first ever Bollywood Disco!  Wow.  You know, My Movie-Going Friend was just complaining that we hadn’t had any disco, and we talked over the week about how contemporary All Stars Brandon and Kathryn have both stepped in for some of the more unusual styles, like Bollywood and Disco.  But who would have thought it could be both?  Amazing!

Brandon wears white embroidered pants, and Bridget looks incredible in a yellow skirt with a red band at the bottom and a purple cropped top with one long sleeve, her hair mostly down with a ponytail on the very top – there’s something very “I Dream of Genie” to the look.  Honestly, she doesn’t seem like the same person at all, which I think has something to do with her eyebrows?  The dance – set to “Disco Khisko” from the Dil Bole Hadippa soundtrack – blazes and stomps and flips and lifts and WOW.  It’s completely awesome.  It’s such a true fusion that I’m hard pressed to call one element or another disco, since it all feels like a unit, and clearly choreographer Nakul was inspired by the song, but wow.  There is a little section at the very beginning where I question their unison, and there’s a funny little moment where Brandon bites Bridget’s skirt, growling like a dog, that I don’t entirely know what to make of.  Mostly it’s spectacular, and I’m in awe.  Super enjoyable.

You’ve got full on disco eyebrows, Cat exclaims, and we see through a close up that Bridget’s eyebrows are in fact completely covered with smooth silver glitter. Wow. I’m amazed how much this changes her face.

Picking up the sartorial thread, Tara tells Bridget she sparkled through the entire piece. The dancers were crisp and made amazing shapes with their bodies. That piece not only had the 3 Bs, but it also had the 5 Ss, Mary explains: strength, stamina, speed, skill and spirit.  Indeed.  Though she knows it must have been exhausting, it makes her want to sing the old classic “That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it, I like it.”  Nigel praises Nakul, gives a shout out to Jamal Sims (blech) and tells Bridget that she does everything with her whole heart.  This reminds me of his comments to Carly before she was eliminated last week, which gives me a bad feeling about this, compounded by my reaction to Ray Leper’s jazz demon routine last week.  I’m right: when Cat brings over the Envelope of Doom,  Bridget’s in the bottom two.  If you’d done that last week you wouldn’t have been, Nigel rightly observes.

Tanisha

Continuing the alliterative trend, Tanisha has tango!  Yes!  I’m so excited to see Tanisha finally in her own style.  Although, of the six original ballroom dancers in the top twenty, she’s the only one who wasn’t listed as latin ballroom, though, so perhaps tango is still outside her bailiwick? Ah, it isn’t – she’s never done one before. All Star Ryan’s definitely inside her comfort zone – they’re both from Utah, and she’s always wanted to dance with him.  Inspired to have two ballroom specialists at their disposal, Leonardo and Miriam think they’ve come up with the most powerful dance they’ve ever done for the show.

Unusually, the piece starts with Tanisha alone in a striking pose, the light around her faint and blue; she writhes for a moment, dipping backward with gorgeous control, before she’s joined by Ryan, who materializes behind her as if called out of the ether.  And the way he holds her from behind; it’s dreamy. Tango Jointz’s “The Gaucho’s Pain” adds to the ambiance. It’s just so sexy and so tango without being kitschy, with Ryan in that shiny gray shark’s suit and Tanisha in a tropical print dress in black and red and green and gold; they just fit together. Like last week’s sensuous contemporary, this tango’s supposed to bring us a sense of a deep love, that the two are soul mates, and it does that in spades – it reminds me, in fact, of the similarly themed game-changing tango Miriam and Leonardo choreographed for Chehon and Anya.  I can see why Leonardo feels they’ve never done anything so powerful – the lifts are truly impressive (look at Ryan hoist Tanisha till she could be sitting on his shoulder, and hold her next to his body so she can flick her legs instead), with such precision, height, and speed – yet somehow that’s not what you’re thinking of when you watch, which for me at least is that feeling of intimacy and connection.  It’s magical.

Did I get that wrong, Cat asks, or were Tanisha just balanced on Ryan’s neck?  Um, yeah.  For a little while during that crazy twisting lift, she was. Damn. Leonardo and Miriam have outdone themselves, Mary declares, and the adjectives flow out of her like water – amazing, scrumptious, power house, effortless.  Like Cat, Nigel thought the lift was breath-taking.  Their footwork is magic, and Tanisha has never put one foot wrong in the whole competition.  (This alarms me again, because he tends to say things like that to the girl who’s close to but not at the top – Tiffany Maher, Hayley Ebert.)  Tara was blown away by the still, controlled opening; she couldn’t take her eyes off of Tanisha.  I’m not surprised considering her place in the order, but I’m still incredibly relieved to hear that Tanisha is safe.

Emilio

Though he’s very excited to get Jasmine and a NappyTabs hip hop routine (Nappy Tabs!  Finally!), Emilio tells us in his rehearsal package that he’s a little alarmed because he ended up in the bottom three the last time he got hip hop.  I’m sure that as we watch this, Emilio is fretting backstage after finding out that Bridget’s in the bottom; chances are good he is too.  For their triumphant return to the show, the choreographers have created a routine about a king (Emilio, really a pharaoh) and his ambition, duplicitous pet snake (Jasmine) filled with tutting, twerking, and a few other styles.

Emilio sits on a throne wearing a fancified t-shirt with King Tut’s sarcophagus on it, along with plain pants and work boots.  Okay.  After he tuts on his throne for a few seconds to “Get Low” by Dillon Francis and DJ Snake, Jasmine pops up out of a tall basket/hamper, slinky in a silver bandeau top over low slung leggings, with some sort of gold halter over the whole thing.  She’s got a very long rat tail/braid down her back, too.  It’s a fun piece, but I can’t help feeling that it’s staged or filmed to show off Jasmine more than Emilio – she’s in the center of every shot, we see her crazy split roll when some of his tricks are barely in frame, and she’s in front of him and the same height, often blocking him.  So perhaps it’s appropriate that he’s the one in the basket at the end and she’s on the throne, though he used a fairly showy hop to get in there.

After bemoaning the popularity that’s stolen Tabitha and Napoleon away from the show for so much of the season, Nigel tells us the routine was beautifully commercial.  Er, okay.  He thinks Emilio’s gotten so much better over the course of the season, and I have to say, I’m super impressed with him; I might almost like him better outside his style than in.  Jasmine is unreal, Tara begins, and this is another thing I really like about Emilio – he’s as genuine complimentary of Jasmine as he’s been of Bridget and Jaja.  Finally, Mary gets to be joyful about having NappyTabs back home on the show, and to praise Emilio.  He’s the top of the top.  He was in terrific sync with Jasmine and the music (yes) and jumping into that basket could have been all kinds of disastrous, but it wasn’t.  Sadly, predictably, Cat’s envelope reading reveals Emilio joins his former partner in danger.

Valerie

Like Bridget, Valerie’s outside her style here, doing a Tyce jazz routine with Ade.  Aw.  You guys had the chance to do a tap routine!  Why didn’t you?  I couldn’t figure that out last year with Aaron, either.  Will Valerie and Zack have to make the finals to get to dance in their own style again?  And what’s the chance of that happening?  Anyway.  Tyce’s routine calls for Valerie to be angry at Ade, and above all he does not want her to be what we normally see, cute and nice.  Okay.  This is going to be a tall order.

She looks fantastic in that updo, and  I love this little black dress, or rather little nude dress with a sheer black overlay.  Ade’s somewhat less formal in gray pants and a blue button down with suspenders, his sleeves rolled up.  Perhaps this isn’t surprising, but I feel like Valerie lacks the proper tension in her arms.  She doesn’t shove him hard enough, hunch her shoulders crisply enough. I do get the sense of disgruntled anger from her face, and there’s power in her legs for sure, and she looks fantastic in the lifts (of which there are many).  When she gets it, it’s fantastic – narrowing her eyes with all that thick make up, the eye rolls, the lift where she kicks, feet flexed – but it’s not there in her whole body.  Gotye’s quirky, achy “Heart’s a Mess” is a super cool find, though I don’t know it exactly bespeaks anger either.

I love you, begins Tara Lipinski, but I didn’t see the connection to the character throughout.  There were moments where it worked, but it wasn’t consistent.  You moved forward a step, Mary says carefully.  I think you’re perfect.  You could have dug deeper, but you’re still unlocking your potential.  I loved that routine, but I didn’t love you in it, Nigel tells the poor girl.  He’s right, but it’s tough to hear.  Ade showed her up (well, duh) because she was too tentative.  She could be in trouble next week – but this week, Cat reads off, she’s safe!

Rudy

Like his former partner, Rudy has ballroom this week, something I suspect he’s well trained in (having as we all know met his best friend ballroom dancer Nick in dance class).  He’s got Jenna and a Louis Van Amstel cha cha, with the only plot line being that the two are hot for each other.

In case you were wondering, it’s very cha cha, and as I expected, Rudy copes with the style like a total pro.  Jenna’s got on a short, frothy pink concoction with cut out sides, and Rudy wearing a pink lined vest with tuxedo pants.  I love Maroon 5’s “Maps” and feel like it all comes together in a fun package, although I’m not entirely sure it’s memorable enough to vote for.  Maybe we’ll see how much the audience loves Rudy next week.  My one real issue is the awkward way the music cuts off at the end.

Was it hot or not, Mary asks, before screaming that it is indeed hot. Jenna puts an A on amazing, and their fiery chemistry puts them on the train.  Really?  I find her ticketing to be so inconsistent and confusing.  I like it, but it confuses me. Nigel tells Rudy he owes him an apology.  When he first met Rudy, he thought the young man was full of himself; now he realizes he’s just full of life.  Um, okay.  Did Rudy know you didn’t like him before? Because I’m not sure that explaining your conversation qualifies as a nice compliment if he didn’t.   Anyway, he does still think that Rudy doesn’t have to be so over the top with his winks at the camera.  I can’t help feeling that all this works out to more of an insult than a compliment, even when Nigel says that Rudy’s dancing’s strong enough without all the mugging. Finally, Tara tells the lad that his joy and passion are infectious and that he matched Jenna’s high standard.

Jacque

Ready for another fusion routine?  Travis Wall has a contemporary ballet piece for Jacque and Chehon.  Like Louis’s cha cha, it’s all about connection and attraction.  It’s very technical and risky, Travis says; maybe it’ll be the only contemporary ballet routine performed on So You Think You Can Dance.  (I’m trying to think what the show considered the routine Desmond Richardson choreographed Will and Jessica.  I guess she didn’t wear toe shoes?)

It’s definitely different.  I’m pleased that the show went for something other than classical ballet, but I don’t really feel like Jacque touched the floor enough for my personal taste – she spins, yes, but mostly Chehon carries her across the stage, and while she holds her self so gracefully in his arms, it’s hard for me to affirm.  It’s sinuous and static at the same time, and I don’t know how I feel about that. I had to laugh at the cleverness of using Daft Punk’s beautifully elegant “Adagio for TRON”, and I love the simple, sleek white clothes (pants for Chehon, a sci fi inspired short dress with cut outs for Jacque) and the starkly brilliant lighting.  Also a plus; watching the dancer’s shadows on the studio walls. It was truly beautiful (to borrow Tara’s phrase, the shapes they made with their bodies are gorgeous), but I can’t help being bothered that Jacque only took 5 steps under her own power in the entire routine. (I counted.  Really.  The fifth one was a gimme, even, because I’m not sure she was supporting her own weight.)  It’s sort of like Derek Hough’s routines for Amy Purdy on Dancing With the Stars, except Jacque actually has feet to stand on.

Of course the judges loved it. Nigel was wowed by the flow of movement, the shadows, and the gorgeous camera work (no cuts, which, fine, but ).  He lets us know that Travis aspires to choreograph for the New York Ballet, and thinks this will get him there faster than he can even imagine.  Hmmm.  He thought Jacque pushed herself to another level. Travis, your work, I die, Tara says.  That’s one way to introduce a style!  The shadows, the music and Jacque all make a great package.  Finishing the judging, Mary calls it exquisite and breathtaking, so difficult and so perfectly executed.

Jacque joins Bridget in the bottom two.  The teenage stars of The Giver look on in amazement.

Ricky

Joining Ricky for a Mandy Moore jazz party routine is the adorable (and super blond) Lauren.  Since Ricky just had his high school graduation, he feels like he can get with the celebratory mood of the piece; Mandy’s hoping to push his limits a little.

Lauren’s wearing a cute little teal number with polka dots, a key hole and a little black bow, as well as little black gloves; Ricky sports plaid pants, suspenders and a bright bow tie.  They mime quaffing from goblets to Elvis’ “Bossa Nova Baby (Viva Mix)”.  It’s fast, it’s bouncy, it’s fun.  You absolutely get the feeling that they’re dancing at a party, which is cool.  I don’t know how memorable it was, and I don’t really see how it’s pushing Ricky, but it’s definitely not anything we’ve seen him do before, so whatever.  My favorite bit has to be that crazy roll/leg flip/slither thing they do while lying on the floor at the end, which defies quick description but looks super cool.

All the dancers have been raising their game, Nigel observes, and now so have you, Ricky.  If you say so, Nige.  Like me, he loved the tricky little roll over maneuver.  I was dancing in my seat with you, Tara coos.  Isn’t that just as much about the party feel of the song?  Anyway, she finishes her quick critique by asking if there’s anything Ricky can’t do. Come on, make a mistake! Prove to us that you’re human!  (He still looks like a hobbit to me, Nigel quips.)  I’m not very good at math, Ricky offers.   Thanks.  You have the skills that pay the bills, Mary tells the young man.  All choreographers are going to be clamoring to work with you, and you’re headed to the finale for sure.  When Cat checks the envelope, we hear he’s safe.  Shocking!

Casey

Fresh off his triumphant Travis Wall contemporary, Casey gets another dozy of a routine – a Spencer Liff Broadway confection in which legendary All Star Kathryn plays the age old game “He loves me/he loves me not.”  Apparently this is French; how like the French to have a corner on romantic angst.  Casey’s very worried that he’s not a good enough actor; it’s not so easy to get theatrical in the face.

And oh my lord, this is exactly what I like.  Start with Kathryn’s gorgeous forest green gown, a waterfall of silk that reaches the floor held up by jeweled straps on her bare back.  The white rose that she raises up and tears apart, searching for answers in each petal.  His tuxedo, open at the neck.  What is it that’s so sexy about an open throat where a man’s supposed to be buttoned up?  And Liza Minelli’s brassy, heartfelt “Maybe This Time”!  Oh.  I mean, get out of town.  It’s so Broadway and so swoony, the way they thrust forward, their backs rippling.  He kneels at her feet – he tucks her rose into his pocket.  And the way she leans down into his shoulders, lingering over the word “ardor” just as Minelli does!  It’s perfect. There’s beautiful synchronicity.  What I like about Casey the most, I think, is his crispness, his sharpness; he puts that much more into every move; it’s perfectly delineated.  I don’t feel like he has to worry about theater face, either, because the choreography is so clear. In the interview package, Kathryn told us she thought Casey would get to show off a deeper, more romantic side; considering that he tosses her flower away at the end, I’m not sure how romantic it is, but he definitely comes off as more of a mature leading man.  We’ve seen puppy love from him already; the cad is definitely a new character.

Mary loves everything Kathryn has ever done, and she thinks Casey’s a star.  It was such a hard piece, and you just dug into it.  Spencer found a style that really suited Casey, Nigel notes.  And then he blows the poor kid’s mind, saying he believes that Casey’s catching up with Ricky in his estimation.  Wow.  Casey was convinced he was going home last week, so he was overwhelmed just to get the chance to dance with Kathryn, and now he’s just a puddle. Finally, Tara thought he looked like such a handsome gentleman, was such a good partner, and shared such palpable chemistry with Kathryn; she loved it.

Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough, he’s safe.  And we know what that means; the paso did Zach in.

Jessica

And Zack has a few more minutes to stew about that, because first up is another Nappy Tabs routine, this time for Jessica and tWitch.  Like I said last week, I’m nervous about this.  She did not fare so well in this genre when last we saw her try it.  Anyway, here’s the idea: tWitch’s an old man at a bus stop and Jessica’s the fantasy pin up girl who walks by and puts a little spice back in his life.  Okay.

And there’s tWitch, sitting in on a park bench wearing suspenders (it’s the night of suspenders!) over a patterned button down (itself over a padded middle), a bow tie and a golfer’s cap, his head powdered to give the effect of age.  Jessica’s indeed a pin up girl with two huge rolled curls over her forehead and a bandana tied around her head, hot pants and a jean jacket; it’s very pin up era by way of Gwen Stefani.    The dance itself – set to Cajmere’s “U Get Me Up (Underground Goodie Mix, ’93) featuring Dajae – is sprightly as the old man hops up from his bench and chases the dainty morsel around it.  Perhaps because it doesn’t really require her to get too far down in the pocket, but counts on fast footwork, Jessica absolutely excels.  It’s fun and exuberant and she takes on a kind of no-nonsense character that we haven’t seen from her before, at first annoyed with the old man’s forwardness but eventually enjoying his facility at the dance.  She’s a little hammy, maybe, but it feels completely called for.  The routine uses her perfectly.  In the end, they both collapse happily on the bench, and old man tWitch thinks he’s won her over, but no such luck – he gets the hand.

That was unreal, Tara says, partly because I am obsessed with tWitch.  They were so in sync.  Keeping up with tWitch was a daunting task, but Jessica did it.  That was out of this world, Mary gushes – a number with everything.  They couldn’t have done it better.  Nigel fears he’s the inspiration for the routine.  Well, if the lecherous shoe fits… After getting a little laugh, Nigel wonders why tWitch got that old man walk last year and now this.  Either way, he thinks Jessica is continuing to (finally) live up to her potential. Maybe it’s because I didn’t expect it, but this feels like the best thing she’s done on the show to me, and I enjoyed it without reservation.  After putting Jacque and Bridget in the bottom, Cat doesn’t have to read the envelope for us to know that Jessica’s safe.

Zack

Sonya Tayeh and last season’s champion Amy want to give Zack a wow moment in the night’s final routine, and it aims to pack an emotional punch; Sonya’s dedicating the routine to a friend who died suddenly, and is clearly using it to work through his death. Zack’s got to dig deep and do justice to this.  It can’t save him, but this routine is definitely going to give him a good outlet for all this show-related emotion.

Max Richter’s “Europe, After the Rain” gives a nice elegiac tone – it’s very elemental.  There’s almost no music to the beginning, the just sounds of a storm, rain and thunder and lightning. Shirtless in black jeans, Zack looks pale and tragic; Amy wear a long gauzy dress in a light pinkish gray, and throws herself after Zack again and again, their connection true but never somehow complete, until finally he turns and leaves, looking up into the light.

The judges are standing. You’ve worked it out, Cat asks, and of course he has; Zack’s also in the bottom two.  She thinks it put an edge into his performance. Contemporary dance touches us in strange ways, Nigel muses, and indeed, Sonya’s teary in the audience, and so is Zack on stage, his eyes brimming.  Tap is my favorite genre, but there’s just something about this kind of emotional connection.  He   lets us know that Sonya’s going to be working with the Martha Graham Company (wow), and wishes that, like the writers on the Jon Stewart Show, the Emmy’s would give an award to all the SYT choreographers.  And to Derek Hough!  And everybody!  Look at Zack, the small town tapper, making the audience feel so much!  Stop talking, Nigel.

This was your wow moment, Tara tells Zack.  You were a mythical, magical warrior.  This story is real for a lot of us, adds Mary, clearly choked up.  (I couldn’t find any news about this, but I’m going to guess Mary might have also known the deceased?) You honored it.  When the camera returns to his face, we can see that Zack’s wet eyes have spilled over.

Musical Guest and Results

This hasn’t been a very exciting season for musical guests, really.  I offer you up this conversation between myself and my musician husband as Kathryn and Chehon dance and SYTYCD created music star Christina Perri sings her latest single.

Mr. E: “I want to like her, and then she sings, and it’s hard.”

E: “She’s got a very different voice.”

Mr. E: “Yeah, and if she could stay on pitch, it’d be pretty cool.”

So, that pretty much covers it.  The four sweet dancers are called onto the stage, Zack and Jacque are asked to step forward, Cat can’t get the envelope open and rips it, but eventually is able to read that the two of them are safe.  In case you’re wondering what the wailing sound is, it’s my children; my daughters all liked Bridget and Emilio best in the competition.  Poor Zack is practically blubbering when he lifts his head from Emilio’s shoulder, his lips shaking and his face coursing with fresh tears; a moment later, we can see Jacque tell Emilio that she loves him.  Cat cuddles the two wonderful dancers close, and for the first time this season we get an actual goodbye package, which finishes with the two dancers telling the camera how great the other was as a partner and how lucky they were to be with each other.  Emilio declares his (platonic) love for Bridget in Spanish.

And, yep.  That’s my kids.  Still wailing.

So.  I’m going to miss Bridget and Emilio immensely, although by the time we reach the top ten, everyone’s so good that almost all the cuts are an agony slightly mitigated by the fact that at least everyone’s made the tour.  They may not have a chance to win, but at least they get that work! This feels like a strange turn of events: I’m trying to think of another season where we reached the top 8 with no female contemporary dancers left, and no street dancers, and I can’t come up with anything.  I’m pretty shocked by that, really, even if I’m not totally shocked that Bridget & Emilio’s jazz routine from last week didn’t inspire enough votes.

Speaking of uninspiring routines, can tapper Valerie survive next week?  Much as we love her personality, do we even want her to, or will it be Jacque’s turn to go?  Or could ballroom do Tanisha in?  Is there any chance that bottom dwellers Zack and Casey can beat out favorites Ricky and Rudy, or will one of them go home in a shocking elimination facilitated by less exciting routines?  This was a terrific week for most of the dancers; it’ll be interesting to see what that translates to in voting.

Next week – when I will almost certainly not be available for comment – Tanisha has first season champion Nick (contemporary), Rudy has contemporary All Star/Mrs. Boss Allison, Ricky has contemporary dancer Jaimie, Valerie has ballroom with Ryan, Jacque and Casey have hip hop with tWitch and Comfort, Jessica has contemporary dancer Will, and Zack has contemporary/jazz dancer Mackenzie (who might perhaps be doing Broadway instead?).  That’s a lot of contemporary All Stars in that grouping, huh?  5 out of 8.  We can’t possibly have 5 routines that are either jazz or contemporary, so I’ll be curious to see what they’re actually given!  And with that, I’ll be back for the finale.  Till then, enjoy the dancing, and keep rooting for a renewal for this terrific show!

 

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One comment on “So You Think You Can Dance: Season 11, Top Ten

  1. MMGF says:

    Just catching up on blog reading. UGH! What am I going to do next week with no SYTYCD post!? (I’m guessing neither M nor C will be filling in? 🙂 )
    That said… have a wonderful, well-deserved vacation, Family E!

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