So You Think You Can Dance: Season 14, Academy Week part 2

E: Remember what I said in the last recap about my fear that individual All Stars were stacking too many amazing contestants on their teams?  And how picking the wrong All Star could come back to bite you?

Yeah.  That.

Day 2 at the Academy starts with Travis Wall, will continue with Dmitry and Jenya’s ballroom routine, and will end with the group routine.  So that’s where that fits in!  The All Stars will pick their teams by the end of ballroom; the four dancers on each team will dance together, and then their All Star will boot one of them.  Uuuugh.

But back to what I love, which is Travis Wall.  (Digression:  another of my favorite reality competitions, movie make up contest Face-Off, just featured a challenge where teams had to create characters inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  Once in make up and costume,  the characters would then perform a dance choreographed by our boy Travis!  It was fun to see him critique the make up and also to see that some of the Face-Off artists are SYT fans.)  He does something a little different this time: he’s created a “combo” for an individual dancer rather than a pair.  Have we ever seen that?  I like it.  The dancers perform in trios, and each one starts with a little freestyling, and then ends with immediate judgement.

First up we have an unidentified dancer, mom-loving Arielle and Anne Hathaway-like Taylor Sieve (whom, to my great embarassment, I misidentified as Abby Griffin last week).  At this point, everyone is super hungry to get onto a team. Taylor slays it, and Arielle is perhaps diminished by comparison, especially in her slow start-freestyle; I’m still surprised when Gaby lets Arielle go.  I guess it makes sense that they’re hardest on the dancers performing in their own styles?  Not only does Robert beg Taylor to join his team, but he stand up and stares down the other All Stars one by one so no one steals her.  I love love love the idea of them as a pair!

Pretty quickly he follows his first acquisition by picking up two dancers I’m not sure we’ve seen, Jonathan Wade and Jennifer Florentino.  Suddenly Robert’s got three spaces taken up!  We see Dassy Lee, Mark V and Robert Green smash the routine.  I’m so impressed seeing them outside their style for the first time!  They’re all fantastic.  But oh my goodness!  29 year old Chaz Wolcott dances for his last chance – and he’s cut!  I was not expecting that.  I’m not sure we’ll have a tapper on the show after all.  Which, um, I guess is good considering that Gaby had better pick Lex Ishimoto.  Then Havoc and Klassic perform; they’re okay, but not great.  Klassic is cut straight out, and Cyrus asks Havoc to dance for his life to see what an actual solo from him look like.

And as you might expect, his solo is AH-mazing (serious wow), and he’s safe.  Somehow, through some sort of by law we haven’t heard of, this puts him automatically on Cyrus’s team.  O-kay.  (Foreshadowing: we’re going to learn all sorts of quirky things about this format tonight.)  10 more dancers end up on teams, including ballroom hot tamale Sofia Chakim (Marko), and Zachary Downer (Allison – damn that girl is cleaning up!).  After the contemporary round each All Star has a single slot left, which they must fill after ballroom from the 19 remaining unattached dancers.

And for that round Dmitry and Jenya devise a cha-cha which is definitely not a solo; they point out what a difficult task learning their piece is, since people spend their lives mastering ballroom and these kids are being asked to do it in an hour.  Of course, some have a head start: Jensen Arnold dances with Logan Hernandez, and they both rock it, and  she’s invited to be the final member of Robert’s squad.  Paul and Jenna are cooing over their ballroom picks; Kristina and Sydney rule, and so does Kiki.  Geez, I really wish we saw him do contemporary, considering what a disaster he was in hip hop.  I wonder if you can get kicked off a team for screwing up?  It kind of seems like not, even though the dancer/contestants talk about how important it is for them to impress their All Star on the way to being their partner.  Speaking of screwing up, Vasily’s partnered with Koine, and to the All Stars’ shock, he’s a poor partner to her.  Is he so used to dancing with his wife that he can’t make it work with anyone else? Will they make him dance for his life?  It doesn’t seem like it; Paul tells the others he’s over stocked with ballroom dancers (really? why would that be bad?), and Jenna must not want anything to do with Mr. Fifty Shades.  The task of letting Vasily down easy falls to Gaby, but in the middle of it, Paul can’t let her do it, and finishes his team with the blond ballroom dancer.

And this, again.  Really?  Why?  He can’t possibly be planning on Vasily as a partner – ballroom does not lend itself to same sex pairings the way the other disciplines do.    Perhaps he’s close to knowing who his partner will be?  Maybe he thinks Vasily deserves a shot to go further in the competition?  Ugh.   Vasily really is excellent at what we’ve seen him do otherwise, so whatever,  and its cute that he’s on a team with his wife.

The All Stars are impressed with Kyle Bennet, Robert and Kevin Davis Jr in a rather patronizing way – look at the street dancers having fun with it!  Ick.  They’re not impressive.  Lex and Kaylee are, though.  Perky Alexis Gilbert partners with Evan DiBenedetto,  and Jenna scoops her up as her last pick.  (Her team now consists of Kiki, Alexis and two guys I’m not sure I’ve seen, Riley and Gerald. Looking like Kiki all the way here!)  We see a few of the All Stars collect their last team members: Jasmine goes for Howard Johnson (which, what on earth? who names their kid that?), Gaby takes Kiki’s partner Magda, and Allison finishes up with the actual Abby Griffin.  Painful cuts include a lot of people of color like contemporary cutie Matthew Deloch and brilliant animator Dustin Payne, who both have great attitudes about the whole thing.   Honestly, everyone we’ve seen on an exit interview has had an attitude of gratitude.  It’s very unlike American Idol.  I wonder if this these kids are more media savvy, or the show promotes sportsmanship and the contestants are thinking about how their media personal serves them in trying again, or if they’re all really just this cool.

Anyway. Now that the All Stars have assembled their teams, it’s time to break them up.  Of course it is!  There’s no resting on your laurels, it’s Academy week!  Each team must produce a group routine over night, and the weakest link will be brutally cut from the chain.  Bright and early, the contestants arrive back at the super cool Academy building (I love that building – it reminds me a little of the hospital in Grey’s Anatomy with its glass walkways and multistory lobby) and to my shock, Cat informs us that the night did not go well for all of the groups.  You don’t say!  I was actually a little surprised , however, to see that the source of the tension was our married pair, Vasily and Kristina.  It seems that portraying all that tenderness on stage comes with a lot of domineering and sneering in the practice room, which leaves fellow team mates Sydney and Ramita (yay, Ramita!) awkwardly pretending not to see Vasily shoot down all his wife’s ideas and reprimand her for having them in the first place.

Unsurprisingly, the quartet (or Vasily) comes up with a dance where he gets to be the sexy vampire in the middle surrounded by a harem or coven or whatever of sexy women.  There’s more attitude than content in it, and Bollywood/Contemporary dancer Ramita is most at a disadvantage because, well, the choreography just ignores her.  I guess they didn’t know how to work in anything that wasn’t ballroom? It’s uncomfortable, even though Kristina does dance-kill her husband at the very end.  Paul is underwhelmed, and he rightly cuts Vasily.

Allison’s team is up next, and they’re actually awesome – one of the best Academy group routines we’ve seen in a while.  Of course, this is partly because Allison’s team is stacked (grr) with star quality dancers. The very original Logan Hernandez takes the lead in the choreography, which clearly is a big part of why they stand out as well.  At first krumper Kevin struggles to pick up the choreography, but by the time they perform, they’re all wonderful, and the piece gives them all moments to shine while still feeling cohesive.  That’s awesome, Allison enthuses, singling out each dancer (crying over Kevin, even) and then sets about making the very painful first cut.  I figure (in what is undoubtedly a sexist way) that she’ll cut Abby, because she’s the most recent addition and because I don’t really expect her to pick a girl.

But no.  She cuts Kevin.

That’s right.  Kevin, who had four other All Stars in or close to his own style vying for him.  Kevin, the first person to end up on a team.  Kevin, whom Allison had to know when she begged for him to be on her team wasn’t trained.

I could spit, seriously.  We haven’t seen more than a second or two of the mentoring promised from the All Stars (something that was a huge feature of last year’s  kids Academy), and that was just before this round.  I hope it was worth it, Kevin, to get “mentored” in other styles.  I can’t decide if I’m more peeved at him for choosing so poorly or at her for taking him without meaning it.

But wait!  Jenna’s not having it either, and tells him she’s putting him on her team.  What now?  That can happen?  This is the wild west going on right here!  She can do that?  Apparently she can, although it means she’ll have to cut two people off her team now.  And let’s be honest, it’s even less likely that Jenna will take him to the live shows than Allison.  Why couldn’t a hip hop All Star have had this revelation instead of the ballroom one? But hey, the All Stars are bringing the drama for sure.

We skip most of the rest of the group routines, unfortunately, just seeing fun snippets like Dassy Lee kicking butt and Mark Villaver in a bra and lipstick. I really, really wish I could have see that one. We also get to see, among others,  Cyrus cut Christina M-P, Robert send Jensen back to Utah, and Gaby cut a gracious Magda.  What, you tell me?  The All Stars are cutting  brilliant dancers from outside their fields?  No!  Who could have predicted such a thing?  Not I.  Finally we get to see Jenna’s team dance to a somnolent version of “The House of the Rising Sun.” They’re all good and if nothing else the routine is much better than Paul’s team managed.  She boots Alexis Gilbert and a short dude named J.J., telling them that they were her dream team and did everything she asked.  But is it a surprise that neither of them is a ballroom dancer? No, no it is not.

Sigh.  There are always more qualified dancers than slots.  I love having the All Stars in the mix, but only having a top ten is just rough and really makes this particularly painful.

And man, what the heck is going to happen with Kevin Davis Jr? Maybe next week Jenna will cut him and he’ll end up with yet another All Star who actually wants to take him to the live shows.  I don’t know, though.  It’s hard not to want Fik-shun with either Dassy Lee or Kyle Bennet, and I really really want Cyrus to end up with Kaylee (though ugh, there’s Havoc too!), Jasmine with Robert and Comfort with Mark.  So painful…



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