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SYTYCD: Season Finale

So we arrive, after weeks of auditions and eliminations and wonderful dancing. The season finale, and quite possibly the series finale, of Season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance. Over the years the show has turned in to a cultural touchstone for any dancer or fan of dance. It has either produced or featured some of the most accomplished choreographers and dancers in the business, and gave us some truly beautiful and entertaining routines over the past decade plus. At this point in the run, however, it is hanging by a thread in FOX’s summer lineup more and more each year. The ratings have steadily declined as the gimmicks they use to up the entertainment value have done little more than increase the quality of dance but not the legitimacy or fun of the show. For anyone not a hardcore fan of dance, it is understandable that after a decade plus on the air the show has lost its luster quite a bit. Personally, that extends to the talent level as well. After Season 9 (and possibly even Season 8) the talent has failed to reach the same heights, even as Nigel and Mary insist that it has only improved due to the current competitors growing up with the show and being influence by it. An earlier introduction to this level of dance doesn’t necessarily lead to more talented competitors though, which is something the producers haven’t admitted to themselves or to the audience. All the hype and lack of critiques in the world won’t lead me to believe Ricky from this season was better than Melanie or Eliana or Chehon or Jeanine.

It’s because of this general stasis that I would be completely fine with this being the last season. Nigel has been outwardly pessimistic in regards to a potential renewal, possibly the most publicly in doubt I have ever seen a producer. Instead of his usual platitudes about people loving the show and being confident about another season, he has turned to what seems like begging for the audience to start a write-in campaign the likes of which is only seen after a beloved show has been axed. The show is at the point where there isn’t enough talent to make me wish there could be more seasons and we have been gifted with such great seasons in the past I feel that I am at a very content place when confronted with the possibility of this being the end of the road. FOX quite clearly slashed the budget in a big way this season which doesn’t leave much to the imagination when considering what discussions behind the scenes must be like. Moving Hell Week from Vegas to LA, hiring less than 10 judges for the entire season, musical guests and foreign dancers dwindling in appearances, the increased amount of cross-promotion within the show; it all adds up to a show that was given one last chance with a minuscule budget and couldn’t even stem the bleeding. Unfortunate, but 11 years is nothing to scoff at. The only thing I ask if and when FOX makes their final decision is for Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Cat Deeley to host something together on the network in the future. They have such great chemistry it would be a shame not to see them interact ever again (but seriously get Cat something else stateside ASAP).

Tonight, the recap of tonight’s dancing will be at a minimum because so much of it will be repeats of judge favorites. Elena Rivera is back with us for the finale, and instead of the usual step by step opinions from both of us it is more of a hodge podge of our thoughts on various parts of the show. Plus, our Top 3 routines of the season! Come for the memories, stay for the Valerie snark.

Cat Deeley Outfit Watch: Cat Deeley ends the season with more of a fashion fizzle in an almost see-through sparkly purple turtleneck dress from Tadashi Shoji’s Fall 2014 Runway. It looks and feels as busy as that previous sentence feels, and I have a strong aversion to anything that has a turtleneck that isn’t actually just a straight turtleneck shirt. The color is gorgeous, but the whole outfit is confusing. Better to remember other sparkly Cat numbers over the season and let this one fade into the background a bit.

Top Twenty Redux (choreographed by Warren Carlisle) “Doctor Jazz” by Jelly’s Last Jam Original Broadway Cast

Whitney: One of my favorite parts of the finale every year is the return of the entire top twenty to entertain as a group one more time. This routine was a lots of fun with nothing too difficult to keep in sync with as a group. Every dancer looked to be having as grand a time as possible performing with everyone again, and the sharpness of the costuming made it seem as if they had dressed up specifically for this occasion as if it were a gala only they got to enjoy. For a show that will be mostly crowd favorite performances being done for the second time, this was a nice splash of originality to start off the night.

Whitney’s Top 3 of the Season: 

“Like Real People Do” choreographed by Travis Wall (Jessica and Casey)

I appreciated this routine even more so the second time around, but I distinctly remember this being the first Travis piece of the year that I loved and the first time I felt like Jessica had some captivating talent beyond her technical excellence and Casey had any staying power in the competition.

“Pas De Deux from Black Swan” choreographed by Marat Daukayev (Jourdan and Jacque)

Even with the amount of ballerinas and contemporary dancers the show casts from season to season, there aren’t too many opportunities to include an original classical piece in favor of another style. I was so happy to see that the show made the best use of having two classically trained ballerinas at once on the show and gave them a piece as traditional as you can get with this Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Neither girl was entirely in sync with the other throughout the piece but the costumes were beautiful, their turnouts were near perfection and the pirouettes were mesmerizing. An early surprise in the season from two girls that ended up making it fairly deep in the year.

“When I Go” choreographed by Travis Wall (Jessica and Robert)

I was going to try and avoid doubling up and dancers or choreographers here, but I managed to miss out on both with the inclusion of this piece. It was one of my favorites and most memorable of the season because of the emotion and power both dancers brought to the story, at points it was so strong as to be believable that either of them were actually in that situation right in that second. Travis had a comparatively rough first half of the season as far as his batting average goes but bounced back in a big way in the back half. If the voting public had any interest at all in rewarding the most expressive and technically accomplished dancer Jessica would have won the season  but alas that was not meant to be this year.

Elena’s Top 3 of the Season: 

As underwhelming as this season has been, it’s produced a lot of singularly great dances. Group dances, especially, took off after episode 3 and have been a huge highlight for me across the season. And Travis Wall and Sonyah Tayeh’s body of work this year proves that they are So You Think You Can Dance’s biggest assets.

Top 16, “So Broken” (Choreographed by Sonya Tayeh)

I was torn between this and Travis’ explosive choreography to “Love Runs Out,” but in re-watching them I found that this piece left a stronger impression. Travis’ routine was fire and passion, but this one, centered on Tanisha’s vulnerable, broken-down dancing, was painfully beautiful. Sonya as a choreographer is always playing with the dancers, challenging their bodies to bend and twist into impossible shapes, and this routine had a lot of shaky, unsettling movements that illustrated illness. It’s the first time Tanisha stood out to me as a dancer, but the whole ensemble was supportive and emotive, something I wish everyone could have harnessed in their partner routines.

 Top 6, Casey and All-Star Makenzie, “Over You” (Choreographed by Stacey Tookey)

It isn’t that this is the most original Contemporary routine, or that Casey was my favorite dancer this season (although he won me way, way over and then, of course, was voted off), but this piece had two technically proficient dancers getting lost in the emotions of the piece. Makenzie’s extensions and perfectly pointed feet are a sight, but beyond that, she and Casey imbued even the small moments with such a palpable sense of sadness, desperation and heart that I could almost feel it through my television screen. The end of the dance is what has stuck with me: Casey and Makenzie, heads touching, holding each other, Casey’s chest rising and falling. Those small moments are as much what dance is about as the bombastic grand jetés.

Top 18, Tanisha and Rudy, “Sing Sing Sing (Part 2)” (Choreographed by Warren Carlyle)

This season of So You Think You Can Dance included a part on Broadway, and the Broadway numbers have been consistently the best danced and the most interesting routines on the show. While Rudy was prized for his bubbly personality and Tanisha’s Ballroom training came in handy during more technical routines, this Broadway number was the perfect marriage of technique and personality, classic and yet timeless. Instead of a tired, schmaltzy storyline, this was pure Broadway: a woman in a glittery dress doing awesome kicks, a man in a three-piece suits knee-sliding across the floor and into our hearts.

Runners-up: Top 20, Carly and Serge, “Latch (Acoustic)” (Choreographed by Sonya Tayeh); Top 4, Zack and All-Star (And Future Boyfriend) Aaron, “Piano Man” (Choreographed by Anthony Morigerto)


Michael Dameski

At first I wasn’t sure what they were doing trotting Paula out. Publicity stunt? Secret announcement? But no! A surprise performance from the SYTYCD Australia winner that was truly wonderful. That is the type of thing I love that this show makes an effort to include, highlighting talent from all over the world in order to broaden the audience’s appreciation of the form. Michael is a whirling, flying, astounding talent that I’m glad I got the opportunity to watch even once. Loving those leather pants too.

Here is a solo he did set to “Not In That Way” by Sam Smith (not the only reason I picked this specific video, but it definitely contributed). I’m convinced he is an Olympic caliber gymnast and accomplished contemporary dancer and talented choreography all in one body. You can thank me later for sending you down this particular YouTube rabbit hole.

Season 11 All-Stars, “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap

There will never be a time that this song doesn’t bring to mind a 90’s teen romance/dramedy and an earnest ending sequence that involves the two leads realizing they are in love, and this routine fell squarely into that cliche. This doesn’t mean it was a bad showing, in fact it was one of the more creative examples of choreography this season. The action of each bench’s inhabitants as the camera zoomed in and out was cloying but well done and the group pieces were entertaining enough to warrant the inclusion of the routine at all. I thought we had decided to retire all bench-related routines in honor of Travis Wall though.


I really think Jessica deserved the win, from her season of growth to even last week’s stellar performance with All-Star Robert. Ricky has been too stagnant for me over the course of the season, although he really stood out in group numbers and did a lot better when partnered with the All-Stars. I think Ricky will have a long career in Broadway if he wants it: he’s got the personality and the long, long legs for it, but I was still hoping the Khaleesi of Dance could run away with this one.

Overall I feel pretty “meh” towards the whole season. I’m happy the show exists, and I think it’s essential that it keeps going (so I hope Fox keeps renewing it even though it’s pulling low numbers), but the combination of this group of dancers didn’t do a lot for me. While I had some early favorites, they faltered quickly week to week, and this top 4 wasn’t the one I could have predicted even a couple of weeks ago. I’m hoping the show has a chance to find some more dynamic, diverse dancers in following seasons, because this season wasn’t my favorite.


I’m with you as far as my general feeling towards this season, Elena. Valerie making it to the Top 10 (nonetheless to the Top 2) was one problem indicative of a much larger issue at play. The critiques from judges were practically nonexistent this season except for when they wanted a specific dancer to find their way to the bottom. I remember the days when Mary would freak out over one knee gap or missed turnout instead of placidly patting everyone on the head and hoping Nigel would do the dirty work – which he barely did this season.

Jessica deserved the win, but I’m perfectly happy with Ricky getting it in her place. They will both have long careers whether as supporting players on Broadway or in a company of some sort. As contemporary dancers, they are both incredibly talented and have the skills to go far in that lane. Neither is very diverse, but Jessica beats out Ricky there and as such should have come out on top tonight.

Thanks to everyone for reading this summer and following along with our opinions, even if you didn’t always agree. In gratitude, I leave you with the greatest .gif of the season…


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SYTYCD: Final 4 Perform

I won’t give this week much of an intro, as there are lots of routines to get through tonight seeing as each of the Top 4 will dance with each as well as with an All Star in their own style plus a solo on top of it all. I’m still bitter about Valerie, and the judges complete lack of critiquing was only saved by Jesse Tyler Ferguson being hilarious on the panel. The Hey Ricky! rhyme he spewed out was one of the most entertaining things to happen on the judging panel all season. This is what happens when you spring for some original judges instead of reusing the same ones three or four times, FOX. Elena Rivera joins us again tonight, so penultimate episode of Season 11 ahoy!


Elena: Cat Deeley Outfit Watch: I might be getting repetitive, but Cat Deeley in shiny, shimmery fringe dresses is my special fashion favorite. She looks the best in structured (but not overly tailored) outfits, and the Kate Moss for Top Shop outfit has a defined waist while still channeling some flapper fabulousness. Cat Deeley’s been wearing a lot of these looks this season, but I never get tired of them. And it’s worth noting her Emmy outfit by Burberry was ballgown perfection in a really lovely dusty rose color.

Top 4 Group Dance, (choreographed by Travis Wall), “Wind Beneath My Wings” by RyanDan

Whitney: This dance did for me what a lot of the routines over the season have done, absolutely nothing. It was pretty and well-executed, but overall a bland display of the talent onstage. For a performance that should have held emotional weight for each of these dances, onstage together for the last or second-to-last time, every dancer’s expression was blank and they barely interacted with each other beyond the requisite partner work. Travis may be hitting a rut in regards to the weight his work holds over the back end of the season, but I’m more willing to blame it on the dancers remaining in the competition. This was routine heavy with meaning and emotion, explicitly representing a pair of same-sex relationships for the first time on the show that I can recall, and still any emotional heft was left to the audience to interpret and enjoy rather than the dancers actually showing them what they were thinking while dancing. No one is able to present themselves as anything more than a body going through the motions and it has brought down my excitement to crown a winner quite a bit. I’m also a serious proponent of using a cover of a classic song only if the cover provides something difference, which this did not. If you can’t afford the rights to the original, pick a different song.

Elena: The routine was slow when I needed and wanted something electric and joyous, and it only got there in the last thirty seconds when the music picked up. The partnering between Jessica and Valerie, and Ricky and Zack, was balanced and supportive, but I wish the choreography hadn’t waited so long to unleash the dancers’ collective power together as an ensemble.

Valerie and Ricky – African Jazz (choreographed by Sean Cheesman), “Voices of Savannah” by DJ Chus

Whitney: The first two words that come to mind when I think of African Jazz are “fierceness” and “energy”, and this routine gave me neither thing. Cheesman’s choreography asked a lot from the dancers as far as stamina and energy, but neither Ricky nor Valerie was able to make it to the end without seeming tired and behind on the steps. Even before the back half, both were out of sync and off when doing basic moves like low-kicks or the African Throws. Even when considering their arms were meant to be loose, the looseness seemed tired rather than true to the style. A better person than I can touch on the cultural appropriation line this routine crossed with the addition of the tribal tattoos to an already borderline costuming, but that didn’t help my love of the piece at all. It has been established what I think of the judges fawning over everything Ricky and (especially) Valerie do with nary a critique in sight, and I was even further let down when Jesse Tyler Ferguson followed them down an identical path. This season is a mess.

Elena: African Jazz is always an athletic dance that is less about performance and more about stamina, but I wasn’t entirely impressed with what Ricky and Valerie brought to the routine. They performed it admirably, but I don’t have a ton to say about the routine.

Jessica and Zack – Broadway (choreographed by Spencer Liff), “Hernando’s Hideaway” by Ella Fitzgerald 

Whitney: Jessica’s lines and splits shall save us all! She may be bland, and she may be dealing with a shoulder injury, but by golly she is the saving grace of this final four. Her early facial ticks are mostly gone and she is able to actually put on an expression of sexiness or smoothness that compliments the routine. Zack was fine, nothing he did made me upset or anything but I was watching Jessica the entire time and he barely drew my eye. Even with a few mistakes (Jessica’s dress got caught on her shoe on one turn), we heard nothing from the panel except for extensive praise. This was the point I began to think that might be a them tonight, unfortunately.

Elena: Nigel echoed this in his critique, but this season has been a standout Broadway season for the contestants, and this Spencer Liff routine is a nice end to the great run of Broadway routines thus far. The Khaleesi of Dance channeled Jessica Rabbit in her costuming, and impressively did turn after turn on steps in heels. The best part of the dance was watching Zack and Jessica transition seamlessly between slower and faster parts of the music. It had a dynamism that showed off their technique as well as their much improved acting chops.


Zack and Valerie – Contemporary (choreographed by Tyce Diorio), “Pearls” by Sade 

Whitney: Asking Valerie to inhabit the mind of literally anyone else besides her own is a ridiculous concept, therefore it makes perfect sense to put her in the position of pretending to be blind. The good thing about this routine was that it allowed me to look at Zack more closely than the previous piece and I was so happy with what I saw. Interacting with a girl incapable of playing blind is no easy feat, and his easy strength during some of the low moves and leaps was a big reason why the routine flowed from one place to another with little difficulty. His facial expressions were nothing to go crazy over either but his talent covered for him slightly there. Diorio’s choreography was simple at best and pedestrian at worst, with very few difficult aspects beyond the “acting challenge” that he and the judges both considered to be so original. Overall, this looked like two children pretending to be dancers pretending to be blind, and both of them can do better than that.

Elena: I’m on record as saying that Tyce Diorio isn’t my favorite person, and I tend to think he choreographs smaltz that the judges buy into, and this Contemporary dance with Valerie and Zack I just plain didn’t like. The concept of a woman who is blind and her partner supporting her didn’t seem organic, and Valerie’s facial expressions struck me as odd. The quality of movement didn’t do anything to make me feel the struggle or the difficulty of this obstacle between the couple, and without the concept I’m not sure the dance would have stood by itself.

Jessica and Ricky – Jazz (choreographed by Ray Leeper), “F For You” by Disclosure ft. Mary J Blige

Whitney: These two are probably the partnership we have seen the least of this season, and as such a routine with the two of them brings the most originality and newness of the night. This was a routine with fierceness, sexiness, desire. This was a routine that challenged the dancers and convinced me either of them actually deserve to win this thing. They both did exactly what a partner should do, connecting with each other beyond the bare minimum and allowed the other person to succeed in moves they may not be able to do on their own. Jessica’s top-ponytail and leather pants made a lot of Ariana Grande VMA’s outfit comparisons running through my head but in a good way (as in – this is how you do a top pony and leather outfit, Ariana). If the rest of the night was scrapped and replaced with only Ricky and Jessica dances, I would be okay with it.

Elena: Ricky and Jessica’s Jazz piece suffered from a lack of dynamics, a failure on Ray Leeper’s part as the choreographer to create moments that resonated. It wasn’t a bad Jazz routine, but there wasn’t anything special about it, nothing finale-worthy. The thing that surprised me the most was that Jessica seemed to be really deep into the movements and the feeling of the piece, but Ricky seemed lackluster to me, like he was missing his connections and playing catch-up with the music. While everyone seems to be growing week by week, Ricky’s been stagnant for a while, which makes me pretty apathetic about whoever ends up winning.

Valerie and Jessica – Bollywood (choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan), “Ghagra” by Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

Whitney: This routine was definitive proof that they have about 700 flashing “Applause” signs in the audience. The audience kept going crazy when nothing was happening of any excitement, which was most of the routine. There wasn’t a lot to this routine and the skirts did most of the work but both ladies were able to handle the notoriously specific hand movements and the minor floor work that was asked of them. Not much in this routine to discuss, pretty by both ladies and it was good to see them dancing together. Pretty much a filler dance while the All Stars get prepped, which is fine.

Elena: I enjoyed Jessica and Valerie’s Bollywood number, which might be the first Bollywood routine with two women on the show, but the main thing it did was highlight the difference between Jessica and Valerie as dancers. The Khaleesi of Dance is intentional with her movements, for good and for ill: every step is perfectly placed and is danced with a reason. Sometimes this could come off as Jessica just going through the motions, but in this Bollywood routine it stood out to me against Valerie’s sloppy execution. Valerie, while “cute,” is the weak link in the Top 4, and I’m still surprised she’s there.

Ricky and Zack – Hip Hop (choreographed by Phoenix and Pharside), “The Antidote” by District 78

Whitney: It is never a good idea to describe your routine as explosive if it can’t deliver on the other side, and fortunately for Phoenix and Pharside that wasn’t the case here. Both boys came out to prove themselves as promised and gave us the best competitor dancing with fellow competitor routine of the night. The judges spoke about stamina at the beginning of the night during a routine that didn’t have any, but for me this was the routine that should have mentioned for because it was a great display of knowing when to conserve energy and when to explode. If Ricky had the same power and expressiveness in every routine that he had here and in his solo he would be one of the best dancers this show has seen. Mostly, I would like a remake of West Side Story immediately, except with the Clubs and the Diamonds instead of Sharks and Jets.

Elena: It took until the finale and a Phoenix and Pharside Hip-Hop to finally feel like the show did the genre justice. Ricky has been the only one over the course of the season who really understood how low Hip-Hop actually is, and proved it here again in the finale. Zack held his own, but I think his tall frame makes it seem like he sits a little too high for Hip-Hop, and it just doesn’t seem as natural to him. I really liked all the tricks that involved the two men jumping in and out of shapes with each other, especially Ricky’s split jump that turned into Zack in an impressive backbend. And what is it with Hip-Hop finale dances between two men, why is it constantly some fight or show of dominance? I’m going to write a whole Gender Studies paper on it someday.


Valerie and Aaron – Tap (Anthony Morigerato), “Love Me or Leave Me” by Sammy Davis Jr.

Whitney: “A conversation through their footwork and their musicality”. Even before they set foot on the stage I was wary of this routine since working with the musicality of a routine has been something few and far between for a lot of the competitors this year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t proven wrong by this performance. Most of the tapping didn’t match up with the pacing of the music whether at double time or normal time. Valerie got lost because of how good Aaron is and my inability to tear my eyes away from his charisma. What was that hideous dress they stuck Valerie with though? It looked like something a grandma would wear in the 1930’s. Focusing on amazing Aaron related things only until this routine is out of my mind.

Elena: We haven’t talked about this yet, Whitney, but I’m incredibly obsessed with All-Star Aaron. He’s a whole lotta man, and he’s beautiful and one day I dream of dancing with him. But anyways, Anthony Margierato’s routine was pitch-perfect, a routine where the tappers’ got to converse with their feet. Valerie still had problems with emoting with her face, especially next to Charismatic, Gorgeous, Please Be My Future Boyfriend All-Star Aaron, but both of their tapping was so clear and so in sync I’m letting Valerie slide on her face this once. I could watch the section of the routine where Valerie and Aaron.

Ricky’s Solo – Ricky wisely echoed his best dance moment in the show by repeating his “Skin and Bones” routine from the Los Angeles Round in his solo, and when he lets go, he’s still the best dancer on the show.

Ricky and Katherine – Contemporary (choreographed by Stacy Tookey), “Not About Angels” by Birdy

Whitney: As happy as I was that this wasn’t another love story from Tookey, what it was was about as close as you can come to that without actually saying “this is about love”. Katherine and Ricky are a beautiful pairing that should find a dance company that will let them partner and do that forever and ever, and giving Ricky at least one contemporary routine during the final performance episode was very needed. This was a beautiful interpretation of the pain associated with suicide, and I was very pleased to see Ricky inhabit that pain 100% in his performance. The costuming assisted in setting the stage for an impactful dance as well, with Ricky’s clothing very down to earth and Katherine’s ethereal and flowing. This should lock in Ricky’s win once and for all, unless Valerie continues to pay the voting public off or Zack literally grows wings and flies across the stage in his next routine.

Elena: Stacey Tookey’s Contemporary routine for Ricky and All-Star Kathryn told the story of Ricky, at his lowest, being visited by Kathryn as an angel. The lighting for the piece seemed a bit too dark in the beginning, it was hard to make out Kathryn and Ricky’s faces which took me out of the moment. I wanted to feel more of Ricky’s despair and then hope at finding his angel, but the movement didn’t necessarily convey those feelings. There were a lot of beautiful extensions, but I just didn’t emotionally connect with the routine.

Zack and Aaron – Tap (choreographed by Anthony Morigerato), “Piano Man” by Billy Joel

Whitney: I love Aaron. Aaron is in my Top 20 of all time with ease. But you can’t tell me there wasn’t one single other dancer in the history of the show available to come tap with either Zack or Valerie so we could see some variety. Not one? The tapping itself was incredibly well done but the routine was lackluster. Between the music choice and the generally contained movement around the stage, it felt like a high school theater program showcase for some seniors instead of the powerhouse routine it should have been. If you’ll excuse me, it’s about time for me to find a YouTube rabbit hole of Aaron routines and fall down it…

Elena:The best thing about having two tappers in the finale is getting to revisit the style again: it’s not a style that the show can really give week-to-week because there’s not enough time to master the sound isolations, but it’s always a treat when good tappers get to showcase their skills. A second helping of All-Star Aaron as a bartender and Zack as his customer is breezy, memorable and what I want every last call in my future to be like. I could have watched a whole tap musical of Aaron and Zack talking about their days and dancing around an empty bar.

Valerie’s Solo: Valerie dances to “Valerie,” which isn’t technically impressive but just makes me smile.

Jessica’s Solo: A lot of turns, a lot of hair flips, but unlike Valerie, Jessica has a great combination of technique and personality. I still think she tries too hard at being sexy, but she’s also only 18, and Jessica more readily could fit into a Broadway company or dance at the VMAs than the other three dancers. She’s marketable

Jessica and Robert – Contemporary (choreographed by Travis Wall), “When I Go” by Over the Rhine

Whitney: This piece blew the roof of the place. And by “place” I don’t mean the auditorium, I mean my living room. What a powerful, quietly difficult, emotional piece by Travis, Jessica and Robert. This simple three minutes are the difference between a simple routine being easy and a simple routine allowing for the strength of the piece to have a voice without unnecessary additions. I’m so in love with Robert, and am sad we didn’t get to see he and Jessica dance together more than this one time. His arm around her neck gave me chills, but her reaction to that occurrence was the highlight of the routine. Jessica, more than any other girl this season, has learned how to harness gravitas it takes to make a routine like this truly work. This has been a night of socially geared routines, one coming first and one ending the show. Thankfully the latter was the better of the two.

Elena: All-Star Robert and Travis Wall are my favorite combination of dancer and choreographer. Last season’s “Medicine,” with Robert and Tucker, is maybe my favorite routine of the entire show, emotional and painful and ultimately a profound story of redemption. I thought Jessica and Robert were well-matched, and I loved the red spotlight that cast an eerie glow over the routine. There were some great moments with feet and simple steps being turned into battles for control, and I was impressed that Jessica has grown into an assertive, confident dancer who has toned back her facial expressions to reflect the feelings of whatever piece. I also want Robert to stay forever, so that’s something.


Zack’s solo: Zack has a charming way about him, and his solo was effortless and inviting, totally made me want to start taking tap classes.

Based on tonight’s performances and the past couple of weeks, I’m really feeling a Khaleesi of Dance takeover on next week’s results. She not only got the Travis Wall Contemporary trump card, but has transformed herself into a versatile, personable dancer over the course of the season. I’m disappointed that Ricky’s been so subpar lately, and if Valerie wins I’m readying my arms to do a lot of table flipping, but overall I’m not strongly rooting for any one dancer. I wouldn’t even be that upset if Zack won. Overall I wish I felt more passionate about the finale, but there’s been good dance over the weeks, we just took some sweet time getting there.

Whitney: Do we have statistics on who comes in last place? Because I’m pretty sure Ricky has this win all tied up but if Valerie isn’t fourth out of four than I would like to order an official investigation on the voting practices of this show. Go Ricky and Jessica!

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Switched at Birth Finale: Graduation Day Surprise


Switched at Birth has the consistent ability to unsettle the audience during the first third of every episode, making it seem as if each hour is heading down a predictable and poorly planned path only to pull out of the dive in an emotionally satisfying way each week. Tonight’s Season 3 finale, “And Life Begins Right Away”, did exactly that as it wrapped up many of the season’s smaller ongoing concerns while simultaneously introducing what the future might look like now that Daphne, Bay, and their classmates are high school graduates.

That all of the graduating class at Carlton would find themselves sharing the same city or college next season, an overwhelmingly obvious fact that has only become more clear in the last half dozen episodes, is indeed coming to fruition despite the sometimes hackneyed approach achieving that outcome required (Emmett promising to stay home from USC if Bay didn’t come with him the most egregious example of these plot machinations). Unlike other teen shows that have decided to avoid college by either skipping the four years required for an undergraduate stint completely (One Tree Hill) or conveniently forgetting college exists after a few months in that environment (Gossip Girl), Switched at Birth is committed to growing with these characters through the more mature problems they will encounter once living away from home, even if “away” is only a few miles down the road at UKMC. Carlton shutting its doors just in time for everyone to move on was a smart choice. Beyond the emotional beats it generates for Daphne it guarantees Toby and Lily can stay an item and Melody can jump directly into her new project next season without having to tie up any lose ends at her previous job.

The importance of the graduates staying in one place extends beyond their central friendships to the ongoing worries on the older generation’s half of the show. Regina and Wes’ long-telegraphed coupling finally arrives, with just the right amount of time between Angelo’s death and that moment in the office that it isn’t immediately obvious whether Regina would pull away from his advance or lean into the kiss. John and Kathryn have already been dealing with many of their central concerns about the switch in a more acute way recently, and when the girls they have been able to appreciate as a pair for only a short time grow too old for their influence completely it produces the type of moment between the two that the show has perfected by this point in its run. John is set up to receive some much needed character growth when Bay and Daphne both make important life decisions entirely on their own and he has to confront what exactly his role as father to both girls actually means. In what is hopefully a sign that the show is choosing to further examine relationships between parents and children moving forward, Travis’ mom showing up at the Carlton graduation and signing her pride at his achievement was a satisfying emotional payoff (even if she was brought up out of nowhere a few seasons after being relegated to a footnote).

Unfortunately even the exciting aspects of these character decisions don’t completely hide the fact that as each cliffhanger is introduced the show came off as trying too hard to prove it still knows how to pack a punch entering a fourth season. Regina’s decision to test out a relationship with Wes so soon after losing Angelo could provide a deep enough emotional well without the added complication of his Hawaii relocation offer. Daphne’s planned prison time was set up to conveniently span the summer between graduation and the start of college and would have caused a derailment of her life goals worse than her previous road bumps of getting fired or having to do community service. Bay and Daphne’s bond will be that much stronger after the former’s gesture at the end of the episode, but somehow it feels like a cop out in that Daphne is once again let off the hook for multiple poor decisions. It already required a suspension of disbelief that she was still able to speak at graduation less than a day before turning herself in for an extended stay in prison, and all things considered the show may be in jeopardy of tipping the balance between soapy drama and realistic events too far to one side. There were enough encouraging moments in this episode to assume next season will explore this material confidently, but the increasing number of out of character occurrences sow some doubt as to how much longer Switched at Birth will be able to maintain intelligent and measured storylines before it burns through all possible realistic representations of a non-traditional family once and for all.

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SYTYCD: Top 6 Perform


Another repeat judge in Christina Applegate this week, and we’re off to the races for the pen-penultimate episode of Season 11. Based on this year’s ratings and the budget cuts that obviously took place between last season and the present one it could also be the third-to-last episode, period. As much of a shame as that would be, it might be the best time for the show to go out. It hasn’t stuck around so long as to get tiring but the talent level has clearly dipped down to a level where the feeling of missing out on a bright future for the show is absent. As promised, if Valerie made it to the last six, my reaction was just going to be an angry GIF, and of course I delivered but first I was nice enough to actually review the routines tonight. After a week off from being a traveler/starting a new job/cool things, Elena is back with us to discuss this travesty of an elimination.

Elena: Cat Deeley Outfit Watch: According to Cat’s Twitter, her dress for the night was found on her last trip to India, which is probably why I love it so much. I’m a sucker for sparkles and with Cat’s long legs and long hair, she’s channeling a more demure disco dancer for her choice this episode. Her jewelry, including an emerald pendant, is from her favorite, XIV Karats. Her jewelry choices so far have been very on point, complementing colors and shine with her outfits. I’m so sad we only have a couple more episodes, I’m still gunning for Cat Deeley to have her own talk show or at least guest on Fashion Police. The world needs more of her!

Top 6 Perform (Choreographed by Nick Demoura), “H.I.D.E by NASA feat Aynzili Jones”

Whitney: Started out thinking this was one of the best group dances of the season, only to immediately change my mind once I saw how lackluster an effort the dancers were putting out. The idea that they were all DJs was cute, but it would have been nice to see the faces of the final 6 as they were dancing in order to increase voter’s willingness to vote for each one. The concept blocked most enjoyment I could have had, but did prove how much these competitors have relied on their expressions to overcome difficulties with hip-hop routines.

Elena: TRON DJs is a strange concept to get behind. I liked the music, but the reliance on lighting and throwing those record discs around in the beginning wasn’t as dynamic as it should have been. Plus, positioning the dancers behind large DJ booths for the whole first half of the routine zapped the energy of the piece away. Props are good, but the important part is the dancing. Some contestants were dancing some truly paint-by-the-numbers Hip-Hop, which has been a season-wide disappointment for the contestant group as a whole (save Ricky). Also, masks again. Sigh.

Valerie and Ricky – Broadway (choreographed by Spencer Liff) – “I’ve Got the World on a String” by Frank Sinatra

Whitney: What Chicanery this is. Putting Valerie back together with Ricky basically for the sole purpose of pushing her through to the final. Choreographing to Frank Sinatra is a blatant attempt to make them as appealing as possible for the prize of a part in On The Town. Valerie had knees farther apart than the sides of the Mariana’s Trench on her spins, was not at all sharp on her kicks and seemed off balance half the time. There was absolutely nothing mind-blowing about her performance and the judges once again let her off the hook, which is never anything that should be said about a Top 6 dancer. Shockingly, I didn’t think Ricky was actually that good in this either. He wasn’t as energetic as usual and seemed too focused doing steps we all know he can pull off at this point. As a side note, I just realized Spencer Liff looks like the love child of Matthew Lillard and Lucas Grabeel.

Elena: The dynamic duo back again, although I have to say I’m surprised so many people voting like Valerie. Whitney, we’ve both said this time and time again, she’s probably one of the weakest dancers on the show, and her lack of technique comes through when she isn’t partnered with Ricky. What Valerie and Ricky do have in spades is chemistry, and the Spencer Lift Broadway routine is classic and classy, a perfect showcase for Ricky and Valerie’s personalities together. Ricky acts and emotes so well during his performances I could easily see him in the ensemble of a Broadway show. Make it happen, universe! Broadway also is a style suited to Valerie, she always seems to do well when dancing smaller and contained within herself and falters when she has to make large leaps and turns.

Jessica and Casey – Disco (choreographed by Doriana Sanchez) “Dim All the Lights” by Donna Summer 

Whitney: OK, Ricky and Valerie got a style as close to their comfort zones as possible and these two got Disco? This is the point this episode officially turned into a full-on joke. I have never seen them fix the proceedings to this extent in all 11 seasons. Fortunately for Jessica and Casey, they stuck it to the producers by absolutely knocking this one out of the park. Every spin was flawless save for one near the very end. The split spin Jessica did while Casey was holding her at waist level was the most impressive thing she was given to even attempt all summer. This routine alone probably sealed Jessica’s win, which is so deserved. Casey was great as well, but I his performance here or in his second routine didn’t make me any more upset at his elimination tonight. It was time.

Elena: I wish So You Think You Could Dance could give out sports awards like in high school, because Jessica and Casey would win my “most improved” awards. I’m still not swooning over them like I am Ricky, but Jessica’s learned how to channel her skill as a dancer into really working on her facial expressions and emotions in a piece. Casey, as well, isn’t just a guy who can do thirty turns anymore, but a well-rounded Contemporary dancer. I’m happy Khaleesi of Dance and Turning man figured out their stuff before the show ended. And while I’m running out of things to say about Disco (fast! fun! lifts! spins!), Casey and Jessica were inviting and kept their energy up through the marathon of the routine.


Jacque and Zack – Foxtrot (choreographed by Jean-Marc Generaux) – “Anything Goes” – Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett 

Whitney: Your corporate tie in of the night, ladies and gentlemen! On the heels of the recently announced duets album between Lady Gaga and Bennett, here is a track from that exact project. It works in the is case, as the original recording would put the show in too much of a classic music hole, but it allows a little fun to sneak in this routine. The Foxtrot is a classier dance (liked Mary’s use of “snazzy”) which makes it hard to put any fun into things if you aren’t already confident in your movements. As a whole, it was a very stodgy version of the foxtrot and as such was not very endearing to the audience or the cameras. Jacque’s dress allowed her to get lost in the backdrop just enough that even when she was showing off she didn’t stand out.

Elena: This Jean-Marc Généreux Foxtrot was uninspired, which is sad to say about a dance package that started with Jean-Marc as a movie director and some nods to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The best Foxtrots look like the contestants are floating on the stage, and this one seemed a little choppier. When Jacque and Zack entered into the more standard Foxtrot frame and were moving around the dance floor together, it seemed like I was watching an amateur youth Ballroom competition. I desperately wanted to like it, but the choreography and the performance just weren’t there.

I didn’t know who Rixton was before this performance, and it did not make me want to. Move along, sharply clad boys…


Valerie and tWitch – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Wildebeest) “Yeah” by Usher” 

Whitney: This is the type of hip-hop routine I would expect from this show in week 3 or 4, not one close to the end of the season. That sentiment applies to both the dancers and the choreography. A pedestrian effort by all parties that was quite honestly beneath tWitch completely and so far above Valerie that she couldn’t help but look far out of her depth. Nothing was sharp or energetic enough for what was supposedly an “all-out” hip-hop routine. 90% of the transitions were jerky and unprofessional, yet once again the judges make excuses for Valerie in order for her to look better. I don’t know what kind of dirt she has on the judges but it isn’t good and it is ruining the credibility of the whole panel.

Elena: Currently petitioning all my loved ones who are getting married next summer to skip the played-out Bruno Mars aisle dance to “Marry You” and replacing it with Willdabeest’s Hip-Hop choreography to Usher’s “Yeah.” All-Star Twitch, as we’ve already established, is So You Think You Can Dance’s secret weapon, elevating every dancer he’s paired with, but I found Valerie slightly bland. If this season had a theme, the theme would be “Everyone needs to get lower (and stop forgetting to dance through the moments).” Once the detachable skirt in Valerie’s outfit came off, she seemed to liven up, but at this point in the competition it’s not enough to get comfortable in a dance halfway through. It has to be there from the first count.

Jacque and Will – Contemporary (Sean Cheeseman) – “99 Red Balloons” by Sleeping at Last 

Whitney: If they weren’t going to use the Goldfinger cover of 99 Red Balloons, they should have used the original. This random cover no one has ever heard was pretty but inconsequential as a background to a piece this pretty. The piece itself, although beautiful, did not seem like something I will remember a few weeks from now. The imagery of the ball as a prop and the balloons was creative on Sean’s part, but for a dancer like Jacque who is capable of so much more there were not enough set pieces for her. A lot of unused potential here, even though it ended up as one of the most aesthetically pleasing routines of the night.

Elena: Sean Cheeseman bringing on more conceptual prop Contemporary dances with the inclusion of a red yoga ball. The colors are a great contrast, the stark white of Jacque and All-Star Will’s outfits against the strong red of the ball, and it gave the routine a flowing feel. Will is an incredibly strong partner, and together he and Jacque seemed effortless in the piece. It wasn’t anything new in terms of Contemporary dance, but it was executed well.


Jessica and Ade – Jazz (Ray Leeper) “Boneless” by Steve Aoki 

Whitney: Jessica is the only one tonight who didn’t get a routine right in her wheelhouse, and instead of being hamstrung by it she rose to the occasion both times. There were moments here where she didn’t dig in to the movements as much as she should have but mostly it was a great showing. Appreciate that Ray noted how Jessica’s age affected her here (she is still only 18 so she has never been to a club before) as that aspect of the season hasn’t been delved into as much as necessary in regards to the lack of maturity that is represented in these dancers through no fault of their own. The big thing I noticed here was the return of Jessica’s beaming smile where it didn’t belong. Probably a result of her inexperience with this genre, and she tried to control it the best she could but it slipped out enough times to be a distraction.

Elena: When I think of the word “Jazz,” “Japanese dance club” are not the words that come to mind immediately. Ray Leeper’s choreography puts Jessica and All-Star Ade square in day-glo Tokyo, but the combination of whatever ridiculous lime green, furry boots Jessica is wearing and all the strobe lights just made me laugh. Less is more, everybody.

Ricky and Anya – Cha Cha (choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereax) “Dare” by Shakira 

Whitney: This episode is (reasonably speaking) the worst showing Ricky has had, which is still better than anybody else’s efforts but speaks to where he truly falls talent-wise once forced out of his usual routines. While Anya was forcing the audience to keep their eyes on her with steaminess and sex appeal, Ricky grinned like a little boy. I thought he kept up but didn’t overcome the pace Jean-Marc set for them. The judges were covering for some of his faults here, even though he definitely brought it as best he could and his footwork was free of any major mistakes. If I hadn’t watched Ricky for two months at this point I would not have pegged him as the strongest dancer based on that one routine, luckily every dancer tonight had an off piece which can be explained by the insane rehearsal schedule they have by this point in the season.

Elena: This was selling sex, first and foremost, and I bought it. While Ricky was worried in the interview package that he couldn’t pull off the same energy as All-Star Anya, the one thing he’s consistently done better than the rest of the contestants this season is immerse himself in a role. Sultry Cha-Cha dancer? Check. Mature romantic? Check. 1950’s gentleman? Check. I could go on and on, but Ricky knows how to act, and dancing in a lot of ways is acting without words, telling a story and a feeling through hands and feet extending.

Casey and MacKenzie – Contemporary (choreographed by Stacey Tookey) “Over You” by Ingrid Michaelson and A Great Big World 

Whitney: Boy did I think this routine could have allowed Casey to climb within inches of Ricky in the final tally in the event he made it through to the finale as it was a beautiful contemporary piece and one of the best Stacy Tookey pieces in a long time. I’m as over her stories about love as the next person, but sometimes it still works to hand out an emotional punch. The lifts that Tookey entrusts to these two are gorgeous and the way Casey handles them renders MacKenzie nearly weightless. As Casey stood on the stage unable to articulate how he felt during the routine, it dawned on me that that was the first time that had happened all season. Not even with Travis Wall has a dancer been so overcome right after completing a routine. I am so happy Casey got a moment like that before his elimination.

Elena: Stacey Tookey gives Casey and All-Star Makenzie a powerful storyline for their Contemporary dance: what if you found out you only have one day left with the person you love? Stark lighting that played with shadows and one of my favorite songs off of Ingrid Michaelson’s latest album gives the piece the setting and feelings it needs. It’s the best Casey’s danced all season, he and Makenzie created a safe, intimate space for the dance, and Casey’s big leaps are used for emphasis at exactly the right moment. The last moment of the routine was my favorite: Makenzie grabs Casey, and Casey painfully tries to remove her hands from his face, finally sinking in, heads touching, Casey’s ragged breathing the last thing seen before the lights go out. Can Casey and Makenzie be partners forever?

Zack and Fikshun – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Phillip Chbeeb) – “Sail” by Awolnation 

Whitney: Everything I assumed was going to happen during this routine did not. Fikshun didn’t show Zack up in the slightest, other than falsely making it look as if he wasn’t getting low enough due to the height difference between them. This song is a cliche at this point no matter the setting but other than that there were very few problems I had with this routine. I was on the same page as Nigel thinking he wouldn’t get into the finale, but he gave it his all this season and certainly lessened by tapper prejudices, however slightly. I’ll be interested in seeing how he fares going into a performance finale where Ricky pretty much has the win tied up already. I hope he maintains his confidence no matter what. (Yay for Chbeeb getting the chance to choreograph!)

Elena: Phillip Chbeeb (most recently seen hanging out in Step Up: All-Stars In Vegas And Hey There’s Kind Of A Plot This Time!) choreographs a shape-filled Hip-Hop for Zack and last season’s reigning male champ Fik-Shun. Chbeeb is a marvel in his own style, but I was wondering how his unique Hip-Hop take would translate to two dancers, one of whom is a tapper. The synchronicity of the dance was so fascinating to watch: Fik-Shun and Zack had to move seamlessly in and out of each others’ space to create dynamic shapes, and it worked. I did feel the nature of the dance was slightly pose-y, more a series of disconnected moves than an actual dance, but something new from an old So You Think You Can Dance alumni is always fun.

Solos –

Elena: Ricky’s solo stood out to me, grand and big using all the stage as his space. It wasn’t as polished as I’m used to seeing from him, but there’s something so captivating about him as a dancer, regardless of style or routine, that keeps me coming back. Jessica’s was full of well-executed turns, a celebration of her journey thus far. Of the tappers, Zack’s upbeat choice of Jason Mraz paired well with his style of Tap, and Jacque tried something new with a 50’s-inspired Ballet routine, but all the solos were just so-so tonight.

Final Four reactions:

Elena: Pretty torn up about Rudy leaving last week, and every week it gets harder and harder to say goodbye to everyone, but it definitely was not Casey’s time to go, nor was it Jacque’s. I really wanted a Jacque, Jessica, Ricky and Casey Final Four, and Zack is admirable, but I’ve never connected with him. And so help me, if Valerie somehow coasts to a So You Think You Can Dance win I’m going to flip all the tables. Every single table, Whitney.

Whitney:  My reaction in four .gifs…



This right here.


Oh, Cat was joking. She must have been joking.


 WAIT. She wasn’t joking?



See everyone next week for a night of heavy sighing.

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SYTYCD: Michael Jackson Tribute

imagesA Michael Jackson seemingly out of nowhere makes no sense on multiple levels. First of all, SYTYCD has attempted tribute episodes before and they have gone poorly across the board. Secondly, as I mentioned last week their is a current embroilment between the Jackson estate and a former (current?) SYTYCD choreographer based on allegations the latter made against Jackson that can be assumed easily but will be delved into no further in this space. The guest judge is Jenna Dewan Tatum, yet another recycled judge by the show this season. That puts the production values of the show into serious “probably not coming back even with the extreme budget cuts” territory. Unfortunate, but even if this is the final season you can’t say Nigel and Co. didn’t try their absolute hardest to make it work with network restrictions in place. No Elena this week, which means no Cat Deeley Style Watch, but she should be back next week for the penultimate episode. Without further ado…

Top 8 Perform (choreographed by Travis Payne), “A Place With No Name” by Michael Jackson 

The reason SYTYCD is airing a Michael Jackson tribute five years after he died near the end of what has been an iffy season overall is revealed almost immediately, as this single from a posthumous album being put out by his estate was released this very day. If somebody born in the 70’s or 80’s gets upset about a present day rap artist or hip-hop star sampling some favorite song of theirs, from this moment on you can turn to this MJ song as a prime reason for them to put down their stones should their glass houses get scratched. It’s an egregious sampling of “Horse With No Name” by an icon that does nothing to improve the overall quality of the song and brings down any potential energy the track could have had by bogging the fun parts down with unnecessary America parallels. I feel the same way about this opening number, as the choreography by Travis Payne was serviceable but nothing special. Theoretically, these should be the 8 best dancers in the competition on stage together, but it felt like they still didn’t know quite how to mesh with each other on stage and any excitement I had upon first seeing the fierceness of the costuming was quickly tempered by the routine that followed. Another major concern (applied to some choreographers much more than others) is that when aiming to give a nod to Michael Jackson’s music and aesthetic the choreographer will seem more than a poor facsimile of his talents rather than a proper sampling of what he gave to the world of dance. Hopefully the subdued opening performance here was because all of their rehearsal energy was spent on the other performances.


Ricky and Jaimie – Contemporary (choreographed by Travis Wall), “Smile” by Michael Jackson 

In a tribute to Michael Jackson episode, the first two songs used are a song that is half somebody else’s and a cover track. I can appreciate the need to find a song that works for every genre of dance, which can be somewhat difficult if only given the options of Jackson’s classics, and the aim to not choose only crowd favorites when mapping out the episode. But really, if you plan a tribute to MJ you should probably try to include some of his better songs especially when highlighting less than ten of them. Ricky and Jaimie were made to dance together, and Travis didn’t let us down in his choreography for the pair. The way Jaimie’s dress contributed to the drifting feel of their movements across the stage allowed for every transition to fell of a piece with the rest of the routine. Ricky was marvelous (obviously) and maintains his status of “having this entire thing locked up”. The way he moves so easily across half the stage and makes it seem as though he only expended the energy required to move one foot blows me away week after week. Every challenge the show throws him he tackles with ease and beauty and I can’t wait to see what he gets to do in the finale.

Valerie and Ryan – Ballroom (choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereaux), “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, by Michael Jackson

Out of her depth from the very beginning, Valerie once again spurs the question in my mind as to how she has made it this far. The good parts of the routine included Ryan being awesome and Valerie’s admittedly wonderful costuming, the rest of it was a very middling showing by the latter. I was hoping Mary would give her a solid critiquing in regards to her wide open legs and lackluster flicks and kicks, instead we got a judging panel that was closer to a parent-teacher meeting complete with copious pats on the back for a student that tries hard but just doesn’t cut it in class. All of their points are now being taken away from House Judging because I have no other way to deal with their reaction to that routine. In no way should Valerie have gotten away with half the errors she committed in that piece which, combined with some other suspicious judging critiques this season, leads me to believe FOX may have requested them to go slightly easier on the “top” dancers in order to more closely reflect America’s popular opinion of the dancers and increase audience engagement. Any other season Mary would have nit-picked her until Nigel butted in, instead we got a sub-par dancer continue to ease through to the Top 6 (and dear God maybe even the finale). Side note: did anybody else think she looked a little like Bellamy Young with her hair done up the way it was, or just me?

Casey and Comfort – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Pharside and Phoenix), “Xscape” by Michael Jackson 

Another track off the new album, and this episode has officially become a farce for the ages. Tribute and marketing ploy are two entirely separate promotional strategies, and FOX has always been terrible at walking the thin line between the two concepts. Comfort is a force of nature when she takes the stage, always has been. Casey tried his absolute best to keep up with her energy and talent here but couldn’t quite measure up 100% with what she put on the table. The costuming for each dancer seemed to belong to two separate routines, even though I saw what they were aiming for as far as a black widow spider and a random human/prey passing by it just didn’t work as well as it could have. I will give Casey credit for putting his best effort into a routine he had to know he couldn’t perfect in a week though. When given the opportunity to do a signature spin he showed off his skills amidst the more difficult choreography he was working through. The chemistry between he and Comfort was nice as well, especially because she is a dancer that isn’t always conducive to partnership.

Tanisha and Nick – Contemporary (choreographed by Stacey Tookey), “She’s Out of My Life”, by Michael Jackson 

The Stacey Tookey Love Story Train keeps on chugging this week with a less than original routine about a crooner who lost his girl and is sad now and blah blah blah. The routine worked to Tanisha’s strengths, allowing her to show off the solidity of her technique and partnership capabilities. Tookey’s song choice touched on the sadness that the routine explored further without forcing the story to take on too depressing a turn. My major problem with the routine came courtesy of Tanisha’s floor work, which was incredibly awkward through no fault of her own and brought all momentum Tanisha and Nick built with the smaller sequences to an absolute halt. Based on her routine from last week I’m not surprised she ended up in the bottom two, as her technical appeal but lack of any charisma was bound to take her only so far with the audience before that generosity dropped off.

Rudy and Alison – Contemporary (choreographed by Ray Leeper), “Dirty Diana” by Michael Jackson 

Probably the most effortlessly energetic routine of the night up to this point, Rudy made a great case here for a spot as one of the final two boys. He didn’t have the strength to pull off some of the moves that were asked of him, such as the cartwheel off Alison’s back or his slow walk forward with her in his arms. It may have been the way the transitions into and out of those parts caught them both off guard, but there were other parts where Rudy showed that he could in fact handle requirements of strength and power. The “Dirty Diana” choice allowed Rudy to show off his sexy side (bummed we didn’t get a cutaway to Jacque standing somewhere offstage grinning) and embrace the energy the routine needed to succeed. Him being in the bottom two instead of Zack tonight was a travesty second to only Valerie still being around. I’m hard pressed to remember a previous time when Rudy got to show off the height he can reach on his leaps, and was happy to see him be able to give it his all before going home at the end of the night.

Zack and MacKenzie – Broadway (choreographed by Spencer Liff), “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson 

Zack has grown so much since the start of the season it almost seems impossible. If he had ended up in the bottom two dancers tonight I would have felt bad that his transition to a well-rounded performer came too little too late, instead he and MacKenzie ended up with one of the best routines of the night because of Zack’s boundless energy and commitment to the concept. It makes sense he would feel comfortable seeing as Broadway is one of the closest genres to Tap in all of dance, and having MacKenzie as a partner only assisted him in proving how much his skills have advanced in only a few months. The one-footed slides across the stage were my favorite part, and the upbeat nature of the music complemented the story playing out on stage. If he makes it to the finale over Casey, I would point to this specific dance as the turning point for his skill and his appeal for the audience as one of the more fun to watch dancers in this competition.

Jacque and tWitch – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Dave Scott), “Slave to the Rhythm”, by Michael Jackson

Out of the two dancers saddled with a Hip-Hop routine far outside their comfort zone, Jacque definitely out danced Zack. Not by much, I’ll give Zack that, but she brought he best effort to the stage and made it seem like she has been dancing in this style for years. The way she fed off tWitch’s talent and skills in the isolations and slight improvisational work is the sign of dancer that can truly adapt. Points to House Makeup and House Costuming for the way her wardrobe enhanced the mood and animosity of her performance. In any other pairing I would be hard-pressed to look away from tWitch (because I can never look away from tWitch) but between Jacque’s neck rolls and the way she was able to get low without looking ridiculous has me very excited to see what she can do against Jessica in the finale (because let’s face it if Valerie makes it to the finale over her this entire post will just be a GIF of someone screaming instead of actual analysis). Jacque was borderline timid as a performer when not in her style of dance early in the competition and now I feel as if whatever the competition throws at her she can at least handle it even she is not able to make it completely flawless.

Jessica and Will – Contemporary (choreographed by Mandy Moore), “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson

Jessica is almost entirely wasted in this Mandy Moore routine, if it weren’t for the pure talent she exudes on stage I wouldn’t have enjoyed the performance nearly as much. Both dancers moved around each other as if in a beautiful orbit of chemistry and lightness. I wasn’t seeing it earlier in her auditions and performances this season, but it’s clear now that she has a very real shot to win the whole thing and continue her growth as an expressive and moving dancer. The costuming was a little weird here, seeing as Jessica was meant to represent an earthy presence in contrast to Will, but instead she looked like Betty Drape. All in all, a beautiful routine to close out the night even if it is clear it had a lot more potential than it eventually lived up too.

Neither dancer was going to win the season, but I am sad to see Rudy go probably before his time. It was the right moment for Tanisha to leave, and I don’t really think she could have grown any more on the show than she was already able. Rudy looking at the group of remaining dancers, clearly wanting to say Thank You and goodbye to Jacque, but instead thanking everyone made me weepy. They were a nice background side story to have throughout the season and I hope they keep hanging out/start dating in real life because they are an adorable dance couple.  America better put Valerie in the bottom two next week because neither Jessica nor Jacque deserve to be passed over for the finale in favor of Valerie. my bet for the boy’s Top 2 are Ricky (duh) and Zack narrowly edging it out over Casey. Please be smarter with your votes, America. Nothing this season has been accurate based on talent or appeal it seems, but the chances of that changing now are slim.

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SYTYCD: Top 10 Perform, 2 Eliminated

The Top 10 went into full swing tonight, as all ten dancers took the stage with some of the best All Stars in the history of the show to show off the ways they have improved throughout the season and to attempt to measure up to their more accomplished and (sometimes) more talented partners. This also marks the first week the judges don’t have any power to save a dancer, so Nigel and Mary were joined by…Tara Lipinski? Uh, sure. She was OK during the auditions and acquits herself well enough tonight, but doesn’t add any critiques that were especially insightful or original. One of the other major things I noticed tonight was the possibility for some routines to be longer as necessary due to the lack of any solos or group dances besides the opening routine.

As usual, we are joined by the wonderful Elena Rivera.

Elena: Cat Deeley Outfit Watch: This week Cat is wearing a very flower child 70’s outfit, a glittery off-white tunic with large bell sleeves. It’s from Matthew Williamson’s Pre-Fall 2014 collection. It’s less structured than her other dresses, so it hangs a bit baggy, but the color and the shine are delightful. Her hair game is so point, this is probably my comment every week, and she’s wearing dainty white earrings to match with her outfit.

Top 10 Routine (choreographed by Jamal Sims), Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj

Whitney: Only recently released, but “Bang Bang” is destined to be that sneaky song of the summer that turns out to be the most memorable despite being released during the last of the beach months. It worked very well here and I’m glad the show bothered to use it even with such quick turnaround time. Not a fan of the cowboy costume motif as it didn’t really make sense for the song, although I could see the stretch from ‘bang bang’ to a cowboy’s gun, but the use of neon colors was a fun twist to the concept. Not really any parts that incorporated the entire group, but that falls on Jamal to accomplish not the talent. Could have been sharper from most dancers, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because of the obvious rehearsal time constraints. A fun start to the show.

Elena: As someone who loves colors, this day-glo dance saloon costuming and props made me so happy (and “Bang Bang” is so catchy I was waiting for So You Think You Can Dance to choreograph to it). Would you consider this hip-hop? I’m going to call it that, even as it had a tap breakdown and some jazz movements for the women. Everyone seemed to hit hard and genuinely looked like they were having a good time wearing cowboy hats and carrying around parasols. Ricky and Jessica took front and center for the men and women, as they have for many of the group routines, and Jessica’s face was exactly as expressive as it needed to be, something I’ve been critical of her before.

Bridget and Brandon – Bollywood Disco (choreographed by Niquel?), “Disco Khisko” by Dil Bole Hadippa

Whitney: Don’t think the first Top 10 episode is the time to experiment with routines as strange as this. More of a creative endeavor than a legitimate genre to assign to a couple and expect them to perfect. It screams of the show pulling ideas for originality out of nowhere at the behest of the network. However, it was energetic and well executed. Bridget’s smile did her right here and she maintained her energy level from top to bottom, showing off how improved her stamina is as the season has gone on. Brandon and Bridget have some of the best lines in the history of the show, and they worked well together. It’s a shame she went home in a week where she had some of the best energy and looked the happiest all season. It may not have mattered though, since I’m unsure how willing America would have been to vote for a Bollywood Disco routine no matter how impressive it was. Also, did they choose the music just because it had a Bollywood feel and the word disco in it? It didn’t really work for me as far as representing this seemingly made up genre.

Elena: Brandon is such a strong dancer, and he’s always been called on for great Disco elements, but Bollywood Disco is definitely a first. Bridget needs to remember her face: although the dance was relentlessly fast, the smile on her face would disappear for a second or two when she was breathing more heavily. I liked the different lifts they did in the routine. Traditional Bollywood doesn’t have a ton of lifts, and Brandon was always praised for his strong partnering. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it also wasn’t very memorable to me.

Tanisha and Ryan – Argentine Tango (choreographed by Leonardo & Miriam), “The Gaucho’s Pain” by Tango Jointz

Whitney: Tanisha’s appeal eludes me. Even after speaking with multiple people who say she is their favorite at this point, I don’t see it. She is not personable on camera at all and her skills are technically incredible but not overwhelming entertainment wise. The strength exhibited in the routine was crazy to see, specifically the many holds and lift splits. Her flicks and kicks very sharp (as was Ryan’s footwork but that you could have guessed before he set foot on stage). I agree wholeheartedly with the judges about the lift that ended with Tanisha ending up on Ryan’s neck. But even as I was nodding along with them about her skill, I wasn’t really entertained. Realistically speaking, how was she safe? Not understanding America’s infatuation with her persona when there are more exciting and engaging dancers left in the competition.

Elena: I had to look up who Ryan was because I didn’t remember him, turns out he was on Season 6 as a Latin Ballroom dancer, but even in the interview package he looked like such a powerful dancer and seemed so much older than Tanisha, who looked like a tiny baby bird. The routine itself was fantastic: sexy and sultry and full of insane lifts that ended in kicks through Ryan’s legs. This is the gold standard for Argentine Tango, Leonardo Barrionuevo and Miriam Larici choreographed a routine that made me remember how good Tango can be on the show. It helped that both Ryan and Tanisha were Ballroom dancers, but Tanisha’s never danced better. This is why I love the All-Stars, they raise everyone’s game (or prove who really deserves to go home).

Jasmine and Emilio – Hip-Hop (choreographed by NappyTabs), Get Low” by Dillon Grancis and DJ Snake

Whitney: Emilio’s concern over his last hip-hop performance going over poorly with the audience was one of the most important things we’ve seen in the prepackaged clip this season. Unfortunately, it turns out it was included for a reason, as his worry that he would go home tonight turned out to be accurate, even if it wasn’t in direct connection to the performance he put out. This was my most anticipated All-Star couple, and my anticipation was rewarded handily. The only major distraction or problem was the height difference slightly, but both dancers brought it at such a level that was out of my mind almost as soon as I noticed. The music was a nice option for the intensity of the routine, if not all that creative. Every movement was precise but powerful at the same time. NappyTabs choreographed to both dancers’ strengths and it showed in the result.

Elena: Jasmine was my favorite last season, and Jasmine plus NappyTabs equals all my dreams come true. The idea for the routine is a little bit Aladdin, a little bit bananas, and Jasmine’s wearing a princess Leia-inspired outfit (that also has pants). There are baskets, there are gold thrones, and like only NappyTabs can, there’s such a sense of fun to the Hip-Hop routine. Jasmine rocks the hell out of the routine, but Emilio keeps up the pace with her. I was just distracted by how hard Jasmine hit, and it reminded me there are a ton of women who are beautiful dancers this season, but not a lot of powerful ones. This is the problem when so many of the Top Twenty women are Contemporary dancers, it’s not always a style that lends itself to showing off strength.

Valerie and Ade – Jazz (choreographed by Tyce Diorio), “Hearts a Mess” by Gotye

Whitney: What a shock, as soon as Valerie and Ricky were broken up she turns into a semi-mess and her true skill level is revealed. Her hands were floppy and terrible, nothing was crisp and none of the lifts were transitioned into or out of properly. The one lovely part was Valerie posing on Ade’s back just so he could show off how strong he is (fans self). Bottom line is she had no stage presence besides being a cute dancer flitting around with someone twice as talented. Also, it’s about 2 years too late to be using Gotye for anything. I’m taking away all of the points from House Music for that digression. Both Tanisha and Valerie being safe from America’s vote makes me think there is someone hacking into the official count and taking all their votes from Jacque and Bridget. No way they should both be in the top 40% of this season in favor of one of the two girls at risk.

Elena: Tyce Diorio channeled some funky Jazz choreography this week with Valerie and Ade. The choice of “Hearts A Mess” by Gotye, which I’ve never heard before but was a really interesting piece of music, gave the piece the exact right vibe. I know we talked about this last week, but song choice is so essential in the show, and choreographers who know how to pick songs (Travis Wall) always seem to create captivating moments on the stage that transcend instead of take up space in the program. Valerie’s intensity was what was lacking for me: all the extensions and breadth of Ade couldn’t compensate for Valerie’s lackluster showing, although she seemed more comfortable than before. What we predicted was right, Whitney, separated from Ricky, Valerie isn’t all that good.

Jenna and Rudy – Cha Cha (choreographed by Louis Van Amstel), “Maps” by Maroon 5

Van Amstel making a reference to the Rudy/Jacque love story was everything I never knew I wanted from a SYTYCD choreographer. Personally, I didn’t buy in to Jenna’s sexiness last year and certainly don’t buy it this year in a one-off performance. She does too much mugging for the cameras and face-making when she should be focusing on her partner, and it was a detriment to Rudy inasmuch as his performance could be brought down. Rudy didn’t have as much strength in his upper body as he needed to make every piece of this work, but he was brimming with confidence that more than made up for any tiny slips in his technique. Overall, it was as sexy a performance as a Cha Cha set to a Maroon 5 song can be (Rudy being shirtless under that vest notwithstanding). Most importantly, Jacque avoided elimination and he was safe so their infatuation can continue, although this is probably the last week that will be the case.

Elena: This Cha-Cha by Louis Van Amstel was all based on chemistry, which is good because Rudy’s not always been the strongest partner in Ballroom. Jenna I could watch for ages, though, and this seems a good enough time to bring up the Mark Kanemura routine she was in last season, which remains one of my all-time favorite dances on SYTYCD. I thought that the dance seemingly complemented Rudy’s strengths, but after such a strong Argentine Tango from Tanisha earlier, it was a slight letdown. I hope Rudy gets to show off his strength as a dancer soon and doesn’t just coast on his personality. His bubbly demeanor does remind me a lot of Fik-Shun, though, a contestant I also thought coasted on his personality for a good long while.

Jacque and Chehon –  Contemporary Ballet (choreographed by Travis Wall), “Adagio for TRON” by Daft Punk

Whitney: After a drought of ballet routines due partly to the talent available and partly due to the willingness of the show to take the chance it would translate on television properly, we finally got a ballet duet! Choreographed by the ever-amazing Travis, the routine used a combination of back lighting, music choice, and stunning skill to put forth one of the best routines of the night. There seemed to be a problem with the spotlight at one point, as instead of getting a mixture of light and shadow we got only darkness. The song choice and costuming were both creative ways to tie the classical side of the style together with the contemporary aspect of the routine. Travis made a smart choice by allowing them some moments of movement without forcing them to reach every part of the stage, instead focusing on the technical aspects of the dance. Points for House Choreography for having Travis exist. This was the first good critique Tara had all night with her remarks about Jacque’s fabulous extensions. Most shocking was the magical chemistry between two people who have never danced together before, something Travis is always able to bring out in his subjects.

Elena: Travis Wall choreographed a Ballet Contemporary duet for Chehon and Jacque, set to a Daft Punk song from Tron: Legacy? Sure, why not. The dance wasn’t as fluid as it should have been, there were a lot of sticky moments when Jacque wasn’t turning fast enough in her pointe shoes, and I couldn’t figure out if it was because Travis didn’t know how to adapt Contemporary to pointe shoes or because Jacque didn’t dance to the level of the choreography. Around the middle of the dance it truly became something special, but those technical issues in the beginning made me less rapturous.

Lauren and Ricky – Jazz (choreographed by Mandy Moore), “Bossa Nova Baby” by Elvis Presley

Whitney: So happy to have Lauren back on the show. The leap from Ricky where his legs were perpendicular to the stage was so enjoyable. In the first slip up Ricky has had this season, he looked like he was getting just a tad tired as the routine went on, he was a little behind Lauren on some connections but only slightly. Mandy definitely let them down here as far as giving them material to show off their skills. The dancers carried a routine filled with cliche moves and elements that didn’t flow together nearly well enough. Elvis was a cliche to use for a jive, even if it was a remixed version of a classic. Deduction of points from House Music for trying to pass off fake ingenuity for the real thing.

Elena: Mandy Moore, oh she of questionable song choice and slightly supbar Contemporary routines, turned out a pretty fun Jazz routine with Ricky and Lauren (sidenote: Lauren has been adorably dating Dominic Sandoval for a while, and them dancing together is my jam). While I appreciated a Jazz routine that moved quickly, I wanted more style and less choreography, if that makes any sense. Quick routines aren’t always better than slow ones, and I find that for Jazz to make the biggest impact there have to be staccato holds to accentuate the movements. Ricky and Lauren were zippy and snazzy, though I wish we got to see a routine that really challenged Ricky instead of just being another standard Jazz routine.

Casey and Kathryn – Broadway (choreographed by Spencer Liff), “Maybe This Time” by Liza Minelli

Whitney: The music choice for this was perfect timing as far as my personal connection to the song goes, seeing as last week I was just at a performance the Cabaret revival watching this song live while two ladies behind me were ruining Michelle Williams for themselves because they had the gall to compare her to Liza. Focusing on the dancing, this was by far the best stage presence and partnership Casey has shown all season. Kathryn brought whatever grit there was inside of him out, similar to what Emilio did for Bridget in the first half of the summer. His leaps held all of the emotion of the song and he responded in kind to everything Kathryn threw at him. Good for him for being safe. I may not have called that earlier tonight but he deserves it after the performance he gave here.

Elena: Spencer Liff clearly has seen Casey dance before, because in his Broadway routine he gave him so many impressive turns to do. Casey faltered on the final lift in the routine, but other than that I finally understood his appeal. While he wasn’t on his acting game as much as Kathryn, there was something so long and lean about the way he danced that number. I still think he’s too boyish, lacks a depth, but I’m warming to him. I’m still waiting for him to wow me, though, and I hope he continues to grow.

Jessica and tWitch Hip-Hop (choreographed by NappyTabs), “U Got Me Up” by Cajmere feat. Dajae

Whitney: Not many notes for this one besides WOW. No one can keep up with tWitch when he’s in his element but Jessica did her darndest to come as close as humanly possible. Jessica and Casey have progressed in similar ways in regards to their energy on stage. Her face was great (can I get “Things I Never Thought I’d Say for $800 Alex?) and she bought into the of the routine story 110%. Her hair was very Sailor Moon-esque and the music was so upbeat and enjoyable it would have taken something atrocious for the audience to come out of this routine in a bad mood. I wouldn’t be surprised if this did wonders for her popularity with the audience, mostly because it was the first instance she didn’t look like Contemporary Dance Barbie. Nigel smartly acknowledges that this is the first time she has lived up to her potential so America realizes before they vote heading into the Top 8.

Elena: If SYTYCD has a king, it’d be Twitch. He’s the most winning combo of talent and personality, and manages to elevate every dancer he is partnered with. He’s also found a really fantastic career after his season of the show, so it’s always nice to have him back and performing a NappyTabs choreography, even! I loved this routine, from the weird concept of an old man creeping on a younger pinup woman while waiting for the bus to the image of Twitch dancing full-out with a pillow under his shirt, everything just worked. I wanted Jessica to get lower, but she kept pace with Twitch, though, and continuing from the opening number her face was exactly as expressive and silly and fun as it needed to be for the choreography. Khaleesi of Dance, for the second week you’re rocking it. She’s becoming my favorite woman on the show, and not just because I keep forgetting everyone else’s names.

Amy and Zack – Contemporary (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), “Europe, After the Rain” by Max Richter

Whitney: If you weren’t prepared to cry enough tears to fill a reservoir during a Sonya Tayeh routine about sudden loss, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. Everything here was beautiful and moving as expected, but I’m not sure how much of a connection I saw between the two dancers in a routine that was built on so much emotion. It’s very difficult not to have chemistry with Amy so I’m inclined to blame Zack for that at least partially. The cutaway of the music for the last 20 seconds, representing the sadness and pain that comes with an abrupt loss of a friend, was one of the most powerful things I’ve seen on the SYTYCD stage. Choosing a song with rain in the title and that uses storm sound effects could come off as too obvious if deployed by any other choreographer, but Sonya can usually do no wrong this being one of those times.

Elena: Sonya Tayeh, just come and choreograph my whole life with your pieces, please. Her choreography is like art in motion, and this Contemporary routine, about her friend who passed away all too soon, was so thick with longing and sadness. The choice of music was haunting and at the same time serene: classical music mixed in with the sound of a rainstorm. Zack’s not really made an impression on me, but he was just so inside of the routine, so in touch with Amy and the emotions of the piece that it would be impossible to forget him now.

Whitney: Adding a dance element to Christina Perri’s performance is smart as she doesn’t have a ton of fans that might cheer for her and build a good atmosphere in the theater. The producers probably should have let her know that was happening beforehand however so she could just stand and sing with some hand motions to accent her presence on the stand, and let Kheon and Kathryn show off their skills without the distraction of her constantly turning to sing at them. One of the better musical performances of the season, and unlike A Great Big World she chose smartly as far as her song choice.

Elena: And, Emilio and Bridget are sent home. I’m not sure if I feel sad or not about them leaving, but as partners they had some really wonderful moments. I thought Bridget was more deserving of staying than Jacque or Valerie, but so much of this season has been week-to-week performance judging whether people are sticking around or not. Last season there were some clearer, stronger dancers, this season I still feel as if it’s Ricky and then everyone else. But what’s clear is the All-Stars upped everyone’s game, and brought some much-needed gravitas and talent to a pretty uneven group of dancers.

Whitney: Neither of the dancers tonight deserved to go home, and America needs to get itself together before they make any more mistakes with the bottom two. It’s a strong crop of dancers left for the most part, so every week someone’s favorite will be going home. At this point that is the nature of the beast, but if one more dancer goes home before Valerie is even in the bottom two it may force the judges to rethink their inability to save dancers once the Top 10 begins.

Next week – Jacque and tWitch! Ricky and Jamie! Jessica and Will! So many good pairs to look forward to. But wait, what’s that I heard? A Michael Jackson tribute episode is upon us? The bad news is they still haven’t learned how terribly tribute episodes always go, the good news is that the chances I’ll get to see someone slay a contemporary routine set to “Man in the Mirror” are high and that I am excited for. Somewhat of a concern the fact that a choreographer they work with fairly often has leveled quite a few accusations against the Michael Jackson Estate in regards to alleged behavior in the 90’s, a fact that at best makes next week seem awkward and at worst seem incredibly insensitive especially when new reports about the situation has been released as recently as today.

Regardless of any awkwardness that may occur based on ongoing events, the most important thing that needs to happen is for the panel to have a third judge who can critique more specifically and intelligently than Tara Lipinski, especially if they’re being tasked with a tribute episode.

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PLL Music: March of Crimes


After a few weeks of a consistently dour soundtrack overwhelming all of the camp usually associated with the Liars’ adventures and mishaps, tonight’s episode got back to the mix of severe and cheesy that the show is known for. The music didn’t revert dramatically, as most of the hour was still filled with mood music or slow tone-setting music for the high-pressure and stressful moments, but there was one upbeat song that really caught my attention about midway through the episode. During the montage of the girls dealing with their many problems (Aria and Hanna avoiding each other, Spencer at the optometrist etc.) there was an original song by Spelles titled “Bird in a Cage” that let the mood of the episode rise far past what it reasonably should have been. Between the infighting (normal), sexual predator behavior from a barista (fairly recent development), and creepy blind/fake blind Jenna twins, there was no reason that sequence should have been anything but depressing. Instead, I caught myself smiling and nodding along to the originality of the song.

I was not familiar with her at all before hearing this song during the episode, and even when trying to dig up addition songs or career information the only details I could find were the above teaser for the song “Wild Heart” (presumably dropping in the near future) and the fact she is based primarily out of Los Angeles. From the snippets I could find on YouTube and her Instagram profile, all of her music incorporates similar techniques and inflections while still remaining unique in their own way. Again, this is based off less then a handful of samples I could dig up online but judging her newness to the industry and only recent foray into live performances, I am absolutely encouraged to keep an eye out for her talents in the future.

One note about the episode itself: “March of Crimes” ?! Really, ABC Family? I’m not only curious who had final approval for that pun, but how terrible a person I am for not being entirely upset at the nerve it took to name an episode of a show about teenage debauchery after an organization that raises money to prevent birth defects and other problems related to infant mortality.

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“Into the Woods” Trailer Arrives, Lacks Singing

After months of press photos, instagram pictures from the cast, and interviews about what it’s like to inhabit these types of fairy tales icons, the first official trailer for Into the Woods dropped today. The above video is the Australian version, but outside of the brief AU disclaimers at the beginning the content remains the same. Unsurprisingly, I have thoughts. It’s a well done piece of marketing to be sure, except for the one thing that Disney apparently hoped would escape everyone’s notice: that not a single one of the many characters in a trailer for one of the most anticipated musical adaptations is actual, you know, singing. This isn’t something that we should be surprised with coming from Disney and their marketing team, as they apparently would prefer no one to realize that this star-stocked film contains any sort of song. Especially considering that Into the Woods has one of the most pleasing and entertaining title tracks in the history of musical theater. Look, I understand that most Disney executives have their heads in the sand when it comes to the fact that greenlighting a musical may have been a good move for their bottom line but the fact that they seem not to understand the Frozen box office returns were in spite of that film’s music-less marketing not because of that strategy is staggeringly dumb. Furthermore, the trailer all but screams that the movie is a musical with the inclusion of director and producer chyrons for Rob Marshall (“from the director of Chicago”) and Marc Platt (“from the producer of Wicked”).  If anyone is smart enough to read further into the cast, it could not be more obvious that this could possibly contain some singing. Anna Kendrick and James Corden both have extensive backgrounds in musical theater, and if Johnny Depp is appearing in a fairy tale movie you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll be singing.


Even with this inexplicable music killing strategy being perpetrated by an obviously insane promotional department, the trailer as a whole is admittedly well done. The fairy tale-esque music used throughout works wonders as a form of world building. The score has all the chime elements that you would imagine a fairy tale to require, and the slow addition of strings and horns as the trailer progresses builds fanfare so effective that it feels as if the arrival of the movie is actually the birth of the heir to one of these magical kingdoms. The concept of the film (characters made popular by The Brothers Grimm inhabit the same universe and interact) may not be familiar to everyone in the audience Disney is targeting and while not entirely necessary to sell people on the idea of Anna Kendrick running around in a ballgown, introducing people to the uniqueness of overlapping stories early is a smart choice. The sequential “I wish…” clips from Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack (of beanstalk fame), and the Baker and his wife not only cue the audience in to how the story might be built but also specifically which characters will sure to be involved. I would be excited for this movie no matter what trailer was released today, but I bet for anyone who might be on the fence about seeing this in theaters the energy and enjoyment palpable in this first look would be more than enough to get them in a seat for a holiday season outing with the family.


Some other quick thoughts:

  • I would pay $18 for this movie even if the entire thing was just Chris Pine walking casually around the woods in that costume. Oh my damn does he look good in those few seconds.
  • James Corden has had a nice little understated run in the past year. Once known only for British shows like “Gavin and Stacy”, the last year or so has yielded Into the WoodsBegin Again, One Chance, and The Wrong Mans. Not bad for an actor who has some of the best on-screen charisma in the business but has been criminally underrated thus far.
  • The birds-eye view of Cinderella’s dress being formed from straw is just a glimpse of what is sure to be some of the best cinematography of the year next year. Dion Beebe’s last film was this year’s blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see how some of his more unique stylings will adapt to a less action oriented film.
  • Notoriously, I am not a general fan of Meryl Streep except for a few instances (I know I know, yell at me about it later) but it looks like ItW might be one I like from her. Granted, that has a lot to do with how large an ensemble is involved here but we shall see how I feel come January.
  • This still is by far my favorite thing to come of this trailer. I am always here for Baranski.


My excitement is ratcheting up by the day, and you can a metric ton of promotional materials will come fast and furious from this point on all the way up to its release on New Year’s Day. How is everyone else feeling? Were you planning on seeing the movie before this trailer, or has this clued you in to something fun that you had no previous idea was coming?

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SYTYCD: Top 14, 4 Eliminated


If you somehow haven’t been sad that a dancer went home, or thought they were cut before their time, tonight is probably going to be that night for you. Early in the competition dancers who get cut are most likely the ones who barely snuck into the Top 20 in the first place meaning any connection is tangential at best and non-existent at worst, and later on when dancers are cut close to the end of season it is sad to watch them go but you expect your favorite performer to be sent home at some point, because that’s how numbers and competitions work. Normally this would be the sweet spot in the competition where someone is mistakenly sent packing, but the talent is so sparse as far as truly transcendent dancers this season it might be easier than usual for the judges to make their decision. Eventually, it came down to some magnificent solos and one great partnership that locked in the saved couple to the Top 10, but we will get there eventually. After many weeks with Misty Copeland behind the judge’s table Christina Applegate makes an appearance as the guest judge du jour, although her critiques and comments are not as specific or intelligent as expected. She ended up resorting to a lot of hyperbole and pantomiming faces, which while not completely out of the ordinary is usually balanced out by some smart criticisms of the performances. Once again, we are joined by Elena Rivera for tonight’s discussion. We both attempted brevity, although I’m not sure I succeeded this week. But I tried!

Elena: Cat Deeley Outfit Watch – This week, Cat is rocking a funky print dress from Mara Hoffman, who specializes in creative, almost Egyptian hieroglyphics-y pieces, with some big hoop earrings and a really simple slicked back hairstyle. This is my favorite of her show outfits so far, because I cannot resist a fun and colorful print.

Top 14 Group Dance (choreographed by Stacy Tookey), “Last Moment” by Christophe Filippi

Whitney: Fox may have cancelled Hieroglyph…but good news, the show runner got this job as a severance gift from the network!  Costuming aside, this was the most cohesive opening dance of the year because everyone is used to working with each other at this point. While it wasn’t a shock Ricky was put at the center of things, it was nice to see the choreographers recognize he is the best dancer in this competition and are favoriting him ever so slightly as a result.

Elena: Stacey Tookey choreographed an otherwordly Grecian group routine, and it’s clear that Ricky is becoming a choreographer favorite because he seems to feature prominently in almost every group routine. Not complaining.

Bridget and Emilio – Jazz (choreographed by Ray Leeper) – “Long Road to Hell” by Avicii

Whitney: Kicking off the show, both Bridget and Emilio immediately justified their place in the Top 10 with an energetic and well-executed jazz routine. Jazz is notoriously one of the most difficult styles for competitors to adapt to behind only African Jazz and the Paso Doble, but this routine struck me as slightly too hip-hop for it to truly be called a jazz routine. Yes, the Avicii track used here had some jazz aspects between the baseline and the sax, but it was overall a routine that seemed much closer to hip-hop than anything else. Regardless of which style it actually belonged in, the two performed ably and transformed what was an overwrought concept from Leeper into a routine that didn’t need any backstory to be an exciting start to the night. One of the best parts were the fun details in the costuming that contributed to the concept of the routine without overwhelming the dancers. Specifically, Emilio’s devil tie and the sequined patterns on Bridget’s bodice. Early points to House Costuming. I’m excited to see what both of these dancers do with All Stars in the coming weeks, as I think they have grown as much with each other as I expected them to at the beginning of the season but would do well to gain experience with better and more practiced competitors.

Elena: Bridget and Emilio’s Ray Leeper jazz was quick, sharp and in sync. A lot of times choreographers will give dancers characters to help spice up their routines and help the dancers with their emoting, but Bridget and Emilio just exuded cool and sinister in spades in this dance. Not the best or flashiest jazz routine, but Bridget and Emilio are really showing a lot of growth the past couple of weeks, and stealthily becoming two of my favorites.

Tanisha and Rudy – Contemporary (choreographed by Mandy Moore), “Seduces Me” by Celine Dion

Whitney: First off, I’m absolutely stunned that Mandy Moore choreographed a routine to an 80’s power ballad. Can’t you see how surprised my face is through the screen? Just kidding, I’m not surprised at all because nothing Mandy Moore does these days is the least bit creative as far as any sort of experimentation with her routines goes. I’m not asking her to be more than she is as an artist, but how long can you skate on as a choreographer on a major network competition with the same thought process year in and year out? A different genre of music, a dance where the girl doesn’t execute one good lift/a few good extensions and then look seductive the rest of the time, anything that alters her point of view just slightly. That said, I shouldn’t be complaining about a seductive 80’s routine too loudly because Rudy looked the sexiest he has yet. He was probably happy to show off his abs , but I’m not objecting to an unbuttoned dress shirt on any of these dancers ever. He also brought that seduction straight to the routine, handling all of the lifts that Moore handed him with ease while Tanisha was practically sleep walking through the proceedings. She has reached the point where unless she does something on stage that impresses me beyond what the other dancers can, I won’t be mourning her eventual elimination. Everything she does is just going through the motions of the choreography without and emotion or spice to it.

Elena: I think So You Think You Can Dance and I need to have a small sidebar about the overuse of Mandy Moore, but that’s neither here nor there. She gave Tanisha and Rudy a contemporary piece about seduction, but the song choice is what always stops me from fully embracing Mandy Moore pieces. Here, it’s “Seduce Me” by Celine Dion, which from the title alone is already way too on the nose, but the song itself isn’t in the least bit seductive or sexy or even interesting. I do appreciate that Rudy and Tanisha look more comfortable on stage, and with each other.

Serge Solo – “Wicked Games” by Parra for Cuva

Whitney: Heading into the night, I thought Serge was going to be the boy saved by a wide margin. His solo performance had a different idea apparently, as he was out of control during many sequences and didn’t use his music choice effectively enough. He was able to reign the audience in with the energy he put out, but overall it just wasn’t enough to convince anyone that he should be the one to stay. I will give him credit for choosing a “Wicked Games” cover and not the original just to mix it up a little bit.

Elena: Ballroom solos are always a bit awkward without a partner, and I’ll leave it at that.

Jacque and Zack – Paso Doble (choreographed by Jean Marc Genereaux), “Dragula” by Rob Zombie

Whitney:…Speaking of the difficulty of the Paso Doble, both of these dancers are lucky they were safely in the Top 10 before this performance happened. This has less to do with the quality of the actual performance than the level of showing off that a Paso Doble allows. Unless performed by extensively experienced dancers it is very rare for a Paso Doble to look as polished and effortless as possible, which was definitely the case here. Jacque did not have much intensity in her body language, so much so you could practically see the ever-present smile creeping back onto her face as she focused on the movements. Zack, however, looked the most capable with a partner as he has up to this point and brought enough intensity and ferociousness for the both of them. He may not be around much longer but he’s going into the Top 10 with confidence and as one of the pleasant surprises of the season so far. Choosing a Rob Zombie song for a Spanish ballroom piece is one of those decisions that should have 100% crashed and burned, but it was only about a halfway fail as the mood of the song worked but the pacing didn’t quite match up. You could see specific points in the routine where Jacque had to stutter step or Zack had to hold a lift an extra second to make everything match up properly, which took away from the beauty of some of the more impressive aspects of the routine. Points to House Music for ambition.

Elena: The song was too cacophonous for me to appreciate this paso doble, and I’m not a big fan of Jacque or Zack. Pass.

Carly Solo – “Not About Angels” by Birdy

Whitney: This entire thing was bland beyond belief, and exactly something you would expect from a college cheerleader (oh, sorry, “dance team member”). It looked as if she didn’t know she only had a minute to show off her skills, and that this was not the time to walk across the stage slowly and pose a half dozen times. She gave absolutely no reason for the judges to keep her around beyond the fact that she can execute some basic movements and look pretty, and she confirmed that all over again in her quickstep. It makes sense she chose a song used in The Fault in Our Stars as both performances tonight were the dance versions of YA novels.

Elena: I love Carly when she dances with Serge, but her solo is pure pageant queen, all smiles and long legs without any feeling. I expect more from her.

Emily and Teddy – Broadway (choreographed by Warren Carlisle), “From This Moment On” by the Kiss Me Kate Soundtrack

Whitney: For much of this dance these two were not in sync at all. I’m not sure whether it was nerves getting to them in regards to being in the bottom six or the level of the material, but a lot of the routine was Emily trying to catch up to Teddy or vice versa. The end especially was very messy and unpolished and you could tell by their faces they knew it went poorly. On the plus side, Emily at least got to smile like she wants to every week anyway. I’m just about out of anything to discuss about these dancers as their talent had clearly run its course in this kind of competition. It was time for them to go home this week, I only wish they could have gone out on a stronger note. The Kiss Me Kate song was a nice choice, if it was a lyrical choice instead of an orchestral piece they might have had an easier job following along with the story they were supposed to be acting out, but I appreciate House Music working to break out of the norm when it comes to Broadway routines.

Elena: Warren Carlyle choreographed that stellar Broadway routine from a couple weeks back, and he’s bringing a high degree of pedigree to the Broadway genre on the show. Both Teddy and Emily look stunning, Emily especially is channeling her best “Audrey Hepburn in a 1920’s nightclub” look. I thought their faces were the right amount of playful and showy, but they weren’t in sync in the moments when they needed to be. Like so many routines this season, the choreography was brilliant and the dancers just simply did not execute it to the level needed.

Casey Solo – “Kiss Me” by Ed Sheeran

Whitney: I’ll make this short and sweet: Casey is still entirely too bland to make it to the final two, but those pirouettes were gorgeously executed and great to watch.

Elena: Casey is pretty dancer in the most boring way. I know he can do a bunch of incredible turns, but I’ve always wanted more out of the solos than just turns. Nothing about his solo showed me anything different about him as a dancer.

Emily Solo – “Infra 8”  by Mark Richter

Whitney: Simple, but in a more exciting way than Carly’s routine. Not quite energetic enough to push through to the Top 10 but Emily redeemed herself here after her messy routine. There was creativity in the way she showed off her lines and it’s possible if she found a way to integrate some nice leaps or splits the decision between her and Jessica would have been a closer call for the judges. Probably not, but it would have at least brought some fire to a routine that was supposed to be her proving her talents and instead was a last gasp.

Elena: Emily’s solo showed off her technique by creating interesting shapes. She was pulling her face a bit too much, but her solo excited me the way her partner dances haven’t.


Jessica and Casey – Contemporary (choreographed by Travis Wall), “Like Real People Do” by Hozier

Whitney: I don’t normally criticize anything Travis Wall says or does (because why would you ever need to), but that wind machine was a little much even for an epic love story. Between the backdrop design and the music, this felt like it was taking place at an explicit meeting in a Louisiana grain silo and I loved it. Every little piece of world building was so great as we can usually expect from Travis, and the music contributed to the ethereal effect of young romance. Travis is single handedly keeping House Choreography in the running for House Cup tonight, as every other choreographer really dropped the ball. This routine directly led to Jessica and Casey staying in the competition, and should clear Jessica from the partner killer moniker once and for all. The way the routine built up to the emotion of the kiss was so specific, and even with the literal “your love makes me weak in the knees” moment it was a great payoff to the surprise connection between the two dancers. If I hadn’t known they were new partners this week I would have thought they had been together as long if not longer than every other couple in the competition. It’s a shame these two were only thrown together out of necessity this week and we didn’t get longer to enjoy their work together before heading into the All Star Partnership portion of the season.

Elena: Travis Wall’s choreography has a lightness to it that no one else on the show can capture. Casey and Jessica looked so at home in his choreography: it’s the best the two have danced in ages, and probably the best Casey has danced on the show. (Khaleesi of Dance, today your name is earned) It reminded me a lot of an earlier season’s Travis Wall dance, with Lauren Froderman and Kent Boyd, where they were enjoying a last dance before the end of prom. Although I’m starting to think that Travis Wall is one of those choreographers who just pulls the greatness out of people. Neither Jessica nor Casey has impressed me enough in previous weeks for me to completely course-correct on them, but they are almost frustratingly attractive together.

Teddy Solo –If I Ever Fall in Love” by Shai

Whitney: Impressive, but barely enough to overtake Serge in the boys rankings and definitely not enough to outrank Casey after the latter blew everyone away in his performance. There should be a rule for solos that you can’t choose music that will put the audience to sleep, a music department veto if you will. The object of a solo is to win both the judges over to your side for that night specifically and the audience for the weeks ahead if you should be lucky enough to make it that far. Teddy barely cracked a smile while he was on stage which is no way to endear yourself to people, no matter how hard you are focusing on the importance of the routine.

Elena: So much Boyz II Men in his topcoat, so much skater prep in his sneakers. I miss solos that really wow, but Teddy’s had enough personality, more so than the slew of contemporary dancers that all seem to do the same sixteen turns and jumps.


Carly and Serge – Quickstep (choreographed by Jean Marc Gennereaux), “A Cool Cat in Town” by Tape Five ft. Brenda Boykin

Whitney: What is it with the music department and boring songs tonight? We were heading into the Top 10! Bring some excitement to the stage! At times Carly and Serge looked like the prom king and queen performing a routine they prepared in case they won, but once they got a chance to utilize the full area of the stage things were much improved. You could tell how hard they practiced keeping their upper bodies stiff and sturdy while flying from one side of the stage to the other, as that was the most impressive part of the whole performance. Even with some positives, this was another example where everything seemed flat and lackadaisical when they should have been dancing with all the energy they possessed.

Elena: Jean-Marc Genereaux choreographed the first quickstep of the season, and Carly and Serge performed it admirably. It’s not the most beautiful or the most technical of ballroom dances, but Carly and Serge had the right energy for the piece: classic and classy. I wish they had gotten the earlier Broadway routine, and while they’re probably the second most reliable couple (after Ricky and Valerie), I’m still waiting to be impressed with them like I was the first week.

Jessica Solo – “Fever” by Beyonce

Whitney: My main takeaway from this solo was how great the height on her jumps is compared to everyone else left in the competition. Her bland face is back after she was so expressive in the Travis Wall routine, which is a disappointment. Her pirouettes were pretty, extension and lines even better. A good combination of music and costuming succeeded in creating an alluring stage presence that no other girl can match up to right now. The girls elimination was always going to come down to the solos, and after seeing all three there’s no way Jessica goes home. She definitely earned some additional respect from me for choosing one of the best covers of “Fever” out there, you really can’t go wrong with a Bey song. Not only is she not a partner killer anymore she is well positioned to make a deep run in the competition even if I don’t quite see her winning it unless she fixes her face.

Elena: I loved her choice of Beyoncé (a bit of Beyoncé is always great), but Jessica’s solo went into too obviously sultry territory for me. Almost everyone on the show overperforms sexiness, with either their faces or their choreography, and I’m over it. I’m referencing Lauren Froderman a lot already, but if anyone wants a primer as to how to do just the right amount of sexy, it’s her “At Last” solo. Or just a primer on how to do a solo.


Valerie and Ricky Hip Hop (choreographed by Pharside and Phoenix), “Turn Down for What” by DJ Snake and Lil John

Whitney: Oh great, the quick cameo TD4W made in auditions wasn’t the only time we were destined to hear it this season. More importantly though, is why Valerie is still here. She looks worse than if Ricky had just brought a rag doll up on stage with him. She does a good job being limp and floppy when asked but it’s obvious the rest of her performance needed some sharpness to it that just wasn’t there. She really shouldn’t be in the Top 10, and I’m honestly not sure what the judges see in her still. She masked Ricky’s talent in this routine by constantly being the one in front and taking away from the partnership aspect of the dance. The judges are definitely giving her the “tapper curve” at this point and I would so much rather see Emily going through to the Top 10 and continuing to grow as opposed to a dancer who doesn’t have much more growth in her and seems to be skating by on qualities I just can’t see. Ignoring her for a moment though, we got to see Ricky do hip-hop finally! On my wish list since the beginning of the season, this performance all but proves that Ricky is the most talented dancer in the competition this season and has the win locked down as long as injury doesn’t undermine his skills sometime in the next month.

Elena: Hip-hop with the awesomely titled Pharside and Phoenix finally brought about a solid hip-hop routine, although I still didn’t think Valerie got low enough. (And Whitney, I know how much you hate the skeleton/distracting face make-up during hip-hop, I also wish we could abolish it) I would say I’m getting tired of praising Ricky, but I’m really not. He was so inside of his role in the dance and hit so hard that I already see him as an all-star next season. Rick’s going to kill it come next week; he’s already got the versatility and poise to match energy with Twitch and emote beautifully next to Kathryn.


Girls Group Dance (choreographed by Mandy Moore), “My Immortal” by Evanescence

Whitney: Similar to when Ricky was highlighted in the opening number, Moore made a smart choice in putting Jessica front and center in this routine. I almost screamed when the song choice was revealed because I’m pretty sure we got rid of Evanescence a decade ago and promised not to speak of them again. The routine itself was powerful and bland at the same time, with nothing of consequence that stuck out as far as creativity goes. I’m happy Moore branched out from 80’s pop music for once, but overall we will have to settle for this routine being a step down from the last few and serving mostly as a goodbye to the dead weight on this side of the competition.

Elena: Evanescence was the soundtrack to my one angsty year as a pseudo-goth teen, so already I hate the song choice, but it did have the burst of intensity and drama that Mandy Moore needed in her choreography. I loved all the women in their flowy gowns hitting strong, stunning poses, but for me the song choice was too jarring to really appreciate the choreography.

Boys Group Dance (choreographed by Travis Wall), “Wave” by Beck

Whitney: All I can think of when I hear this song now is those terribly bland Tyrant commercials, which was not a good taste in my mouth when watching what was otherwise a wonderful routine in every way. All of the boys showed off their strengths as dancers individually, sporadically resulting in a lack of synchronicity where there should have been during the floor work or in the height reached on the lifts. I don’t think the arm waves worked quite as well as expected, but one thing that definitely blew me away was the toss across the stage. A perfect example of how the boys working as a team results in more positive results than the girls do. Another achievement by Travis Wall that we can add to the pile, although I’m not sure how long I’ll remember this routine past this season like I do with others he has choreographed.

Elena: Travis Wall, just stay forever. Stay forever and never leave. Unlike Mandy Moore’s routine, the song choice of Beck’s “Wave” was so complimentary to the mood and the ethereal quality to the movement. It ebbed and flowed in such a gorgeous way. Lifting Ricky into a split, and the explosive Emilio catch showed the power of the men this season. For the past two weeks, though, the group routines have ended up overshadowing the partnering routines, and while I’m enjoying the incredible creativity and diversity of the choreography, it’s not helping me warm to any dancers personally.

Whitney: Moving forward, the proper quartet went home in Emily, Carly, Serge, and Teddy. Moving forward there are very few dancers left that don’t have at least a shot at the Top 2 in their gender. Some of the All Star match-ups are truly inspired. Ricky and Lauren, Jessica and Twitch, and Emilio and Jasmine are just a few of my favorites in what will surely be a very fun Top 10.

Elena: I know Carly and Serge didn’t do as well in their routine or their solos this week, but I’m pissed. I think Casey and Jessica are boring, uneven dancers, and while Carly and Serge haven’t been as consistent as they should, they were showing more growth than either Casey or Jessica. Boo to this choice, although I completely understand it. And, maybe I’m a bit psychic, but Lauren Froderman’s totally on the show next week as an all-star, dancing with Ricky, no less. It’s time to see what these dancers can really do.

Next week, we see the first All Star partner performances of the season, and the eliminations are officially out of the judges’ hands (although they didn’t do much in the way of differing from the audience vote up to this point anyway). Which All-Star matchup are you most excited to see? Did you agree with the eliminations tonight? Which dancer seems like they are geared for a Top 10 takeover?

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SYTYCD: Top 16, 2 Eliminated

images-1The good news is it is very unlikely this week’s episode will have a larger percentage of underwhelming dances than last week’s did. The bad news is that the dancers and choreographers alike really need to step it up or my interest and connection with this season will fade fast. Cat introduced the cast as “the incredible Top 16” and I immediately thought “eh”. Can you name all 16 dancers off the top of your head? I definitely can’t, and there is absolutely some dead weight remaining in the cast that if there is any justice in the world America will have put in the bottom three tonight to make it easy for the judges to snip them from contention. The guest judge tonight is…Misty Copeland? Oh, ok. Listen, I love Misty. She has been one of the best judges the show has ever seen whether guests or permanent fixtures on the panel. However. Her multiple appearances in this “3 Week Tour” on the panel has done nothing but reaffirm the shakiness of SYTYCD on Fox’s schedule going forward. The lack of pull for other celebrity guests to appear speaks to a severe budget cut this season and a lack of commitment from Fox to put any level of effort into the quality of the show. On the other hand, budget cuts mean less reason for Fox to cut it from the summer schedule, and gives me another reason to post one (or more) Misty Copeland picture for everyone’s benefit.



Cat Deeley Outfit Watch: This week Cat Deeley’s rocking a sparkly silver turtleneck dress from Walk of Shame, which when typing this sentence out sounds ridiculous, but looks amazing on her tall British self. She’s also wearing some black jewelry, including one stunning black statement ring, from XIV Karats, which she’s favoring lately as she wore their jewelry last week.

Top 16 Group Dance (choreographed by Mandy Moore), Take Me to the River” by Annie Lennox

Whitney: Well, starting things off with a group dance set to an Annie Lennox classic is a sure way to get me to perk up and be excited for this episode. The Top 16 did the best of any group performance up to this point in the season in regards to connection as an entire group and pure entertainment levels. The outfits were very “moody 90’s interpretative dance” but in a fun way, and I liked that there was only one point where they broke from synchronicity in favor of individual set pieces, as that has been a favorite motif of choreographers this season. I was shocked that this was a Mandy Moore routine, and in retrospect you can definitely pick out facets of her work in the more questionable parts of the routine that weren’t as strong, but overall it was a start to the show that instilled confidence as to what was to come later in the night.

Elena: Maybe it was the Annie Lennox song, or the female dancers’ slicked-back wet-looking hair, but this whole routine reminded me of the 80’s. It felt more pose-filled than an opening routine usually should, and like last week’s, it existed, I saw it, but it didn’t really make me feel anything. I’m not surprised that it was a Mandy Moore jazz production, because as a choreographer she usually doesn’t make a strong impression on me, but I’m still wishing this first number didn’t feel like filler every week.

Valerie and Ricky – Bollywood (by Nakul Dev Mahajan)Diliwaali Girlfriend” by Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

Whitney: That was certainly not the way for Valerie to prove herself on the stage after weeks of shaky performances back to back. It wasn’t blatantly bad, but similar to last week Ricky stole the show and relegated her to second in the audience’s eyes. She was at least more energetic than previous efforts, probably because her background as a tapper gives her the confidence to be in character mode in her dancing excellently. One of the most important facets of Bollywood (as we’ve heard over and over again on the show) is the specificity and sharpness of the hand motions, neither of which Valerie achieved. That lack of sharpness overcame the rest of her movements as well, including the ease of her transitions and steadiness of her spins, directly working against the confidence that was so apparent in her face throughout the routine. Ricky, once again, was great. I just noticed tonight how much he looks like Fleur Delacour when she drinks Polyjuice potion and morphs into Harry Potter, but in kind of a cute way? If someone could screen shot this comparison for me I would be forever grateful, because I swear it makes sense. This was probably his weakest routine of the season only because of the choreography he was tasked with, but that distinction should be taken with an entire bowl of salt as his “weakest” routine was still better than 95% of the others we’ve seen this season. I am not incredibly familiar with Bollywood-style music outside of a few viewings of the studio’s movies and this show, but the beat of the music matched up well with the choreography and contributed heavily to the fun both dancers were having throughout the routine.

Elena: The first Bollywood routine of the season, choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan, was sparkly and smiley and fast and fun, as all Bollywood routines usually are. Valerie started off shakier than Ricky: it seemed that in the beginning of the dance the quick succession of so many moves was overwhelming her. Ricky was precise in his movements where Valerie’s face showed plainly that she was concerned with hitting every move. As the dance continued Valerie seemed to get more comfortable, and while both of their smiles never wavered this was the first time I’ve ever seen Ricky look tired during a routine. Like we said last week, Whitney, I’m still not convinced that Valerie can come up to Ricky’s level of dance fast enough to make this partnership work. Chemistry they have in spades, but Ricky is so beyond Valerie in both technique and performance it’s hard not to focus on their discrepancies in their dances together.

Bridget and Emilio – Contemporary (choreographed by Travis Wall), The Leaving Song” by Chris Garneau

Whitney: If there is one thing that I thought would make Bridget am 100% lock to stay this week after unfairly finding herself in the bottom three it was a Travis Wall contemporary routine, so I was pleased to see that’s exactly what she and Emilio were granted. It has already been established how strong this partnership is, and Bridget’s talent really shines when given material that is slow and steady as we have seen from her early auditions on through to this stage of the game. This is the first week she hasn’t cracked a smile (other girls pay attention please) and the entire performance was so measured and emotional I was happy to see her show off what she can do after a few shaky weeks. The lyric-less opening worked to highlight the elite levels of skill present on stage, especially with the stage shrouded in darkness as it was, and after that point they never looked back, giving their all every inch of the way. Nigel made a good point as far as the growth of Emilio, which is what the men’s side needs at this point. Growth has been few and far between with the guys but this is mostly because of how strong most of them are already. It will come down to which of the boys has it in them to work on the little pieces of their dancing and outshine the others instead of resting on their laurels. Except you Ricky, you stay gold.

Elena: Every time that Travis Wall describes his contemporary routines, it always makes me think he’s got a lot of things in his past he’s channeling through his dance. This week on Travis Wall’s Therapy Dance, Emilio and Bridget are doing a piece about leaving your past behind you. There’s an empty bed frame as a prop (Travis Wall does love his props), and Emilio and Bridget artfully dance in and out of it throughout the routine. What I’m struck with in the end is how incredibly strong they both looked: there were multiple times where Emilio lifted Bridget with fluidity and grace, and Bridget’s legs were pointed and perfect. The routine played with dynamics: up and down, falling and being caught, being held and letting go. It was moving, evocative, and probably my favorite routine of the night. Although this showing by Emilio and Bridget just points out the fact that there isn’t one couple who’s been consistently good so far. Usually by the Top 16 there are clear stand-out partnerships, but for right now it really depends on weekly performance (and the luck of the draw on what dance styles they all get).


Tanisha and Rudy – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Dave Scott), Good Kisser” by Usher

Whitney: There’s one way this routine would have been a hit, and that’s if it was performed by Usher and Ciara on a concert stage. Tanisha doesn’t have the “leather jumpsuit with strategic cutouts” sexiness aspect to her dancing that would be expected from a dancer with a background of ballroom dance and extensive partner work. Some of her illusions looked cool, but then all I could think of was how that is what Catwoman would look like if she started taking Gotham Dance Academy classes between her burglaries. The few transitions the routine included had some shakiness, but the confidence of the partnership saved them from looking too unsure of the moves. That confidence didn’t completely save the performance though. All I could think about was the scene in Save the Last Dance when Derek and Sara are on the dance floor together for the first time and he has to show her how to loosen up her hips, and then I just really wanted to watch Save the Last Dance instead of the rest of these routines. Oops. Rudy is absolutely playing things right as far as soliciting votes go, because at this point I’ll vote for him just to keep his romance with Jacque alive.

Elena: Tanisha and Rudy did a comic book-inspired Dave Scott hip-hop routine, a smooth piece to Usher that had a lot of Tanisha showing off her flexibility and Rudy being impressed while wearing a fedora. It seemed a lot more like a jazz routine to me, maybe because of the addition of so many flips and splits, but overall I was underwhelmed with the way they both danced it. Tanisha’s face was blank, and she, like Valerie before her, looked too concentrated on doing the moves correctly instead of just dancing and feeling the piece. Rudy looked adorable, but didn’t have a lot to do in the routine (and was he supposed to look adorable?). I have a feeling the judges were just mesmerized with Tanisha’s leathery black cut-out Catwoman-chic bodysuit and missed the so-so dancing. The way Tanisha and Rudy performed their hip-hop was the equivalent of someone drunkenly mumbling the words to a karaoke song. I expected more from these two after their Broadway routine last week.

Jessica and Marcquet – Foxtrot (choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin), I Put a Spell on You” by Nina Simone

Whitney: The two musicians the choreographers seem to be obsessed with this season are Sam Smith and Nina Simone, and I for one could not be happier. The musical choices are half the battle when winning the audience over, and perpetuating the use of great artists regardless of how many times they have been included in the season all ready is a great idea. Unfortunately, the song is where the standout aspects of this routine both begin and end. Jessica and Marcquet were classically beautiful, technically precise, and at some points they seemed to be floating ever so slightly, but those characteristics do not an entertaining routine make especially when one of the dancers is perilously close to being sent home. Jessica has been the black widow of partners so far this season, and that will continue to be the case unless the other men in the bottom three absolutely fall apart. She deserves one chance to dance with a strong partner and see if that makes a difference in her charisma on stage. Somehow I don’t think it will matter one iota and she’ll end up becoming the pretty-yet-bland face of the season, but she at least deserves the opportunity in the hopes that I’m proven wrong. Marcquet should have been sent home in place of Stanley last week and if the judges have any concept of justice, he won’t be saved another week. He has shown zero growth over the first three performance episodes and doesn’t have the charisma to make up for his lack of talent in styles outside his own.

Elena: Jessica and Marcquet get a Dmitry Chaplin foxtrot, where Marcquet is a businessman and Jessica is…a beautiful woman who works for him? There’s a reason both of these dancers’ partners have left, and they’re probably close behind them in leaving the show. While the routine had some beautiful lifts, their foxtrot frame wasn’t tight enough, and there was no chemistry whatsoever. Unlike Tanisha, Jessica had the opposite face problem: she was pulling doofy grins and over-performing her “sexy face” to the point where it was uncomfortable for me to watch. Marcquet was pulling his face a bit as well, but he mostly fell flat for the fourth time in a row for me. Better dancers could have saved this routine, but these two couldn’t.


Carly and Serge – Contemporary (choreographed by Mandy Moore), Foolish Games” by Jewel 

Whitney: Sometimes, Mandy Moore tries to be Mia Michaels. She has her own artistic talents and points of view but at least once every season she puts out a routine where you can just tell how hard she is trying to be taken seriously. Her best work is with cheesy, 80’s style romantic choreography. The Nancy Meyers of dance, if you will. This routine seemed too earnest to be fun and too cheesy to be taken seriously. The whole thing would have worked better as a whole if Moore had committed to the Mia-lite aesthetic she was trying for instead of succumbing to her instincts and using a Jewel song with this choreography. The only explanation for this song being used besides “my name is Mandy Moore” is that it came up next on shuffle on the 1995 Pandora station Mandy was listening to while she curated these routines. Something slightly darker or heavier may have allowed the routine to truly speak to the audience, but that was not to be. Carly and Serge have markedly improved over the last two weeks, and it was sad this week that they couldn’t have continued to receive solid material with which to work. Fortunately, it should at least keep them out of the bottom three and allow them to be confident in their next routine should it be a choreography far outside of their comfort zones.

Elena: As so-so as Mandy Moore’s opening number was, her contemporary for Carly and Serge was a welcome reminder that she can create some wonderful routines when paired with the right couple. I know Serge is a ballroom dancer, but his movements for contemporary are just so right I want him to switch styles. He and Carly found success in their last contemporary routine, and I think it’s because out of all the couples they have some really mature chemistry. If I can borrow last season’s power couples, Valerie and Ricky are like the Amy and Fik-Shun of this season, where Carly and Serge are Jasmine and Aaron. When Carly and Serge get a contemporary routine, there’s something breathtakingly raw that goes on between them. There’s an intentionality to their movements, both when they’re partnering each other and when they’re dancing alone: their focus is always fully inside the emotion and the beauty of the dance. While I thought Travis Wall’s contemporary choreography was stronger for Emilio and Bridget, Carly and Serge have exactly the right weight and honesty to pull off a contemporary routine. Now if only they’d channel that into other styles! They’re my favorite couple right now, I just hope they find out how to get into hip-hop more the next time they dance it.

Teddy and Emily – Salsa (choreographed by Oksana Dmytrenko & Jonathan Platero) Bruk it Down – Soca Remix” Mr. Vegas feat. Alison Hinds

Whitney: Poor Emily. Between her previous injuries this season and today’s dislocated shoulder, she is turning into the Derek Rose of Season 11. Refrains of “She would be great, if she were healthy” or  “That move would have been gorgeous, if she could move like I know she can” kept repeating over and over in my head throughout this routine. She broke one of the cardinal rules of ballroom, that of the requirement (with few exceptions) to always keep your knees together unless in a lift or split. Her feet were shuffling instead of snapping into place and her hips were dropping when her posture should have been pulling towards the ceiling. Where Emily was merely lacking in execution, her partner was nowhere to be found as Teddy faded into the background completely here. Most of the problems were most likely produced by the sheer pace of the music, leaving both dancers unable to keep up with the footwork they were asked to accomplish. The precision was way off what a professional performance of this routine would have been and both dancers seemed consistently a half second behind. The one true positive I pulled from this performance was the fact that Emily was smiling her trademark grin when she was actually supposed to do so. A happy routine requires the pearly whites, an intense routine requires giving face. Pin it to your dressing room mirrors, ladies.

Elena: While salsa is neither Teddy nor Emily’s style, and Emily was working with a dislocated shoulder, I was disappointed in how amateurish this routine looked. While Emily did recover nicely from her slip, it’s unfortunate she slipped at all because after that it was hard for me to focus on anything else. There were a lot of issues with Teddy and Emily preparing to do lifts or tricks and forgetting to dance in-between the tricks. Misty Copeland keeps bringing up how the dancers are performing in their face, but it’s an essential tool that dancers continually misuse. Too much face pulling or a blank face can ruin otherwise impressive technique or partnering. Emily’s pained face was probably due to her dislocated shoulder, but it looked like she was unhappy throughout the whole dance, whereas Teddy looked like a natural. Ballroom so far has been a dud of a style to pull, and I can’t tell if the bad couples keep getting it or if the choreographers aren’t giving them dynamic enough routines.


Jacque and Zack – Jazz (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh),Back to Black” by Beyonce feat. Andre 3000

Whitney: I am going to write one sentence about the costumes in this routine and then we are going to forget they ever graced the stage. Costuming department: I love you, you are great so much of the time and especially when complementing Sonya’s vision…but my God if you ever try to make “Little Bo Peep joins the cast of Penny Dreadful” happen again I’m going to have to take some points away from House Wardrobe. Wiping my mind of that pink ruffled catastrophe, I was disappointed in a few moments of this routine but overall both Zack and Jacque showed tremendous growth as individual dancers and in their partnership. Jacque didn’t really take Sonya’s advice to bring some fire to her performance and unless she learns how to bring some intensity to her dancing I fear she is not long for this competition. For Rudy’s sake she should really try to stick around, because I fear without her there that poor boy will be like a swan who loses his mate and turn into a depressed mess. Save yourself with some game face before it’s too late! The music choice made it hard to decide how intense this routine was actually supposed to be, as the mood of the music was hard but the pace of the song and of the choreography didn’t allow them to really dig in to the movements with any gusto the way it seemed they should have. A muddle of a routine, but a decent performance. If that makes sense. You make sense of it, I’ll be over here ‘shipping Jacque and Rudy.

Elena: Sonya Tayeh’s routines, even the middling ones, are so much better than everyone else’s. She and Travis Wall really are So You Think You Can Dance’s secret weapons. Sonya’s jazz specialities are creating unique body shapes that are effortlessly weird and beautiful, lifts and holds that are captivating in their almost animalistic natures. There’s a controlled wildness to her choreography that makes the dancers push and stretch beyond their previous capabilities. I thought Zack embodied that fully in the routine: he was all deep desire and extended arms and was a very strong partner. In the beginning, I thought Jacque was acting a bit too much, but even she got taken over by the ferocity of the dance. Jacque and Zack aren’t my favorites, but Zack really impressed me with the way he got lost in Sonya’s choreography.

Brooklyn and Casey – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Wildebeest), Hustle Hard Remix” by Ace Hood feat. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross

Whitney: Well, this is a low point of the season. It looks like Brooklyn and Casey fell victim to a trend that is slowly but surely taking over most of the season, that being the inability of most of these competitors to dig in to any hip-hop routines with intensity or legitimacy. I understand there is a glaring lack of hip-hoppers or animators this season, but at some point the show may have to scale back the inclusion of this style of dance unless one couple or another start to step up and prove they can execute what is asked of them by someone with the hip-hop talents of Wildebeest. Both dancers were very light on their feet and looked more upbeat than the routine required. I agree with Misty that Brooklyn looked the most confident out of any routine she’s done this season, but I differ in regards to that aspect of the routine bringing anything to the performance. Someone backstage needs to do whatever the opposite of the vaseline-on-teeth trick that they use for beauty pageants might be, because if these girls don’t stop smiling when they don’t need to be I’m going to throw something (that sounds like an overreaction but it really isn’t that difficult to look aggressive at the same time as you’re acting aggressive on stage). Casey tried so hard to look like this was anywhere close to his style and I admire the effort but it really didn’t pan out for him at all. Brooklyn is absolutely going home after this showing, so we’ll have to see what Casey can do with a more energetic and intense partner next week.

Elena: Will Adams’ hip-hop was about dirtying up Casey and Brooklyn, and even though hip-hop isn’t either of their styles I was hoping they’d pull out some hard-hitting moves. Unfortunately, like everyone else who has done hip-hop so far, neither of them got low enough. They danced too much from their shoulders and forgot about their hips and the rest of their body. The choreography provided Casey and Brooklyn with a lot of moments to shine, and Brooklyn went in and out of doing well, but Casey was really out of his element. They also weren’t in sync for some of the dance, which looked awful when they were dancing side by side. Memo to everyone who gets hip-hop: get low. Get low, and use your whole body.

Group Dance #1 (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), So Broken” by Bjork

Whitney: I got very happy about a bonus Sonya routine, so of course she named it the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard a dance routine be named. I can’t recall the particular wording, but it might have well been called “Murder Party Murder Party Let’s All Die” for the mood it set. Then she went and set it to Bjork which made the entire thing dour beyond belief.  This all sounds as if I hated what she produced, but in reality it was one of the best things to grace the stage this season. Every piece of the performance cohered into one mood, one focus, and most importantly one level of talent. The only major complaint I have (and it’s nitpicky) is that the costuming was very “Logan’s Run 2: The SYTYCD Routine”. More demerits for House Wardrobe, they now trail House Judging and it looks like they won’t be able to come back to win the House Cup at this point int he season. House Makeup is putting up a fight for second, but House Choreography may be too far ahead to reach already. This piece was heartbreakingly beautiful from to to bottom, due largely in part to the dancers chosen to participate. Considering the amount of time they usually have to rehearse the group routines in comparison with the duets, this should have come out terribly and instead I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the first YouTube upload so I can watch it again and again.

Elena: A Bonus Sonya Tayeh Group Routine!: I want to let Sonya Tayeh just choreograph everything. Every So You Think You Can Dance routine, and then extend that to everything in my life. Cat Deeley said that it was a beautifully ugly routine, and I completely agree. It was full of flailing limbs and an unsettling urgency, with the dancers’ make-up pale and full of disease-ridden blemishes. It was exactly what I imagine a zombie jazz dance movie looking like if Sonya choreographed it. Tanisha, who got a spotlight moment, was impressive: her face was pained and horrified and searching, exactly what the dance needed. It’s the best I think Tanisha’s danced on the show, and I hope more group routines have a sense of place and purpose like this one in the future.

Group Dance #2 (choreographed by Travis Wall), Love Runs Out” by OneRepublic 

Whitney: My first thought: Oh, OneRepublic sings this song? Second (and infinitely more relevant) thought: This was the best dance of the night, period. This will be one of the performances that is recreated in the final episode of the season to be enjoyed live once more, and if Travis Wall doesn’t win another Emmy for the way he transformed these dancers tonight the world will make no sense. This routine had the most electric energy, most creative choreography, sexiest vibes, and was flat out the most entertaining thing the season has given to us so far. Why can’t any these dancers bring this intensity and aggression to their partnerships?  I would give all of my votes to every dancer on stage with this routine if it meant it could replace their paired routines. I was getting a lot of Colin O’Donoghue feelings from Ricky here, which is so appreciated now that I have stopped watching OUaT for good. House Makeup, I will let you leave grounds after hours if you keep Ricky endlessly supplied with guyliner for the rest of the season. Poor Lucy Hale for having to follow that routine.

Elena: A Bonus Travis Wall Group Routine!: Urgency seems to be the magical spice in tonight’s best routines that gives these dancers fire and purpose. Travis Wall choreographed a fast and furious routine heavy on jumps, and one complex lift with Carly that was backwards and forwards and so high in the air. The only little snafu was that when Carly was coming down from the routine her foot got caught in Teddy’s jacket, but it was almost imperceptible. Ricky, as always, was insanely watchable and captured my attention for the whole routine, a dance chameleon and a choreographer’s dream. I’m waiting for the Top 10 when he gets to dance with the all-stars, because the boy’s gonna shine.


Whitney: I guess it would have been “Poor Lucy Hale” for having to follow any routine, because yowzers that appearance was not good. I haven’t seen Lucy Hale perform any of her wannabe country pop live before, and I was initially impressed with her stage presence until her voice cracked three times in the first two lines and the entire facade of singing talent fell away. Girl needs to pull a Lizzy McGuire and up the auto tuning during live performances if she’s really serious about giving music a shot. I give her a lot of credit for trying hard and bringing some energy to the song, especially because she has repeatedly stated in interviews that singing is her true passion over acting, but in the end I was more impressed with the guitarist’s moves than her own. Thanks for coming, grab a party favor on your way out.

Elena: Lucy Hale sang, and it was a thing that happened. I wish they’d cut these music moments and replace them with letting the bottom 6 do their solos again. A lot of people impressed when they danced for their lives, and I’m not sure if it’s a budget thing or a timing thing, but I want the solos to come back. While I thought that Brooklyn and Marcquet deserved to go home this week, it would have been nice to see them (and everyone) dance in their style again before shuttling them off the show.

Whitney: I don’t have much to say about the eliminations tonight, other than America got it right and the judges were correct in following suit. Keep it up, and maybe by the Top 10 we can get through an entire episode without an atrocious routine (it’s late, I’m snippy, dance better).

Elena: Next week, four people are getting voted off? It’s going to get so Red Wedding-y up in So You Think You Can Dance.

Apologies for the extra long post this week, next time we promise it will only be emojis from Elena and one word commentary from Whitney (although we’ll both be otherwise detained during the live show so that may be what you get regardless).


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