Tag Archives: choreography

SYTYCD: Top 14, 4 Eliminated

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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