Tag Archives: FOX

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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So You Think You Can Dance: Top 18, 2 Eliminated

The first episode after an elimination this season, and this is truly the make it or break it time for the dancers. The second and third eliminations are usually where some strong dancers slip and end up going home mistakenly, and others who have exhibited some weak characteristics step it up and prove they should make it through to the Top 10. I’m very unhappy with the Bottom 6 this week and was tsk-tsking at America from my couch after every name that was called. Zero dancers of the six that landed in the bottom deserve to go home, but such are these early episodes where voting is based on charisma over skill more often than not. Misty Copeland returns as a guest judge for the second week in a row, which is out of the ordinary but in no way unwelcome. She has proven herself to be one of the best judges the show has ever had and if they made the panel four judges with Misty a permanent installment in the third seat I would be fine. It calls in to question, though, whether the show has started to lose its weight when calling upon guest judges or if this was a unique situation where the previously scheduled guest was unavoidably detained and Misty was available and willing. The lovely Elena Rivera joins us again this week after a week away, so without further ado let the critiques begin!

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Cat Deeley Outfit Watch: Of course Cat Deeley can rock a silky black pantsuit from Bird, because she has mile-high legs. Accessorizing with long necklaces, dangly black earrings and some really stunning red lipstick, she’s mixing 70’s glam with 20’s flapper jewelry from XIV Karats, and it’s working for me. Her Emmy nomination as host last week was also so well-deserved. She’s such a sweet, genuine person with all the contestants, and I’m hoping she hosts her own talk show soon.

Top 18 Group Dance – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Pharside and Phoenix), “How It’s Done” by District 78

Whitney: I appreciate the makeup and costuming departments of the show getting a shout-out from the judging panel as they deserve every accolade they get for the unique and creative facets they bring to the show, but here those two pieces of production managed to take me completely out of the performance. Between the “living chess set” tableau and the over the top costuming, it was decidedly difficult to focus on one particular dancer in the madness or see how the entire routine was meant to come together. The entire thing came off like a rip-off of a Lady Gaga or Gwen Stefani concept video. Hip-hop with this many dancers at once (unless they are a highly practiced dance crew) tends to muddle everything rather than making it look sharp and impressive. After the energetic opening, the talent that was shown off didn’t impress me enough to keep my attention.

Elena: I don’t have a ton to say about the opening number other than it was funky and chess-themed, but I am so glad Misty Copeland’s back on the judging table. May she stay for most of the season! Her criticism is always specific enough for the dancer to really improve from it but explained well for people who don’t necessarily know dance as intricately. She’s my new favorite.

Zack and Jacque – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Mari and Keone Madrid), “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith 

Whitney: Right off the bat I had basically no trust in the choreographers to make a hip-hop routine work to this song, and I was right. As overjoyed as I am to see the show working through In The Lonely Hour seemingly track by track each episode this season, the song still has to work with the energy of the routine itself. The early floor work and tutting had just the right amount of specificity of movement combined with emotional connection and entertainment, yet as soon as they left the horizontal position I lost all interest. The majority of this routine was the worst thing a performance could be: boring. Even the costuming brought nothing to the table but the fact that it clothed them successfully. I’m not sure if Zack and Jacque actually deserved better from this routine, because I still don’t feel like I know what their capable of at this point. This could be their ceiling or it could be a sad case of choreography missteps bringing a couple down, but either way it’s not an especially good sign that I have no idea which it is heading into the Top 16 dancers.

Elena: I’ve mostly forgotten about this partnership since last week, but I’m all into married couple hip-hop choreography (NapTabs as the shining best of this). Keone and Mariel Madrid threw a lot of intricate hand movements into their hip-hop, tying the choreography to the story about a couple realizing they’re in love with each other. I enjoyed that this routine had a bit more tutting but still stayed on the lyrical side of hip-hop with some really tender embraces and hand-holds between Jacque and Zack. It had intricacies and character moments, my only criticism is I wish that Zack’s concentration didn’t show so much on his face. At some moments you could tell he was focusing on the dance instead of getting lost in it, but that’s understandable seeing as hip-hop is neither Zack nor Jacque’s style. Cat compared it to the amazing NapTabs routine to “Bleeding Love” with Chelsea Hightower and Mark Kanemura during season four (which is maybe my absolute favorite dance from the show), and while I don’t think it quite reached that levels, it did remind me of a different NapTabs routine, season five’s “Mad” with Jeanine Mason and Philip Chbeeb. Sam Smith also seems to be a really popular choice for choreographers this season, which I’m all about.

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Jourdan and Marcquet – Contemporary (choreographed by Dee Caspary), “Disappear” by Mikkey Ekko 

Whitney: What perfect timing to discover that Jourdan is a gym rat, as she certainly shows off her strength in this performance. Of all the nice pieces of this routine, what most impressed me were the transitions from the floor to a lift and vice versa. The music felt like something Marissa would dump Ryan to during the heyday of The OC, and it almost took me out of the emotional component of the routine. I agree with Nigel that there is no connection between the dancers and the audience, but what’s really working against both Jourdan and Marcquet is their lack of emotional connection with each other. They both dance as if they are alone on the stage with a prop that they are dancing opposite to, which is preventing them from taking par-for-the-course choreography and bringing it to the next level. This can’t have been the performance Jordan was hoping for with her neck on the line tonight, even if it was technically impressive.

Elena: Dee Caspary has never been my favorite contemporary choreographer: while Travis Wall has that Mia Michaels emotionality and Sonya Tayeh has quirky and unsettlingly beautiful, Caspary fades into the background for me because he doesn’t have something that defines his choreography. The dance itself was just okay, because I don’t feel that Marcquet and Jourdan have enough chemistry together to sell a dance like this. I also didn’t understand the umbrella props, as lovely as they looked suspended in the air. I’m surprised that Marcquet, who was so dynamic in the Los Angeles callbacks, seems to be fading away with his partner Jourdan week by week.

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Stanley and Jessica – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Tyce Diorio), “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter” by Nikka Costa

Whitney: I’ve never been a fan of Tyce Diorio, but one thing I will give him credit for is that for all of the crazy and creative concepts he throws at dancers on this show, he always knows exactly how to execute the choreography follow-through of his ideas so they don’t seem quite so absurd. Making “magic carpet ride” a legitimate performance takes exactly that type of mind, and I am happy he was paired with Jessica and Stanley tonight to give them something more out of the box. I understand constraining them to the carpet’s area was part of the concept but watching two of the show’s most explosive and energetic dancers forced to stop short of moving across the stage like they should was borderline painful. Everything else worked well to combine into an aesthetically pleasing piece; the music didn’t take away too much from the story while still being light, and the costuming allowed them to move naturally with only the smallest pieces of distressed netting giving the sense of flying.

Elena: A new couple this early in the competition can have the chance to develop chemistry quickly and succeed, but they can easily be mismatched. I’m not sure this Tyce Diorio jazz number did anything to make the new couple stand out or be memorable, but it was a fun two minutes. The concept of a magic carpet ride didn’t really read in the choreography other than having the couple dance on a giant bargain bin rug, but Stanley and the Khaleesi of Dance (I can’t unsee Jessica as Daenerys, all of her hairstyles and her face are so much like Emilia Clarke’s in Game of Thrones) had some great air on their leaps. And while Nigel’s glad to have Tyce Diorio back as a choreographer, am I allowed to reveal how much I think he’s overrated and way too full of himself? He’s always grated on my nerves, and while he does have some spectacular choreography, it doesn’t negate his pompous attitude.

Emilio and Bridget – Jive (choreographed by Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis), “Happy” by Pharrell Williams 

Whitney: This is what “Happy” was meant for. I don’t know about you, but this is exactly how I dance along to “Happy” when I’m in my apartment cooking dinner or vacuuming. The whole routine was fun, fresh, entertaining, and up-tempo in all the right ways. Bridget is still falling into the same mistake that all the girls left are, in that she doesn’t know how to stop grinning when she’s on stage, but fortunately for this routine she was meant to be beaming from ear to ear as she bounded around the stage. She  looks so perfect as a 50’s pin-up if I were casting a Broadway musical or movie set in that era Bridget would be one of the first names on my list for a chorus role. The little bits of solo work Emilio got near the end were a nice nod to his native style while still fitting well with the rest of  the routine. This is the high bar for jive routines for the rest of the season, which usually doesn’t happen until an All-Star is in the mix, so high praise for these two indeed.

Elena: Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev as choreographers is kind of my dream team of ballroom dance, but jive is one of the more difficult dances that a couple can get on the show. The flicks and kicks have to be so quick and precise, and it’s a dance that’s heavy on footwork and foot retraction. Anya and Pasha choreographed a dance that catered to Emilio’s hip-hop background but also showed off Bridget’s technique by including a lot of lifts and some musical breakdowns for Emilio to do some flips and floorwork. Jive isn’t the most emotionally connected dance, but at least Emilio and Bridget seemed to dance it well and it wasn’t a complete trainwreck.

Teddy and Emily – Contemporary (choreographed by Tyce Diorio), “Ne Me Quitte Pas” by Nina Simone 

Whitney: Switch the dancers in both Tyce routines tonight and I think everyone does a lot better. Stanley was built to dance a contemporary routine to Nina Simone, and Teddy and Emily would have had a blast getting to go on a magic carpet ride. As it is, both pairs were stunning but the entire time I was watching these two I wanted it to be Stanley up there catching Emily in midair. That isn’t to say this was a bad routine in any way, it was actually one of my favorites of the night, and I think it’s safe to say Emily and Teddy saved themselves from elimination with this showing. Emily’s lines continue to be some of the best out of the entire cast and her inability to be undaunted by anything thrown at her bodes well for her (hopeful) future on the show. Other dancers on this show could learn from the chemistry between these two and how to really let the music encapsulate your movements. Nina Simone was an inspired choice and, as Nigel noted, the lyrics in English work very well with the story of this routine as well.

Elena: More Tyce Diorio, but now with contemporary. Since Teddy reminds me so much of season two’s Ivan Koumaev, I’m strangely not surprised that he did so well in contemporary. Perhaps it was that the duo were in the bottom two tonight, but there was a rawness to their performance that was missing in last week’s hip-hop. The angst and hurt of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” was articulated through their bodies; I totally agree with Misty who said that Emily’s body just sang the words of the song. I loved all the moments with flexed feet instead of pointed toes, that stopped the lifts or the extensions in interesting ways. I’ll give this one to Tyce, I really enjoyed the movements combined with the music. (I also have been watching a ton of the French drama “Les Revenants,” so I might be biased towards being in love with French things right now)

Casey and Brooklyn – Jazz (choreographed by Bonnie Story), “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Michael Buble

Whitney: This was sort of painful. What’s worse than how I felt about the performance is the fact that I’m not really sure why I feel that way. It was an entirely serviceable ballroom routine, yet somehow stilted on Brooklyn’s side of things and strained on Casey’s end. You could practically see him straining under the pressure to make things looks smooth and normal to no avail. It looked like a high school production of Grease where the two leads were cast only because they had a few years of dance lessons when they were kids. Brooklyn not only looked uncomfortable in the dress but with most of what was asked of her as well. It surely does not help that if you put Casey and Brooklyn in a lineup with 10 other random dancers I might not be able to pick them out accurately. Even though I don’t out and out hate Michael Buble in any way I felt like the music was a big misstep as well. All in all, a misfire for me and hopefully America votes more intelligently heading into next week.

Elena: A Bonnie Story high school prom jazz routine (from the choreographer of High School Musical)! The great thing about jazz that’s different than contemporary is it’s a lot more staccato: it’s a lot about hits and holds, whereas contemporary is more about fluidity of movement. The routine itself was sweet and simple, not entirely memorable but not half-bad, either. Casey had two really cool turns: one where he did a one-legged spin with his foot bent up on his thigh, and another where he did fouettés that turned into slow spins with bent knees towards the ground. He was given a lot more things to do that showed off his technique than Brooklyn, who didn’t really stand out to me.

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Ricky and Valerie – Viennese Waltz (choreographed by Lacey Schwimmer), “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

Whitney: …And we go straight from a high school production of  Grease to a Taylor Swift music video. All I want at this point is for Ricky to be with any other partner besides Valerie. He does all of the work on stage (which I’m almost fine with because it lets him show off his myriad of skills) but other than hitting her spots and doing serviceably well on the footwork I didn’t see any facet of her performance here that further endeared me to her presence on the show. It is definitely a bad thing for Valerie that I’m already thinking “why is she still here?” after only one elimination has taken place. I honestly don’t understand her appeal to the audience of the judging panel, even if she did look like “Cinderella at the ball”. On the other hand Ricky was consistently amazing yet again, handling every lift and swing with ease and every footwork combination with precision. Ricky for president. Ricky for emperor. I honestly don’t care. Lacey also dipped back into the well of Jason Mraz’s catalogue that the show has found success in time after time over the years. You really can’t go wrong attempting to choreograph any type of love story to Mraz’s emotional lyrics, and it was great to have Lacey back on the show the week after her brother returned to choreograph as well.

Elena: Lacey Schwimmer’s back, and with the Viennese Waltz, which is always dreamily romantic on the show. Valerie and Ricky seemed to lose their steam when doing the normal steps around the floor, but quickly found their energy again when they launched into a series of lifts. The lift where Ricky spun her around by the arms and then let her slide across the floor was gorgeous with Valerie’s big princess dress. Ricky’s strong partnering showed throughout the dance, and both dancers had big, genuine smiles on their faces throughout the whole routine. I’m still waiting for something as amazing as Ricky’s last Los Angeles callback solo from him, but this was a great continuation of their partnership.

Serge and Carly – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Luther Brown), “Senile” by Tyga and Nicki Minaj

Whitney: It is time to end the hip-hoppers in skeleton suits trend. Done, squashed, out of here please. There is no longer anything creative about this costuming idea, especially since I remember my friends in high school wearing homemade outfits like this for a Halloween party dance crew performance we had junior year. Carly was by far the better partner in this routine, seemingly having an out of body experience (sorry for the coincidental phrasing there, I still hate the outfits) during many of the loose sequences. Serge, after such a stellar performance last week, slipped back into boring dancing instead of continuing his upward momentum. It’s possible my disillusionment with this routine stems from my general lukewarm feelings about Luther Brown’s work and Tyga’s music, but when it comes down to the wire it is the dancers job to entertain and pull the audience in to their orbit. That didn’t happen here.

Elena: Serge and Carly had my favorite routine of last week, so I was hopeful that they would hit Luther Brown’s hip-hop hard and precise, but unfortunately they didn’t pull it off for me, and the odd skeleton make-up that obscured their faces didn’t help. Carly got down and really moved her body in a way that matched the music and the choreography, but Serge didn’t involve his hips and back enough. His torso and hips stayed really stiff during the movements that should have hit harder by using the power and force of his torso. I’m bummed my favorite couple last week had an off-week, but hopeful they’ll find their groove again.

Tanisha and Rudy – Broadway (choreographed by Warren Carlyle), “Sing Sing Sing” by Fosse (Original Broadway Cast) 

Whitney: For most of the first part of this routine I wasn’t getting much energy out of Tanisha in comparison to Rudy, and then just before the halfway point she exploded into the smiling, exciting, dancer we first got a glimpse of way back in her first audition. Rudy was truly in his element the entire time, and it should really prove a point that he stole the show when he was dancing next to a beautiful blonde in a sparkling flapper dress and I still could not tear my eyes off him. Taking into account the difficulty of dancing with props in addition to the fast footwork and synchronicity on display, this may very well be one of the best routines of the night. I’m also not sure I’ve seen anything more adorable than the budding romance between Jacque and Rudy that’s happening in front of our eyes. They’re obviously playing it up a little bit for the show but there hasn’t been a behind the scenes partnership to ship since Melanie and Marco, and that was all wishful thinking as they both had significant others at the time. Rudy and Jacque forever! (Or until one of them gets the boot).

Elena: Now that the prize for the season winner includes a role on Broadway, the broadway style of dance seems even more essential, as does having a strong stage presence. Warren Carlyle gave the pair a tricky old school broadway number with a bit of soft shoe and some fun cane tricks. Rudy seemed totally at home hamming it up on stage doing and doing slides into knee lifts, and the two reminded me of Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin at the end of The Artist. They each had their own energy: Tanisha’s was cool and sophisticated while Rudy’s was explosive and bombastic, but they seemed to balance each other out in the ways the best partnerships on the show have.

A Great Big World performs “Say Something” live, which makes absolutely no sense to me at all. They already know this show’s audience is familiar with the song because a couple danced to it on the show last season. It’s also already a worldwide hit and could not possibly get any bigger at this point, when in reality it is waning in radio plays and chart position. Wouldn’t it be the smart choice as an artist to promote another single or new music in front of an audience this large? Especially since I’m pretty sure they don’t have another duet with Christina Aguilera stashed away somewhere.

Elena: I agree with Stanley and Jourdan going home, but really I thought Marcquet should have been right there in the Bottom 6 with them. I’m hoping the Khaleesi of Dance can bring some of his personality back next week in their new partnership, because if not I have a feeling he’ll be in the bottom soon.

Whitney: I’m right with you as far as Stanley and Jourdan going home out of the dancers there were to choose from. If Jourdan had some more time to focus on her stage presence she may have improved past the technically beautifully but emotionally flat performances she gave the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the nature of the show is such that time is not a luxury and unless you prove your worth early on you don’t get many second chances from America. Stanley was the right choice out of the men available, but I wish we got one more contemporary piece out of him before he left the show. I absolutely agree with you Elena that Marcquet should have been voted into the bottom and gone home in Stanley’s place, but neither of them were on the winning track so it probably doesn’t matter much in the long run.

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SYTYCD: Week 4 Auditions

As previewed last week, Atlanta will be the last stop for audition rounds this season and I am (as always) intrigued by what the Southeastern US will bring. Any auditions in Atlanta/Miami/New Orleans etc. tend to bring out such a wide variety of dancers and styles due to how far people are willing to drive in the region in order to prove themselves in front of the judges. A strong hunch tells me there will be a majority of Hip-Hop/R&B routines closely followed by ballroom, with at least one stunning classically trained ballerina (probably male) that blows everyone away and stands out all that much more because it’s an Atlanta audition. As with the first few installments, I will be skipping over the intentionally awful auditions as well as anyone who has no chance from the start. Here we go Atlanta!

 

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First thought: I would like Cat to say “The ATL” much more often. In context, out of context, whatever. Make it happen universe.

Mariah Reives: There has been a trend in recent seasons of starting out every audition day’s tape with one of the strongest dancers, so it wasn’t a shock when Mariah walked out and proved herself in style. I, like most of America, do not seek out jazz willingly for the most part but she put on a performance from top to bottom here that made me enjoy the song she chose (“I’m A Woman” by Maimouna Youssef). Lyrically, it matches up to her aesthetic and lines, and the mood it set worked well with the laid back style she employs even with her more difficult moves. Mariah may be the first person this year to have what I like to call a “holy shit split” and she shows it off here almost half a dozen times to great effect each time. Her mom also has a serious case of StageMomitis but thankfully that won’t be much of a problem during hell week and after if she makes it that far.

Erik “Silky” Moore: “I wanted to take some time off and study the show and who got through and why” is the So You Think You Can Dance version of “Will Smith picks apart blockbusters to optimize box office results”. It’s actually a very smart strategy and I’m surprised no one has admitted to doing it outright before. Another rarity is Nigel stopping the music during a routine that doesn’t look terrible, but I’m glad he did because he brought up the same thing that was on my mind in regards to Erik’s music not matching his freestyle movements in the least bit. After all of the talk about using his family’s experiences in an insane asylum I expected something much darker, instead he went with the guitar-laden “Ants” by Edit. The two together work better than anticipated, and the five years between auditions for Erik clearly improved his skills immensely. I think his

Kelly MacCoy: Another jazz dancer, thanks Atlanta. Kelly had the “drag queen styling” corner of the competition locked down before the music even started and then RuPaul of all people comes through the speakers and I was almost out on Kelly before her first step. Her routine had the artistic appeal of an exercise tape porn spoof with the skill of a 14 year old gymnast who’s parents think she can still make it to the Olympics someday. She’s a skilled dancer, but combine her jerky transitions between every move, the campy faces, and her sway back the odds are against her to make it much farther than the Broadway round of choreography. She’s one of the few 18 year olds who has auditioned so far who doesn’t seem to have much potential for growth past the skill she possesses right now. I can’t fault her for working “Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous” to the fullest extent though.

Christopher “Mr. Strange” Griffin: Can Dragon House make it a dynasty of dancers making it to the Top 20? I’m torn between “Yes” and “Hell Yes” but you never know what can come of the tough choreography rounds. Christopher maintains the legacy of his housemates by being endlessly entertaining while on stage and an overall charming persona period. Animating to “Going Back to Cali” while wearing a Cosby sweater is a pretty baller move and really made me feel like the 90’s were back. I’m not going to delve too deeply into a later audition that occurs that manages to prove the opposite, but I’m happy Mr. Strange was able to show up and prove that Dragon House still spits out talent regularly. Hopefully people will remember this performance instead of the embarrassment a few auditions down the road that the entire house has to flat out apologize for, but with the way reality television works that may not end up being the case.

Conrad Dechabert: Conrad chooses the Main Title Theme from Planet of the Apes and pardon me if I never expected a Danny Elfman score to look so good on an audition stage, but he definitely proved himself to be able to dance in a more masculine style with that theme as his soundtrack. Some part of me was upset last year when the main reason Nigel and Mary decided against moving him to the next round was because of his feminine dancing, because as long as you have talent you should be able to show it off no matter if the gendering is skewed. On further thought though, it does make sense as far as partnering in the later rounds goes to make sure everyone can support a partner and bring the heat when needed. Also, Conrad should stop letting his friend use him as a practice board for tattoo work.

Taveaus “Dynamic” Woods: I’m sorry if I butchered the spelling of his name, but for the longer and more complicated names/nicknames the producers really should leave the chyrons up on screen longer. I’m speaking as an army of one here but it needs to happen. Dynamic is a protege of Fikshun’s and comes across as one in both good and bad ways. The good side of things is that he has the same level of talent as his mentor, yet on the flip side he will have to traverse the same difficult path that Fikshun did in order to get a sniff of the Top 20. Fikshun was the exception to the rule, and I don’t see Dynamic making it deep into the competition even if he is able to prove himself in choreography. (Note: I was right, as his choreography is a huge letdown). 

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How DARE YOU bring Jenna Dewan Tatum out here as a judge without Channing in tow. Absolutely unacceptable, judging panel. I understand Mrs. Tatum has a drastically different schedule than her hubby but don’t try to tell me a certain host couldn’t have pulled some strings in her circle of friends to get those abs in the house.

Ricky Ubeda: By far my favorite dancer of the night, Ricky manages to be one of the few people on the planet besides Shonda Rhimes who can transform a random Coldplay track into an emotional set piece worthy of his talent. Don’t get me wrong, “Us Against the World” is actually my favorite song off of Mylo Xyloto but I wouldn’t recommend it for a performance in the least. Ricky also proves me right in my prediction that there would be one stand out (probably male) ballerina amidst all of the animators and hip hoppers tonight. Nigel says what everyone is thinking when he tells Ricky that he’s already a favorite to make it all the way, and my only worry with him is that he won’t have enough upper body strength to properly partner during some of the lifts and swings that will undoubtably pop up later in the year. A minor quibble, but keep it in the back of your minds when Mandy Moore asks him to lift someone over his head and we get a “this practice is so tough” montage during a live show.

Marissa Milele: There has been a much higher proportion of dancers who are friends of previous competitors or returning dancers being shown this year during auditions. I’m not sure whether it is a product of having too many solid dancers in one year therefore making it necessary to pick the already known dancers out of the fray to highlight, or whether there is a lull of talent this year requiring some fudging of the talent displayed by using previously seen dancers. The first reason makes more sense logically, but the latter has me a little worried as we move forward. I’m glad they kept Marissa’s cut short and sweet as even though I enjoyed her performances last year, it doesn’t look like she has grown much in the past year. She has too much muscle without the actual strength to get any height on her lifts, and relies on her gymnastic elements slightly more than necessary. Her music – “Black Blade” by Thomas Bergersen & Two Steps From Hell – is right along the lines of something Sonya will presumably choreograph to this year so if Marissa makes it past the Green Mile this season we know she will be able to step into Ms. Tayeh’s rehearsal room with confidence. The judges giving her a ticket so quickly seemed like the easiest way for them to shuffle her off to the next round without a promise that she will make it any farther than last season.

Elaine Kimble: The first audition all night where I didn’t take any notes, Elaine absolutely captivated everyone watching in our living room. She doesn’t have the strengths that some dancers have, but her arm control and lines are classically pretty. Her performance is the human embodiment of “All of Me”, which I originally expected to appear with the same frequency as Sam Smith’s music this year but that hasn’t been the case. No matter, I’m sure Mandy Moore will put together a “classic love story” at some point around the fifth week of the live shows built around the concept of John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. Elaine was also the first tearjerker video package of the night, and one that is actually legitimate in its sadness instead of ratcheted up to make it seem more life and death than it was. I would have liked to see her get her ticket immediately instead of an arbitrary choreography round, and the reasoning behind the judges’ decision to keep her there for a final tryout didn’t match up with their rationale for other performers, but hopefully she glides right through and can prove that she has fierceness inside of her during hell week.

Angelina Granitz: Shyness is one of the biggest turn offs for an audience when a dancer comes on stage and it initially turned me off in a big way before she even began her performance. Angelina has the demeanor of a much younger and timid woman when speaking to the judges, but when she has the opportunity to dance that shyness melts away and leaves behind a bold and controlled dancer who has more confidence in a move that lasts 3 seconds that she does in the entirety of her clip reel. Dancing to the elegant “Quartet N. 2” by Dustin O’Halloran contributes heavily to her simplicity and extreme steadiness, but I wish there were a few “dancier” moves to her performance to break things up. If she gets to the live shows her demeanor isn’t going to help garner her any votes from viewers.

Christina Moya-Palacios:  Out of all four weeks of auditions, Christina may be the best pure dancer out of anyone. She is one of the few who could make it in a company right this minute and has the legs to match the skill. She reminds me of Alex Wong in a big way, and the show would be stupid to not bring him back as a guest later in the season if they need someone to fill in as an All Star partner for her. The second person to dance to a movie soundtrack (weird trend alert) she performs to a song from the Perfect Sense score. I love me some Eva Green and Ewan McGregor dark romantic comedies, so that was a welcome surprise. Christina is one of those dancers who I don’t really have much to say about until we see some variation in style from her, but until then it is clear she is as experienced a ballerina as almost any other dancer in the competition is at their genre. Placing her on my Mia Michaels wish list immediately.

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SYTYCD: Season 11 Premiere

 

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For 10 years now, So You Think You Can Dance has brought the talents of thousands into our living rooms during the hot summer months. With the exception of one or two less than exciting seasons a few years back, every season has been better than the last. SYTYCD’s 10th anniversary brought with it the first year where the influence of the show on dancing across the country was plain as day, as many of the contestants specifically attributed their love and passion for dance directly to watching early seasons when they were younger. I imagine that trend will continue this season as more of the first generation that grew up watching the show put their talents to work.

I will be recapping the dancing throughout the summer, hopefully mostly consistently from week to week, but looking ahead I already know some week’s I will have to sit out writing if not watching as well (next week I’m already missing a night as I will be in Texas for the 3rd annual ATX Television Festival). Throughout the auditions that take up the first few weeks, it will mostly be rundowns of the standout performers and the music they choose for their first impressions (although the show has moved away from this for the better in recent years, I will be avoiding any recaps of the purposely terrible auditions). Once the live shows begin, these write-ups will take a turn towards more analysis of whether the music makes or breaks the routine, especially as new choreographers and old favorites make appearances throughout the season. I already have some examples in mind as to which choreographers are surely going to make missteps week in and week out as far as music decisions go, and I’m sure you do as well.

Without further ado…Week One of Auditions kicks off in New Orleans and Chicago!

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Shelby Rase: A strong, if not show stopping, start to the season. I would have liked her to dance to the Avicii version of “Wake Me Up” in order to facilitate more explosiveness in her routine, but the Madilyn Bailey cover she chose didn’t harm her routine so much as leave it flat. As with many covers Bailey performs (which you can see on her YouTube channel if you are so inclined) she doesn’t bring anything to the composition that any amateur wouldn’t be able to come up with. Her voice is pretty but there’s nothing behind it, which is more or less how I feel about Shelby’s routine. I agree with Mary that she has great stage presence, but thought the use of that presence could have been more well employed. Annalise’s routine also brought with it the first “awkward family member” called to the stage from the audience, in which her dad did some NSFW things with a water bottle while “Blurred Lines” played. Let us never speak of that portion again.

Tanisha Belnap: Tanisha is one of 12 siblings, so while her story was the first feel good clip show of the night, all it did was bring to mind the kind of musical theater stagings this family of dancers could and should have done at home (7 Brides for 7 Brothers complete with almost full stable of understudies!). Although I appreciate Tanisha’s willingness to work her ass off to get herself studio time, something about this routine still left me wanting. Her technical ability was present but didn’t blow me away, and although I don’t necessarily agree with Nigel that she should have danced with a partner, an additional facet to the performance would have been nice. Staging ballroom steps to “Take it Slow” by Odny (feat. Reija Lee & Kito) was nothing groundbreaking but I liked her willingness to take a risk and pair her style with dubstep. Even as dubstep slowly takes over the entire country taking no prisoners and leaving no survivors, most times when it pops up it is exclusively paired with anything besides classic ballroom routines, so that was a nice difference to see.

Megan Marcano: The skills of a classically trained dancer with the expressiveness and stage presence of a Browadway veteran. Megan is such a clear Top 20-worthy dancer I almost don’t want to talk too much about her here so I can save all of the adjectives needed to describe how great she is for down the road. The song she used was “Oh Heart” by Tank and the Bangas. I had never heard of this artist before finding this song, so I guess I can also thank Megan for introducing me to a new talent in that regard as well. The music matched up well to her dancing, but more importantly it felt like the song matched up with the attitude she puts out into the world. An under the radar choice that paid dividends during her performance. For now, her back story is the classic reality show tragedy-turned-triumph cliche (not in a bad way) and her talent is undeniable. All I keep repeating over and over in my head is “Don’t fall apart during Vegas week, don’t fall apart during Vegas week”. Fingers crossed!

Trevor Bryce: THIS ladies and gentleman is how you incorporate multiple styles into one routine. If he had come out and just done the hip-hop aspects of this piece I would have been tempted to send him to choreography (tempted, but not completely convinced to do so), but because he worked in so many other ballet and theatre facets he was able to blow everyone away from the beginning. From what I can tell, the music choice he went with was a remix of “Da Dip” by Freak Nasty, combined with a techno track that utilized Windows 98 start up sounds and ticking clock effects. I enjoyed what he did with the music, and the way that the beat contrasted with his more balletic movements. The only thing I’m worried about with him going forward is his ability to work well with a partner or as a group. It’s a small quibble, but the only thing that may sink him as the rounds go on.

Courtney Barnes: This was a Bring It On blooper brought to life, tracked by “Turn Down For What” which I definitely did not need to hear any more than I already have. The judges have made it clear in the past that flipping and tumbling to music does not a routine make, and that reasoning stands here. A Wendy Williams impression (even an hilarious one) should not give someone a ticket and I’m happy to see Nigel stood his ground here while Mary and Wayne could not and unreasonably sent Courtney on to choreography.

Novien Yarber: Sam Smith alert! Sam Smith alert! There was an 150% chance that someone would use a Sam Smith song during the auditions this year and I am seriously overjoyed it came this early in the season.  I cannot make this clear enough: if you have not heard In The Lonely Hour, call up your closest mental hospital and kindly admit yourself until you have done so. Pleading insanity is the only option for not having at the very least watched his breakout performance during the Louis CK episode of Saturday Night Live.  “Lay Me Down” is one of my personal favorites from his flawless debut album and it makes for an appropriately emotional pairing for this routine. As far as the routine itself, it isn’t likely to be remembered seasons from now, but it was technically very well done and I look forward to seeing what Novien brings to the table when paired up with other dancers.

Caleb Brauner: I really, really wanted Caleb to come back this year much improved over his audition last year. The heartbreaking story about his dad’s unexpected passing after they danced together on the SYTYCD stage was truly gut wrenching like not many contestant clips are (as hard as the producers may try) and his earnestness was endearing. Unfortunately, his skill remained at the level it was last year at this time with no signs of any additional training or aspects of his dancing. Jason Mraz has also been so overused on this show both in auditions and during live shows (especially “Words”) that unless the routine is flawless and emotionally affecting it isn’t worth it to try and force a connection using any of Mraz’s songs. As sad as it was to see him break down after getting cut during Choreography (which, c’mon cameramen, don’t follow contestants in emotional states such as this for that long please) it was the right choice and we can only hope he takes the judges advice to heart and does more partner work before next year, giving him a much better chance at getting to at least Vegas before falling short.

Marqoet Hill & Brooklyn Fullmer: Why couldn’t they have danced to anything else in the world besides “Blurred Lines”? A lot of talent on display here between these two and it was all brought crashing down for me by the presence of Robin Thicke being all rape-y and skeezy in the background. Stop choosing this to dance to, everyone. It isn’t trendy anymore and it does you no favors with the audience in house or watching at home. Other than that unfortunate song choice, Brooklyn and Marqoet had chemistry for days and the execution that everyone knows makes Mary shed tears of joy. Their toe flicks stood out for me, but their spins and symmetrical sections were was just as impressive. They promised sexy and delivered more, which at this early point in the competition is really all we can hope for from ballroom duos.

Not sure about everyone else, but all I saw during the time when they said Justin Bieber was on screen was this:

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Come on, SYTYCDyou can do better than him as a ratings draw for this season’s shameless promotional stunt. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to adding in a dance crew competition, but involving Bieber in any way is just plain dumb. It is plainly below the quality of entertainment that this show subscribes to and whoever is behind this decision should be sent back to America’s Got Talent where they belong.

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Nick Garcia: Even with a few slip-ups as far as sharpness in his steps, Nick came to impress and accomplished just that. He was fiery, energetic, and has ridiculous control over his core which is a must for any ballroom dancer. Many ballroom contestants rely on their partners to control their upper body and arms, thereby hiding any structural weaknesses they may have. As much as I would have liked to see him dance with his sister due to what I’m sure is a great connection between them on stage, something tells me the opportunity for him to audition solo that stemmed from his sister’s ankle surgery was a blessing in disguise that allowed him to show off just how strong a dancer he is. His song choice, “Begging You” by Madcon, brought just the right balance of energy and sexiness to his performance as well. The whole thing screamed “Miami” so loudly I forgot for a minute he was auditioning in frigid Chicago. A performance that makes you forget where you are? Sign me up for that any night of the week.

Rudy Abreu: “Stabat Mater” by Woodkid is a song of epic proportions, and Rudy danced to match that sentiment. His presence on stage is nothing short of magnetic, and the way he used his strength to complement his skill as a dancer instead of using it to compensate and falsely impress is something that few people are able to do (or realize they need to do) when they first appear on the show, which makes Rudy one to watch. The strength he had on display here means he will probably acquit himself well with a partner when the time comes for him to pair up with someone. Is it wrong that I’m already wishing for a Megan/Rudy duet choreographed by Mia when we aren’t even close to the Top 20 yet? I can’t possibly be the only one thinking about it.

Caleb Brauner Part 2: Oh Caleb…Caleb, Caleb, Caleb. I can’t recall if a dancer has ever showed up twice in the same round of auditions but in different cities. Regardless, I was skeptical of what he could have possibly changed in such a short time. I won’t say he proved me wrong completely as his skills were basically in the same range as they were a mere days/weeks beforehand, but he was very smart to frame it the way he did for the judges. By showing up and being honest about the fact that he was coming at this routine with a different strategy and a different mindset, while also admitting it was still going to be his style of dance, he didn’t set their expectations too high and was able to prove himself. The fact that he used yet another Jason Mraz song, this time “Details in the Fabric” (a personal favorite), doesn’t give me much hope when it comes to his originality, nor does his match-matchyness of the song and the theme of the dance. However, Caleb was able to step it up during the partner portion in order to push through to callbacks. I admire his perseverance, even as I don’t think he’ll make it much farther than the next round.

(Side note: I am so happy – sans sarcasm – that the choreography song this year is “Story of My Life” by One Direction. It’s one of my guilty pleasure songs this year and am not against hearing snippets of it two or three times an episode for the next month.)

All in all, an impressive first week back with the SYTCYD crew and this crop of new dancers. Next week Chicago auditions continue, and I will be back with a recap of the episode the following week.

What did everyone else think? Who was your favorite dancer to have made it through tonight? Any instances where you adamantly disagreed with Nigel/Mary/Wayne/Jenna? Let me know in the comments!

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Whatta Man, Whatta Man: Brooklyn Nine-Nine Has Found Boyle’s Sweet Spot

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Right from the start, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has proven expert at presenting character traits that feel true to the environment of the show and the precinct, yet don’t seem as though they are thrown on a page and expected to make sense. Each character has years of back story to explore as the show moves forward and each inter-office relationship has different quirks to work out, exactly as you would expect a normal group of coworkers to function. Even so, not every character started out perfect (realistically, no character is on point right from the start of any comedy), with some having more issues than other. Thankfully, throughout this freshman season the writers have done a great job of building on the good things about each character and scrapping the things that didn’t quite land. The best example of this during B99’s short run has been Boyle and the way every member of the team has different reactions to his antics. He started as the odd man out, with few friends and stuck admiring Diaz creepily from across the room. It was easy to see he had been written as Parks and Recreation’s Gerry/Gary/Larry counterpart, yet somehow less appreciated. Boyle’s weird moments stuck out too much to make him seem like a real person. Nobody being friends with him made sense because in real life not many people would socialize with someone who behaved the way he did for the first half dozen episodes or so of the season.

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By the time tonight’s episode rolled around, however, Boyle has become a fully realized character with idiosyncrasies that make sense even if they still aren’t fully acceptable all the time. His interactions with Peralta when asking for help with Vivian are consistently hilarious and sweet and allowing him to be just friends with Diaz (at least for the time being) has paid dividends for the comedy quotient of that relationship. The moment that really underlined this transformation for me was him breaking out in song and dance to Salt n’ Pepa’s “Whatta Man”, a song that no karaoke bar or high school dance has gone a night without. A true classic, it’s the absolute correct choice for office sort-of-weirdo to choose to goof off too. Maybe it’s a bit too cliched at this point as a “random classic 90’s song” that plays on a network sitcom but it worked for the situation so I’ll give it a pass. Boyle being completely comfortable in how he behaves, case in point dancing to “Whatta Man” in the middle of the precinct, comes off much more natural now rather than seeming unnerving. This point is really driven home when Peralta and Jeffords surrender to the magic of the music
at the end of the episode and Boyle wisecracks about how no one can resist the urge to dance to some S n’ P. It’s a nice picture of three coworkers who each have just as many little quirks as the others and have each other’s backs, instead of seeming like one or more members of the precinct are left out of the fun in a cruel or judgmental way. Great song choice to cap off a solid season-long character build for Boyle. Add in that Peralta has been toned down, Jeffords and Santiago have been toned up just a notch, and things can only get better on the character development front from here.

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The Sleepy Hollow Pilot Goes All In

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This blog has been pretty dormant over the past month or two, as other obligations and time away haven’t allowed me to be posting at will. But with the Fall TV Season finally here, I’m hoping to ramp everything back up and dip into more music on television each week. Between two jobs and writing elsewhere I still can’t promise an exact number of posts per show/week/etc. but I’m operating under the more is better assumption so whatever jumps out at me I’m cautiously optimistic that I will have brief thoughts as necessary about Show X.

After the time away, it only makes sense that we jump into the fall season with the most bat shit crazy show of the fall: Sleepy Hollow. I went into the Sleepy Hollow pilot only wishing to be entertained for an hour and to be able to laugh at all the bananas happenings that were promised in the trailer released after upfronts this summer. I left the hour with both of these things, but also a hope that maybe this show won’t be as big a train wreck as it seemed upon first impression a few months ago. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very tiny sliver of hope and the show will probably crash and burn about halfway through the current episode order, but hope there is and there will be for as long as the cast, crew and writers are able to continue the balancing act of insanity, entertainment and curiosity that currently exists.

There were a lot of things that contributed to my surprise with this first viewing of the show; the acting quality, the chemistry between not only the two leads but the cast as a whole and the ability for the storytelling to have me cracking up and interested at the same time. Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie are great together, with an ease and camaraderie not often found in network pilots. Orlando Jones is a perfect foil/enabler/amused boss who doesn’t quite know how to react to anything that’s going on, and in her few brief moments on screen Katia Winter does an admirable job playing Ichabod Crane’s wife who is also a witch who is also responsible for him waking up 250 years after he died in the Revolutionary War. Yes, the whole thing is just as crazy and confusing as it sounds but at one point the Headless Horseman walks through a cemetery with a pump action shotgun and then starts sizzling when the sun comes up (because he can only survive at night, you see) so it was all worth it in the end.

What shocked me the most watching the show tonight was exactly how many chips FOX put in the center of the table on this show, when any sane person could tell you that the very best case scenario is probably that it becomes a cult favorite after this first order of episodes, destined for mid-season premieres for as long as FOX can get away with having it on the air. There’s a great line (and the one I laughed at the hardest) where Crane reads a passage from Revelation that speaks of “a seven year bond between partners to combat the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, which just so happens to be the standard contract for every network show as soon as a pilot is picked up to air. It’s a ballsy and winking comment for FOX to include in the first episode and it only speaks to the confidence they may have in the show.fall_tv_preview_sleepyhollow1

Even further, FOX spent a decent chunk of change on this pilot. Granted, most networks due so for their pilots but again, this isn’t one that I would have guessed would have gotten that treatment. Len Wiseman (Underworld, Total Recall), directed and I’m sure he commands a pretty decent paycheck for TV work at this point in his career. Other than guest star John Cho, there were no actors that would need to be paid a shocking amount to do a network pilot, unlike The Following on FOX last year. Amidst all of this spending though, the most jaw dropping moment for me was over the opening scene when the familiar strains of “Sympathy for the Devil” began. Indeed, FOX licensed The Rolling Stones for a pilot that nobody has a large amount of confidence in at all.

I actually liked the choice of music to open and close the episode, it’s hard to go wrong with “Sympathy” in the first place but in this case it worked very well. It’s actually a less obvious song than others that could have been chosen, as it comes from an era between the one in which the show takes place and the one where one half of the main duo lived during. They could have used almost any upbeat song from the last 10 years or a classical piece reminiscent of the 1700’s and it would have been passable as a table-setter if not perfect. But by utilizing an instantly famous song the show focused on drawing the audience in first and selling them on the mood of the show later. Anyone in the audience who had Bones on in the background was much more likely to stick around for Sleepy Hollow after hearing that song of all songs opening the show. It places a certain level of quality front and center first thing for a show where the directing and special effects will almost assuredly drop of a cliff next week (not unique to this show as it happens after every network pilot once the initial sales pitch is over and done with).

Still, even with all the sense it makes to utilize this song and how well it actually worked over both the opening and closing credits it seems so out of the ordinary for a network to spend most of the budget for an episode on one song. This treatment is usually reserved for shows that have been consistently successful and are run with intelligence by a trusted team, spending this money is a vote of confidence from the network to the show that they will use it wisely to prove a point or underline a major moment in the show’s story. Instead, FOX did it right off the bat. In February, Mercedes released a commercial that is still on the air featuring Willem Defoe, Kate Upton and “Sympathy for the Devil” as a backing track. They paid $1.5 Million for the privilege. Based on the amount of the song used in each instance, we can safely assume that Sleepy Hollow cut a similar sized check and possible a little less since the commercial is still running and this was a one time use.

It’s an interesting wrinkle in the ongoing narrative of the show’s reception among critics and the audience. Is it possible that we’re all watching it as a show we can laugh at and FOX is looking at it as a show they can build on? Or is it an attempt from the team behind the show to elevate its quality beyond what the plot lines introduced tonight would have us believe? Or is it simply an apropos song choice that shouldn’t be read into as anything more than a quality choice that backed an otherwise crazy series of events over the span of an hour? Only time will tell, and in the coming weeks I can only hope that not only does the entertaining nature of the show stay at the same level as tonight but that they continue to choose music that works for the show in the same way “Sympathy” did tonight, even if it takes much less money for the use of the song.

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