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SYTYCD: Season Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whitney’s Top 3 of the Season: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elena’s Top 3 of the Season: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whitney: 

Michael Dameski

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

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

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

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

Elena: 

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

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

Whitney: 

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

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

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

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SYTYCD: Final 4 Perform

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

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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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SYTYCD: Top 6 Perform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solos –

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

Final Four reactions:

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

Whitney:  My reaction in four .gifs…

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This right here.

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

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 WAIT. She wasn’t joking?

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

See everyone next week for a night of heavy sighing.

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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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