I'm back from a busy day of RWA shenanigans--Times Square is filled with romance writers, people, so you'd better watch out! Fortunately, I'm still in time for tonight's SYTYCD. Our lovely hostess, Cat, is in full flapper regalia today. Either someone got a bob, or she has a clever stylist, because her hair is all short and curly--she's in a glittery flapper shift as well. Very cute.
We have four judges tonight--maybe the first two rounds convinced them that the guests weren't going to say much? In addition to Nigel and Mary, we have Lil C, and special guest Kristen Chenoweth, who is now required to appear on every Fox show at least once a season. Does she really have much to say about dancing? I know she's a Broadway star, but my sense is that she's not exactly cast for her footwork. Lil C is his usual self, but I must grant him a "heh" when Cat asks what he's been up to and he says, "I've been a busy lil' buckster." But I don't actually care what he's been doing, so I FF.
Tonight the group is split into halves for two group numbers--Cat tells us the judges won't comment on the group routines, but will take them into consideration. Think this is just a ploy to let them keep their golden child, Ryan, despite the fact that the audience didn't cotton to her last week? I'm suspicious.
First group has a Tyce routine, and I'm sorry to say the bowler hats are back. He's choreographed a guys vs. girls dance involving chairs and hats, in which the girls kick ass. How fresh and original. I was just talking with someone about how much we hate that all competition shows so quickly devolve into boys vs. girls, as though gender was a signifier of skill. Please address the sexual politics of this in the comments :). Anyway, they're dancing to "Hit the Road, Jack" and the chairs have those stick-on spotlights underneath them, which I suppose is supposed to be innovative. I think the number is badly filmed so that we're probably missing a lot of the patterns, but it's OK. Decent for Tyce, not as shticky as he can be.
Our first couple is Sasha and Alex, dancing a Dee Caspary contemporary routine. I liked Caspary last season, and I'm happy to have some relatively fresh blood. The opening video clips are about the dancers' first performances, and as Cat says, are really just an excuse to show baby photos of the kids. I will mention them only if they say something remarkable. The dance is a love story (again), but in this case Sasha is playing the memory of a long ago love, which Alex is remembering. The dance opens with Alex seated at a piano. (Well, a "piano." It's huge and blocky in a way that makes me think it's meant for dancing on rather than playing.) And indeed, they're all over it, around it, on top of it, and at one point, Sasha climbs inside it and then reaches her hands onto the keyboard from within. (Which looks a little creepy, frankly.) It was an odd piece, and I think they danced it well, but it didn't really let them show off so much.
Nigel begins with the lukewarm "good start, good start," but think he's a bit nonplussed by the concept as well. He loves Sasha's movement, but thinks that Alex needs to work harder to tap into the emotion of the piece. Mary thought the concept was brilliant and they pulled it off--but she's not screaming. Kristen makes a funny reference to Sasha's video clip, and praises her ability to dance without sound, without any heaviness. She also loved Alex and felt that he did successfully convey the emotion. Lil C? OK, I'm just transcribing this verbatim: "It's very difficult to achieve that in which Dee Caspary has requested of you, but I must say, I don't think I ever beared witness to seeing it done quite so effortlessly." Someone needs to swap his thesaurus for a grammar handbook, yo. Anyway, a good start, and they're likely safe.
Next we have Mitchell and Caitlynn (whom I constantly forget is on this show--who is she again?). They're dancing a samba with Jean-Marc, which he says will be hot and spicy, showing a lot of hips and butt. Or as he puts it: "Bam! Thank you ma'am." Caitlynn's hips are definitely present in the rehearsal footage. Oof, but her costume for the performance is awful! It looks like someone skinned a Muppet--or it's like one of those scarves made out of velour loops? Ugh. Creepy, not sexy. (Mitchell is in the requisite super-tight pants and shirt open to navel, FYI.) Their moves all look like samba, but they're barely moving around the floor! Aren't they supposed to travel? Finally we get a little, but I'm still waiting for a samba roll, people! This feels too slow, and it makes me sad that Iveta left last week. She would have set this on fire. Overall, the crowd is cheering, and they seemed to have a nice connection, but honestly I thought it was a pretty weak samba, even for this show.
Mary starts us off with a labored joke that I fear is launching right into the tamale train bullshit, but then says that they were spectacular. Hilariously, though, when she starts to give individual critique she FORGETS CAITLYNN'S NAME. Girl, that is a Bad. Sign. When even the judge who helped select you for the show can't remember you, you don't have a hope of winning this thing. But she loved Caitlynn's foot action and "rhythmical midsection," and she praises Mitchell for his power and strength and avoiding the cheese factor. Kristen begins with "Shut the front door!" And then she goes on a long riff about all the doors to shut, and then legs, and yada yada, and now I feel like she's auditioning for a talk show of her own. Enough, Kristen! You're cute, we get it. Give it a rest now. Shockingly, I'm forced to give Lil C another gold star when Cat transitions to him. She asks, "C, are there any windows you'd like to shut?" and he says, "Well, we might need some ventilation." Bravo, C! You have been amusingly clever twice already. If you keep this up, I may have to award a prize of some sort. He loved it too, and says they murdered it. Guess I don't know what I'm talking about. Nigel wraps up with a somewhat unnecessary dig at poor departed Wadi, by saying that Jean-Marc's cha cha last week exposed Wadi's weaknesses, while tonight's samba exposed Mitchell's strengths. He loved Caitlynn's body articulation (and then explains articulation for her).
Miranda and Robert will be dancing a Tyce Broadway (poor bastards). Tyce tells us that Miranda will be playing an "upper class working girl." Um, you mean a hooker? Nice. Robert is playing a "groovy cat" in a jazz sort of way. Apparently Miranda loves Robert, but he loves only his music. They're dancing to "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." I will say that Robert's face-pulling personality is probably made for Broadway, and Miranda...looks pretty in red. There's a weird instrumental break in the middle where the original Broadway show (Sophisticated Ladies) clearly had a tap number, and M&R are kind of doing tap steps, but not actually tapping. I feel like I just watched the dance equivalent of lip-synching. Incidentally, I have seen nothing that says to me "hooker imploring her musician lover to stay."
Kristen gets to start first, because of her Broadway expertise. She hems and haws about how she knows she's supposed to offer critique, but she has nothing, because they killed it up there. She believed them completely and has nothing bad to say. Well, thanks for your help, KC. Lil C is in awe of Miranda's legs ("with legs like that, who needs arms?" Lil C, a three-fer!) and Robert's personality. Nigel agrees with Lil C and believes that Miranda has grown a great deal. He also praises Robert for being a hip-hop dancer who can do this style, and I am officially calling bullshit on that right now, because we saw in Robert's video package that his first performance was as Leroy in "Fame," where he was very distinctly NOT hip hopping. So shut it, Nigel. Mary loves them as a couple, and felt that they really inhabited the characters. She's skirting the edge of screaming again but mercifully holds off.
Couple 4 is Melanie and Marko, dancing a NappyTabs lyrical hip hop. Meh. It's about two best friends, one of whom has been left at the altar, and only then does he realize that his friend is the one he should have been with all along. There are lots of lifts where Melanie's carrying Marko, and she drops him a bunch in rehearsal. Hopefully they've worked out those kinks. And wow--the camera opens tight on Marko's face and he seriously looks like he's going to cry. Alex could take some lessons here. He's in tux shirt and undone bow tie, and Miranda comes up behind him in a black & white striped dress with a red tutu-bouquet. (Man, that bride must have run away because of her crazy wedding color scheme.) She extends a hand to him, and then they launch into a series of side-by-side moves that are in near-flawless unison. It's been a long time since a couple could execute this classic NappyTabs sequence so well, and it looks better than ever, despite Melanie's terrible skirt. I wouldn't exactly call it fierce hip hop--it's a lot heavier on the lyrical, anyway, especially at the dance's climax when Marko runs across the stage and gives her a passionate kiss! Eep! (Did he do that just for RWA? How sweet.) Melanie then flings herself into his arms in a classic contempo lift, and honestly the last bit of hip hop that ends the dance looks out of place.)
The crowd is going absolutely nuts, and gosh knows Melanie & Marko sold the heck out of it. C starts us off and assures us that it was definitely buck, and calls them a power couple. I agree, but it makes me nervous to proclaim it so vociferously this early in the season. I hope they don't get backlash. Nigel adds to the pressure by saying they're the couple to beat. Shut up, dude! Mary loved Marko's emotion and his "razor-sharp technique," and lauds Melanie's nuance and precision. She then starts to ask her about the kiss, but before she gets going Nigel climbs on top of Mary and kisses her, much to the perturbation of the audience. It's like you just saw your drunk uncle groping a bridesmaid at your wedding. (Author's note: my wedding was completely devoid of drunk uncles or groped bridesmaids.) Ew ew ew. Kristen sings the couple's praises, and then jumps on the bandwagon by kissing Lil C, knocking his comedy glasses askew. Everyone is shrieking now, and then Nigel jumps up to kiss Lil C, because why not beat this joke into the ground? Cat throws her hands up, and throws to commercial.
It's time for our first Sonya routine, which Ashley and Chris will be dancing. Sonya is wearing some deeply, deeply terrible pants. They are giant Hammer pants in a sort of bohemian print, and are so appalling that I have no idea what this dance is about. They're playing zombies, though. These are the most fluid, relaxed zombies I've ever seen. It's nice looking, but not the most dynamic thing Sonya's ever done. It does include one of my favorite moves (for Chris this time), that thing where they're on their knees and roll up to their feet without using their hands. The dance ends with them lying on their backs with legs in the air, like dead roaches. Overall, I think this was not a "win the night" dance. More of a B-.
Nigel starts off by saying he's going to do something "that I tell my American Idol judges not to do." OK, Nigel, we get it, you're a big important producer. Shut up. Anyway, he says that he didn't like the music (the equivalent of AI's "you chose the wrong song") because he didn't feel it contributed to the story enough. Much as I hate to admit it, I think he's right. The closeup on Ashley & Chris also reveals that they are made up to be half zombie, half human, which I guess explains the strange variations in movement quality? I think this whole thing was a miss, and it wasn't really the dancers' fault. I FF through the rest of Nigel because life is too short. Mary graciously acknowledges Nigel's concerns, but calls out the technical points they got right. Cat asks Kristen about how hard it is to inhabit a half-character like this, and she pussyfoots around the fact that she didn't really like the number by praising their work in last week's dance, and telling us that Ashley is one of her favorites. Seriously? Ashley? She seems sweet, but she's gotta be like #6 or #7 out of the girls. Lil C also loves them, but damns Ashley with faint praise by saying "every week I forget about you until you dance, and then I think, 'How could I have forgotten her?'" (Needless to say, that took a lot longer to say in Lil C-speak.) Let's throw Ashley on the pile with Caitlynn and shorten this show a little.
Our sixth couple is Clarice and Jess, and hopefully Jess won't have to lift Clarice too often this week. They are also with Jean-Marc, but doing a foxtrot. Man, they are just not getting any breaks, are they? Two out of three of their styles so far have been dogs, and for a couple on the bubble, this seems like it could be the final nail in their coffin. Jess is playing a 50s-style crooner who spots a beautiful girl in the crowd and sweeps her off her feet. He's wearing a necktie over his t-shirt (I guess it's a prop in the dance?) and Jean-Marc says, "You know zis tie belong to Frank Sinatra?" He pauses just long enough for Jess's jaw to drop and him to ask, "Really?" Jean-Marc gives a perfect Gallic shrug and says, "Well, ees a guy in my neighborhood, eez name is Francois Cinatron, but eez close enough, no?" Heh. Jean-Marc is giving Lil C a run for his money.
The performance begins with Jess on a little set of risers like a stage, and Clarice is in a white gown with a fringy skirt and a trashy bodice made of nothing but sparkly strings. I hope her mom's not watching. They're dancing to Sinatra, of course: "Fly Me to the Moon." There's a lift where they cleverly use the stage--Clarice runs up 3 steps so she can basically lie down on Jess's shoulder instead of him having to lift her up--and there's some nice footwork, but as with all foxtrots on this show, it's basically dull. The audience is polite, and cheers accordingly at the end, but I don't see this commanding a lot of votes from the home viewers. Mary starts us off by explaining what a foxtrot should feel like, and then tells them that they did it exactly right. She loved Clarice's poise, and thinks Jess is the only one who could have done that so well (something about a "reverse wave"? She says ballroom words). On to Kristen, who says "I'm going to be quick. This was my favorite performance of the night." Really? She loves them together, and calls Jess Gene Kelly. Hopefully she'll get him an audition later. Lil C has a classic Cism: "Jean-Marc loves, loves, loves dance. And you two just put a face on the smile of his heart." I'm not even going to unpack that. Let's just sit with it a minute, shall we? Ahhhhhhh. Cat moves to Nigel and asks him to be quick, so of course he has to start by talking about how great the costumer and the choreographer were. Anyway, he loved them too.
I cannot wait to get down to a Top 10. These early-week blogs are killing me. Now it's time for Ryan and Ricky, who will also be with Sonya (still in the terrible pants, FYI). This contemporary piece is about (wait for it...) a couple in love! Surprise! But it's sad, because their love is ending and they don't know why. SAD, Ryan. That means DON'T SMILE. There seems to be a scarf involved, or they've unwound Ryan's top? She's now dancing in a bra, which seems uncomfortable. Sonya is talking to them about character and explains that they don't have to have a painful romantic encounter to reference--they could think about a situation with their family or a friend. Yes! Yes, they could, Sonya! You know who else could draw on such non-romantic relationships? The choreographers! Where the heck is Wade Robson? Could we get a hummingbird up in this bitch?
Ryan is indeed behing unwrapped onstage, but at least she has a more substantial top on under the scarf-rope for the performance. And guess what? She. Is. Smiling. This girl is a moron, I'm sorry. I can't even watch the dance because I'm so fixated on the stupid scarf. Perhaps this is a dance to honor the fallen James Durbin (he of butt-scarf fame) from AI? Man, I didn't like this one, and I usually love Sonya's pieces. But I couldn't really even see Ricky, despite him being all over the place. But Kristen disagrees with me--she's very moved, and loves Ricky's turnout. Lil C unloads a big ol' C-sentence, but it makes little sense without being funny, so I'm not transcribing it. He tells Ryan & Ricky that they are also a power couple, though I'd say that winding up in the bottom 3 last week puts the lie to that. The closeups on R&R reveal that apparently Ricky was not allowed to wear eye makeup this week, and she looks like a boiled egg. Nigel chooses not to point that out, and instead says that he's proud they kept Ryan last week, and that Ricky is wonderful. Mary feels that they weren't just lucky to draw contepmorary, but they were prepared for the opportunity that presented itself. Apparently one no longer gets criticism on SYTYCD. You'd think that would make the recaps shorter.
Hip hop is next, but as both Jordan and Tadd are wearing teal, I'm thinking it's not exactly bad-ass hard hip hop. I sense a NappyTabs joint in our future. Sure enough, there they are, choreographing a love story. Aaaaugh, people, there are other stories in the world! Honest! How about death? How about victory? Maybe a mother and child? Anything, I beg of you. But no, a love story we shall have, complete with bed in the middle of the stage. This would be super-daring if it hadn't been done on this show a bunch of times already. Somewhere Mia Michaels is shouting, "That's my mattress!" This is not exactly a "love" story, though--it's a morning after story, in the "what have I done?" vein. Jordan throws on clothes, which may or may not be hers. Tadd is...removing them?
Tadd maybe shouldn't have left his wedding ring on for this one :). Anyway, as soon as he emerges from the comforter, the crowd begins to hoot and holler because he's shirtless. Why, hello, Mr. Shoulders! And I see you brought your friend Senor Pecs! They scramble out of bed and Jordan dashes behind the headboard to pull on jeans and a hoodie, while Tadd does a b-boy scramble (still shirtless, thank you NappyTabs) over to his jeans. Then there's a bit where he peels the hoodie off Jordan and puts it on himself. It gets a little caught, I think, though he manages to catch up with the beat. That doesn't help the fact that it's ugly and teal and enormous and is completely unflattering. Plus the hood is bouncing around in distracting fashion. Me no likey. Don't even get me started on Jordan's acid-wash jeans. (Oh, sorry--not acid wash, they have white gussets on the hips. How flattering.) There's some more bouncing around, and you'll be happy to know that Tadd shares my opinion of the wretched hoodie and takes it off. If you haven't deduced that the dance ends with the two of them climbing back into bed, then you're not the readers I think you are.
Cat approaches the judging panel with trepidation, acting as though she fears they'll break out into another kissing contest. Jeez, Cat, don't encourage them. Lil C begins with, "Now I know why Jordan wasn't answering my texts last night." Somehow, that doesn't feel gross coming from him--I pray that Nigel doesn't follow suit. He liked the concept and the execution, but wants them to use their full bodies a little more and not isolate so much. Nigel begins with a gross joke I refuse to repeat, and then says, "In truth, the story of the dance overwhelmed the dance, but it didn't matter 'cause it was great fun." Huh? So did it or didn't it? Basically he didn't care about the dancing, but thought it was fun and the crowd will love it. Mary loved it too. Kristen finishes up: "Guess what I'm gonna say! Everybody join me! Shut...the front...door." Kristen, that only works if you've done it more than once already. Why is everyone being dumb tonight? I'm beginning to miss Mia Michaels' acerbic tongue.
That's it, right? Not so fast. Time for our second group number, with the remaining crew. Their number is a Dee Caspary contemporary (so they're already one up on Tyce) set in the medieval era, featuring the women of the town trying to poison their men. There are wine goblets. There's a table. The song is called "Poison and Wine," which seems a bit on the nose, but whatever. Sounds like Kate Bush, but is a group called "The Civil Wars." At least you can see this one--they barely had the lights on for Tyce's number at the beginning of the show. I like the shapes, don't notice the guys much, but the girls have lovely dramatic foot-pointing and the costumes are fun. (More Elizabethan than medieval, but who's counting?)
And that's finally it! Who'll be in our bottom three tomorrow? I think it'll be Ashley & Chris, Clarice & Jess, and...I guess Caitlynn & Mitchell because no one can remember she's on the show? I think Jordan & Tadd were worse, but I think the hip hop (and the bed) will save them this week. Who are your picks?