Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SYTYCD Top 10 Perform - Welcome, All Stars!

Today kicked my ass, y'all, so I'm going to try to keep this shorter than usual.  Our esteemed guest judge is none other than Neil Patrick Harris, which seems a special treat so soon after Jesse Ferguson.  We have heaps of dances tonight, so we get right to it, and our first couple is Marko, dancing with All-Star Chelsie to a Jason Gilkinson samba. They are playing a photographer and his sexy model, and poor Chelsie gets dropped a lot in rehearsal. When the performance begins, there's a pink couch (casting couch?) onstage, and they are soon hopping on and over and around it.  It's sassy and sexy, and I confess that I was mostly watching Chelsie--but Marko seems to be working his hips just fine, and is certainly having fun!

The judges think so too.  NPH is impressed that it was so sexy, and tells Marko he's the NPH pick for Guy to Beat. Mary loved it and shrieks that Marko is "the real deal out there!" She loved his versatility and praises...a lot of things that have names in samba. Cat shares my bewilderment. Nigel loved Marko's courage in dancing full out and seamlessly, despite having been kicked in the head a lot in rehearsal. He's also pleased that Marko has just as much chemistry with Chelsie as he did with Melanie.

Next up is Sasha, dancing her solo--which feels a little odd coming so early in the night. It's cool, though...very musical with a lot of nice shapes and angles, and not the usual leap-leap-hair toss that we get in solos. No comments from the judges...we just get Sasha's numbers and on we go.

Jordan is paired with All-Star Brandon to do a Desmond Richardson/Dwight Roden contemporary. Jordan is bemused by the choreographers' tendency to mark their counts with noises instead of numbers. Boom kat! I think Jordan looks better here than she has in weeks--I don't know if she's benefiting from the new partner (Brandon's so strong that he can lift her wherever she needs to be) or the thoughtful choreography. Her lines were lovely, and she looked leaner and more elegant in this dance.

Mary agrees, and says that the dance really made clear why Jordan made the show, and played to her strengths. Nigel goes one further and says that because she has no real weaknesses, Desmond & Dwight were able to go hog wild with her. "Wake up, dance fans!" he says, urging us not to put Jordan in the bottom again. NPH also loved it, and as "a face guy," or what we would call "an actor," he loved her expressiveness throughout.  He also congratulates her for being so mesmerizing that he didn't even watch Brandon's amazing abs. High praise indeed.

Non-Dance Interlude! Man, it is HOT this week. Tomorrow it's supposed to hit 97 degrees. So in honor of the summer swelter, the theme of tonight's NDIs is: Heat Wave!  First up, a classic from Martha & the Vandellas:

The next solo is Jess, dancing to a Harry Connick Jr. piece, which is appropriate.  He definitely seems to be happy to show off some of his actual Broadway at last--although the solo feels a little familiar. At the end, he does a slide to the edge of the stage, where he props himself on an elbow and gazes at Cat, who comes over and leans on him in return. Give that woman the Emmy!

Ooh, this should be good. Tadd is paired with All-Star Comfort for a hip hop number from Chuck Maldonado. Because of this show's casting, it's rare to see two expert hip hoppers together, so this could be really good! In rehearsal, Chuck tells Comfort she needs to be "gutter sexy," which is apparently the same as "ghetto fabulous." Comfort is unconvinced by Tadd's swag.  The performance starts out to a Chris Brown song, and there's lots of side-by-side work (which doesn't seem as synchronized as it could be).  It also feels like this could be harder? I'm not getting the Gutter Sexy here.

Cat thanks Comfort, who gives us all a little "namaste" bow and retreats (none of the all-stars stick around for judging). Nigel starts out making excuses, I think--he says we have to remember that Tadd is a b-boy, not a hip hopper, and so he's not accustomed to choreography. He says Tadd out-danced Comfort there. NPH also thinks Tadd beat Comfort there, and then goes into a long story about how there will be a dance on "How I Met Your Mother" and now he loves hip hop. Basically, he liked it. Mary just wants to joke around with NPH, and who can blame her, but eventually she reins it in enough to tell Tadd that he is something special. Mary is super orange tonight. Also, she says Tadd was definitely "ghetto...licious." That was awkward.

Melanie's solo is next, and she's dancing to this awful folky cover of "You Better Shape Up" from Grease.  It's pretty, very deliberate and un-flaily, but not all that exciting. Admittedly I was distracted by the bad music.

NDI! Next on our sweatshop playlist, this little ditty from Buster Poindexter/David Johansen:

Mitchell has been paired with All-Star Melody, and I can't wait to see how she's turned out so many seasons after she was on the show.  Hell, for all I know, she's grown! (She was tiny.) They're doing a Tyce Broadway piece called "Take off with us" (the dances have names now?) in which they are plane mechanics, and then propellers, and who knows what else. The costumes and movement tell us this is a Fosse ripoff...oh, my mistake, it's actually the dance from All That Jazz. Well, I guess that saves Tyce some choreographing. It's well-executed, but Mitchell is just not "reading" on TV for me. It's hard to see any expression in his face, though toward the end he's grinning like a madman. I didn't love it.

Ooh! NPH is not pulling punches...he tells us, "I didn't get that one much at all." He didn't see the airplane theme, and it felt disjointed...and he busts the show on the music edit which didn't make sense. (Ha! That's what you get for inviting someone who knows musicals.) Unfortunately, it sounds like most of his issues were with the choreography, Tyce. He tells them it was well-danced, just not...good.  Mary didn't love it either, though she blames it on the dancers, telling them it was overdone, especially facially. Nigel gives us a Fosse lecture in the service of explaining why Mitchell & Melody didn't get the style of it. Cat lets Mitchell suck up to Tyce a bit, so he looks like a good guy, and then sends him on his way.

Ricky's solo is next, and he's taking a little risk by starting quite slowly before launching into some leaps and pirouettes. I don't think this is really well-choreographed, but I'm not sure it even matters. He runs offstage after his dance and Cat has to shout his name about 10 times to get him to come back and stand for his numbers. When he gets there, she says, "No one noticed." Emmy!

NDI! In honor (or dismay) of Tyce's Broadway number, how about a little Julie Andrews and "Le Jazz Hot"?

Time for Clarice's solo, and I realize that for most of these dancers, I don't care about the solos at all. I think they're helpful when someone has been stuck repeatedly in partner dances that aren't their thing, but at this point, with so many contempo dancers, I think we've seen everyone in their style. That said, I was writing Clarice off as a boring leap-n-flail until her music suddenly grew a heavy beat and she threw in some cool hard poses and hip hop-like hits. She's trying to make a liar out of me!

Ooooh, Caitlynn's been paired with Pasha (yum) for a tango by--my god, these names are so long that their chyron is completely full and the font is tiny. Leonardo and Miriam someone. Pasha tells us that they're going back to the 1930s, as two people fall in love. There's a gramophone onstage, and they both look very suave in period-ish dress. Lots of passionate arm-stroking and almost-kissing. Wow, Caitlynn is doing really well! I was skeptical about her ability to hold her own with Pasha, but she looks great and is giving plenty of face. This is one of those tangos with lots of leg flicking interspersed with Pasha just hoisting her off the ground while she makes an interesting shape.

Cat praises Pasha's "Blue Steel" look and then sends him off to change, telling us he'll be back again (yay!). Then it's on to Mary to start us off--the camera cuts to her, and she is smiliing like a proud mom and giving Caitlynn a standing O. She also tells us it was an Argentine tango and that it was breathtaking (she had excellent ganchos, which sounds dirty). Think Mitchell is nervous that it looks like he was the one bringing that pairing down? Nigel loves her intensity and said that tonight, Caitlynn danced like a woman, not a girl (ew). He brings Caitlynn to tears by comparing her to both the choreographer, Miriam, and to Pasha's regular partner, Anya. (Let's not go crazy now, Nigel.) NPH, suprsingly, does not give them an easy pass, saying it started out a little slow for him. However, he was completely seduced by the end of it, and thought Caitlynn went toe to toe with Pasha. Good for her!

Eep, Mitchell's doing his solo in only his underwear, it seems. I know "shirtless" is often good strategy here, but you need to wear better shorts if you're going to do that, buddy. Also, my cable has keeled over and drops out first the sound, then the picture, returning only to see Mitchell's final pose. Apparently Tivo thinks Mitchell should go home.

Christopher Scott of the erratic routines is back to do a hip hop for Sasha and All-Star Twitch. That seems like a good pairing if she can bring it...she's definitely the girl best suited for his power.  The dance is about a couple that's lost the fire, sitting bored at the breakfast table. Sasha sweeps the dishes off, jumps on the table and demands passion! drama! and dance! Twitch obliges. The show starts and I'm glad to see they got a bigger table for the performance than they had in rehearsal. Odd choice of music, kind of doo-wop-ish ("Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore?) and at first the movements didn't seem to fit the sultry phrasing of the song. But as it goes on, it starts to work in a sort of hip-hop "Dirty Dancing" way...and it ends with Sasha's legs wrapped around Twitch. Overall it was cool, and I liked the change from the usual hoodies and posturing.

Audience is going nuts, and Nigel is already shaking his wrists to indicate the dance's hotness. He makes a misstep with his opening joke, in which he says "All I had for breakfast was cornflakes!" Cat asks, "Were they soggy too?" and he replies, "They were after that routine!" The audience takes it to a gross place and starts groaning, while Nigel looks genuinely confused about what he said. The penny drops, and it's actually pretty funny. Anyway, he loved it, and thought that Sasha finally had chemistry with her partner. NPH loved it as well, and calls it the best routine of the evening. He loved the synchronization and hopes the dance will be part of the tour. Mary is setting up a complicated bit of praise that's clearly leading to a scream, so I've muted her...but suffice it to say she also loved it. And she takes pains to say that as much as Mary loves Twitch, it was Sasha who was the all-star tonight.

NDI! The show itself seems to be feeling the heat.  If it gets much hotter, who knows what could happen? The Boss knows.

Time for Jordan's solo. Now that we've seen what she can actally do, I wonder if her solo will get more interesting? I think she's not a great self-choreographer. It's still pretty leap-y, but she restricts herself to only a single HMV! She ends cross-legged on the floor, and does a cheesy double thumbs-up in time with the "" of the timer. 

Hmm, Jess has been paired with All-Star Kathryn for a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine. This could be interesting...Kathryn's fairly short, yes? I wonder if he'll have an easier time lifting her. Even though this is another couple-story, it's an interesting one...Kathryn is playing a woman who's terribly lonely, and can't see Jess in front of her trying to comfort her.  To convey this, they don't make eye contact through the entire performance, which makes for some interesting close holds. Wlell played, Stacey Tookey! The dance begins apart, with them in sync but separated, and then they come together in spin after stretch after yes, lift. Kathryn helps him as much as she can, and Stacey staged some of the lifts on the floor to give him more stability, but Jess, to his credit, did much better this time. It was a good piece! As the lights come up, Jess looks like he's going to cry, or die. 

We start with NPH, who says "I think that was an extraordinarily...designed performance by Stacey." Is that good? He goes on to say he's going to be harder on Jess because he actually knows Broadway, and tells Jess that his face can get a little "muggy." This is true. He also goes on to praise Jess for staying in character here, and wraps up with "this is as good as I've seen you," but it didn't really feel that enthusiastic. Mary is similarly subdued, even as she says she loved everything. I think they're all a little somber because of the mood of the dance, so I hope the low energy doesn't hurt Jess. I think...I think I might like him! Speaking of mugging for the camera, Nigel makes a stupid joke that I will not repeat, but then he says Jess handled his lifts beautifully, and Stacey gave him great choreography.

Tadd's solo is here to give us a little pick-me-up, and he dances onto the stage in an almost samba rhythm. It's packed with tricks, because Tadd knows what sells, but his transitions between them are a little flat. He ends with a total strength move, walking on his hands to the edge of the stage and then hanging his leg over it while still upside down. Oof!

Pasha is back! Dancing with Melanie to a Viennese Waltz. Eh, I love him, but the waltz is just not much fun to watch, even choreographed by Jason Gilkinson. It's about a guy who's "lost his will to live," and Melanie is urging him to keep going.  Rehearsal seems uneventful, and as the lights come up onstage, we see that Pasha has opened his shirt to express the suffering of his heart. Thank you, Pasha. Melanie is in a flowy floor-length white gown, sort of debutante-ish. She flows and spins around him angelically, and there's a lift like every three steps. They've finally dressed Melanie right--she doesn't look thick tonight--but she seems a little cold, or maybe just one-note? I don't feel her intensity like Pasha's.

Jidges? Mary loved Melanie's floaty transitions and her timing in the lifts and still adores her. Nigel waxes rhapsodic about the piece's beauty and says it's no wonder that choreographers like to cast her as "the rock" because she's such a solid dancer. (Earlier he also made a crack about Pasha having put on weight, but admitted it was just jealousy.) NPH? He says it was so effortless that he barely even noticed that there were lifts. He also tells Melanie that "you look like you're from the past, and you dance like you're from the future." He is pushing her hard, because he's worried that people won't vote for the boring ol' waltz.

Goddammit! Blogger ate the rest of my post. I'm going to have to rewatch the end of the show tomorrow and fill this in. Too tired tonight :(.

NDI/Blog interruption interlude! I'm steaming mad, so it's's a little Lovin' Spoonful!

I'm back! And rewatching the last two dances so that you, my devoted readers, will have a full blog. But please know that my original commentary was truly hilarious, and this will no doubt be a mere shadow of its comedy gold. :)

Caitlynn is our last solo for the girls, and she's dancing to Florence + the Machine. I confess that although I know this group is the new hot thing, I can't get into them. I am officially An Old. Caitlynn's solo is one of the weakest, or at least the most dependent on hairography and dramatic reaching. But her abs are first-rate.

Time for Ricky, who is dancing with All-Star Allison--she gets more gorgeous with ever season. She sweetly says in a talking head that Ricky is "a beautiful technical dancer, so I think he'll push me." I"m not sure about that, but she'll for sure push him. They're dancing a Tyce contemporary about a nightmare--Allison is the dreamer and Ricky is basically the nightmare. The music starts, and it's Tori Amos' "Precious Things," which I like a lot. Yay! Allison is astounding (I can't believe I ddin't care for her on her own season!), and the two of them are making crazy shapes as Ricky tosses her around. There's one move where he bends over and swings her off the floor with one arm, only to set her down again (a little hard, if you ask me--I bet she'll have some bruised ribs in the morning). She's still outclassing him, but not wiping the floor with him--he doesn't have her ability in the face, so his movements are all correct, but he's having trouble looking fierce.

Judges? How do we like our Ricky, now that we're free of La Ryan? We don't know, because we have to give Tyce props. And such backhanded props they are! Nigel says he loves it when Tyce "can be free like this, and not in the Broadway style." Um, perhaps you shouldn't have HIRED HIM FOR BROADWAY, then. We do not cut back to Tyce to see his reaction to this comment. Anyway, Nigel loved it--didn't think Ricky outdid Allison, but basically says, "Who could?" Fair enough. NPH chimes in with some real critical sense when he tells Ricky that he wonderfully inhabited an aggressive, scary character that worked against his lanky, boyish physique. NPH has declared you a man, Ricky! Mary makes it 3 for 3 and says Ricky brought it! Well done, sir.

Marko gets our last solo of the night, which means he kind of gets two pimp spots, no? That seems a little unfair, maybe.  His solo is very athletic and leapy and toe-pointy, but to be honest, not as musical as some of the others have been. Doesn't matter--he's in no danger anytime soon.

NDI interlude! Here's our last sweaty video of the night, even though I officially disapprove of Nelly's extra R:

On to our last routine of the night, and it's Clarice and All-Star Robert dancing a Bollywood routine (by Nakul, of course, because he's apparently the only Bollywood choreographer SYTYCD knows). Think Robert is having flashbacks to the night he was eliminated while wearing a bright yellow Bollywood suit? Ooh, not any more--because he's shirtless and wearing purple sequined hammer pants. Woof, that is, as Tim Gunn would say, a lot of look. He's like a My Little Pony. Clarice, in her orange bra top and rainbow-striped skirt, looks practically sedate. The story of their dance is a couple flirting (surprise). There will be mock-kissing.  The music is fast, and Nakul is clearly going to work these two to death. There's a cool move where they're back to back, with their heads resting on each others' shoulders. In general, I think they're doing a good job, if not quite as inspired as Katee and Joshua from back in the day (still the gold standard for Bollywood on this show). One note: they have a steamy kiss in the middle, and they end with her jumping up and wrapping her legs around his waist, both sexual moves I thought were more or less prohibited in Bollywood? But we don't really vote for accuracy in this genre.

NPH starts and compliments them on how difficult it was, and how Clarice has at last come alive onstage when in previous shows, he didn't really notice her. Mary has clearly been waiting to unleash her quip, "From Bollywood to Hollywood!" and then goes off on a joke-riff about how many difficult deep knee bends there were. She says that she and NPH were practicing a routine and turns to him, saying, "I don't know about you, but my knees are just stripped." Without missing a beat, he looks down and says, "No, that was from something else." Oh, snap! Anyway, she loved it. Nigel? He's the same--didn't think she could have done it any better, and it fit her like a glove. It was definitely spunky! Clarice is one who might blossom now that she's not tied to Jess.

And that's it! I'm confused, though--I thought the dancers would also be dancing with the other contestants again; apparently not. Next week we get all-new all-stars, though they don't tell us whom. A mystery for next week! As for the bottom contestants, now it's definitely getting harder to pick.  I think Mitchell will likely go for the boys, and either Caitlynn or Jordan for the girls. I think Jordan actually did better this week, but Caitlynn had the assistance of Pasha, so it's a tough call. Tune in tomorrow--well, actually, tonight!

Post-Dance Interlude! Here's a little something to cool you down...

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