Oops, here I am, happily watching Cat tell us about her 4th of July barbecue, when I realize...I'm supposed to be recapping this thing! No part of my life is unmoderated by glowing rectangles. It's a sickness. Fortunately, nothing's started yet. Judgery update: we're joined tonight by two special guests, Carmen Electra and Travis Wall. Carmen is dance-trained, apparently, and won Miss Dance Ohio back in the day. Travis is the Anointed One, as you know, and is wearing a purple velvet jacket about which no more will be said. If I start calling him Willy Wonka partway through, you'll know why. Tonight we'll have two group dances as well as our usual routines...and away we go!
We have a new choreographer, Justin Giles, who sounds like he's a good ol' Southern boy. He's choreographing a group dance for the boys (thank you for sparing me, show, by just gender-sorting everyone this week). The rehearsal footage suggests that Giles is a contemporary dancer--he tells us that the dance is about "the 7 stages of grief." While I am initially excited about this departure from yet another love story (leaving aside the fact that I thought there were only 5 stages?), my glee is fleeting when he explains that the boys are grieving a failed love affair. As there are 7 boys, I suspect that each one will be portraying a different stage, which Justin kindly lists: shock, anger, denial, depression, guilt, bargaining and acceptance.
The guys begin on a darkened stage under individual spotlights, clad in different outfits in the same gray palette. Jess is in a rumpled suit, Ricky is in shorts, etc. Marko is shirtless for us. Thanks, Marko! Chris is being eaten by his hoodie. I like the choreography--it's forceful and sort of martial-artsy, mostly in unison or series. Can't say that I got all seven stages, but they were definitely angry in the middle there somewhere. I think Kubler-Ross would give it to them.
Non-dancing interlude! I got the nicest of compliments today, from two people--I sent an author and her agent my revision notes on an upcoming novel, and both of them told me my letter was very helpful. As writing editorial letters is both my favorite part of the job and the part I think I do best, it meant a lot to hear that I was contributing! That should keep me in good spirits until tomorrow, at least.
Back to dancing! We begin with Melanie and Marko, and the intro clips are about meeting the dancers' families. I don't really think I care about this, but we'll see. Marko tells us that his one Guamanian dance job was on a cruise ship, as a back-up dancer for a drag queen. He is very emphatic that he did NOT play the drag queen...but then he goes on to tell us that one of the job requirements was that he dress up as a girl (he looks great!). Not clear on the difference. Melanie tells us that she and her mom are both criers, though we haven't seen much of that yet. Also, she laughs about the fact that her longtime boyfriend came to the show for the first time last week, and saw her ending her dance with a passionate kiss. Heh--she says, "He wasn't mad, but it was awkward when he met Marko for the first time." Yeah, I'll bet.
M&M's choreographer is another new person, Ray Leeper, who'll be doing a jazz routine. He describes the story as "a young Latin couple whose families have been feuding for generations." A Latino Romeo & Juliet? What a fresh and unusual idea that's never been done before, certainly not as a classic of the American musical theatre! Wonder if Tyce is pissed that this guy's working his corner. As the music begins (with a samba guitar strum), we see that it's Lady Gaga's "Americano." So basically, about as Latin as Melanie herself. They're in half-flamenco, half-bondage red and black. Melanie has garters on both legs, but a stocking on only one, and it's really distracting. I love this couple, but I'm finding the costuming so distracting that it's hard to appreciate the dance. Also, it looks like a bastardized paso doble rather than what I think of as "jazz." There's one move that Melanie's boyfriend isn't going to like, a synchronized hip-thrust in which she looks ecstatic. Girl can act, is all I'm saying. But overall, I didn't really get this one. Did the jidges?
Travis starts us off, and man, his voice is high-pitched. Bring it down a notch, dude. He's speaking at about a mile a minute and is clearly nervous. He loves Marko's strength, and tells Melanie she is "by far" his favorite dancer in the competition. Carmen also says, "So, so strong, and girl those legs!" Loved the passion, loved the energy. Said nothing of note about technique. Mary, save us! Well, she opens with "Wow!" which isn't exactly what I hoped for. Ooh, here it is--she loved Melanie's effortless double pirouette. She also loves Marko's presence, and gives him a shout-out for his central role in the group dance. Nigel, of all people, is the voice of reason who says, "What's joyous here is that their technique matches their performance." He compliments Ray the Choreographer, and the camera cuts to him in the audience. Dude is soaking wet with sweat...what's going on there? Did he dance it from his seat? Anyway, Nigel loves them too. (He actually asks for clarification on the drag queen thing from Marko's footage, but poor Marko isn't quick enough to field it, so Cat bails him out and throws to the numbers.)
Non-dance interlude! This is a dog dancing merengue:
OK, back to lighter subjects. Sasha and Alex will be dancing a hip-hop routine, but first we have to meet them at home. (And goodness, we're front-loading the show tonight, aren't we?) Sasha's footage just re-uses everything we saw in auditions about her sister. Yes, she was charming, yes, they love each other, but we already know this story, show. Move it along. She comes from a large Trinidadian family that lives in Bakersfield, CA--couldn't we have met some of them? Alex didn't start dancing until 17, when he joined the dance team in order to avoid gym. But then he went on to ballet school! (Did we know he was ballet-trained?) His dad was an actor on shows like Barney Miller, T.J. Hooker and Hill St. Blues--none of which Alex has ever seen. Anyway, on to rehearsal! They also have a newish choreographer, Shaun Evaristo, whose dance is about a guy trying to get a kiss from a girl. Both Sasha and Shaun tell us that Alex has no swag. Sorry, dude.
Ooh, they get a tree! Fancy. And right away their dance is fun, with lots of isolations and fast moves. Much less squishy than a NappyTabs joint. (There is no excuse for me using the word "joint." I have even less swag than Alex.) They dance with the tree for a while, but I don't think it's really doing them any favors. They do end with a fun move where they're back-to-back and each extend a leg so they look like the "Keep On Truckin'" guy, but then they slide all the way to the floor. Carmen tries to represent by opening with "dang, girl, you were poppin' so hard!" She goes on to say that she couldn't stop watching Sasha, but that actually interfered with her appreciation of them as a pair. This is a valid criticism, actually--Alex just doesn't have the charisma (or, I think, the training) to keep up with Sasha onstage. I wish they'd split this couple up. Cat moves on to Mary and asks if she saw the swag...but she did not. Wow, she found it "lacking" and "unbelievable." That seems a little strong, especially given the praise they give Napoleon & Tabitha on a regular basis. Nigel also disliked it, calling it Hip Hop 101. The audience is booing, and shrieks in relief when Travis says, "I didn't hate it as much as they did." He then rushes through some comments about their musicality, offers tips on their aerials, and I don't blame him now because he's clearly realized he's the only one who's going to say anything technical about the dancing all night.
NDI [non-dance interlude, of course]! I subscribe to Real Simple magazine, because I love the photos and illustrations of clean, light-filled, well-organized rooms in which everything has a place and even the storage solutions are beautiful. But then I must return to the reality of my own home, in which this is our latest addition, serving as a new cat bed for Wally (of course he loves it): yes, that is a paper grocery bag. Sigh.
Jordan and Tadd are up next, and I can't imagine what we'll prise out of Jordan, who appears to be the dullest of the contestants thus far. Basically, she was a "normal kid" until she discovered dance in 3rd grade, at which point she got so into it that the entire family basically had to revolve around her lessons. A quick cut to the family dog looking resigned suggests that not everyone was on board with this plan. But the end result is: Jordan loves dance! And she loves her family! How interesting. Got anything better for us, Tadd? He grew up in a Filipino family in Salt Lake City, but he had no cultural identity there. Traveling to "Little Manila" in San Francisco gave him a relationship to his heritage. I can't make fun of that. Thanks a lot, Tadd.
Ooh, Terrifying Toni Redpath is choreographing these two! That should be fun. I love her because she has no patience for shirkers or clowning. This dance is about a siren who seduces a sailor to lead him to her death. Jordan hits a high note so piercing that we cut to Marko and Sasha both being distracted in other rehearsal studios. Heh. A cheap shot, but I laughed. As the performance begins, we can barely see the dancers through all the fog--but then Jordan emerges and looks great! She has a gazillion curly extensions (mermaid hair) and a flowy blue skirt. Tadd, alas, is in a jacket with piping that I think is supposed to say "sea captain" but is more like "maitre d'." They're waltzing, by the way--I missed that at the beginning. You know, I think maybe Jordan should be doing more ballroom. The costumes are more flattering on her than the usual contempo babydoll shift, and her lyrical/jazz training becomes nice characterization here. There's a point where I think her heel gets caught in her skirt, and the ending where she lowers him to the ground, post-kiss of death, was a little awkward, but overall this was pretty nice.
Mary starts us off with some actual talk about what the waltz should be--well, she says "rise and fall" a lot. She also reminds us that the waltz was terribly scandalous when it was introduced to English ballrooms (as any historical romance reader could tell you), and explains that in American Waltz, it's OK for the partners to separate. She ends by saying that the dance was dreamy and romantic, especially the beginning, but there's no screaming yet. She praises Tadd for staying loose when faced with new choreo, and lauds Jordan's "explosion lines" and "floor sweep." Hallelujah! The judges are talking about dancing! Alert the media! Nigel, don't let me down, Mary's shown you the way... "I think Toni Redpath was very clever in the choreography." Um, that sounds like faint praise to me, but basically he means that they both had chances to shine. Not to be undone by Mary, he praises Tadd's port des bras (Tadd looks blank) and his "twinkles" (Tadd and Cat look blank). And then we get verse 713 of the "Hip Hoppers Were Raised in Captivity and Are Unaware of All Other Types of Dance." But still, he liked it. Travis? He's actually more measured in his praise--he liked it, thinks it could have been smoother from phrase to phrase and then gives some critique so specific that I can't recap it. But I like it! Cat doesn't even try with Carmen, merely asking "Did you enjoy the routine?" Carmen admits she knows nothing about the waltz, but found the dance beautiful. She is a waste of space. I might stop recapping her comments unless they're remarkable. Carmen, if you don't say something interesting next time I'm going to pretend you're not here anymore.
NDI! Twitter is a remarkable beast. Tonight I saw a friend & former colleague's tweet about a Harlequin novelist who was also an Amazing Race contestant, which led me to a local CBS.com site that used the phrase "fiction novel." A chance to read Amazing Race trivia and be smug all at once? What could be better?
It's Clarice & Jess's turn--we start with Clarice, and finally hear from her proud papa. He is proud. Basically, Clarice studies dance at CSU-Long Beach, teaches dance, and then loves being with her family, who has sacrificed everything for Clarice's dance. So basically, she and Jordan are the same boring person. Jess, mix it up a little, would you? He's a Jersey boy, and his dad was also an actor. His dad tells us that when Jess was little, he refused to meet anybody who came to the house unless his folks gave him an introduction first. OK, that's not really going to help with Jess's image problem, is it? I'm a little surprised they don't care to mention that Jess has done several Broadway shows! But they don't.
Their dance is about--you guessed it--a couple in love. But it's an intense love that's run its course, so that's OK. This is a Justin Giles contempo piece that seems to involve lots of punching moves. Isn't this what he just did for the guys' group number? I am tickled by the fact that he dismisses them from rehearsal by shoving them both, and they stagger off rubbing their shoulders. Heh. Jess is in another suit, but it's better fitting than the one he had on earlier tonight. (Why do they always want to put him in a suit? Well, I know why--it's his personality, which is more Willy Loman than Justin Bieber.) Clarice is in a white romper with rhinestones all over it. It does not look comfortable. Justin has also been a clever choreographer, because there are many leaning moves that look interesting, but still don't require Jess to lift Clarice--all in all, though, the piece lacked a serious climax. The music was the same rhythm all the way through, and when Jess wandered off, I didn't even realize the dance was over.
Travis disagrees with me, though, and says it was his favorite C&J routine of the season. He felt that their chemistry was honest for the first time (you mean in this dance where they're breaking up?) and he can't wait to work for them. He gives Clarice one tech note about her supporting leg pushing down. Toss that boy a fish, he's working hard as a judge! Nigel begins with a shout-out to Justin, and loves his staccato style. He also loved the emotion of the dance, and then babbles about love for a while, which I won't recap. Carmen parrots Nigel, and has thus lost her recap privileges. She's gone until she says something amazing. Mary loves their steady growth and thinks they're on their way as partners. (Really? I don't think this is a winning routine. But I'm a curmudgeon.) She loves Clarice's center and Jess's versatility. And then the sound cuts out on my TV as we go to commercial. Hope it comes back.
NDI! I was talking with an agent-friend about e-publishing (because that's all anyone in my business talks about anymore), and she predicted that we could be witnessing the death of the mass market. That is, people will still buy print books if they're literary, or collectors' items--basically, books for which there still appears to be value in editorial work. But for genre fiction, where consumers seem mostly to value story and pacing, they'll purchase e-books at a lower price point than existing print editions. Do you concur?
Whew, sound's back. We're with Chris and Ashley now. Ashley's a preacher's kid, and she wants to host her own cooking show someday. We see her cooking fried...fish? chicken? at home, and her dad balking at tasting something, so I can't really tell if she's joking about being a good cook. Don't actually care. Chris is one of 7 kids living in Texas, and says, "There's always something to do and always something to clean." We also learn that he's severely dyslexic, and couldn't read the paperwork for his SYTYCD audition. Aww, Chris! I'll read to you, buddy. Anyway, Ashley and Chris will be dancing a salsa routine choreographed by Liz Lyra, who for some reason isn't given a chyron, so I don't know how to spell that. Oh, here it is! Lira. Chris is trying to find his hips, and this is our resident couple who's afraid of moving in sexy fashion. Whatever, kids, suck it up. There are also many lifts which could kill Ashley at any moment.
We're taking no risks with the music, which is good old Tito Puente. Chris is in the usual cheesy tight white suit, while Ashley is in a little blue dress with a swingy skirt. They look dressed for "social salsa," if such a thing exists. She's smiley as ever, but I think it's OK here. She's a deacon's daughter, she's never going to smolder. She looks sassy up there, and Chris is...OK. He's throwing himself into it, anyway, but I don't think he was that great. We'll see what Mary and the other TWO judges have to say. The crowd is going wild, at least. Travis starts us off by saying "OK...I love you guys." Uh-oh. And then it goes from bad to worse with "It started out really hopeful." See, this is what happens when you let actual dancers critique--you get CRITIQUE. Basically, he says they did well in hold, but not so much when they separated, and it was a little low on chemistry and energy. Fair enough. Chris cutes it up from the stage, pouting, "That's so mean, I love you!" Cat calls out his emotional blackmail with a laugh. Next there's the sound of a breeze, or the whisper of a ghost? Something from the empty space beside Travis. Mary, get us out of here! She reminds us that she put the two of them on the hot tamale train Week 2, but they aren't there this week. She tells Ashley that in places, she had "all the Latin spider you need." Huh? Spider? I dunno. But in other places, she apparently did not have enough spider. Pity. Chris acquitted himself well in the partnering, but still looked a bit awkward about the swagger. Nigel loved the lifts and says they were "absolutely terrific," but overall they couldn't quite reach the feel of salsa. He explains it to Chris by saying it's like how Nigel would look krumping. Heh.
NDI! I need a new haircut. I think maybe it's time to put layers back into my hair. Anyone have any suggestions/pictures/celebrity hair twins for me? Post advice in the comments! I need a short cut that can wash & go and look OK on my round face. Is there a hair makeover show I could apply for?
Ryan and Ricky are next, dancing a jazz routine. I don't like Ryan already, so I can't imagine her tape is going to win me over. She reminds us that she met Mia Michaels in Sacramento at a convention, which was helpful because she couldn't afford to take lessons anymore. She's gotten many jobs that way, most recently an episode of "House." She was on "House"? Was that the musical episode I refused to watch? There's a photo of her with Mia and Hugh Laurie, and now I like her even less. Get away from lovely Hugh, Giant-Toothed Girl. Ricky loves the beach, and his family tries to get on "the boat" every weekend. That sounds like we're not going to get a "my family sold their hair to pay for dance lessons" story. And we're not--he moved to Tampa, joined the cheerleading squad because there wasn't enough dance, and became captain! A veritable "Bring It On."
But who cares, because I love this dance! I love it because it's NOT about lovers. Instead, it's about people sucked into the "cult of fashion." It's choreographed by Chucky Klapow, which looks like a comic book name. In rehearsal, they mostly look like zombie dancers. For performance, Ryan looks like Dee Snider at the height of his Twisted Sister days. Ricky plays it cool in a pink fringed vest. They're dancing to David Bowie's "Fashion," which is a bit on the nose, no? Their synchronization is pretty crap, it must be said. I don't get the chemistry here, and I suspect this is a dance that would have looked incredible if done by 8 or 10 dancers, but is a little lacking with just two. I've no clue what the jidges will say--I thought it was so-so.
There's a lull while the ghost in seat 3 says something pointless. Mary begins at about an 8 on the Screech-o-Meter, and she liked the quirky movement. Loved how deep they went into character, especially Ryan who went "full-tilt zombie." (Oh. I guess they were dead fashionista dancers? Something about getting hit by a car, and I was too lazy to rewind and listen to Chucky's explanation.) Nigel loved it, too, and in general the judges seem to like this new twist on the style we've seen so often from Sonya Tayeh and Wade Robson. (Nigel even shouts out Wade Robson's classic routine, "Ramalama," featuring none other than Travis Wall!) Travis says R&R killed. Loved the look, thinks they'll both be here past the top 10. Guess I don't know nothin'.
NDI! Ah, it's time to start pimping Simon Cowell's "X Factor"--there'll be a preview during the All-Star Game on July 12. Isn't this thing not starting until September? Well, I guess that's more or less how they launched "Glee," so maybe they know what they're doing. I'm not sure I have another talent show in me, though.
We're on our last couple (thank heavens)--Caitlynn and Mitchell. Caitlynn is outdoorsy and lives in Washington State with her family. There's footage of her driving a 4-wheeler in a little lace dress. How she is not already in a country music video I do not know. Mitchell has a less bucolic childhood--his father died when he was two, and he and his mom were homeless and living in their car. Top that, Caitlynn! M&C will be dancing a Mandy Moore routine about...falling in love. Apparently the emphasis is on the "falling," because there are a ton of lifts that are all pretty wobbly in rehearsal. Caitlynn gets a point from me for saying, "It's going to be even more romantic than one of Marko's romance novels," and then the producers mock up a shot of C&M on a book cover that says "Romancing the Dance." I will take that as a personal shout-out, thankyouverymuch.
Showtime! Caitlynn's in deep purple chiffon, and Mitchell is wearing the traditional open shirt of lyrical dance. (Are buttons against code?) There are lots of pointy feet. There's the running leap into partner's arms. There's the mock-walking while partner holds you aloft. Seen it all before, done better by Katee, but it's still danced well here. Mitchell needs to remember to look at his partner more than aloft--he gazes into space as though in a reverie, and it's interfering with his connection with Caitlynn. I doubt any of the judges will agree with me about this. Apparently not, as they are all giving a standing ovation. Really? It was one of the better routines of the night, but not an Emmy-winner by any stretch of the imagination. (Also, it was danced to Celine Dion.) Oh, lord, Mary's crying. And Mitchell's crying. He's still injured, according to Mary, but he gave it his all. And Caitlynn (whose name she remembers this week) was "fearless." She tells them this was their moment, and they grabbed it. Nigel agrees, and says that "the emotion in that routine just grabbed us all." He also tells us that Mandy's been working on the UK show and now has come back to us. (Because the show was a flop in the UK, incidentally.) He loved the way they would do a lift and then move. (???I assume this makes sense to the dancers in the house.) Travis thought the partnering was both gorgeous and unexpected, and that Caitlynn's growth is a real surprise. And do we need to hear from the whispering absence in seat 3? Of course not. Everybody loved it, the dance was amazing, I'm wrong wrong wrong.
NDI! I cannot take that stupid Samsung ad about the phone with the great screen resolution, where the girl at lunch shrieks at a picture of a spider? Her scream is so piercing and long that it's unbearable, and the smashing of the phone is bothersome to me. Plus, who would have a screen background of a tarantula? (Tarantula fans, please don't email me.)
Only thing left is to see the girls' group routine. I think they should do this to open act II, not close the show--feels anticlimactic here. I wonder if its placement is to have a little buffer in case the live show runs over? Since the judges don't critique it, who cares if we have to cut the end a little? Ray Leeper is doing the jazz routine for the girls--it's about 7 girlfriends whose mission it is to rid the world of evil men. (So it's the other side of Scott Pilgrim?) There's a fun chorus-line segment that looks cool in rehearsal. For performance, they're all in garters and stockings with corsety sort of tops and black fascinators in their hair, kick-lining downstage to Eartha Kitt. The whole thing is fun, and seems a little Fosse-ish? Maybe? Or perhaps I'm swayed by the snapping on the music track. Dee is over the moon about their performance--he hasn't learned how to be cool on camera yet. And the judges all seem pleased, but of course aren't critiquing the group numbers. So that's it!
Who'll be in our bottom three tomorrow? If the jidges are to be believed, it'll probably be Sasha & Alex, Chris & Ashley, and Jordan & Tadd. Check in tomorrow to see if they're right!