Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SYTYCD: Four Go Home

I'm still so happy to have this show back. Even when it frustrates me, I love seeing all this dance on TV. Gordon, shockingly, has been making noises about us taking a dance class together, so maybe soon I'll be ready to bust a Sonya Tayeh move or two! Tonight's episode still features all 20 contestants dancing, but the die (and the votes) have been cast, so two will leave us tonight. The dancers are introduced in their couples, which is probably a good idea at this stage to help us remember them all. Case in point, the first couple is Tiffany & George, and while I know who George is, I'm shocked to have a Tiffany on this show at all.

The opening dance starts with Cyrus doing his best "Freaky Day of the Dead Dude" in a close-up, as the strains of a Marilyn Manson song start up. The dance feels Sonya-ish, with lots of right angles, a voodoo mood, and I believe a kind of guys'-hands-through-girls'-legs that seems a little questionable. However, when Cat emerges, I'm shocked to learn that this was a NappyTabs joint! Huh, who knew? Didn't think they had it in 'em. Anyway, Cat reminds us that America voted last week, and our bottom three guys and three girls will be revealed. At the end of the show, the judges will save one man and one woman, sending home the unlucky remaining four. Joining Nigel and Mary tonight is "Mr. Step Up Himself," Adam Shankman. Step Up 4--excuse me, "Step Up: Revolution"--is coming out next week, hence his appearance. (I prefer to call it "Occupy Step Up." Viva la Dancelution!)

There's a tedious plug from Nigel for National Dance Day, about which I could care less, even if they are including Zumba this year. We're then promised a preview of the aforementioned OSU, featuring SYTYCD alums Twitch, Kathryn, Philip and...someone that sounds like Tony? I don't remember a Tony. That comes later, though. right now, it's time for Cole and Lindsay's Christopher Scott routine.

Heh: refreshingly, it's not a love story! In fact, Cole is a fearful patient going to the dentist, played by Lindsay. Judging by the size of the forceps she holds up, I think Cole is right to be fearful. Also, we get virtually no rehearsal footage because we have to squeeze ten couples into tonight's show. Ha--they're dancing to a Lady Gaga deep cut that I really like, called "Teeth." Cole is dressed like a nerd for reasons unclear to me, while Lindsay has whipped off her lab coat and is wearing a little black dress. (She still has ugly white Keds on, alas.) At one point, she loses a big prop toothbrush, but it doesn't seem to be a problem. She's very sexy, and it's certainly the best use of a dentist's chair in a dance performance that I've ever seen...but I don't think there was very much connection between the two of them. For me, it lacked the power of last week's paso doble, and Cole in particular faded into the background. Lindsay chewed him up & spit him out.

Nigel's not blown away either, opening with his arms crossed. He thought it was a fun routine and praises Cole's characterization, but he's not raving about the dancing. Says Lindsay felt a little immature and was playing to the audience more than Cole. Mary seems a bit more positive, although she agrees that Lindsay wasn't acting as strongly as she could. She loved Cole, though. (Cole, by the way, has stayed in character throughout the judging, and methinks someone wants to be on SNL, not SYTYCD.) Adam reiterates the critique that Lindsay hasn't fully attacked the hip hop or the acting, and then says, "It's Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses." Thankfully he doesn't wait for any kind of applause, because no one saw that movie. Anyway, the overall take is that Cole was awesome at acting, Lindsay needed more commitment...I couldn't tell you what anyone thought about the dancing, because NONE OF THE JUDGES TALKED ABOUT IT.

Non-dance interlude! Wally came home from the vet's today without his collar on (it was clipped on his cat carrier door). What kind of crazy bacchanals are they having back there, to end up with so much cat nudity? Shocking, I tell you. Also, without his collar, Wally looks even more like a penguin than usual.

Next up are Amelia and Will, doing a Sonya dance about "two souls searching for the light at the end of the tunnel." Lots of Amelia leaping on Will (which, as you'll recall, is a pretty high leap, seeing as he's a giant). They're dancing to a song called "3326" by Olafur Arnalds. That sounds to me like someone who comes from the land of Bjork. They're in vaguely period-ish feeling clothes that don't look like anything in particular, but Amelia's olive green dress makes her look even whiter than usual. She's practically blue. Lots of leaps into stretchy poses where Will is holding Amelia by one ankle as she arabesques, that sort of thing. Feels very modern-dance in a smart but slightly medicinal way (possibly because "3326" turned out to be an instrumental piece for strings, so we lacked our usual pop music contrast). This was one of those dances that wasn't the flashiest in the world, but probably was very difficult. Sonya's eyes are bugging out of her head with joy as they complete it.

Cat goes to Mary first, who answers her "What did you think?" by shrieking. Oof, it's early in the show for that volume. The crowd is also cheering like mad, though--apparently it's only I who's the philistine. (There's a flash of Melanie the redheaded ballroom coach behind Sonya, giving a standing O.) After the shrieking, though, Mary gets down to business and says that they did wonderful, daring partner work because of all the points where Amelia had to be off balance and Will had to hold her. And then there's an extended set up for a weak metaphor about elevators, because the theatre's elevator broke down today, apparently.  Cat goes to Adam next, who is just standing and shaking his head and applauding fiercely. He loves how Amelia danced the piece perfectly, but also lost herself in its emotion. He tells Will he totally stepped it up and then says, "Yes, that was a movie plug." I am annoyed at myself for finding that funny. Tells them both they were brilliant. Nigel? First he has to throw some rather patronizing props Sonya's way, comparing her growth to Travis's as a choreographer. He then does a kind of labored series of "you're lucky"--because they were contempos dancing contempo, because they have good partners, because Sonya--but it ends with "you're lucky because you're both brilliant dancers." I will say that it's amazing to me how powerful Will can appear when dancing, because when he's just standing there, he has the face of a Muppet.

Our next couple is Amber and Nick (and I think I might have called Amber Martha last week? will have to go and check), and they're dancing a tango from two glamorous choreographers I will call Miriam and Leonardo, because there's no way in hell I'm going to spell their last names right. In rehearsal it becomes clear that Amber has quite the booty. Mad props, ma'am. The music is typical tango music, and Amber's in a spicy red and black dress. I don't like Nick's costuming--he's in a suit and frock coat, and the coat really hides his lines from behind. Looks too big for him. He brings the smolder, though! This is the first time I haven't thought "who's that teenaged boy?" when watching him. Amber's legs seem impressively bendy, and she does all her flips, but I felt like it could be a little...snappier? Maybe like her feet need to be just a little faster.

Adam gets to go first this time, and he's giggling about how hot it was. Says the routine was great and Amber was spectacular, especially her ganchas. (Adam, you dirty bird!) Tells Nick that he was a brilliant partner, but the bad news is that being brilliant in this case meant that he was supporting Amber and putting her fully on display, possibly to his own detriment. More to his detriment, as we see in closeup, is the terrible unblended bronzer they've smeared all over his face. He looks like he's been digging Georgia clay. Nigel says, "I can't agree with Adam, I don't think Nick made Amber look good, I think Amber made Amber look good." He then tells her to remember to keep characterization strong in future dances, and throws Nick a bone and tells him he was good too. Mary agrees that it was a great routine, and tells us that it was an extremely difficult routine, but they made it look easy. Well, that's true. And Mary praises Nick specifically for doing "7 reverse pivots with Amber on your hip." Yes, I was going to mention the reverse pivots. Actually, I'm just glad they gave him some praise for being talented in his own right, and not just "We couldn't see you behind Amber's awesomeness!"

Non-dance Interlude! This is my latest internet delight, even though it's hit HuffPo, so I'm probably the last to hear it--a mashup of two summer pop confections (both of which I love and I don't care if it's not cool so nyah nyah), Gotye's "Somebody that I used to know" and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe." The band is Pomplamoose, and they were previously the annoying musicians in a series of Christmas Hyundai commercials. But here I love the weirdly dark video that goes along with the perky songs. Press play if you dare...

And we're back! Audrey and Matt will be dancing a Sonya piece, about "a robotic power struggle between a man and a woman." They're dancing to a song called "Hear Me Now" by...Steed Loro? I feel like we're just making up words now.  Audrey's in a black bikini with gold studs, and Matt is shirtless and in skinny dance jeans w/matching belt. The music's very electronica (I think--or "industrial"? I'm a square, I don't know) and the dance seems largely to be about how very well Audrey can do splits. (You know how some people call it doing "the" splits? Where does that come from?) I am left mostly with the impression that Audrey has an amazing body.

Nigel starts and annoys me instantly by saying "this is what we call 'tufer' choreography--2 for 2, Sonya!" Um, whatever, dude. But he loves it, and then annoys me again by gyrating and using the word "stank." I do not approve. He compliments them on showing such a change from last week's beautiful Travis routine, and predicts that they will be one of America's favorite couples. Mary says they're one of her favorites, for sure. Everything went to the max, especially with little Audrey, and she loves it. Adam says that the night belongs to Sonya, and then tells Audrey that although he doubted the decision to cast her, she's wiped away all doubt. To Matthew, he says, "If you keep it up like that, it's yours to lose." I swear, I think there must be something wrong with my television that I'm not being blown away by any of these routines! Have I become too cynical for SYTYCD

No I have not, as the next routine will quickly show. We're on to Janelle and Darien, dancing a Chris Scott routine to the Temptations' "My Girl." It's about a guy proposing to his girl, and she's in a 50s-ish dress and crinoline while he's in the requisite Chris Scott suit-with-skinny-tie. I LOVED this routine. Part of this is because I think Janelle is an infectiously charming performer, but the choreography itself was delightful--part swing, part hip-hop, flirty and strong all at once. They did a beautiful job of feeling both period and modern. There's a sticky bit with a reversible jacket, but the storytelling was cute, the dancing was sprightly, and in the end, she says yes with a kiss. What's not to like? (Well, Darien's brick-feet in one otherwise impressive flip, but that's a minor quibble.) Judges, don't let me down!

Adam starts off with a lecture, which is making me nervous. He talks about how this was a routine all about character, and that Darien was more successful at it than Janelle. Said it was adorable, and suited Darien perfectly. Nigel is sounding similarly blech--he didn't like the choreography that much and felt that the dancers were capable of doing more. Are you nuts? This was the most nuanced thing we've seen all night! What is wrong with you, Nigel? Ugh, he's completely wrong. Mary agrees and then makes a jokey reference to last year's judging kisses, which prompts Adam to lunge over Mary and kiss Nigel (while carefully putting a hand over his lips first--c'mon, Adam, if you're going to do it, commit!). Mary goes on to say the routine was sweet and airy, and "she thought they did it OK." Ugh, I just can't with these judges. I'm angry on Janelle and Darien's behalf. (Not angry enough to spell his name right, as it happens. His vowels are all out of order.)

Sean Cheesman is doing our next routine, set at a bus stop, where Janaya is reading "a hot romance book and gets crazy frisky" while Brandon tries to fend her off. Oh no you didn't--if this is a 50 Shades of Grey dance, I'm not recapping it. That book makes my blood boil. [PSA: if you want to read erotica, please make it good erotica.] Fortunately, no one appears onstage in bondage wear, so I shall continue. It's cute, actually--Janaya's dressed like the Cherry Blossom Princess of Jackson County, West Virginia, and Brandon is peering over the top of his own book with trepidation. She twists and twirls around him so that she's hanging on his shoulders or his head is in her lap, and then they're on the floor wrestling. It's all very athletic and fast and playful, and ends with Brandon on the bench with Janaya under his feet. (I'll ignore the gender politics.)

Adam says it was a very successful character piece and he loved Sean's choreo--also says it was a great step up for Brandon, and that Janaya was excellent at playing the comedy. Nigel also lauds Sean for switching from Afro-jazz last week to Broadway this week, and then says that Janaya brought a level of performance she didn't have last week. Mary found it one of the most entertaining numbers of the night, and then throws another stupid Step Up plug in for Nigel. She thought the two of them would be in danger after last week, but tonight they rose to the occasion. (Too bad it might be too late for them.)

Non-Dance Interlude! OK, if Adam gets to plug his stuff all night, I'm plugging mine, too. I have two delightful books coming out in August that I adore. The first is The Care & Feeding of Stray Vampires, by Molly Harper. This is a funny, witty paranormal romance about a "vampire concierge" who runs daytime errands for the vamps in her small Kentucky town. When someone tries to do away with her newest undead client, Iris gets more than she bargained for. The second is The Sweetness of Forgetting, by Kristin Harmel. This one's women's fiction, and has something for everybody--it's the story of a woman living on Cape Cod, running her family bakery and dealing with her grandmother's advancing Alzheimer's disease. When Hope's grandmother gives her a list of names and tells her she must go to Paris to find them, it upends everything she thought she knew about her family. Plus, there are recipes! These are great books from wonderful people--please go buy them and make me proud.

Halfway through! It's time to watch Eliana and Cyrus, who have the jive (ah, this is why Melanie was here this week--she and her partner Tony choreographed). Oof. The jive has taken down many a team where both had some training, but to give it to the "animator" and the ballerina? This could get ugly. Also, for some reason in rehearsal Eliana is dancing in socks and slipping everywhere, which seems counterproductive. But then, she's on SYTYCD and I'm on my couch. Cyrus just looks shell shocked.
When they get onstage (dancing to Jack White's "I'm Shakin'"), I will say that they both look hot. Eliana's in a little red two-piece spangly number, and Cyrus is in all-black with his shirt unbuttoned all the way to his belt. They're both game all the way through, but you can feel the "game-ness," I think. They aren't as bouncy as I think they're supposed to be, and even Eliana, who should have quick ballet feet, seems to be a little slow to transition from one move to the next. That said, they act the heck out of it, there are some tough-looking flips that Cyrus pulls off, and for the pair with the least trained dancer on the show, they did pretty well. Given my track record tonight, I predict a string of "best routine of the night!"s from the judges.

Even Cat seems a little skeptical. She goes to Mary first, who is giggling. She starts with Cyrus and lists a bunch of flaws--bad feet, rough transitions, etc.--but acknowledges that he partnered really well and managed to convey that he was having a good time. She praises Eliana's footwork and carriage and says that she's "cooking." Adam tells Cyrus that he guessed his head must have exploded in rehearsal, and says it was a victory just for him to have gotten through it. He then tells Eliana she's the "hardest working woman in show biz" tonight, because she compensated for all of Cyrus's weaknesses and made them both look good. Nigel explains the dance assignments this season, which work slightly differently--and it's kind of interesting! The couples don't pick a dance out of the hat, they pick a number...though it's not clear to me whether dances have already been assigned to those numbers, or if the person with #1 gets to choose which dance they want to do. But Cyrus tells us that by the time they drew (#7), the choices left were the jive, foxtrot, Argentine tango or Bollywood. Oof. As with the other judges, Nigel acknowledges that Cyrus was in over his head, and praises the choreography for covering for him. He also praises Eliana for being the strong member of the team, and hopes that she'll be able to show America how good a dancer she really is.

We get a peek at Daniel and Alexa before the commercial break, and judging by their skimpy blue costumes, I'm guessing it's a "Blue Lagoon" themed dance? We know it's not Bollywood, at any rate. Ah, it's a contemporary piece from Dee Kaspary that's sort of about drowning? Or words? Talking and not talking for hours? There's a bathtub prop, and they're dancing to Yanni, which makes me nervous. Wow, that tub is surprisingly capacious. Between them, they have about 15 feet of legs, and yet they manage to fold them up and swing them around and not whack their ankles on the side of the tub even once! (So why can I barely get out of our bathtub without falling?) I don't like this music, but the movement is beautiful, and the choreography at the end will make people imagine having sex with Daniel in a bathtub, which can only help them. The whistling from the ladies in the crowd proves me right.

Adam praises Dee, and echoes my feelings about the tub--and then says, "After that bath, I should have wanted to take a shower." But he didn't! He found it very beautiful, but "chilly" and was conscious of the technical elements. Overall, he didn't really find their connection strong enough. (Maybe he didn't see the part where she laid on top of him in the tub and then he laid on top of her?) But I kind of know what he means--these two don't really seem to have clicked as partners. Mary warns us not to try bathtub dancing at home--far too dangerous--and acknowledges that the chemistry is a little lacking between the two of them. She says their technique, their physique, everything is great...but there's no spark. Nigel loved the choreography but agrees that the connection wasn't there. Alexa's blank stare isn't helping matters, though I'm sure it's exhaustion mostly. I feel bad, because I think Alexa was already on the edge just from being overhyped in auditions--but neither of her dances has helped her that much.

On to Tiffany and George, who also have Tony & Melanie...ah, they got the foxtrot. Poor bastards. Neither of them are trained in ballroom, and it seems to be counter to all their jazz/contempo training. They're dancing to a big-band rendition of "I Want to Be Loved by You" by...Sinead O'Connor? Wow, who knew? Tiffany looks very pretty in her purple dress, but very young. I feel like I'm watching two kids at prom. They spin and twirl and seem like they did a great job, but it's tough to overcome the fact that the foxtrot is boring. But they're both cute.

Mary starts, and acknowledges the issue with drawing foxtrot on this show, but she loves the routine and loved them both! George's pivots were excellent, apparently, and the dance was a "perfect fit" for Tiffany. Adam says he was "madly in love" with it and thought it was totally Fred & Ginger. Nigel says he's just happy that "you've been given a chance to dance," and says it like he's making a reference to something, but I don't get it. But anyway, he says they've schooled all the other couples in how to connect with a partner. So go, them. That's nice! I like George. I hope all the praise will be enough to counter the Curse of the Foxtrot in this week's voting.

OK, people, I've been promised Bollywood. Where's the Bollywood? Here it is! Nakul, the choreographer, tells us that this number has no storyline, and is all about speed and stamina--and getting the hands right. Good luck to Witney and Chehon! (While I understand that in real Bollywood dancing, it's important to have the hands right because the wrong way can be offensive, on this show, I always find that emphasis a bit silly, since no one can actually see the dancers' hands clearly enough.) Ooh, these two look pretty fabulous in Bolly-wear, though! The music is driving and has a really fast beat of chanting voices. Right off the bat, there's a moment where Chehon has to kick out one leg and hold it at right angles to his other one, just balancing; he doesn't even quiver, and it's a testament to the incredible strength of his ballet-trained core. There's a ton of hand work in this routine, possibly more than footwork even. They have some nice moments of synchronization, and their energy is good. Starts to ebb a bit at the very end, but overall, a pretty good Bollywood routine. Also, it should be noted that Nakul is wearing a very handsome tunic in the audience.

Adam says they did a great job and it's hard to critique them, but reminds Witney to elongate her neck. (Tyra would never stand for that neck, girl!) He tells Chehon it's "the first time I saw joy" in his performance. It's true, he had a more playful expression this time. Mary loved it too, and thought it was miles better than last week's samba. She shrieks with delight and praises their chemistry and enthusiasm throughout. Nigel loves that Witney did "knee turns" and "cataque" (sp?) and tries to play the "untrained" card by saying, "I don't think you've even done any work in plie, have you?" but Witney misses his snap and says, "I have, I have." C'mon, hon, you're a dancer, you're supposed to follow his lead. And then Adam makes a risque joke that falls flat, I think because everyone else remembers that Witney is like 16 years old or something. Anyway, they were cuties.

And as soon as we get Chehon and Witney's numbers, Cat calls everyone back onstage! It's funny to see which dancers have changed back into street clothes already. (Will, I'm looking at you. That yellow striped tee has got to go, dude.) Who are our bottom three girls? Janaya, Alexa, and Witney. (Wow, she paid for that samba last week, huh? I didn't think she'd be in the bottom.) And our bottom three guys? Nick, Daniel, and Chehon.  Yikes! So we're going to lose one of our ballet boys tonight--almost seems like there was no point in saving them both at auditions! I predict that the judges will save Witney and Daniel...

Cat asks Nigel, "Do you need to see any more before making your decision?" This confuses me a little--there's no more "dance for your life" component, right? The judges knew who was in the bottom already, so they've already decided. Anyway, Nigel says that "after speaking to the choreographers last week and this week, we do not need to see anybody re-dance." So they would...redance last week's number? I'm confused. But never mind that, we're cutting away from this somber moment for commercials and the Occupy Step Up plug! Bad timing, show--shouldn't you have put the happy dance plug BEFORE you pulled out six nice kids and announced you were crushing the dreams of four of them?

Non-Dance Interlude! Since we should all be self-publishing erotic novels in order to make our fortune, we're going to need pen names. Fortunately, there's a handy "Romance Novel Name Generator" available for you! Try it here, courtesy of author Susan Mallery (an Abby alum, thankyouverymuch). My pen name is Zoe for the first in my series of erotic Amish romances, coming soon!

Time for our live Step Up dance! The fourth alum is "Tony Bellissimo." Seriously, who is that? I've watched every season of this show and that name is unfamiliar to me. In addition to our 4 alums, there are four other dancers onstage, but they do not have names, apparently. This is fine, but to be honest, it's not amazing. Maybe if Channing Tatum were stripping during it...

Let's get to our results! Who is safe and who goes home? The audience is silent, and Cat sounds like someone is going to be executed. Nigel has to stall by explaining how voting works. Basically, no one gets voted off, just saved. So, y'know, don't blame the judges. Without further ado, he tells us that they'll be saving Witney. I'm 1 for 2! And poor Alexa was dragged through all that audition torture for almost nothing. No tour, no nothing. Janaya is very sweet and gracious, and we've already forgotten who she is. Sorry, nice girls. Thanks for coming.

The boys come down, and you know Nick's going home. Nigel says that it's "much easier" because they've talked to the choreographers, but doesn't explain what they contribute or why that makes it easier. He just tells us that they've decided to save Chehon. Aww, I think of the two ballet boys I would have kept Daniel--I'd have liked to see him with a different partner. But Chehon is no slouch either, and he seemed to warm up the crowd better.

Do you agree with the judges' saves? Wish we'd kept someone else? See you next week!


Kristin Harmel said...

Thanks for the shout-out! :-) And this is my first season watching SYTYCD... I'm totally hooked! I'm rooting for Cole!

NinaK said...

So glad you're blogging again Ab. I put aside thevSunday paper to enjoy your comments. Always so right on, and damned funny.