I love the Olympics, and watched everything from archery to synchro diving to the modern pentathlon (and of course, all the equestrian events!), but it's great to have Cat Deeley and her crew back on my TV screen! Cat seems happy to be back too, if we can judge from her Heidi-braid and dress that seems to be made out of leftover New Year's Eve confetti.
Tonight we're down to 14 dancers, and will be kicking off four more! That seems like a lot, but I guess it's to make up for the missing Olympic weeks? How long is this season? Anyway, we're (re-)introduced to the dancers in pairs, starting with Eliana & Cyrus, Tiffany & George, Janelle & Dareian, Amelia & Will, Lindsay & Cole, Witney & Chehon, and Audrey & Matthew. Last time we lost Brandon and...who? I'll check. Cat comes out through her usual gauntlet of dancers, and in the background I can see that Eliana is in THE most unflattering outfit ever. Seriously, ever. Sleeveless plaid flannel shirt over high-waisted granny panties.
Hmm, tonight's theme is: Mia Michaels. That is, the dancers will be performing "classic Mia routines from previous seasons." I know Mia's had some of the most talked-about dances in the show's history, but to be honest, I've always thought her choreography (on this show, at least) was overpraised. And I kind of suspect that a whole show of Mia-dances will all look the same. Prove me wrong, Nigel!
Joining Nigel and Mary tonight are two shiny guest judges whom I don't recognize: OMG, they're actual dancers! They are "the Ballet Boys," two acutal, trained, British ballet dancers. (Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, FYI. This will confuse me as I'll want to call them both "Trevor Nunn," which is the wrong fine art entirely.) Oh, and while we were away, NappyTabs had their baby! We get a picture of the happy family with London Riley--or as Cat IDs her, "Season 27's future winner."
We're getting one new dance tonight, and it's the opening number, featuring dancers hanging from ropes and a blond in frizzed-out hair and a Gaultier-like crinoline frame. Guys are in tuxes, women are swinging across the stage. This is what I imagine a Cirque de Soleil funeral would look like. And now they're all making out while the guys hang from the ropes? Is it an homage to Spiderman? Aww, two of the dancers are holidng roses and lying flat onstage--I guess it was a funeral. I didn't understand that AT ALL, but Mia tells me it was amazing and I don't want us to fight so soon after reuniting.
The dancers' interviews are about what SYTYCD moment has inspired them most over the last 8 seasons. Cyrus starts us off by reminding us about Brian, the amazing robot-guy who had...CP? Something where he could hardly move. Cyrus is tickled that now they're roommates. Eliana's moment is the Wade Robson "Waiting on the World" solos, where all ten dancers had to do the same dance. I remember that--it didn't work on TV. Eliana claims she was impressed by the differences in interpretation, but all I remember is the stupid move where they had to make their arms be the hands of the clock.
Cyrus & Eliana are doing the "door routine" that Katee and Twitch made iconic. There's lots of giggling in rehearsal while Eliana tries to summon her inner badass. Cyrus seems to have no problem with that...and holy smokes, they go right to the making out. Eliana's leaps and kicks are astounding. She's not as fierce as Katee, but she moves like a rubber ball! Cyrus isn't as attention-getting, but he has some little moments where he gets to send a shiver all through his body in his animatronic fashion. I felt the athletics more than the emotion, but they were good.
The crowd won't shut up and it's hard to hear Nigel at first, but he makes a good point--the judges have to try to forget the previous dancers who made these pieces so famous (to use the term loosely), but the dancers also have to rise to the challenge and re-interpret the dances themselves. He admires Cyrus's animation, but tells him to lower his shoulders and loosen up. He says that Eliana seemed stronger than Cyrus, and kept her characterization along with her amazing technique. Mary agrees--thought it was great and loves them as a couple. Mary looks a bit pink and puffy tonight--I'm thinking new botox? She tries to coin a new term involving "swag" but then fails to successfully pronounce "mischievous," so whatever. Michael points out that he and Billy have never seen any of these dances, so they aren't comparing it to anything. He loved it, loved the use of the door prop, and had nothing specific to say. Billy is similarly excited, and likes the hip hop/ballet combo. Ballet Boys, you'd better bring some real criticism soon, or I will be sorely disappointed!
Our next couple is--well, we don't know yet, because we have to watch a recap of the National Dance Day festivities. Apparently people danced. A lot. In high places and low places, wet places and dry places. One woman dances standing on the backs of two horses (strangely, she's alone at night in the middle of an arena). I don't care about this, so let's move on.
OK, our next couple is George and Tiffany. (I suspect this evening's intro order was deliberate!) George picks "Ramalama" as his inspirational moment, and he is right! That was an awesome routine. Tiffany claims that her moment was when, in Season 7, Twitch was recreating his hip hop dance (the one that broke lovely Alex Wong!) and open the door to reveal that Ellen DeGeneres was his partner. Tiffany, that is wrong. The inspirational moment of that dance was when they showed us the rehearsal footage of Alex killing it. As Nina Garcia would say, I question your taste levels. G&T (maybe I'll start calling them gin & tonic) are dancing the "Hometown Glory" routine danced by Katee and Joshua. Hey, I'm beginning to think that what made these dances great was not the choreography, but Katee. George says that "to redo that assisted run is an honor." Which seems a little strong to me.
George doesn't have Joshua's bulk compared to Tiffany, so I imagine these lifts will all look different. (I also just realized that this isn't the routine I was thinking of--I thought this was the "Joshua goes off to war" dance to "No Air".) This stage is too dark, and the pair is dressed in black, so it's hard to appreciate all their lines and angles. I think they just did the assisted run, but I can't say they truly honored it. Damn, it's over? That seemed fast--the routine didn't breathe at all. Mia looks proud and delighted, so I guess it was good, but I didn't care for it so much.
Mary tells us to call 911, because G&T murdered the routine. She praises George's transitions and Tiffany's dancing more generally, but warns her against overperforming. Doesn't say anything about the assisted run. (More like a sprint this time.) Michael felt that Tiffany was working so hard that she kind of lost her partnership with George, but it was still beautiful. Nigel was thrilled to see George working in his own style and showing off his potential, but agrees that they were overacting a little in the face. Billy apparently doesn't get to talk this time? Guess not, because we're moving on. Maybe he gets the next one? Or perhaps the Ballet Boys are like Penn & Teller, and one of them never speaks.
Time for Will and Amelia. Trivial aside: Amelia has some New Jersey connections, because on my drive home from the barn last week, I saw a storefront with a huge VOTE FOR AMELIA sign on it! Will tells us that his favorite moment was when Nigel was kidnapped in a Season 4 group number. I disagree--no one remembers that moment. I call shenanigans! But not on Amelia--her moment is just from last year, in Melanie's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" dance, where she flings herself halfway across the stage and into Neil's arms. Watching it again, I half-expect her to miss and smash her head open. Good pick, Amelia! She's not as enthusiastic about the routine she'll be doing with Will--it's "the butt dance," from Season 5, where Evan the tapper is mesmerized by his partner's saucy derriere. It actually makes sense for this couple, but Amelia's worried that her butt won't measure up. Will has the butt-staring DOWN in rehearsal.
They start out waggling and wiggling, and the scene is set like a street with lampposts even though they're both in jammies. I think Will is selling the ogling a little too hard--it could be sprightlier and subtler, but Amelia seems to really get the musical rhythms and this movement. Mia's applauding, but doesn't seem ecstatic.
Nigel leads us off and says that it's one of the toughest to critique because he remembers the original so vividly. "Nothing against your butt," he tells Amelia, and I'm already cringing at how he's going to end this sentence, "...but I've sort of had Randy's butt on my mind." Eccch. He goes on to praise Mia's diversity (and I'm forced to admit he's right--I think of her as being all "Dead Daddy" dances, but she does a lot), and says that he felt the dancers didn't bring a lot of characterization to the roles or make it their own. He particularly was let down because Amelia already plays a character in her everyday life, so where did it go? Mary says she liked it, but thought Will was too over-the-top. She tells Amelia that she's exquisite, but needs to remember to play to the audience when she's playing coy with her partner. Billy gets to talk! Because he's not comparing it to anyone, he found it strong and endearing, although there were "moments where a little subtlety wouldn't have gone amiss." Fair enough!
We're back, and our next pair is Janelle and Dareian. Janelle's favorite moment is Mark and Chelsie's "Bleeding Love" dance. Yes, I love that one too, even though poor Chelsie was styled like a background player in a Garanimals catalog. Darieian chooses the dance between Kent and Neil during Kent's season, where Neil tosses him in the air and then shoves his foot in Kent's face at the end. (Is Dareian foot-obsessed because of his own tarsal inadequacies? I sense a deeper story here.) How do contemporary dancers keep their feet clean at moments such as this? I mean, that stage can't be spotless, can it? And Neil really stepped on Kent's face. Ick.
Anyway, J&D (Jack & Daniels?) will be doing Mia's famous "Bed Dance," which I've never really cared for. This was originally done for Twitch and Kherington (a dancer I hated in her own season, mostly because she was the Generic Blonde Nigel Swears is a Genius), and Janelle observes that both of those dancers were much taller, and thus she and Dareian will struggle to replicate their length. Maybe they should just make it a twin bed?
Wow, how did I not realize that Dareian had such a six-pack? We get a good, long, lascivious look at those abs as the music starts. There's something strange about either the choreography or the positioning of the bed, though, because the bulk of this dance seems to be done with the dancers facing away from the audience. I think they're going to get dinged for connection. It was very bouncy, but I still don't love this dance.
Michael gets to start this time, and says that while he's heard about it, he's never seen it before. He loves the concept, but first thing he does is call out Dareian's feet, which are "a real shame, because everything's there." He also calls out Janelle for hairography a bit, which is fair--and then Billy jumps in to say that in her defense, this piece is really about the guy's movement, and it can be hard for the woman to claim focus. Nigel thinks this was the first time he started to feel Dareian's personality, and his technique was stronger than Twitch's. He tells Janelle that she didn't really stand out, and that it's her eyes and smile (and hip-wiggling) that pops off the stage, so when she doesn't use those, she fades. (I hate to agree with Nigel in Creepy Uncle mode, but he's right.) Mary agrees with Nigel that she couldn't even see Janelle's face, and it killed the passion and emotion--and urges Dareian to "fix those tootsies!"
Audrey and Matthew are ready to tell us about their favorite moments, and Audrey's is from Season 1! Nick and Melody's disco. I'm happy to see something from that season, which this show often pretends doesn't exist, and I agree that it's one of the best discos they've had. Nick loved a Mandy Moore piece with Ade and LoFro that involved an interesting assisted lift. And DING DING DING! This is the couple that drew the lucky (or perhaps loaded?) straw and are doing "Dead Daddy." I didn't like this dance when it first happened, and thought it was grossly overpraised because Mia's father had just died. (Also because I didn't like Neil.) So I'm skeptical that it will be reinvigorated now.
In rehearsal Mia's already weeping, and the flowers are out. Onstage, it's deja vu--white clothes, flowers, babydoll dress--but why is Matthew in a lavender bowtie? Not appealing. And yet...could it be that I actually like this dance, and just really hated Neil? I think Audrey acts the "little girl" part far more effectively than Lacey did, and overall, while this was very leapy and flaily, I think it was very pretty.
Mary starts and she's already crying, but she talks about how her own father was diagnosed with lung cancer and basically acknowledges that this is the power of a Cancer Dance rather than the performance in front of them. She actually tells Matthew that he was beautiful, but not convincing or passionate, but calls Audrey a "shining star." That's fair--my eye kept going to her, not him. Billy again? Anyway, he praises Audrey, particularly an opening pirouette, but warns Matthew that he's dropping his performance quality when he prepares to catch his partner. I see our Real Dancers are warmed up and prepared to actually critique now! Yay! Nigel begins by trying to explicate the dance, but unfortunately the children in front of him, while beautiful dancers, are not catching his snap. He asks Audrey, "How old was Mia when her father died?" and you can tell Audrey has no clue, nor any idea why she should know. Nigel turns to Matthew and asks, "What did Mia's dad do?" and Matthew, confused, says, "He was the Marlboro Man." Nigel's all, um, and...? Matthew gamely continues, "He was a model?" Finally Nigel jumps in and says "He was a song and dance man." Nigel, these kids don't even know what that means. This is all a long-winded way of saying that Matthew didn't convey the hint of fun in a dad playing in the meadow with his daughter. Whatevs, dude. Cat sweetly covers and warms the audience back up again so they can cheer for the dancers and their numbers.
Next up: Witney and Chehon do the Park Bench dance! She has her sunflower ready. Chehon's inspirational moment was actually Melanie's audition from last year--he praises her moments of stillness. I am reminded again of her awesomeness. Also, striking a blow for ladies with short haircuts! Witney's moment is of Travis Wall auditioning in drag in season 4? Um, I don't remember that, but hey, he/she did a good job. Went a little heavy on the blusher, though. Chehon tells us that this dance is the first SYTYCD he ever saw...and Witney tells us she saw this at 12 years old, which makes me develop sympathetic arthritis. And then Witney pulls Chehon off the back of the bench and smashes him to the floor. Heh.
Our old friend the bench is back. Will it help their acting skills? Wow, Chehon's pirouettes are lovely. His center is so straight and strong! They have a lovely leap, and I'm feeling passionate movement from Chehon, but he's not giving much face. Witney looks suitably beautiful, but I wasn't really watching her. Mia looks teary and pleased, though. I certainly like this choreography better than some of the others.
Nigel starts off and says that their technique shone through as well as the story, and then asks if Mia told them the story. The dancers look a little confused (probably worried about another pop quiz), so Nigel tells them (and us) that it's about Mia's love for a gay man. This feels weirdly personal and inappropriate coming from Nigel. Shut up, Nigel! Mia would have told them in rehearsal if she wanted them to know! In the end, he does tell C&M (Creme de Menthe?) that they brought it. Mary wants Chehon to let go just a bit more--he's so controlled that it can be rigid. She loved Witney, especially the killer leap. Michael praises Salt Lake City as a hotbed of dance, and tells Witney (an SLC girl herself) that she was great. And then he tells Chehon, "If you ever want a job with Ballet Boys, you've got one." Handy! You can quit now, Chehon! (I wonder if he thought, "I do real ballet, dudes, not this pop ballet fusion bullshit.")
Lindsay and Cole are our final pair (so soon?), and I love Cole's favorite moment, because it's when Mark Kanemura made it to the top 20! I love him. Apparently Cole and Mark are from the same dance studio in Hawaii, and I am not surprised that he would admire Mark's somewhat unorthodox movement style. I just wish we'd gotten a better clip of Mark's dancing. Lindsay's favorite moment is Travis and Benji's Season 2 hip hop routine. C&L (sorry, can't think of another cocktail!) will be dancing Kayla and Kupono's "Addiction" routine from Season 5. That was an excellent routine, it's true, and I think Cole's style will be well-suited to this piece. Mia tells us in rehearsal that Lindsay must strive to be less of a pretty dancer. Can she do it?
Cole's made his part more robot-infused, with lots of isolations, and there's one bit where he lifts Lindsay's leg up and runs his lips along it that looks incredibly intense. I don't think Lindsay's quite holding her own--there's just not the same power in her moves, not enough resistance. I didn't see her really battling him and being an equal match.
Billy disagrees with me, though--he thought it was very impressive, and couldn't tell what specialty either of them was, they were so well-matched with the choreography. Mia loves the routine, and thinks that Cole and Lindsay were the best of the night. She notes that Kupono was more sinister while Cole was a little quirkier, but still great. And she thinks that Lindsay was great. Nigel says that he's been a little disappointed this evening because he didn't feel that the dancers were taking over the pieces and making them their own--which is fair, I guess, but of course the only reason we're seeing these routines again is that they were already the best of the best, and made that way by the dancers for whom they were choreographed. It's like asking someone to dance a classic Barishnikov role--they can still be beautiful, but would you really not compare them to Misha? But despite these complaints, Nigel loved these two and thought they were terrific.
And that's all the dancing! Time to boot some sweet young things. We'll have a bottom 3 men and bottom 3 women, and 4 of the 6 will go home. Cat jumps right into it and reminds us of Cyrus and Eliana's robot routine from weeks ago. Eliana is...safe! Cyrus is...safe! Tiffany and George did a "kid friendly hip hop" that looks appalling in the recap. Tiffany is...safe! George is...in danger. Why does no one like George? Amelia and Will did a black and white jazz routine from Mandy Moore. Will is...safe! Amelia is...in danger. Janelle and Dareian did a cha cha that looks very flirty. Janelle is...not safe. Dareian is...also in danger. C'mon, people, what's wrong with Janelle? She's adorbs!
Because we know four of the six in jeopardy now, Cat changes the pattern and is going to remind us of all three past dances first. Audrey and Matthew did a salsa that required Matthew to wear a bright red jumpsuit. That's a lot to overcome. Witney and Chehon did a contemporary Stacey Tookey piece. Lindsay and Cole danced a Mandy Moore contemporary routine that didn't appear to be 80s-inspired. Rather than running through the couples again, Cat does the unthinkable and just tells us that the two remaining bottom dwellers are Matthew and Lindsay. Interestingly, this may shake up some partnerships. Hugging, cheering and weeping ensue.
Cat asks the judges if they want to see anyone's solos, and Nigel says they want to see everybody. I don't actually think they're confused about who's going home--it's just an opportunity to let them all have one more solo. I suppose maybe the fresh blood of Michael and Billy could influence things, but I doubt it. I fear after tonight's lackluster dance they'll give Janelle the boot, and probably...Matthew? Solos are nice to see, but unexceptional, even from my favorites. Costuming is scanty, however, especially for Lindsay, whose legs now appear to be about eight feet long before vanishing into a cloud of pink fringe. Man, that alone should get more people learning to ballroom dance. George, on the other hand, needs a more flattering pair of dancing shorts to wear. He looks like he just came in from cutting the grass. I hope his solo gets the Ballet Boys to hire him. While I haven't been the biggest Dareian fan, his solo (to "This is a Man's World") made me want to have sex with him. Well played, sir. Matthew has a tough act to follow. He's also quite good, but there's something wan and spindly about him that I just can't get behind.
You know who I miss? Jacob and Ellenore. I loved them on their season, and am surprised they didn't get any favorite moments called out. Nor did Kathryn and Legacy, now that I think of it. Those were kind of the lost SYTYCD seasons, I guess.
Results! Nigel emphasizes that it's based also on tonight's routines, and saves Lindsay. Both Amelia and Janelle are leaving us tonight. They are straining to keep their brave faces on, but are both fighting back tears as we watch their montage. Back to Nigel, who whines about the format a little before telling us that he's saving George. Matthew's lack of connection, and Dareian's stupid feet, were their undoing. I guess Matthew wasn't the one to beat after all. More crying! Oh, sneef. I can't bear it. Cat chastises any grieving Americans who didn't vote for our fallen heroes, and recaps the night's dances. Goodbye, sweet dance children!
And goodbye, sweet recap-readers! See you next week for our Top 10!