Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SYTYCD: All-Star Night!

Tonight might be a little short--I forgot it was Wednesday! But I couldn't miss SYTYCD, because tonight we're going to meet this year's all stars! Yes, now that we have our top 10 contestants, it's time to bring out all our old favorites. But first we have a group dance from our young hopefuls...

It's a Gene Kelly theme, to big band music, and the director (Cole's) clapper board says "Nikki Parsons" on it, which confused me because I thought that was Nikki from The Glee Project, and all my reality shows ran together. While watching the dancing, there was one brunet man I couldn't identify--I kept thinking, "It's gotta be Cole, right? But it doesn't look like Cole--it looks more like Broadway Jess from last season." Well, at the end of the dance Cole comes walking out--he was the "director"--and it turns out the mystery man was...Tyce! Cole is "slightly injured" per Cat, so Tyce stepped in. (Cat, incidentally, is wearing a relatively sedate silver minidress.)

The Gene Kelly theme is because it's Kelly's 100th birthday tomorrow (well, if he were still alive), and his widow is in the audience tonight. His widow must have been MUCH younger than he was when they married, because she looks like Annie Lennox and can't be more than late 40s--or she's had excellent work done.  Moving on to our guest judge for the evening, we are getting very fancy indeed! It's Mr. Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied, esteemed ballet choreographer of Black Swan fame. Cat is adorably giddy about her success at pronouncing his name.

Time's a-wastin', people! Let's get dancing! We begin with Tiffany, who's been paired with all-star Brandon. (I assume that the all-stars will mix and match all season, but they don't tell us now.) The two of them will be dancing a Doriana Sanchez disco routine, which could be deadly--if I recall, her routines often end with someone getting hurt. I think Audrey might have been slightly better in this, only because she's perma-perky, but since I can barely tell Tiffany and Audrey apart, it's probably fine.

I am amused that their music (by someone or something called Cobra Starship?) is identified as a "disco fries remix." These cut, skinny dancers have probably never ingested a disco fry in their lives, but I salute them anyway. Tiffany's in a jumpsuit that makes her look like Shakira, and Brandon is partnering well but fading into the background a bit. Oof! There's a lift/pose in the middle where Tiffany is standing in front of Brandon, then lifts one leg straight up to her head (as one does). Brandon then holds that leg, leans back, and HOLDS TIFFANY UP by that ankle while she does a split. Ow ow ow ow ow. It's all done well, I think, but the "fun" feels a little forced.

Nigel disagrees with me. After greeting Doriana and Brandon, he tells Tiffany she was fantastic. Loved her energy and the lifts. Mary, too--she says Tiffany "set the dance floor on fire!" She praises Brandon for lifting her through all the lifts, but reminds us that Tiffany has to control her own body weight through them all as well. Benjamin agrees as well, but does it with a charming French accent. (Well done, Natalie.) He thinks they make a great pair and Tiffany was fearless, and her face reads really well onstage. (An interesting, but valid observation! Guess that comes of having judges who work in film.)

Interesting! Our next couple is Witney and Nick, the very first SYTYCD winner. It'll be good to see how he's progressed over the years. Looks like Travis Wall will be their jazz choreographer tonight (is Nick one of the guys on Travis's new show?) The concept is two ghosts in an abandoned lounge, and Travis urges Witney to be as sexy as possible. They're dancing to a song called "Sing It Back," by Moloko. Witney's in traditional flapperwear, and Nick's in a long underwear-type top and suspenders.

They both have great legs, but the music and the jazz movements are more jerky than sensual. It's all rather aggressive, and I think they could use a little more connection. Their lines are beautiful, though, and both are light on their feet. I don't think Nick has quite the presence of some of the other all-stars, but they've also put him in so much whiteface that it's practically clown makeup. I didn't love this dance overall, but it wasn't anyone's fault.

Benjamin starts us off and explains that the routine is difficult because of the many transitions between release and tension, so as to make us feel like time is stopping. I confess that went over my head when they were dancing, but I can see his point. He is already 100 times smarter than any other judge we've had on this show.  Nigel says that the challenge is living up to the skill of the all-stars (and calls Nick brilliant), and that Witney surely did. Mary agrees: "Lord have Murphy, you were smoldering out there!" Wow, I am apparently not watching the same show tonight.

But now we should have some fireworks! (Or a fiery wreck.) Cole is dancing a cha-cha with the beloved Anya! Dmitry is their choreographer, and tells us the dance is "about two people who met at a club." Um, that's not so much a story as just "how dancing happens," no? But never mind. Cole is worried because there are a ton of tricks and it's not his specialty. Even Anya says it's hard. That could be because she's got bad housewife hair, though--kind of stringy and blond and a bit too long. Anya! You looked adorable that year you had brown hair! What is up with the bad dye job? OK, I'll stop.

They're dancing to "Glad You Came" by The Wanted. (I think we heard them in the Olympics, right?) Cole is working the male dancer equivalent of hairography: chestography. His shirt's completely open, a Dmitry trademark, and he's working his abs like crazy. 20 seconds in and we can already see that he's sweating through the shirt, so it's just as well. Anya could knock down walls with every hip thrust. She's crisper than Cole is, and I think he could be a little stronger, but he acted a ton in the face so it seems like a party. (There's also a little shout-out to the "Butt Dance" where he bends over and stares at Anya's ass.) All in all, he held his own.

Do the judges agree? Mary starts us off and says it was amazing, and reminds us that Anya was the originator and first passenger on the Hot Tamale Train. She tells Cole he was clean and did a great job, but tells him to apply more pressure to the balls of his feet during a swivel section. She also said that the chemistry was not quite believable--I'd agree. He overacts and can make the emotion feel false sometimes--so no HTT for Cole tonight, but she promises that "his bags are packed and he's on the platform." Benjamin thought Cole partnered very well, but urges Cole to think more about contrast, so people can appreciate the difference in weight or length of step. More good advice? Benjamin, be careful or they'll replace you with Lindsay Lohan or someone. Nigel complains about the connection with Anya, because he felt Cole was performing too much to the audience and not enough to his lovely partner. Fair enough--and easily fixable, if he can remember it.

 Lindsay's up next (after being saved from elimination last week) and has been paired with Jacob (utterly gorgeous dancer who also has insanely long legs--their lines should be amazing) for a Spencer Liff Broadway routine. Y'all, this could be goooood.  They're dancing in unison, but Jacob will be behind a screen so that Lindsay's basically dancing with her silhouette. They're dancing to "Me and My Shadow," unsurprisingly--but I didn't know this was from Fosse.

Wha? After all that lead-up, they spend about 10 seconds separated before they both come out from behind the screen. Better for the audience, but kind of kills the concept, no? Sure enough, this is LegFest 2012, and they look great together...except that they don't feel together. It's more like two dancers performing side by side, but I didn't feel the relationship between them. Well-performed, but not the most memorable of dances. And in keeping with my night, Nigel loved the dance--I apparently have SurlyVision tonight. He tells Lindsay that she was tremendous, and will learn a ton from Jacob about extension. Mary agrees that Jacob is "from another dance planet" and frankly, the judges seem more excited about him than her. Oops, spoke too soon--Mary tells Lindsay she has first class tickets on the HTT. (Cole, backstage, puts arsenic in Lindsay's coffee.) Benjamin loves Lindsay's musicality as well as the "crescendo" to the whole performance...and he ignores Jacob completely, which is nice for Lindsay.

Ooh, our next pair is Will and Kathryn (who was stunning on her last All-Star season), dancing Bollywood. I wonder if Will's height will make this harder? He towers over Kathryn, so he'll have to do all those fast moves that much quicker, won't he? Nakul is choreographing, of course, and Will will play a snake charmer playing to Kathryn's "snake." There's a giant basket. Even in rehearsal, she looks sweaty and sexy.

I think Will's facials are hurting him here a bit--he looks like such a goof! Sweet, and funny, but too boyish. And his arms are big and crisp with every movement, but I feel like he's not finishing all his footwork. Weirdly, Kathryn kind of faded away for me a bit--it was more bouncy than sexy in practice. Mary thought the routine was very entertaining, and is delighted to see Kathryn ("the star of Step Up: Revolution") again. She calls Will an Energizer bunny and loved his control in the middle of all the bouncing. She still finds him incredibly likeable, and apparently that's good enough. Benjamin says that he's been watching Will (really? is he a fan of the show?) and praises his ability to convey different expressions in every section of the dance. (All looked pretty much like the same expression to me--his perennial "Wow!") Nigel thanks Kathryn for coming back, now that she's "a Hollywood star." Um, let's not gild the lily overmuch, Nige. Kathryn tries to respond graciously, but Nigel talks right over her, because the moment was about his speech and not actually about genuine thanks. Shocker. Nigel agrees with everyone that Will is personality plus, and although sometimes he feels like Will should tone it down, he's forced to admit that this is Will's unique strength. Overall, we are apparently not going to comment on any of the dancing, because none of these judges know a damn thing about Bollywood. Still.

No time for a commercial, we have to move right on to Cyrus and Jaimie (I am annoyed at the spelling of her name, and that I remembered the spelling of her name), dancing a postapocalyptic contemporary from Travis. (Literally--the story is "the world has just ended, and we're the two sole survivors.") Cyrus's ear gauges look even bigger than usual this week. They still give me the willies. Do not want. Cyrus continues to get the "we are amazed at the primitive self-taught dancer who's never done any of this" edit, this week because he's having to do some serious partnering.

The dance opens like it's the Walking Dead--a single yellow light shines out from the back of the stage, and Cyrus is carrying a seemingly unconscious Jaimie in his arms. (They're dancing to someothing called "Outro," from M83. It sounds like Peter Gabriel a bit.) Ladies, beware: after the apocalypse, all the clothing available to us will be torn jeans and baby doll negligees. Pack a sports bra.  Travis has worked in a few isolations to remind us that it's Cyrus, but he's doing well enough on his own.  Once again, they've mostly let him carry the girl around and pose--when he has to actually dance, he's clearly less skilled than the rest of the men. Jaimie's a little smiley for me, considering that the world has ended. It's already over? This dance felt really short! I'd say a good, not a great, job.

Benjamin loves Cyrus's "raw energy" and praised his partnering as well, but mostly loves Cyrus's charisma. Fair enough--that's why they picked him. Nigel takes a moment to toot his own horn again by saying that when they picked Cyrus, he got "a lot of letters" complaining that they shouldn't have chosen a dancer who can do only one thing. Nige says he was "disgusted," because he thinks it means people don't know what dancing's about--Cyrus is someone who has to dance, even if his toes aren't pointed enough, yada yada. Two things: first, I don't believe that the viewers of this show send snail-mail. Second, no one was complaining about Cyrus's charisma, but about his training. Nigel's pride seems misplaced, a bit. But anyway, he does observe that they paired him with Jaimie in part because she's good at partnering hip hop boys, having danced with Hok in her original season (the famous and beautiful "Hummingbird" dance). The tongue-bath goes on a bit more, but you get the idea. Mary praises Travis for not holding back and making Cyrus work, which seems a little generous, but whatever. She also notes that his feet and legs aren't the best, but his passion and connection overwhelms that. Guys, I don't think Cyrus is in any danger, you can give it a rest. (Or is he? Do you think all this praise is because he lands in the bottom tonight, and the judges are already shoring up their case for keeping him?) Cat wraps up by asking for applause for Jaimie, who didn't get near the praise all the other all-stars have received tonight.

Uh-oh...time for Chehon to have his first hip hop routine, partnered by Lauren "Misha Chan" and choreographed by Dave Scott. I hated Lauren in her own season, continued to dislike her on her first all-star outing, but I think I've held my grudge long enough. Lauren, I welcome you with an open mind! Amaze me! The conceit is that Lauren is the girl Chehon can always lean this case, literally. There's an amusing moment in rehearsal because Chehon is baffled by Dave Scott's use of random sounds instead of numbers to count off the beats. Dave says "oon, no, ah, uh" and Chehon stops, asking, "No?" as Lauren falls over laughing. Hopefully they'll get it worked out.

Onstage, Chehon is in some confusing dropped-crotch pants and Lauren looks like she wandered out of Doriana's disco studio in an all-white pants-and-bra ensemble covered with two flowing...sheets? Tarps? Whatever. Chehon, unsurprisingly, is great at the crisp isolations, but he's not getting low enough and he's too tight in the upper body. Boyfriend got no swag, yo.  He kind of looks like he's about to laugh through the whole thing, like "Can you believe I'm dancing this stuff?"

Nigel thanks Dave for taking the stick out of Chehon's ass (he stops before saying "ass," of course--this is still a family show) and loves the smile, basically loves everything I didn't. The one point I will agree with is that the whole thing was much warmer than Chehon's usual performances, and will probably help him connect with the audience. Mary is a little stricter and says she felt his tension, because he wasn't sitting "in the pocket" enough, but it was still a big stretch for him. Benjamin acknowledges the challenge of shedding his ballet training to achieve more looseness, but thought the performance looked very spontaneous. Lauren got a few kind words, but not a lot of praise--she did a good job, though. (I admit grudgingly.)

Wow, the judges gave George a bit of help this week: they've paired him with Allison. Not too much, mind you--they're dancing a Tyce jazz routine. The premise is that George is a wealthy man rushing to catch a train...until Allison catches his eye instead. Allison already has an amazing glimmer in her eye, but terrible ombre hair. (I hate the ombre effect. No matter how expensive the dye job, it always just looks like someone letting their color grow out!) Basically, they go off to have a one-night stand, so it's raunchy.

The music is "Bahamut," by Hazmat Modine, and now I'm beginning to think that the chyron typist is just making stuff up. I am truly An Old. It's sort of like Caribbean tango? Mixed with Blues Traveler? There's a cane prop getting quite a workout, and there's lots of stomping and clutching and posing. They're both excellent dancers, but to be honest, I didn't feel the chemistry as much as I'd like. Mary starts us off and tells George how lucky he is to be dancing with Allison, and says it looked like he had fun. Wha? That's it? There's no shrieking, no real excitement. I think they might be dumping him tonight. Benjamin says he's an amazing mover (heh, that's how we'd talk about a nice horse, as well) and he believed the connection all the way through--exceptional. Nigel starts out with a weird creepy wheeze, and then actually agrees with me for the first time when he says he didn't feel that the characterization was there. It wasn't down and dirty enough for his taste.  The audience sits silent at that criticism until Mary coaches them to boo the bad review. (In general, this audience can't be bothered to react to the judges' criticisms much. I find it kind of refreshing.) I think it doesn't look good for poor George, people.

Eliana's turn! I hope we get to see her really show her stuff this week. She's paired with Alex--wait, Alex? Alex Freaking Wong? He's back! Yay! I'm so pleased to see him. But now I wish they were doing actual ballet! Instead, they're doing a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine about an on again, off again relationship in which the partners can't quite call it quits. They'll be dancing to Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," the first artist I've recognized all night.

Why, hello, Shirtless Alex! And hello, Eliana's Legs! There are some amazing postures right off the bat, but it feels like I'm at BAM, not SYTYCD. Will it be too intellectual for this audience? Even the music is low better be building to an explosion. didn't. Wha? Ooh, I hope the presence of Alex will help her out here--this was not a "fireworks" routine, even though it was beautifully danced and elegant. It all felt like it was on one level for me. Judges?

Judges are all standing, so I guess we're OK. Nigel begins and says, "If anyone's unsure what I mean by 'maturity of movement,' you have just showed it." That's true--I really felt like we were watching a professional dance performance (which makes sense, since both these dancers already had professional careers). He goes on to tell Eliana that she's his favorite girl (didn't he tell another girl tonight that she was the one to beat?), and he was annoyed that Stacey's routine was so short, because he wanted even more. Mary says she has goosebumps, and this was her favorite routine. Eliana's crying. (Also, her boobs look very impressive in her rich red dress.) I think Mary just called her a tiramisu? Benjamin says it was great, beautifully danced, but driven by palpable passion. I hope it's enough for TV voters to get behind even if it was subtle.

I was about to write that it was Tiffany's turn, but in fact it's Audrey. See, I really can't tell them apart. But Audrey's getting Twitch, in a Dave Scott routine about "a 400-year-old couple who love and hate each other." So, he's dancing to the Will Smith movie Hancock? Twitch says that Audrey's good at hip hop when she lets go, and Audrey's just hoping to keep up.

They start by emerging from a coffin onstage, and Twitch does that cool thing where you roll up from one knee to standing without moving, so it looks like you've reversed the film. (They're dancing to "Sincerely, Jane" by Janelle Monae, FYI.) They have kind of hip hop "Bride of Frankenstein" styling, with high collars and black boots. Audrey is acting the story very well, but I think she could get down a little lower and maybe loosen up a bit. She seems a little tight, even though she's keeping up with Twitch well. Man, this was another short routine! Back into the coffin we go.

Benjamin says that Audrey did very well, but Twitch's personality kind of blew her off the stage. He wanted more outrageousness from her. Mary loved the number and the humor Dave Scott worked into it--and Mary says she was watching Audrey, not just Twitch. Mary felt that she got down in a way I didn't. She also gives her props for being closed into a casket :). Nigel agrees with Benjamin, in that he wanted a little more characterization from Audrey--a little more Helena Bonham Carter. Then it's time for Nigel's love note to Twitch, and more to the point, to himself for having the wisdom to cast Twitch. So overall, mild praise for Audrey. I think the routine, plus Twitch, is probably enough to keep her afloat.

And that's it! We're ready for our bottoms...with only five of each sex, will we still be getting a bottom three? Cat calls Witney and Audrey forward, and then without further ado tells them that they're in the bottom two. Interesting...they got the bench/sunflower dance and the "dead daddy" dance, respectively. Think the iconic nature of those two dances were their undoing? We'll have to wait and see, because Cat moves right on to the guys. Chehon and George are called forward, and there are no tricks--these are the bottom two. Chehon was Witney's partner in Bench, and George did the "assisted run" dance. Who will the judges save?

Cat asks Nigel if "he needs to see any solos," which is sort of stupid, because we still have 25 minutes left. Obviously, from now on they're going to let everyone do solos regardless. Sure enough, Nigel asks the audience if they'd like to see the solos, and of course they would. This cements my conviction that they knew before the night began that they'd be dumping George. I'm not as sure on the girls' side, but I think they'll boot Witney. I like Wit's solo better, but Audrey dances to "I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," so she wins on subliminal messaging. Chehon has wisely put on cool pants and no shirt, and then does a jete that has to be 12 feet high. Boyfriend is not going home without a fight. George also took his shirt off, but he's in more bad shorts! And his solo is the best thing we've seen out of him in weeks--I think it's too late for our boy. (But that should work as a job interview for Benjamin Millepied!)

While the judges "confer", we're getting a dance choreographed by our guest judge! It's his new company, L.A. Dance Project, performing "Trio." It's interesting and balletic and deliberate. A little slow, but still nice to see working dancers in action. Ooh, hello, handsome and well-muscled male dancer who's standing next to Cat! You are an excellent advertisement for your company. Find out who goes home...after the break.

Fortunately, I have Tivo. There is no break. There is no spoon. We're dismissing our girl first, although Nigel tells us the judges aren't unanimous tonight. He reminds us that both girls are terrific, but without much fuss says that they're saving Witney, and Audrey will be going home. Now at least I won't have to guess whether I'm looking at her or Tiffany every week. And she'll be on the tour, so she has that, anyway.

How about the men? Surely Chehon is staying, no? George has been in the bottom for weeks. Nigel does say that George's solo was the best dancing he's done on the program, which is true. And sure enough, although Nigel has a bit of a warning for Chehon about finding ways to connect with the audience the way he does with the judges, he'll be staying and George will be leaving. I hope Millepied or some other dance company hires George, because that solo was truly gorgeous.

Another night down! Only three weeks left, believe it or not--this was such a whirlwind season! Glad you're watching with me :).


Anonymous said...

The new format for SYTYCD is not giving me enough time to 'know' the dancers. Or maybe it's my age...The only two I can ID with any confidence are Eliana and Cyrus -- Cyrus because of the afro-mohawk and ear things and Eliana because of her very toothy grin. I like 'em both, however. At this time, and since it's going to leap to the finish line quite soon, I'm placing my bet on Eliana as front runner (and that has nothing to do with Nigel's nauseating remarks). How old was the girl they bumped last night? I swear she looked about 12, but I know that's not acceptable. I thought her solo was remarkable. Besides, she's got the tour to look forward to. Tears not necessary at this point...

Anonymous said...

oops -- meant to tell you "Carole"