Wednesday, August 29, 2012

SYTYCD: Top 8 Perform

Every week I swear I'm going to write a shorter recap, and every week I natter on for pages and pages...but I really would like to a) eat dinner and b) get to sleep on time, so we'll give it another go. At least with only eight contestants left it might get a little easier!

The show opens with a group number to "Run Boy Run" by Woodkid. The four guys are dressed in black pants and rather sheer black turtlenecks, while the women are in black-and-red cheongsams, holding fans. There are lots of angular poses, lifts and a sort of battle-y feeling. There's one rather amusing move where one of the women (can't tell in this light--maybe Eliana?) is doing a classic HMV to the audience, and Witney (I think) reaches over and touches her thigh like a concerned parent saying, "Close your legs, dear." I don't think that was the choreographer's intent. I'm guessing it's Sonya who did this one, but it feels too smooth for Sonya?

Cat is positively sedate this evening, in a pretty black dress with a v-neck. What, did wardrobe take the week off? Anyway, she thanks our new choreographer, Peter Chu, who was actually the person who did this week's group number. Nice to have some fresh blood on the show, even if I wasn't blown away by the routine. Cat reminds us that we're losing two more tonight, another man and woman. Think Witney and Chehon will be in the bottom again? If so, think it's because no one can spell their names? Cat goes on to introduce our judges, including "one of the favorite judges I've ever ever ever ever everrrrrrr had on the show," Jesse Tyler Ferguson. While it's true he's a total fanboy and therefore can reference anything that happened on previous seasons, I don't remember JTF being a terrific judge the last time he was on. (Or am I misremembering, and it was Neil Patrick Harris who was a disappointment?) Anyway, tonight everyone gets two dances--one solo and one dance with an All-Star. (There go my dreams of a short recap.)

Tiffany starts us off tonight, telling us that she started dancing because as a toddler (4-ish?), she watched her older sister dancing and wanted to do it too. They went on to dance together a lot--OK, it's cute. She begins her solo (to "I Was Here" by Lea Michele and the Glee cast) dressed in a pink gauzy bra & skirt. Tiffany is super-flexible, but I think not a great choreographer...her solos are never especially moving, even though they seem well-done.

Witney is up next, dancing a hip hop with Twitch. She's in an enormous black jacket and looks like a child next to him. This number's also done by a new choreographer, Luther Brown--are all the new folks because NappyTabs is on maternity leave? Luther tells us that they will be doing East Coast hip hop, and I look forward to a lively debate in the comments over the merits of East vs. West. He tells Witney she will be "ratchet." (Ratchit? Radgid?) Witney is as baffled as I am, and asks, "Is that like 'buck'?" Luther doesn't answer, and we must all remain in the dark.

They're dancing to "My Homies Still" by Lil' Wayne (feat. Big Sean--for balance?), and there doesn't really seem to be a story, just a battle. Maybe a little Uptown Girl? Witney's bringing plenty of strut, and her movements are quick enough, but she feels a little prim. Also, I think Luther toned down the footwork for her a bit--it didn't seem that complex. (Also, Witney is wearing the stupid dropped-crotch pants from Chehon's number last week. They do her no more favors than they did him.)

Nigel is delighted and wants to know if all tiny little Mormon girls can dance like that--he loves Witney's attitude and thinks she was amazing. I think he's being a little too easy on her, but she was good. Mary also loved it, and thought that Witney was totally down. Cut to Witney's parents in the audience, smiling kind of wanly. Not sure you like your ballroom baby doing hip hop, dad? JTF loves it, loves Wit's swag, thinks she's a dream--but also hates "the diaper-pants."

Will's solo is next, but first we learn about how he got his start. He was the class clown (shocker) and would get suspended every year, so his mom stuck him in dance. Aww, lots of cute Will pics, including him riding in a convertible as Homecoming King. Hold me closer, Giant Dancer! Will's dancing to James Morrison's "Better Man," and he looks skinnier than ever. He's so tall, and there are just legs for miles--he's also super-expressive in his solo. I just wish his transitions were a little more fluid or filled-out--sometimes he stops a big move and then kind of "resets" to move to the next phrase. (Says the woman who only dances with the Wii.)

Our next couple is Cole and Allison, dancing a Sonya piece. Cole is made for Sonya's type of movement, but we're told he's playing "a soulless, sadistic man," which feels too close to everything else he's done. He's getting typecast, a bit. However, he's the best actor of the contestants, and Allison sells the hell out of everything she does, so if Cole doesn't ham it up, it could be good.

They're dancing to "Possibly Maybe" by Bjork, and not 10 seconds into the dance I'm entranced by a move of Allison's: she leaps into Cole's embrace and holds her body out horizontally, freezing still. Then he pushes on the top of her head and shoves her down into a split on the floor. If I stopped to describe every incredible hold we'd never finish, but this one is worth YouTubing. However, I barely notice Cole. This is the Allison show. He's holding her firmly through all the lifts, but it's all posturing. He didn't seem to do very much.

JTF starts us off and tells Sonya that he's not fooled by her softer look this season: "You're a sick, demented woman and I love it." He immediately praises Allison for her acting, and tells Cole he matched her perfectly. (He also says, "I'm shaking right now. I'm shaking, and I need a cocktail." Don't we all, Jesse. Don't we all.) Anyway, he loved it. (Heh. Cat tells him they can sort out a cocktail for him.) Mary also loved it, and says that it was Cole's best performance to date. Really? I thought his paso was better. I mean, not that he wasn't good, but it wasn't a showpiece for Cole so much as Allison. Nigel (who incidentally is wearing a terrible red blazer tonight) agrees that it was quirky, scary and unique, and reflected Cole's natural style. He does acknowledge that any of Allison's partners have a challenge holding their own with her, but tells us Sonya said he did the best.

Lindsay is the next to solo. We learn that her mom owns a dance studio in Utah, and while I thought that was why she started dancing, Lindsay makes it sound like her mom started the studio because Lindsay was dancing. That is some serious commitment right there. We also learn that Lindsay has been taught by "Dancing with the Stars"'s Mark Ballas. Ringer? Anyway, she's dancing to "Senorita," by Bond, and doing a paso-ish solo. Hard to do samba rolls solo. Anyway, she's wearing tiny shorts that show off her infinite legs, but her solo lacks pizzazz. She doesn't have the knack of choreographing solo ballroom the way Heidi did in her year.

Time for Eliana to dance the (gasp) quickstep with All-Star Ryan. (I had a "Who?" moment, but he's the one who was married to a ballroomer (Ashley?) and they both made it well into their season.) Their choreographer is someone named Jonathan Roberts, who I guess isn't new, but is unfamiliar to me. The premise of the dance is that Eliana's a bored housewife who wants her husband's attention when he gets home--they're styled like a flapper-era couple, I guess to avoid the somewhat sticky gender politics.

They're off, and immediately I think that Eliana might be the best hope for a non-ballroom quickstepper that we've ever seen on this show. They trot across the stage and do this unison split jump in which her legs practically split past 180 degrees. Ryan's height is a great match for her, but sadly, he seems to have developed terrible rat-face since his season. There's not a lot of cheering from the crowd, but they perk up for some interesting tricks near the end. This looks pretty darn good to me, and Eliana's selling the hell out of it--Mary will have to tell us if it's actually right or not.

Is it, Mary? She starts by welcoming back Roberts--so he's not new--and tells him she loved the routine. And then she tells us that she interviewed with Entertainment Weekly last week and said she thought the only think that might be a challenge for Eliana was quickstep...but no! She loved it, thought Eliana was spectacular! Yay! I do too. JTF reminds us that he was at Eliana's audition in L.A., and is astounded by her range and her skill. He praises her emotive dancing "for her age," which makes me think he's got the wrong girl--I think of Eliana as one of the older contestants. Then I look her up and discover she's 21...and yet is still older than all of the other girls. Anyway, JTF loves her too. Nigel praised her technical work especially, because she held a lovely ballroom topline, and thinks her versatility this season has been remarkable.

Chehon's solo is next, but first we hear about his childhood. He was adopted, along with his two brothers, by a couple who lived in Chicago. His mom and dad seem older, and wear the same European-architect glasses. Their names are Beat Wespi and Edith Tschopp, and I am ridiculously smitten with them for reasons I cannot explain. But I instantly feel like they must be wonderful parents. They let Chehon go off to ballet school when he was 14, Beat tells us, even though "they were sad every day." Sneef! Chehon hasn't seen much of them, and hopes they'll be able to come see him dance on the show. His solo is to Max Richter's "On the Nature of Daylight," which sounds classical. Looks like we'll be getting everything in Chehon's ballet bag of tricks. The leaping! Crazy. And look, there's mom Edith in the audience! The judges are standing, Mom's clapping, and Chehon's crying. Awwwww. You can't send him home now, America!

Poor Lindsay and Alex are the next couple, and must surely be thinking, "You want us to follow that?" They're dancing a Sonya jazz piece that doesn't have a story--it's just two people with sultry tension between them. They are dancing to my favorite song of the year (even though it's been played to death), "Somebody that I Used to Know," by Gotye. I am officially predisposed to like this, no matter how they dance. The lighting's all red and it's a little hard to see them at first. Classic Sonya angles and thrusts, interspersed with swaying and bending. Their bodies are beautiful and well-matched, but I wish Lindsay was a better actress. Maybe she just needs age--she can't quite bring the intensity of face that she needs.

Nigel starts out and says he loves the routine, loves the song, loves their technique...but didn't feel the sexual tension. Wow, Nigel and I agree? A chill just ran down my spine. The audience dutifully boos, but their hearts aren't in it. Nigel tells her to go watch Allison's performances and learn to bring that element, because that's what's missing. Mary agrees--no chemistry, but remarkable dancing. I think Alex is a beautiful dancer, but he doesn't have the most expressive face either, which I think kept the judges a bit cool. JTF cheerfully pronounces Lindsay "ding dong dorable," which feels a little too prepared, but she needs a pick-me-up, so I'll allow it. He is nicer about his comments, but feels the same way as the others. Lindsay's so smiley, it's hard to imagine that she can act "pain" yet. (Also, I've just realized she reminds me of one of the assistants in my office.)

Will joins us now for a Christopher Scott hip hop with Lauren (eh). Scott's stories are always elaborate, and tonight Will is a guy with a lot of problems who must dance his pain away. Lauren represents the part of his mind that gets him through the pain. Because the set is a big office couch, I had a momentary panic that this would be a 50 Shades of Grey dance. Thankfully, no vampires (sorry, shmampires) are in sight, so we're safe to begin.

They're dancing to "Dance My Pain Away" by Wye Oak, which seems a bit on the nose, no? Will's in a blue button down, a color that looks great on him (just sayin' Will!). Lauren's in a white/blue/gold superhero costume, basically. Will's hip hop is kind of gangly and wavy, as one would expect, and weirdly reminds me of his Bollywood a bit. The number is over really fast, it seems--or I missed it struggling to describe Lauren's outfit. I found it a bit ordinary, but whatevs.

Mary disagrees, because she loved the routine. She found Will's movement precise and articulate, and reminds him to believe in himself. We cut to his folks, sitting in the audience in matching "Will Power" t-shirts. They seem nice, but they're no Beat and Edith. JTF tells us, "Ironically, this is the same way I break in my living room furniture." He thinks Will's an adorable puppy covered in adorable puppies, but notes that sometimes he plays that up and it was nice to see him be a bit more serious. Nigel felt the routine was tough because he was never really dancing with his partner--because the premise of the dance was that he doesn't see Lauren, he didn't get to interact with her as much. I'm confused about whether this is meant as critique or praise, and then Nigel makes a joke to Lauren about her coming over to cheer him up (which Lauren deflects ably, I must say--stop being gross, Nigel). At least he puts a cap on it by telling Will he did a really good job.

And without further ado, it's on to Witney's solo. Her mom put her in dance classes early, because Witney had too much energy, and it stuck. Her dad finds the sexy stuff a bit hard to take, and is not at all interested in his little girl riding the Hot Tamale Train. Cut to...Witney beginning her solo in a backless costume, dancing to Rihanna's "Where Have You Been" (which, as you may recall, is about searching for a man to love her all night long). I must say, I think of the two ballroomers, Lindsay is probably the better dancer, technically, but Witney is both a better soloist and a better actress. Her solo is sassy and very seductive--her dad must be flipping out.

Cole's solo is next, and we learn that he was a very shy kid growing up in Hawaii. He was bullied a lot (which we learn over a particularly sweet shot of him cradling a little white rabbit), and so his parents put him in martial arts classes. He wants to be an actor, and so began dance classes to bolster his skills. His solo is to "Arise" by someone called E.S. Posthumus, which seems like...not his given name, at any rate. (Don't know if the misspelling is deliberate or not.) As Cole's dancing always is, he's strong and expressive, but to be honest, this is beginning to feel a little same old-same old. Sorry, Cole!

Our next pairing has many Ms! It's a Mandy Moore routine, featuring Cyrus with Melanie Moore! The routine is jazz, and the rehearsal looks very Fosse-ish. It's about "two cool people strutting their way through town." I love Melanie, but "cool" she ain't. They'll be dancing to "Badder Badder Schwing" by Freddy Fresh (feat. Fatboy Slim, late of Olympics fame). Cyrus does manage to make his hipster-retro checked pants and polo sweater look swag, but thankfully they just put Melanie in a sassy red dress. The music sounds kind of 60s Mod (can music be Mod?), and the moves should really lend themselves to Cyrus's animator skills. To be honest, the dance feels slow, though. It has the look of a DTWS piece in which the female pro does all the work and just dances around the male star.  Cyrus had great attitude, as he always does, but that was definitely the least challenging piece we've seen tonight. It's time to make him work a little more, choreographers!

JTF loves Cyrus's charisma and says that no matter where he winds up, he'll become an iconic part of the show. No talk of his dancing, mind you. Nigel points out that America obviously adores him, as he has yet to be in the bottom three--he says that although at the end of the show, Cyrus will probably not be America's best dancer, he could very well be America's favorite dancer. He then asks if Cyrus knew that the movement was very Fosse-esque, and while Cyrus has no clue what that means, I award myself a gold star. Once again, Nigel says nothing about his actual dancing. I am getting annoyed, even though I like Cyrus. Mary says that Melanie's still "The Beast" and reminds us that Cyrus will never get "his" style because they don't have anyone else who can animate like he can. "Was everything completely perfect? No, it wasn't...but what you do is extraordinary" and then praises him for remembering the choreography. OK, that's enough. Seriously, show, if you liked him enough to bring him to the finals, MAKE HIM ACTUALLY DANCE AND CRITIQUE HIM WHEN HE DOES. I have nothing against Cyrus, but he's getting such a free ride.

Ooh, Eliana's solo is next. She tells us that she's one of six siblings, but when her parents got divorced (when she was 11), it wound up being just her and her mom on their own. She doesn't tell us why the siblings didn't stay, but it brought her and her mom really close. At 16, she moved to NYC to attend Joffrey Ballet School, and as she says, "I think it worked out, because I'm here now!" She doesn't tell us something I learned from her online bio, which is that she joined Cirque de Soleil in 2009. Cool. Eliana's also dancing to a Max Richter piece (is he like the go-to composer for pop ballet?), this one called "Infra 8." We actually get to see her in toe shoes doing a little "real" ballet--it's nicely composed, but I think she could have used another trick or two to juice the phone-in votes, especially given that her partner dance was the quickstep.

We stick with the ballet theme, dancer-wise, as Chehon and Anya prepare a tango, choreographed by Miriam and Leonardo (who never seem to get last names). Chehon tells us that he was really confident when he walked into rehearsal, but promptly discovered that he had no clue how to tango. (Heh.) Apparently, even walking is difficult when it's tango-walking.

They are dancing to Jesse Cook's "Breathing Below Surface," and the dance brings Chehon onstage with a series of awesome leaps, which pleases me. I think you can definitely feel the chemistry between him and Anya, but the music is so understated that I worry the crowd will go to sleep. The moves are all graceful and smooth, but there wasn't a ton of footwork, it appeared. However, the judges are all on their feet, which seems to be a good sign. Cat tells us that you could hear a pin drop, and everyone was spellbound. Let it be so, Cat! Also, as Chehon blows a kiss to his mom, she says, "I think Edith should come back every week." See? The power of Edith Tschopp cannot be denied!

Mary says the hair on her arms is standing up and tells us that it was a compelling Argentine tango...and that it was her favorite number tonight! Of course, he is on "the train." JTF is getting labored and clowny and I refuse to indulge him, so suffice it to say, he loved it too. Nigel gets his pompous on as he explain how the choreographers used Chehon's innate skills--his port de bras, his lines, etc.--to enhance their amazing connection...but he applauds Chehon's performance (and is impressed that he was able to smolder like that in front of his mom!).

Time for Cyrus's solo--I'm looking forward to it because it'll remind me what Cyrus does so well. He loves his mom, by the way. She was his inspiration for dance, and life. I will say that I am amused by the t-shirt Cyrus is wearing for his solo, which reads: "Dirty & Filthy & Grimey [sic] & Dubstep." He's dancing to "Existence (VIP)" by Excision & Downlink. Oh, that old tune? Anyway, it's amazing, as always, and reminds me of the thing that lifts Cyrus above other popper & lockers we've seen--his musicality is remarkable.

Our final routine is another Mandy Moore joint, this one for Tiffany and Ade. It's classic Mandy Moore cheese, because the music is Celine Dion's "The Power of Love." Oof. Tiffany's so childlike that she's running into a similar problem to Lindsay--I don't fully believe the emotion of the dance, even when the technique is strong. Too damn smiley, girls! Her unison with Ade is great, and the lifts all look strong and fluid, but it leaves me cold. Ooh, look, there's an actual disco ball!

The judges disagree, it seems, because they're all standing again. I wonder if the first two couples are pissed. JTF opens with a song: "That was amazing/Those lifts were insane" and praises the power lifts. We rush on to Mary (show's running long), who found Tiffany extraordinary and thought that was her best performance of the season. Really? I guess. Cat chimes in and says, "She doesn't know she's beautiful, to quote One Direction." Can we all agree to stop quoting One Direction? Nigel praises Ade, and then moves on to laud Tiffany. "To quote One Direction, you don't know you're beautiful." Um, WTF? Did Nigel just jack Cat's line? He found her dancing focused and beautifully done. Cat does not call him out on his plagiarism.

Now it's time to call all of the dancers back onstage. I've no clue who'll be in the bottom at this point--all of them are great. They were judged on last week's performances, of course, not tonight, which may shake things up. Cat reviews all the girls' dances, and then calls forward Lindsay and Witney. They are the bottom two, and Eliana and Tiffany are dismissed. It seems more obvious than ever that they are basically the same dancer, and have been splitting the vote. Great casting, Nige. Cat reviews the boys' routines next, and then calls forward Cyrus and Chehon. Surely they're not the bottom? In fact, they're not--they're safe. Chehon is staggered, but gratefully leaves the stage. How will the judges pick?

We return from commercial to find Lindsay and Witney clinging to each other on a red-lit stage, observing that they've come full circle from the auditions. Nigel says they're both great, and is delighted that they'll both be on the tour, but the one they're keeping tonight is...Witney. Fair enough--she has more charisma than Lindsay, even though Lindsay's probably the better cross-trained dancer. We watch the Lindsay montage while she cries. Goodbye, Lindsay's legs!

Time for the guys. I'm guessing they'll dump Will, but Nigel acknowledges that it's a very difficult decision. Unlike the near-identical girls, here the problem is one of opposites. After conferring with the choreographers, they've decided to keep Cole. Yeah, that seems about right--he was the better actor, and Nigel prefers his dancers manly. But I think Will has a pretty great audition reel for every musical comedy on Broadway for the next ten years. He's smiling, and Cole, safe offstage, looks like someone just shot his dog. It'll be OK, y'all.

We're getting down to it! Next week will determine our finale participants, and then it's just time to crown the winners! I'm thinking Cyrus and Eliana. What about you?


Carrie Lofty said...

Jesse and NPH were both fab "judges" and both know the show inside out. It's adorable. If Zooey never shows up again, I'll be pleased.

Luther Brown was one of the regular judges on SYTYCD CA, and looks like he's lost half his body weight. (His best work: If I want a white girl to be completely buck and dance with Twitch, I'll just rewatch "My Chick Bad" with Lauren.

Since she started as an all star, Allison has become one of my all time favorite SYTYCD dancers. Katherine too. They were good when they were on their own seasons, but they've matured brilliantly. I loved this piece.

Have you been watching All the Right Moves where Travis is forming his own company? Allison, Melanie, Jaime, Ade, and a couple others are on there.

None of the ballroom girls can do much other than cha cha or samba on their own. The tango/paso/ish try was interesting on Lindsey's part, even if the shorts/skirt was distracting.

I should be blogging right now, btw.

Ryan and Ashley both made it to top ten and went on tour, then they were invited to be part of Jason G's Burn the Floor, which really, really seemed to make Ryan into a more precise and less smarmy partner (seriously, that rat face is less offensive than it was!). He was brilliant at blending in while showcasing her--the ultimate goal of a male partner who isn't Pasha. Eliana is perfection but I haven't been able to connect with her.

I really liked the Lindsey and Alex routine! It seemed almost dirty, because Lindsey couldn't give it the mature face that the chorey needed, like she was being taken advantage off. #dirty

Will has made me snore since Amelia left. And I've always hated Lauren. I think I read emails.

"Lindsay is probably the better dancer, technically, but Witney is both a better soloist and a better actress. Her solo is sassy and very seductive--her dad must be flipping out." -- Absolutely. Witney oozes sex appeal, but she's isn't as adaptable technically. Hence tonight's result.

Cyrus.... I *adored* the apocalypse routine from last week, and his attitude about dance in general, his ability to accept critique, is utterly refreshing. But compare him to another "one trick pony" like Dom or Legacy, who were exceedingly versatile, and yeah, he's getting a free pass. Russell was very similar and he won the whole damn thing, over Jakob, great god of bendy-ness.

I liked that Chehon was strong enough not to look like a complete pussy when dancing with Anya, who can emasculate most men with just a glance. She was electric and stunning tonight. He was very good at framing her to be so. But did I watch him? Nah.

Ade was a very good forklift, his old specialty. See? No connection with any of the girls this year, other than maybe Witney, but she's a second class hybrid of Anya and Lauren.

I've become so jaded.

But I watch like crazy pants every week. If I'd realized sooner that you do recaps, I'd have stopped by! Hope you're having a good week, Abby!

Abby said...

Awesome comment, Carrie! Maybe we should GChat the next episode and both use that as our blog posts :). Love your take on all this, and I will have to check out the Luther link!