Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SYTYCD Performance Finale - Ballet vs. Dubstep (and Tiffany)

We're here already! Tonight's episode features our four finalists--Eliana, Chehon, Tiffany and Cyrus--performing for the last time. The intro makes it sound like we can still vote tonight...will they be announcing winners tomorrow? I'm confused. But really, all I care about is that we get to see a ballet dance with Eliana and Chehon.

Cat looks cute, even if her red lipstick is a little intense--she's in a flirty red dress that isn't crazy at all! (I'm a little disappointed, to be honest.) Our guest judge is Rob Marshall, who I persist in mistaking for the lead singer of Matchbox 20, but is in fact the director of Chicago. We'll be getting FIVE dances from each of the contestants, which just might kill me.

Jumping right into it, we have Eliana and Cyrus (t-shirt: "I Heart You but I've Chosen Dubstep") dancing a Jason Gilkinson paso doble. The twist? Eliana is the matador in this one. They're dancing to Daft Punk, and the piece begins with a shirtless Cyrus dragging himself across the floor on his belly. Eliana's in a long black dress with bright red ruffles. She still looks pretty cape-y to me. It's all very slow and stagey, and Cyrus isn't strong enough to let Eliana really push off him. You can see all the places where the lifts would have been better if Cyrus had more experience partnering. OK, not great, overall.

Nigel praises Eliana for her combination of performance and technique, and then quizzes Cyrus as a lead-in to ask "Did you ever think you'd be on national television wearing a big black dress?" (He's in that black pants/half-skirt combo that I think Cole wore for something martial earlier this season.) Now that it's the finale, and Nigel has no control anymore, he feels safe telling Cyrus that he still needs to lower his shoulders and straighten his legs. Mary loved him, though--felt that he was passionate and masterful, even if his technique wasn't there. And then she just devolves into screams for Eliana. Rob says that the best thing about Eliana is that she knows when to throw her technique away and just exist in the moment. OK, a little touchy-feely, but not a bad comment for a guest judge!

Tiffany and all-star Will are next for a Sonya piece that she says is intended to show how far Tiffany has come. That's actually kind of touching, and Tiffany, in a teary interview, reflects on how Sonya was her first choreographer on the show and helped push her to new heights. For those of you who remember Will as a clean-cut, earnest young man, think again--he's now got an amazing head of hair in thick dreads pulled back in a ponytail, and a carefully trimmed beard as well. The boy has become a man, for sure. There isn't a strong story, but just interesting shapes and lifts and angles. Also, Tiffany is wearing confusing garters. This is a great showcase for her, and Will is a generous partner, skillful without pulling focus. I think they had a little bobble on the final lift, but overall, it was very well done.

Mary tries to do a fakeout comment which is so transparent I won't bother transcribing it; suffice it to say, she liked it. Rob praises Sonya's choreography and Tiffany's fearlessness and extension. Nigel starts by praising Will's maturity as a dancer and then tells Tiffany that by pegging her as "the girl next door," he's undersold her. Really, Nigel? You don't think the problem was that you cast two girls so similar that we couldn't tell them apart for four weeks? Anyway, he loves her too.

Time for Eliana and Chehon, dancing a ballet piece with an adorable grandpa-ish choreographer with an accent so thick they subtitle it. He looks more like a pro bowler than a ballet star. Chehon explains in rehearsal that although he and Eliana are both trained, to maintain it you need to be in regular classes, and they're both a little rusty. I have every confidence this will be awesome, though. Plus, the advantage of Heavily-Accented Choreographer is that we don't get a bullshit explanation of story. It's just dance.

Oh, it's the Nutcracker pas de deux! And they've gone full ballerina on Eliana--she's in a stiff pink tutu, and Chehon's in white tights and a prince jacket. It's great; they're partnering beautifully, and they're both so light and graceful throughout. It doesn't show off Chehon's skills at all, though--he lifts and catches Eliana just right, but there's really not much for him to do here. I wish they'd gone a little more avant-garde so he could show off.

Rob Marshall has Chehon's back, though, emphasizing to the audience that what he did was incredibly hard, because it looked so easy. He also praises Eliana's ability to fill out a musical phrase to its very edges. Nigel takes a moment to tell us that the choreographer is Barak Something, a principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet! OK, that's pretty cool. I'm sorry I don't have his last name--I suspect the chyron writers didn't know how to spell it. He also raves about Eliana and delights in having ballet onstage, and then also explains that the dance didn't show off Chehon's range. He does this by slightly throwing Will under the bus (saying that his lift was a struggle, where Chehon made his look easy), but if it makes up for the low-energy dance, I'm happy. Mary loved it too, but they cut her off quickly to go to commercial. Yay, everybody!

Tiffany and Cyrus are next up, dancing a lyrical hip hop from Tessandra Chavez. It's about young love, and Cyrus has broken Tiffany's heart. Now she's moving on, and he wants her back. Cyrus has his "blue steel" look on as the Beyonce starts playing. Tiffany's in an unfortunate denim shirt, but she's dancing feisty. I love that this "lyrical" hip hop looks stronger and cleaner than any of NappyTabs' stuff. It's mostly Cyrus begging and crawling and Tiffany beating him up (there's a nice kick to the shins that's fun). They did a good job, especially Tiffany.

Nigel tells them that they're both great at emotional routines, and reminds us that neither of them have ever been in the bottom. Aww, Cyrus's family is in the audience, looking proud and nervous. Mary loves Cyrus's strength and the way he picks up the choreography, and calls Tiffany "a little beast." Which is good :). Rob loves their "abandon" and said it looked almost like they could fall at any moment--says it was his favorite of the evening. Easy there, pal--this blog is rooting for Eliana and Chehon!

Ooh, the next dance is a foursome--all four finalists are dancing together in a Tyce routine to the District 78 remix of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik." OK, what is District 78? Why do we have so much music from them this year? The dancers are dressed in "Ramalama" light--black and white, vaguely Victorian/steampunk/Clockwork Orange. Ah, it's a mock symphony, complete with music stand and conductor's baton. Eliana's in toe shoes! OK, it's cute--they're all moving in their own styles, sort of, but with just enough unison and consistency to make things flow. You know I have no love for Tyce, but this is very charming. Ah, and now there's a little electronica bit so we can enjoy some of Cyrus's home style. I hate to admit it, but I really liked that one!

And without a break, we go right into Eliana's solo--how is she even breathing? I guess she gets to rest during her 30 second video clip. She comes out in a black tutu and is dancing to "Passacaglia." It's lovely, but slow and dreamy. There's one amazing move where she's on one knee, and then pushes herself up on her toe point and into a walkover. She's great.

Still no commercial? You're killing me, show. We're watching Chehon and Allison dance a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine about (wait for it) a couple in love, who are forced to part. Stacey tells us that she loves watching Chehon do his thing, and in fact shouts out, "Whoa!" in the middle of rehearsal. When he stops, she giggles and says, "Sorry. Just got really excited!" They're dancing to "Leave" from the musical Once, based on the movie Once, which I still haven't seen despite the fact that a borrowed DVD is sitting on my counter as we speak.

Allison is acting the piece from the word go, and Chehon finally seems in touch with the emotion of his dancing as well. There's a lift where he just hoists Allison up with one hand--daaaaayum, Chehon! This piece is practically violent in the struggle between the two--the jumps are leaps, the leaps are full-on flings into each others' arms, and it ends with a passionate kiss. The judges are all on their feet, and we start with Mary, who just screams. She tells Stacey that this piece is sure to be Emmy-nominated, and tells Chehon his freedom was incredible. "Free at last!" she shouts. Rob is amazed by the height he gets, and tells Allison she was fierce (as she always is). Nigel says to Rob, "Allison should be an actress, shouldn't she?" and thinks that she really drew Chehon out. "Wow," he ends. Wow, indeed.

Now it's time to watch Eliana and Tiffany dance together in a Ray Leeper burlesque routine...including a pole. Eliana's psyched, because among her previous dance gigs is a stint as a pole dancer (I presume that doesn't necessarily include stripping?). They're dancing to "When You're Good to Mama" from Chicago (sucking up to our guest judge?). Not Cabaret? The big finish has Eliana climb 10 feet up the pole and then spin around it held only by one hand and her hip, as her other hand reaches back to hold her bent leg. I think she won that round, Tiff.

Cat says, "I know I'm going to regret this, but Nigel, I'm coming to you first." Heh. Even Cat knows he's a dirty old man. Indeed, he's wiping his brow with a handkerchief and says, "Go on, just come back to me!" We cut to Rob, who says, "I'm just trying to imagine Queen Latifah doing that." OK, I laughed. The panel is just giddy and completely blown away by Eliana's last pole move. They have nothing intelligent to say, but they loved it.

Time for Cyrus's solo, to something called "Holy Ghost," by Messinian. It's the robot again, but in the way only Cyrus can do it. It's getting a little same-old same-old, but I do love that he never rushes through the solos. There are pauses, and he's not afraid of stillness.

Tiffany's solo is next, and I actually really like her video package, because she gives us some behind the scenes about her journey. She recalls having to fight her way to Vegas (she was sent to choreography first) and then not being noticed in the first couple of Vegas rounds. Only when they got to ballroom did a judge even say anything to her (Jason Gilkinson loved her)...but she was sure, when the shows aired, that she would be heavily featured in the audition episodes, because she saw the cameras all the time--and then she was barely in it. And in the Top 20 selection, she knew all the people she was seeing had been heavily featured, so she was sure she hadn't made it. I like the idea that she understands how the TV component of this show works. I have newfound respect for Tiffany now. Alas, she's still a mediocre choreographer, and thus I'm less moved by her solo. It's fine, but lacked that hint of desperation that Chehon had in his "my mom's here" solo of a few weeks ago.

Boys' turn! Cyrus and Chehon are dancing a Sonya piece, and again she's done a sort of meta-story, about their struggle to stay on SYTYCD. There are a ton of lifts, and Cyrus is really struggling in rehearsal. I hope no one gets dropped. And once again, we have a District 78 remix (no, seriously, what is it?) of "Fangs," by Little Red Lung. Are we just using up all the leftover words in the bottom of the chyron box? The two of them are shirtless, and in black skirt-pants. It's like the Warriors have come out to play. There are some cool lifts, but Sonya was also careful to choreograph some good individual stuff for each of them. It's very arty and engaging, though not the most amazing moment of the evening. (Judges are still seated.)

Nigel praises Cyrus for his improvement over the course of the show (and then pats himself on the back for supporting him) and calls him an inspiration, and his favorite person on the show. He turns to Chehon and says that he didn't need to grow as a dancer because he came in amazing, but he's grown as a person. (That feels a little presumptive, Nige.) He tells Chehon he's Nigel's favorite dancer on the show. (I thought Eliana was your favorite!) I'm waiting for him to tell Cat that she's his favorite hostess, and Mary's his favorite screamer, and Bob is his favorite camera operator...but instead he points out Jennifer Beals in the audience. (WTF, show? She couldn't judge?) Mary basically says the same thing and is proud of both of them. I'm tired of typing. Rob agrees. Let's move on.

Everybody gets a rest while we enjoy a guest performance: "international B-boy sensation Jean Sok." He comes out on crutches, and I can't see if he's missing a leg, or if this is a character. Nope, actually missing a leg. He uses his crutches as legs, doing handstands and flares with them. It's pretty cool. He's dancing to something instrumental and lyrical, and this isn't as fast or frantic as a lot of b-boy stuff, but it's clever and elegant.

Time for Chehon's solo--I look forward to him bringing it hard. In fact, they show that "Mom" solo again because it was just that incredible. He's crying in his video now. Aww, we love you, Chehon! He starts his dance crouched on the ground, holding an airline ticket, and I think this is his own "how far I've come" routine? It's too short! He did some good leaps, but let it be a little too slow and building, and got cut off too soon. He's still great, though.

How are we still dancing? I'm exhausted and we still have half an hour to go. Eliana is now dancing a Travis Wall piece with Alex Wong. It's interesting that they've paired her with Alex again--I hope it'll be even better than last time. They're dancing to "Without You" by Harry Nilsson. It's very clutchy, actory, lots of collapse-into-arms moments. Eliana is lovely, while Alex is more of a workhorse this time, but that's appropriate at this stage. I'm finding the choreography a little repetitive, though. Feels like Travis kind of phoned this one in. Aww, the two of them are clinging to each other and weeping and maybe kissing? Is there a relationship starting between these two? SYTYCD slash fic!

Rob stops and remains astounded by Eliana's lines and hyperflexibility, but was most moved by their acting, since they both got so emotional. Nigel loved it, and then says that Eliana is his "favorite of all time on this series." Um, you just said Chehon was your favorite. How fickle! Mary begins with love for Alex, telling him how many people would ask her about him during his recovery from injury, and she loves his dancing now. And she loves the way Eliana's passion oozes from her body, and she dances all the way through her ankles and feet. Mary's crying, Eliana's crying, it's all good.

Two duets left--this one is Chehon and Tiffany dancing a Dimitry Chaplin rumba. They're sort of goofy and awkward in rehearsals, but I feel confident that the magic of Pretty People in Little Clothing will win out come performance time. They're dancing to a Norah Jones cover of "Love Me Tender." Chehon feels a little big and stage-y here, not as sensual or intimate as it should be, but I'm also having some trouble because my stupid cable just decided to act up. Tiffany's very lovely and fluid, and I don't really understand how her backless dress is staying up. Overall, it didn't really look like a traditional rumba, but it seemed well done.

Mary thought it was beautiful and loved Dimitry's routine, and says that Chehon might struggle with the Latin dances, but the rumba movement is best suited to him. She didn't quite believe their chemistry (true), but his moves were great (something about a sliding door?). Tiffany's spiral action and rumba walk was excellent and she was a fox. Rob thought the dance was sexy and they had a beautiful connection that wasn't oversold. Nigel tells Tiffany, "The pole dance was fun, but this was so much sexier." It's OK, Nigel, she's not going to start working at Scores tomorrow. He makes a predictable joke about them finally finding a shirt for Chehon, but not having enough money for buttons. Mary tops him, however, by pointing out that their choreographer was Dimitry (famous in his season for his own open shirts). Point, Mary.

Now it's time for our last routine, and the big finish (which has been plugged all night) is Cyrus and Twitch in "our first-ever animation routine." I'm sure it'll be great, but I hope it doesn't erase all the Chehon goodwill. [Interlude: just saw an ad for the new Glee season, and although I was ready to give up on the show, I'm embarrassed to say that the promise of a "Call Me Maybe" routine will probably draw me back in. Also, that's a sign that "Call Me Maybe" is officially over.]

Christopher Scott choreographed the robot-off, and he invited a robot expert to come help. Cyrus loses his mind endearingly. The premise is that Twitch & Cyrus are genetically engineered lab specimens (ID'd in rehearsal as "Twitch & Glitch.") They're dancing to the now ubiquitous District 78. The dance starts and they're in glass boxes, which they punch through at the appropriate time. It was actually breakaway glass, so it's very impressive! They're both great, and their synchronizations are incredible. I think Cyrus is actually a tiny bit better than Twitch at this stuff--his isolations are so precise and minute, it's like he's a horse shaking a fly off his flank. This was the perfect demonstration of what "animation" is. The judges, Chris Scott, and the audience are all going nuts. I think this may be Cyrus's to lose.

Rob says it was crazy, and they were both superstars. Mary loved it and is just shrieking. She eventually forms words enough to say that they stole the show. Nigel also loved it, of course, and praises Twitch for keeping up since he's not an animator by trade. Then calls them both world class, and says that it was Christopher Scott who said so. And then he goes into this weird speech: he apologizes to Cyrus and says he's not going to vote for him tonight, only because he "knows what it means to work all your life to get to this point. You have still got a life in dance to enjoy." Cut to Cyrus, looking stony faced. Nigel goes on to say that he's voting for Chehon for personal reasons, but fully understands why people will vote for the inspirational Cyrus. I think this speech was inappropriate on many levels, particularly because IT'S NOT UP TO THE JUDGES. No one would ever know how you voted, Nigel, except that you chose to basically dis Cyrus to his face. What's up with that?

Guess we'll see if that rallied the troops, or kept them away. My picks are Eliana and Chehon, but I suspect Cyrus will take it for the men. Tune in next Tuesday to find out if we're right!


erratic2012 said...

Nigel an idiot for dissing Cyrus. He should have kept that crap to himself.

Anonymous said...

Nigel's comment was inexcusable. I wasn't even going to vote, now I've called in for Cyrus about 50 times

Carole said...

I, too, was horrified when Nigel made that remark to Cyrus. What an a$$hole he was; and what, indeed, was the point? Okay, Ab, now I'm going to read your re-cap. I actually loved almost everything about the show tonight.