While last week’s performance show varied so much in quality from the first week, I think this one brought everyone back up to the level we had expected. With the exception of one dance, nothing was terrible. I don’t know if anything, save for one particular dance, was truly outstanding, but I’ll call it a good week on Dancey Dance when everything is danced capably. I usually don’t comment on the solos at the beginning of the show because, save for poppers like Phillip Chbeeb, those little ten-second intros are generally pretty meaningless, but I had to say that I was very concerned for Caitlin. Why did she choose to dress like a bird girl from the circus for that number? Did Kupono tell her that feathered bolero was a good idea? If he did, he was wrong.
Cat came out dressed appropriately for the Greco-Roman murder mystery party I hosted last weekend, and I now feel like I should have found a way to invite her. (She’d have come, right?) Mary kind of matched her, but in a less-fashionable way. Nigel wore the world’s cheapest-looking leather jacket and pretended like he was really tough. Toni Basil, on the other hand, borrowed Groundskeeper Willie’s mourning tam o’shanter for the evening. That’s the most street tam o’shanter I’ve ever seen, because the fact that it’s black makes it edgy and therefore street. And Toni Basil is street. She’s more street than you’ll ever be. In fact, she’s getting some kind of living legend award for how street she is.
This week’s producer package asked each of the dancers to tell us what their career would be if they weren’t professional dancers:
- Karla would be a journalist! She went to NYU! It was her minor!
- Jonathan would be an acrobat with Cirque du Soleil. He can do the flying silks. He just scored major points with me.
- Auska would make sparkly jewelry and accessories for ballroom dancers. She seems to make a lot of it already, but apparently she doesn’t know about Etsy.
- Vitolio would be a singer in a band. He would also wear obnoxious wigs.
- Melissa would teach Pilates, which she already does for money.
- Ade would be a sound engineer.
- Jeanette, who is one year away from completing her finance degree, would be a loan processor. She is aware that this is a boring job.
- Brandon would be a lighting designer.
- Kayla would be a model because it’s fun to get your hair and makeup done and have people take pictures of you. She already models dancewear on the side, and those photos were fierrrrrrrrrrrce.
- Kupono would be a costume designer. By this I think he means he wants to be a stylist. And I don’t want him to do that. He’ll make everyone wear neon green fox stoles.
- Randi would be a special education teacher, something she’s already working toward.
- Evan would own a custom car shop.
- Caitlin would be a broadcast journalist, which is what I imagine Twin Peaks‘ Laura Palmer would be if she weren’t dead.
- Jason would play collegiate soccer.
- Chbeeb would be an inventor.
- Jeanine would be an actress. Good news, Jeanine! You’re really pretty! You can look forward to a long career of dying in horror movies!
And as for the dances . . .
Randi and Evan (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “Koop Island Blues” by Koop feat. Brun
Let’s just start with the fact that this number was a quote-generating machine:
“It’s all about the booty.” — Mia Michaels
“You are staring at that right cheek!” – Mia Michaels
“I’m sort of hypnotized by her booty.” – Evan Kasprzak
Part of me has to wonder if the choreographers are trying to incite some sort of murderous jealousy in Randi’s husband. The first week, Evan seduced her onstage in that gorgeous jazz number. Last week, he grabbed her tush when they were shaking their tailfeathers. This week, Mia creates a piece dedicated to the hypnotic power of Randi’s booty in which Evan not only stares at it, chases after it and grabs it, but actually moves her with it. If Mr. Randi Evans takes anything out of this number, it should be that his wife looked absolutely gorgeous in that little Fay Wray-esque pink slip and silk stockings and that she should steal it from the wardrobe department and take some awesome boudoir photos in it for him. I loved this number, not only for its playfulness, but also for its mixture of movements both sinewy and bony. Because Randi was dressed like Fay Wray and because of the stalking, lurching movements, it reminded me of what King Kong would look like as a conceptual dance piece. But it was also very much a showcase for Evan’s talents. This was the perfect piece for him, and was Gene Kelly-esque in every way. The way Evan bobbed his head, combined with his costuming, reminded me a little of both An American in Paris and the Broadway hoofer segment of Singin’ in the Rain where he meets a green-clad Cyd Charisse in a bar. (Husband Note: That’s called the Broadway Melody.) Something about the choreography was inherently Mia, but also referenced the great jazz work Gene and Cyd used to do when they danced together. Mary said she never saw Evan as a leading man until this piece, which I know is purely because of his height, and I think that’s absurd. I’ve known this kid was a fucking star since last season, and I’m so happy he’s getting a chance to shine this season. This number was so darn hot, it received an Official Mary Murphy Scream and numerous “butt” jokes from Nigel, who thought he was being at least half as clever as Mia’s choreography. I can’t wait to see this on the tour. If it gives you an idea of how much I loved it, let me tell you that I got a little misty. And I’m pretty sure I’ll still be that in awe every time I see it.
Melissa and Ade (Rumba)
Choreography by Tony Meredith
Song: “Emotion” by Destiny’s Child
This was another totally sexy number, and my compliments for outfit of the night go to Melissa for that dress she almost had on. That shiz was hawtt. And that dance was hawtt. I saw a couple of small mistakes in this dance, chiefly when Melissa and Ade lost each other’s hands for a second when they came back together for a closed rumba walk, but the rest of this dance was sublime. It was seductive. It was passionate. It was gorgeous. And they totally sold it to me. Three weeks in a row now Melissa and Ade have been in my top couples, and I think it’s because they never disappoint me in how well they sell their routines. They’re both so into what they’re doing that I’m completely into what they’re doing, and that makes them both true performers. And for as sexy as Melissa was in that barely-there dress, so, too, was Ade’s booty. I think it might even be sexier in those lightweight pants than Joshua’s was last season. And that’s saying a lot. Needless to say, the judges loved it. By my count, it received 1.5 Official Mary Murphy Screams, the .5 of which I think was just for that amazing move where Ade turned Melissa under her own arabesque.
The Good to Very Good
Jeanette and Brandon (Hip-Hop)
Choregraphy by Dave Scott
Song: “What a World” by Common
Dave Scott asked Jeanette and Brandon to perform a routine in which rock n’ roll met with hip-hop and produced some surprising and fun results. I actually really liked this number. I thought Dave Scott’s choreography was clever and witty, that Jeanette and Brandon both danced their respective parts really well and that the whole routine gelled into a great story and a cohesive unit. Most importantly, it was interesting to watch, and that always gets points in my book. I also liked that they brought back the chair from “Two Princes” back in season three. They’ve got some awesome furniture back in the SYTYCD warehouse. (Does Kupono know? He might try to steal them, or at least put neon green foxtails on everything.) I’m not really sure why Jeanette was dressed as Rosario Dawson’s character in Sin City crossed with Cher, because there are a lot of other things that say rock n’ roll to me that don’t look like that, but she carried off the look pretty well. Toni Basil thought that Brandon’s hip-hopping was just street enough to make her believe it, and Mary Murphy even tossed out an Official Scream for the routine.
Kayla and Kupono (Viennese Waltz)
Choreography by Jean-Marc Genereux
Song: “Sweet Dreams of You” by Jewel
Here’s a dance that the judges and I disagree upon a little bit. I surely thought that Mary was going to critique Kupono for dancing a bit too feminine in the piece. To me, he didn’t keep a strong enough frame, and while he did have the right sort of liquidity, I don’t think he supported or partnered Kayla very well. I think the biggest testament to that is the fact that the choreography didn’t feature a lot of lifts or closed basics, where you would have really noticed Kupono’s weaknesses, rather than marveling at how in sync he was with Kayla during the open basics. I think Jean-Marc’s choreography covered for Kupono adequately, because otherwise this could have been a disaster. Kayla, as always, was incredible, though, and they both looked good enough in those open basics to remain in the “good” category for me. In fact, Kayla alone was good enough to get a ticket to the Hot Tamale Train and her own scream from Mary Murphy. I wonder if I’m carrying some residual hatred for Kupono from last week, when he should have been booted in favor of Max, and that’s why I looked so hard for him to falter this week, something the judges obviously didn’t do. Maybe I am. All I know is that he needs to prove his worth to me, and he’s lucky Kayla can do no wrong. I also really liked the cityscape lighting design for this piece – it reminded me a bit of the “Lonely Town” ballet from On the Town. (It was a very Gene Kelly night for me, overall.)
The “This Was Actually Good, But I Still Hate Tyce DiOrio”
Chbeeb and Jeanine (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Moses” from Singin’ in the Rain
I had to make a special category for this number, because it was good. It certainly was some of the better choreography I’ve seen from Tyce DiOrio, who surely must hail from Bitchdouchestan or something because even when he does something I like, I still can’t bring myself not to hate him. For this piece, he used a six-foot-long couch as a prop. When I saw that, I wondered what in the world he could be doing that would involve couch jumps. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that it would be cool, and it was pretty cool. However, the minute I saw the song choice, the small amount of faith I’d mustered for Tyce totally went out the window. He did a number on a couch set to “Moses” from Singin’ in the Rain. A movie musical which, as Nigel later pointed out, ALREADY HAS A COUCH DANCE IN IT. There’s a point where I think you can be referential and pay homage to something, and then there’s a point beyond referential that comes across as completely lacking in creativity. And that’s where this number ultimately fell for me. To chose music from a show/movie that has a very famous scene involving a couch and then use that trope with a piece of music during which a couch no longer makes sense (as with “Moses”) reads to me as uncreative, as grasping at straws, as trying too hard to be as good as the thing you tried to reference. My other issue with this piece is that the song choice had nothing to do with the dance, so I guess Tyce just picked it for its frenetic energy. If I forgot about the lyrics, which, by the way, are part of a diction lesson in the film, the beat worked. I’m just certain that there had to have been other songs that would have worked just as well and made more sense. Furthermore, it reminded me a little too much of Tony Award Winner Andy Blankenbeuhler’s On the Town piece for Courtney and Gev last year, which worked a lot better.
All of that said, though, I did like the piece. I think it was well-choreographed, despite its literalness and musical incongruity. It was fun. I think Chbeeb and Jeanine had a lot fun doing it and it was interesting to watch. So, props to that. And props to Chbeeb for clearing that couch and splitting his trousers while doing so! However, this piece did show Chbeeb’s weaknesses in the fleet footwork, and it’s clear that while he has great instincts, he has a lot to improve upon. Jeanine, though, was really good, even with those monstrous head-eating Betty bangs. I think she got half a scream for this, so I’m adding .5 to the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count.
Auska and Vitolio (Jazz)
Choreography by Mandy Moore
Song: “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar
Hey, guys! Did you know Mandy Moore loves the 1980s? Did you? Well, if you didn’t catch that from her other routines set to “Right Here Waiting,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Body Language,” surely you are aware of the fact by now. I think Mandy Moore’s work is best when it’s hard-hitting or very soft. Things that fall in between definitely aren’t her best, and I think this one sort of fell in between. There was a real disconnect here for me between the choreography and the song choice. While the chorus of “Heartbreaker” is pretty banging, a lot of it isn’t quite up to that level of intensity, and I didn’t feel like the choreography always matched up with the song. Auska and Vitolio danced it pretty well, and I hope America gets over its whole “we hate Auska” thing because she freakin’ cried this week because she clearly hates when she isn’t doing her best. Let this be an end to the discussion of her reservedness, because she let go. However, of the two performers in this dance, Auska was the weaker of the two, most notable in the floorwork segments where she didn’t extend fully or hit everything the way it was supposed to be hit. It was well danced, but it doesn’t stand out quite as much as other pieces did this week. In other news, she’s really skinny. And I can’t decide if I loved or hated her lace-print leotard and the studded shorts she was wearing under it. And Toni Basil wants to do Vitolio. And I think Nigel really liked this dance because it reminded him of a piece he choreographed for The Apple: “Coming for You.”
Caitlin and Jason (Paso Doble)
Choreography by Jean-Marc Genereux
Song: “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana
No Paso Doble will ever be as good as Artem’s Paso Doble from season one in my eyes, even though there have been a few that I really liked. This was not one of them. The intense opera score totally overwhelmed the dancing, as did the absurdly sparkly gypsy costumes. I guess I just like my Paso Dobles a little more traditional and a little more robust, with a clearer interplay between the roles of the matador and the cape. It wasn’t a mess by any means, although Mary noted that Jason lost his posture a couple of times (hence my note about needing clearer delineation between the matador and cape). Caitlin, although I really don’t like her, did get yet another cool-ass move in which she balanced on her chest and kicked her legs over herself, which was probably her most cape-like moment during this piece.
Karla and Jonathan (Smooth Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Dave Scott
Song: “By My Side” by Jadakiss with Ne-Yo
This was not good. Karla and Jonathan got lucky last week to blind everyone with that lovely routine in which I was apparently the only person in America who noticed Karla wasn’t good in it. These two have no chemistry, and they don’t work well together at all. There were numerous moments during this piece where I could tell they both weren’t doing the right things, but I also couldn’t tell which one was ahead or behind or off. Jonathan was just too clean for the whole thing, which Toni Basil summed up as being like his “street” was “store-bought.” Karla, on the other hand, was just kind of never really on beat. The only part of this that worked for me was the moment where Jonathan did a backflip and picked up his hat right as he stuck the landing. That was pretty dope, but the rest of this routine was not very good.
I’m pretty sure that this week’s bottom three couples will be Karla and Jonathan, Auska and Vitolio and Caitlin and Jason – all couples who have made at least one bottom-three appearance. Of those, I think this will be Karla and Jonathan’s last chance. They haven’t given us enough individual moments to really show why either of them should be kept in the competition, and it’s really their time to go. They got a pass last week with that Stacey Tookey contemporary, but they failed at both hip-hop and cha cha now, and I’d prefer they go before they fail at anything else.
- Randi gets a special shout out for the “Unitard Girl” tee she was wearing in rehearsal. That thing was totally cool and I kind of want one. Whoever made that for her is the greatest friend in the world.
- With all of the various Gene Kelly pieces I was thinking about during the course of this episode, I went to bed last night really wanting to watch Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” number from Singin’ in the Rain. NOT “Be a Clown” from The Pirate, which is the same song, but not funny when Judy Garland and Gene Kelly are dressed like clowns.
- Speaking of which, you guys should totally watch every sequence I mentioned in this article from An American in Paris, On the Town or Singin’ in the Rain. They’re all great.
- Also watch Anne Miller’s “Modern Man” tap number in On the Town.
- Then you should watch some clips from In the Heights, so you can see how totally cool Andy Blankenbeuhler is.
- “Oh, Toni Basil talks slowly, so I’m going to urinate.” – Me, on how I decide to take bathroom breaks during the show.
- The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for this episode is 4, bringing the total for the season to 9, with 5 enthusiastic woos for backup.
- The official number of Hot Tamale Train Tickets is now 3.25.