Before I begin to discuss last night, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate four of our SYTYCD Choreographers for their Emmy nominations! The Emmy voters have nominated TabNap for “Bleeding Love,” The Emmy Award-Winning Mia Michaels for “Mercy,” Tyce DiOrio for his truly beautiful Adam and Eve jazz piece for Jessica King and William Wingfield and Dmitry Chaplin for his Argentine tango for Joshua Allen and Chelsie Hightower. The SYTYCDers lead the pack in this category, facing only one nomination from that other reality dance competition program (a jive from Julianne and Derek Hough) and the “Musicals are Back” showpiece from the 81st Annual Academy Awards. The sheer number of nominations snatched up by SYTYCD, I think, reinforces what I love about this show and proves to me that the Emmy institution’s decision to expand their categories to six nominations this year has allowed for more thoughtful decisions and recognizes true artistry. Nothing makes me happier than to see people share in the joy of this show, and to see great art recognized. So, congrats to Nappytabs, Mia, Tyce and Dima! (And on a personal note, even though I hate Tyce, I sort of want him to win so he’ll stop doing shitty Broadway and return to his strengths as a jazz choreographer, which is obviously where he really shines. See? I’m not totally mean!)
Now that we’ve reached our Top 10 Dancers, the producers decided that we didn’t have a moment to waste and treated us to 5 routines, 10 solos and 2 group numbers for the top girls and boys. For the sake of my sanity, I’ll discuss the routines in my typical fashion (Excellent, Good to Very Good, Mediocre, Problematic), followed by the solos ranked in order of their impressiveness and then, just for larfs, the group numbers.
Jeanine and Jason (Contemporary)
Choreography by SYTYCD Season 2 Runner-Up Travis Wall, who now has dark hair and tattoos. (My new fantasy celebrigays: Travis Wall and Adam Lambert. Best. Couple. EVER.)
Song: “If It Kills Me” by Jason Mraz
This was an absolutely stunning piece of choreography by an amazing contemporary dancer (whom you may remember from the last thing The Emmy Award-Winning Mia Michaels won an Emmy for . . . season 2’s “Bench Dance” with Heidi). I was so impressed with Travis’ choreography and its dynamism. He truly took us on a visual ride here in a piece with levels, floorwork, individual sections, synchronized leaps, jumps, lifts, story and sensuality. There wasn’t a single moment in this work that felt inorganic, and it’s a testament to Jeanine and Jason’s skills as dancers that they danced it with complete authenticity. I believed them, and I was there. Seriously, this was better than most movie sex scenes at capturing romance, longing and what it’s like to finally heed the word of your body. The only critique I can really give here is that it was apparent in the beginning of the number that the necklace wasn’t working the way it should. When they do this on tour, I would do away with the prop altogether. It worked for TV, but on stage, it would be too small of a prop to notice and, in fact, I think the motions of giving it and taking it would absolutely still work without the actual prop. So there’s that. But even that prop malfunction couldn’t diminish the work that was done with this. Sheer brilliance, and great collaboration that, to borrow from Debbie Allen, is “evangelizing dance in a way nothing else has.” Amen, Miss Allen. Mary awarded it a silent scream, just to appease Conan O’Brien, who lives in fear of her shrieking. (Does is still count as an Official Mary Murphy Scream if no sound comes out? This is the eternal question.)
Melissa and Brandon (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Aquarius” from Hair (It’s the New Broadway Cast recording, for those who care.)
See, this is what dance on Broadway these days actually looks like. This is why I don’t think that Broadway is a style of dance because the kind of dancing required in a Broadway show should be varied to suit the mood, music and story. But on the other hand, without that label, what the fuck would I call what Tyce usually does? (Husband Note: “Crap.”) Anyway, I give Tyce his fair share of crap for the kind of hokey work he usually produces, but I’ve long said that his jazz work is some of the strongest I’ve ever seen. I love the piece he did for Ivan and Allison in season 2, I love the African jazz he did for Pasha and Jessi in season 3 and Emmy voters and I both love the near-silent jazz piece he created for Will and Jessica last year. He works best when he’s freed from his desperate need to be like Bob Fosse, and I’m glad he chose to do a piece from Hair this week, for a few reasons.
First and foremost, this piece reminded me what Tyce is like when he’s good, and his choreography was really good in this one. It lent itself to the characters he created, suited the spirit of the show and told a story along with the music. Secondly, I’ve never actually seen Hair, and my first experience listening to the whole cast album (with the new cast) was on our drive up to Seattle the other week. I’ve had it stuck in my head ever since because I really dig it. (I mean, who writes a libretto like that anymore?) Third, the cast of Hair came all the way from New York on their dark night to perform on The Tonight Show and watching them take over the studio actually moved me a great deal. Of all the New York-based late night shows, Conan O’Brien was the best at booking Broadway actors (Husband Note: Second-best, as Letterman usually has that covered.), and I thought it was wonderful that he got an entire cast to fly out on their night off to bring that experience to the culture suck that is L.A. I can only imagine what it was like for those Burbank audience members to have their hair tousled by love-spreading hippies, a kind of interactive theatre experience that is basically dead in L.A. It was just really fucking cool. (Cooler than when they did it at the Tonys, that’s for sure.) Finally, just yesterday, the cast announced that they’d be going dark on October 11 so they could all join cast mate Gavin Creel (who plays Claude) in Washington, D.C. for the Equal Rights March. Nothing could be more in the spirit of that show and its message of peace, love and understanding than for its entire cast to join an openly gay cast member in his fight for equality.
I guess Nigel wasn’t quite hip to anything about Hair and why it’s important (other than Twyla Tharp’s choreography of the movie, which I have seen and don’t love), because the only thing he could really comment on was how “this was the time when white girls danced with black boys.” Uh, yeah. In fact, if he’d ever heard the damn show, he would already know that “black boys are delicious.” To his credit, though, the fact that it was danced by dancers of two different ethnicities did indeed highlight the message of that particular song and the themes of the show. (And may I say that the black boys on SYTYCD are indeed quite delicious?) Brandon and Melissa danced this number just as beautifully as it was choreographed, and I have to give extra props to Melissa here for being so in character. She’s a great little actress, and I can only imagine how much of a joy she’d be to work with.
The Good to Very Good
Jeanette and Ade (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by TabNap
Song: “Love Sex Magic” by Ciara ft. Justin Timberlake
This was a very cutesy number from TabNap, and I think it was danced with a lot of gusto from both Jeanette and Ade. However, I was very worried for Jeanette during their tuck-and-roll segment because something about the way she hit the floor looked off and I thought Ade might smoosh her head. The use of Ade’s magic hairpick was pretty cute, too. But because it isn’t Travis Wall’s piece or Tyce’s rendition of Hair, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.
Kayla and Evan (Viennese Waltz)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Song: “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal
I completely agree with Nigel that this number’s biggest problem was the fact that it didn’t look like a Viennese waltz, and I also agree with Mary about the clunkiness of Evan’s turns in the final third of the dance. However, I thought the rest of it was really pretty good. The wizardry of shoes managed to even out the height disparity between tall Kayla and her vertically challenged partner, Evan, and with the exception of that final third, they danced this really well. Kayla was great all around, actually, and I give Evan points for keeping up with her. His feet may not have been spectacular, but his frame was really good and he supported her well throughout the dance, especially in that lift.
Randi and Kupono (Paso Doble)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Song: “Dies Irae” by Carl Jenkins
The weakness of this Paso Doble had nothing to do with the music or the choreography, but everything to do with Kupono. He just didn’t dance this hard enough or with enough passion. Randi at least made a good show of putting on her fiery face, even if she, too, is guilty of the most cardinal Paso Doble sin of not dancing hard enough. A great Paso has to be danced into the ground, stamped and bullied like a great flamenco number or, you know, the bullfight it’s emulating. All in all, it just wasn’t up to snuff, and I can’t even give that death drop full credit because Kupono took her out one half turn too early. I did, however, not mind the addition of Randi’s wig, although I resent Nigel’s comment about how she did it to create some passion, which basically says that women with shorthair are passionless. Thanks, Nigel! I’m sure Mia Michaels it the most passionless person you’ve ever met, with that elfin pixie cut!
1. Ade once again performed a completely insane, off-the-hook solo to – of all things! – “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, complete with a backflip toward the stairs that actually made me fear for his life. Not even kidding, he was so close to those stairs I would he was going to break his neck and die on national television. But he didn’t! Because that’s how good he is!
2. Jeanine gets a million extra points from me for choreographing her solo to the same song (“Violento – Up Mix” by Bailongo!) that underscored her tragic Argentine tango with Chbeeb. She presented a really interesting 30 seconds of dancing that mixed her classical technique with some Latin-esque moves. It was impressive.
3. Brandon needs to join Alvin Ailey immediately if he doesn’t win. He’s just so amazing and so ready, as I think this solo to Jeffrey Gaines’ cover of “In You Eyes” proved.
4. Evan reminded his fans exactly why we like him by performing a great, classic little 40s-style number to Rufus Wainwright’s “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” from the Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! concert. I only wish he’d entered his windmill segment about five seconds earlier so we’d have been able to see his full glory.
5. Kayla did an absolutely Radomkulous contemporary solo to Elisa’s “Rock Your Soul.” She’s just so good. Why don’t you love her, America?
6. Jason actually showed me he was creative and had personality with his funky, down-home solo to Muddy Waters’ “Train from Home.”
7. Jeanette closed the solo portion of the show by proclaiming “This is Miami,” which, in fact, I think she is. Like, when I think of Miami, I think of Jeanette.
8. Melissa performed a much weaker ballet solo this week than she did last week to “Gabriel” by Lamb. Still pretty, though.
9. Randi did a graceful contemporary routine to “Dream” by Priscilla Ann. It struck me when I watched this that I actually had no idea who Randi was outside of Evan. She’s a good dancer, but I don’t think she has the spark that the other girls in the competition do.
10. Kupono gave us one of his best solos ever, but still the worst of the night. He danced to “Marina Gasolina” by Bonde do Role, and I have no idea why he insisted on doing so in a gay zombie costume.
As for the group numbers, we were treated to a whole lot of ethnic dancing tonight, with the girls performing a Nakul Dev Mahajan Bollywood number and the boys performing a Jeffrey Page African dance. I thought both numbers were absolutely stellar and a joy to watch, but of the two, I think the girls’ number was more expertly danced. I agree with Nigel that none of them stood out as better than the rest, which of course also means that no one fell behind as worst of the bunch. As far as the story was concerned, I’m pretty sure that number was about how women seduce men and take them off the path of righteousness. You know, like a really fun dance version of the scene in the Disney Jungle Book where Mowgli sees a girl fetching water and all of a sudden he decides he wants to live with human folk. Hmm . . . maybe it’s about how women’s beauty civilizes men? Whatever. Who the fuck cares? It was fun, and the girls made a great show of it. Nigel even put them on his “hot bangers-and-mash train,” which I’m pretty sure is his penis.
With the boys, I think it was much clearer in this number that some of the boys just aren’t as strong as others. Although Evan stuck out like a sore thumb because he is the only male dancer on SYTYCD without ANY kind of ethnicity, he wasn’t the worst dancer of the bunch. No, that honor goes to Kupono, who fell back into his old critique of simply looking too feminine. While all of the boys kept up with the fast footwork of this number, I thought the thing that truly separated the men from the boys here (if you’ll pardon the expression) was the detail in the arm movements. It was clear that Evan and Kupono simply didn’t have the arm strength to uphold those angles like Jason, Ade and Brandon did. But even then, Evan kept it up a little better than the Hawaiian, who too often looked limber and willowy, rather than bold, geometric and strong. Here, I thought Nigel was being a little too complimentary in saying that no one stood out, because someone definitely did.
So based on the pairwork, dancing and solos, my picks for who is going home tonight (and this is putting my faith that American will still, at least for the next two weeks, vote out the less-strong dancers before turning this competition into a favorite-dancer-free-for-all) are Randi and Kupono. I don’t think Randi’s anything without Evan, and it’s already pretty clear that America doesn’t love the tall Hawaiian because he dresses poorly and, I repeat, IS NOT AND WILL NEVER BE MARK KANEMURA. Also, Fox.com promised me I’d hear about Kupono’s furniture collection. I am very disappointed that I haven’t heard about this yet. Please mention it in his exit package so I can at least feel like mentioning that in his website bio was slightly justified.
- Given that I am in the process of getting a large botanical tattoo on my shoulder, I’ve decided I need Cat’s green strapless dress so I can show it off at cocktail parties. I’ll probably find it later when I go interweb hunting, but if anyone beats me to it and posts a link in the comments, I will . . . uh . . . send you a cookie . . . or something . . .
- Jeanine danced so well last night that she ALMOST made me forget she opened the show wearing a romper. I’m sorry, but if you’re a grown woman, you shouldn’t be wearing something meant for toddlers.
- At the show’s open, why was Kupono wearing a man-corset that he didn’t bother to lace closed? What’s the point of an open corset?
- Dear Hollywood types: Please don’t hire Kupono as a stylist or designer one he leaves this show. The gay zombie look is so gauche.
- Now I know that Cat is a Rufus Wainwright fan, and that makes me love her all the more.
- When Dev called the Top 5 girls the “Bollywood Bombshells,” I was reminded of a great 1960s Bollywood soundtrack for a film called The Bombshell Baby of Bombay. My friend Lauren loves that soundtrack, and when we cook and drink at her house, we always end up listening to it. Good times, Bombshell Baby of Bombay.
- I am very disappointed that we didn’t see the Fame trailer last night, as Debbie Allen basically IS FAME and Kerrington Payne is kind of starring in it. Maybe tonight? Maybe a special performance from the cast of Fame? Maybe maybe?