The Wife:

I thought perhaps it was just me, coming off an evening of less-than-normal sleep because I was having the most cathartic rock concert experience of my life at the No Doubt show on Tuesday night and preparing for the arrival of my dear friend Magen today. I thought the first few numbers on SYTYCD tonight felt a little slow. They were all passable, but not wholly engaging. And I assumed it was just me, with my mind being off in a million different places. But, no. Even despite the presence of the effervescent Ellen DeGeneres on the judging panel, Nigel felt the evening was a little slow. But for all the creeping waltzes and the slower than slow rumbas, the show really picked up in its final three numbers to remind us what this whole thing is about.

The Excellent

Melissa and Ade (Contemporary)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell

I’ve said multiple times that Tyce’s jazz and contemporary work is so strong, creative and beautiful that simply knowing he can be that brilliant is why I harbor so much hatred for his contrived, hackneyed and startlingly unoriginal Broadway routines. When I saw this absolutely stunning and evocative piece of theatre come out of him, danced with sheer grace by a reunited Melissa and Ade, I was extremely moved. Although I’d mocked the costuming choice of putting Melissa in that “I’m going through chemo” headscarf, there really was no other way to make the piece specifically about cancer. If we all agree to pretend that we didn’t hear the intro package about how Tyce created this piece to honor his friend who struggled with breast cancer, it was the headscarf that informed us of just what the struggle here was. Without it, I think the idea of disease would have still been communicated through the movement – those flying leaps of faith Melissa took into Ade’s arms, the moment where he was the strength to her weakness when he lifted her up by her delicate wrists, the moment where she wilted around his body – all of that informed us that Melissa’s body was falling apart. But would the piece have been as moving without that headscarf? No, I don’t think it would have been. The piece has to be about cancer because cancers are the most terrifying diseases, the most trying diseases I can think of. At their core, they are about the body turning against itself. Some of them are preventable (certain types of lung, cervical and skin cancers), but others aren’t. There are only a few things I can think of that are more horrifyingly unjust than the human body destroying itself from the inside out.

And so, having lost a family member to mesothelioma, another to metastatic melanoma (henceforth called Izzie Stevens Disease) and having had a malignant melanoma removed from my own arm, this piece was extremely affective to me, as it was to all of the judges and, I hope, to everyone else who saw it. It was a gorgeous piece of choreography that told a clear, emotional and riveting story, danced by a pair of brilliant performers.

Cancer Vixen.

Cancer Vixen.

Jeanine and Brandon (Pop Jazz)
Choreography by Laurieann Gibson
Song: “Battlefield” by Jordin Sparks

I loved the choreography and costuming for this piece, and I agree with Nigel that this pop-jazz number really woke us up from what we saw earlier in the evening. But although I loved it and agree that it was one of the best of the night, I wonder if anyone else noticed just how much better Brandon was in this piece than Jeanine. There was a whole segment of the dance where I wondered if he was a little too fast, or if she was just slow, and finally decided on the latter. Brandon completely and totally nailed this number (and should go hang some paintings at Ellen’s house), enough to fully convert detractor Mia Michaels to a Brandon Bryant lover. Seriously, Laurieann Gibson put a horizontal leap (over Jeanine) into the floorwork segment of this routine, I think, specifically because she saw Brandon Bryant’s amazing audition and knew he could do it absurdly well. And he did. The best compliment the judges could give Jeanine was that she “kept up” with Brandon . . . if by keeping up with they mean being ever so slightly behind. Don’t get me wrong, Jeanine is really a stunningly good dancer, but I think this is the first time in the competition she’s been with someone better than her so that you can actually see she has faults. He definitely outdanced her, but she still performed well (and put on a good tough-gal face) and contributed to a strong performance overall, which received what I’m counting as three Official Mary Murphy Screams. (It was hard to tell. They came in short, exaggerated bursts.)

Kayla and Jason (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Shane Sparks
Song: “They’re Everywhere” by Izza Kizza

I’m starting to realize that I really like anything that involves dancing zombies. Here’s my evidence to prove that: I love Wade Robson’s “Rama Lama (Bang Bang).” I truly enjoy Evil Dead the Musical. I like “Thriller.” And I really liked this fun show-closing number in which undead Jason turned sexy schoolgirl Kayla into his zombie mistress. I feel like the guys from Mutation are a little bit jealous that they didn’t get to perform this number, but I think Jason and Kayla were great in it. I’ve always loved Kayla, but my feelings for Jason haven’t been so universally positive. He really put himself into this performance, though, and I think my husband most enjoyed the solo segment where he kills Kayla, dances with glee for about five seconds, and resurrects her. It’s his “I just killed you!” dance, and it was pretty damn adorable. I also agree with Mia about the final image of this piece, where Jason lifts Kayla up by strangling her, which walked the fine line between cute and creepy. And I like things that do that. Mary Murphy liked it enough to give what I’m assume are two Official Mary Murphy Screams.

Tyra would call this an experiment in ugly-pretty.

Tyra would call this an experiment in ugly-pretty.

The Good to Very Good

Melissa and Ade (Cha Cha)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin
Song: “Yeah (Gomo Gaza Mi Morena)” by Chino Espinoza y Los Dueños Del Son

That Spanish-language cover/sample of Usher’s “Yeah” really threw me off a bit because I kept trying to figure out if I was actually hearing “Yeah” in there or if the name was just a coincidence. As such, I was a little distracted. This ended up being not my favorite cha cha, but I nevertheless couldn’t take my eyes of Melissa. As Mia said, she really broke it down here and got into the sultry sex kitten vibe, so much that I didn’t even notice Ade was there. Mary thought Ade danced it too high off the floor, and Mia thought it was Ade’s worst performance. I guess I agree with them, as he didn’t command any attention from me here at all.

Evan and Jeanette (Jazz)
Choreography by Sonya Tayeh
Song: “Move (Metrononomy Mix)” by CSS

A band named after a programming language wrote the song to which this piece was choreographed, which isn’t totally surprising. I liked this piece, but I had pretty much forgotten about it by the end of the show. I think it suffered from being set to such a weird song, allowing it to get lumped in with the other slow-tempo numbers that plagued the beginning of last night’s show. However, I thought Evan and Jeanette were good in it and the choreography was very interesting to watch. Mia is right, however, that Evan is just wrong for Sonya’s work. I realize that one of the things we look for on SYTYCD is a very versatile dancer who wows us in many genres and thus becomes our favorite, but what Mia said about Evan here is spot the fuck on. Just like in acting and modeling, I wouldn’t cast Evan in a Sonya Tayeh show simply because he doesn’t have the right look. That’s like trying to turn character actor Patrick Fischler into a romantic lead in a rom-com – it just wouldn’t work. It doesn’t matter how good of an actor Fischler is or how good of a dancer Evan is, sometimes the performer simply isn’t right for the work.

Jeanette looks so sublime in this leap.

Jeanette looks so sublime in this leap.

Kayla and Jason (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Mr. Monotony” by Kim Kriswell

This was another pretty bland number from Tyce, with no real sense of story of dynamism, which I guess is okay because the song is called “Mr. Monotony.” I didn’t like Jason very much in this piece, actually, because every time I watched him do those Gene Kelly-esque floor-pops, I wanted to see Evan doing them instead. Jason’s another dancer this season that I just don’t think has the universal casting appeal of some others. Remember how I said his baby face was incongruous in his foxtrot with Caitlin because it doesn’t look right sitting atop a double-breasted suit? Same here. He doesn’t look right in a faux-1940s setting, chasing after a poisonous dame like gorgeous, leggy Kayla. The zombie thing worked for him, but this didn’t. It’s not that he danced poorly, per se, it’s simply that someone else would have been better for this role. Kayla, on the other hand, was spot-on, and Mia thinks she should take some singing and acting lessons so she could take Broadway by storm. Or she could audition for Chicago because she doesn’t need to know how to do either of those things to be in that show. (I know. That was mean to Kander & Ebb. But let’s face it: Chicago only exists on Broadway because it’s an easy show to fake-sing and fake-act in, making it an ideal place for celebrities of moderate renown to make their Broadway debuts in. How else do you explain the fact that it was so easy for Melanie Griffith, who cannot sing, to just take the role of Roxy Hart because her husband was starring in Nine in the theatre across the street? And why Jerry Springer is being allowed to play Billy Flynn when we already know he cannot dance?)

The Mediocre

Brandon and Jeanine (Waltz)
Choreography by Hunter Johnson
Song: “May It Be” by Hayley Westenra

I thought this was danced with pure loveliness, and I have to give Brandon and Jeanine credit for that, but it was a real snoozer of a waltz. I mean, you play me “May It Be” and all I can think of is the sleepiness of the Shire and Samwise Gamgee dreaming about fair Rosie Cotton. There’s nothing technically wrong with this piece, it just wasn’t very awe-inspiring. I would, however, like to gloat that I remembered this song was both an Enya cover AND from Lord of the Rings and yet my film geek husband didn’t. Nigel really seemed to hate the song, which means he hates things that are good and nominated for Oscars. Mary called the piece respectable, and all of the judges agreed they’d wanted more from it.

But for the record, this yellow dress is my Outfit of the Night.

But for the record, this yellow dress is my Outfit of the Night.

Jeanette and Evan (Rumba)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin
Song: “Heartless” by Kris Allen

Although I really like Evando and Little Miss Fire, Spice and Flavor, I was really confused by this slow rumba. SYTYCD is all about slow rumbas, but this one was probably the slowest of them all, and I think its major failure comes down to song choice. Kris Allen’s cover of “Heartless” was not a good choice, and I felt there were many moments where the choreography didn’t match up with the music. By far, the best slow rumba on this show was done in season three, choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereux and performed by Sabra and Dominic to the Pussycat Dolls’ “Stickwitchu.” At least, that’s my favorite. The song provided a good, consistent beat to which the dancers could sensually groove. I didn’t get that from “Heartless.” It would have been a good choice for a contemporary routine, but not for this rumba. Even Jeanette, that Miami heat, couldn’t get into the Latin ballroom flavor of this one. I would, however, cast Evando in a rumba, if only because I like his serious and sexy face – it makes him look like James Van Der Beek as Sean Bateman, as my husband pointed out. P.S. Did you guys see a single rumba walk in this number? Did I miss them? Because I didn’t see any and that really bothered me.

Solos:

1. Brandon: “Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That” by Robert Randolph and the Family Band. He wowed me tonight. I don’t know how the fuck he moves this way, but it’s amazing.

2. Jeanine: “Let the Drummer Kick” by Citizen Cope. She once again provided a solo that combined technique, musicality and personality. I really think Jeanine is the most competent soloist in the competition. She never disappoints.

3. Kayla: “The Moment I Said It” by Imogen Heap. This solo reminded me the most of her wonderful audition in Denver. I know she’s a graceful, strong and altogether lovely dancer, but here she reminded me of her own quirky interest in movement. Remember that move where she pulls her shoulderblades together and jerks her arms back? She did something similar here, which is why I liked it so much.

4. Evan: “Old Devil Moon” by Jamie Cullum. Hey, everybody! I’ve got a great idea! Let’s keep Tyce from ever doing Broadway routines ever again by inviting Evan Kasprzak back to the show to be the new Broadway choreographer! Hooray! My idea is awesome! Really, though, Evan choreographs marvelous, fleet-footed Broadway baby solos and I enjoy them so much that I want to see what he’d do with an entire piece.

5. Ade: “Hater” by Various Productions Artist. I didn’t think this was anywhere near as good as his other solos, until he did that ridiculously high leap. How does he get so much air under him? I simply don’t understand.

6. Melissa: “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Melissa tried to break away from standard ballet here a little bit by doing something that ended up being both modern and dated. It would have made choreographer Mandy Moore proud.

7. Jason: “Slowdance on the Inside” by Taking Back Sunday. Taking Back Sunday is clearly Jason’s Lifehouse. To that end, this was like a weaker version of a Nick Lazzarini solo. Boo-urns.

8. Jeanette: “Seduces Me” by Celine Dion. This was a complete and total failure of concept and execution. I was baffled as to why she tried to do a contemporary solo when her strong suit is salsa, and even more confused when she tried to toss some salsa moves into a non-salsa song. What the fuck?

Simply because neither of these two dancers were in the top three pieces of the night, I think we’ll be losing Evan and Jeanette tonight. I really thought Jeanette would make the top 4, but she lost her way big time tonight. As for Evan, I adore him, but he’s definitely not as good as Brandon or Ade, and he doesn’t have the benefit of a top dance to keep him in the running tonight. Alas.

Other thoughts:

  • Ellen DeGeneres is such a joy. Her timing is amazing. I adore her. It was impossible to write down all of her improv, because she’s just so quick, but I think my favorite moment was when she started a critique with, “I’d been asking for tickets to a taping for a really long time, and these were really good seats, so I sat here, but I didn’t know they were going to make me judge.”
  • Furthermore, Ellen’s jacket was très adorable.
  • Cat dressed up like the Emmy she’s never going to get!
  • Travis Wall’s group number to “Let It Rock” by Kevin Rudolf featuring Lil’ Wayne was like a futuristic version of Conan O’Brien’s “In the Year 2000.” Excuse me, it was like “In the Year 3000” went to a rave.
  • “It should just be this huge banana extravaganza.” – Travis Wall, discussing his routine and, perhaps, some sort of sex act.
  • “It’s crazy off the chain!” – Mary Murphy, saying something she should never say again.
  • Mary got a train whistle. I approve of this. It emits a much more pleasant sound than her screaming when she gives train tickets.
  • I’m sorry to report that I don’t have a Hot Tamale Train Ticket count for the night, as I evidently forgot to write them down. I have failed you all.
  • Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the night is 5, though!
  • Did anyone else immediately think of Dracula when they saw that the “May It Be” cover was by Hayley Westenra? No? Just me?
  • Mia Michaels wants to brutally beat and eviscerate Jason. Don’t you test her. She will do it, because she is a cutter!
  • Where did Mia get that cross-referencing dictionary? Is it from Hogwarts? And can I get one so I can look up three things at once?
  • “When [your grandparents] first sent you to dance class, did they ever expect you’d be a zombie mistress? – Nigel Lythgoe
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