The Wife:

Usually reality shows do not coincide with major events in my life, but it just struck me while watching the show last night that next week would be the finale of SYTYCD 5, and that also means that summer is over and my move to the Pacific Northwest is imminent. We bought tickets to the Everett show, one of the last on the tour, last Saturday. It’s all happening.

This week, we were treated not only to six routines from our remaining six dancers, plus solos, but also two routines from Sonya Tayeh for the Top three dancers of each gender. I’m actually going to take a minute to talk about Sonya’s pieces first because they were both so good that they deserve recognition. First of all, I want to retract what I said last week about how I’d never cast Evan in a Sonya Tayeh piece. I’m sorry, Mia Michaels, but you are wrong and I was wrong to agree with you. For as good as Brandon and Ade were in Sonya’s Willy Wonka-inspired jazz piece to “True Romance” by She Wants Revenge, the person I noticed the most was Evan. He danced just as strongly as his counterparts, and, I’d argue, with more character. That piece was a joy to watch, quirky and weird and interesting, and suited each of the guys’ strengths. As for the girls routine, Sonya prepared something that highlighted each of their strengths and turned them into superheroes (complete with belts bearing their initials) for a routine set to “Kick It (Superheroes Remix)” by Nina Martino. What I liked about both of these pieces was not simply the dancing, which was excellent from every performer, but Sonya’s use of levels in her work, as well as her commitment to using the entire stage. It made these pieces really powerful, and that made them great bookends for the beginning and end of the show.

The Excellent

Kayla and Brandon (Contemporary)
Choreography by Stacey Tookey
Song: “All I Want” by Ahn Trio

This was Uh. May. Zing. I seriously got chills watching this piece. It was a gorgeous story danced with sheer gorgeousness and gorgeousity all over. Highlights include Brandon lifting Kayla on her side, with her legs bowed together in a frog-like shape, the upside-down V-lift and anytime the two of them came together. Lil C said this was the first time Kayla had been paired with a partner of equal skill and the results were amazing, Mary put Brandon on the Hot Tamale Train beside Kayla and Nigel muttered something incomprehensible about how he thought they didn’t have enough chemistry together but the dancing was strong. To which I say: Nigel, this piece was about a man using and abusing his mistress. They don’t have to have romantic chemistry, they simply need to appear like they get together once a week to fuck. And they did that extremely well.

Another suitcase, another hall.

Another suitcase, another hall.

Kayla and Brandon (Disco)
Choreography by Doriana Sanchez
Song: “Dance (Disco Heat)” by Sylvester

Clearly, Kayla and Brandon are my couple of the night, and not only because they’re two of my favorite dancers. They were simply on fucking fire tonight. I thought disco might kill them, as it sometimes destroys people, but Doriana Sanchez gave us another really memorable, fun and awesome disco routine last night that was made all the better by the people performing it. I have no idea what the hell Lil C was talking about with his rambling about the darkness and seeing with your ears, but I’m going to guess that he meant that Brandon and Kayla demonstrated excellent musicality in this performance. They were, in fact, spot on in their double arm extensions when Brandon lifted Kayla with his shoulders. All of the judges loved this piece and the dance was hot enough to receive two Official Mary Murphy Screams, plus two first class tickets on the Hot Tamale Train for each of the dancers. If there’s one critique I can give the dance that went unsaid by the judging panel, it’s that while I liked the double death drop in theory, the reverse-gender half of it simply didn’t work for me as Brandon nearly took Kayla to the floor with him in his section. Great idea, but it didn’t quite work. Even so, this piece was excellent.

The Good to Very Good

Jeanine and Ade (Samba)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel
Song: “LoveGame” by Lady Gaga

Dear Karla and Jonathan (and Tony Meredith): this is how a Latin ballroom number set to Lady Gaga should look and feel. Jeanine was in it to win it on this one from the moment she lowered her stunna shades and shook her feathered rump bustle like there was no fucking tomorrow. Also, I’m so glad I got my “LoveGame” wish and Jeanine sort of took a ride on her partner’s disco stick. At least, I’m pretty sure her ass feathers did. I would have put this in the “Excellent” section, but I have to agree with Mary that Ade’s samba rolls were a bit weak. Lil C, I believe, called this dance some sort of misfire in the Large Hadron Super Collider and Nigel reminded Ade that he has to change his style a bit to suit each dance. But even with Ade’s faults here, Jeanine was totally and completely amazing in this. She’s a spectacular performer, and any girl who can wear that many feathers on her ass is aces in my book. Totally my favorite outfit of the night.

Shake those tailfeathers, Jeanine!

Shake those tailfeathers, Jeanine!

Jeanine and Ade (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by TabNap
Song: “Move (If You Wanna)” by MIMS

After having Shane Sparks last week and being reminded how totally awesome hip-hop on this show can be when its hard-hitting and inspiring (which is not to say that I haven’t loved a few of TabNap’s lyrical hip-hops), I ready to roll my eyes at TabNap’s attempts to follow that zombie number. I saw moving boxes and thought, “Oh! Did TabNap just buy their first house? How sweet!” But what I thought would have been kind of stupid ended up being pretty damn fun. Jeanine and Ade were both fantastic in this number, although for a time I thought Ade was dancing too high until I realized that was just an optical illusion created by Jeanine’s smaller stature. The choreography here was fun and inventive, as well. The sad faces on the moving boxes at the end were a little too precious for me, but I loved the segment where the dancers had to move with boxes on their feet. That was inspired. The judges were way into this one as well, and Mary took the time to remind Jeanine how good she was in the samba. Nigel, instead, took the time to complain about his ex-wife. Nigel, fucking shut it. Half of everything you say makes you seem like a misogynistic asshat. I don’t care how much you hate your ex, just fucking let it go.

Melissa and Evan (Quickstep)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel
Song: “As Long as I’m Singin'” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra

I heard that they drew the quickstep and announced, “You’re done” to my television. After five seasons of this show, I think we’re all aware that a quickstep is the kiss of death on SYTYCD. It’s an awful dance that almost no one does well. In fact, I can only think of two I’ve ever really liked. One was performed by Artem in season one, and the other performed by Sabra and Pasha in season three to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But Melissa and Evan broke my “Only Russians Can Quickstep” rule tonight by performing a number I actually liked. Louis Van Amstel’s choreography here was lively and fun to watch, and well-suited to the music. (Ill-chosen music, I think, kills many a quickstep instantly.) This style was far better suited to Evan’s talents than Tyce’s earlier Broadway routine was and I thought he looked really good here, as did Melissa. Lil C critiqued Evan’s retractions, which weren’t snappy enough for him, but admired how big he danced this number. Mary, who choreographed that great quickstep with Artem in season one, thought the dance started strong, but fell apart in the final grapevine section and noted that while the choreography was fun, it wasn’t a true quickstep. Frankly, I don’t care, because it was fun to watch. Nigel also pointed out Evan’s retraction problem in the lindy hop/Charleston segment (which, to my eye, contained zero lindy hopping).

Will I be proven wrong about Quicksteps? Doubtful.

Will I be proven wrong about Quicksteps? Doubtful.

The Mediocre

Melissa and Evan (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Get Me to the Church on Time” from My Fair Lady, only it was some bizarre swing version of it

I do not even have feelings about this routine.

Solos

1. Brandon: “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana. Um, okay guys. I am now pretty sure that Brandon is not human. I think he was simultaneously part spider, part seal and part eagle in this solo. Like a Spiseagle. Spiseagle! Oh my god! That’s now my new nickname for him! Brandon the Spiseagle was totally freaking amazing in this, and I completely agree with Nigel that it may have been the best solo ever seen on SYTYCD. Even if Brandon’s personality isn’t quite your thing, you have to admit he’s the most fucking absurdly talented dancer on this show. I mean, seriously. Watch that solo again. You’ll see.

2. Jeanine: “Feedback” by Janet Jackson. This was not as strong as some of her past solos, but I think she toned down the technique here for the sake of personality. By which I mean she stole Melissa’s whole “naughty ballerina” thing from her. It was sexy, that’s for sure. But, dear Jeanine, please don’t rely too much on your sexiness. Remind us all that you’re also talented as all hell. We can tell you’re sexy just by looking at you.

3. Ade: “11th Floor Balcony” by Blue October. While this was his least impressive solo yet, for lack of near-death experiences, I am still continually impressed by the strength of Ade’s core and the way he sweeps his arms.

4. Kayla: “You Found Me” by The Fray. I think this solo was her attempt to dramatize the first season of Lost in under 30 seconds. Did you see her swim in this piece? I did. Again, not her strongest. I love her, but I’m still waiting for something as Radomkulous as her audition in Denver.

5. Evan: “Lady Is a Tramp” by Sammy Davis, Jr. What can I say? I love his solos. They’re so adorable. And he actually twinkled his toes in this one!

6. Melissa: “I Put a Spell on You” by Nina Simone. I like Melissa, but each time I see her solos, I am less and less impressed. I’d really rather she perform a classical ballet solo that shows her strengths, rather than these odd little improvs.

I’m really at a loss for who could be going home this week. I am pretty sure Melissa will be the girl to leave us, as both Jeanine and Kayla absolutely deserve to stay. Evan should leave us, in order to preserve my perfect final four dancers, but Ade kind of took a beating from the judges and there are as many Brandon detractors as there are Evan fans. But I’m going to vote with the Rule of the Quickstep and lock in Jeanine, Kayla, Brandon and Ade as my final four.

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The Wife:

Even with 12 dances to watch last night, I’m amazed that FOX still managed to find time for the judges to prattle on about nothing (see the segment after Randi and Evan’s samba where Mary and Tyce just made animal noises at each other like the crazy queens they are) and provide some video filler in the form of a producer package about what the dancers will miss about each other when their partnerships are broken up next week (most notable among these, I think, is the fact that Kupono will miss Kayla’s clammy hands and feet, because he finds them comforting). There are many things to discuss, so let’s just get straight to them.

The Excellent

This really is some of Kupono's best work right here.

This really is some of Kupono's best work right here.

Kayla and Kupono (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “Gravity” by Sara Barielles

Even without hearing Kupono’s story about the family member he lost to addiction, this piece would have moved me, and it truly did. It literally took my breath away when Kupono threw Kayla to the floor and they began the synchronized portion of their floorwork together. It was stunning, riveting to watch and brought tears to my eyes. And as beautiful as Kayla was throughout this piece, I have to give Kupono his due for acting the shit out of this. He was completely in his element in this Mia Michaels piece, and I’m glad to finally see him do something that shows me why he deserved to stay over flawless Max. This one goes on my list of favorite SYTYCD pieces of all time, for sure.

Jeanette and Brandon (Jazz)
Choreography by Wade Robson
Song: “Ruby Blue” by Roisin Murphy

Apparently Wade and the wardrobe department recently saw Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom because every single detail of this piece was reminiscent of that film. (Well, except for the Roisin Murphy song. That’s pure Wade.) The piece was about thieves, dressed in black and white with bowlers and red gloves, which lent both a nice cabaret-like feel to the whole thing, as well as providing the most direct homage to the costuming in Johnson’s film. (With the exception of two pieces Rachel Weiz’s character dons at crucial points in the film where she’s acting the part of the mark, the main characters all wear shades of black and white. Rinko Kikuchi’s demolitions expert Bang Bang wears red leather gloves throughout the entire film. Both Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo don bowlers. Also, they’re con men, possibly the most glamorous type of thief.) It was a great, funky piece with which to close the evening and Jeanette and Brandon danced it expertly. I had a hard time taking my eyes off Jeanette, all stuffed into those tight, shiny leggings, because she really can do anything. This might not have been as cool as the hummingbird, or “Cabaret Hoover” or “Rama Lama Bang Bang,” but it was 100% Wade and 100% amazing.

Jeanette and Brandon (Argentine Tango)
Choreography by Marian Larici and Leonardo (who performed that gorgeous tango a few weeks back)
Song: Libertango from Forever Tango

Again, Jeanette and Brandon make my top of the pops list, which clearly earns them the non-existent award for Couple of the Night. They learned a beautiful Argentine tango from the tango masters and performed it expertly. Once more, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Jeanette who transformed into a completely different person on that stage. I think her salsa experience prepared her for the fleet footwork in this number and it showed in her excellent flicks. Nigel clearly thought it was the best dance of the night and gave it a silent standing ovation. Mary followed suit, but added on three Official Mary Murphy Screams and two First Class Tickets to the Hot Tamale Train for the couple. Tyce then said something completely incomprehensible about orange juice to Brandon.

Pretty sure Jeanette is the world's sexiest loan officer right here.

Pretty sure Jeanette is the world's sexiest loan officer right here.

The Good to Very Good

Melissa and Ade (Disco)
Choreography by Doriana Sanchez
Song:  “Move On Up” by Destination

Even though Melissa fell out of her hold at the end of this routine, she and Ade played it off like it was supposed to happen that way, and I have to commend them for that. This one didn’t start out as well as other disco routines, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Jeanette and Brandon’s from earlier in the season, but it did pick up a lot of momentum toward the end and was very enjoyable to watch – especially the combination of lifts and spins in the final third (i.e. everything after Melissa did that upside-down split lift). Ade was strong and Melissa was saucy, and that’s just what the routine called for. It also called for very, very shiny outfits and was awarded an Official Mary Murphy Scream with a supportive woo for backup.

Caitlin and Jason (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mandy Moore
Song: “Show Me Heaven” by Maria McKee

My husband and I like to play a little game whenever we hear Mandy Moore’s going to choreograph something. It’s a really simple game called, “What 80s song will Mandy Moore choose?” This one tripped us up a bit, because neither of us knew it, but from the vocals and the synthesizer (and with the help of the internet), we realized Mandy played it close to the vest again by choosing a song off the Days of Thunder soundtrack. I thought the choreography was very strong in this piece, and Caitlin and Jason danced it really well. I thought Jason was particularly good in his lead section, in which he showed excellent muscle control and some very strong lines.

Caitlin and Jason (Foxtrot)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin (YAY! Melanie’s back!)
Song: “Minnie the Moocher” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, one of my favorite bands

Caitlin’s silver and green dress for this piece gets my award for Outfit of the Night. Jason, on the other hand, has too much of a baby face to convincingly pull off a double breasted suit, which detracted from his believability in this number. The good news is, though, that he made up for it with his dancing. Both dancers were very graceful, and Caitlin’s leg lines served her well in this piece, especially in the voluminous skirt of that green green dress. Good all around.

Please buy me this. I'll find a way to wear it. Promise!

Please buy me this. I'll find a way to wear it. Promise!

Kayla and Kupono (Broadway)
Choreography by Joey Dowling
Song: “The Dance at the Gym” from West Side Story

What I liked about this piece was that Dowling chose to tell her version of the Tony-Maria meet cute through the pre-mambo segment of “The Dance at the Gym,” rather than the iconic portion with iconic movement and snapping. By doing so, she provided something that captured the spirit of the show whence it came, told a story and did so in a unique way. I can’t help but think that when Tyce complimented her on the number, it was tinged with bitterness, because I’m pretty sure he was just a little bit bitter at everything that graced the SYTYCD stage last night. However, I was extremely distracted by the fact that Kayla wasn’t wearing shoes. As Dowling explained it, two kids run into each other on a rooftop and fall in love. Why the hell wouldn’t you wear shoes to the rooftop of your Manhattan apartment building? That just doesn’t seem sanitary to me. And that dress with its adorable bubble skirt needed to be completed with some heels. That’s not Kayla’s fault, but I have to wonder if Dowling specifically told the wardrobe department not to give the girl shoes. And if so, why? That just didn’t make sense to me.

Melissa and Ade (Waltz)
Choreography by Ron Montez
Song: “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” by Mary J. Blige

Melissa and Ade continued their strong showing tonight with this Ron Montez waltz. Melissa was allowed to be as graceful and beautiful as a ballerina is taught to be, and I thought Ade partnered her well. Mary commented on how Ade’s only fault was that his twinkles weren’t good enough, but I’d have hardly noticed. Critiques then rapidly descended into a discussion of English muffins and Brooklyn brownies. What is a Brooklyn brownie, Miss Deeley? Does it have weed in it?

The Mediocre

Randi and Evan (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by TabNap
Song: “Halo” by Beyonce

This one winds up in the mediocre category not because of its choreography or because it wasn’t danced well, but because, compared to everything else, it just seemed to fall short. It was a nice piece danced nicely. Nigel made an astute, if slightly culturally insensitive, comment about how TabNap allowed Randi and Evan to dance a hip-hop routine as themselves rather than being “urban.” I understand what he meant, but the way he said it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. What he probably should have said would have been something like, “It’s great that they gave you two a softer, more lyrical hip-hop, rather than asking you to do something very hard-hitting and edgy.” He also made another off-color remark expressing his dislike for people who have babies out of wedlock, which I’m sure didn’t gain him any fans. He was kind of a douche tonight in general, actually. And those are only two examples. But enough about Nigel! I enjoyed this number, but would find it wholly unforgettable if not for the awkward incorporation of the titular “halo” as Evan looped his arms around Randi’s body. That I will remember, which is unfortunate, because I didn’t like that part at all.

Randi and Evan (Samba)
Choreography by Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis
Song: “Ritmo di Bom Bom” by Jababa

I was very excited to see a Pasha and Anya number on the show, as I love when SYTYCD alums return to choreograph. However, the execution of this piece left something to be desired. Mary seemed to think that Randi was flawless in it and gave her a Hot Tamale Train ticket and an Official Mary Murphy Scream, but I didn’t think so. I thought she was better than Evan in it, if only because she had a little bit better extension and shimmied more easily, but she still wasn’t her best. My poor Evan was not at all comfortable in this style and his posture and extension left something to be desired overall. Tyce attempted to explain this to Evan by quoting the onomatopoeia from “Cell Block Tango.” Tyce made no sense tonight.

I think she's actually doing the Snoopy Dance right now.

I think she's actually doing the Snoopy Dance right now.

Jeanine and Phillip (Jive)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin
Song: “Stuff Like That There” by Bette Midler

My husband may have been way into Jeanine’s breast- and booty-shaking, but I was not into this piece. I think it showed of Jeanine’s ample talents beautifully, but also exposed Phillip’s weaknesses, even though Nigel declared that this was the best Phillip’s ever been out of his own style. (I dunno about that. I think Tyce’s Broadway hid that better than this jive did.) Chbeeb’s floorwork in the beginning was really rocky for me, and he did improve toward the end. It was definitely not their best, even if Jeanine got her own Official Mary Murphy Scream and a ticket to the Hot Tamale Train. (Man, there be a lot of ladies up on that train this week, no?)

Jeanine and Phillip (Kalinka)
Choreography by Yuri Nelzine and Lila Balenko
Song:  “Kalinka” by Barynya

And then there was the Kalinka, a Russian folk dance that I was pleased to see if only because you all know I’ve been begging for more ethnic dances on this show ever since Bollywood started cropping up. I’ve tossed this one into the mediocre category because I agree with the assessment that the dancers both could have been stronger throughout the piece, especially Phillip, who made several errors in his footwork at the beginning. However, I have to express my disappointment in Nigel’s reaction to the dance, a dance he, as executive producer, presumably greenlit to add to the mix because he knew what it would look like. Instead of saying that Jeanine and Phillip could have performed it better, he chose to possibly insult a whole cadre of Russian folk dancers (and the choreographers!) by calling the piece “childish” and not strong enough to be on the show. He kept comparing it to the trepak, which I think is also a conceptual mistake on his part because the trepak and the kalinka are different dances. For him to compare the two as though they’re the same style because they come from the same country would be like comparing a waltz to a jive just because they’re both in professional ballroom competition. So what gives? Yes, Jeanine and Phillip didn’t perform it as strongly as they could have, but I didn’t dislike the dance itself or its inclusion on the program.

You may notice that I’ve left off a category this week, and that’s because we truly are at a level in the competition where we’ve successfully separated wheat from chaff and I believe that everyone left is good enough to make the top ten. Even the two couples that I think were the most mediocre of the bunch this week are fully deserving of Top 10 status, and I’d be happy to see any of them on tour as no one was bad this week. However, all things considered, I do have to make predictions and enter them in the EW Predicitify SYTYCD game, so here goes:
I think Jeanine and Phillip and Randi and Evan will definitely land in the bottom three this week. Ideally, I’d like Caitlin and Jason to join them. This is not because they didn’t perform well this week, but because of their general performances up until this point. If I had my druthers, Caitlin and Jason would both be gone. But I think that when you compare the guys, it will probably be between Phillip and Evan. I like them both. In fact, I love Evan. And as much as I like Chbeeb and what he does in his own style, I think he has begun to outlive his usefulness in the competition. I think this might be his last week with us. (But don’t worry! He’ll still be on tour as an alternate!) As for the girls, the judges love Jeanine, so we know she’s safe. Between Caitlin and Randi, I think Caitlin’s the weaker of the two dancers, and we already know that she doesn’t have as big of a fan base as Randi does. So my choices for the dancers that will be leaving us tonight are Chbeeb and Caitlin, who will both make fine alternates on the tour this fall.

But I’m still worried about Randi and Evan. I just don’t want to think Evan could be leaving me so soon!

Other thoughts:

  • I loved Cat’s very vintage LBD, but I think the makeup folks did her a disservice with that shade of red and the smoky eye. She needed a brighter red to liven up her face against that messy 40s-inspired coif and that austere frock.
  • I do not understand at all what Mary was wearing.
  • Most tragic moment of the night: when Nigel complimented Caitlin on being Grace Kelly-like in her foxtrot, followed by the completely blank look on her face because she clearly had no idea who Grace Kelly was.
  • Remember back in the day when the guest judge du settimane always choreographed the results show group number? I almost wish they still did that so I’d know what to expect, because now I never have any idea anymore.
  • So, following the theory that TabNap only choreographs about their marriage, should I assume that Tabitha is incubating a tiny little hip-hop choreographer in her womb? Yes or no?
  • Total Hot Tamale Train Tickets tonight: 4
  • Total Official Mary Murphy Screams: 6, plus an enthusiastic woo.