The Wife:

Last week‘s performance episode set the bar pretty high, as all of the performances were good if not great, save for an obvious few. But this week, things were drastically different. We’re in the thick of the competition now, and just doing okay doesn’t really cut it anymore. I was not such a premium judge of dances this week, as the judges and I often had wildly different opinions on what happened on stage that night, but, sometimes, I think that difference opinion came down simply to my complete lack of technical knowledge about a certain dance style. I praise this show because I learn a lot about the technicalities of dancing, and it’s often pretty clear when one partner is not hitting the moves in the same way as the other, because I have eyes and I can tell what looks right. But I can only rely on that about 60% of the time, because sometimes, there are dances that I think look completely fine, but are actually hugely technically flawed. There were definitely examples of that tonight, which I’ll get to below.

We also saw examples of how a ruffle can eat a tall, svelte British woman, as well as many examples of what the dancers think America needs to know about their partners.

For instance:

  • Randi has a dog she treats like a human child.
  • Evan loves cars and knows how to build them from the ground up.
  • Melissa and her sister married brothers.
  • Ade’s full name is Adetokunbo Isaac Kayote Obamye. It’s African!
  • Jason really loves Michael Jackson and used to dress up and dance to MJ in his living room as a kid.
  • Caitlin likes to impersonate babies and velociraptors. (She looks really, really scary as a raptor because the small of her back is virtually nonexistent in that pose.)
  • Jeanette grew up with janky bunny teeth.
  • Brandon has that body and apparently doesn’t work out. I not totally hate him.
  • Vitolio loves motorbikes.
  • Auska enjoys blowing spitbubbles.
  • Max enjoys cooking meals for his roommates.
  • Kayla is a texting addict.
  • Jonathan felt the need to inform me that Karla is a Boogie Bot, which I know, because I use the interwebs.
  • Karla told us that Jonathan loves to sing, but is really horrible at it.
  • Chbeeb is a super nerd, majoring in engineering physics, which I again knew, because I use the interwebs.
  • Jeanine has a teddy bear boyfriend.
  • Kupono is really, really organized, which we all should have gleaned from the introduction of his “To Do” list in Vegas.
  • Ashley vomited all over her first grade classmates. And with that, Ashley and Kupono officially became my favorite couple. Beautiful, disastrous weirdoes, the both of them.


The Excellent

Melissa and Ade (Jazz)
Choreography by Sonya Tayeh
Song: “24 Hours” by Terry Poison

Why does this remind me of Anonymous Rex?

Why does this remind me of Anonymous Rex?

Not only was this the most interesting performance of the night for me to watch, but it was superbly danced and superbly costumed. The wardrobe folks did their best work in some time on these two, as their clothing or lack thereof accentuated exactly what we were supposed to be watching on the dancers. Melissa’s pink pants instantly drew me toward her legs and how sharp the ballerina’s movements were throughout this jazz piece, while Ade’s shirtlessness and pink-accented gloves begged me to watch the strength of his carriage and the precise movements of his arms. There were excellent lifts, excellent jumps and a lot of excellent dancing. All in all, this was my favorite piece of the night. It was totally bananas, and parts of it reminded me of rock n’ roll dinosaurs (don’t ask me why), but as Lil C said, it was buuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Furthermore, Melissa’s makeup and hair in this piece made her look younger than Randi. So that’s saying a lot.

Jeanette and Brandon (Disco)
Choreography by Doriana Sanchez
Song: “Loving Is Really My Game” by Brainstorm

Let it be known that I totally abhor disco dancing and have seen maybe two or three in the history of the show that I could even say I liked, but this incredibly up-tempo number I FUCKING LOVED. I have never enjoyed watching a disco dance as much as I enjoyed this one, and I think Jeanette and Brandon danced it superbly. In fact, it was so good it got two Official Mary Murphy Screams and encouraged some brilliant poetry out of Lil C, who said that he saw the birth of progression for both Jeanette and Brandon in this wild disco number. Jeanette may have fallen out of step once, but I totally didn’t notice for a variety of reasons, one of which is clearly her insane in-the-air split that I’m not sure is actually possible for humans to do. To quote Cat Deeley, “Studio 54 ain’t got nothin’ on you guys! What! What!”

Kayla and Max (Pop Jazz)
Choreography by Brian “The Evil Elf” Freidman
Song: “Hot Like Wow” by Nadia Oh

Oh, Brian the Evil Elf, how I’ve missed you. That’s my special nickname for him, because he looks like an evil elf to me, even with that freaky shaved head. This was another really interesting piece for me to watch, and I thought the choreography was, in general, really cool. Brian does a lot of fantasy-based storytelling with his choreography, and while I don’t always love it, it is always interesting. This number, about a trickster who seduces a princess into giving up her throne, was absolutely superbly danced by both partners, and although the judges thought Max was a little weaker, I really couldn’t tell. The piece got an Official Mary Murphy Scream and a ticket to the Hot Tamale Train – but only for Kayla, because Mary didn’t like Max’s outfit. I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want a Russian man to dress like Alan Cumming. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Cat apparently wasn’t fond of Max’s character in the piece, which she expressed in a truly brilliant quote: “Max, you low down dirty rotten rat from ratville on the way to rattown! Boo! Boo on you!” Deeley was making my freaking night tonight – her dress ruffle must have been eating her brain or something.

The Good to the Very Good

Randi and Evan (Jive)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel (How nice of them to spell his name for us this week!)
Song: “Shake a Tail Feather” by Ray Charles

Her husband just might kill him during the results show.

Her husband just might kill him during the results show.

The funcounter does not lie! This piece was 14 times as fun as a regular jive, not performed by Randi and Evan. I really, really enjoyed this piece, and while I noticed that Randi and Evan were both dancing rather wide, I had assumed it was an adjustment made for their height in order to achieve the proper steps. Apparently, this is one of these instances where my lack of technical knowledge was pointed out by the judges, who informed me that the wide stance was a mistake on Evan’s part that didn’t allow him to properly get into the double bounce required for a great jive. The judges all agreed that the piece was fun and that as a couple, Randi and Evan are very strong together, but that Randi outdanced Evan a little bit in this one. For me, it was really entertaining, which is why, despite its major constructive criticisms, it ends up in this category for me. The moment where Evan jumped in the splits over Randi’s backbend was totally killer for me, as was Randi’s suggestive ass-flaunting. After all, “what’s a tush grab between friends?” asks Cat. Indeed.

Auska and Vitolio (Waltz)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel (How nice of the judges to thank him this week after totally not doing so last week while they were busy thanking every other choreographer!)
Song: “Dreams Are More Precious” by Enya

I thought this was a superb waltz, owing largely to Van Amstel’s choreography. Auska was lighter than air. Nay, she was air and rippled and bent when Vitolio spun her around the stage. She was very much a lovely dream that’s impossible to hold on to for very long, and I completely agree with Mary’s assessment that both Auska and Vitolio danced this honestly and with heart. Mary cried. I was stunned. Great work all around.

Jonathan and Karla (Contemporary)
Choreography by Stacey Tookey of So You Think You Can Dance: Canada
Song: “Falling Slowly” by The Frames

The judges liked this a lot more than I did. I think it was danced very well, and I agree on all of their points about Jonathan’s strength in the piece because he was very athletic and totally watchable. But as far as believability, I thought Jonathan was 100% committed, while Karla was about 50% committed. Her facial expressions or lack thereof completely drew me out of the piece. But there was nothing wrong with the piece technically, which is why even though I didn’t love it, I’m acknowledging its goodness. I hate to inform Karla and Jonathan, though, that what they think was a scream from Mary Murphy does not make it into the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count, as it was more like an excited woo.

The Strangely Maligned Shane Sparks Numbers

Ashley and Kupono (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Shane Sparks, who is once again allowed to show his adorable face on camera! (He was looking extra cute last night, no?)
Song: “Imma Be” by the Black Eyed Peas

I really enjoyed this piece, its concept and the swagger Ashley bought to it. Maybe she’s why I didn’t even notice Kupono’s mistakes because I was simply focusing on her. I definitely don’t think it was as disappointing as the judges said it was, because it was clever, well-danced and totally entertaining. I have no idea why the “jidges” hated it.

Caitlin and Jason (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Shane Sparks
Song: “Missin You” by Trey Songz

The judges found this one to be largely disappointing, although I’m not really sure why. I would agree that while Caitlin looked super hot, she didn’t dance nearly as strongly as Jason did. I have to give major props to Shane for incorporating an MJ-style move for Jason and a totally rad backflip for gymnast Caitlin – two things that made both of the dancers look really good and showed off their strength. Most importantly for me, I believed their chemistry in this piece, so I don’t really understand where their dislike of the work of the dancers is coming from. It’s certainly not my favorite hip-hop routine ever – not even my favorite Shane Sparks piece – but I liked it well enough, and thought Caitlin and Jason danced it well-enough overall, even though one partner with a penchant for velociraptor impressions was far weaker than the other.

The Problematic

Phillip and Jeanine (Tango)
Choreography by Tony Meredith
Song: “Violento (Up Mix)” by Balliago!

The tango is no place for stank face. Not even in the good Mia Michaels-y way.

The tango is no place for stank face. Not even in the good Mia Michaels-y way.

I think the wardrobe department did an excellent job on this piece by making Jeanine look so good in her outfit that I didn’t notice any errors Phillip was making, nor did I notice his face doing any of the things Nigel said it did (like straining to like Jeanine, who probably only weighs about a buck ten). More than Randi and Evan’s piece, this was the most technically debated piece of the night, and it simply didn’t live up to the high tango standards, even though Mary and Tony Meredith insist that the one thing Chbeeb did well was dance on bent knees, something I’d have otherwise not known was required for this kind of tango, which once again proved that my lack of technical knowledge made me think this dance was a lot better than it really was. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Randi and Evan’s slightly-off jive number, so unfortunately, it ends up as the most problematic dance of the night.

The good news is that while I trust America to vote on what we see each week to determine the bottom three, I think Chbeeb has enough fans that he might be safe from the bottom three this week. If America followed the judges’ critiques alone, Chbeeb and Jeanine, Randi and Evan, Caitlin and Jason and Ashley and Kupono are the couples most likely to end up in the bottom three this week. I think another possible contender for a bottom three position might be Auska and Vitolio, not because of their performance this week, but because people on the internet totally hate Auska for reasons I can’t quite discern. I’m going to make my predictions in the “EW Predictify SYTYCD” contest in a little bit, but right now, I think the couples in danger this week will be Auska and Vitolio, Ashley and Kupono and Randi and Evan, the latter of these because they went first and will likely not be remembered by voters, where as Chbeeb and Jeanine will be saved by being the last dance of the night.

This was a tough week, and the distinction between the top 3 and the bottom 3 is not as easy to predict. And that means that the results show will actually be exciting tonight!

Other stray thoughts:


  • “The only thing I bench is girls.” –Brandon Bryant. I love this quote, and I think it’s hilarious, but it’s definitely the first time I think he’s ever sounded cocky.
  • I seriously hated Cat’s dress when I first saw it, but it started to grow on me over the course of the show. Maybe it was eating my brain, too?
  • The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for this episode is 3, bringing the performance show total to 5, with 5 enthusiastic woos for backup.
  • The Official Tally of Hot Tamale Train Rides given in this episode is 1, bringing the performance show total to 2.25, because robo puppies are .25 of a person.
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The Wife:

We all know results shows are about 80% filler and 20% content we actually care about, but the one thing I can always look forward to in SYTYCD results shows are the group numbers. There have been some very memorable results show group numbers in seasons past – Mia Michael’s Imogen Heap piece from season two in which every dancer wore a word in masking tape on their clothing, Wade Robeson’s utterly fantastic zombie dance number to Roisin Murphy’s “Ramalama Bang Bang” from season two, Tyce DiOrio’s Lion King piece for season three (now there’s a Broadway show that really utilizes Tyce’s talents!), and many others – and last night brought us a Shane Sparks’ hip-hop routine set to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” the plot of which I described in my notes like this:

“Future street thugs blow magic dust on hobo girls and make them into video hos.”

That’s pretty accurate, right?

And for those who weren’t sure it was a Shane Sparks piece, you should have known by the signature booty shake. Watch enough of America’s Best Dance Crew (btw, I think it was Boogie Bot Karla who graced us with that booty shake), and you will know that there is nothing Shane loves more than a good booty shake.

Just to remind you, in case you also couldnt remove this image from the back of your retinas: this horrible thing happened. And it was horrible.

Just to remind you, in case you also couldn't remove this image from the back of your retinas: this horrible thing happened. And it was horrible.

Cat came out in a fabulous, if severely understated, strapless coffee-colored wrap dress and introduced a little producer package about how all of our Top 20 dancers, most of whom had never partnered with another dancer in their lives, “got on” with their new dance partners. Here are some tidbits I learned from that:

  • Max thinks that the best thing about being on this show is dancing with a really hot blonde chick. He is correct that she is a very premium lady, and that dancing with very premium ladies is why one should want to be a very premium dancer.
  • Evan is so wholesome he says things like “shucks.” I could not possibly love him any more than I already do.
  • Jeanette is Cuban. She speaks Spanish. Just in case you didn’t catch that before.
  • Melissa, the naughty ballerina, enjoys burping.
  • Ashley makes chicken sounds.
  • Her partner Kupono makes monkey sounds.


After that bit of adorable time wasting, we moved swiftly into the results portion of the show. Cat lined up Kayla and Max, Randi and Evan and Phillip and Jeanine – my three favorite couples from last night! – and I immediately thought that perhaps I might be wrong about this show’s viewers and their ability to correctly assess what is and isn’t good dancing. But, slowly but surely, Cat told each of those three couples that they were safe, proving that I am a very premium judge of dances! It really would have been a travesty for any of those three to end up in the bottom, as they really were the best of the night.

Next, Cat corralled Caitlin and Jason, Melissa and Ade, Ashley and Kupono and Tony and Paris. Of those four couples, only one would end up in the bottom three, and it ended up being the correct one – Tony and Paris, once again proving that even when the costumes are so horrible I can’t even see the dancing, I am a very premium judge of dances!

Auska and Vitolio, Jeanette and Brandon and Karla and Jonathan faced Cat next, knowing that two of the three couples would be sent to the bottom three. Auska and Vitolio were told they weren’t safe and headed off to get ready for their solos while Jeanette and Brandon had to sweat it out with Jonathan and Karla, only to find out that, clearly, Jonathan and Karla were the weaker pair and were sent to the bottom three. I am very premium at choosing dance show results, for every single one of my bottom three couples landed in the bottom three!

While the six dancers about to dance for their lives got ready, Cat introduced Miriam and Leonardo, a pair of professional Argentine tangoers, who performed a very nice tango to the other half of the music that makes up the “Tango Roxanne” sequence in Moulin Rouge. Then it was solo time:

  • Paris performed a pretty bland set of leg extensions to “It Doesn’t Hurt” by Katie Thompson, a piece of music that I could only think of as inexorably tied to the car accident we learned she was in just yesterday.
  • Tony, dressed like a complete and total dickbag, performed (to “Early in the Morning” by the Gap Band) what I can’t only describe as the kind of dance that would be cool if people circled around you at a wedding or high school event, but was not anywhere near the kind of caliber necessary to grace this stage which has been dominated in years past by a number of actually talented B-boys, breakers, poppers and lockers. (Ivan, Dominic, Hok, Ryan, Gev . . . those are only a few! Tony’s name will never be among their ranks!)
  • Auska did what any ballroom dancer does when asked to solo without a partner: she basically did some mean jive steps and shook her ass at us, constantly flipping her skirt and tossing her head like she’s doing “Cell Block Tango” to a song called “Did Ya” by BoA.
  • Vitolio had one of the better solos of the night demonstrating his amazing carriage, center and extensions to “We Belong Together” by Gavin DeGraw.
  • Karla danced to “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin. This didn’t really strike me, but she did wear a pretty sparkly dress.
  • Jonathan, meanwhile, did some great gymnastics paired with some passable attempts at dancing to Pitbull’s “Krazy” (featuring Lil John). He reminds me of both season one winner Nick and season three finalist Neil.


The judges went backstage to deliberate, and Sean Kingston came out to sing/lip-sync his new single “Fires Burning” surrounded by some video hos from 1989 and a semi-riser that looked like a stage had mated with a skateboard ramp. I know the song is technically about heating up the dancefloor, thus making it an appropriate song for SYTYCD (just as when Lady Gaga premiered “Just Dance” in a silver swimsuit and snorkeling mask/flashlight last summer on the show), but its really hard for me to accept songs with metaphors about fire as being about anything other than venereal disease. I mean, Adam Lambert’s version of “Ring of Fire” is definitely about some sort of STD, and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles is about. Thus, by extension, I don’t think “Fires Burning” is really about dancing . . . you know?

Goodbye, Paris and Tony!

Goodbye, Paris and Tony!

After that song about VD, the judges returned to their seats to deliver their final judgment. Here, my amazing prowess at reality competition dance program results prediction failed as Nigel delivered the news he should have delivered, rather than the news I thought he would deliver: he told Karla she was safe, acknowledged that it’s hard for a ballroom dancer to show everything she can do in a solo, thus saving Auska, and eliminated Former Miss Washington Paris Torres. And why did he eliminate Former Miss Washington Paris Torres? Because, in looking at the way the show was cast, he actually realized that he had one too many contemporary dancers on his roster – she being one of the six female contestants of that specialty – and that of the ones they had, Paris was the least talented. At least now it’s an even number of contemporary specialists between the sexes on this show: without Paris, there are only five female contemporary specialists, and five male. (Of those, only Ashley and Kupono and Jason and Caitlin are paired with a partner in the same style specialty.) Again, I ask: with so many contemporary dancers, wouldn’t it have been better for the show to have another Broadway dancer?

Perhaps it would have been, for even though Nigel informed the bottom three guys that none of their solos were strong enough, he allowed Vitolio and Jonathan to stay in the competition based on the fact that their work actually displayed a modicum of strength, unlike Tony’s . . . which didn’t really display anything. Let me tell you kids, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong about which guy would be going home. It is a testament to the strength of the rest of this year’s Top 20 that a dancer put in to the Top 20 based on his potential and personality alone simply could not survive amongst stronger competitors. On an earlier season, Tony probably could have gotten by a little longer, and I expect that he would, even this season, as I saw no other discernible reason why he should have made the Top 20 in the first place. But he couldn’t even dance for his life – and so he returns to the virtual obscurity whence he came.

I’m sure if I ever attend a professional sporting event in Seattle, I’ll run into Paris Torres somewhere and I wish her the best dancing short routines to entertain the masses during such events. And as much I dislike Tony Bellissimo, I think the best thing for him to do now is to join a dance crew and learn as much as he can about the actual techniques that go in to being a great popper, locker, breaker or b-boy. With these two gone, I think the competition will really get started next week.

The Wife:

While we watched Chris Hardwick on Web Soup to kill 30 minutes prior to the glorious, glittery dance fest that is SYTYCD, I sat squirming on the couch, making the kinds of noises the Marlowe cat makes when he meets another cat he doesn’t like (or, more recently, makes at our other cat, Calliope, when she doesn’t have her collar on because, apparently, he can’t recognize who she is without it). Marlowe makes this lengthened, low, whining growl, which I’ve interpreted as his sign of extreme anxiety – I thought it was appropriate to make a similar sound in anticipation of So You Think You Can Dance. And all that pre-show tension (momentarily alleviated when Hardwick showed a “palate cleanser” segment which featured furry rodents nomming noms to an adorably, annoyingly catchy nomming song that I will now sing ALL THE TIME) was totally worthwhile because this first competition episode of the season already shone with moments of true brilliance. The wonderful things were truly wonderful, and even the bad things weren’t atrocious. Overall, it was a great way to start the season.

Before I talk about the dancing, though, I’d like to note that I think Mary was on something last night that might throw my scream count out of whack. I counted a total of 6 scream-like entities, but four of them were more like extended woos, so I’m not sure if I should include them in the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the season. I mean, the woman admitted to Botoxing the hell out of her forehead on national television last night – which on the one hand I applaud in terms of her honesty, but on the other hand I think might be the best indicator that her new happy pills are working a little too well. (Not the Botox, but the admission of its use.) I’ll not where the screams/woos occurred in my discussion of each performance – let me know in the comments if you think I should count the woos in the Official Mary Murphy Scream Count, but for now, I’m only going to count full-fledged, ouch-my-ears-are-hurting screams. (Husband Note: As you should. A woo is not a scream. Thousands of TRL teenagers could tell you that.)

I also feel the need to express my love for “occasional swing dancer” Adam Shankman, and not just because he gave us an update on the fate of Step Up 3D, but because he and I had apparently participated in a Vulcan mind meld at some point as my comments about the dances were more often than not the exact same as his. I’d say I had them first because I said them out loud while the dances were happening, but I know that honor technically belongs to him because the performances were filmed hours before the episode was even shown. Either way, Shankers and I shared some headspace last night, and it was pretty uncanny.

As far as the dancing is concerned, rather than list them in order, I’m going to separate the performances into various categories of greatness: Brilliant, Good to Very Good, Mediocre, Problematic and, just for tonight, a special category for a special dance. I will include pieces under those subheads in my order of preference.

The Brilliant

Kayla and Max (Samba)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstrel
Music: “Jum Bah Day” by House of Gypsies

It is absolutely unbelievable that Kayla “Radomkulous” Radomsky has never danced ballroom before because she was fantastic. This couple closed the show, and it was pretty clear to me by the strength of the Official Mary Murphy Scream they received that they were the pinnacle of the evening. Barely three seconds into the dance, I wrote, “If this doesn’t get on the Hot Tamale Train, I don’t know what will.” It was hot, spicy, passionate and danced beautifully by both partners. Max’s footwork and carriage were very, very impressive and he partnered Kayla effortlessly. She was a joy to watch in that pink fringed dress, which easily trumped Randi’s blue dress for my Outfit of the Night prize. And for the record, can we all agree that the best part of the choreography in this number was when Kayla freakin’ mounted Max and grinded down on his sexy Russian junk? I’m pretty damn sure that was the best thing I’ve ever seen. My other notes for this piece, before universal judges’ praise and Mary screaming her head off basically go like this: “YEAHHHHHHHHH! HAWTT SHIZZ! SHE FUCKING RODE HIS NADS, YO! RADOMKULOUS!” It’s appropriate that Kayla and Max closed the show with this hot samba, because it was a motherfucking SHOWSTOPPER.

SHOWSTOPPAZ!

SHOWSTOPPAZ!

Randi and Evan (Jazz)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Music: “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Jaime Cullum

You all know I am a Tyce complainer, but I only complain about his lesser works because pieces like this show me how absolutely great he can be. Believe me, I will get angry later about his Broadway routine, which was a total fucking disappointment, but this jazz number, like many of his past Jazz numbers (an African one for Pasha and Jessie that was so vivacious, and “Why” for Ivan and Allison in season 2 stick out) was utterly breathtaking and beautiful. I actually got a little misty about how well I could believe the passion between lovers Randi and Evan (and enjoyed the rehearsal package in which Evan said he was worried Randi’s husband might kill him if he got too into character with the married lover of unitards). And how fucking cute was Cat riffing on the prospect of Randi’s man coming from the audience to maim Evan, as well as pretending like she wasn’t a bajillion feet taller than the show’s most “vertically challenged” couple? She’s the best fucking host on television, as none of the corny stuff she pulls ever comes off as anything less than authentic, bubbly and cute as all get out. Randi’s blue dress in this piece was easily my second favorite of the night, and I apparently share part of my brain with Nigel because he also noted how much more beautiful she is when her “Pob” (that’s the Posh Spice bob, for those who have not worn it, as I did for about a year) is curly. I would never be angry with Tyce if he always choreographed this spectacularly for dancers who can dance this beautifully. I think Nigel is totally correct in his assertion that this piece will make Randi and Evan a memorable couple for whom people will pick up the phone. I know I will. (This got an extended woo from Mary, which should have been a full on scream.)

Jeanine and Phillip (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Tabitha and Napoleon Duomo
Music: “Mad” by Ne-Yo

This was the first piece of the night and, just like last season, TabNap started us off with soulful, slow hip-hop that was a brilliant piece of storytelling. While I miss Shane Sparks a great deal and his particular, hard-hitting brand of hip-hop, I love anything Tabitha and Napoleon choreograph that is, in some small way, inspired by their marriage. Last year, they graced us with two genius pieces, “No Air” for Katee and Josh and “Bleeding Love” for Chelsie and Mark, that will forever flicker in my mind. The Duomos best work comes from their hearts and enacted in the bodies of these dancers, and “Mad” was no exception. They interpreted the lyric in their short piece about why couples shouldn’t go to bed angry, and Jeanine and Phillip executed the rise and fall of this dance very, very well. It was pretty clear to me that Phillip was much better at this than Jeanine, but she did keep up, and for that I commend her. It’s hard to dance with a man whose bones are rubber. This piece was universally loved by the “jidges,” and I think I teared up a little bit at the end of the piece where, after the couple has their fight, they lay back down in bed and Phillip spoons Jeanine with his arm draped over her. Cat Deeley referred to that as “schnoogeying,” which just made it all the more adorable. (Another extended woo from Mary Murphy that should have been a scream.)

The Bizarrely Brilliant Wade Robeson Piece

100% Wade Robeson. 100% Bananas.

100% Wade Robeson. 100% Bananas.

Ashley and Kupono (Jazz)
Choreography by the Bizarrely Brilliant Wade Robeson
Song: “Felt Mountain” by Goldfrapp

I am never unamazed when I see Wade’s choreography. He is always such a unique and strange storyteller, and those are probably the best two words I could use to describe this piece. He created a non-jazz-handed jazz number about two crash test dummies, exploring the idea of “living life like you’ve never been hurt.” Kupono played a broken and used crash test dummy, while Ashley played one that was younger and newer. She described keeping her fingers closed as dancing with “jazz blades,” which was pretty awesome – almost as awesome as the piece itself. The movements were simultaneously jerky and cold, but so fluid that they couldn’t be considered robotic at all. Kupono had a moment during this piece where he held his arms together in an acute angle and then proceeded to perform a very fluid shimmy from his head to his tailbone, like he was both breaking down and coming to life again, which struck me as a movement similar to those Matthew Bourne used to create his Edward Scissorhands ballet. Prior to that movement, though, he reminded me a bit of what Sheldon Cooper would be like were he a crash test dummy. This piece was fucking bananas, but I loved it. Like, I would pay to see a whole show with those characters, that’s how good it was. Freaky. Scary. Awesome. Totally Wade Robeson. My only critique is that I wish Ashley hadn’t smiled quite so much – I understand that her character needed to smile, but it was the manner in which she did it rather than the act itself.

The Good to Very Good

Caitlin and Jason (Bollywood)
Choreography by Nikhul, whose last name I will apparently never learn
Song: “Jai Ho” by A.R. Rachman from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack

For me, Jason was spot on in this piece. He danced powerfully and gracefully with hard-hitting execution. There were sections of this where Caitlin was off a little bit, but she always managed to find her footing again rather quickly. (And I’m glad Shankers noticed she was off and commented on it, because I thought I was the only one who saw it. It’s that shared brain we have, apparently.) However, her gymnastics training came in handy during a 15-second handstand, in which she still had to dance with her feet in the air. That was probably her greatest moment in this piece, and its enough to make me forget about her weaker points. This one also got an extended woo from Mary, but not really a full-on scream. Nonetheless, it was very, very good – and I’m so happy to have Bollywood dance on this show! I look forward to the inclusion of more ethnic dancing down the line! (Truly! Let’s go global, SYTYCD!)

Truly, this is one of the most dynamic shots I've ever seen.

Truly, this is one of the most dynamic shots I've ever seen.

Melissa and Ade (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mandy Moore
Song: “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx

I’ve always liked Mandy Moore’s choreography, and the piece that stands out the most to me is the piece she created for Sabra and Dominic in season three, which I always remember as being like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This piece she created for ballerina Melissa and her very, very strong partner Ade was pure loveliness. Both dancers’ lines were beautiful, they looked beautiful together and were so effortless in their performance. For me, Melissa was the standout of the pair, especially because she has amazingly strong legs. She wrapped herself around Ade like a sexy little lemur, and was most amazing when she leapt up behind him and held there for about 20 seconds, only to have him raise her up in the splits over his head and catch her in his arms again in front of his face. This piece got a real, true Mary Murphy scream – not quite of the same caliber as the one received by Kayla and Max, but a real, true scream nonetheless.


Jeanette and Brandon (Foxtrot)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstrel
Song: “Come Fly with Me” by Michael Buble

While the Foxtrot is nowhere near as horrible as the Quickstep, it’s probably one of the least well-received dances on SYTYCD. Couple after couple has fallen due to a disliked Foxtrot, but I doubt such a thing will occur to Jeanette and Brandon. They were graceful, lovely and well-paired. Jeanette’s pink dress for this number was another of my favorites for the night – it just made every single leg extension she did look more compelling and fluid. Brandon was a stellar partner for her, but I was worried about his facial expressions during the dance. I surely thought Nigel was going to call him out on pulling faces, but Nigel actually thought it showed he was dancing with character and personality rather than his usual stoicism/disingenuous smile.


The Mediocre

Karla and Jonathan (Cha Cha)
Choreography by Tony Meredith, who got a new redheaded assistant this year – where’s Melanie?
Song: “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga

Despite my excitement for “Poker Face,” which is probably my summer anthem, there was a point where this piece started sliding a little bit downhill. Karla, former Boogie Bot, just couldn’t get her back into it correctly, and there were definite moments where I knew she wasn’t doing something right. For instance, there was one point where she leaned forward to go into a lift with Jonathan, but she bent herself in entirely the wrong shape, causing a weird lull, after which the dance picked up again when Jonathan slid between her legs, only to fall into another lull because of Karla’s lack of carriage. Shankers saw it, too, which meant I wasn’t alone. He also commented on the fact that Jonathan needs just a skotch more roll to his hips to carry of a Cha Cha properly. No one else seemed to notice, though, that the dead drop in this piece was kind of lame, probably because of Karla’s weak back. It was an okay effort by both dancers, and definitely didn’t live up to the awesomeness of the music. How many more Lady Gaga tracks do you think will hear this season, btw? I fully expect a Maria Torres disco number to “Love Game,” if only because I want to see someone actually take a ride on her partner’s “disco stick.”

The Problematic

Paris and Tony (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by Tabitha and Napoleon Duomo
Song: “Let the Beat Rock (Remix)” by Black Eyed Peas

This piece is how I knew Adam Shankman and I shared a brain: the minute I saw these two take the stage, I took one look at what they were wearing and couldn’t concentrate on their dancing. As such, I can’t really comment on it because I, like Shankers, found the costumes too distracting. The judges were hardly about this piece, though, complimenting Paris on the fact that she danced it well (and dance is really important to her because she crushed her leg in a car accident and thought she might never dance again), and warning Tony that it’s clear he needs serious improvement – even in his own style. Oh my god, you guys, I feel it . . . I feel it coming on . . . here it is: “We could have had two Kasprzak brothers, but instead we got this guy.” If Tony can’t even compete adequately in HIS OWN STYLE, I certainly think we’d have been better off with two Broadway Babies in the Top 20. (By the way, is anyone else with me in the fact that “Broadway” shouldn’t be a dance style, in the same way that animation is not a film genre, because anything can be animated, just like many kinds of dancing appear on Broadway? Maybe that’s an argument for another day, but after five years, and tons of bad Tyce routines, it’s starting to irk me . . . kind of like . . .)

Auska and Vitolio (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: The worst version of the “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago that I have ever heard.

Oh, fuck me gently with a chainsaw. This is quite possibly my least favorite Tyce routine ever. Remember how earlier I praised his Jazz piece for its beauty and grace? Neither of those words could be used to describe this fucking debacle. In theory, I liked the concept – a sort of pastiche of Busby Berkeley and Charlie Chaplin, what with the bowlers and the minstrel show gloves and Vitolio’s unfortunate Chaplin-stache that just doesn’t look right at all on a black man from Haiti. But in execution, Tyce did nothing to make this piece anywhere near good. He squandered every opportunity he had to create something fun and interesting, something that would utilize the old-school conventions of popular Broadway dance in the 1920s and 1930s and SUBVERT them, MODERNIZE them and SAY SOMETHING through them. Furthermore, Auska and Vitolio danced it without any life or joy, although did so with great technicality, so the piece felt completely and totally inauthentic and flat. I believe Shankers also used similar words, completing our mind meld. I hated every moment of this, so much so that I wanted to punch Tyce square in the face.

Even they can't stand this number.

Even they can't stand this number.

I definitely think that Karla and Jonathan, Paris and Tony and Auska and Vitolio will be in the bottom three couples tonight, and that the judges will send both Karla and Jonathan home. They should send home Tony, but Nigel seems to have a great deal of faith in him, so he won’t go quite yet until he commits some totally irredeemable offense that can’t partially be blamed on the wardrobe department. So, in advance of tonight’s results show, sorry, Karla, reality dance competition programs just aren’t for you to win. Go back to the Boogie Bots and your national tours of Broadway shows – you may think that isn’t the world for you, but it is. And Jonathan, I’m sure Kenny Ortega will hire you back to work on another installment of High School Musical. I wish you both well.

Other stray thoughts:


  • I thought the majority of the intro solos were kind of lame, except for Phillip Chbeeb’s and Evan Kasprzak, although I might be biased because they’re already my favorite two dancers.
  • I cannot hear “You Found Me” by the Fray without thinking of the Lost promo commercials for season 5, and it makes me really sad that there won’t be more Lost until Jan. 2010.
  • Cat was wearing a dress made out of glittery Greco-Roman spiderwebs and jewels. Someone should wear that to my upcoming Greco-Roman murder mystery. I’d do it myself, but I already am debuting a dress I’m very proud to have purchased one of the last of. Also, I’m not quite a bajillion feet tall like Cat Deeley, so I’m not sure I could pull that white shift off.
  • Good to know that Kupono’s name technically should be pronounced with a long u, if the bar above it is any indication.
  • I like that Mary gave the RoboPuppy in Wade’s piece a ride on the Hot Tamale Train, thus bringing Hot Tamale Train Tickets to 1.25 for this episode.
  • The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the episode stands at 2, with 4 enthusiastic woos for backup.
  • Jazz blades!

The Wife:

We have a Top 20, everyone! And we have never seen most of the people who comprise it! I wish I could say it’s going to be fun getting to know these people, but I’m not entirely certain how well we’ll get to know them before they are systematically eliminated. Part of me feels like the producers wasted my time introducing me to so many people I liked (the Gaby Rojases and Natalie Reids of the world) only to fill me with a Top 20 comprised of folks who never got any camera time at all, folks whose names I didn’t even know until now. But the other part of me realizes that those people I got to know over the audition process were getting all that camera time as a consolation prize, and as I believe this show is about bringing dance into the public consciousness and creating the kind of dance stars that used to exist in the 30s and 40s – a new generation of Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly types – I can only see that kind of cockteasing as a good thing. I hope Gaby Rojas finds her way to a long career with Cirque du Soleil. And I hope Natalie Reid finds a great dance company to call home.

Rather than discuss the drama of seeing who got cut and who didn’t (because the only person who got cut that mattered was Ryan Kasprzak), I’m going to give you a list of our finalists and my thoughts on them/some facts to help you get to know them better. (These are facts according to Fox.com, by the way.)

Your! Top! Twenty!

Your! Top! Twenty!

Girls

Randi Evans, a 23-year-old Jazz dancer from Springville, UT. She has apparently danced during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, 2002. All we know about her is that she really, really likes unitards.

Karla Garcia, a 23-year-old jazz/contemporary dancer from Brooklyn, NY. The most important thing I learned about this girl I’d not seen on SYTYCD until now is that she is one of the Boogie Bots, who have performed on America’s Best Dance Crew. (Boogie Bots were good, but they were no Quest Crew or Beat Freaks.) She also toured in Wicked, so I will be looking her up in my Playbill later on.

Caitlin Kinney, a 21-year-old contemporary dancer born and raised in Annapolis, MD. Has already had a hip replaced, and is “actress pretty,” according to me.

Asuka Kondoh, a 25-year-old Latin ballroom dancer originally from San Francisco, CA. She’s gotten a lot of well-deserved camera time, so I was pleased she will continue to grace my television with her very svelte swiveling hips.

Janette Manrara, a 25-year-old salsa dancer from Miami, FL and the first to be put into the Top 20, at which point she overshared and told us that this is the best good news she’s had in a while, as her boyfriend of four years dumped her and she moved back in with her mom. Why would anyone break up with a girl who can do the splits while doing a backflip?

Jeanine Mason, an 18-year-old contemporary dancer from Pinecrest, FL whom we had never seen before. All I can say about her is that she’s pretty and that she plans to attend UCLA in the fall.

Kayla Radomski, an 18-year-old contemporary and jazz dancer from Aurora, Co. Radomkulous was raised by her grandparents (mostly), which strikes a chord with me because I spent a lot of time with my grandma as a kid. We’ve seen her a lot, so her inclusion in the Top 20 was not a total surprise.

Melissa Sandvig, a 29-year-old ballerina from Los Alamitos, CA. We know absolutely nothing about her, but Fox.com tells me she has danced with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, the L.A. Opera, the Long Beach Ballet and has performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Paris Torres, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer and former Miss Washington from Issaquah, WA. She dances for the Seattle Storm and the Seattle Supersonics. If she doesn’t win and returns to dancing in Seattle, I’m sure I’ll see a lot of her in my future home. Also, I hate to say this, but the girl is pretty from the chin up. Her chin is awful. I’m sorry, Paris, I think you’re a lovely dancer, but you need a new chin.

Ashley Valerio, a 22-year-old contemporary dancer living in North Hollywood, CA. We know absolutely nothing about her, and neither does Fox.com

Guys

Kupono Aweau, a 23-year-old lyrical and contemporary dancer from Kailua, HI. Other than his name, I think the most amazing thing about Kupono is the tidbit that he is “an avid collector of home furnishings.” Good Lord, I can’t wait to see his vintage chair collection!

Tony Bellissimo, a 20-year-old hip hop dancer from Buffalo, NY. I think you all know by now that I do not care for Mr. Tony Bellissimo. I do not care for his inclusion in the Top 20, but I appreciate that Nigel was honest about it and said that they like Tony’s personality more than his dancing and believe he is the most improved person they’ve seen, even though he isn’t as technically strong as others. Tell you what, kids, the minute this kid fucks up you’re going to start hearing my refrain for the season, “We could have had two Kasprzak brothers in the Top 20, but instead we got this guy.”

Brandon Bryant, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer currently living in Salt Lake City, UT. In addition to being completely amazing yet somehow contested by the judges, Brandon has apparently performed for Madonna at Lourdes’ birthday party. That’s almost as good of a fact as Kupono’s furniture collections! I have loved Brandon since we saw him last year, and I simply do not understand why Mia and Lil C aren’t fans. Apparently, Mia thinks he’s cocky, finding the smile he puts on when he’s dancing disingenuous. Frankly, I don’t get the cockiness at all. Nor do I see his smile being problematic because he only busts it out during showier numbers. I do not recall him smiling through his solos, or during “Cool.” I do recall him smiling during “My Life Would Suck Without You,” because that number didn’t require seriousness. I believe Brandon will prove Mia wrong and she’ll come to love him. At least, I hope that’s what happens.

Phillip Chbeeb, a 20-year-old popper living in Los Angeles, CA. Other than what we know about his awesomeness, I can tell you that my husband will be throwing votes his way this season because Chbeeb is an engineering physics major at my husband’s alma mater, Loyola Marymount University. Go Lions! (Husband Note: Noooo! You gave away my schooooooool! I was trying to be mysterrrrrrrrrious!)

Jason Glover, a 21-year-old lyrical and contemporary dancer we’ve never seen before from Fresno, CA. We have never seen him before.

Vitolio Jeune, a 26-year-old contemporary dancer originally from Haiti who now resides in Miami, FL. I love his name and his accent, and wonder why I didn’t get to see/hear either of those things until recently. He likes motorcycles and Desmond Richardson, which means I think I’m going to fall in love with him pretty quickly.

Maksim Kapitannikov, a 26-year-old Latin ballroom dancer originally from the motherland of Moscow, now residing in Brooklyn, NY. He has decided to shorten his name to “Max” for the show. We’ve seen a fair amount of him so far, and I can tell you how much Mary Murphy and I love a hot Russian. Maksim is so Russian, in fact, that both of his parents dance and his mother is a ballet teacher. (If you have never studied Eastern Europe, that’s pretty fucking Rus, yo.)

Evan Kasprzak, a 21-year-old Broadway hoofer from West Bloomfield, MI with whom I am already unabashedly in love with. Prepare for 10 weeks of me unapologetically gushing over Evan Kasprzak.

Ade Obayomi, a 20-year-old contemporary dancer living in Orange County, CA. He has a great African name (I think), but we’ve never seen him before. Fox.com tells me he’s danced at Radio City Music Hall.

Jonathan Platero, a 21-year-old salsa dancer currently living in New York City. We’ve never seen him before, but all you need to know is that he danced for Kenny Ortega in High School Musical alongside former SYTYCD dancer Allison Hooker (season 2). (And s3 winner Sabra.)

Aside from the tragedy of splitting up the Brothers Kasprzak, the other notable absence from the Top 20 would be that of Miami ballet dancer Alex Wong, whose contract with the Miami City Ballet was fully-binding and could not be broken to include him in the Top 20. I hope he returns when his contract is up, because he was incredible and SYTYCD could use a strong male ballet dancer at some point.

I wish all of these dancers the best of luck, and hope to get to know those we hadn’t yet met a whole lot better. The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for the season stands at 2. I can’t wait for the competition to begin so I can keep that number running higher and higher as we board the season 5 Hot Tamale Train.