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:

Cat wore a smart turquoise Indian-inspired tunic. Nigel turned 60. There will be no SYTYCD Michael Jackson special due to a conflict over the music rights. SYTYCD Tour tickets go on sale July 25. (We’ll probably be at the Nov. 20th show in Everett, WA, by the way.) Every Thursday from here on out, Cat’s going to show us a tease of what’s to come for the fall season. Everything about last night’s show moved at a steady clip, as if to underscore the seriousness of making it to the Top 10 by dispensing with most of the funny business and banter.

Tabitha and Napoleon continued on Wednesday night’s Russian history lesson by choreographing a very smart, well-staged hip-hop routine set to The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” which ended with the dancers approximating a Soviet-era work poster, Jason posed at the top of a mountain of subwoofers, defiantly holding a severed cable in the air. Arguably, it was the smartest piece they’ve ever done, and it would be a good number to open the tour, considering it contains all of the Top 10, plus the tour’s two alternates. (The video is below, with Ade’s solo oddly attached.)


And who are those alternates?

Cat brought our six couples up two by two, which meant, of course, that of each pairing, one couple would be safe, and the other would have to dance for their lives. In the battle of Caitlin and Jason vs. Jeanette and Brandon, it was abundantly clear that Jeanette and Brandon were safe, having danced two of the best routines of the night and being virtually unstoppable all season. The capable but less impressive Caitlin and Jason ended up in the bottom for the third time. Next up was a fearful match between two couples I predicted yesterday would surely both be in the bottom three: Randi and Evan and Chbeeb and Jeanine. I clearly shouldn’t have doubted Randi and Evan’s fans because they kept those two tiny dancers in the competition, sending Chbeeb and Jeanine into their second bottom three appearance. With Randi and Evan safe, this meant bad things for Melissa and Ade, who were pitted against Kayla and Kupono, whom I expected to get through to the Top 10 by sheer force of their powerful Mia Michaels routine alone. It turned out to be true, and Melissa and Ade found themselves in the bottom three for the first time. (Which is sad face, because Melissa and Ade are both very, very good dancers.)

Cat showed some of the upcoming audition footage, as I mentioned above, and the dancers in danger launched into their solos:

  • Caitlin was a little desperate tonight dancing to Playing for Change’s cover of “Stand By Me.” I think she knew it was over for her and so she barely tried.
  • Jason performed one of his more powerful solos to “Calm Touching” by Evaline. I am constantly impressed by the strength of his core and the length of his leg lines.
  • Jeanine was absolutely superb in both her expression of technique and musicality in her routine set to Chris Garneau’s “Baby’s Romance.”
  • Phillip chose to perform to “The Diva Dance” from the Fifth Element, which made me larf because I started thinking about Chris Tucker as Ruby Rod. As always, Chbeeb is amazing at what he does, even though I could tell he was a little nervous this week, unlike the first time he soloed for us. It wasn’t his strongest by comparison.
  • Melissa performed a ballet solo that was a dozen times less impressive than her classical pas de deux to “Kashiva” by Kodo, but she still looked more polished overall than Caitlin. And she went en pointe.
  • Ade danced to a totally insane song called “Windowdripper” by Jib Kidder and did a totally insane backflip to finish it off. Having never really noticed Ade before he got into the Top 20, I now have a better understanding of what it is about his personality that made him shine more than other dancers.


Kelly Rowland came out to perform her single, during which I realized that there is a reason why Beyoncé became the breakout star from Destiny’s Child. Kelly does not sound great live (maybe it’s just that her wailing “Yeah!” sounds really stupid live?), but she was singing live, and that deserves some accolades because Kristinia DeBarge of the Family DeBarge sure as hell didn’t do that when she dropped by. If there’s anything I can compliment her on, it’s her stellar breath control. Girl can get some air under those notes, and she does not get winded while doing it.

After her performance, Nigel announced which dancers would be continuing on into the Top 10 and going on tour, and which dancers would be  . . . also going on tour as alternates because that’s how the tour has worked every freakin’ year. For whose benefit was Nigel expressing the need for alternates? Remember how Hok didn’t make the Top 10, but he still got to go on tour to perform the Hummingbird routine because it was so amazing? Yeah, that’s because he was an alternate. I suppose the show gets new fans every year who might not know how the tour works, but surely if you’re watching a dance show, you do know a little bit about how theatre works, and thus you might reasonably surmise that “runners-up” would end up as alternates/understudies/swings for the Big Show.

(Husband Note: That’s how it usually works, but I’ve seen at least one person who did worse than 12th place as an alternate, Santa Cruz’s Shaun Noland, who came in 14th place in s3.)

Professional swing dancers: Phillip and Caitlin will still be doing the tour.

Professional swing dancers: Phillip and Caitlin will still be doing the tour.

Anyway, Nigel said that the judges were unanimous in their decisions to keep the dancers they chose to keep, muttering some bullshit about how the dancers they’re letting go (but still bringing on tour!) hadn’t become “stars” yet, and that’s what everyone in the Top 10 needed to be from here on out. Phillip and Caitlin were eliminated, which is why that bit about “stars” is kind of bee ess. You know who’s a star? Phillip Chbeeb. You know who isn’t? Caitlin’s partner, Jason. I’m all for Jason staying in the Top 10 over Phillip because I believe Jason is a stronger dancer, but if you’re going to give some bullshit line to soften the blow for Caitlin (who really was being let go because she isn’t a star, unlike the other girls in the competition who are, in fact, stars), it needs to be true on the guys end, as well. Phillip was let go simply because he was great in his own style, but not strong enough to compete against more versatile dancers. If there’s any truth to Nigel’s “star quality” bee ess, it’s the fact that Phillip’s fans didn’t keep him out of the bottom three, which either means his fanbase is waning (which I doubt is true) or simply that his fans know that he’s already reached his zenith in this competition, and to keep him around any longer would probably tarnish the reputation he’s built and sully our initial excitement for his inclusion on the show. (Kind of like how, after five seasons, I’m still angry that Jamile took third place in season 1. Dude was not that good, and he stayed around longer than he should have. And over Artem! Bah!) I think this was best for Phillip, and I look forward to seeing him perform a solo on the tour this fall.

On a slightly selfish note, though, my correct prediction that Phillip would be eliminated (along with Caitlin) earned me super awesome amounts of points in SYTYCD Predicify over at EW.com, and I am now 287th out of 3,227 players. This also means I am officially trouncing every EW staffer that’s playing. Go me! I am a very premium judge of dances!

I’m very much looking forward to the next five weeks of competition, as I think everyone we have left is extremely talented. Here are some things I’d like to see happen in the next few weeks:

  • I need there to be one less girl in the competition whose name starts with “Jean”. It’s hard to type Jeanine and Jeanette. If there’s one of the two of them that I think has more star power, it’s Jeanette. In fact, I bet Jeanette will make the Top 4.
  • I hope people will continue to vote for Kayla, now that she’s free of her partner. I like Kupono more now, but I didn’t think Mark Kanemura should have made the Top 4 and neither should Kupono. (And I effing LOVED Mark, by the way.)
  • I’m going to lose Evan soon, because he’s just not as strong as Brandon Bryant or even Ade. And I’m learning to accept that.
  • I actually now no longer care if Randi stays or goes. (Although, don’t get me wrong. I do like her very much.) My top 3 ladies are Melissa, Kayla and Jeanette. And I’d pick Kayla and Jeanette to crack to Top 4.
  • Of the remaining guys, I think Brandon and Ade will be the two to make it to the Top 4.