The Wife:

In front of an audience of three thousand at Hollywood’s Kodak theatre, our final four dancers performed in the last competition show of the season. Overall, I have to say that I was very impressed with the routines presented last night, as well as the solos. Clearly, some things were better than others on both counts, but this finale certainly lived up to the grandeur that was the oh-so-very-MTV set on that big ol’ stage. Well, except for that opening groove that the dancers do each week. That thing looks doubly stupid in a giant stage when performed by only four people. I’ll be sticking to my regular format this week of ranking the dances and solos in order of my preference, but first I’d like to talk about that Top 4 number.

Wade and Amanda Robson choreographed a routine for Kayla, Jeanine, Evan and Brandon in which they played high school cheerleaders and football players shamelessly flirting with one another. It was set to Lady Gaga’s “Boys Boys Boys.” When I hear Wade Robson, I do not expect a routine associated with high school stereotypes. I expect romances between hummingbirds and flowers, quirky jewel thieves, vagabond cabarets, alligator people dancing to Tom Waits and, of course, Victorian zombies. Furthermore, I expect a certain style that accompanies such out-of-the-box conceits. What I got with this routine was essentially a pop-jazz routine, as though it were choreographed by Dan Karaty. This is to say that it was the most “traditional” work I’ve ever seen Wade Robson do. (And I should note here that Dan Karaty actually does hip-hop, but I’ve always felt his work has a sort of poppy, music video feel, and that’s what I felt when watching this Wade piece.)

High School Musical as choreographed by Wade Robson.

High School Musical as choreographed by Wade Robson.

Did I dislike it? No, not at all. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m pretty sure it’s the Robson’s response to something Lady Gaga herself said the other day about her views on feminism. In short, she doesn’t view herself as one because she loves male culture and celebrates it. And that makes her not a feminist . . . how? I give Lady Gaga the benefit of the doubt most of the time in that I know she understands art and performance and that, for her young age, she really is a gifted songwriter deserving of her early admission to Juilliard, but for her to think that feminism somehow denigrates male culture (especially third-wave feminism) is more than a little wrong. In fact, it’s kind of dumb. It’s statements like that which further mistaken notions of what feminism actually is: leading certain people to believe that it is inherently mysandrist.

So for Wade and Amanda Robson to take one of Lady Gaga’s songs in which she openly praises and worships male culture (and proclaims liking boys who are into that, with their cars and catcalls) and turn it on its head by giving the women in the dance the power roles seems to me to be a really interesting subversion of the song. Sure, it agrees in one point to the liking-of-boys aspect, but its clear in Wade’s choreography that the men here are just playthings for Jeanine and Kayla. They’re not the kind of women who will stand idly by and be catcalled – they’re the ones in control. And that doesn’t make Brandon and Evan any less manly for allowing themselves to be in Jeanine and Kayla’s control. Anyway, I continue to be perplexed by the bundle of contradictions that is Lady Gaga and impressed by Wade Robson, even when he does totally un-Wade Robson stuff like this.

Moving on!

The Excellent

Jeanine and Kayla (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “The Four Sections: IV, Full Orchestra” by Steve Reich

I talk a lot about art and theatre when discussing this show, and no piece this season has better expressed what contemporary dance theatre looks like than this Mia Michaels contemporary routine. The number, expressing through the metaphor of layered clothing and movement the dancers’ journey and growth within this completion, brilliantly used the entirety of the Kodak’s enormous stage to tell its story. Each skirt the women stripped off may have removed a layer from themselves metaphorically, but added a layer to the visual interest of the performance. Mia Michaels made this dance for a big ol’ stage, and the left-to-right movements and costume removal helped fill that big ol’ stage. It was a visual feast of beautiful choreography danced by two women of incredible skill.

Fully layered, like the rich, complex dancers they are.

Fully layered, like the rich, complex dancers they are.

I completely agree with Nigel that the only problem here is that the dance simply wasn’t long enough. (And not in his mildly pervy double entendre sort of way.) Although the movement was big enough for that big stage, it was far too grandiose a piece for such a short duration. This work was the stuff of contemporary theatre, and I believe it should have been a whole number in itself, rather than the competition-length vignettes that a number of these dances are. I’d had watched this piece for at least 10 minutes, ideally as a section of a contemporary dance work about dancing. And I’d really like to see Mia develop it into a larger work, because I would pay to see that.

I also want to note here that while I like the number Mia did for the Top 2 boys in season three (“Two Princes” for Danny and Neil), I believe her choreography is best when she’s choreographing for women. This piece proves that, as does her piece for the Top 2 girls from season one, in which Ashle and Melody danced just as strongly (if not more so) than their male counterparts to “Message in a Bottle” by The Police. I love that routine, and I hope you guys do to:

Jeanine and Brandon (Paso Doble)
Choreography by Louis Van Amstel
Song: “Tetsujin” from The Matrix Revolutions

If you’ve ever wanted to know what a industrial goth club for Latin ballroom dancing would look like, you now know. I was worried that the two ballroom numbers were at the end of the show, and even more worried to hear one of them was a Paso Doble. “Please be good!” I thought, knowing a lackluster Paso in the finale would be the ultimate in disappointment. This, however, was not disappointing. The industrial goth concept was a little weird, but I think it worked the instill in Jeanine and Brandon the dark passion that is the Paso Doble. They danced it clean, and they danced it mean. It will certainly be a Paso Doble to remember, and I hope that it will eventually erase all of the bad ones from my memory. Also, who knew Louis Van Amstel had this dark side?

Maybe a latin ballroom industrial goth club isn't such a bad idea after all . . .

Maybe a latin ballroom industrial goth club isn't such a bad idea after all . . .

The Good to Very Good

Jeanine and Evan (Jazz)
Choreography by Sonya Tayeh
Song: “Heartbreaker” by MSTRKRFT ft. John Legend

For me, the best part of this dance was Evan. I felt he was really strong here, well-suited to the style and 110% committed to the routine. The part where he clung to Jeanine’s back like an adorable spider-monkey was my favorite and highlighted both his agility and Jeanine’s strength. Honestly, I didn’t really watch her much in this number. That’s in part because I know she’s very good, but more because I wanted to see how Evan would do in this competition episode. He really surprised me here, and I think this number served him well to prove his capabilities and his worthiness in the Top 4.

Kayla and Brandon (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Bye Bye Love” from All That Jazz

Only these guys could create a photo like this.

Only these guys could create a photo like this.

Kayla and Brandon are such stunning technicians that they can do no wrong. Ever. Something about the sets, costuming and disco-y music in this number instantly made me think of The Apple, and I had a hard time focusing on the piece because of that. I just know that the danced it superbly because they replayed the lift sections at the end and they were certainly stunning. For Tyce’s part, I’m glad he actually added a hint of theatre into his choreography (it’s about death! the table! the chest pains!) to contextualize the piece, because otherwise it wouldn’t have made sense from a storytelling perspective. I’m also glad he didn’t over-Fosse it, even though this is from a movie by Fosse about Fosse’s life.

Evan and Kayla (Jive)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Song: “T.R.O.U.B.L.E.” by Travis Tritt

I caught myself thinking the other day about a certain number performed in season 4 by Mark and Kherington. It was a country two-step, and it was awful. I tried to find a video of it for you, but apparently the internet has done it’s best to forget that atrocity. So here, you’ll have to settle for a picture of the awkwardness:

I cant believe this was the best the internet could give me.

I can't believe this was the best the internet could give me.

Much like how the Kalinka will be the end of Russian folk dance on this show, I thought that Mark and Kherington had just about done in any country western dances on this show. I’m glad that Tony and Melanie revived that by taking a ballroom/swing standard and giving it a country flair. While I wouldn’t want to see too much country western dancing, I’d love to see a little bit more on this show. Much like disco, it’s usually rather upbeat and crowd pleasing and there’s something very interesting to me about seeing club/recreational dances turn into competition. I mean, we welcome that with hip-hop and we’re more than happy to see competitive hip-hop (though not competitive krumping because that NEVER went well on this show), so why not give a little bit more to the viewers who love getting drunk in rodeo bars?

My point in this is that from last year’s country two-step fiasco, we can only go upwards and I think this jive was a step in the right direction. (Although Kayla’s outfit, which was fringe AND ruffles AND cowboy boots was definitely a step in the wrong direction, fashion-wise.) Kayla was spot-on throughout. Once again the judges noted Evan’s retraction problems, but complimented him on his strength in the lift section. Truly, he served his purpose there by partnering well with Kayla and getting her into those double turns with grace. I simply cannot understand why a guy who is so good at old-timey Broadway stuff, which, oddly, translates well into contemporary and jazz work, can’t seem to get a decent retraction going in a dance style that was actually popular during the time period in which he specializes.

But he does look mighty cute in that shirt, no?

But he does look mighty cute in that shirt, no?

Which brings me to another question: Really, SYTYCD? You went an ENTIRE SEASON without a single West Coast Swing or Lindy Hop? Please bring those back. I love the Lindy Hop (as well I should, as Lindy was my grandfather’s Navy nickname because he was a top notch Lindy Hopper and my own middle name pays tribute to this fact). I love swing dance in general. All I want is one a season, dudes. Is that so much to ask?

Brandon and Evan (Pop-Jazz)
Choreography by Laurieann Gibson
Song: “Nasty” by Janet Jackson

Be cool, boys!

Be cool, boys!

The reason this number is last on my list is not because of the choreography, but because it was the only number of the night that really showed the disparity between the two dancers. Every step of the way, Brandon was out-dancing Evan. He was hitting it harder, getting nasty and dancing that shit into the ground. While I think Evan on his own would have made a good show of this (his movements were clean, well-timed and well-executed), standing next to Brandon he looked somewhat foolish. He just couldn’t keep up with Brandon’s inherent sense of fluid movement and musicality. Brandon gets a gazillion points for this one, Evan gets maybe 2,000. That said, I did believe Evan’s character throughout this piece and I loved the post-dance banter with Cat and Mary in which Mary seductively asked Evan what the nastiest thing he’s ever done was, and Cat balked at her and instructed Evan to answer only after the other Kasprzak’s covered his “grams” ears. (Side note: I was thoroughly surprised to see two elderly Kasprzak women in the audience, as I thought Cat was just being adorably British by making “grams” plural, as it seemed like something adorable British people would do, akin to calling your parents your “Moms” and “Pops” here in the States.) Evan’s version of nasty is more like being a Jet in West Side Story. In fact, I think he’d make an EXCELLENT Baby John. (Arthur Laurents! Take note! I am a very premium casting director!) But even if I believe Evan’s work here would translate to a 1950’s version of nastiness and street gangs, it just didn’t compare to Brandon, who was so damn nasty that he’d have to call Janet “Miss Jackson.”

Solos!

1. Brandon the Spiseagle once again takes my top spot with his mind-and-laws-of-physics-bending solo to Karl Jenkin’s recording of “Dies Irae.” He did the Spiseagle thing again, but also added in some different movements I’ve not quite seen before. Like Shankers and Nigel, I, too, do not understand the decision to wear the Imprisonment Board Shorts, but odd costuming choices aside, this was the best solo of the night. Hands down.

Long live the Spiseagle!

Long live the Spiseagle!

2. Jeanine did another one of her absurdly impressive combinations of technique and personality in this solo to “Por una Cabeza” from The Tango Project, allowing her to remain the most competent soloist among the women in the competition. Shankers was right to note that those pirouettes were insane, because they were. It was risky, and she pulled it off. Unlike Shankers, I liked the plastic flower. It made me really look at her face during those turns, which highlighted how well she could spot.

3. Kayla has never been a great soloist. There’s something about her own choreography that just hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of her audition. But even so, you can’t deny that she’s exceptionally talented as a dancer, and I liked her music choice of “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. Took me back to that great Mandy Moore routine for Neil and Sabra with the table.

4. Evan’s solo tonight suffered from too much stuff for too little time. As such, I don’t think we really got to see a good indicator of his style and technique from 30 seconds of “The Best is Yet to Come” by Michael Bublé. I loved the flip at the beginning and desperately want to know what kind of magic tape kept his hat on during that turn, and I liked the little slapstick bit with the hat-kicking after the end, but everything in between was very forgettable. It’s clear to me from his choreography here that this would have worked if he’d had a minute, or a minute-30, but he didn’t seem to know how to get that down to just 30 seconds and I think the solo suffered a bit.

So who will win? I really have no idea. Evan has a ton of fans, and my favorite lady has always been Kayla, but Nigel seems to think it’s between Brandon and Jeanine. I don’t know if he was just saying that to get the Evan and Kayla fans to vote hardcore, possibly promoting Kayla to winner, or if he really believes that. It’s hard to tell. At this moment, I’m not even sure who I’m going to lock in the EW SYTYCD predictify challenge. I’m feeling a Jeanine win is eminently possible, but I personally prefer Kayla. She is Radomkulous. That is all.

Other things:


  • The Official Mary Murphy Scream Count for this episode is five, four of which were for that Paso Doble and one of which was for her own name.
  • I would really love someone, a producer, perhaps, to give Evan lots of money so he can create his own vaudeville-esque show with his brother Ryan. Dear people with money: make this happen. I, and millions of other Kasprzaktivists, would willingly pay to see that.
  • Do not credit me with the term Kasprzaktivist for an Evan/Ryan fan. That honor goes to CliqueClack’s Julia Hass. Kudos, Julia. That’s brilliant.
  • Did Shankers at all realize that when he compared Kayla to his favorite dancers from past seasons (Travis Wall, Danny Tidwell, William Wingfield) that he was basically comparing her to a bunch of losers? Look, Shankers, I love those guys, too, but we want Kayla to WIN! Let’s not doom her to a gallery of also-rans!
  • In other news, if I were 16 again, I would have freaking killed to have worn Jeanine’s Paso Doble outfit to prom. That single vinyl sleeve? Hot.
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The Wife:

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

The Excellent

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

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

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

Cancer Vixen.

Cancer Vixen.

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

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

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

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

Tyra would call this an experiment in ugly-pretty.

Tyra would call this an experiment in ugly-pretty.

The Good to Very Good

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

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

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

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

Jeanette looks so sublime in this leap.

Jeanette looks so sublime in this leap.

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

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

The Mediocre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solos:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other thoughts:

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

The Wife:

Before I begin to discuss last night, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate four of our SYTYCD Choreographers for their Emmy nominations! The Emmy voters have nominated TabNap for “Bleeding Love,” The Emmy Award-Winning Mia Michaels for “Mercy,” Tyce DiOrio for his truly beautiful Adam and Eve jazz piece for Jessica King and William Wingfield and Dmitry Chaplin for his Argentine tango for Joshua Allen and Chelsie Hightower. The SYTYCDers lead the pack in this category, facing only one nomination from that other reality dance competition program (a jive from Julianne and Derek Hough) and the “Musicals are Back” showpiece from the 81st Annual Academy Awards. The sheer number of nominations snatched up by SYTYCD, I think, reinforces what I love about this show and proves to me that the Emmy institution’s decision to expand their categories to six nominations this year has allowed for more thoughtful decisions and recognizes true artistry. Nothing makes me happier than to see people share in the joy of this show, and to see great art recognized. So, congrats to Nappytabs, Mia, Tyce and Dima! (And on a personal note, even though I hate Tyce, I sort of want him to win so he’ll stop doing shitty Broadway and return to his strengths as a jazz choreographer, which is obviously where he really shines. See? I’m not totally mean!)

Now that we’ve reached our Top 10 Dancers, the producers decided that we didn’t have a moment to waste and treated us to 5 routines, 10 solos and 2 group numbers for the top girls and boys. For the sake of my sanity, I’ll discuss the routines in my typical fashion (Excellent, Good to Very Good, Mediocre, Problematic), followed by the solos ranked in order of their impressiveness and then, just for larfs, the group numbers.

The Excellent

Jeanine and Jason (Contemporary)
Choreography by SYTYCD Season 2 Runner-Up Travis Wall, who now has dark hair and tattoos. (My new fantasy celebrigays: Travis Wall and Adam Lambert. Best. Couple. EVER.)
Song: “If It Kills Me” by Jason Mraz

Thank you, Travis Wall, for attending the Debbie Allen Dance Academy so you could give me this beauty.

Thank you, Travis Wall, for attending the Debbie Allen Dance Academy so you could give me this beauty.

This was an absolutely stunning piece of choreography by an amazing contemporary dancer (whom you may remember from the last thing The Emmy Award-Winning Mia Michaels won an Emmy for . . . season 2’s “Bench Dance” with Heidi). I was so impressed with Travis’ choreography and its dynamism. He truly took us on a visual ride here in a piece with levels, floorwork, individual sections, synchronized leaps, jumps, lifts, story and sensuality. There wasn’t a single moment in this work that felt inorganic, and it’s a testament to Jeanine and Jason’s skills as dancers that they danced it with complete authenticity. I believed them, and I was there. Seriously, this was better than most movie sex scenes at capturing romance, longing and what it’s like to finally heed the word of your body. The only critique I can really give here is that it was apparent in the beginning of the number that the necklace wasn’t working the way it should. When they do this on tour, I would do away with the prop altogether. It worked for TV, but on stage, it would be too small of a prop to notice and, in fact, I think the motions of giving it and taking it would absolutely still work without the actual prop. So there’s that. But even that prop malfunction couldn’t diminish the work that was done with this. Sheer brilliance, and great collaboration that, to borrow from Debbie Allen, is “evangelizing dance in a way nothing else has.” Amen, Miss Allen. Mary awarded it a silent scream, just to appease Conan O’Brien, who lives in fear of her shrieking. (Does is still count as an Official Mary Murphy Scream if no sound comes out? This is the eternal question.)

Melissa and Brandon (Broadway)
Choreography by Tyce DiOrio
Song: “Aquarius” from Hair (It’s the New Broadway Cast recording, for those who care.)

See, this is what dance on Broadway these days actually looks like. This is why I don’t think that Broadway is a style of dance because the kind of dancing required in a Broadway show should be varied to suit the mood, music and story. But on the other hand, without that label, what the fuck would I call what Tyce usually does? (Husband Note: “Crap.”) Anyway, I give Tyce his fair share of crap for the kind of hokey work he usually produces, but I’ve long said that his jazz work is some of the strongest I’ve ever seen. I love the piece he did for Ivan and Allison in season 2, I love the African jazz he did for Pasha and Jessi in season 3 and Emmy voters and I both love the near-silent jazz piece he created for Will and Jessica last year. He works best when he’s freed from his desperate need to be like Bob Fosse, and I’m glad he chose to do a piece from Hair this week, for a few reasons.

Far out, man.

Far out, man.

First and foremost, this piece reminded me what Tyce is like when he’s good, and his choreography was really good in this one. It lent itself to the characters he created, suited the spirit of the show and told a story along with the music. Secondly, I’ve never actually seen Hair, and my first experience listening to the whole cast album (with the new cast) was on our drive up to Seattle the other week. I’ve had it stuck in my head ever since because I really dig it. (I mean, who writes a libretto like that anymore?) Third, the cast of Hair came all the way from New York on their dark night to perform on The Tonight Show and watching them take over the studio actually moved me a great deal. Of all the New York-based late night shows, Conan O’Brien was the best at booking Broadway actors (Husband Note: Second-best, as Letterman usually has that covered.), and I thought it was wonderful that he got an entire cast to fly out on their night off to bring that experience to the culture suck that is L.A. I can only imagine what it was like for those Burbank audience members to have their hair tousled by love-spreading hippies, a kind of interactive theatre experience that is basically dead in L.A. It was just really fucking cool. (Cooler than when they did it at the Tonys, that’s for sure.) Finally, just yesterday, the cast announced that they’d be going dark on October 11 so they could all join cast mate Gavin Creel (who plays Claude) in Washington, D.C. for the Equal Rights March. Nothing could be more in the spirit of that show and its message of peace, love and understanding than for its entire cast to join an openly gay cast member in his fight for equality.

I guess Nigel wasn’t quite hip to anything about Hair and why it’s important (other than Twyla Tharp’s choreography of the movie, which I have seen and don’t love), because the only thing he could really comment on was how “this was the time when white girls danced with black boys.” Uh, yeah. In fact, if he’d ever heard the damn show, he would already know that “black boys are delicious.” To his credit, though, the fact that it was danced by dancers of two different ethnicities did indeed highlight the message of that particular song and the themes of the show. (And may I say that the black boys on SYTYCD are indeed quite delicious?) Brandon and Melissa danced this number just as beautifully as it was choreographed, and I have to give extra props to Melissa here for being so in character. She’s a great little actress, and I can only imagine how much of a joy she’d be to work with.

The Good to Very Good

Jeanette and Ade (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by TabNap
Song: “Love Sex Magic” by Ciara ft. Justin Timberlake

Paging Dr. Funk.

Paging Dr. Funk.


This was a very cutesy number from TabNap, and I think it was danced with a lot of gusto from both Jeanette and Ade. However, I was very worried for Jeanette during their tuck-and-roll segment because something about the way she hit the floor looked off and I thought Ade might smoosh her head. The use of Ade’s magic hairpick was pretty cute, too. But because it isn’t Travis Wall’s piece or Tyce’s rendition of Hair, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.

Kayla and Evan (Viennese Waltz)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Song: “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal

A testament to the power of footwear.

A testament to the power of footwear.

I completely agree with Nigel that this number’s biggest problem was the fact that it didn’t look like a Viennese waltz, and I also agree with Mary about the clunkiness of Evan’s turns in the final third of the dance. However, I thought the rest of it was really pretty good. The wizardry of shoes managed to even out the height disparity between tall Kayla and her vertically challenged partner, Evan, and with the exception of that final third, they danced this really well. Kayla was great all around, actually, and I give Evan points for keeping up with her. His feet may not have been spectacular, but his frame was really good and he supported her well throughout the dance, especially in that lift.

The Mediocre

Randi and Kupono (Paso Doble)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Song: “Dies Irae” by Carl Jenkins

The weakness of this Paso Doble had nothing to do with the music or the choreography, but everything to do with Kupono. He just didn’t dance this hard enough or with enough passion. Randi at least made a good show of putting on her fiery face, even if she, too, is guilty of the most cardinal Paso Doble sin of not dancing hard enough. A great Paso has to be danced into the ground, stamped and bullied like a great flamenco number or, you know, the bullfight it’s emulating. All in all, it just wasn’t up to snuff, and I can’t even give that death drop full credit because Kupono took her out one half turn too early. I did, however, not mind the addition of Randi’s wig, although I resent Nigel’s comment about how she did it to create some passion, which basically says that women with shorthair are passionless. Thanks, Nigel! I’m sure Mia Michaels it the most passionless person you’ve ever met, with that elfin pixie cut!

For all Kupono's good acting in other pieces, I fail to see where it went this week.

For all Kupono's good acting in other pieces, I fail to see where it went this week.

The Solos

1. Ade once again performed a completely insane, off-the-hook solo to – of all things! – “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, complete with a backflip toward the stairs that actually made me fear for his life. Not even kidding, he was so close to those stairs I would he was going to break his neck and die on national television. But he didn’t! Because that’s how good he is!

2. Jeanine gets a million extra points from me for choreographing her solo to the same song (“Violento – Up Mix” by Bailongo!) that underscored her tragic Argentine tango with Chbeeb. She presented a really interesting 30 seconds of dancing that mixed her classical technique with some Latin-esque moves. It was impressive.

3. Brandon needs to join Alvin Ailey immediately if he doesn’t win. He’s just so amazing and so ready, as I think this solo to Jeffrey Gaines’ cover of “In You Eyes” proved.

4. Evan reminded his fans exactly why we like him by performing a great, classic little 40s-style number to Rufus Wainwright’s “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” from the Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! concert. I only wish he’d entered his windmill segment about five seconds earlier so we’d have been able to see his full glory.

5. Kayla did an absolutely Radomkulous contemporary solo to Elisa’s “Rock Your Soul.” She’s just so good. Why don’t you love her, America?

6. Jason actually showed me he was creative and had personality with his funky, down-home solo to Muddy Waters’ “Train from Home.”

7. Jeanette closed the solo portion of the show by proclaiming “This is Miami,” which, in fact, I think she is. Like, when I think of Miami, I think of Jeanette.

8. Melissa performed a much weaker ballet solo this week than she did last week to “Gabriel” by Lamb. Still pretty, though.

9. Randi did a graceful contemporary routine to “Dream” by Priscilla Ann. It struck me when I watched this that I actually had no idea who Randi was outside of Evan. She’s a good dancer, but I don’t think she has the spark that the other girls in the competition do.

10. Kupono gave us one of his best solos ever, but still the worst of the night. He danced to “Marina Gasolina” by Bonde do Role, and I have no idea why he insisted on doing so in a gay zombie costume.

As for the group numbers, we were treated to a whole lot of ethnic dancing tonight, with the girls performing a Nakul Dev Mahajan Bollywood number and the boys performing a Jeffrey Page African dance. I thought both numbers were absolutely stellar and a joy to watch, but of the two, I think the girls’ number was more expertly danced. I agree with Nigel that none of them stood out as better than the rest, which of course also means that no one fell behind as worst of the bunch. As far as the story was concerned, I’m pretty sure that number was about how women seduce men and take them off the path of righteousness. You know, like a really fun dance version of the scene in the Disney Jungle Book where Mowgli sees a girl fetching water and all of a sudden he decides he wants to live with human folk. Hmm . . . maybe it’s about how women’s beauty civilizes men? Whatever. Who the fuck cares? It was fun, and the girls made a great show of it. Nigel even put them on his “hot bangers-and-mash train,” which I’m pretty sure is his penis.

With the boys, I think it was much clearer in this number that some of the boys just aren’t as strong as others. Although Evan stuck out like a sore thumb because he is the only male dancer on SYTYCD without ANY kind of ethnicity, he wasn’t the worst dancer of the bunch. No, that honor goes to Kupono, who fell back into his old critique of simply looking too feminine. While all of the boys kept up with the fast footwork of this number, I thought the thing that truly separated the men from the boys here (if you’ll pardon the expression) was the detail in the arm movements. It was clear that Evan and Kupono simply didn’t have the arm strength to uphold those angles like Jason, Ade and Brandon did. But even then, Evan kept it up a little better than the Hawaiian, who too often looked limber and willowy, rather than bold, geometric and strong. Here, I thought Nigel was being a little too complimentary in saying that no one stood out, because someone definitely did.

So based on the pairwork, dancing and solos, my picks for who is going home tonight (and this is putting my faith that American will still, at least for the next two weeks, vote out the less-strong dancers before turning this competition into a favorite-dancer-free-for-all) are Randi and Kupono. I don’t think Randi’s anything without Evan, and it’s already pretty clear that America doesn’t love the tall Hawaiian because he dresses poorly and, I repeat, IS NOT AND WILL NEVER BE MARK KANEMURA. Also, Fox.com promised me I’d hear about Kupono’s furniture collection. I am very disappointed that I haven’t heard about this yet. Please mention it in his exit package so I can at least feel like mentioning that in his website bio was slightly justified.

Other thoughts:

  • Given that I am in the process of getting a large botanical tattoo on my shoulder, I’ve decided I need Cat’s green strapless dress so I can show it off at cocktail parties. I’ll probably find it later when I go interweb hunting, but if anyone beats me to it and posts a link in the comments, I will . . . uh . . . send you a cookie . . . or something . . .
  • Jeanine danced so well last night that she ALMOST made me forget she opened the show wearing a romper. I’m sorry, but if you’re a grown woman, you shouldn’t be wearing something meant for toddlers.
  • At the show’s open, why was Kupono wearing a man-corset that he didn’t bother to lace closed? What’s the point of an open corset?
  • Dear Hollywood types: Please don’t hire Kupono as a stylist or designer one he leaves this show. The gay zombie look is so gauche.
  • Now I know that Cat is a Rufus Wainwright fan, and that makes me love her all the more.
  • When Dev called the Top 5 girls the “Bollywood Bombshells,” I was reminded of a great 1960s Bollywood soundtrack for a film called The Bombshell Baby of Bombay. My friend Lauren loves that soundtrack, and when we cook and drink at her house, we always end up listening to it. Good times, Bombshell Baby of Bombay.
  • I am very disappointed that we didn’t see the Fame trailer last night, as Debbie Allen basically IS FAME and Kerrington Payne is kind of starring in it. Maybe tonight? Maybe a special performance from the cast of Fame? Maybe maybe?

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.

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.

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!