The Wife:

Another two weeks of SYTYCD auditions, and here are our notable dancers out of Boston, Atlanta and the Big Easy:

Please give this woman an Emmy. Please?

Please give this woman an Emmy. Please?

Teddy Tedhome: He wore plaid pants, and that makes him both funky and awesome. He goes straight to Vegas.

Jean Llauret: He is a good breaker, but I feel like he is stronger than he is interesting in either movement or personality. Still, we’ll see him in Vegas.

Kimara Wood: I would totally cast this long-dreaded dude in a Cajun Country Blues version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon. Believe me, I’ve seen such a production of Midsummer and he is exactly what their Oberon looked like. He goes to Vegas.

Channing Cooke: She is Kherington 2.0, which means Nigel likes her because she is pretty and blonde. She makes it to the choreo round.

Super Tall Ryan Casey: He’s a good tapper, if ungainly due to his height. Though he doesn’t make it to Vegas, I suspect he is somehow related to Conan O’Brien.

Russell Ferguson: Unfortunately, his excellent krump audition was ruined by the producers inserting shots of Tyce DiOrio grooving for no fucking reason. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT TYCE!

Karen and Matthew Haver: If these two dance like this together, what must their marriage bed be like? They both go to Vegas to burn the sheets there. Once again, I had to ask myself why Cat Deeley and the producers are rewriting SYTYCD history. They claimed that Karen and Matthew were the first married couple to make it to Vegas together, but that’s not true! Artem and his wife both made it to Vegas in season one. Artem made the show, his wife didn’t.

K-Bez: His performance was good, but not great, and made me officially announce that I am over any and all Black Eyed Peas summer dance hits. Somehow, he still goes to Vegas.

Gene Burstin: He is a very sexy Russian with a very unsexy name and goes to Vegas.

Billy Bell: He reminds me of Billy Elliot, so we shall call this sprightly male ballet poof Billy Belliot for the duration of his time on the show. (It works on two levels, you see, because the actor who played Billy Elliot is called Jamie Bell.) Billy Belliot here is amazing, and he goes straight to Vegas.

Amber Jackson: I am pretty sure Nigel just threatened violence upon this girl because he liked her dancing, but didn’t think her performance was engaging. I mean, on the one hand, I agree about engaging your audience, especially at an audition, but sometimes, you’re just not dancing that kind of dance, you know?

Victor Smalley: He isn’t Hawaiian, as far as I can tell, but dances like a combination of Mark and Kupono. Good times.

Jessica Jensen: How many times have I begged my readers to get skin checks? Please do, because you do not want to have a sarcoma in your hand and end up like this girl. Although, if you do have to lose a hand, please be like this girl. Jessica here was a good dancer, but not a great one, and I’m glad that the judges didn’t get her a free pass to Vegas simply because of her missing hand. She does, however, have personality for days. I loved her joke about gnawing off her fingers with nervousness, and the shot of her walking out of the theatre with her boyfriend, where he tenderly held the nub where her hand used to be. She’s kind of my hero.

Thomas Hamilton: The world’s most graceful crackbaby gets a ticket to Vegas.

Shelby “Skip” Skipper: One of the most energetic hip-hoppers we’ve seen so far in auditions. Mary was either amazed, or on drugs, or both by the sound of her praise of his work.

Jonathan Litzler: He’s an acrobat, and you know what I don’t need? Another Neil Haskell. I can’t deny his talent (he’s better than Neil), I just think his tumbling overshadowed his dancing. Well, that and the fact that he only wears one sock or shoe while dancing. What’s up with that?

Allison Nance: Her stand-out moment was when she made a pinwheel with her legs over her torso, and yet somehow remained stationary through her core. I do not understand how one achieves such a thing.

Edward Spots: Should be cast in The Lion King. Right now.

Justin Kenny: He is probably the most lithe breakers we’ve ever seen. Some of his moves are a little awkward, but when it works, it’s stellar.

Kimalee Piadad: I have never heard of competition theatre arts dancing, but I assume that’s what you have to call competitive partner dancing that isn’t in a defined ballroom style. She and her partner were really great, achieving lifts I’ve really only seen people do on ice skates and not half so well. Kimalee goes straight to Vegas.

Diana Drexler: She performed a very moving lyrical piece, and it was all the more moving to her after losing her grandfather passed away just before her audition. I’m sorry she didn’t want to be “that girl” (with the story, the package of tragedy), because the producers clearly wanted her to be.

Stray thoughts:

  • I liked watching Cat learn how to do the Stanky Legg. I know how to do that from America’s Best Dance Crew!
  • Even more than this, I enjoyed watching Cat learn the New Orleans bounce.
  • “My salsa looked more like some guacamole.” — Boogie Links, who was having way more fun hitting on girls than he was dancing.
  • Where are the mind-blowing hip-hoppers this season? I haven’t seen nearly as many as I should be seeing.
  • And I missed the girl who fell down and showed her lady bits. Why would you even go to a dance competition without underwear on in the first place? Wouldn’t we have seen all that during her piece, which I’m sure was filled with leg extensions and leaps?

The Husband:

The producers claim that it wasn’t her lady bits, but “a crease in her panties,” which is one of the best press release phrases in quite some time.

Quick hint: it wasn’t “a crease in her panties.” Panties don’t have a furry front patch. At least no panties I know.

And Thomas Hamilton reminded me that I wanted to play this clip. Not that I don’t like him, but even if he makes it into the Top 20 and then starts sucking (neither of which I can foresee, because I’m not a soothsayer), I will have probably forgotten by then that I would want to use this clip when he is kicked off. So here I preemptively give him shit and expose my bad taste, if me talking about furry panties didn’t already tip you off.

The Wife:

Hi there, SYTYCD fans! I’m sure you wondered where I was last week, but I thought I’d wait until we had two audition cities to discuss before I posted about SYTYCD, just so we’d have more to talk about. I think it actually worked out for the better this way, because now I can start by pointing out SYTYCDers I spotted during the VMAs:

Tyce DiOrio was all up in Miss Jackson’s bidnass during the MJ tribute of “Scream.”

If you looked really closely behind the bleeding carcass of Lady Gaga, you would have noticed featured dancer Mark Kanemura being totally fucking awesome.

That means employment! These people don’t just fade into obscurity like non-signed Idol cast-offs! They actually get paid to dance!

I can also announce with sadness that every SYTYCD choreographer nominated for an Emmy this year lost to the “Musicals Are Back” segment from the Oscars. It’s kind of a bummer, but at least they didn’t lose to DWTS.

God, I hope I get it!

God, I hope I get it!

As for the fall season’s auditions, things started off in L.A. At least for L.A. and Phoenix, former contestants Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev put the dancers through the choreography round. Adam Shankman, who will be a permanent judge for the remainder of this season, assisted on the panel in L.A., while Mia Michaels joined in Phoenix.

Dancers of note:

Mollie Grey: She was a principal dancer in HSM 1-3 and moved out to L.A. with nothing because she’d outgrown her dance opportunities in Utah. Nigel likes her because she’s young and blonde and she gets a ticket to Vegas.

Bianca Revels and Ryan Kasprzak: Both tappers cut from the Top 20 return and have a wicked awesome tap battle. For some reason, the judges and Cat keep saying things like, “We’ve never had a tapper make it to the Top 20,” but this is a lie. In the first season, which I guess technically only had a Top 16, Sandra Colton was the first to be eliminated from the competition. She was, in fact, a tapper. She danced her way off the stage to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” Nonetheless, Bianca and Ryan traded taps and earned themselves two tickets to Vegas. Their battle was delightful, but Ryan’s performance art solo was even more so. I love that kid. I need him in the Top 20.

Amber Williams: Her mother is paralyzed, which is terrible but creates a nice juxtaposition for the grace with which her daughter dances. She earns a ticket to Vegas.

Alexie Agdeppa and Paula Van Outen (Oopen?): Both girls made it to Vegas last year, and then make it to Vegas again.

Christina the Salsa Dancer: Her popping section was rough, but her salsa sections were stellar. She gets a ticket to Vegas.

Phillip Attmore: Another tapper, Phillip toured with Ryan Kasprzak in a production of Fosse. I now know that Ryan has a happy face tattoo on his butt. I also know that Phillip is one smoove operator on the dance floor. Seriously, he’s great. His solo included more than just tap, so we know he can do things outside of his own style. Because of that, and his amazing pirouette, he earns a ticket to Vegas. Screw Bianca, I need Ryan and Phillip in the top.

Sasha Mallory: I really loved her audition piece because it was an entire performance with a through-line. She cries a lot, and the judges give her a ticket to Vegas.

Allison Becker: Allison is deaf from a bought of spinal meningitis when she was 16 months old. I don’t like her audition all that much, but its clear she has a lot of strength and muscle control, so the judges praise her for overcoming her deafness, dancing well and send her to choreo. She proves her mettle and winds up going to Vegas. I’d also like to note that, as far as a personality is concerned, I love that she’s cheeky and immediately said, “I’d be great,” when the judges asked how she’d be at choreography. And, as a linguist, I am very impressed at her speech abilities, having gone deaf so young. (I’m sure the hearing aid she wears helps.)

Same Sex Ballroom returns with national Same Sex Latin Ballroom champions Willem Des Vries and Jacob Jason. These guys are great, and the piece they choreographed is very strong and unmistakably masculine. Most importantly, by not compromising the masculinity of either dancer, they accurately displayed the passion between two male lovers the way traditional Latin dance displays the passion between opposite sex lovers. They get sent to choreo, and then go straight to Vegas.

Jonathan “Legacy” Perez: This breaker got mad skills, and, from the look of some of his moves, I bet he also does parkour. Nigel notes that he assisted Lauren Gottleib (who was part of Vocal Adrenaline on last night’s Glee) in the choreography rounds of last year’s auditions. They hem and haw for a bit, but ultimately realize he’s awesome and send him to Vegas.

Other people and stray thoughts:

  • Cole Clemmens’ totally terrible performance art audition actually made my night. In another context, I still think it would have been bad, but it was nonetheless enjoyable.
  • What’s with the reuse of the season 1 credits sequence? Where are my season 5 performance clips, damnit?
  • I love that Cat is the kind of woman who is incredible beautiful, but has no problem acting like a fool. The fact that she put on a tutu and danced with a ballerina in line was totally awesome.
  • It was very generous of the judges to let Biggie and Shortie go through to choreo in Phoenix. And by “very generous,” I mean they should have just thanked them for being entertaining and told them they weren’t right for the show before forcing them to do something they obviously couldn’t do.
  • Highly energetic Jarvis Johnson needs to become a go-go dancer at a gay club so he can just dance dance dance dance dance all night. He overdoes it in the choreo round, though, and collapses in an asthma attack. The good news is that he improves quickly, but he has to leave the competition, and that’s probably for the best.
  • Why doesn’t Cat have an Emmy for best host? When Jarvis collapsed, she rushed to his side and helped the paramedics. I know Phil Koeghan would do that, but I doubt that Jeff Probst would!
  • I was much more interested in Kelsey White’s jazz shoes than in her dancing. It is probably for the best that she didn’t make it to Vegas.

The Wife:

Before we could smother this year’s incarnation of America’s Favorite Dancer with flowers half the size of his or her body, the good people at SYTYCD regaled us with two hours worth of Judges’ Favorites, retrospectives on the season and Cat Deeley’s earnest one-on-one interviews with each of our Top 4 dancers. Though the content of Cat’s interviews didn’t prove to be quite as in-depth or illuminating as last year’s (in that there was no Katee moment in which Cat asked a dancer what was going through their mind when they announced to millions of viewers that if they didn’t make this year’s Top 20, they were going to stop dancing), but everything that makes us love Cat as a host is reflected in her interviewing style. The woman actually scratched her head and, I believe, cleaned her ear with her finger during her interview with Jeanine. For someone so imminently fashionable, I admire her complete lack of vanity. And I want to be her friend. (If only so I can borrow some of her clothing, even though she strangely decided to don what appeared to be one of those “towels you can wear” to the finale.)

So . . .  many . . . sparkles . . .

So . . . many . . . sparkles . . .

The evening’s dance encores started out with a retooled version of Tyce DiOrio’s “Brand New Day” Broadway routine. Why retooled? Well, you see, it was originally choreographed for the Top 10, but they decided to add 10 more dancers and make it the only time the Top 20 would appear together in the finale. At first, I didn’t notice because the camerawork focused on our Top 4. It lingered on Kayla’s barely-there spangles, Jeanine’s mane of hair and even a little bit on Melissa’s ballet segment (even though she didn’t make the Top 4). But then I saw a really tall dude in the back and I thought, “Oh my God. They let Tony Belissimo join this number.” My question is this: what was wrong with the perfectly fine Shane Sparks routine to “Boom Boom Pow” that was intended to be danced by 20 dancers? No other Shane Sparks routine was performed that night, and yet another Tyce DiOrio routine was. Shane was even there, wearing a baby blue baseball cap and some stunna shades. Granted, of the hip-hop group numbers, I actually prefer TabNap’s “Seven Nation Army,” and they later had a routine on the show. Were they trying not to overrepresent each style of dance? That couldn’t have possibly been their goal as three of the judges’ picks were contemporary routines, and Mia’s A Chorus Line routine walks the line between contemporary and Broadway, so it would have easily filled the Broadway quotient alone. I don’t know, guys. I can’t figure it out. It’s not that I dislike “Brand New Day,” or even that I thought “Boom Boom Pow” was all that spectacular (it’s no “They’re Everywhere”). It’s simply that I do not understand the decision to rechoreograph a routine to include more dancers, rather than using the one that was originally intended to be danced by that number of people.

After that, we saw several judges’ favorite routines. Shankers asked for a repeat of TabNap’s “Mad” for Jeanine and the Chbeeb, which I like just as much as I did the first time, especially the spooning (or “schnoogeying,” if you’re Cat) at the end. Debbie Allen inexplicably wanted to see Asuka and Vitolio’s Louis Van Amstel waltz to Enya’s “Dreams Are More Precious,” which I assume was chosen simply to give them something to do in the finale. I don’t love that waltz, but it was the pair’s best work together. Miss Allen was right about that.

Mary requested to see Travis Wall’s completely fabulous contemporary routine for Jeanine and Jason set to Jason Mraz’s “If It Kills Me.” Watching that piece again, I am even more impressed by Travis Wall as a choreographer and the incredible grace and athleticism of Jeanine and Jason. Every lift in this dance is superb, and those two dancers just ooze the pent-up sexual tension the dance requires. Furthermore, there was something about the camera work this time that made the use of the prop necklace seem more necessary. Maybe it was having a little extra rehearsal time, as well, because not only did the two transition the necklace between each other more smoothly, but I simply felt like those movements were intended for the prop, rather than pantomime that was filled with something. It read better this time, and now I think I was wrong to say the piece could do without the prop. Isn’t it amazing how a little extra rehearsal can change your mind?

Mia picked the evening’s second Louis Van Amstel number, proving that these routines were not chosen at all with a view to letting each choreographer shine, but of the Van Amstel pieces we got to see again, this one was hands down my favorite. She invited Max and Kayla to perform their hot-pink, fringed, Hot Tamale Train Ticketing, smokin’ hot, showstopping samba from the first performance show of the season, and it was just as marvelous as it was when I first saw it. I’m glad someone gave Max his due, because that dude partners a lady like nobody’s business. But then again, I always root for the Russian. It was a tradition started with Artem that will continue every season hence.

Your! Top! 4!

Your! Top! 4!

Taking a break from so the dancers could set up for their next bit, Cat screened a little producer package for the Top 4 in which they were invited to see a private screening of this year’s SYTYCD-related movie, Fame, starring Kherington Payne! And Miss Debbie Allen! It comes out Sept. 25! Go see it! After some lip service to the great Debbie Allen, who just kind of IS Fame, Debbie made her second pick for the night, the super hot club salsa number for the Top 16, choreographed by another favorite Russian of mine, season 2’s Dmitry Chaplin and TabNap. Once again, I feel the need to reiterate that there’s something about Dima’s choreography that I think is very unique among the SYTYCD choreographers. His work always feels very big and bold, and I think that’s because he understands, first and foremost, that he is choreographing a stage show for a live audience. Some of the choreographers choreograph for a competition setting first, and think about how it will look on a performance stage, being filmed for TV later. I started noticing the difference in Dima’s work with last year’s Argentine tango for Chelsie and Joshua, and it really hit me with this club salsa number. Both of those things are so amazing that they’d fit right into a stage show about Latin dancing.

Tahlia Fowler, the winner of SYTYCD Australia, was invited to perform a solo routine choreographed by our own Sonya Tayeh (marking her only routine of the night) to “Shot You Down” by Audio Bulgs. Because Sonya’s style is so strong, I can’t really say much about Tahlia’s talents except that she danced a very Sonya routine very well. Following this, Lil C chose to see Nakhul’s “Jai Ho” routine for Caitlin and Jason, but strangely insisted on pronouncing it “Jay Ho” instead of “Jai Ho.” Naturally, C insisted his pronunciation was correct, a fact about which I’m not really sure. I can see why he’d think that, as the vowels in the song are elongated, which makes you hear them not quite as they are actually pronounced (this is why so many song lyrics are misunderstood: vowel lengthening), but I am relatively certain that with my degree in linguistics and my small knowledge of how Hindi vowels work, it is indeed pronounced “jai.” (In fact, listen to a native speaker pronounce it here and totally prove Lil C wrong.)

Farewell, my lovely!

Farewell, my lovely!

Finally, after eight routines, we were given our first taste of results. Things ended up being pretty much in line with the EW Predicitify SYTYCD game as my beloved Kayla was awarded fourth place to join the gallery of losers along with Travis, Danny and Will. America, I will never understand why you guys never latched on to this amazing dancer. I mean, she’s what you find under “girl,” “perfection,” and “star” in Mia Michaels magical cross-referencing dictionary. How can you not love a girl that’s cross-referenced? Kayla was immediately swathed in a bouquet of pink lilies and said some lovely parting words about how everyone who makes the Top 20 is a winner (except, probably, for those who don’t make the Top 10, in my opinion) that I’m sure made her dear old grandpa weep his weepy adorable man-tears. She then was practically shooed off the stage to make way for what I knew was coming from Evan’s costuming during the results line-up: Mia Michaels’ “butt dance,” chosen by Adam Shankman as his second pick of the night.

I realized during the butt dance that I think Mia and Sonya were the only two choreographers on the show who even bothered to give Evan a chance to fit into their work. I know it must be hard to envision a routine, not exactly knowing who you’re going to get (and I also have to assume that each season, the choreographers have several ideas and decide which ones to do each week when they see what dancers they’ll be working with), but the routines Evan took the hardest critiques in were always in ballroom routines, which are typically styles that are not very flexible in terms of bending to the dancers performing them. That’s not really the choreographer’s fault, but I’m convinced there are things that would have been possible to do in those routines that made him, and by extension the choreographers, look very good. He really shined in the butt dance, and in the Sonya pieces he was in. Maybe there’s just something very contemporary and jazzy about being a modern-day Gene Kelly? I don’t know, but in any case, it was great to see him hit that horizontal leap again here. J’adore.

At least he went out on a great routine, no?

At least he went out on a great routine, no?

But, and there is a but, just as swiftly as Kayla was dismissed with her pink flowers to usher on the butt dance, more results were dished out after the butt dance and our own Gene Kelly was awarded third place and a bouquet of yellow flowers that were actually about as tall as he is. I know that the show is about being America’s Favorite Dancer, and I really do like Evan and think that he is more talented in his own style than other people’s choreography allowed him to demonstrate, but after five seasons of this show, I have come to choose my favorites based on their versatility. Versatility here is key. In the first season, the final four were winner Nick, Melody, Ashlé and Jamile. I fucking hated Jamile. Why? Because that d-bag couldn’t do shit out of his own style. He only made it to the Top 4 because it was the first season, people didn’t know better then and he was a pretty great popper. However, I really resented his inclusion in the final four over other, more versatile dancers . . . like my beloved Artem, ousted in week five of that abbreviated eight-week season. Of the season 2 finalists (Benji, Heidi, Travis and Donyelle), I liked Heidi the least because I thought she was the least versatile, but I never hated her like I hated Jamile. In season three, the final four didn’t present a problem of a dancer lacking versatility, so I couldn’t hate anybody, although I was awfully tired of both Neil and Lacey by the end of the season. As for last year, the fact that Courtney made it to the Top 4 over the much more talented and versatile Chelsie Hightower was a constant thorn in my side. This year, I thought that Kayla, Brandon or Jeanine were all equally deserving of a win, and even though I do adore Evan as a person and as a dancer, I’d probably have been upset had he won because he simply hadn’t shown me the versatility that the other dancers in the Top 4 had. With all seriousness and respect to him, though, I want him and his brother to have their own stage show where they can show off their talents in a venue and manner conducive to their creativity. Surely, someone with money must also want this. I’d produce it myself, but I don’t really have the wherewithal to solicit money from people to fulfill my old-timey theatre daydreams.

With only two dancers remaining in contention for this year’s title, Nigel revealed his pick for a routine to see again: Mia Michaels’ addiction contemporary for Kayla and Kupono, set to Sara Barielles’ “Gravity.” I once again got some serious misty eyes and chills watching this piece, especially in the crescendo segment where Kupono starts throwing Kayla around. I already loved that song, and its single-take music video. But now associate it just as much with Kupono’s malicious sneer as I do with Sara Barielles herself walking toward the camera as the world, filled with lights, pulls away from her. Certainly, this was the most effective piece in the season for me, and it definitely goes on my list of all-time favorites.

Following this, the Rage Boyz Crew performed and I waited with eager anticipation to see them toss that little dude across the stage. I adore watching Cat interact with children, and I’m glad adolescent boys find that tall English glamazon attractive enough to paw at her, give her their sweet-ass jacket and allow her to be “in their crew.” I hope she has lots of adorable English babies someday, but I don’t know if I couldn’t handle that much cheeky cuteness.

Our jidges: singular sensations.

Our jidges: singular sensations.

Tyce asked for a repeat of Doriana Sanchez’s super-speed disco for Janette (whose name I’ve finally decided to spell correctly) and Brandon, followed by a repeat of Tyce’s cancer contemporary for Melissa and Ade, which took on special significance last night with the announcement that the friend for whom Tyce created that routine was officially cancer-free. The gang then repeated Mia’s A Chorus Line piece about the hellish work of being a professional dancer, with special hokey guest appearances from our jidges. I have to say it was mighty ballsy of Tyce to even appear in A Chorus Line-related number, given the fantastic ass he allegedly makes of himself in the documentary Every Little Step. (The documentary is about the casting of the most recent revival of ACL, from which Tyce was denied a role. I cannot wait to see it.) Brandon and Janette were then asked to repeat their final number from Wednesday night, Louis Van Amstel’s industrial goth Paso Doble and there, clad in vinyl, she and Brandon stood to find out which of them would be crowned America’s Favorite Dancer. The voters, it seemed, favored goofy, graceful and incredibly talented Jeanine, making her only the second female winner in five seasons.


I’m very happy with Jeanine as the winner, as she proved to me all season that she was an extremely talented dancer with a great personality. She was second only to Brandon as a soloist, and I think she’ll go very far. She’s said her alternate career is to be an actress, and I can only hope that someone (maybe someone named Rob Marshall!) will make a movie musical that will feature her in a dancing-acting role like the great ones once created for the likes of Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron and the fabulous Ann Miller. As for the rest of our Top 4, I have some unsolicited career advice for them, too. I’ve already mentioned my dream stage show plans for Evan, but I’d like to see Kayla find her place on the stage as well. I think she has a lot of opportunities ahead of her in a number of performance-related fields, but she’s a perfect choice for Ivy Smith if there’s ever an On the Town revival (and, yes, I think Evan would make a fine Gabey). As for Bradon Bryant, he needs to join Alvin Ailey’s dance troupe immediately. He is perfect for them. And barring that, even though he is not a ballet dancer, I’m sure Desmond Richardson’s company could find a way to utilize his grace and athleticism. I really wish all of these talented, talented kids well and hope that they have long careers ahead of them.

Viva Jeanine!

Viva Jeanine!

It’s been a blasty blast writing about dancey dance for you guys this season. (And, by the by, I officially beat every EW staffer and placed 129th out of 3535 players in the EW.com SYTYCD game. I will take these braging rights with me into my regular life and pretend they mean something.) I’ve hope I’ve provided you with commentary that is both insightful and, at times, irreverently funny. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you’ll join me again in the fall for season six!

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.

The Wife:

This episode was the stuff of my nightmares. And I’m not saying that because my perfect Top 4 was shattered with the inclusion of Evan because I do like Evan very much. I’m saying it was a nightmare because it opened with a Tyce DiOrio Broadway routine about clowns. Clowns! WHY, GOD, WHY! Two of my least favorite things in the world were synthesized into one horrible vision. And yet, despite my dislike of both of those things, the “Send in the Clowns” number was actually pretty solid. It didn’t inspire any intense Tyce hatred in me, and, frankly, sad Harlequin clowns are the kind I find most palatable. It even established a somewhat ominous tone for the show, as well. I mean, how can you not see the appropriateness of one sad clown Evan being left out of the box by the other clowns? It’s totally a metaphor for the competition, and not in a painstakingly obvious TabNap kind of way. It’s there, but it wasn’t covering your head with a moving box, if you know what I mean.

In addition to our results, we were treated to a showing of the four Emmy-nominated routines from last season: Tyce DiOrio’s “Silence” for Will and Jessica, Mia Michaels’ “Mercy” for Katee and Twitch, Dmitry Chaplin’s “A Los Amigos” for Chelsie and Joshua and Nappytab’s “Bleeding Love” for Chelsie and Mark. Since this isn’t the meat of the show, I’m not going to spend time critiquing second showings of these works, but here are some observations:

  • “Silence” is way better live because you can actually hear Will and Jessica struggling for breath. It struck me as extremely beautiful on the tour because of that, but not so much replayed on my TV.
  • Also, I still hate Jessica.
  • “Mercy” is never not awesome. I loved that Katee and Twitch kept character even through their bows.
  • I think the reason “A Los Amigos” is such a good Argentine Tango number is that it’s choreographed to be performed as part of a stage show, rather than part of a dance competition. It’s really dynamic and visually interesting in its movement and stagecraft. Sometimes, I think the problem with some ballroom on this show is that the choreographers forget they aren’t choreographing for a competition, but for a stage show.
  • “Bleeding Love” will always be one of TabNap’s best, and that’s because of the sheer ferociousness with which Chelsie and Mark dance it. If you strip that away, the choreography is kind of just a lot of bouncing and flailing, no?
  • Kupono, you are not, nor will you ever be, anywhere near as good as Mark Kanemura.


The first winners of America’s Best Dance Crew, the amazing Jabbawockeez, performed and they were totally tizzight as usual in their routine to “Freak-a-Zoid.” I could have done without the giant mask onstage, and the mask projections on the screens. They were a little distracting to the movement. Sean Paul also performed with a bunch of backup dancers who were dressed like Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner. I do not know why, and I apparently never will. Cat wore a sparkly green dress. Jeanine and Brandon were sent straight to the finale, and the remaining dancers soloed again, with no changes at all on the part of the ladies. At least Ade added in his deadly backflip and Evan, I think, pumped up his technique a bit.

Farewell, Melissa and Ade!

Farewell, Melissa and Ade!

But after all that, Evan and Kayla were allowed by America to join Jeanine and Brandon in the finale and I’m fine with that. Yes, I do love Evan, but I also think he’s outlived his usefulness here. However, I have to keep reminding myself that once we hit the Top 10, it becomes about being America’s Favorite Dancer, not America’s Best Backflipping Guy. When you compare the strengths and weaknesses of Ade and Evan, I think you can make the case that, personality aside, Evan has a better technical background. When it comes down to adorability and personality, Evan clearly wins there. But watching Ade falter in yet another ballroom routine made me wonder if maybe Evan really is the more technically skilled of the two and, for some reason, that just isn’t coming through in the works he’s been given. When I look at both men’s solos, they astound me for completely different reasons. So even though I’d have preferred Ade, I’m really fine with Evan in the Top 4. It nearly guarantees that he’ll be invited back to choreograph if he so desires, à la Travis Wall.

As for Melissa, there was no way she’d have made the Top 4. I like her bunches, and I think she did a great deal to help classical ballet become a popular style again. In my dream world where everyone spends money on art, Melissa’s very presence in a reality dance competition program means more ballet patrons and therefore more money going to sustain dance companies and dancers themselves. But when put next to Kayla and Jeanine, who are both such powerhouse performers, Melissa didn’t stand a chance.

So congrats to Jeanine, Evan, Kayla and Brandon! I’d automatically give my winning vote to Spiseagle Brandon Bryant, but I’d like to see a talented female win this year, so my votes next week are going to Kayla. Who will you guys be voting for now that we’re down to the wire? The (dance) floor, my friends, is yours.

Stray thoughts:

  • My husband pointed out that when he rewatched Evan’s solos from the last two weeks, Evan was doing dead-on imitations of Gene Kelly’s facial expressions. If he paused the dance at certain moments, my husband would be able to tell you exactly what scene in what movie Gene Kelly makes that face.
  • For my part, Sad Clown Evan reminded me of John Leguizamo as Tolouse Latrec when he’s dressed as the Magical Sitar in Moulin Rouge and is crying because Satine is dead. This is much more of a compliment than saying, “He reminded me of Gene Kelly in the clown scene in The Pirate.” Because that dance is terrible. And it’s terrible because of Judy Garland.
  • I’m glad Ade was so happy for Brandon to make it straight through to the finale. I assume it’s because they’re both part of the Sexy Black Man Club, which I imagine has Seal as a president and Taye Diggs as VP. Denzel Washington was a charter member, but he resigned some years ago. They revoked Will Smith’s membership after Fresh Prince was cancelled. Djimon Honsou is their Cultural Attache to France. I can keep going. Really, I can.
  • When I saw a shot of Melissa’s husband in the audience standing next to a dude who looked suspiciously like him, I suddenly remembered that she and her sister were married to brothers. That’s so uncanny.
  • What do we all make of this “This dancer will be in the finale, but they didn’t necessarily pull the most votes” thing? Katee-Was-Actually-Second-Place conspiracy theorists, please weigh in.

The Wife:

I’m going to do things in bullet point format this week, as I have only a few things to say about this week’s results show/100th episode spectacular:

  • While I wasn’t surprised to see Kayla and Jeanette in the bottom 2 (because Melissa and Jeanine were in two of the most highly praised dances of the night), I was surprised to see Evan escape being in the bottom two, sending Brandon there in his stead. I really love Evan, but I really think he’s outclassed at this point. That said, we aren’t looking for America’s Most Talented Dancer, but America’s Favorite Dancer. It’s sort of a Mark Kanemura situation, but I promise not to turn on Evan like I turned on Mark.
  • Jason and Jeanette went home, and I think these were the right choices. Jason may be a slightly better dancer than Evan, but I think he lacks the sheer personality and liability that Evan possesses. Jeanette just had a bad week this week, landing with two dances that weren’t high-scorers and a confusing solo. All of the girls left in this competition are so good that all it really takes is a single bad week to give one the boot, despite her being the judges “favorite, favorite, favorite.”
  • I’m replacing Jeanette with Jeanine in my Top 4 picks. Now: Jeanine, Kayla, Brandon and Ade.
  • Jeanette, I’m glad you realized that you love dance and are really good at it, but please, please finish your finance degree. You’ve only got one year left! You can totally pull a Troy Bolton and choose dance and banking.
    Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy!

    Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy!

  • The Mia Michaels routine to “One” from A Chorus Line: mocking Tyce’s usual Broadway work, or criticizing the heartbreaking, soul-taking, back-breaking work of being a professional dancer on Broadway, forced to conform to someone else’s idea in an overly synchronized, cookie-cutter fashion without any individuality or, if I’m to believe her robotic, toy-like choreography here, life? I mean, what else could those broken mirrors mean? Any way you slice it, it was an interesting play on the original concept from the show and deconstruction of the original choreography.
  • Somehow, the Bench dance seems simpler now that I’ve seen some of Mia’s more challenging work (uh, hello assisted run in “Hometown Glory”!), but it’s still moving and beautiful. Truly, that number’s a classic. The part where Travis melts down the bench is just as thrilling as it was the first time I saw it.
  • Watching the Hummingbird routine again actually made me wonder about some of the chatter I’ve been reading about the “overpraise” for Tyce’s cancer piece. I have to wonder: are the producer packages ruining some of the effect of the dancing for us, by explaining the conceits instead of letting the work speak for itself? Did some people immediately tune out of the work simply because they saw the headscarf (as I did and openly mocked it) and heard the producer package? Is that why so many people loved Mia Michaels’ Daddy-Daughter dance more than they should have? (Listen, it’s pretty, but that’s not her best work, even if it was her most heartfelt.) It was clear that the dance was about disease and dying without the package that explained it to us, just as the Hummingbird routine is absolutely clear in concept from the dancing alone. Which is as it should be.
  • Another thought on the “overpraise” comments, courtesy of Magen: She says it isn’t so much that the piece was about cancer or the overexplanation, but that the judges didn’t discuss the dancing at all, but merely the issue, which makes their weeping praise unfounded. I can get behind that assessment, but bear in mind that simply because something is overpraised doesn’t make it any less good.
  • By the way, I still love that Hummingbird piece. It was so uniquely created just for those two dancers, and could be developed into an excellent short ballet.
  • Speaking of Wade Robson, seeing him dance in “Rama Lama” was just about the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I am super in love with him now.
  • Wade was apparently replacing a dancer I DO NOT REMEMBER AT ALL from season two, even though he was Heidi’s partner until the Top 10. Do you guys remember Ryan Rankine? I just looked through a list of all the dances he performed with Heidi, and I don’t remember any of them. I vaguely remember the dance to “Bye, Bye Blackbird” he did with Allison, but I don’t remember him in it. I just see her in my head. Wow. I feel bad for the guy. If I don’t remember him, chances are other SYTYCDers don’t either. Maybe that’s why he didn’t come back!
  • The Katie! Katie! Katie! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! segment wasn’t bad. Katie hoofed it pretty well, for what dancing was required of her. (Mostly posing, a little light softshoe, some lifts.) As for her “singing,” it really would have been more convincing that she was singing live if they hadn’t shown that stupid pre-taped and highly unnecessary introduction. (Although the white suit she has on in the intro is fibbity fab fab.)
  • Still, my ideal version of this routine would involve Rufus Wainwright waiting backstage in full Judy drag, taking Katie Holmes offstage with one of those old-timey Shepard’s crooks and performing the number himself, just as he did during his 2007 Release the Stars tour.
  • Also, when Katie was younger, I always thought her cheeks made her looked like a withered apple, sliding off her face and aging her before her time. Since she married Tom Cruise, I can only say that she’s gotten prettier, and, for some reason, her cheeks now appear to be in the correct place. They’re also bonier. Did she get cheek implants just to appease me? And how much did she look like Cameron Diaz to ya’ll now that her cheeks could cut glass?
  • Cat wore a dress with a cat on it. I sincerely hope it’s Bob Mackie Wearable Art.
  • Why didn’t I get to see a shot of the show’s 100th episode cake? I love 100th episode cakes!!!!

Now that I have seen the cake, I am not impressed.

Now that I have seen the cake, I am not impressed.


What did you kids think of the 100th episode spectacular spectacular? I pass the floor to you.

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