June 17, 2010

Heaven Eleven

Nigel added another new wrinkle to So You Think You Can Dance this season - the performance show was live last night. I'm not completely sold on doing it live - we don't get any of the edits that show us the parts of the dance to which a judge refers and the camera cuts were worse than they've ever been (on a show with notoriously bad camera cuts).

But even a bad night of So You Think You Can Dance is awesome so let's talk about the dancing. Oh, first a quick housekeeping note - since we've got contestants and all-stars and choreographers and all kinds of things happening this season, I'm going to grade it all a bit different. I'll give separate grades for each dancer and for the choreography.

Contestant: Billy Bell
All-Star: Lauren
Dance: Broadway, Tyce DiOrio
I am predisposed not to like Tyce's Broadway routines because I think they've all pretty much sucked and I'm sick of how often they let him do it considering the extremely underwhelming quality he brings to the job. But this one was actually pretty great. A Footloose routine that was energetic, fun, in keeping with the source material and perfectly suited to show off a side of Billy that we hadn't yet seen. Not only was the pace and style a far cry from Billy's wheelhouse, he also managed to look a million and a half times more masculine than he ever has before. I thought he and Lauren had terrific chemistry with one another and that they both danced the shit out of it.
Grade - Contestant: A
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: A

Contestant: Cristina
All-Star: Mark
Dance: Jazz, Sonya Tayeh
Remember last week when I said I either love Sonya's stuff or I don't get it at all? I didn't get this AT ALL! It was supposed to be a snake and her prey or whatever, but mostly it was boring which I would have never expected because if ever there was a person who was BORN to breathe life into a Sonya routine, it's Mark. It's saying a lot about Cristina that she held her own admirably next to Mark in this one. Her movement and technique seemed very good. Of course, she didn't come close to equalling Mark's performance but he's kind of a genius there so that's to be expected.
Grade - Contestant: B+
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: C

Contestant: Jose
All-Star: Comfort
Dance: Hip Hop, Tabitha and Napoleon
Nigel went pretty far out of his way to make sure we all remember that Jose is a breaker, NOT a hip hop dancer. And that he's never done choreography before getting on the show. He wanted us all to know that this wasn't Jose getting the soft-ball routine in his own style right out of the gate. All that may be true but Tabby Cat and Boneyparts (TM Jay) sure as hell worked a fair amount of breaker-moves into this routine which says "soft-ball" to me. I'm not saying that Jose didn't do well. He did. I'm not saying I don't like him, I do. I'm just saying that despite Nigel's assurances that we should be really impressed by how good Jose is out of his element, I don't think we've actually seen him out of his element yet so I'm going to wait until next week to be impressed.
Grade - Contestant: B+
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: B-

Contestant: Adechike
All-Star: Kathryn
Dance: Contemporary, Travis Wall
A very unwelcome case of déjà vu for me as I KNOW we saw a very similar "man working late at the office, tempted by a sexy woman" routine either last season or the season before. I didn't enjoy the routine the first time, and I didn't really like it much better the second time. It was a rare misstep for Travis, whose choreography is usually really good. I was also disappointed that he chose to utilize this routine when his contestant was one of the guys. The routine gave Kathryn a LOT to do and she did all of it wonderfully (because she's awesome) but there was hardly anything for Adechike do - he sat in a chair while Kathryn pushed him around. He caught her. He fell on top of her on the floor. Aren't we supposed to be showcasing the contestants here? All that said, Adechike did less than nothing with what he was given. He executed the steps fine but there was no performance, no connection and because the steps were nearly non-existent, I can't be too impressed with that.
Grade - Contestant: C
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreographer: D

Contestant: Melinda
All-Star: Pasha
Dance: Jive, Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Poor, grating Melinda. It was her extreme bad luck to get a ballroom routine the first week. Her feet and legs were a hot mess and while the judges thought she gave a good effort on the performance, I disagreed. I thought she looked ill-at-ease the entire way through. Dancing with the all-stars can be a mixed bag because on the one hand, they're strength can help elevate the contestant but on the other hand, if you're dancing next to Pasha and you don't have the dance down at all you will look a million times worse than if you danced exactly the same way next to someone else who was out of their element.
Grade - Contestant: C-
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: A-

Contestant: Alex
All-Star: Allison
Dance: Contemporary, Sonya Tayeh
Now this is more like it! With dancers this technically strong, Sonya was able to throw a lot of tough movements at them that were even more impressive because of how well they hold their lines. The movement in this piece was all very slow and I always expect slowness to show more effort because of the lack of momentum carrying them into everything, but Alex simply could not be smoother no matter how slow it moves. In pure dancing, I thought Alex out-shone his All=-. And while I haven't been wowed by Alex's performance level before, I thought he nailed it this time. Both dancers conveyed a lot of very powerful emotion and with their performances and with their dancing (though still, a little more from Allison than Alex for me) making the entire endeavor really beautiful to watch.
Grade - Contestant: A
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: A

Contestant: Alexie
All-Star: Twitch
Dance: Hip Hop, Tabitha and Napoleon
Apparently we can just call anything hip hop now. This routine was weak sauce for me in every way. The crawling through the window shtick was stupid and laboured. There were about three moments of any sort of pop-y or sticking moves like you'd expect in hip hop and there wasn't a whole lot else to the dance either. It was nothing a 3rd year dance class couldn't have pulled off. Unfortunately, Alexie failed to hit even one of the three measly hip hop-esque moves.
Grade - Contestant: C-
Grade - All-Star: B
Grade - Choreography: D

Contestant: Lauren
All-Star: Ade
Dance: Pop-Jazz, Mandy Moore
Not the strongest Mandy Moore routine I've ever seen. It was a little light on dancing, heavy on acrobatics for me. And while I thought both Ade and Lauren were terrific technically, there was very little chemistry between them and Lauren seemed much more focused on projecting her smile out to the audience than performing any sort of story or emotion with her partner. It left me a little cold which was disappointing because I really like Lauren.
Grade - Constant: B-
Grade - All-Star: A-
Grade - Choreography: B-

Contestant: Kent
All-Star: Anya
Dance: Cha-Cha, Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
I was really nervous that pairing tiny, adorable Kent with spicy, sexy Anya for a Latin ballroom routine right out of the gate was going to result in something spectacularly bad. I was wrong. Kent held his own in both technique and performance next to Anya. He transformed himself into sexy and fiery for the number and while he could have been a smidge looser (his upper body was particularly stiff) and more "into the floor," as Mary might say, I thought he did a damn fine job for his first foray into Latin ballroom. Plus he looked like he was enjoying the fuck out of it and that was beyond infectious. If they can show me that they love doing something on that stage, then I almost always love watching it. I loved watching that!
Grade - Contestant: A
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: A

Contestant: Ashley
All-Star: Neil
Dance: Contemporary, Tyce DiOrio
The dance was ok. It was Tyce so there wasn't much substance there to latch onto and remember. There seemed to be some chemistry here but Ashley did not measure up to Neil. I admit that Neil is one of my favorite all-stars and that I'm predisposed to be paying attention to him and ignoring whoever happens to be dancing with him, but this choreography actually made it pretty easy to watch them both and she just wasn't coming up to his level.
Grade - Contestant: B
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: B

Contestant: Robert
All-Star: Courtney
Dance: African Jazz, Sean Cheesman
I didn't love this dance as much as the judges did. It was good but it didn't wow me. And I didn't love Robert in it as much as they did either. He was good but there was this thing he kept doing with his hands, arms and chest that was a touch effeminate to me in the exact same way one move from Kent was in his routine that the judges would not shut up about. There was also a tendency on his part to smile a touch too broadly which didn't seem to fit with the dance. I still like Robert a lot though and I think his dancing is mostly really great.
Grade - Contestant: A-
Grade - All-Star: A
Grade - Choreography: A-

Bottom Three: Adechike, Melinda, Alexie
Should Go Home: Melinda
Will Go Home: Melinda

One last note about the all-stars - I'm a little glad that they're focusing attention onto the contestants after the dances is over, but the swift exits of the all-stars is kind of odd. Seems like the least we could do is give them a proper send-off before they leave the stage. Maybe even ask them what THEY think of the contestants? I don't know, this all takes some getting used to.

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