Friday, June 17, 2011

SYTYCD 8 - Top 20: Queen of The Beasts, Lords of The Dance.

(Strike a pose. There's nothing to it.)

Oh, crap. I recap this show, don't I? And the competitive season is starting this week? Okay, here we go.

I have high hopes for this season. We get a traditional top 20 and then the return of All-Stars once we're down to ten. It's incredibly hard to predict a top 10 out of 20 on this show, because a lot depends on how the voting public likes the partnerships. Inevitably, some really good dancers get dragged down by a sub-par partner, while others ride their very popular partner's coattails to Top 10. Also, the fact is that it will be an even split between 5 guys and 5 girls regardless, so Nigel can talk all he wants to about how all the girls are beasts this year . At Top 10, it's still gonna be Even Steven between the guys and the girls.

...Or not. Maybe because of All-Stars, they will take whoever they want when it goes from 12 to 10 regardless of gender. Hmmmm! With all that in mind, here is my prediction for top 10. We'll see how well I've predicted when the time comes!

Top 5 Guys
Wadi Jones
Tadd Gadduang (or maybe Ricky Jaime)
Marko Germar
Nick Young
Alexander Fost

Top 5 Girls
Melanie Moore
Sasha Mallory
Iveta Lukosiute
Ryan Ramirez
Ashley Rich (or maybe Caitlynn Lawson)

So, now to the show proper! We start off with 9 (!!!) Contempos, 4 Jazz Hands, 4 Hip Hoppers, 1 B-way, 1 Tappa Tappa Tappa and 1 10-Dance Ballroom World Champ. Not exactly a balanced field, but a varied one!

Unrelated to the dancers, I'm so happy they got rid of the cavernous stage and replaced it with... well, it's probably still the same stage, but with a back wall that provides some definition. It will make the dancing seem more intimate. Seasons 6 and 7 suffered a bit from the giant stage. So anyway, Cat's on hand in a very short black dress with her very long legs, and then it's usual theme song and our dancers all run out for their opening credit solos. It takes like 5 minutes because there are nearly two dozen of them right now in the competition. These solos are BLAND. The only one that does anything that stands out to me is Marko. Step it up, dancers! Do tricks for us!

Cat says we might have noticed someone was missing. We didn't. 19 Intros seems an awful lot like 20. Mitchell hurt his elbow and is not dancing and will be automatically in danger of elimination. Please let's not go through the every-week-an-injury nonsense we dealt with last year. Joining Nigel and Mary on the judges table is Megan Mullally as the guest judge because... she trained in ballet when she was in junior high and high school. She's also been on Broadway. Except for that one time when she wasn't. I don't really get why she's there. I like her. I do! But those "turn the tub around" commercials still puzzle and disturb me.

On to the dances!

1. Jordan and Tadd - African Jazz w/ Sean Cheesman. Concept: Human Volcanoes! Which reminds me of some awesomely crude humor from Bridesmaids. This routine is... okay. I wish they opened the show with a stronger routine. I like the couple. I'm not thrilled with the dance. They seem connected when they are looking at each other and miles apart when they are not. It's a little muddy. There's a very labored lift where he is holding her parallel to his left side and has to spin her around to his right without her touching the ground. It wouldn't be easy under any circumstances, and they don't make it look easy here. But the judges mostly give them a pass for going first. It was kinda weak though.

2. Sasha and Alexander - Contemporary with Travis Wall. Concept: Sasha is the physical manifestation of Alexander's subconscious, which is kicking the crap out of him. This is was fine too, but just fine. The connection between them was not super strong, and it lacked emotion. I think they could develop into a force to be reckoned with though. The judges admit that there wasn't a lot to grab hold of emotionally, and that's usually easy to do in a Travis routine. We'll just have to see how the others do!

3. Clarice and Jess - Broadway with Tyce Diorio - ugh. They really need to put everyone in their wheelhouse this week? That's what "Meet The Top 20" was for! This is exactly what I didn't want to see. The routine doesn't do anything for me. I think Clarice is hot and she is executing well, but there's nothing much to it. It certainly doesn't push Jess at all. High kicks to Liza Minelli singing? YAWN. The judges think it was great and memorable. I think it was neither of those things. C'mon, Top 20 week! Move me!

4. Ricky and Ryan - Lyrical Hip Hop w/ Christopher Scott. Concept: Remembering the good times of a relationship after it's gone? Maybe? I don't know. It didn't make a lot of sense upon first explanation. The routine is weird. Ryan is super smiles all the way through, which doesn't feel right. Ricky is expressive and strong though. They don't look like they are really moving together. I think part of the problem is that Ryan's costume is too loose and flowy. I think if it was tighter you'd see the sharpness of her movement better. The judges don't understand what it was supposed to be, and Ryan takes 10 minutes trying to explain what the story was about to no avail. Show, don't tell, dancers!

5. Caitlyn and Mitchell (Robert) - Jazz w/ Sonya Tayeh Concept: Dancers going if for the kill!! Mitchell sweats a lot and injuries himself early on in rehearsal. Luckily, my Season 7 Favorite, Robert is on hand to substitute. It's a strong performance by Caitlyn and you can tell that touring all year with SYTYCD has only made Robert a stronger partner. The judges all applaud her strength. Seeing that she can't really draw on anyone else's fan base this week for added support, if she were to fall into the bottom 3, I have a hard time believing the judges will send her home. Mary also campaigns for Robert to an All-Star later on this year. He's got my vote. He's already hanging out in the building!

6. Miranda and Robert - Latin (???) w/ Jason Gilkinson. I don't know why the reveal is the general style of dance known as "Latin" when the dance itself is the specific "jive." But not all questions have answers at the ready. It's kind of a 60's mod-themed jive. Robert, who already grates on me despite my trying to give him a fair shot because of his constant "Woooo!"-ing is wearing effing Urkel glasses AGAIN. Enough with the glasses! The dance is fine, but really nothing to write home about... or in this case, vote for. They have a good energy throughout and work fine as partners. I'd like to see them do a more seriously-themed routine. Not to the jive, of course, but just generally speaking. I want depth from these too. I know they can do light and fun. In judging, it's like
Nigel can see my reaction through my TV screen and warns Robert that his personality tics, which can work in his favor for a while, could also come across as annoying (to me). Here's hoping Robert takes that one in. Nigel goes on to say that the dance technique wasn't there.

7. Missy and Wadi - Jazz w/ Sean Cheesman. Concept: They have opened up Pandora's Box of Sexiness! Although, it oddly reminds me of this one from SYTYCD: UK. Perhaps it's just the boxes. Anyway, it's solid and I think Missy and Wadi will be a good couple. The judges heap praise on them. The praise this week is too effusive for what's being delivered...

Except by these next two!

8. Melanie and Marko - contemporary w/ Travis Wall. Concept: Statues come to life! Marko's statue wants to refreeze for eternity in a pose with Melanie. This routine is fantastic! They didn't really feature a lot of Marko or Melanie after their initial (outstanding) auditions, but it's clear the show loves them and put them together to maximize their awesomeness. Here is the result:

Already a SYTCYD classic! Everyone goes nuts. Cat cries. The judges stand and cry. Mary is moved, Megan is knocked speechless but feels compelled to say something since they won't move on from her so she cribs from Oprah, and then Nigel says that Melanie is Queen of The Beasts and the best female dancer ever on the show. That's setting the bar AWFULLY high here in Week 1, but at the same time there is something really special about Melanie. Oh Sweet Terpsichore, please let her get through this season Injury Free. Watch over her partner Marko, too. He's also a special dancer.

9. Ashley and Chris - Hip Hop w/ Christopher Scott. The concept: Double Cheaters caught in the act! I wouldn't envy them having to go after Melanie and Marko. I had high hopes for this routine, and I like the couple but I didn't like how this routine was executed at all. Chris has a very specific hip hop style and it was not as sharp and precise as Ashley's, so it felt like two different worlds the whole time for me. Aside from that, they were dancing to the most choppily edited version of "Forget You" that you ever will hear. I hate when they take a very popular song and hack it to pieces to fit the time allotment. As choreographers, they are so big on the transition of movement, can't they respect the transitions built into music a little more? Not the dancers' fault, but if I'm not digging the dance the musical jumps become that much more jarring. The judges across the board shout "Hey! That was entertaining!" Which, again, is their way of being kind in Week 1. Overall, not great from these two.

10. Iveta and Nik - Quick Step w/ Jason Gilkinson. Concept: Tea for Two Sexy Dancers. It's known as "The Dreaded Quickstep" on SYTYCD because almost nobody does it well and then they land in the bottom, but Iveta is world champion in the Quickstep, so how much could she possibly dread it? Nick says he's gonna really practice and Iveta is all dead pan serious, "of course." The woman is world champion in 10 Ballroom dances! I don't think anyone would question her work ethic, and I would think she expects nothing less than complete dedication from her partners. So the dance starts and it's quickly awesome. They are a great pair and the dance suits them. The crowd goes wild. The judges go wild. Iveta and Nick are thrilled. Thus we close the show out in fashion. We get a review of the numbers (we can also vote online this year!) and the group freestyle plays over the credits. My favorite part!

So running down the order of my preference, the routines go:

Melanie & Marko's contemporary
Iveta & Nick's quickstep
Caitlyn & Robert's jazz
Missy & Wadi's jazz
Sasha & Alexander's contemporary
Tadd & Jordan's African jazz
Ryan & Ricky's lyrical hip-hop
Ashley & Chris's hip-hop
Miranda & Robert's jive
Clarice & Jess's Broadway

I'm not sure who's going home. I assume it will be an early exit for injured Mitchell and maybe Miranda or Jordan for the girls. Even though I ranked Jordan and Tadd pretty high... I don't know. We'll have to see how voting goes!

Results Show! Let's see how quick I can get through this. The Top 20 (19!) perform a really fun opening number. Really sharp. Then in comes Cat in a super bright and lovely pink dress. Her hair is straightened again and she is already bracing herself for a sad goodbye tonight. Mitchell has been cleared to dance a solo, so at least he'll get that if nothing else. Melanie and Marko, Wadi and Missy and Iveta and Nick are all sent to safety first. I love that they make the safe contestants stand in a pit right in front of the judges platform. I don't know why this delights me, but it's amusingly unglamorous. In the next group on stage, Tadd and Jordan are the first sent into the Bottom 3. Then it's a face off between little ol' Caitlyn and Jess and Clarice for the second spot. And Caitlyn pulls out the win! I'm very glad that Broadway routine wasn't rewarded. The judges seem a bit surprised, but I'm not. Those two dancers are talented, but the routine was BORING.

So with two couples in danger, we have our first guest performance, which might have been recorded a million years ago, the stage looks completely different from where Cat was standing moments before. The performance is fine I guess. It doesn't look like she's dancing with any SYTCYD alums in her group though, which is what I look for with these performances.

Then we have our final bottom 3 reveal. Ryan and Ricky get through to safety and then Sasha and Alexander also get through which means Robert and Miranda fill out the bottom. This is the right call, in my opinion even though Robert and Miranda got much better reviews from the judges than Sasha and Alexander.

So then this guy comes out to do the Gopak - a dance from way back in season 5 that everyone - the judges, the contestant, the audience - hated at the time. But he's a professional and it's better, but it's still not really worth showcasing here. It would've been more interesting as a couple's dance I think. Then we get the solos. The solos are hot, y'all. Seriously, it goes Mitchell, Jordan, Tadd, Clarice, Jess, Miranda and Robert. Somewhere in the middle there, we get a premiere of a Lady Gaga video... that has NO DANCING?!?!? How can that be? I hope they ask her about it when she's a guest judge later this season. But back to the solos. They are all really sexy and fun. Leg extensions and tricks and leaps for days. The only one that was not super great was Robert, who had good energy, but was not very tricksy.

(The 20 express relief at a temporary stay of execution.)

Then all sorts of crazy stuff happens at once. Nigel wants Robert and Mitchell to dance AGAIN. Cat rushes everyone off stage so they can do that. They are basically at the same level they were the first time through. Then all the boys go off the stage and the girls come out. Nigel tells them they are all awesome. Then the boys are all rushed back on stage. Turns out everyone will be safe. This is not without precedent. When the dancer who is injured is the one they want to keep, the judges get a little nervous and wait a week. They did this last year with Billy and Jose. I'm cool with it. Next week, they better give them dances out of their comfort zones, so we see what they can really do. But for now, all the dancers are thrilled to be back one more 'gain. Cat is thrilled she gets to keep all her babies for another 7 days. It's only delaying the inevitable, my love. Next week, four dancers will fall. Hopefully not literally. Remember, no injuries!

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