Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Tree Grows in Astoria - Part II

Perhaps, faithful readers, you recall last year when a potted tree mysteriously landed on my doorstep. Wasn't that a crazy time? Well, eleven months later, we have this:

(Feed me, Seymour!)

I guess it is last year's tree's younger brother? It scared the hell out of me when I opened my door yesterday afternoon to find it lurking there. It's not as tall as last year's tree, but the trunk is thicker and twisted and has more leaves. I really wish I knew which neighbor is growing trees and then dumping them in the hall when they get too big. Several of my neighbors on my floor moved last year, so there's only two or three residents that could be considered the repeat offender.

(Open my front door and what do I see? I see a potted tree looking at me!)

Still, a tree outside my door is better than the pizza boxes sitting next to the garbage chute. Seriously, neighbors, if you have something you no longer want in your apartment, throw it the eff out. but in the areas designated for garbage. And please stop growing trees you can't care for!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 30

(Lovin' straight from the oven.)

30 Weeks! Only a measly 22 weeks to go! This week was the battle against homemade cookies. Three times this week I was offered fresh from the over cookies. Twice it was chocolate chip. Once it was oatmeal raisin. Clearly, the oatmeal raisin was much easier to pass up. But those homemade cookies looked SO GOOD. Did I want even a bite of one, a friend asked? Bites are against the rules. No cookies at all, I'm afraid.

As if that were not enough, Suki continues to twist the knife at work. This week she had a delicious chocolate chunk cookie from Pret with her lunch. She was all "these are SO GOOD! have you ever had one of these?" And yes, I have had them back in 2010 and yes, they are high quality cookies. Thank you for reminding me, Sukes. I hope to snack on their deliciousness again in 2012.

The soda dreams have not plagued me for a few weeks. Now that I think I'm in the clear, I'm sure I'll have one tonight. Probably a real dramatic one where I have my head underneath a nozzle of a soda fountain and I'm just guzzling away on Mug Root Beer like i'm Barney from The Simpsons. It sounds like such a beautiful dream... I dreamed a day in time gone by when soda were mine and and life worth living...

(Lovely ladies waiting for a bite. Waiting for the cookie trucks that only come at night...)

Onward to Week 31!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

SYTYCD 8 - Top 8: Total Eclipse of the Competition

(Voters did not go Gaga over this rumba, and Jess and Jordan went home.)

Welcome Back, Dance Fans! Top 8 Week. Where the Elite meet. New All-Stars are in the house! Well, Pasha is back because there MUST be Pasha, but the others are making their All-Star debuts for this season! In terms of contestants, we've still got 4 Contempos, 2 Jazz Hands, 1 Breaker (Nigel keeps shouting at me every week that his genre is not hip hop, even though the SYTYCD website lists it as his expertise) and 1 B-way left to dance for us. Tonight's guest judges are a very orange-skin-toned Rob Marshall, who of course is a famed choreographer and director, and GAGA herself! Wearing a crazy outfit, a crazy wig and glasses and crazy enormous shoes, even by her standards. She has no pterodactyl wings and is not on fire, so Gaga has toned it down for this evening, to keep the attention on the dancers. How very thoughtful!

Tonight we are getting all-star routines AND contestant duets. No solos! Woohoo! Also tonight, each non-Melanie contestant will start to get their walking papers from the judging table. They've done this in season's past, but this year Melanie just seems so well-loved and is so talented, their desire for her to win seems so sincere rather that calculated. You'll see what I mean when I employ the "You Ain't Melanie" judgment segment. Let's get on to it.

Sasha and Pasha, quickstep w/ Jonathan Roberts. Dancing to: "Puttin' on the Ritz," Terry Snyder. Concept: Rhyming Names and Craaazy Ballroom. It's light and quirky and fun. Obviously, Jonathan was trying to provide some extra room for personality to the choreo so that Quickstep isn't Sasha's kiss of death. Pasha's a great partner for her here and she brings great energy and attitude to her dancing, but it still just seems a liiiiiitle bit uncomfortable. Just a teeny tiny bit. The "You Ain't Melanie"judgment is: You are our favorite dancer until Melanie gets on the stage! And also maybe Marko! Thanks for playing! Nigel notes some stiffness in the upper-body but Gaga counters that she thought it was Sasha's artistic interpretation of what the choreographer wanted, so she thought it fit the piece.

Caitlynn and Ivan, lyrical hip-hop w/ Marty Kudelka. Dancing to: "Let Me Love You," Mario. Concept: Ivan is picking up Caitlynn on the rebound. She looks damn sexy in those jeans. She commits to the routine as always, and she's good, but not quite in sync with Ivan who just has so much charisma and skill in this genre. The routine kinda ends before it feels like anything happened. It was not flashy choreo. The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment for Caitlynn is: You are beautiful! You've won so many other dance competitions! So remember when you eventual lose here, that you're still a winner! They otherwise thought she did a good job but could've gotten lower in her body, dug deeper emotionally and let go into the dance. Still it really wasn't bad.

Jordan and Ade, jazz w/ Tyce Diorio: "Nutbush City Limits," Tina Turner. Concept: Jordan does leg extensions. She's fine, but I feel like I write the same thing about all of her routines. Ade I thought was a bit wasted here. The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment for Jordan is: You have legs that go on for days! You win the leg extension competition! Good for you, constant visitor to the Bottom 2! They all praise the leg extensions as you knew they would. Gaga takes this opportunity to show us just how insane her shoes are tonight. When do they just turn into stilts, Gaga? There is also a lot of Tyce love from the judges, trying to make up for last week's attack on him. Tyce has a new very short haircut! I hope NPH did not cause him such stress that he decided to chop off all his hair!

Melanie and Neil, contemporary, w/ Mandy Moore Dancing to: "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Bonnie Tyler. Oh, JEEZ! First I'd like to say that I was initially annoyed to hear that Melanie was dancing contemporary again. I want to see them give her a wider range of dances! But then she was paired with Neil and got Mandy Moore and Mandy finally played her highest trump card by turning to 80's inspiration Bonnie Tyler. So who am I to complain? It's as amazing as you'd think. Neil and Melanie look delicious in bedroom attire. They dance with unbelievable flow, emotion and synchronicity. Midway through the routine, Melanie runs and leaps at Neil from across the stage and he catches her and the world goes nuts. Melanie and Neil have the power to heal the universe. Suddenly Congress announces a debt ceiling compromise, Amy Winehouse returns to life and I am in a loving committed relationship. For a moment, all is right with the world. Then the routine ends (slightly abruptly in the music, for my taste) and we are back to reality, but at least we are applauding. The judges give Melanie a standing ovation. Then they rave about her for like 20 minutes. They are so in love, it's forever before they even mention Delicious Neil or Mandy's choreo. Gaga takes her hat off to Melanie and says she's her favorite. Rob totally thought it was magic. Mary goes nuts for it and Nigel switches back to Team Melanie.

Ricky and Anya, jive w/ Jason Gilkison. Dancing to: "River Deep, Mountain High," Celine Dion. Concept: Celebration! Dance Your Ass Off! You know I love ANYA! and I am a fan of Ricky, but this cover of the song hits my ear funny. They should've gone with the original or the Glee cover, me thinks. It sounds weird with Celine. Plus the choppy edit actually omits the lyric "river deep mountain high" which is bizarre to me. Oh the dancing? It's good! He's so much taller than her that I think when he's trying to look down at her face it actually looks like he's watching her feet, which is unfortunate. There's an amazing moment where Anya flips him over her head. It's nuts. Anya can do anything! Ricky's kicking is lacking a little of that effortless spring that makes for a successful jive. It might be hard for him since he's so tall and thin, but I don't give Jess a pass on the lifts because he is short, so I gotta be fair. Speaking of lifts, there is one that doesn't work and two that are pretty cool. They nail the final death drop. This was not Ricky's best, but Anya is a force of nature most dancers cannot handle. The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment: You have an amazing smile! Please don't lose that if we eliminate you tomorrow! I haven't said a lot about Rob Marshall but he's actually quite the gentleman in all his comments and is being very thoughtful and supportive to the contestants. Nigel and Mary are pretty kind to Rickey except for that one bad lift. Gaga says that she has a sweet spot for him and can't really pinpoint why, but she really likes him. I'm right there with you, Gaga!

Jess and Lauren Gottlieb, lyrical hip hop w/ Tabitha and Napoleon. Dancing to: "Take a Bow," Rihanna. Concept: He cheated and is trying to give her a flower to make up for it. The flower prop is super fake and annoying. It stays around entirely too long before Lauren finally throws it away. The routine is not poorly danced but it's kinda uninspired choreo from Nappytabs. I like Jess a lot here but I still think Lauren outdanced him. The "You Ain't Melanie"judgment for Jess is: You've made such progress! Whether you go home this week or next week, you'll be able to take that progress with you! Seriously the judges are very muted in their praise considering Jess did a very good job here. Gaga warms to Jess as a former theater school nerd. Rob discloses he's known Jess for years from Broadway! Wouldn't Marshall's relationship with him cause a conflict of interest if Ricky and Jess fell into the Bottom 2?

Tadd and Lauren Froderman, jazz w/ Mandy Moore. Dancing to: "Another One Bites the Dust," Queen. Concept: Smooth Criminals. Tadd's got great attitude here. Very MJ opening. They are wearing hats and Tadd loses his early. I don't know why he doesn't scoop it up. It's weird that he has to do choreo that requires it be on his head. And then Lauren punches his clean in the face! Yikes! This was good, but Melanie was so great earlier, the last couple dances seem a little deflated . The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment: You're a b-boy! You shouldn't be able to do this! Amazing! We want you in the Finale, landing in 4th place! You're very special. The judges love Tadd. He's a lot of fun even if this was a Tadd bit sloppy. See what I just did there?

Marko and Allison, contemporary w/ Sonya Tayeh. Dancing to: "I Know It's Over," Jeff Buckley. Concept: Sinners seek absolution! This is VERY much like Sonya's routine last year with Allison and Alex, right down to the Jeff Buckley soundtrack, but lightning has apparently struck twice. Marko's face is so emotive and his technique is so strong. And Allison is her usual amazing self. The judges give it a standing ovation. Gaga weeps openly. Cat almost forgets Allison isn't supposed to stay for the judging. The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment: You are our favorite MALE dancer. It doesn't matter WHERE you end up in the competition. Third, maybe? It doesn't matter! You're a star! They bring up that his mom is finally in the audience having flown in from Guam. Marko also weeps openly asking her forgiveness for that one time he talked back to her when he was seven. Mom weeps openly with pride. Marko's mom is so cute. This was lovely all around.

All-Stars, hit the showers! It's contestant duet time!

Caitlynn and Tadd, foxtrot w/ Jonathan Roberts. Dancing to: "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," Ella Fitzgerald. Concept: Golden-Age Hollywood dancing. Tadd takes to ballroom very well and this is a very fun and sweet routine. Very Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Caitlynn's dress is working the stage really well. The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment: you sparkle! but together you're not very memorable and lacked the power and technique of a certain other dancer who is totally our favorite. Nigel does say that the "b" in b-boy stands for "ballroom." Gaga gives Caitlynn an amazing comment. I can't believe I'm quoting the guest judge verbatim two weeks in a row but here goes:

"Every once in a while, with your hands, I get a little bit of 'I've won a lot of trophies!' Right? And that's good that you've won a lot of trophies. That's nice. But you know what? After I sell a bunch of records, I take all the platinum ones off the walls, and I pretend like I haven't sold a damn one and I've got to go do it all again. So I think you should just go relax those hands a bit and just remind yourself that maybe the trophies are in the closet and just work that flower, honey!"

The thing is I know exactly what she is saying here. My brain has gone Gaga.

Marko and Ricky, hip hop. Choreographer: Tabitha and Napoleon. Dancing to: "Bad Boy for Life," Diddy featuring Black Rob and Mark Curry. Concept: Dancing Janitors. They have brooms, rags and caps. Gaga will hate the props! They do great aerials together. They could be hitting it harder thought. At the end the tempo picks up and Ricky outdances Marko in this moment in my opinion. Good for him! The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment: Great work! Maybe one of you will avoid the bottom 2? I'm not sure... Nigel is trying to get Ricky votes! This is the least partial SYTYCD judging panel ever. Gaga again attacks the Nappytabs props and choreography. Rob defends them and calls the choreo "exquisite." The celebrity judges have really grown bold in shouting out their favorite dancers and least liked choreographers. I like it!

Jordan and Jess, rumba. w/ Jason Gilkison Dancing to: "Set Fire to the Rain," Adele. Concept: A sexy Rumba! Except, it's not super sexy, The chemistry is not there. It's too bad. Love the song, but there's just not much here to write home about. Ooh, there is one really nice lift. Good on you, Jess. The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment: We love what you can do! What can't you do besides win this show? Gaga says there was nothing wrong with it, but would've interpreted the song differently. Mary thought it lacked chemistry and an elasticity of movement that is necessary for the sensuality of the rumba. Hmm. Not a great note to end on for these two.

Melanie and Sasha, jazz w/ Sonya Tayeh. Dancing to: "Game On," District 78. Concept: Unleash the Beasts! It makes sens to pair these two, sine Melanie and Sasha are kinda the frontrunners right now. The audience and judges go CRAZY for this routine, but for me it's not the performance of the night. They are very different dancers in terms of body type and style. It's just a little off for me. They're awesome, but they're not as locked into each other as partners as I would like. The "You Ain't Melanie" judgment: Someone in this pair will win the season! Gaga throws a giant shoe at them and Sasha catches it and clings to it. Since Melanie will eventually take the title, Sasha is keeping that shoe! Gaga throws her other shoe at Sonya. Everyone just keeps screaming! Look, the show is over. Go home!

So the dances this week in order of my preference go as follows:

Melanie and Neil's contemporary
Marko and Allison's contemporary
Melanie and Sasha's Jazz
Ricky and Marko's Hip Hop
Pasha and Sasha's Quickstep
Caitlynn and Tadd's fox trot
Ricky and Anya's Jive
Caitlynn and Ivan's Hip Hop
Tadd and Lauren F's Jazz
Jordan and Ade's Jazz
Jess and Lauren G's Hop Hop
Jess and Jordan's Rumba.

Next up: Results Show. 2 more get eliminated. If I had my pick it would be Jordan and Jess, but it will probably be Caitlynn and Ricky. Who is deciding who goes home this week? The judges are the voting public? It's unclear. And are we really only 2 weeks from the end of the season? I feel like we could've gone at least to the end of August without getting tired of this group. Ah well. Rob Marshall is back as a judge tomorrow and Gaga is performing. Hopefully she'll perform live and have some All-Stars backing her up (maybe actual back-up dancer and SYTYCD alum Mark?? Fingers crossed!) which is the way it is meant to be in all-star seasons!

THURSDAY - The Top 8 do a Tyce circus number to the Water for Elephants soundtrack. I actually like it a lot. The contestants are in tons of costume and make up so i can't really tell them apart, but it's really cool. In the audience Tyce is in tears to finally not have his choreography bashed for a whole week.

It's time for eliminations bottom two girls: Jordan & Caitlynn. Bottom two guys: Jess and Tadd!! Oh, wow. Ricky is safe! That means that Jess is pretty much assured to go home. Wow, I didn't think Ricky could outpace both Jess and Tadd in the votes. But Ricky gets to watch the visiting dance number while the others prep for solos. We get treated to a fun LXD number with Christopher Scott. Nobody flips or slinks across the floor like LXD. I swear it feels like they defy the laws of physics.

Now to the solos. Jordan is meh. Jesse has the bway mannerisms dialed up to 11, but he's totally fighting to stay which I respect. Caitlynn is hot but this is her weakest solo to date. Tadd does amazing b-boy tricks by hanging off the lighting towers. Then he flips right of the stage and runs around the studio. He's awesome fun.

Then the judges leave to figure out who's going home. Gaga's performance is taped (boo!) but at least she's actually singing. She performs Edge of Glory and You and I. Mark is there! Yay Mark! He's the best. Gaga does a good job too.

Then it's time to cut some awesome dancers. Nigel lets the axe drop on Jordan and Jess. Just like I wanted! For the record, Tyce's routine claimed another dancer this week. They both hold up the tradition of being very gracious in their exits. The remaining 6 dancers wait anxiously for the okay to rush back on the stage and hug them. Cat says goodnight without telling us who the new All-Stars are next week! Katee and Jakob, please? PLEASE???

Rafa: The Rest Is Still Unwritten

(take a look. it's in a book.)

As Nadal prepares for the final weeks of summer on the US hard courts, I prepare for his eventual arrival in New York for the US Open. It is just around the corner! I continue to take tennis lessons at Midtown Tennis Center (my forehand and backhand continue to improve!). I just got my tickets to Arthur Ashe Stadium for my annual Labor Day trip to the US Open. I also just pre-ordered my copy of Rafa's new biography, "Rafa." Nadal is such a private person, I cannot imagine what parts of his life he is willing to share in book-form, knowing that every interviewer on the planet is now gonna ask him about it. I will find out what there is to know on Aug. 23rd, no doubt. It seems like since it's coming out so close to the Open, he'll HAVE to do a book signing in NYC, no? And then I can go there and get my book signed - as well as the tennis ball I got off him at the '09 Open. And I'd get to meet him. Could this finally be the year Rafa and I meet face to face? My heart is hopeful. My expectations are way out of control. How could this possibly end in tears and a restraining order? Vamos!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Weeks 28 & 29

(hot summer days require cool refreshing treats not found in a cookie jar.)

The Year Without Cookies marches on at break-neck pace. I can't believe it is almost at Week 30. Week 20 seemed like just yesterday. I didn't write anything last week because there was no real update to be had. Suki continues to try and keep me honest at work with any and all snack intake, making sure nothing that I would ingest could be see a relative of the cookie family. Outside of work, I remain strong on my own.

The mercury levels in old school thermometers continue to rise and it would be so nice to cool off with some sprite or ginger ale. Or, especially, a Dr. Pepper or - god help us - a root beer float. Delicious temptation!! Still I am soda-free.

Luckily in the hot weather, cookies are not the go-to dessert treat. This is ice cream season! Bring on the trips to 16 Handles - a delightful soft-serve place on the UWS that has sixteen delicious flavors to choose from and mix!!! Plus so many tasty non-cookie toppings!

But the best summer refreshment desserts, in my opinion, are actually fruit-flavored and not chocolate-flavored. Ice pops, Italian ices, piraguas. frozen lemonade. yum yum yum! They turn my tongue all sorts of fun colors. I can't get enough of them. I will be gifting the last of my girl scout cookies on Sunday, so that will provide me additional space in my freezer for ice pops. Very exciting!

See y'all at week 30!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

SYTYCD 8 - Top 10: One Dance Is Not So EnTYCEing

(Still lots to smile about at journey's end.)

Welcome Back, Dance Fans! Top 10 Week. All-Stars are in the house! In terms of contestants, we've still got 5 Contempos, 3 Jazz Hands, 1 Hip Hopper, and 1 B-way left to dance for us. Tonight's guest judge is Neil Patrick Harris. NPH is the king of everything and anything awesome and I'm really looking forward to his judging. He's a smart articulate dude with extensive work in tv, film and stage, and I think his judging will be insightful. Besides one routine each with an All-Star, the contestants will also be dancing solo pieces. If I don't mention the solos again, it's because no one stood out for me. The solos rarely do unless it's a dance for your life situation

1. Marko and Chelsie, samba w/ Jason Gilkison. Dancing to: "Cinema Italiano," Nine Movie Soundtrack. Ugh, this song? I can't believe LMM and I sat through this whole movie back when it was in theaters. Anyway, concept: Marko is a paparazzo and Chelsie is is gonna swing her legs around his head. Missions accomplished! Marko's a strong performer and there is fun to be found in this sexy routine, but in terms of actual technique I don't think he QUITE measures up to Chelsie's level. It might just be the song that is bringing me down. In judging, NPH sings Marko's praises calling him the guy to beat. Mary gets so excited, half of her jewelry goes flying off. NPH realizes at this point there are certain safety concerns that come with sitting next to the MM. Nigel also is very complimentary to Marko calling him a brave performer.

2. Jordan and Brandon, contemporary w/Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson. Dancing to: "Who You Are (Acoustic Version)" by Jessie J. Concept: Keep up with Brandon. Jordan does a good job here to hold her own in a very strong routine. Brandon is kind of unstoppable though. His physique and artistry are impossible to ignore, so as beautiful and well-executed the dance is from Jordan, I think she is outshown here. Especially since she gets a lot of leg extensions which we've been seeing from her a lot lately. But I do see a lot of character in her face, especially in the final pose which made me genuinely smile. The judges all rave about her and Brandon. Nigel encourages people to vote for her since she keeps landing in the bottom and it's not like she was being dragged down by her partner Tadd the last few weeks.

3. Tadd and Comfort, hip hop w/ Chuck Maldonado. Dancing to: "Look at Me Now" by Chris Brown Feat. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes. Concept: Gutta Sexy! This is a fun very fast and sexy routine. It's designed to feature Tadd and Comfort is a really solid support for him. There is one point right at the end where he falls off of it but recovers. I dunno, I dug it, but I wasn't really ENTHUSED by it. I don't know if it's a routine that will drive people to vote for him. Hmm... Nigel says he outdanced Comfort which is the kind of comment that drives me CRAZY. The All-Star is not competing. They SHOULD make their partner look better and the choreographer should be creating a dance that makes the contestant look their best, not the All-Star. So it just seems insulting to bring a dancer back in that capacity and then take a dig at them while complimenting the contestant. NPH agrees that Tadd was great and MM says he has swag for days. We must always mention swag with hip hop this season!

4. Mitchell and Melody, Broadway Jazz w/ Tyce Diorio. "Take Off with Us" from All That Jazz. Concept: The idea of flight? Airline Workers? I don't know. From the package, Tyce doesn't really know either. One minute they are flying, the next Melody is luggage. Tyce wants to know if planes thrust. I sense disaster. And I'm right! This is a lame routine. The song sounds kinda cheap. I don't like the choreo. It doesn't really have anything to with flight. Mitchell has a giant smile plastered on his face the whole time too that doesn't really fit well. It's not danced poorly. They are moving with strength, but... it's still not good. Cat sends it to Neil for first judging, who gives my favorite critique of a bad Tyce routine ever. Let me transcribe it for you:

"HUHHH... um, I didn't get that much at all. I didn't, I - that one... I didn't quite... from the package... I didn't get an airplane theme much at all. You're wearing an airplane, er, like a captain's outfit? But It all seemed very sort of disjointed and not incredibly thought out for me, just as a piece? (audience boos. They boo NPH! He continues.) I didn't get it! I mean, I didn't - I thought the music - the edit in the middle when it jumped to Big Band seemed - It seemed very pieced together for me. I think you're a terrific dancer and I saw you working HAAARD to sort of make it all flow, but... that was not my favorite."

A-MAZING. He never mentions Tyce by name, but all his problems with it are conceptual and that's all on Tyce. Everyone knows it. We do not get a reaction shot of Tyce in the audience. Nigel and Mary both try to do a little damage control as they know Tyce will not be pleased with being blamed for a crappy routine. Mary calls the performance fun, but overbaked with all the smiling, and Nigel says it lacked the proper style even though the technique was there. Man, Mitchell is in DANGER! Tyce did him no favors here.

5. Caitlynn and Pasha, argetine tango w/ Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo. Dancing to: "Malajunta" by Orquesta Color Tango. Concept: Tango!! It's very solid. I mean, Pasha is Pasha. He can do no wrong and can partner like nobody's business, so Caitlin just needs to kick in the right places and look like she's totally into him and the second task is a total no-brainer so she's just gotta focus on the steps and the kicking. She does really fine work here. Mary loves it and gives it a standing ovation. Nigel thinks she was womanly and passionate. NPH said it made him want to learn the Argentinian tango. From experience, I can tell you the tango is difficult, but super fun. Go for it, NPH!

6. Sasha and Twitch, hip hop w/ Christopher Scott. Dancing to "Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore. Concept: Reigniting that relationship spark over breakfast. Oooh, this one is so good! From the first moments where Sasha is holding her head, you just know this is gonna be a home run. There's dancing on the table. There's fierce emotion from both of them. It's so sharp and in sync. I love it! The chemistry, the execution, the music. Everything is working here. In judging, much is made of weird cornflakes jokes which are so strange and not making sense and Cat ushers them along thank goodness. They all rave about Sasha and the routine and rightly so. It's so good. Just watch the clip over and over again and enjoy. It speaks for itself.

7. Jess and Kathryn, contemporary with Stacey Tookey. Dancing to: "The Lonely" by Christina Perri. Concept: Can Jess lift anybody? The verdict is, sort of! The real concept is that Jess is comforting Kathryn but hse never really sees him. There are lots of lifts and they look easier than they have in the past for Jess, but they don't get any height or really wow. Jess does really well, I think, but the choreography and Kathryn outshine him. NPH oddly critiques around Jesse. He calls the routine "extraordinarily designed" but not amazingly danced. He also tells Jess to stop mugging, a bad Broadway-style dance habit. It's weird, you can see him trying to figure out what words to say. Mary also kinda praises the routine over Jess, but is nicer to him. Nigel is more of the same. Weird. What a weird thing to be like "it's probably your best work to date..." That's not really a rave. Plus I think last week was better,

8. Melanie and Pasha, contemporary w/ Jason Gilkison. Dancing to: "Everybody Hurts" by Tina Arena. Concept: Melanie is the rock and Pasha has given up on life. It is not lost on Melanie that she constantly is cast as the strong one. She's just so naturally strong! But I'd like to see a choreographer put her in a very vulnerable role or a crazy monster role. I know she'd knock those out of the park too, and I want to see her in more varied roles. She is great in the routine with Pasha and the movement looks effortless. I grow a bit concerned because effortless can sometimes come across as "nothing much is happening." Not like i think she's in danger of going home, but it's not the most dynamic routine of the night. Not really even top 3 at this point, I think. The judges all rave about her per usual. It's not unwarranted but it is abundant. Melanie just stands there and laughs taking it in, because what else can you do at this point? NPH in particular just gushes and gushes over her. He confesses she is his favorite dancer in the competition. Haven't all the guest judges admitted that?

9. Ricky and Allison, jazz w/ Tyce Diorio. Dancing to: Tori Amos' "Precious Things," Concept; Nightmare on Allison's Street. I totally dig this! The rehearsal package show's Ricky adorably uncomfortable with being evil and creepy. Ricky is really growing on me! His performance here is really strong here. He and Allison really go for it and it pays off. Oooh, I love the All-Stars being here! It raises everybody's game. The routine is very dark and exciting and it's amazing to me that Tyce can choreo this piece and also the ineffective airline piece in the same week. I swear his non-broadway routines are so much better than his Broadway ones. ! The judges all love it. They all take the opportunity to praise Tyce since he really got slammed earlier. They all think Ricky is getting stronger and stronger. This kid has show-mentum! He could make a deep run for the title!

10. Clarice and Robert, Bollywood w Nakul Dev Mahajan. Dancing to: "Aila Re Aila" from Khatta Meetha. Concept: Cat-and-Mouse lovers. Oooh, this one also kicks ass. It's very high energy and there's a lot of character. Oddly though? It doesn't look like Clarice to me! Something about the costume and the hair. I wonder if that will hurt her vote-wise. Also Robert is wearing pants that are a very pretty shade of purple that might have been a nice choice for Clarice's outfit. Maybe I'm just being hetero-normative with my costume color wheel. There's a very cute moment in the dance where she kicks Robert in the butt several times to make him do his turns and her expression changes throughout and it's delightful. Robert was definitely my favorite from last season and it's great to see him in Bollywood again. It looks like some of Clarice's jewelry comes off and maybe cuts Robert in the shoulder at some point. All the judges rave for this routine and for Clarice. It's nice that she's getting her due after a couple of weeks not really getting the spotlight partnered with Jess. Also of note, Nigel says we are getting new All-Stars next week! Oooh! That is exciting news. My dreams of seeing Jakob and Katee as All-Stars lives on!

So here is the rundown for tonight's performances in order of my preference:

Sasha and Twitch, Hip Hop
Ricky and Allison, Contemporary
Clarice and Robert, Bollywood
Caitlynn and Pasha, Tango
Jordan and Brandon, Contemporary
Melanie and Pasha, Viennese Waltz
Tadd and Comfort, Hip Hop
Marko and Chelsie, Salsa
Jess and Kathryn, Contemporary
Mitchell and Melody, Broadway Jazz

Also, at the very last moment, something crazy happens. The video recap does not show the contestants numbers like it's supposed to. So Cat has all the contestants out on stage and with 2 minutes left she rams through all the numbers twice for each one of them without missing a digit and still gets the show in on time. Emmy Voters, give this lady the statue for Reality Competition Hosting that she deserves!

NEXT UP: ELIMINATION NIGHT! I don't know how they are doing the eliminations this week. Are they getting rid of a guy and a girl? The bottom two vote-getters? Are the judges still deciding? It has not yet been revealed. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. Any way you slice it, I think Mitchell's time will be up.

Results Show! We start with a Broadway routine to Smoky Joe's Café for the Top 10 and it's not bad and I'm like "wow, did Tyce destroy my theory that he's just not strong on the Broadway routines?" But no, this was choreographed by Josh Bergasse so my theory still holds true.

It turns out the judges will still be making the final cut of the bottom 2 boys and girls which might upset some fans, but I don't really care. It just means if Melanie fans forget to vote thinking she's safe that Nigel and Co. can save her from an untimely exit. Yay!

We get to the contestants and Mitchell is in the bottom to the surprise of no one and then Melanie and Tadd are safe. Then Marko is safe and Clarice is in the bottom and Sasha is safe. That seems about right. Then Jess is safe and Ricky is in danger and Caitlynn is safe and Jordan is in danger.

We get sort of a bizarre solo from Daniil Simkin who does a few giant moves that look cool, but it's mostly very small movements that I'm sure are technically very difficult but didn't draw me in.

We get a really long trip to the Gatorade Labs, or wherever it is they go to develop Gatorade products and put star athletes in life pods to learn how little body fat they have. They also play a more cardio challenging version of Simon.

There are solos. Mitchell does his thing with the leg extensions. Clarice does her thing where she flips all her hair around and looks insanely hot. Jordan does her thing with the leg extensions. Ricky does an other awesome soul-baring solo.

The judges go off to deliberate and we get subjected to Blush featuring Snoop Dogg. I'm assuming they were not lip-syncing because they sounded terrible. I fast forward this part. Although, at the end of it, we get an extended look at the judge's backstage with NPH aggressively pleading his case to Mary and Nigel. Did they know he was gonna be so into this??

Then we eliminate people. It's curtains for Clarice and Mitchell. But it's not a bad week to go considering they already made it to the tour and they weren't in a position to win. Now they can sit back, destress and rest those feet before the finale! They are both very gracious in their goodbyes. This show finds the nicest most supportive contestants! I love them!

Next Week's Top 8 All-Stars!
Ivan (Season 2)
Jaimie (Season 3)
Anya (Season 3)
Pasha (Season 3)
Lauren G (Season 3)
Neil (Season 3)
Ade (Season 5)
Lauren F (Season 7) - our first former winner as an All-Star!

Season 3 is in the house, y'all. When am I gonna get my Katee and Jakob as All-Stars, Nigel? Top 6 week, yes? It better be Top 6 week. Also? GaGa ison her way.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

SYTYCD 8 - Top 12: The Cruelest Cut Of All

(The one in the middle is an Emmy Nominee! She's still happy on the inside.)

Welcome Back, Dance Fans! Top 12 Week. The cruelest cut of all lies ahead. They are all just one week away from making the national tour! We've still got 7 Contempos, 3 Jazz Hands, 1 Hip Hopper, and 1 B-way left to dance for us.Tonight's guest judge is Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC's Modern Family, because... he's been on Broadway and he did that one Flash Mob Dance in that one episode of MF? His inclusion seems more random then any other random guest judge ever on this show. But he is an awesome dude, and I'll bet he'll supply personality! Sonya Tayeh is also on the panel, which means we won't be getting any choreo from her again but I bet she'll be giving it to these dancers straight if they don't bring it, which i LOVE.

The dancers have to perform two routines each which sounds exhausting, especially in this summer hear. Cat as always looks amazing, but no more time for that! Onto the dances!

1. Sasha and Alexander, paso doble w/ Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin. Dancing to: "Alley Dash/March of the Trolls," Taylor Long/Rick Powell Concept: Two Bullfighters/Two Bulls. It seems like in the planning they were a little afraid that Sasha would steam roll over Alexander as she's done in past weeks, so instead of completely flipping the gender roles, they made both of them the dudes. It wasn't really a problem though as Alexander finally brought the power! the beginning, but if loses steam as it goes along. The judges don't pan it, but it seems they've finally realized we're right at the Top 10, and maybe every dance isn't the most AMAZING routine they've ever seen and every dancer maybe isn't really bringing it. Interesting.

2. Jordan and Tadd, contemporary w/ Travis Wall. Dancing to: "Brotsjor," Olafur Arnalds. Concept: Human Vultures eat your heart out. It's dark and more atmospheric than I'm used to from Travis. It's like his ode to Sonya on the panel. Jordan's legs do their thing, but I've seen those tricks before in all her Dance for your Life solos! The judges eat it up like it's a carcass in the desert. In judging, Mary is no longer surprised by Tadd's adaptability - in a good way. Jesse spoofs Randy Jackson's quotes from Idol. Sonya threatens to swear and Cat threatens to take her out at the next commercial break if she does. Nigel says it was remarkable. So... bottom 3 again? Somebody's gotta be!

3. Ryan and Ricky, Broadway w/ Spencer Liff. Dancing to: "All I Need Is the Girl," Frank Sinatra. Concept: Old School Movie Star Flirting. BOOOOORING. Seriously, almost nothing happens. It just kinda moves around the stage until it's over. The judges are not impressed either. Jesse is first and says it was "muted." Which is close enough to boring and lacking energy, so he's not really holding his punches here. He gets boo'ed and takes it well. Sonya agrees, and is torn between loving them and hating on the routine. You can see her internal struggle. She is on the edge! Nigel takes the opportunity to point out that this couple hasn't connected with the viewing/voting audience, even with last week's Fashion Zombie routine that I thought was one of the best and yet still landed them in the Bottom 3. Mary thought it looked uncomfortable. Not a good start for these two.

4. Caitlynn and Mitchell, hip hop w/ Christopher Scott Dancing to: "Break the Chain," Lupe Fiasco featuring Eric Turner and Sway. Concept: Child abductees in Uganda forced to fight it out Hunger Games-style. Whaaaaaat? That's crazy talk for a dance concept, and I endorsed Fashion Zombies just a week ago and Human Vultures in this past hour. Seriously, what is Christopher Scott thinking? This is destined to fail. I'm sure he had the best intentions... but no. I wish I hadn't heard what the dance was supposed to be about, because it's impossible to watch it now without trying to figure out how the hell the concept relates to what's on stage. Normally, I'd just think it was not a very well executed dance but the Ugandan things adds a whole new level of head-scratching to it. The judges are similarly baffled. Sonya notes their lack of unison (which i barely had time to notice on first viewing) and says the story was lost in translation. Nigel tells them to dance in front of a mirror, and Mitchell and Caitlynn react like he just punched them in the guts. The best Mary can come up with is that they commanded attention. Jesse says they are better dancers than he is, but we guessed that already.

5. Melanie and Marko, tango w/ Louis Van Amstel. Dancing to: "Triptico," Gotan Project. It's about two Uganda child captives... no no, I kid. Just a passionate tango. It's not perfect, but these two are not gonna let you see them sweat. They are fully committed to the character of the piece and remain infinitely watchable. It's not my favorite dance and then... holy crap. The last move is insane! WHAAAAT just happened. Okay, let me collect myself. It's a dead drop, but... hmm, Melanie bends backwards so her head's perpendicular to her body, and then Marko pulls her through his legs, then she somehow somersaults, gets pulled back out front and they strike a final pose. It's as totally unexpected as it is extremely difficult. How can you see that and not be amazed? The judges are rightfully impressed. Nigel notes they finally got a humdinger of a challenge in terms of dance genre, something outside their comfort zones and that they pulled it together from a somewhat shaky rehearsal earlier that day. Mary talks different tango styles and gives them favorable reviews. Jesse says they have a spark, but does not call it an X-Factor. Sonya says they make her shiver and perhaps give her fever too? M&M seem super relieved to get this dance out of the way.

6. Clarice and Jess, lyrical hip hop w/ Christopher Scott Dancing to: "Just the Way You Are," Boyce Avenue. Concept: Portrait of an Artist with Low Self Esteem. Jess is drawing her and Clarice doesn't like what she sees in the mirror. Is Clarice playing a a crazy person? She looks amazing! This routine is very fun and easily my favorite Jess and Clarice routine. They partner very well here. Good for them! I haven't been very supportive of them these past couple weeks, but they are working it out. In judging, Mary says they were cute and had the right swag. Jesse wants to marry Clarice instead of coming to New York and gay-marrying his boyfriend. Sonya thinks they slayed it, but I don't think the style was hard hitting enough for "slaying." Nigel also approved.

7. Sasha and Alexander, jazz w/ Tyce Diorio. Dancing to: "That's Life," Aretha Franklin. Concept: no story. That's life, I guess? I thought this dance was fun and showed a lot of personality and presence from both of them. There's also a lamppost leading the way to Spar 'Oom. Sasha somehow stumbles and falls all over herself right at the end but makes it seem like she meant to do it. Sonya thinks Alexander finally killed it. I thought this was his best night, but he's still no Season 7 Robert for me. Mary also says Alexander had a breakthrough this week. If there was a night he needed to surge, it was definitely tonight!

8. Jordan and Tadd, Broadway w/ Spencer Liff. Dancing to: "Out Tonight," Rent. Concept: Sleeping Beauty/Rock Princess/Super-Mess. Oof. Two off routines from Spencer this week and I've liked his stuff in the past, but this is a flop. The costume and choreo looks cheesy, it's a very weird fit for Rent (which i just saw in rehearsal off-bway so the disconnect was particularly jarring) and it never goes anywhere and they don't really do anything. Sonya just apologizes to them (for them?) afterwards because she was for reals unimpressed. Nigel wanted it to be quirkier in order to make up for the "nothing's happening" choroegraphy. Mary compares it to cotton candy and that it just wasn't good enough for this stage of the game. Jesse felt it was a grab bag of styles (read: unfocused hodge podge), but thinks they'll be safe based on their first routine. I think differently. Somebody's gotta be in the Bottom 3!

9. Ryan and Ricky, cha-cha w/ Louis Van Amstel. Dancing to: "Tonight I'm Loving You," Enrique Iglesias featuring DJ Frankie. Here I think Ricky is good, but Ryan is overdoing it. It's like she's dancing knowing how squarely her head is on the chopping block. Instead of dancing like she has nothing to lose, she is tensing up. Too bad. Nigel thought Ricky was good and with strong hip action and style, but agrees with me that Ryan was too much. Mary notes the dance was very fast for a cha-cha, but thinks Ryan got sloppy and lost steam throughout. But, hello! Ricky, gets a ticket for one on the Hot Tamale Train! That means he's the only one in the competition on the train. Ryan is left behind! Foreshadowing for tomorrow's elimination??

10. Caitlynn and Mitchell, contemporary w/ Travis Wall. Dancing to: "Piece of My Heart," Janis Joplin. Concept. Sexiness & Fighting. This is a marked improvement over Ugandan Hunger. Caitlynn looks a lot like Courteny in Sonya's Garden routine from Season 3. Another intentional Sonya shout out? Curious. Anyway, I really liked this naughty number. Only thing was occasionally they would look at the audience in a weird way that felt unnecessary. It's like they think if they didn't look at us, they might be afraid we weren't paying attention. Believe me, kids, I'm still here. Mary also liked the naughtiness. Sonya gives a good criticism to Mitchell that he sometimes loses his characters during the lifts. Nigel really liked it, but thought they shouldn't have broken the fourth wall and just stayed in the dance. OMG, i said the same thing! I am smart!

11. Melanie and Marko, contemporary w/ Dee Caspary. Dancing to: "Sin & Bones," David J. Roch. Concept: Move toward the light! Melanie is trying to bring Marko into the light and he is resisting. There's a light bulb hanging on stage. It's M&M doing contempo, is there really any doubt that it's amazing? They move so well together. Whoever put these two together in casting deserves a raise. So so good. The judges all rave about it. Jesse has goosebumps. Sonya thanks them for being the future of dance. Nigel loves them and makes us all sad by reminding us that this is it for them as a pair (unless they make it to like final 4 - a distinct possibility!!!). Mary says it was flawless. They are the best!

12. Clarice and Jess, jive w/ Tony Meredith and Melanie. Dancing to: "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That," Robert Randolph and the Family Band. I enjoy watching the jive. It looks fun, but I know it must be exhausting. So much kicking! These two can kick though. It's fun. Maybe it loses a little energy toward the end. And the lifts remain a problem for Jess as they have all season. Sonya found it to be adorable. Nigel mentions the lifts being uncomfortable. Mary is more critical than I thought she'd be about them losing energy and not bringing the joy of the jive. Jesse interrupts his critique of them to wish Cat luck with an Emmy nomination for best reality show host - which we will know tomorrow for the results show! Ooooh! Cat blushes. I hope her Emmy dreams come true.

And we're done! Here's the routines in my order of preference:

Melanie and Marko's contemporary
Melanie and Marko's tango
Clarice and Jess's hip-hop
Jordan and Tadd's contemporary
Clarice and Jess's jive
Caitlynn and Mitchell's jazz
Sasha and Alexander's jazz
Ryan and Ricky's cha-cha
Sasha and Alexander's paso doble
Ryan and Ricky's Broadway
Caitlynn and Mitchell's hip-hop
Jordan and Tadd's Broadway

Tomorrow night: We make the cut to Top Ten and the next phase of the competition begins! Who will be in the bottom 3? Who will make the tour? Who will be brought back as an All-Star? Who (if anyone) will be an Emmy nominee? So many questions to answer! I can't wait!

Results Show: Guess which show got 8 Emmy nominations early this morning? This show did! FIVE choreography noms, one for lighting direction, one for reality competition (by outwitting, outplaying and outlasting Survivor!) and the most exciting of all, a best host nom for our beloved Cat Deely! There was actually an uprising of cheers for her at the news conference where they announce the nominees Thursday morning, because everyone loves her and there has been no movement in that category in like 3 or 4 years. But Heidi Klum couldn't secure a win for Mondo last season on her show, so she deserves to surrender her spot. I hope Cat can ride this new momentum to a win!! Go Cat! She also gets a special standing ovation from the studio audience, which was much deserved.

Oh, the opening routine already happend. It was a salsa (maybe?) that involved a giant red dress that covere the stage with Jordan in the center. Don't worry, the camera eventually found it's way to Melanie as it always does. :) Nobody tripped over the giant dress so the routine was a success.

Now before we get to results we have to learn who the All-Stars are. Nigel tells us that we would've had Alex Wong, but on Saturday he burst his OTHER Achilles tendon doing the same move that ruptured the first one last season. So he's right back where he was a year ago looking at MORE rehab. ...What? At first, I think this has to be some sorta not funny joke where they are just toying with us. Especially when they say Jesse will be filling his spot. But they never say, "j/k!" So it must be horrifically true. So to recap, Alex gets on the show in Season 6, but his ballet company won't release him from his contract so he has to try again in Season 7. He gets into the Top 10 for season 7 and then after three weeks and two routines for the ages, he suffers a season ending injury. He does rehab all year to get back into shape to possibly rejoin the show for season 8. He isn't quite there yet for the callbacks in Vegas, but is healthy enough to be asked back as All-Star. Then less than a week before he's to be announced as an All-Star, he gets the same mother-effing injury on the other foot. Oh, Alex. You are an amazing dancer who has had amazing experiences and have the love and support of fans world-wide. And I know you appreciate the support and value the opportunities you've had. But man, do I feel bad that you can't just go out and dance the way you love to for two years in a row. Seriously, get well soon.

So all of the joy of the Emmy noms gets deflated by the horrible Alex news, but we have to keep going. Who will be the all-stars?? Season 1 Runner Up Melody (don't know her) Season 2's Allison (Yay!), Season 3's Pasha (YAY! but no ANYA? Boo!!!) Season 4's Twitch, Comfort and Chelsie (all solid), Season 5 runner up Brandon (yay!), season 6's Kathryn (woohoo!), and season 7's Robert. That's only nine. They are still short one guy so maybe they are still figuring out Alex's replacement? No Katee? No Jakob? I'm a little bummed about that.

Now moving on to the actual contestants. First, Jesse and Clarice are safe and Caitlin and Mitchell are In Danger. Then Melanie and Marko are safe and Ryan and Ricky and In Danger. Then the possible upset: it's between Tad and Jordan and Alexander and Sasha. And we get the upset! Tad and Jordan are safe! Is this the opening they've been waiting for to get rid of Alexander? Hmm... we shall see.

We get a tap routine that is cool. It's from a group called "Anyone Can Get It." Or the piece is called that... I'm not sure. I liked it though! The performers both rap and tap. One of the tappa tappa tappa's is Melinda from last season. It always makes me happy to see alumns back on the stage, even if they're not all-stars. It's a relief to know they didn't go on an emotional tailspin after being eliminated from the show and become super fatty's sitting on the couch eating ice cream 24/7 and watching subsequent seasons of this show lamenting, "why not me??" I like to know that they kept on dancing.

So now it's solo time! Ashley's solo is first and even though her music isn't from Dreamgirls through her dance she is telling you she's not goin'. Then we have Mitchell who is all fierce strength doing crazy moves. And then we get Ryan who basically comes out waving a white flag of surrender. Seriously, she has no fight left. She's not even trying. Then Ricky comes out and unleashes his soul through his solo and it's amazing,and to Body Language which is a good song choice and IMO a Season 3 Shout out! Sasha's solo doesn't really leave an impression on me, but Ryan is for sure going home. She looks so resigned to it! :( Alexander does a decent job, but it's a little wonky in spots. He does one flip that is amazing in that he lands only on the ball of one foot. Wow. Will it be enough?

Then Nicole Scherzinger performs and it's really blah. Pussycat Dolls add nothing to this show. Seriously. Then we get to eliminations. For the girls, it is unanimously Ryan. For the boys, it's a split vote that falls against Alexander. Alex is all, damn, first time in the bottom 3 and done, but it's probably the right choice. Mitchell and Ricky have spent much more time in the bottom, but individually they still seem stronger and more versatile than Alexander. Ryan continues to look sad and perhaps a smidge relieved. For the record, it was Mary who was the hold out wanting to keep Alexander over Mitchell. With that, all the Emmy and All-Star talk left us with no time to see the dancers hug over the credits. Show over. Nominations Granted. Top 10 Selected. Tour established. All-Stars revealed. It was a busy night! See you next time!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 27

(These really satisfy me.)

So here we are on the other side of half a year to go until the Year Without Cookies comes to a close. We are practically there! I'm feeling confident that I am now going to make it all the way there. One stumbling block I hadn't really considered was running. I have entered the summer race season. First was Pride Run and then Boomer's Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breath and next week is Run For The Parks. Running makes me super hungry. I constantly need snacks and don't mind the empty calories that just get burned off anyway as the miles pile up. Historically, I've turned to cookies for midday snacks. That can't happen this year. Also, I used to enjoy a pre-race dinner that was heavy on pasta and accompanied with a tall glass of Sprite. Gotta stick to water now. Sigh. Well at least the Year Without Cookies will have ended by the time I have to run my Disney World Marathon in January 2012. THEN I can drink some Sprite. Thank goodness!

This week, Suki and I had a little argument at work over Snickers Bars. I've gotten into a weekly habit of taking a walk around 3pm to go get myself a snickers bar as a snack. (i was it down with two glasses of delicious milk. Mmmm, milk!) Suki was all "That's cheating!" And I was all, "No, it ain't!" A Snickers is a delicious candy bar, not a cookie. I never said I'd give up chocolate or candy bars. Plus, it's not like I'm eating 8 candy bars a day. Just one (maybe two) a week. Is it the healthiest option? No. Is it within the guidelines I set out for myself? Totally.

Still, I don't want Suki calling me a cheater, so I might have to give up candy bars at work as well as cookies. At least I can still have pretzel rods or yogurt. Mmm... delicious pretzel rods. Delicious yogurt.
...25 weeks to go!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SYTYCD 8 - Top 14: The Seven Stages of Grief After Being Eliminated

(MILD SALSA - Chris and Ashley can't bring the heat to their routine on Performance Night.)

We’re back again Dance Fans! Top 14 Week. We've still got 8 Contempos, 3 Jazz Hands, 2 Hip Hoppers, and 1 B-way left to dance for us. Carmen Electra is the celebrity guest judge tonight, She trained in ballet, modern dance, thrashing and pussycat dolls! Thanks to exposure on this show, PussyCat Dolls is now recognized as it's own genre of dance. Travis Wall is also on the panel tonight for the first time. From contestant to choreographer to judge in only 6 seasons. You've come a long way, baby!

In addition to the pairs dancing per usual, we'll get more group dances like last week. This week it's boys-vs-girls. Surprised?? That's what the whole season has been. Also of note: Cat had her annual July 4th BBQ at her house for the cast and crew. They will talk about it throughout the night. I love that she does this for the contestants every year and that they don't bring the cameras so it stays a fun relaxing party and not a segment on the show - which it totally could be. Cat looks very pretty tonight in a dress I don't know how to describe.

Boys Group Dance, jazz. Choreographer: Justin Giles (who?) Dancing to: "Prague," Damien Rice. Concept: Seven guys = seven stages of grief. Even though there are really only 5 stages. They made up two more that seem to fit right in. Will the girls be Seven Deadly Sins in their dance? Who would portray Sloth? or GLUTTONY? Melanie in a Fat Suit? We'll have to wait and see. This routine is very good. I dig the concept that they are each aspects of the same man. They each get to be a different character and get a moment to literally be in the the spotlight but what they are doing is still all linked together. They do a really good job. Marko stands out in a moment where he bares striking resemblance to the Incredible Hulk. He does not literally smash his competition though. The judges aren't given a chance to comment on the group dances, so be sure they will try to sneak in comments about it later during regular judging.

1. Melanie and Marko, jazz w/ Ray Leeper (WHO?) Dancing to: "Americano," Lady Gaga. They're going first? Are we sure about this, Show? Don't we want to look forward to seeing them throughout most of the program? Okay... So Concept: Young Lovers running away together. Melanie and Marko are on fire once again. These two are fantastic together. Melanie's costume is weird. It's kinda like they wrapped her up in the patriotic table cloth from Cat. The routine is full of energy and passion and fire and character work from both of them. The judges all love it. Travis can't deny that Melanie is his favorite dancer in the competition. Carmen also marvels over Melanie. Mary dubs Marko the "Domination Man." Nigel says that it was "joyous" since their level of technique matches their performance.

2. Sasha and Alexander, hip hop w/ Shaun Evaristo (WHO??? I guess all the regular choreos got the week off for Fourth of July or something.) Dancing to: "To the Moon," Miguel. Concept: Alexander wants a good night kiss. This one is not very strong. It doesn't help to have such a weak routine right after the M&M powerhouse.It's weird because they did hip hop two weeks ago with the Soldier coming home routine and it was much stronger. I just think the routine is weak and they are not invested in the movement. The judges don't like it either. Carmen didn't feel it. Mary saw no swag. Swag is important this year. Nigel called it "Hip Hop 101" and "Hip Hop for Dummies." which seems like really harsh words toward the choreo from a panel that loves to praise choreographers. Perhaps Shaun will not be back. The audience boos. Travis does not want to be boo'ed so he tries to say nicely that he thought it was only kinda-sorta-okay at best.

3. Jordan and Tadd, waltz w/ Toni Redpath (I know her!) Dancing To: "Nocturne," Secret Garden. Concept: Jordan is a siren... who thinks she's a mermaid? She's out to kill Tadd either way. Jordan is all done up like a Mermaid-Gypsy with giant extensions and the stage is flooded with mist. For me, this is a total yawn of a routine. They are strong and look good doing it, but it feels very far away. I'm not into it. Afterward, Mary calls it dreamy and romantic, Nigel thought they handled it well, Travis wanted it to be smoother but praises Tadd's adaptability. Carmen liked the emotion. Despite all this praise, none of them seems genuinely moved or excited by it.

4. Clarice and Jess, contemporary w/ Justin Giles. Dancing to: "Light Through the Branches," Celeste Lear. Concept: Relationship at an end. I think this is Clarice and Jess's best routine so far, but I still don't think they partner well. Sorry! There is emotion to the dance, but they don't seem to be aiming their feelings of anger at each other. I personally feel Clarice could be giving more emotionally to Jess. I really want to see them dance with other partners. The judges all love it much more than me. It wasn't bad, but it won't be at the top of my list either.

5. Ashley and Chris, salsa w/ Liz Lira (another newbie!) Dancing to: "Mambo Beat," Tito Puente. Oof. This one starts with some promise and then quickly descends into a total misfire. It has none of the fun or sexiness you'd associate with a salsa. It just doesn't work. The lifts were well-executed and looked really tough, but it seemed like they just focused on the lifts and forgot to focus on the actual salsa! None of the judges like it. Travis tries to be nice, but he gets boo'ed anyway. Travis does not like how that feels at all! Carmen felt their hesitancy and she thought that killed their chances to pull it off. Mary seems ready to boot them from the Hot Tamale Train. Nigel also thought it didn't work. This is solidly a bottom 3 performance.

6. Ryan and Ricky, jazz w/ Chucky Klapow (WHO???) Dancing to: "Fashion," David Bowie. Concept: Fashion Zombies. First of all, Chucky Klapow is a crazy character with an hilarious name. It should have an explanation point at the end - Chucky Klapow! I thought this one was great. It had all sorts of attitude, no inappropriate smiling from Ryan and tons of synchronicity in the dancing from the pair. This blows Zombie Beetlejuice from last week clear out of the water. The judges love it. They enjoyed the quirkiness and felt the commitment was their to pull off a routine like this. I certainly dug it. And it's always awesome to hear a Bowie track.

7. Caitlyn and Mitchell, contemporary w/ Mandy Moore (golden oldie!). Dancing to: "To Love You More," Celine Dion. Concept: Romance Novel Love. Full disclosure: I have a weak spot in my heart for this Celine song. It's all the moments with the strings. Plus I almost never hear it, so I get caught up in it when I do. I'm just saying I'm inclined to like whatever the dance is because of the drama in the music. But the dancing is solid! Many interesting and well executed lifts. Caitlyn and Mitchell leap around the stage with power and joy. This is a partnership I like. The judges eat it up. Mary says it is her favorite of the night. Nigel found it breathtaking. Travis loves it and Carmen says their performance- made them larger and more powerful than they normally would be on their own. I actually didn't mind Carmen Electra judging this week.

And we're done! ...Much earlier than usual? Oh wait no. i almost forgot. Girls Group Dance, jazz. Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Dancing to: "My Discarded Men," Eartha Kitt with Bronski Beat. Concept: The girls are out to murder boys. The ladies play widows. Maybe they are attending a joint funeral? I don't know. I don't get that part. The girls look hot and hit the movements hard and it's sexy as hell. The camera finds Melanie no matter where she is on stage. I'm not surprised at all. I liked the concept of the guy's dance better but this was a good number too.

So here are my preferences on tonight's offerings:

7 Stages of Grieving Male Contestants
Caitlin and Mitchell's contemporary
Melanie and Marko's jazz
Ryan and Ricky's jazz
Clarice and Jess's contemporary
7 Merry Murdering Widows
Jordan and Tadd's Waltz
Sasha and Alexander's Hip Hop
Ashley and Chris's Salsa

9 routines and 4 of them are Jazz? C'mon, Show. Diversify! Anyway, I'm not sure who will be eliminated at this point. A few couples seem in danger of hitting that bottom 3. I think if Alexander faces elimination, he'll go and for the girls, probably Ashley since she seemed to just barely survive last week's cut. But we'll see! I didn't think we'd lose Nick and Iveta so early and see where that's left us? Sigh.

Results Show! Carmen Electra has decided not to decide, and isn't on the panel this evening. We don't have her, but we do have a Top 14 Bollywood number! I think it rocks. The costumes look amazing and the dancing is sharp and fun. Stand outs for me include Jess, Marko and Melanie.

Then we get some results! Melanie and Marko and Cailtin and Mitchell are both safe. Ashley and Chris are Bottom 3. Then Clarice and Jess are safe and Tadd and Jordan are in danger. Then in a bit of an upset Sasha and Alexander are SAFE and Ryan and Ricky are in the bottom. Wow. Look, I like Sasha and Alexander but their routine was WEAK and I don't have a huge amount of rooting interest in Ryan, but the fashion zombie routine was really strong. That's a disappointing result, but Alexander really dodged a bullet. I bet they'd have cut him if they had the chance.

So then the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet dances to "Ends" by Mikael Karlsson. The movement is cool, but I couldn't get into the music. I thought last week when the dude spun his partner on his head was much more impressive.

Now it's solo time! Ashley is beautiful with amazing lines. Chris does amazing breaker moves. Jordan high kicks and looks sexy. Tadd does breaker moves that aren't QUITE as awesome as the ones Chris just did (his is a little bit of a subway car routine, to be honest) and then there are commercials. Afterward, we get Ryan doing some moves with lots of emotion and Ricky showing lovely technique and passion. Then Florence + The Machine perform... without dancers? Well Flo.Machine sounds great anyway.

It's time for eliminations. Nigel tells everyone they need to dig deeper and show us different sides in the solos. Then Nigel eliminates Ashley and she is devastated. Then Nigel eliminates Chris and it's like they rip out his heart and show it to him. Poor guy. They are both SO upset. What stage of grief are they in - Shock, Anger, Denial, Depression, Guilt, Bargaining, or Acceptance? I'll go with shock, even though it just really looks like plain ol' grief to me. The other dancers rush to console them. it looks like Chris has crumpled to the ground as the live feed cuts out. Damn. It only gets harder from here, folks. Who is gonna make it to Top 10 and the All-Star rounds? We will find out next week!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wimby 2011: Rafa in The Finals

(Rafa came in second at Wimby this year, but he will always be first in our hearts.)

Well, that's too bad. Our Hero, Rafael Nadal lost the Wimby Final yesterday to Our Mortal Foe, Novak Djokovic. Novak won 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.Despite going four sets and the usually slow pace of both players, the match just flew by. Rafa was down 2-0 before you even knew it. Probably before Rafa even knew it either.

I'm no Djokovic fan, but ultimately it's hard to begrudge him this win. He was just better than Rafa in this match. Clearly this tournament has always meant so much to him and he was thrilled to have his dream come true. It's not like Rafa hasn't won it twice before. Novak was already guaranteed to take over the No. 1 ranking from Rafa today, and this achievement really reinforces why he deserves it. He's only lost once in 7 months on the tour! He's beaten Rafa in 5 straight finals this year! That's just crazy. Gotta tip your hat... even if the dude is Our Mortal Foe.

Rafa just never really played his top-level tennis this match. He might have peaked a little too early with his win over Murray in the semis. Novak had more of an off-and-on two weeks at Wimby and had plenty left in the tank for the final. Despite a drop in his level of play during the third set, Novak played hard and won all the other crucial moments of the match. It was an uphill battle for Rafa the whole time, even though he really was playing quite well. Ah, well. What can you do?

Nadal needs to regain his confidence against Novak. He now has the chance to take several weeks off and rest and train and come back strong to attack the US Open Summer Series. I know he'll be back better than ever and hopefully I'll get to see him again at the US Open! Vamos!

Nadal has also turned into quite the philosopher. Here are some key quotes from his post-match press conference:

“Seriously, I lose because I am playing against the best player of the world, and I am the second. And when you play against these players and they are playing unbelievable, the normal thing is: lose.

“My experience says this level [of Djokovic’s] is not forever. Even for me when I was last year winning three Grand Slams, my level of last year is not forever. Probably the level of Novak of today is not forever. I gonna be here fighting all the time, waiting for my moment. I don’t have to wait a lot, because I already won three tournaments this year and one Grand Slam. But waiting for my moment to beat him another time.

“I understand the sport like this. When one player is better than you, at this moment the only thing you can do is work, try to find solutions, and try to wait a little bit for your time.

“Last five times wasn’t my time. I gonna wait and I gonna try a sixth. And if the sixth doesn’t happen, to the seventh. It’s going to be like this. That’s the spirit of the sport.”

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wimby 2011: Rafa in the Semifinals

(Rafa's got his game face on as he advances to his 5th Wimbledon Final!)

Well, here we are again, Ladies and Gentlemen. Another Year, Another trip for Rafael Nadal to the Wimbledon Championship round. Our Hero got there playing some excellent tennis against hometown fav Andy Murray beating him 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. Murray played an amazing opening set against Nadal, but then he quickly faded as Nadal kept finding new levels of play to ascend to. He's playing so well and looking very confident going into the Final tomorrow. There he will face Novak Djokovic, Our Mortal Foe. Novak has beaten Rafa 4 times this year, but Rafa is still 5-0 against him in Majors. It's that 3rd set in the Majors that's so hard to get against Rafa. He can usually find a way to win in a Best of 5 scenario. I honestly don't know what's gonna happen with this one. Obviously, we will cheer for Rafa to take Novak down in three easy sets and claim his 11th Major Title. Something tells me this one won't be easy though. Hopefully Nadal will come out on top and take another bite out of that trophy! Breakfast at Wimbledon is happening tomorrow! Vamos!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 26. HALF WAY POINT!

(Pictured:One for Each Month!)

Take my hand! We'll make it, I swear.

Week 26, y'all. Half the year is over. As with running marathon's, once you pass the halfway point whatever's left in front of you is less than you've already run. That seems like an obvious thing to say, but thinking about it while actually running makes the second half of the marathon a little easier. And thinking about it that way, will make it easier to not eat cookies for 6 more months.

This week was not so bad! No soda dreams. No big cookie cravings. Here's to smooth sailing for the next 26 weeks! :)