Welcome Back, Dance Fans! ALL-STARS are in the house along with your Elite 8! So excited to see the routines tonight. A little nervous about who will wind up in the bottom 2 and who won't be saved. Very strong work last week from all. I can make no guesses as to how it all shook out. 1 contempo, 2 ballers, 2 ballerinos, 1 Jazz Hands, 1 Tokyo Popper, and 1 Kung Fu Hustler.remain.So few are left! They barely fill the stage anymore.
The pre-taped group number is to "Run Boy Run" by Woodkid. I can't immediately place who the choreographer is based on the style. It has sort of an asian theme to the costumes, and the music has a grand operatic feel. It's not a bad routine, but there are little moments from each of the dancers that makes them seem out of sync. A few wobbles, a few fumbled hand grabs. Just a little sloppy for a pre-taped dance, I think. When we get to the live intro, all eight of them flash the season 9 call sign, but Chehon almost forgets, and you can see in his eyes he remembers just in time. Heehee! Solidarity!
Cat - looking particularly ravishing in a lacy black dress and her hair flowing freely - tells us that the group choreo was by a newcomer, Peter Chu, which is why I couldn't place him beforehand. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is the third judge on the panel which makes Cat very happy because they are totes BFF since his appearance last season. He is such an uber-fan of the show. I like having him there, even if he doesn't have much to say about the actual dancing he talks about performance and shows the kids so much love. Tonight, we're getting solos and backstories for the remaining dancers because now that there's only 3 weeks left, it's time to find out who these kids actually are! Packed show! Onward!
SOLO 1: TIFFANY. We learn that Tiffany was raised in Florida and when she's not in the dance studio, she is in a bathing suit and on a boat. She danced because her older sister danced and we see several unbelievably adorable video clips of them dancing together in recitals when they are small children. There is no present day interview with the sister which gets me nervous that they're about to tell us she died in a tragic car accident months before the show started, but apparently she is fine. She just didn't do an interview. I should've known that if there was a death storyline, the show wouldn't have sat on it for this long. Tiffany's solo is strong, if not super memorable. She does that kick-yourself-in-the-head-sideways move that we haven't seen a lot of in solos this season, so it doesn't seem overused here. Good work, T-Maher Star!
1) Witney with ALL-STAR: Twitch! Dancing a hip hop routine by newcomer Luther Brown to "My Homies Still" by Lil Wayne feat. Big Sean. Concept: East Coast hard hitting hip hop that includes something called ratcheting. Witney is rocking both the choreography and the hairography. She really does an amazing job. There's A LOT going on in the routine. It's not the same kind of movement. Sometimes it's sharp. Sometimes it's fluid. There's a lot of character and sass coming from Witney. Plus she's really keeping up with Twitch. Very very strong. Nigel keeps saying "rat shit" instead of ratchet. I mean, i think it's ratchet? Now I'm confused. Nigel is pleased they keep saving her despite her continually falling in the bottom because she's always awesome. Mary tips her metaphoric hat to Witney and it makes me want for her to wear an actual mini-top hat next week so she can literally be like "hats off to you!" next week. JTF shows us the card the producers gave with the dancers names as if he didn't know (some guest judges haven't!) and thought the whole thing was amazing.
SOLO 2: WILL. We learned that Will has always been a class clown and had a hard time channeling his energy in school until he found dance. He believes dance saved his life. It gave him an outlet and focus and he's still a crazyhead, obviously, but he's adorable and sweet and was homecoming king at his school. He does a very strong contemporary solo and I'm reminded how much I really like how he's able to move that giant frame of his with such grace and lightness. Go Will!
2) Cole with ALL-STAR: Allison Holker! Dancing a contemporary routine by Sonya Tayeh to "Possibly Maybe" (Instrumental) by Björk. Concept: An even scarier version of the Mia Michael's addiction dance. Oh GOD. Allison is LIVING up there tonight! Cole is strong in the piece, which is easily the creepiest piece I've ever seen on the show. Allison just looks so pitifully desperate wanting Cole to love her and Cole is cruel and uncaring in return. The shapes they make, along with the music, and their expressions is just chilling. There's one lift where it looks like Cole is just holding her straight up in the air with one arm. How did they do that? JTF is so shaken by the intensity that he needs a cocktail. Mary raves about Allison, and then mentions Cole could probably be in the finale if he keeps dancing this way. Nigel also points out the creepiness of the routine but likes what they did. I don't know if the dance was too creepy to get the votes needed to keep Cole safe if he's around next week.
SOLO 3: LINDSAY. Her mom has a dance studio. Mark Ballas has worked at this studio! She is able to dance because of the support of her family. We don't really learn a lot here from the video package. She has to do ballroom in her solo without a
partner, which can be difficult but it's very interesting. She is incredibly expressive and has
a variety of movement. I really like this girl. I think it will be one
of the Ballroom Girls going home tonight, so I worry for her. Hang in
3) Eliana with ALL-STAR: Ryan DiLello from Season 6! Dancing a quickstep routine by Jonathan Roberts to "That Man" by Caro Emerald. Concept: Bored Housewife wants attention. Is there a season of SYTYCD when this concept didn't make an appearance at least once? This one is great though. Probably the best quickstep in the show's history. Ryan is a great partner here. So solid and charming with excellent technique. It's just the foundation Eliana needs to completely just lift off and shine. She looks amazing tonight and her spirit shines through. Her technique is as always very strong. Mary loved the routine. She has a few little quibbles about the frame, but they are very minor. She thinks Eliana really nailed it. JTF also loves her. He thinks she's so versatile and accessible. Nigel says it's like the show was almost created for her. He certainly wants her to win Favorite Girl three weeks from now. Fingers crossed!
SOLO 4: CHEHON. Chehon and his brothers grew up in Chicago until they were adopted and brought to Switzerland. What happened to his birth parents? Were they killed in a tragic car accident? It is never explained. From Switzerland, Chehon left as a teen to study ballet in London and does not get to see his adoptive parents very much which is difficult for him. His solo is beautiful and emotional as his mom is sitting in the audience for the first time tonight and Chehon is FEELING IT. He's in tears afterwards and Cat lovingly tells him to hold it together or she'll lose it too. Great solo from him. Werk, Chehon!
4) Lindsay and ALL-STAR: Alex Wong! dancing a jazz routine by Sonya Tayeh to Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye feat. Kimbra. Concept: No story, but lots of sexual tension! The movement is strong but the chemistry is not there to push it over the top. Too bad! The girls are so strong, no one can really afford to have a routine that's just okay and this one is just okay. I really enjoy it, Sonya gave them a good routine and the components are sound. Alex always impresses and Lindsay 's execution is precise, but there's no sizzle. The judges give it three strikes for chemistry, but praise her technique. If Lindsay's in the bottom, I'd say she's out.
5) Will with ALL-STAR: Lauren Gottlieb! dancing a hip hop routine by Christopher Scott. to "Dance My Pain Away" (District 78 remix) by Wye Oak. Concept: Will's dancing his pain away while Lauren is his blind sub-concious mind that's always in control The set is this giant grey sectional couch which I HATE. There's just too much furniture. And it's totally blah. I don't like lots of set pieces during these routines. Less is more in a one minute dance piece. You want to use a door, a bench, a bed, a table, a chait, a screen? Fine. Even a couch is fine! But the size of the sectional was too much for me. As for the dancing, I actually really like Will here. There's none of that face-pulling that sometimes distracts. He's really in it and moving well. I don't really understand Lauren's character though. Why is his mind a girl in a high pony tail and a pixie dress? I don't get it. And because of the storyline, he never really dances with her. He's not aware of her. But it's danced well. Mary really likes the seriousness Will brought to it. JTF gets very emotional about Will's video package from his solo. Nigel agrees with me that he didn't really get to dance with Lauren, but appaluds his efforts and tells him he won't be disappointed tonight. My Nigelspeak radar has a little blip right here, but I'm not sure what to make of it.
SOLO 5: WITNEY.- We learn she grew up in Utah and has a huge family. Her dad is not a super fan of her sexy ballroom nature. He is not a fan of the hot tamale train. Dad's are like that! Witney's solo is a more traditional example of ballroom girl dancing alone than Lindsay made hers, but there's something about the way she cha cha's across the stage and laser beams her eyes out to the audience that I think is just stellar. This girl has star quality. I don't think she'll win the whole thing, but I hope they bring her back as an additional ballroom All-Star in future seasons so that ANYA! doesn't have to carry the whole responsibility on her beautiful and capable shoulders.
SOLO 6: COLE - He grew up as a social outcast in Hawaii. His parents put him into martial arts as a child to build his confidence and he won a silver medal in junior Olympics at age 11. He found his way to dance because he wanted to be an actor and that's when he began to create his fusion style. His style is very much his own in the solo and is very watchable if have to completely define.
6) Cyrus with ALL-STAR: Melanie Moore, WINNER from Season 8! dancing a jazz routine by Mandy Moore to "Badder Badder Schwing"—Freddy Fresh feat. Fatboy Slim. Concept: Two cool people strutting their way through town. This is a good partnership. Melanie is the coolest chic on the dance planet. If you had perhaps forgotten why she won last season, it takes about .5 seconds to be reminded. She's got such incredible technique and personality. Cyrus can match her for personality and I really think he hits this jazz routine out of the park. It's not your usual open jazz hand, high kicking routine, there are these interesting punches and lifts and zipping across the stage moves. I really liked it. JTF thinks Cyrus will always be associated with the show for his uniqueness and personality. Nigel notes that he has never been voted to the bottom of the pack, and tells him to verse himself in dance history because it will only help him grow as an artist to know what's come before in America's history of dance. Mary references that Melanie is still The Beast she was from last year and makes the argument that every genre they give him is out of his element and that they could never do the animation style that he does as a partner dance on the show because it's just too difficult. I have been hard on Cyrus some weeks, mostly because I thought his early partnership with Eliana was limiting her in terms of showcasing the extent of her technical skill. Then he would be voted safe and she would be in danger which seemed unfair. But now that they are all on their own with All-Stars it bothers me less, and I also think Cyrus has been getting better .So good on him.
SOLO 7: ELIANA. Eliana's parents divorced and she lives with her mother while her siblings went with their father. Eliana then moved to NYC on her own as a teenager to go to dance school. I find the city challenging as a full grown adult so I don't know how a teenager you maneuver that successfully. Anyway, she does the solo and it's amazing. She's just such a gifted performer. Such skill. Love it! Cat tells her she is going to inspire so many little girls who are watching the show to be ballet dancers. Right on!
7) Chehon with ALL-STAR: Anya Garnis! dancing an Argentine Tango by Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo to "Breaking Below Surface" by Jesse Cook. Concept: Tango! It's really different in tone than most tangos. It has a softer, more loving quality to the movement. It's so quiet in the audience for most of it. People seem transfixed. They do this one move where Anya is basically flying around in the air kicking her legs all around Chehon that finally gets a vocal response from them. It ends and everyone goes wild. The judges leap to their feet. The choreographers are in tears in the audience. Mary thought it was phenomenal and she got chills. Chehon gave the performance they've been asking for all season. JTF can't deal with how amazing the routines are tonight and doesn't know how they are going to choose to send someone home tonight. Nigel praises the connection Chehon had with ANYA and felt like his technique and expanse was phenomenal. What a great night for Chehon. He impressed with both his solo AND his routine. If he's bottom 2 this week, I can't imagine he's going home.
SOLO 8: CYRUS. Cyrus grew up with his Mom and Dad but then they separated and then his Dad passed away when Cyrus was ten. They show an old picture of his dad and Cyrus looks exactly like him! Cyrus's mom was there for him and gave him all the support he could ask for. Cyrus's solo is off the hook. He hasn't done a solo in weeks because he hasn't had to dance for his life. What he does seems almost physically impossible. You think it should be a trick of editing or something. It's crazy. Everyone rightly goes nuts for it.
8) Tiffany with ALL-STAR: Ade Obayami from Season 5! dancing a contemporary routine by Mandy Moore to "The Power of Love" by Celine Dion. Concept: Lifts galore with power ballad POWER! Has no one ever used this song on this show before? That seems crazy! They LOVE Celine! Ade is just a mountain of strength and form and he picks up little Tiffany and she just SOARS across the stage. It's really a beautiful piece. Tiffany has such great control throughout, her emotional connection and chemistry with Ade is striking. It's just super good. The judges go nuts again. Mary says it's Tiffany's best of the season, JTF tries to flee the building instead of having to choose someone to go home and Nigel compliments her humble off-stage attitude and work ethic. This is certainly going to be a tough decision to see who goes home!
Cat calls everyone back out on stage for a very quick bottom 4 reveal. She has Witney and Lindsay step forward and they are in danger. She has Chehon and Cyrus step forward and they are safe. Cole and Will hug Witney and Lindsay and await their fates from Nigel. Will is SO much taller than the others. Cole barely comes up to Will's shoulder. Wow.
Nigel compliments the two ballroom girls for getting this far. This moment mirrors their Green Mile judging when they were pretending to choose between them for Top 20, but took both of them. Now it can be only one. And the one going through is Witney. She is in shock, and I'm sure she's relieved, but also feels badly for her friend Lindsay. Lindsay takes it with a ton of class. I will miss her! Hopefully she and Cole get to do their paso doble in the finale!
Then it's the boys. Nigel notes how different these two are as dancers but ultimately they keep Cole. And with that, all the contemporary dancers have left the competition two weeks before the finale! I would never have thought that at the beginning of the season. Has there ever not been a contemporary dance in the finale? I think not. Will is adorable in his exit package and hugging Cat at the end. He was a lot of fun. I hope he and Amelia get an encore slot in the finale. Alley Cats, maybe?
Tonight's Routines in Order of My Preference (but really 3-6 could be a tie).
1) Chehon and ANYA!'s Argentine Tango
2) Tiffany and Ade's Contemporary
3) Eliana and Ryan's Quickstep
4) Cyrus and Melanie's Jazz
5) Witney and Twitch's Hip Hop
6) Cole and Allison's Contemporary
7) Lindsay and Alex's Jazz (unsaved)
8) Will and Lauren's Hip Hop (unsaved)
So we are down to six, Dance Fans. It would seem like in two weeks we'll be seeing an Tiffany-vs-Eliana and Chehon-vs-Cyrus face-off, but Witney and Cole had solid routines this week, so who knows how close the voting margins will be? I'm looking forward to some great routines next week. Can we get Debbie Allen back to the judging panel once more? Will Mia Michaels return for another original routine? Will we see any new All-Stars (Katee, please!) resurface? Only a few more days til we find out all these answers and more!