Friday, December 6, 2013

The Tweets of Music

"What the f**k did I just watch?"

That was the serious question I posed to myself at the conclusion of yesterday's 3 hour tour through Rodgers & Hammerstein's Sound of Music Live! I asked myself that question not because I hated it (by its conclusion, I decided I enjoyed it very much) but because I wasn't actually sure what it was. It was a "live television musical event," but what IS that? It's not a movie, but it's being filmed. It's not a staging of the classic movie version of Sound of Music, but the stage musical version of Sound of Music that came before the film. But it's also not a live performance happening in a theater. The action is happening on multiple sets in a sound stage. There's no live studio audience so there's no applause and there's no energy for actors to feed off of while performing live. The actors are essentially performing in a vacuum, save for each other and the camera crews. There are commercial breaks throughout the performance which affect the natural flow of a two-act/one intermission stage show. So ultimately, what IS THIS?? The best I can come up with is: It's... unique! It's a "live television musical event." Cozy up on the couch, open the social media site of your choice and live-blog about it to to your heart's content! That's what live TV is for!

There's a bit of debate (mostly online, ironically) as to whether snarky live tweeting is "fair" to the production or the performers involved. Are we really allowing ourselves to experience the piece as a whole if we're constantly throwing out our opinions to the interwebs, picking things apart before we've allowed them to sink in. Personally, I think it's totally fair and a delightful part of the communal TV watching experience to live tweet. If you don't want to be involved, don't be! At a live theater, I would never act that way. But creatively riffing on something that is happening live is its own sort of improv skill. I think it should come from a good place in our hearts though. We kid because we love. Taking the piss out of something doesn't mean we don't ultimately appreciate it. As I said to a friend online, Shade isn't hate, it's just shade. If you can only complain and not not enjoy it, you should spend three hours doing something else.

Overall, I thought  Sound of Music Live was a huge success for NBC. Nobody tripped down the sets giant stairs (despite my urging), nobody forgot their lines, the camera work and sound work were pretty much always on point, the sets were great, Broadway stars were out in force on screen and there was a live musical on network TV in  prime time! And the network promoted the hell out of it and millions of people watched. So they'll probably do another musical in the future, because seriously, what else does NBC have that pulls those numbers? Pretty much nothing! So nice job, everyone.

And naysayers, keep in mind this was an experiment! No one would know if the live show would work at all, and some things worked really well! And for the things that didn't, why not be a force for good and point out the obvious flaws so when they do it next time there's a public record of what areas could be improved? It's our DUTY as musical theater lovers to tweet and post our FEELINGS! Just put some thought into your thoughts, you know?

God Bless, Carrie Underwood. She is not a trained actress, and her line readings especially in the first half of the show were ROUGH, but I applaud the effort. She was trying. I could see she was trying. I felt she was invested. She was stretching as an artist. There was no sense of her just going through the motions. No glazed over eyes while her scene partners were talking. She had one performance to nail everything. No previews. No safety net. All eyes on her. Whether you think she was miscast, she still fully committed to this 3 hour journey. There was no turning back. Even a high school production would let the kids have 3 or 4 shows over a weekend to settle in and get some perspective on what they're doing. I was left with the impression that she started out very nervous and as things went on, she relaxed. I also felt that given the opportunity to keep playing  the role, her confidence would build and her performance would improve. I'm not discounting the shortcomings, I'm just applauding the risks she took professionally in taking on the role and for investing herself in it. She knew she'd be opening herself up to a lot of scrutiny and she did it anyway. And her attachment to the project brought a lot of eyes to TV screens.

PLUS there were the highlights of the night in Audra McDonald as Reverend Mother and Laura Benanti as Elsa. These women are INSANE talents. And they got to show what they can do to millions of viewers! Audra's "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" made the whole thing worth it. It's glorious. Carrie's present and emotional reactions as her scene partner during the song made it even more special. And separately, Laura's reaction shots throughout the performance were PRICELESS. When Elsa exits the story, we were all sad to see Laura go.

And then there was Kurt! Little second-son Kurt! I didn't even know that could be a scene-stealing part. Just like when Maria's saying her prayers, Kurt can be a little forgotten. But that little kid had stage (and screen!) presence. He was a delight.

So in conclusion, it's fun to make jokes, but it's also fun to support the art form and recognize the effort put in to make something nice. It doesn't replace the stage musical, or the classic movie we watch over and over again, but it can compliment both and introduce new viewers to the joys of musical theater.

And for the record, here's all the snarky things I had to say about the show last night:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rafael Nadal: We're Still Having Fun and You're Still No. 1

"We've been together since way back when..."

The 2013 ATP World Tour season has been a tremendous year for Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, and therefore a very exciting year for all of his fans. Last year was so difficult having been out for 7 months with injury, missing the Olympics, The US Open and the Australian Open and seeing his ranking slide during his absence. He missed the game and the game definitely missed him. But look at where we are now! At this year's ATP Tour Final Championship Nadal got two special trophies. The first was for being voted the ATP World Tour Comeback Player of the Year (richly deserved) and the second was for earning the title of Year End No. 1. I'm so thrilled for him! It's had me singing that old Orleans song since the news became official last week. Coming back from injury, his ranking had fallen as far as No. 5, but he is now back at the top of the  Emirates ATP Rankings for the third time in his career, having also taken the title in 2008 and 2010. No player has ever regained the year end No. 1 ranking after a three year absence form the spot. Given all the obstacles in his way, this achievement is truly astonishing, and for me personally, truly inspiring.

You're still the one that makes me strong
Still the one I want to take along
We're still having fun, and you're still No. 1

Nadal completes this season with a remarkable 75-7 match record from 17 tournaments he entered. He reached the final in FOURTEEN of those tournaments and achieved a 10-4 record in those finals. His tournament wins include two Grand Slam tournament titles and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. He achieved this goal having gained NO ranking points in 2 of this year's 4 Grand Slam tournaments (He didn't play the Aussie Open and he lost first round in Wimby. So there are points still to pick up next year!)

Do we wish he'd have beaten Novak in the year end tournament final claiming that unique trophy for the first time ever? OF COURSE. But seriously, if you can't be happy with this successful of a year, following what had happened the year before, you have serious mental problems. Celebrate the victories and look forward to 2014!! With both Novak and Rafa healthy and at the top of their games the rivalry should continue to be riveting. They went 3-3 in their 6 match-ups this year. Nadal won their Grand Slam matches, but Novak got three big titles as well. It's amazing to think how the musical chairs of the top 6 players shifted around this year considering how things have ended up. To illustrate how Rafa and Novak have once again separated themselves from the pack, Nadal ends the year with 13,030 points, Novak has 12,110 points and then in 3rd place David Ferrer (!!) has... 5,800 points. So that's... quite a gap. I can't wait to see what happens next. Since Nadal has no points to defend in Australia in January and Novak has champion points to defend, the rankings should not change through the first few months of 2014. Nadal still has a slight career edge on Novak. I hope it's more wins for Rafa!

So enjoy your extremely short off-season, Rafa! It will seem like no time at all. Before he gets some well-earned R&R in Mallorca eating his shrimp and pasta and chocolate chip cookies, he travels to the British Virgin Islands for a charity event with Richard Branson and then hits an exhibition tour of South America with Novak in Chile and Argentina. In the blink of an eye, Nadal will then open his 2014 season in Doha, at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open (which actually starts in 2013, but I guess it ENDS in 2014 so people aren't too fussy about it) and then I'll be off to see him in Melbourne for the Australian Open!! I can't wait. There is so much to be excited about in the 2014. I expect epic battles and tons of entertainment, and hopefully Rafa will continue to break records to our astonishment and delight. VAMOS!!!!!!

You are still the one that makes me shout
Still the one that I dream about
We're still having fun, and you're still No. 1...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Noel & Me: A Musical Journey

(always providing comfort, on stage and off.)

Last week, a great mentor of mine, and one to countless other artists who grew up on Long Island, passed away unexpectedly due to heart failure. Noel S. Ruiz had an impact on so many lives and shared so much love with everyone around him. For a man with such incredible influence and impact on the young people in his shows, he was never controlling of us. He was a great listener, teacher and guide. He was someone who treated people of all ages with respect and care. I can't really measure the impact of this man on my life. If you want to get an overview of who he was and how much he contributed to the community, please click the link here to get a nice glimpse into what Noel was all about.

What follows here is a personal recollection of the artistic journey we took together from the time when I was in kindergarten through my first year of college. I feel like I should preface all this by stating that there are many people that knew Noel better as a day-to-day person than I did. There are people I grew up with who spent much more time with him in their adult years and got to understand him better and can probably tell you better stories about him as a result. I moved to the city after college, and never really went back and never really developed a strong adult understanding of Noel. In my mind he looms as NOEL, a force of nature and the font of artistry who sits atop the pedestal in my mind (wearing a gold lamé Herod costume, naturally), than just Noel, the man who worked really hard to make his impossible dream possible and had a lot of love to share.

Still, as I have reflected over the lessons I've learned and the gifts I've received from Noel throughout my childhood, I felt moved to write about our relationship and our time together. I am almost overwhelmed with gratitude that I was able to grow up and play in his artistic sandbox with so many lifelong friends. What my life's journey would be like without him, I cannot imagine. I like to make people mix CD's, so as I go along, I'm dedicating a song from each show to him  as a little soundtrack to our lives. I'm not sure anyone is ever going to read all of this, but it felt right to express it. Off we go. This is the story of Noel and me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

SYTYCD 10: Results FINALE - Everybody Had Matching Towels!

Well, here we are Dance Fans, it's time to wrap this mother up. 2 contempos, 1 hip hopper and 1 tappa tappa tappa remain. Two titles hang in the balance. We'll find out who won in about two hours time, but before that we get to celebrate all the awesomeness that was Season 10.

Cat kicks things off by reintroducing the top 20 (in their original pairings! since we have two original couples left! Although Malece is without Jade who is still injured.) all the way through to the top 4 who are then announced individually. She directs our attention to the Final Judge's Table which this week is comprised of tWitch, Adam Shankman, and Paula Abdul along with our resident judge's Mary, and Nigel. Everyone is dress in their very best finale outfits to mark the special occasion. Each judge will pick a favorite routine for an encore, Cat will pick a favorite, each finalist will pick a favorite and there will be several old and new group numbers. Don't forget the audience vote (HAHAHA!) routine as well. And plenty of montages from across the season. I feel compelled to note that I don't consider these "filler" segments. The montages buy the dancers a little breathing/costume changing times in between partner dances or group numbers and this year especially the padding seems justified.

I wonder what routines will be selected for encores this year. There are so many great ones to choose from starting with Meet the Top 20 week all they way through to the performance finale. I would like to see Travis's Brothers Dance and Amy and All-Star Alex's Bollywood. Also something from Comfort, because she has been an amazing All-Star all season. Encore routines can be a mixed bag. The best routines either have a hard time recapturing the moment, or soar beyond the original once they are free from the pressures of competition. We'll have to see how everything shakes out tonight.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

RAFA-RIPPED OPEN: Final - Nadal d. Djokovic. Our Hero = OUR CHAMPION!!

(King of the Hard Courts!!)

Guys. It really happened. Rafa ripped open the entire field of competitors in his path and now he is the 2013 US Open Champion!!

This championship match was so insane, with both players being stretched to their limits over the three hour plus match time. Ultimately, Rafa won the night over World No. 1 and current-biggest-rival Novak Djokovic with a  6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory. Rafa maintains a perfect 22-0 record on hard courts this season. This also marks his 13th major title (out of 18 finals played). He is now only one major title behind Sampras on the all-time list. It seems clear if he stays healthy he'll pass that number. He's currently four back of Federer.I think that 5 more major titles seems like an awful lot. But Rafa's still only 27 and shows no signs of losing dominance at the French, so it's not impossible. It's Rafa. So you gotta give him a fighting chance. :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

RAFA-RIPPED OPEN: Semifinals - Nadal d. Gasquet

(Back to the Finals!)

We're almost at the end of the road, Ladies & G's. Our Hero, Rafael Nadal continues his quest for title taking the last necessary step to reach with the final. Saturday he won a hard-fought straight set victory over No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet, 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2. Nadal will play his 18th Grand Slam final, a mark that ties him with Pete Sampras for third-most in history, behind only Roger Federer (24) and Ivan Lendl (19).

Friday, September 6, 2013

RAFA-RIPPED OPEN: Quarterfinals - Nadal d. Robredo

(not a classic, but still a familiar story.)

Wednesday night, Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, tore through his US Open quarterfinal match, totally dismantling his compatriot Tommy Robredo 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in just 1 hour and 34 minutes. For those of you who like fun sports trivia, it's the fewest games in a US Open quarterfinal since Ivan Lendl beat Derrick Rostagno 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in 1988. This win extends Nadal's current hard-court winning streak to 20 matches. Sweet!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

SYTYCD 10: Performance Finale Recap - You Betta Shake That Ass, But Don't Land On Uranus!

This is it, Dance Fans. The Final Showdown. The whole season has been leading to this. 2 Contempo girls, 1 Tappa Tappa Tappa boy, and 1 hip hopper boy remain. In the immortal words of Mr. Geoffrey Jellineck, "It's time to see who wants it BAD ENOUGH!" Two of our favorite couples - Aaron/Jasmine and Amy/Fik-Shun - made it all the way to the end together. But now it's every dancer for themselves. Let's get to it shall we!

There's no time for a Final Four routine. But there are pictures of it on the SYTYCD website, so I guess they filmed one and didn't air it? We'll have to wait for the Results Finale next week for that, I guess. Cat comes out looking gorgeous with her golden hair flowing down in curls. She is the most beautiful creature on this Earth. Yes, even more beautiful than Rafael Nadal. She tells us each dancer will dance tonight 5 (!!!) times. Each contestant will have a routine with their original partner, then they'll switch boy/girl partners, then there's also an All-Star routine in the style of their choice, then they'll do judged solos, and then if they haven't completely collapsed, there are final boys and girls routines!

Joining Nigel and Mary on the judging panel this week are Fox Reality Competition Host Extraordinaire Paula Abdul, and Olympic Gold Medalist and gymnastics superstar Gabby Douglas. I'm hoping she'll have more to offer during judging than Carley Rae Jepsen did, but I'm a little concerned she'll fall back on, "You guys did great. I loved it!" all night long. Guys, I hope we get fantastic routines in this finale. Sometimes we get something incredible like Jeanine and Brandon's Paso Doble in Season 5, and sometimes we get strange underwhelming ones like the Little Foxes routine with Sabra and Lacey in Season 3. I want all four of our kids on the hot tamale train all night long!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

RAFA-RIPPED OPEN: Round 4 - Nadal d. Kohlschreiber


Hooray! So last night was my annual trip to the US Open. Despite rain delays that pretty much ate up the entire Day Session, the weather yesterday evening for the Night Session was lovely. Well, it was VERY humid, but the skies were clear and it wasn't windy and Ashe stadium was pretty dry so I score this as a total spectator win. Conditions were much grosser if you were actually trying to compete, as all the players were sweating buckets. We had a great time and as scheduling luck would have it, my buddy Miguel and I got to see Rafa's match! My first time ever seeing him really compete in person. I previously had a grounds pass at the French Open in 2010 for the men's final when Rafa won, and I saw him play an exhibition with Delpo at MSG earlier this year, but this was my first in-stadium Rafa viewing during real competition. Our Hero did not disappoint, beating No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-1! Woohoo!

(Evening shot of Ashe from Court 17 as the clouds lift on the Night Session.)

 When we arrived on the grounds, Federer was already losing to Robredo over on Armstrong, as a delayed match from the Day Session. There was no way to get into that stadium, as it was already filled to capacity. I don't know that it would've been fun to watch Fed self-destruct like that anyway. Watching it on the big screen while we were eating dinner was shocking enough. We also got to see the very beginning and end of the Raonic-Gasquet match on Court 17 which started just before Nadal's match and ended about 45 minutes after. Court 17 is such a fun court. Not a bad seat in the place. Really great design. Migs and I also hung around to see a bit of the Bryan Brothers doubles match. It's a shame they got such a late start, but I'm glad they didn't get bumped off of Ashe because of the rain.

(Ashe starts to fill up as the players take to the court!)

So now with our Grey Goose Honey Deuce signature cocktails in hand, it was time to take our seats for the main event. OMG, guys. Kohlschreiber! WTF. This dude came to PLAY. Despite my continued suggestions throughout the first set, that he just give up and have the match get to its inevitable conclusion sooner rather tha later, he refused to listen to me. That was really annoying of him.

In the first set, Kohl was hitting truly wicked serves and returns. Rafa's service game was not being threatened. Nadal only faced one break point the whole match and that wasn't until the match was over two hours long and into the start of the 4th set. And Rafa really should've won the 1st set.  He had 3 set points from 0-40 on Kohlschreiber's serve, and couldn't convert them. Then Kohl played incredibly well in the tie break and took the set. The crowd was stunned. I was less than pleased. I had been politely clapping for Kohl's winners during the first set, but that came to an abrupt stop when he won the tie break and did not resume for the rest of the match. Migs continued to clap for Kohl's best shots, but I decided to be civil and not get into a big argument with him about it. 

(There he is! I saw him and the world went away...)

While this drama was going on in front of us, Fed was busy losing on Ashe and lots of people in our stadium were listening to that go down on their headsets. Watching Rafa fall was making for a crazy anxious energy. This was not supposed to happen! All in all Rafa for the match,  was really poor on break point conversions - only 5-21. It was his only weak stat, but it's still an important one. It really wasn't that he was making errors on big points. Philipp was just playing these incredible Rafa-esque shots when his back was up against the wall. Rafa had a a 0-40 opportunity on Kohl's serve early in the second set and again couldn't get it done. Luckily he had another chance later and made it stick.

There was an INSANE first game to start the third set that went on forever and featured a dizzying amount of deuce points (the jumbo screen didn't keep a tally but it was A LOT, evidenced by the astonished groans from the crowd with each missed advantage point) and eight break chances for Nadal. Still, somehow Kohl survived the game. In those three games that I just mentioned, that's 14 missed break points! Rafa remained focused, however and eventually he converted his chances for decisive breaks in the second, third and fourth sets. Victory was his!

I have to say, it's truly a special thing to see Rafa's most unbelievable shots happen live. It's just a different perspective to see it happening right in front of you. They seem that much more physcially impossible. I'm so happy I got to see him win this year!

Next up, Rafa gets Tommy Robredo, instead of our first ever US Open match between Rafa and Fed. Nadal has a 6-0 lifetime record against his elder statesman, but they haven't actually played against each other since 2009. You can only play one match at a time, but Rafa has a favorable road ahead back to the final. Robredo in the quarters and most likely Ferrer in the semis. If he keeps up this level of play and focus, we should see Rafa back in the finals on Monday. VAMOS!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

RAFA-RIPPED OPEN: Round 3 - Nadal d. Dodig

  (Nothing gets by Rafa in another rout!)

Our Hero, Rafael Nadal breezed through another round of the US Open on Saturday with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win over Ivan Dodig. Nadal continued to play with his new-found aggression and offensive shot-making and was never in danger the whole match. He has even not dropped serve yet for the entire tournament!

Tomorrow evening Rafa plays No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber from Germany. Rafa holds a 9-1 lifetime record against Philipp and has never lost to him on hard courts. Tomorrow night also promises to be a special night, for it is my annual trip to see the US Open live and I'm very excited to see Rafa in action. I'm begging the rain gods to give me a reprieve and not wash out the match. I still lament that time I was supposed to meet Nadal at his book-signing and stupid Hurricane Irene canceled it and I missed my chance. Please! I'm not even asking to meet Rafa this time! I just want watch him play! Rain overnight when no one is trying to play tennis! I'm begging you, Weather! VAMOS!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

RAFA-RIPPED OPEN: Round 2 - Nadal d. Dutra Silva

(Rafa tears through Round 2!)

This was almost a blink-and-you-miss-it match. That's not easy in best of 5 matches. Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, put the hurt on Rogerio Dutra Silva in a big way, winning 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. The 134th-ranked Brazilian was totally outmatched for a confident and aggressive Rafa.

One point as an example. On Dutra Sliva's serve, Rafa raced to his left for a full-stretch forehand. Then he reversed course. chargingto the opposite sideline. There Rafa sent up a backhand lob that sailed right over Dutra Silva's head and out of reach of his racket and then dipped right inside the baseline. The crowd roared for the brilliance.

It was Nadal’s first U.S. Open night match in two years! It's so great to have him back in this amazing form. He looks better than ever, if that's even possible. I hope he continues to rip through the competition in the third round against Ivan Dodig from Croatia. It could be an interesting match. They've split their only two meetings with Dodig winning on hard court in Montreal back in 2011. Dodig has also battled past Davydenko and Verdasco in the first two rounds. I expect if Rafa stays in his current form of focus and aggression he'll be able to dominate. My buddy LMM said it best after the second round match. VAMOS!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

SYTYCD 10: 6 to 4 Recap - Hey Aaron, Jesse Just Met You, And This Is Crazy...

We've almost made it to the finale, Dance Fans. And I must say, I've been loving your journey this season! 3 contempos, 1 baller, 1 hip hopper, 1 tappa tappa tappa remain. Who is gonna make it to the very end???

Cat gives us the traditional intro of the top six before we get to the judges. It gives me hope that I will get one "there are the girls! and here are your guys!" for the season, but alas she does not say it. I appreciate that the contestants still do the step touch in the back line and the quick head snap toward each other before the group pose. I will take what I can get when it comes to this show's traditions.

Cat looks gorgeous in a gold, cocktail dress which is a far less severe look than last week. Last week was beautiful too but it was ALL SERIOUS BUSINESS. This week's outfit feels more celebratory and light. Cat's BFF, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, has returned to be with Nigel and Mary at the judge's table, so how could she not be cheery?  We learn the dancers will be dancing 3 times tonight (two routines and a solo) and Nigel promises to be tough on them even though they no longer have a direct choice in who stays and who goes anymore.

Group number - African jazz  by Sean Cheesman. "Hlohonolofatsa" by the Soweto Gospel Choir.

The girls are lying on top of the guys and the guys lift them up in the air. It's very pretty. Jasmine and Aaron and Fik-shun and Amy are back together, with Paul partnering Hayley. It makes sense height-wise, but I'd kind of love to see what happens in a Jasmine and Fik-shun routine. I think that'd be rad. The whole routine is lovely and fluid and joyful. The girls are in long backless white dresses and the boys are shirtless. Aaron has tattoos! I never noticed before. Everyone does a great job here. A really nice moment for the six of them.

Tonight's intros are messages from the dancers' parents. You won't be shocked to learn that the parents are so proud of them and none are actively campaigning for their child to lose. Maybe some day we'll get a video of a crazed parent screaming, "dancing is the work of the devil! It turned my child gay!" but it won't be this season.  The solos are all strong. Amy's technique is as strong as ever, Fik-Shun's never been better, in my opinion. It's just so sharp and surprising and impressive. Unparalleled, I'd say. Jasmine's got sophistication and power and legs the length of Long Island. Paul's hips don't lie and I like the truths he's telling me. Hayley is power and fight and beauty. Aaron finally gets to tap! It was worth the wait. Really intricate footwork and incredible showmanship. Seriously, this Top 6 brings it every time. It's gotta be a very tight race. Who did America actually vote for?? Let's get through the night's routines before we find out. There's no voting tonight so these routines don't count for much except making the strongest impression possible going into the performance finale next week.

Paul Karmiryan and All-Star Kathryn McCormick - jazz choreographed by Tyce Diorio. Music: “Tied Up” by Yello.
Concept; It's the most pleasant fight ever! Then why classify it as a fight? Anyway it start out with Kathryn up high in an enormous flowing skirt, and for a hot minute I'm really exciting thinking "stilts! stilts!"  But then Paul bursts out from underneath the skirt and Kathryn rips it away to reveal she's actually on a giant ladder. Ah well. It's still really cool how she climbs down off of it. Somebody incorporate stilts in Season 11, please? The dance is fun. It's jazz with a very strong latin ballroom influence for Paul. He's also rocking leather pants. A very solid opening number overall. Nigel shows off the cheat sheet the producers give the judges and how under Paul's name it says "Latin Ballroom." Nigel thinks it should just say "dancer" because he's conquered every style that's caoe his way this season. Mary loved the opening image with the dress and loves Paul's charisma and talent. (what about his uniqueness and nerve in the middle there, Mary?") Jesse recalls that he was at Paul's first audition in LA and is so happy to have witnessed his amazing journey this season.

Hayley Erbert and All-Star Joshua Allen — hip hop by Tabitha and Napoleon. Music: “Work Hard, Play Hard” by Wiz Khalifa.

Yay Joshua! It was a long time ago, but let's remember he beat Mark, Chelsie, Courtney, Katee, and tWtich to win Season 4. That was by no means an easy roster of competitors to best. Concept: Million Dollar Hip Hop baby. Joshua is the trainer and Hayley in the ring. You know, I just don't know that I love Hayley doing hip hop. I didn't like her routine with tWitch a couple weeks ago and I'm just not really into this either. She really goes after the movement and it's certainly not bad, I just don't really enjoy her in this style. Mary thinks Hayley that in competition will is even more important than skill. Nigel is thrilled to have Joshua back and Mary also thinks Hayley danced as strong as anyone she's seen do hip-hop on the show. That's not remotely true. Jesse thinks she did a good job with a character so opposite her regular personality. He also comments that the crowd tonight is loudest he's ever heard from his five other judging appearances. Cat agrees, and she has in fact noted several times this season that the studio audience is louder than ever.

Aaron Turner and All-Star Melanie Moore - Broadway by Spencer Liff. Music: “Faith” by George Michael.

Concept: a couple that loves to argue each other but pushes each others' buttons. I don't think this song was ever in a Broadway musical, but there have been so many jukebox musicals of late, I suppose it's possible. Melanie got a new haircut that makes her look even more gorgeous if that's possible. This features a lot of character as they seem to actually be yelling at each other  over the music. The moves are so in sync and the kicks are SO HIGH. There are several difficult lifts they pull off with ease. It's all going great and  - what? Aaron drops her! She was doing a lean back and it looks like their and their hands just miss and she hit the ground right on her head. NOOO! YOU CANNOT DROP MELANIE! CARDINAL SIN! FEDERAL OFFENSE! They work it in pretty well since she is supposed to stay mad at him and it looked like they were almost making up, but Aaron also tries to pick her up on the arm that's holding her weight, so it lingers a second or two longer than it needs to. And then the routine finishes like 10 seconds later. UGH. They were so close to getting through it clean! Cat doesn't pretend like it didn't happen and asks if Melanie's alright. Melanie laughs it off and says she's totally fine and it was all in character. Jesse says Aaron got one of the nest actresses the shows ever had with Melanie and then he kinda babbles a little bit, but he thought Aaron did well, despite dropping her. Nigel loved the character but reminds Aaron to keep his shoulders down, a repeated request throughout the season. Mary asks Aaron if his high shoulders is related to his injury; he says he doesn't want to use it as an excuse. Nigel points out his shoulders are getting injured BECAUSE he's holding the tension there instead of letting it move freely. She compliments him on his partnering and even with the drop Mary thinks if she were to partner with any of the contestants, she would pick him. Still the obvious drop is probably gonna sink this routine to the bottom for me this week.  I gotta say here - remember when Malece got dropped on her head in Vegas and even though none of them were their all the judges FREAKED THE EFF OUT? I felt like they were very restrained here. Clearly it was not a case of lack of attention on Aaron's part, and accident's happen in the most vigilant circumstances, but if they chose to be harsher with him about it,it wouldn't have been out of place.

Fik-Shun and All-Star Witney Carson -foxtrot by Jonathan Roberts. Music: "Sexy Silk" by Jessie J.

Concept: Fast, sexy foxtrot! The final move might kill Fik-shun by means of Witney's heel stabbing Fik-shun's eye.This is a fun routine but it's obvious Witney is leading him around and not the other way around. Whitney looks gorgeous here too, in a peacock-blue gown. A few times Fik-shun seems to be concentrating on the steps and the character falters. Still, it's not like he dropped her.  Mary admits there rough spots in his technique, but was impressed with his hold position. The style may not fit him best, he's still fantastic. Jesse points out that Witney was leading tonight, but it shouldn't cost him in the long run. He also talks about doing a "white man's overbite" which I don't think I'd ever heard as a phrase before, but I looked online and it's a thing. Nigel agrees with the other two, but since they can't choose to cut him this week and the audience won't vote on this routine, the outlook for him is pretty good! Nigel also compliments his solo, which was definitely worth mentioning.

Jasmine Harper and All-Star Neil Haskell - jazz by Tyce Diorio. Music: “Unfaithful” from the Unfaithful soundtrack.

This is one of Tyce's issue dances about survivors of natural disasters - mostly of the windy variety. They dance to the theme from "Unfaithful" which is oddly appropriate because if I remember that movie started out with a freak wind storm that pushed the two adulterers together.  The dance is really gorgeous, as much as I never miss an opportunity to knock Tyce, this one is really a home run in emotion and technique. Jasmine is conveying so much through her movement. Neil is always fantastic, but their partnership is really on point. They receive the first Standing O of the night from the judges.  Nigel congratulates Neil on the best dancing he's seen him do on the show, and tells Jasmine she's going to have a great future in a dance company once the tour is over, if that's the path she chooses. Mary is crying, and says something about tears and rainbows that I couldn't figure out, and winds up telling Jasmine she's spectacular. Jesse confesses Jasmine is his favorite dancer this season. Mine too, for the girls!

Amy Yakima and All-Star Alex Wong - Bollywood by Nakul Dev Mahajan. Music: “Munni Badnaam Hui Darling” from Dabangg (soundtrack).

Concept: A Princess and her servant have a forbidden love! The routine is very fast and one of Nakul's best, in my opinion. These two never lose the energy or character as the nail the movement. There's an illicit kiss! Scandal! They do 8 knee spins in a row at one point and it's absurd. Really just incredible work here. Cat asks for a leg massage from Alex at the end and he's happy to oblige. They giggle about it like besties as they walk over to judging. Cat makes hosting this show seem like the best job in the whole damn world. Mary thinks it's just crazy and nuts in the best of ways. Jesse loved them and loves that Bollywood routines on the show always make him smile. Nigel notes that practicing for Bollywood is what snapped Alex's Achilles tendon back in Season 7 (OMG could you imagine if if happened instead during the live show? Yikes!) but Alex says that's why he was really excited to come back for it this week. He conquered it!

Hayley and Paul - contemporary by Dee Caspary. Music: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by Sleeping At Last.

Now we're back to contestant pairs and Paul and Hayley are together.  They have a beautiful connection especially considering they haven't spent the last two months partnering each other. Paul knows how to be a great partner from ballroom, but this style is far removed from that and you don't see anything but confidence in his movement. In judging, Jesse can't stand that anyone has to go home tonight. He does manage to zing us with "I'm going to keep this Carly Rae Jepsen-short: 'It was amazing!'" Mary and Nigel pretty much fall out of their seats laughing. Nigel can't wait for CRJ's fans to attack JTF on twitter. He also says he is certain Hayley and Paul can can do anything asked of them. Mary tells them to date. Or maybe she calls them out on the fact that they are dating? She was hinting about a couple on the show on her twitter feed a few weeks ago. That would definitely explain their great connection in the dance!

Amy and Fik-Shun - hip hop by Dave Scott. Music: “Lemme See” by Usher feat. Rick Ross.

Concept: A couple shopping and Amy's modeling what she bought. Okay. It's actually quite fun and not cutesy so hooray! Don't just always give them cutesy because they do it well! Amy has to dance with a shopping bag to begin the routine, which has to be the oddest dance prop I've seen this season. These two fit like a glove. They know exactly how to hit this one out of the park. Nigel praises their performance and then can't help but take a dig at Miley Cyrus, feeling she should take pointers from Amy on how to be sexy without being vulgar. Mary loved seeing them back together again (for the last time?) and Jesse is also pleased he got to see more of them before the end and this routine has cleansed him of bad twerking memories.

 Jasmine and Aaron - jazz by Sean Cheesman, Music: “Mirror Mirror” by Lord KraVen.

Concept: Evil Magic Mirror Insanity! Aaron states into a giant slab of mirror wall wondering how long it will take to scrub off all that guyliner when Jasmine shows up in this INSANE silver body suit.  The routine is crazy enough to have come out of the mind of Sonya Tayeh. It's full of crazy lifts and contortionist moves. Aaron takes Jasmine leg and lifts it straight up and then bends, bends, BENDS, it all the way over her head so it's parallel to the floor and then there are pelvic thrusts from that position. Everyone across America who sees it and loses their minds. The judges freak out over it. Mary, for like the tenth week in a row cannot get over Jasmine's legs, but I can't either so I'm not knocking Mary. Jesse calls Jasmine a human protractor. He then starts to address Aaron, and again he gets tongue-tied, until finally he blurts out that he has a crush on Aaron, and tries to hide under the table and his face turns bright red. Everyone has a good-natured laugh at his expense and Aaron is totally loving it. Jesse then says Aaron looks like his husband, but I don't know. Maybe around the eyes? What do you think?

It's still pretty adorable. Nigel LOVED Aaron's tap solo, and praises him for FINALLY finally keeping his shoulders down and Aaron's celebration is almost as adorable as Jesse's admission of crush.

That's it for routines. Time for cruel, cruel results. Girls first. After a recap of last week's routines that I swear feels like it lasts 15 minutes, Cat announces that Amy is the first girl into the finale. She cries runs down to the pit to hug the guys. The second girl in? Jasmine. Hooray! Hayley is fantastic, but I just couldn't believe Jasmine not going all the way after all her amazing routines this season. I feel like they are all worthy of winding up in the results finale. Hayley takes it so well, she seems almost relieved and is happy with how far she made it.Everyone screams and claps for her and the judges look so proud of her and she deserves this nice moment.

After an epic recap of the guy's routines last week, Cat tells us the first guy in the finale is Aaron. Don't drop anybody next week, Butterfingers! Fik-shun and Paul both look uncertain. Cat tells Fik-Shun he's in. NOOOOOO! My Paulie got cut! America, WHY??? Fik-shun is a solid choice, I cannot deny him, but Paul had never been in the bottom before and now he's out. That's rough. Paul smiles and congratulates Fik-shun, and then gets some glorious hugging from Cat. She compliments him on being a gentleman and being happy for Fik-shun. He tries to keep the smile up, but you can tell he's disappointed. At least he won the show in Armenia! A title is a title. I'm really pleased he made it so far. He really won me over this season.

Next Week: Performance Finale! I think we get to see everyone in a routine in their own style among others. I know Aaron is getting a tap routine, and how else can they justify that unless they give the others their expert style? We'll see. These four are so strong. They all could win. Can't wait to see how it all shakes out.

Tonight's routines in order of my preference:

Aaron and Jasmine's Jazz
Amy and Alex's Bollywood
Jasmine and Neil's Contempo
Hayley and Paul's Contempo
Amy and Fik-shun's Hip Hop
Paul and Kathryn's Jazz
Fik-shun and Witney's Foxtrot
Hayley and Joshua's Hip Hop
Aaron and Melanie's Broadway

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

RAFA-RIPPED OPEN: Round 1 - Nadal d. Harrison

(he's baaaaaack!)

The US Open is back Ladies and G's! The tournament is not barely a day old and already Our Hero, Rafael Nadal has punched his ticket into the second round with a convincing win over Ryan Harrison from the US. It was a "straight sets, no threats" victory 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Rafa looked great and played great. What more can we ask for?

Usually, I get a little sad to see American players lose early, but I've never been a big fan of Harrison. I don't like how he comported himself at the London Olympics when he was losing. I thought it was beneath the occasion of the Olympics. Since that time, including his post-match interview on Monday, he's had better composure, so I can see myself getting over it in the future, but for right now  I am okay with Rafa knocking him out as early as possible.

Having just won Montreal and Cincinnati back to back and regained the No. 2 world ranking, Rafa is still firing on all cylinders. In the very first game, Rafa set the tone by returning the most insane overhead shot from way outside the doubles line to produce a winner. See for yourself in the video below.

Crazy, right? He's telling Harrison. "I'm returning ALL your shots." Rafa got the early break right from the beginning and never looked back. Next up he either gets Pospisil, or Silva in round 2. They spread Round 1 out over three days so I never really understand when Round 2 is actually going to happen. Plus we intermittent rain this week in NYC so who knows how the schedule will be affected.

I'm looking forward to Rafa making a very deep run here this year, and I'm hoping he can win the tournament. I'll be rooting for him all along the way. VAMOS!

Friday, August 23, 2013

SYTYCD 10 - 8 to 6 Recap: Aliens, Animals & Drag Queens, Welcome!

Welcome Back, Dance Fans! This week everything old is new again as All-Stars return not only to partner with the contestants, but to choreograph all the routines! This should cut down on reaction shots from the audience during judging by 100%! More screen time for Cat with the dancers! Woohoo! I have a feeling these All-Stars are going to know how to build routines that really let the dancers shine. We've got 4 contempos, 2 ballers, 1 hip hopper and 1 tappa, tappa, tappa left. Let's get to it, shall we?

Opening number choreographed by Mia Michaels. Music: “Move to the Ocean (Baauer Remix)” by Brick & Mortar.

It's kind of burlesque circus motif. I thought it felt like a Mia piece before Cat announced it as such, and I'm glad to see her back doing group numbers before the season ends. I'm glad we get to see Tucker's long hair not slicked back for once as well. I start to panic midway through the routine, however, because I can easily count all the way to eight and I can also easily tell there are only seven dancers on stage. A quick scan of body types indicates we are missing Aaron. NOOOO!!!! He is the fifth male dancer this season out of the top 10 guys to sustain an injury that kept him from performing a routine on the show this year! That's A LOT of hurt dancers percentage-wise. I'm dreading hearing what happened to him. But then when Cat launches into her intro and doesn't mention it and doesn't tell us she has bad news or anything, I'm confused. Hmm.What's going on here?

The judges tonight are Nigel, Mary, and celebrity guest judge and SYTYCD super-fan Jenna Elfman. Jenna was a trained ballet dancer before she became an actress, so she understands the rigors of professional dance and the mind set of the dancers and I expect she'll fall closer to Christina Applegate than Carley Rae Jepsen on the Celebrity Guest Judge spectrum. Cat reminds us tonight it's All-Star's choreographing their own numbers and we're all excited to get started. And Aaron is on stage with the other contestants! So he's not injured? Why won't they explain his group number absence?

We get to Bottom 4 reveal: Fik-Shun, Jenna, Tucker and Hayley. Damn.I really thought Tucker's emotional routine with Robert last week would send him to safety. Nigel tells us that this is the last week the judges have a say, as the bottom guy and girl vote-getters will be eliminated next week, and then the week after that, whoever gets the most votes wins. Since we've got two hours to fill here and only 8 routines to fill it, we're getting 4 dance for your life solos as well.  Fik-Shun is first and he actually seems pretty excited to finally get to solo. It's really fun and sharp and unique, as you'd expect. Hayley is second and it's pretty straightforward contempo leaps and arms. Jenna has her long ballroom skirt-cape on hand and I think she's pretty damn hot here. Tucker closes things out with a "kitchen sink" approach with every jump, kick and flip that you can think of and a few you didn't. I thought comparatively Hayley was the weakest here.

Aaron Turner and Chelsie Hightower - jive. Music: “Great Balls of Fire” by Million Dollar Quartet (Broadway cast recording)

Before each routine tonight, we get to know each dancer's inspiration. Aaron starts telling us about his best friend Corey but he's talking about him in the past tense so prepare yourself to Ugly Cry. He was in a car accident and died from brain damage, and it still hits Aaron so deeply. He clues us in that the kiss of his fingers up to the sky after each performance is for his friend. OMG am I going to be crying after all of these??

Concept: It's the 50's. They are watching TV and then they decide to dance. I don't know why anyone would watch TV in that giant dress, but maybe that's how they did things back in the 50's? I love Chelsie and I think Aaron is selling the character here and it's fun. But then there's this part in the middle when their are arms get twisted up the wrong way and it's weird. Like they try to play it off like they meant to do it, but it doesn't look right and you're not buying what they're selling. From that point on, Aaron lets the technique slip away from him a bit, but the character is still solid. During judging, one of Aaron's middle shirt buttons has come undone and it's a little like an XYZ scenario where you can tell Cat and Chelsie both want to let him button it discreetly but can't quite find the right moment. Eventually midway through judging they just have to point out the elephant in the room and let him fix his damn shirt. Mary points out the several noticeable mistakes here because how could she not? Also when am I gonna get another really sensational jive? They used to be great, but both routines this year were less than stellar. Less tricks, more kicks when it comes to the jive, choreographers! When the standard moves are hard enough, just let them wow us with nailing those moves. It'd be like doing a tap routine and then worrying about putting in 3 or 4 lifts. Too many distractions! Anyway, Jenna loves him and feels he's succeeded in his goal to not be known as just the tapper (See? She's been keeping tabs all season!) Nigel rightfully takes a minute to congratulate Chelsie on being the first SYTYCD alum to make it as a pro on Dancing With the Stars. He seems actually a little disappointed that Aaron's tap background didn't lend itself to a better-executed jive, but he thinks Aaron's done enough over the entire season to earn a place in the finale. Me too.

Fik-Shun and Allison Holker - contemporary. Music: “Skinny Love” by Birdy.

Fik-Shun is inspired him are his parents who are not dead and I'm relieved. You will not be surprised to learn that Fik-shun was a child who took many adorable pictures. I can't tell you how happy I am that this clip package wasn't sad.

Dance Concept: Relationships facing discrimination. I really like Allison's choreo here. This is a very sweet piece. Allison is always fantastic to watch and Fik-shun has a great character here and his face is pure love and joy. It gets points off for one really labored lift (it looked very ambitious. they probably could've done a safer variation, but it is what it is.) Other than that, I really liked it. Jenna is a huge fan of Allison as any big fan of the show would be. She thinks Fik-shun is an All-Star already and should get the official, mug and pin and hat and OMG is there official All-Star merchandise I can buy?? Nigel liked the choreography and gives the upcoming wedding of Allison and tWitch a shout out which makes the audience go squeeeeeeeee! The audience, I should note, is being insanely loud tonight and even Cat is is a little startled by their vociferous nature. Nigel can't help but point out that Fik-shun lacks some of the technical skills of his fellow competitors right now, but he continues to learn so much and has that star quality people love. Mary's in agreement with the others.

Tucker Knox and Courtney Galiano - jazz. Music: “Clarity” by Zedd feat. Foxes.

Tucker is inspired by his dad. Dad's alive, but you're going to cry anyway, because Macho Dad gets choked up over the pride he has in his gay dancer son and everyone is inspiring everybody and remember Tucker almost died in that car accident and we all cry and cry and cry for all the love in the room.

Concept: Romeo and Juliet Don't DIE! I love this! There are several crazy lifts here. There's one where she circles completely around his head by sitting on his shoulders that's hard to believe actually happened. It almost feels like a magic trick.  There's also one where he kinda throws her up in the air like a plank across his arms and catches her again and you're like "WHAT?" Then they have all this side-by-side synchronicity and it's spot on and joyous. I love this routine. If Tucker gets cut, he left on a real high note. Getting no standing O from the judges for this seems them being stingy. After last week, being three routines in without a standing ovation seems crazy!  Nigel gives a shout out to Tucker's father for supporting his son, and tells Tucker he was phenomenal. Then he tells us Courtney's back story; that two years ago she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (!!) and she went blind in one eye for a month last December. I swear our Dance Kids on this show get knocked down SO HARD, but damn if the don't get up again like superheroes. Nigel then leads the entire studio audience in a standing ovation for her. So this is why they didn't stand earlier. They were saving it for Courtney's real triumph! The gesture makes her understandably emotional, but she holds it together. Mary is very emotional too. She tells Courtney she loves her, and Tucker too, AND Tucker's dad. She thought their synchronization was amazing. Jenna doesn't have enough time to tell Tucker how much he has affected her this season, but she'll make time later. You can tell she really means it. Wow, I really thought this routine was stronger than Fik-shun's. Last week's too. I wonder what will happen.

Paul Karmiryan and Comfort - hip hop. Music: “Dum Dum” by Tedashii feat. Lecrae.

Paul's inspiration is his coach, Gregory. Gregory looks like Paul's older brother. In fact their mothers have commented on it. I'm once again happy to hear Paul's inspiration is not dead. I'm also happy to here Gregory call him, "Paulie," because it's super-adorable. Gregory is very proud of Paul for what he has done.

Dance Concept: hot graffiti artists. There is a lot involving the mock-tagging of a giant wall and Paul is hitting the moves fast and hard. There's a lot of fun synchronization that's totally on point. Comfort and Paulie are a great pair! This routine is a lot of fun, but you can also appreciate the difficulty level and the skill involved in pulling it off. I really like Comfort's choreography here. She's really become one of my favorite All-Stars. In judging, Mary gives Comfort a HUGE congratulations and Comfort looks at her like, "you know it's Paulie who is competing here, right?" She then tells Paul he's one of the most versatile dancers on the show. Jenna loved them both. I should also note here that the girls in the studio are totally losing their shit for Paul!! Like they think he's One Direction or something. They just keep screaming over the judges. Nigel thanks Comfort for injecting some happy energy into the heavy drama of dead inspirations we've been getting. He thinks Paul did an incredible job. I can't tell if he really wants him in the finale though.

Hayley Erbert and Dmitry Chaplin - rumba. Music: “Meant” by Elizaveta.

Hayley's inspirations are her two dance teachers, who are also alive! She had a 3-hour daily commute to dance with them, but she thinks it's all worth it.  They are like second mothers to her. Both ladies  tear up upon hearing that they inspire her, which is totally adorable.

Dance Concept: Hayley confronts a cheating Dimitry who is having a fling with Mary. Dmitry's is wearing an unbuttoned shirt because he knows and respects his history on the show. It's a very sexy routine which is everything a rumba ought to be. It's not trying to sell a lot of unnecessary tricks and leaps. When judging starts, Jenna declares her intent to have sex with Dimitry after the show. Dimitry, is like "sure, why not?" Remembering Hayley's on stage too, Jenna says there's nothing she can't do and encourages her to really just let go in future routines. Nigel loved Hayley, and takes a moment to apologize to Dmitry for suggesting his routine a few weeks ago was a blend of too many styles. Mary fake-chides Dmitry for exposing their secret affair and then gives props to Hayley for perfect execution of a dance that's actually quite challenging for the tricky balance it requires. She got it right, tonight. Is it enough to stay?

Jenna Johnson and Mark Kanemura - jazz. Music: “I Am The Best” by 2NE1.

After several living inspirations, Jenna's is her cousin Shana who passed away from muscular dystrophy at 14. I cry and cry. Video of Jenna and Shana shows two girls who loved performing and loved being with each other. Jenna tells us even though Shana's body restricted her from doing things, she lived her life to the fullest. She also mentions the night after the first show she had a dream that Shana was in the audience and she knows she's watching her. Jenna gets very emotional with this admission, but then clamps down on it to remain in control. This 90 second clip makes me feel like I totally get Jenna as a person now. How often does that happen?

As a gift from Nigel and maybe guardian-angel Shana, Jenna is paired with Mark this week. The concept? STYLE. RAW and BLOODY. It's clear Mark has been spending a lot of time with Gaga lately and the experience looks good on him here. They have crazy-print checkered-flag jump suits, Gaga-sunglasses and Jenna has this whip-like ponytail coming out the top of her head. The dance is so weird, and sharp and precise. It's all Mark's crazy mind, but Jenna is right there with him totally killing it. It's so exciting and great. It's the kind of routine you want to rewind and watch 10 more times after it's done. The judges give their first standing ovation of the night! Cat is so excited she pushes past Jenna to give Mark a big hug once it's over. Nigel raves about the routine's originality and execution and tells Mark it's time he went from Lady Gaga's #1 dancer to her #1 choreographer. He tells Jenna she's amazing and the fact that she pulled off this strange new style of jazz shows how awesome she is. They also briefly reference how he's had to twitter battle fans every week that they've saved her, but he thinks it's worth it. Mary thought Jenna was right on the money and the dance was a mix of so many great styles and elements. Jenna explains to them how Mark mentioned aliens, animals and drag queens in describing the style and she likes all those things. Hee! Judge Jenna loves Dancer Jenna's name (obviously) and thinks she has a long career ahead of her. Will the judges save Jenna AGAIN? They certainly could for this routine. Is Nigel ready for another twitter-war?

Jasmine Harper and Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss - hip hop. Music: “The Power” by District 78 feat. Cheesa.

Jasmine's inspiration is her mother, who is ALIVE (thank goodness!) and was a single parent who moved the whole family to Atlanta so Jasmine could dance. Her mom is awesome and she and Jasmine are very close. She is so touched that Jasmine considers her to be an inspiration.Yay mom!

Dance Concept: Superheroes posing as secret identity civilians, both wanting to stop the same crime. They rip their shirts open and start dancing! Jasmine is a great match for tWitch and I have been looking forward to this potential pairing for a while. Great execution, great characterization and great fun. I hope they let tWitch and Comfort come back to do choreo again because I like their point of view in these routines. Mary notes that dancing with an All-Star like tWitch can be hard because he is so well-loved (just like when Hayley got a bit overshadowed last week) but she thinks Jasmine totally matched him and was amazing in the routine. Jenna appreciated the sense of humor in the routine. She thinks Jasmine has danced every style beautifully this season and that she has a gorgeous reassuring spirit. Nigel agrees with all of that and notes that with Makenzie gone, Jasmine's his favorite dancer left! He means to make it sound better than that, but that's unfortunately how it comes across.

Amy Yakima and Travis Wall - contemporary. Music: “Wicked Game (Live at Killkenny Arts Festival, Ireland 2011)” by James Vincent McMorrow.

Amy's inspiration is her cousin Elizabeth, one of the Radio City Rockettes - who is alive and well! Elizabeth is a cool chick and their relationship is loving and straightforward! Hooray for lack of tragedy!

Dance Concept: Games people play at the beginning of relationships. Travis throws and spins Amy all over the place. Oh jeez. These two are so good together. Amy looks the best here that she has all seasons. She conveys so much emotion through her face and her movement.There's one point where Amy is on the floor and Travis just pulls her up into this HUGE leap into his arms. Really amazing choreo danced so beautifully. The thing I like best is how there's this emotional power struggle going on where it's not just Travis in control of Amy, but sometimes it quickly switches so that Amy is control, and then back again. The judges jump up for a standing O. Jenna calls the choreography perfection, and thinks Amy is both technically flawless and an emotional dancer. She also mentions that the Brothers Routine from Travis last week really affected her and her young sons. Nigel says that we just saw something very special and tells Travis he's a genius and he's going to surpass his own wildest artistic dreams. It's high praise but not unwarranted. I'd love to see a full evening of Travis choreo. Not even on the show, but like I would go to see a full stage show by Travis in real life. Mary agrees with all the high praise. She notes that Amy's had a lot of cutesy routines this year, which she danced magnificently, but this routine allowed her to go to a new level of maturity. This was another fantastic week of routines, guys.

Now it's time to make the tough cut, and Nigel says this one was really hard. He doesn't tell us what the final vote was this week, so we'll take his word for it. He calls Jenna forward and says she did the best routine of her life and calls Tucker forward and says he's was amazing, but it turns out they are cut. I'm a little disappointed because I think they out-danced Hayley and Fik-shun respectively, by just a bit in their routines tonight. But then again, how are you going to cut these two people who've never been in the bottom before over two who have? Jenna and Tucker seem at peace with it. I'm happy they both made it this far. When Cat asks for their favorite experience from their time on the show, they each say they met their best friend in each other along the way. Team Tuna, you will be missed! Job well done to you both.

Tonight's routines in order of my preference:

Jenna and Mark's Jazz
Amy and Travis' Contempo
Tucker and Courtney's Jazz
Paul and Comfort's Hip Hop
Jasmine and tWitch's Hip Hop
Hayley and Dmitry's Rumba
Aaron and Chelsie's Jive
Fik-shun and Allison's Contempo

So who's making the finale? I''ll guess Paul and Aaron and Amy and Jasmine. But I bet the vote will be close and Hayley and Fik-shun could make it there in place of one of the others as well. I found it very difficult to rank anyone as my least favorite routine of the night. Everyone's so strong right now. We'll just have to watch and see what happens! And as for the mystery of why Aaron wasn't in the opening number, it seems he pulled something right before they filmed it and they took him out as a precaution even though he was cleared to do his routines on the live show. Nigel's tweet confirms it!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nadal Triumphant! The Master of Cincinnati 2013!!

Congrats to Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, for his superb win over John Isner today at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Rafa took the title in two close sets 7-6(8), 7-6(3)  for his first ever win at the tournament. It was actually Rafa's first final in Cincy as well. Both guys played an incredible match with unbelievable serving. There were no breaks in the match and only a handful of break opportunities. It call came down to the tie breaks, when Nadal managed to get a little more edge. That's why he's such an amazing champion! But credit to Isner for having an amazing tournament as well. He got through Raonic, then stopped Novak in the quarters (thank you SO MUCH for that, JI!) and then survived a match point against Delpo in the semis. He's looking really good right now heading into the US Open. I hope he does well there. It's really rough when the Americans have a poor showing at home.

So now on to some more almost unbelievable Nadal stats. He's now claimed his record-extending 26th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title and his 9th title in 2013 for 12 twelve events entered. He has
extended his career-best hard court winning streak to 15-0. He's an absurd 53-3 for the year. He and Novak are now the only players to win five Masters 1000 crowns in a single year. This win marks the first time in his career where Nadal has won back-to-back hard court title in consecutive weeks. The win also means that Nadal will overtake Andy Murray in the rankings and will be the No. 2 seed at the US Open. He'll be at the top half of his draw! Hooray!

Rafa has just been on fire lately. He's playing with such precision and confidence and looks to be in excellent physical condition. Could this be the year he wins his second US Open title? It's going to be a very challenging tournament, and you simply never know what's going to happen. But he couldn't have put himself in a better position for success, so let's just be excited he's coming to NYC and cheer him on toward VICTORY! VAMOS!!