Sunday, June 30, 2013

WIMBLEDONE? PART 4: The Curious Case of Juan Martin Del Potro

(Another one bites the dust! Delpo down!)

Guys, I keep saying it, but no one seems to take me seriously. I'm aware some of you might not believe in voodoo, black magic, hexes, curses and the like. But OPEN YOUR EYES! Something awfully strange is going on at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club this year. The upsets and injuries keep piling up as we enter Week 2. Won't someone PLEASE check Murray's bag for banned mystical artifacts? A proper search is in order. Also, can we get a sworn statement from officials that a red-head woman dressed in crimson robes hasn't been seen sitting in the player's box during Murray's matches, nor has she been found birthing shadow babies in the Ladies Room on Centre Court while his biggest adversaries were playing?

These questions go unanswered. Meanwhile as Week 1 wraps up, Del Po is all set to easily win his 3rd Round Match over Grega Zemlja when he slips and hurts both his knee and his ankle going for a drop shot up 4-0 in the third set. He finished the match quickly but needed to have his injuries checked out by medical staff this weekend. He's still scheduled to face Andreas Seppi tomorrow, playing second on a super-crowded Monday schedule. But even if he doesn't withdraw, will the injury hobble his recent excellent play, setting him up for an upset by Seppi? Oh Muzz. Why have you chosen the Dark Path to get you back to the finals this year? You don't want to win it this way. Do you??

Only half of this year's Top 10 men's seeds made it to the start of Week 2:

1. Novak Djokvic
2. Andy Murray
3. Roger Federer
4. David Ferrer
5. Rafael Nadal
6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (injured)
7. Tomas Berdych
8. Juan Martin Del Potro (injured?)
9. Richard Gasquet
10. Marin Cilic (injured)

On the women's side we have 4 of the Top 10 seed left to start Week 2:

1. Serena Williams
2. Viktoria Azarenka (injured)
3. Maria Sharapova
4. Agnieszka Radwanska
5. Sara Errani
6. Li Na
7.  Angelique Kerber
8. Petra Kvitova
9. Caroline Wozniacki (injured)
10. Maria Kirilenko 

Despite this many seeds falling, Britain's Laura Robson is also still in the mix. Is it possible an external agent is working to make both of Britain's best hopes for a title advance? I think it's highly likely. I worry about what bad news might come out of Wimby tomorrow. Novak slips getting out of the shower breaking a hip? A piano falls out of the sky and lands on Ferrer? Serena's hotel disappears into a previously undiscovered sink hole? Nothing is too far fetched as to be impossible at this point. Stay safe, players! Some unknown force is still out to get you!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

WIMBLEDONE! PART 3: Dream Warriors?

(So bye-bye all American Guys...)

So as the rain starts falling at the All England Club, so do the seeds continue to fall from the tournament as well as all the American men. Hey, only two more retirements though! Paul-Henri Mathieu and Michael Llorda bowed out mid-match. And grass-favorite hopefuls Milos Raonic (17) and Grigor Dimitrov (29) saw there chances to capitalize on a depleted draw slip away. Kei Nishikori (12) also lost, but was not really favored here on grass.

Also it's the first time in 101 YEARS, that no American man made it into at least the third round of Wimby. That hasn't happened since 1912 and that year, no U.S. men competed! Likely this distinction would not have occurred was this not the Weirdest Wimbledon Ever and Murray's suspected voodoo dolls not claimed Isner with a freak knee injury in the 2nd Round. (Nick work there, Muzz.) Interestingly enough, there are 4 US Women still left in the draw: Serena, Sloane Stephens, and total randoms Madison Keys and Alison Riske. Keep it going, ladies! U-S-A! U-S-A!

So who the hell is left anyway? Are there any dark horse contenders who still have a chance for glory? Well presently we still have Ferrer and Djokovic in the top half of the draw and Murray and nobody else in the bottom half. Somehow the top half seems to have more challengers than before. Less than a week ago it seemed the Top Half ad it easy! Can Haas make a break through against Novak? What about Charday? Gasquet? Berdich? Ferrer's quarter still has DelPo as well. There's still a lot to be decided there.

Meanwhile, Murray's Voodoo Dolls have stripped the bottom half of virtually all seeded players - with only Youhzny at No. 20 and Jersey Janowicz at No. 24 remaining. The two players who beat Rafa and Fed have already eliminated, for Voodoo super powers only last for one round. It really seems like a formality at this point that Murray makes it to the final, but we'll see if any of the other guys in the bottom half brought their protective wards and lucky charms. It'd be nice if they could keep it interesting!

We're almost half-way through the Weirdest Wimbledon Ever! What surprises still await???


Thursday, June 27, 2013

SYTYCD 10: Top 20 Performance Recap! (aka Hide Your Eyes?)

Welcome Back DanceFans! Have you been waiting for the competition to kick in as eagerly as I've been? I must say that my first viewing of the show was mired a bit by my deep disappointment in Tuesday's gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, my trying to keep live tabs of Total Hero Wendy Davis and her Filibuster in the Texas Senate and also being nervous about today's DOMA and Prop 8 decisions (newsflash: HOORAY!). So even before I started watching this week, I decided I'd reserve final judgement until after an encore DVR presentation of this week's routines. But I am really excited for the rest of this season!! I think this Top 20 is exceptionally strong skill-wise, with diverse winning personalities as well. I have high hopes and higher expectations. Also? I still don't have any idea if it's one winner or two. Maybe they'll make a clear decision about it before we get to Final Four? Time will tell! We've got 8 contempos, 4 ballers, 3 tappa tappa tappas, 2 hoppers, 2 animazings and 1 jazz hands. Here we go!

The opening group dance by NappyTabs is EPIC! It's like one of those one-shot youtube videos with people running all around their high school to a pop song except this one is at the SYTYCD sound stage. We start in the parking lot and move through backstage in what seems at least from our POV like a total labyrinth of hallways. Dancers switch in and out of formation as we move along. There are cameos by the choreographers - Tabitha, Travis, Christopher Scott (who I mistook for a gorgeous male contestant I couldn't immediately place before realizing who it was) Nigel (trying to be an animator, god bless him!), Jason Gilkison whipping Mary's hair back and forth - and finally the dancers make it onto the stage, and Cat swings into frame right at the end to give us the "Welcome... to so you THINK you can dance!" that we all know and love. That was really impressive, y'all!

The pairs get called out in the normal intro way, but they're not the real pairs (was I supposed to be fooled that two tappers were put together? Show, please.) Tonight's Guest Jidge joining Nigel and Mary is Wayne Brady, whom I enjoy. And his little brother Curtis from Auditions made it to the Top 20! Reunion Time!

Let's get down to it. They are not being voted on as a couple. Everyone has a million individual phone numbers and online votes and things. It's super confusing and dense but of course Cat sails through it all beautifully. We get 10 seconds of info on each contestant before the routine, but we don't learn a ton. I'm not recapping it. No one admits to being a Nazi, so you can continue to love them all. Here are the routines. 

Mariah and Carlos: Jive (Jason Gilkison) to "Get It Right" by Fantasia.
So Mariah is one of my early loves and she looks super hot in this yellow mini dress. Carlos is wearing sunglasses. WHY? Let me see his eyes!He eventually gets rid of them, but too late for my taste. The routine overall is too fast and too frantic and there are too many labored tricks. They seem to run out of gas about half-way through and it's understandable given what they have to do. Still, the kicks just aren't quite right. Not a disaster, but not a great way to head out from the gate either. Mary thinks it was labored too. Wayne wanted them to have more fun within the choreo.Will their personalities save them from the Bottom? Maybe for Maria. Probably not for Carlos. Cat pronounces his name "Carluss" which is awesome.

Jasmine Mason and Alan: Contemporary (Travis Wall)  to "Can't Help Falling in Love," by Ingrid Michaelson.
The concept is "Love is Blind" so they are wearing lace blindfolds and again I can't see dancers' eyes. WHY?? I want to connect. Regardless, these two are going to be great partners together and they are killing it in this routine. I'm so glad Jasmine made it through this year. I thought it was crazy last year when she was cut on the Green Mile. Alan's really cute too, and I suspect he'll keep growing on me as a performer. They do this one trust fall move that freaks me out but in actuality is probably not that complicated. It's just the visual of doing it with them both blindfolded. They get a standing O from the judges, who then don't really say much of consequence to them.

Malece and Jade: Jazz (Travis Wall) to Silver Screen (Shower Scene) by Felix deHousecat.
Travis routines back to back? Okay... this one is about a Hollywood couple who were in a movie where she got good reviews and he didn't and it doesn't go well between them after that. This is one where I wish maybe so much of it wasn't explained to me, because then I judge whether or not that was really the story that came across, as opposed to if I just thought it was danced well and told me a story. And I don't think this routine quite gave me the story Travis laid out, so it didn't really do it for me personally. I think these two have potential though. There was good execution and tons of attitude. Nigel and Wayne both jump on the fact that this routine sucked in rehearsal so by comparison they thought this was phenomenal. That's a strange thing to bring up. Lots of folks have a bad dress prior to Opening Night.I just don't know if this routine or these two were doing enough to inspire votes.

Jenna and Tucker: Broadway (Tyce Diorio) to "That's All" from Beyond the Sea.
Oooh, definitely a power couple saddled with a pretty terrible routine! They can surmount anything! Tyce looks as disinterested as ever in the rehearsal video package. Before the music kicked in there's a shot of all theses clothes hanging on a wash line and I got really excited for a second that maybe we were going to see the Tornado Sequence from The Wiz. But no. And the dancers costumes are cute but what have do they have to do with the set here? Nothing? Ugh. It's typical hodge podge Tyce and the competition JUST STARTED tonight, folks. What horrors await us in weeks to come? Jenna and Tucker dial their personalities up to 11 which is the only way to try and survive something like this and they mostly succeed.  They sell the hell out of it with charm and technique. The routine is dumb though. Mary starts screaming about how she's dancing in the sheets and no one really knows what to say. Wayne compares Tucker to Donald O'Connor and Jenna to Cyd Charisse and Gwen Verdon. Nigel considers them a power couple. Hopefully next week they get a much better routine.

BluPrint and Brittany: Afro Jazz (Sean Cheesman) to "Drumming Circle" by Professor Trane & The Energizers.
I really liked this routine. I like both dancers and think they make a more interesting couple in practice than maybe I would've figured on paper. They have a good connection and midway through they just REALLY start feeling it. The music is really cool too. This one worked for me. Afterwards, Cat tries to mimic the dance to adorable and hilarious effect.

After A LOT of laughing (will the show come in on time??) Wayne compares BluPrint's versatility to that of Twitch. Nigel reminds us that BluPrint didn't grow up in a jungle so it's ALL NEW TO HIM and Mary puts them on the Hot Tamale Train. Really, Mary? I thought it was really good but the judges LOVED it. Not bad for Week 1, kids! Where do you grow from here?

Before we get to the next routine. There's a plug for National Dance Day and then they show a clip from So You Think You Can Prance? Which combines Nigel and Adam with the glory of Prancercise! YES THEY DID.

Alexis and Nico: Hip-Hop (Christopher Scott) to "Last Time" (Knife Party Remix) by Labrinth.
Guys, Alexis and Nico have no swag. They do have sunglasses though! So once again I can't see contestants eyes. Oof. Come ON, Show. Let me see their eyes! This one isn't very good. Nico is sharper than Alexis who just looks out of it, but he's not really nailing it either. Chris Scott threw in a bunch of moves in their own styles which just makes me think he could tell how off they were in the style there were attempting. Nigel is surprised that they both kinda face planted on this one, considering how versatile and winning he finds them as dancers. He thinks they gave up on going for the style. That's pretty damning for Week 1. Mary essentially tells them to prep their solos to dance for their lives. Nico's so dreamy though! Is that really not enough to keep him away from being one of the bottom 3 guys? We'll see.

Makenzie and Paul: Viennese Waltz (Jason Gilkison) to "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne.
Paul is a jive dancer but apparently doesn't know a lot of other ballroom styles. Wait, Paul is the dude who won SYTYCD Armenia! I totally forgot that was his back story. So c'mon, he's done ballroom before! Let's be serious. They waltz to Avril Lavigne, as one obviously does. The movement is fluid and pretty lovely. Half way through they open an umbrella prop and it's kind of all I can look for the second half of the dance instead of the actors, but maybe Jason thought I'd get bored with the dance without a shiny new object to focus on, and to that extent he successfully held my attention. Mary explains, how stiff "court shoes" can be unless properly broken in over time and how that must be difficult for Makenzie this week. The judges are pretty delicate with them, but I thought it was very solid so I don't know why them seem so worried for these two.

Jasmine Harper and Aaron: Jazz (Sonya Tayeh) to "Bottom of the River" by Delta Rae.
Jasmine and Aaron are the giants of Season 10 which puts them only about 3 inches shorter than Cat. Sonya wants this routine to have a swampy sensual southern feel. Jasmine is really striking. I'm glad we're done with her "Cyrus's ex" storyline and can appreciate her amazing skill. Plus legs for DAAAAAAAAYS. She and Aaron are dancing with great control. He's sturdy enough to really lift her so high and make it seem so effortless and light. Wayne asks Jasmine where she was when he was 20 and the answer is "NOT YET BORN!" He also mentions he knows Aaron's dad as the famous Vegas-performer, Earl Turner, which is a cool shout out  of something we didn't learn in Aaron's 10 second interview package. Mary screeches justifiably for Jasmine's legs. I really like these two.

Hayley and Curtis: Hip-Hop (Christopher Scott) to "Go" by Delilah.
Tappa Tappa Tappa! I don't know exactly what this routine is about, so I'll go with high end call girl kills the dude that purchases a night with her. In rehearsal, Curtis is a bit scared to be super sexy and touch her private places like... her leg. And... her stomach. And... her butt. Seriously, Curtis? GO FOR IT.  The routine itself works out super fine. Hayley is killing it and Curtis has sharp moves and tons of character in his face.  Nigel takes a shot at Alexis and Nico within his praise for them. It's not super nice if him, but I was sorta  thinking the same thing.

Amy and Fik-Shun: Contemporary (Sonya Tayeh) to "Elsa" by The Valerie Project.
Fik-Shun gets the task of being the first shirtless man of the season. He won't be the last. These two have a really great connection as partners.  The emotion of the piece is palpable. Fik-Shun is a short dude but the lifts look effortless which can sometimes be a hard thing to pull off at his size. Cat says she got her first chills of the season. Mary loves Amy's intensity, and though she felt last week Fik-Shun kinda disappointed in his own style with Mariah, this was much stronger from him. Agreed. Fik-Shun says this serious routine was a change of pace, and then realizes: "I rocked it." It doesn't come off as boastful though. It's cute.

That's all there is! The routines in order of my favorites are:

Amy and Fikshun's Contemporary
BluPrint and Brittany's Afro Jazz
Alan and Jasmine M.'s Contemporary
Aaron and Jasmine H.'s Jazz
Curtis and Hayley's Hip Hop
Mackenzie and Paul's Viennese Waltz
Jade and Malece's Jazz 
Jenna and Tucker's Broadway
Carlos and Mariah's Jive
Alexis and Nico, Hip Hop

In danger next week?? So difficult since it's individual. Girls I'll say Alexis, Mackenzie and Malece. And boys I'll say Carlos, Paul and Jade. But we'll see. I thought they were all very close so I'm basically just guessing who might be least popular. See you next Tuesday for more dancing, results and our beautiful host Cat Deely!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013



After Rafa lost in Round 1 on Monday, I jokingly posted on Facebook that Wimbledon had been canceled. Apparently, several of the top players believed me and decided to leave town and hit the beach earlier to work on their summer tans. In what has to be one of the most bizarre days in the tournament's history. No fewer than 7 players retired from their matches or withdrew from the tournament due to injury. And several other former champions lost to much lower-ranked opponents as well. All of this left me thinking, will someone PLEASE check Andy Murray's racket bag for voodoo dolls??

Seriously though. You may recall my earlier post about the messed up draw that came out before this crazy tournament began. At that point, Murray had on of the hardest routes to the finals. He likely had to face Tsonga, Nadal or Federer and then Djokovic to claim the title. Well Rafa lost first round to Steve Darcis in a big shocker. Then in the second round, Tsonga retired with an injury! Two obstacles down for Murray. Then Darcis, who bead Rafa, ALSO withdrew with injury! As did Cilic and Stepanek, both of whom were in the bottom half! Then Isner retired with injury as well! 5 injured players in what had been an a bottom half crowded with talent. Then even more unthinkable - Federer, Murray's last main threat to the semis, and the reigning Wimbledon champ, LOST his second round match to 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky from Ukraine. It broke Federer's streak of 36 straight appearances at grand slam quarterfinals, which started way back in Wimbledon 2004. It makes Rafa's loss on Monday seem like a distant memory. Guys, this is nuts. Black magic must be the cause!

The women's side also saw it's one array of injuries and losses. Victoria Azarenka and Yaroslava Svedova both withdrew after injury. And upset losers included Caroline Wozniaki, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, and most shockingly Maria Sharapova. Is there anyone in the draw left to threaten Serena Williams? I feel like given the craziness in the air (and maybe on the grass) both she and Novak better take care that they aren't handed early exits as well!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Oh, boy. Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, suffered his first loss in the 1st round of any Grand Slam yesterday, and it totally blows. Rafa had been playing so well on clay and hard courts and before last year had reached 5 consecutive finals he played at Wimbledon (he missed the event altogether in 2009 with injury) and many had picked him to go really far this year. It was not to be. Steve Darcis of Belgium (ranked at No. 135) stunned our beautiful boy 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4. After the 1st tie break went against him, I was like, "well, okay. it happens." but then he failed to serve out the second set at 6-5 and I was like, "hmm." and then he LOST the second set tie break 10-8, and I was like "OH NO." And then he was broken to begin the third set and I was like, "It's over." Usually I don't give up on Rafa until the very last point is played, but I could just tell there would be no reversal of fortune this time.

I don't know what it is about grass that makes these low-ranked players just play lights-out tennis against Rafa in the early rounds. As much as Rafa was off, Darcis was ON. It was just one of those days. You have to accept them. Rafa has had great success at Wimbledon, but right now grass is a big struggle. He's still won 7 titles this season. That's almost an absurd amount of success. It's just not going to happen this year at Wimby. At least it happened so quick, I didn't even have enough time to become emotionally invested in the tournament. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the draw shakes out after this. Can Murray win his 1st Wimbledon? Will Federer win his 8th? Can anyone upset Novak on the top half of the draw? I'll still be paying attention, even if my favorite guy is out of the mix. I hope he gets over the loss quickly and takes a little bit longer of vacation before the summer hard court swing prior to the US Open.

In the meantime, we can treat ourselves to THIS. (Thanks for sending the link, BFF!)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

WIMBLEDON 2013: The Most F**ked Up Mens Singles Draw Ever??

(Who Will Reach the Top This Year? My Staggering Prediction - 
A White European Dude!)

Well played, All-England Club. Thanks to your refusal to move Rafael Nadal up a spot from No. 4 from No. 5 you have effectively crammed all but one of your most likely victors into one half of the draw, leaving Novak Djokovic all by himself in the other, creating what I have declared as the most lopsided and f**ked up Wimbledon draws of all-time. Brava.

I understand you have a "system"for ranking the seeds on grass and it involves taking 75% of points from here and 100% of points from there and mixing it in a bowl and adding some pumpkin pie spice and turning the oven up to 350 and leaving it to bake for an hour covered in aluminum foil, but come on. Rafa's won the Championship twice in the last 5 years. He was a finalist on three other occasions. He's won 7 of the 9 tournaments he entered this year. He just won the French Open. So MAYBE you should have put him as at least no.4 so he's the top seed in his own quarter. I certainly think it was warranted. Ferrer's an awesome dude, but he's not one of the Big Four and they're all healthy and in the draw this year. The best way to ensure three of the Four didn't land on one side was to move Rafa up just one seeding! And now look what you've wrought.

No. 5 Rafael Nadal, No. 3 Roger Federer and No. 2 Andy Murray are in the bottom half of the draw. Novak Djokovic is laughing all the way to the Final by himself in the top. Well, Ferrer is his potential semifinal opponent, but I don't think that concerns him much. Novak, at least on paper, does have some challenges on his way to the final before that and I wouldn't count Novak as someone who gets ahead of himself in the draw. Both  No. 13 seed Tommy Haas, or No. 19 seed Gilles Simon, could put up a good fight in the 4th Round. That would be followed by a potential match up with 2010 runner-up and No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych OR No. 9 (total head case) Richard Gasquet in the quarters. But if he makes it through that (and he should), then he's just got Ferrer in the semis. And the odds swing way in Novak's favor there.

Elsewhere in the top half of the draw Ferrer could face No. 8 Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarters and then in the overloaded bottom half we have Murray might meet up with No.6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the same point. But the potential giant showdown of the quarters is Reigning Champ Federer vs. Resurgent Nadal. I'll be happy when the ranking messiness caused by Rafa's long injury hiatus corrects itself so these guys aren't meeting before the semis. It's a tough potential road for either Federer or Nadal to have to go through each other, then, Murray, then Novak to claim the title. Murray has to go through 2 of the Big Four to win, and Novak only has to get through the final against one of them after they've spent the better part of a week battling each other out. Not being a Novak Fan, this advantage bums me out greatly.

But still, that's just what's on paper. All these guys actually have to play all their opponents and win before they reach these potential big match-ups, and we all know that upsets happen. It could make for a very exciting hard fought first week of the tournament, even if it's kinda effed up. I'm hoping my Rafa can find a way through his tough draw. He loves a challenge and loves to suffer so the conditions are certainly right for that. From the draw, I'd say that Novak has the easiest path, but hopefully Rafa will be able to capitalize on his opportunities and have enough energy left to face any opponent in the final round. VAMOS!

... On the women's side if Serena stays healthy and focused she should tear through anybody and everybody for the title.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

SYTYCD Season 10: Anatomy of a Top 20

(Class of 2013, Group Photo!)

The Season 10 Top 20 of So You Think You Can Dance was finally revealed last night, and I have to say folks, I like what I see. All of my favorites who made it to the final cut got through. And we have an interesting mix of dance styles and personalities to fight it out all summer. Do we know if it's still a guy and girl winner? Or is it back to one champion? Maybe they haven't decided yet. SYTYCD is the only competition show out there that I don't mind when it seems like they're making the rules up as they go along.

So this season dividing up the finalists by specialty we have 8 contempos, 4 ballers, 3 tappa tappa tappas, 2 animators and 2 hoppers and 1 Jazz Hands. Interestingly enough no ballerinos this year after two ballet kids won last season! Also something peculiar I noticed from the audition rounds. NO TYCE! And no mention of a Broadway round in Vegas! I checked wikipedia and he's not dead, so maybe Tyce is just taking the season off? I wonder...

Selecting a Top 20 from 33 incredibly capable dancers has got to be hard. In order to have a good balance to the group, you aim for slightly less than half of the field being contemporary dancers and the best of the rest of the disciplines fill out the ranks. You also need some good stories of tragedy in there, too. But it's not the same as crafting a compelling group of singing finalists. Whereas with reality show singers it's pretty much a prerequisite that at least one of your parents is dead so you can sing songs about missing them, for dancers your parental units need to have stayed alive long enough to sacrifice everything in order to afford your dance lessons. It also helps if you can easily fill specific character roles that we've come to know and love over the last nine seasons of our beloved show. Here's a breakdown of who are guys and gulls are destined to be seen as this year, introduced one by one with Cat Deely-style enthusiasm! Ready? Here we go!

It's your Mr. Personality, America! Du-Shaunt ‘Fik-Shun’ Stegall!
Fik-shun impressed me every time I saw him in a solo or Vegas Round, which was often. I think he's got a great energy and his solos are SICKENING. I could watch them all day. I hope he has the stamina for the show, though. He really kinda faded into the background in the group dances last night, as well as in the hip hop number... and there were only TWO people on stage! I'll be really interested to see who he gets as a partner and what that means for his safety from the bottom 3.

It's your first hip hop girl in, like, FOREVER, America! Mariah Spears!
Oooh! I noticed her at her first audition and hoped against hope she would somehow make it through. We haven't had a hip hop girl since Comfort and we haven't had one I've really been in love with since Sara back in Season 3!! (I do love Comfort as an All-Star though.) I have such high hopes for the amazingly named Mariah Spears!!

It's your crazy-talented contempo brunette who isn't the crazy-talented ballroom brunette OR the crazy-talented jazz brunette, America! Makenzie Dustman! 
Guys, the judges LOVE Makenzie, but I don't know who she is. There are so many gorgeous brunettes they all kinda blend together after awhile! Wait, I do know her. I really liked her original audition in LA and then I feel like I never saw her again in Vegas. Makenzie is to be known for her amazing feet. She's gonna need a great routine or two to separate herself from the rest of the pack!

It's your former fan favorite's jilted lover, America! Jasmine Harper! 
Jasmine used to date Cyrus until Cyrus went on the show last year. Now Jasmine's on the show! It doesn't hurt to have a hook. I haven't really seen enough of her dancing to know if she will be good enough to make Top 10 so the show can then partner her with All-Star Cyrus, as I'm sure Evil Nigel is hoping to do if he gets the chance.

It's your survivor of a horrible possibly-career-ending accident, America! Tucker Knox!
Tucker still isn't old enough to rent a car on his own, but he's old enough to have survived a terrible auto accident that pretty much broke his spine. But now he's back dancing and better than ever! I'm glad they didn't crush his dream on the green mile. He needs to get his crying under control though. We know he feels lucky to be there, but I can't take waterworks every week. Good luck, Tuck!

It's your straight-ish non threatening contempo boyfriend, America! Nico Greetham!
Nico's the adorable boy who's Mom Nigel hit on in the audition rounds even though to me she seemed to be clearly holding hands with her new lesbian partner. He's an incredible dancer with a warm smile and floppy hair. What's not to love? I'm thinking Top 10 potential, for sure.

It's your darling tappa tappa tappa girl, America! Alexis Juliano!
Tappa Tappa Tappa's have a hard time on this show. They fight like hell to get on and then almost immediately get voted off. Alexis has so much personality though and seems like a really versatile dancer. Hopefully she'll have great chemistry with her assigned partner and have a fighting chance.

It's your darling tappa tappa tappa boy, America! Curtis Holland!
I love Curtis! I was hoping he'd find a way to survive ever since Wayne Brady ran up on stage to give him a hug at his first audition. His emotional breakthrough during Vegas contempo was awesome. I'm glad they found space for him in the Top 20. I hope be really brings it next week for the live rounds!

It's your Lucky Loser, er, Alternate Guy, America! Aaron Turner! 
So the term lucky loser I am adapting from the Tennis World. When there's a major tournament, players who don't rank high enough for automatic entry can play several early rounds known as qualifiers. The winner of those matches gets a spot in the main draw. Occasionally, the winner of the qualies pulls out due to illness or injury and then the last person they defeated gets the spot - hence being a Lucky Loser. So it looked like Aaron would juuust miss out this season, but then Emilio got hurt and now he's got his chance. I think Aaron is great, and I'm really glad he's in the mix!

It's your possibly-too-short-to-partner Animator, America! Jade Zuberi!
Mia went on a minor rant about how choreographers should be able to choreograph for shorter males at this point. I get what she's saying but let's see who they partner him with and and if the height differential looks awkward during ballroom. His amazing animation solos saved him twice in Vegas and we'll see how well they acquit him during Dance For Your Life situations.

It's your baby bird trying to break out of his emotional shell, America! Dorian ‘BluPrint’ Hector!
Personally, I prefer BluPrint's animation style to Jade's. I think he's going to prove a more versatile dancer than Jade as well. His issue seems to be expressing what he's feeling and dancing in his face, especially out of his animation style. But I think that's something he can fix pretty easily. We'll see!!

It's your sexy back-scratching boy toy, America! Carlos Garland! 
I don't know that I've seen anything from Carlos, even though Nigel tells us that all the choreographers loved him, but maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention in the early rounds? Is that even possible? He promised the judges he'd give them back rubs and scratches if he got in the top 20. Then they let him in the Top 20 and he again mentioned the back scratches he owed them. The judges all acted like they'd never heard this before, but I think they're lying. Carlos is gonna have to really bring it because the show has given a lot more time to it's two other Contempo Boys - Tucker and Nico, so I think he's first on their chopping block. Still he's pretty gorgeous.

It's that OTHER brunette contempo dancer who's name you'll struggle to remember all season, so even if she makes Top Four you'll just call her "The Sexy Dancer," America! Hayley Erbert!
Every season needs a girl who "just can't help but dance sexy." Hayley is the girl for us this year. She's a little bit in the shadow of the other contempo girls, but once they're partnered up with the boys, it won't matter. Also Nigel LOVES the girl who dances sexy and it always helps to have Uncle Nigel on your side when the judges are still deciding who gets cut prior to Top 10.

It's your Vegas Week Injury Drama Cutie Patootie, America! Malece Miller!
Malece is sweet and seemed like such a front runner before she got dropped on her head during Vegas Week. She's seemed to be in a bit of a daze since. Her success will come down to how hungry she is to compete, because the rest of the field of women seems really ready to BRING IT! A passive attitude could mean an early exit.

It's your girl who gives good face, America! Brittany Cherry!
Brittany is gorgeous. She had to leave her ballroom partner behind on the Green Mile in order to claim her place in the Top 20 and that was sad. But that face, guys. And her technique! Whoever gets her as a partner is a lucky guy. The only strike against her is that she's the only other ballroom girl with Jenna, who we're just about to get to...

It's your front-runner girl, America! Jenna Johnson!
The Johnson family has been sending all their children to audition for this show for years now, but they kept getting cut at the end of Vegas. Not so with Jenna! The judges love love LOVED her all along the way and though her family's history with the show gave her some definite nerves at the end, she made it through and is going to be a FORCE to be reckoned with!

It's your never-seen-before Ballroom Boy, America! Paul Karmiryan!
Paul does the jive. That's all I know. I liked him in the group number. He's cute. But he's had pretty much no screen-time. But neither did Robert Roldan and he fought his way all the way to top 3 in Season 7. So don't count him out just yet. (NOTE: Paul's Actually the winner of SYTYCD Armenia. We do know him! I just forgot.)

It's your super-tall little brother, who's now living his big brother's dream, America! Alan Bersten!
So OF COURSE they were gonna split up the Ballroom Brothers for extra drama. Older Brother Gene with a wife and baby to support can go suck it, as far as the producers are concerned. They went with the younger version, Alan. I'm sure we'll get a lot of shots of Gene in the audience being supportive as Alan tries to avoid elimination.

It's your BEAST for the season, America! Amy Yakima!
Melanie Moore is the true All-Time beast of SYTYCD, but Amy definitely has an amazing energy along with the technical skills to pay the BILLS. We'll see if she's actually set to go into beast mode once we learn which boy is going to be her partner.

It's your just-missed-it-last-year-and-Owen-was-so-mad-about-it-and-they-almost-did-the-same-thing-again-which-would've-been-HORRIBLE! Comeback Kid, America! JASMINE MASON!
Oh, Jasmine. They spent so much time on your story last season and cut you so cruelly at the end. Then they barely mentioned you throughout the auditions this time, but I saw you kept going through and I was concerned they'd cut you again right at the end like last time. But then they called Jasmine Harper by her full name in the introduction and I thought "Oh they took TWO Jasmine's!" And since they only had you as the additional Jasmine, I figured you wouldn't get cut right at the end AGAIN. No they stabbed your best friend in the heart that way, instead. Oh, Show. Why be so cruel to these kids?? Anyway, I love Jasmine and hope she does well this year.

I really think this season is going to be stellar. I like everyone in the top 20 a very good deal and will be rooting for them to do their best each week and be sad when each week we have to lose two of them. Stick with me for the recaps!! Until next week, DanceFans!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rafa at Roland Garros: Quest For Crazy Eights COMPLETED! RAFA IS THE CHAMPION!!!!


Ladies and G's, last week was so busy and I was so excited for my beautiful boy and Our Hero, Rafael Nadal that I forgot to post about his triumphant championship match at The French Open. But what else was there really left to say? Let's just have the stats speak for themselves. With his straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over David Ferrer, Our Hero, Rafael Nadal improves to 59-1 lifetime at Roland Garros, with a record 8 trophies to his name. He now holds the records for most wins by a man at any of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments. With 12 major titles he's now tied for third with Rod Laver on the all-time Major winners list. He's only 2 behind Sampras. He has played nine tournaments this year, reached the final in all of them and won 7. This is an incredible season so far by anyone's standard.

As a reward for winning his 8th French Open title, Rafa's ranking... drops to fifth? That seems crazy. Djokovic, Federer and Murray lost points at the French Open for not making it as far as they did last year. Rafa maintained all his points, but Ferrer gained points so he momentarily moves ahead of Rafa again. That means Nadal will most likely be seeded 5th at Wimbledon which seems totally ridiculous. He could potentially meet Novak in the quarters which would be some cruel twist of fate for them. But we'll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

I have to give a shout out as well to some Americans in Paris. Serena Williams ends an 11-year drought by winning the Women's Final and the Bryan Brothers win their second French Open, 10 years after their first Major on clay. Serena and the Bryans are now in the 30's and now have multiple titles at all four Major Tournaments along with Olympic gold medals. The American Men's singles field might be in poor shape, but we still have legendary athletes competing in the other tennis events. They need to get their due.

I'm really excited for Wimbledon. With Federer winning on grass in Halle, and Murray winning on grass at Queen's Club this week, really any of the Big Four could grab this next Major. And of course I want Serena and the Bryans to keep dominating. And wouldn't it be great if by the beginning of July Rafa was biting another trophy? I sure think so! VAMOS!

Summer Reading List: FIVE SUMMERS!

Happy June y'all. Summer's here and the time is right, for reading in the streets (maybe while riding a CitiBike! Throw caution to the wind!)! Or if you don't want to read in the streets, find a nice lawn chair or beach towel and work on your tan in the park (or hide in the shade under a tree, like me) and take some time to get lost in a book. I haven't read nearly enough the first 6 months of 2013, and it's time to turn that trend around. To help you out, I'll be making suggestions about what I'm reading this summer and what you should read as well!

First up, Five Summers, the debut young adult novel by my good friend Una LaMarche. Five Summers tells the twisting tale of Emma, Skylar, Jo and Maddie - four best friends with five summers of camp memories between them. They've reunited at camp for a large reunion weekend of bonding, camp fun times and perhaps a little debauchery. But some long held secrets between them come to the surface, threatening the fun of the weekend and their relationships moving forward. The events of reunion shift perspective between the four friends and also go back and forth in time to events during their five summers as campers. If you know me, I love a non-linear story and Una keeps the balance just right, keeping all the girls and all the summers well paced, well placed and easy to follow. The dialogue rings true and the motivations make sense. It's really a joy to read - easily engrossing and it goes down smooth which makes for an optimal summer fun read. You'll love it!

What else are you waiting for? Go get this book!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rafa at Roland Garros: Quest For Crazy Eights - Semifinals

(Hells, YES! Rafa is LIVING IT!)

OMG, you guys. O-M-F-G. Our guy came through. There were so many times I thought it wasn't going to happen. Oh, the despair I felt! There were also plenty of times when I thought he was ready to win the match before it actually happened. This match really did feel like the companion match to the epic 5-set Australian Open final Rafa lost to Djokovic last year. True, this was just a semifinal, but in terms of drama and battle it felt very similar. In Australia, it seemed like Rafa played at the top level of his game, but still (improbably) with a break lead in the 5th set, he lost. Novak found a way to fight his way out of it. Similarly here, with Novak playing extremely well at the end of the 4th and up a break in the 5th, Rafa found the fight necessary to turn back the tide and win 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7. I couldn't be happier. Thank goodness.

Much like when Rafa was up a break in the 5th in Australia, I allowed myself to celebrate too early on Friday. When Rafa was up a break in the 4th and serving for the match, I believed victory was undeniably his. But I should've known Novak would fight back. He always does. When he got downa break in the fifth I thought that was the end of the story. I couldn't believe Novak would take his foot off Nadal's throat. But then Rafa did something amazing. He threw absolutely everything he had at Novak on Novak's serving games. He went on the offensive and attacked and at 3-4 down he was able to level the match. From then on, Rafa got to play from the lead again, and one unfocused service game from Novak at 7-8 gave Rafa the win. I was so proud of his effort to fight back, exorcising his Nole demons by taking it right to him at the end. It was fantastic. The days that Rafa beats Novak I always feel great all day long. Nothing can go wrong! My apartment building could've burned down that day and still I would've been like "Well, yeah, but Rafa beat Novak so the scales are still tipping to toward the positive!"

Now Rafa heads to the Final to meet fellow countryman David Ferrer. Ferru has played a truly fantastic tournament so far - he's shut down all of his opponents without losing a set. He completely dismantle Tsonga in the other semifinal to reach the first Grand Slam final of his career. He's made more Grand Slam appearances (42!!!) than any other player in the Open Era before making it to his first major final. He'd previously been 0-5 in major semi-finals and is the third oldest first-time Grand Slam finalist. Talk about not giving up on your dreams! His downfall has always been getting passed the Big Four, but because Murray got injured and Federer lost earlier, he didn't have to face any of them before the Final.

Ferrer is playing great tennis, but he's 4-19 against Nadal. On clay he is 1-16 and that one win he has against Rafa was all the way back in 2004.So if history is an indicator Rafa should take this one easily. But you never know. I want Rafa to pick up his 12th Major trophy, but a part of me also can't help but wonder what the scene would be like if Ferrer pulled off this victory. Seeing him in that moment would be glorious and surreal. Would he retire on the spot? I don't think any moment in his tennis career could be better than that.

But most likely it won't happen! Nadal knows what to do to beat Ferrer. He's hungry for it and wants the title. He's in great physical and mental shape. He's 58-1 lifetime at Roland Garros. He's just made his 9th final in as many tournaments. We're looking for it to be his 7th title of the year and his 8th at the French Open overall. VAMOS RAFA!!!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rafa at Roland Garros: Quest For Crazy Eights - Quarterfinals

(Rafa stays perfect against Stan. Novak up next!!)

In his strongest performance this year in Paris, Our Hero, Rafael Nadal took down 9th seed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 yesterday in the quarterfinals. Nadal's record at Rolad Garros is now 57-1 and he improved to 10-0 against Wawrinka who has never won a set off of Rafa. If only they could've met in the final!

Now, in order to become the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam tournament, Nadal has to get through his stupidface rival Novak Djokovic. UGH! The only match up I didn't want this whole tournament. It's not because Rafa can't win - he definitely can. He hasn't lost to Novak in Paris yet. It's just that the possibility he could lose is higher against Novak than anybody else right now. It's going to be a very tense match. It's weird though, because for the first time in a long while it's not a title match they're playing. Obviously whoever comes through on their side of the draw is the favorite to win. But it's still a match that has to be played and won after these two face off. So the pressure of a semifinal is different and I wonder how that will affect both their attitudes and performances. Rafa seems to be peaking at just the right time and maybe MAYbe Novak peaked a little early. Hot and dry conditions forecast for tomorrow should favor Rafa. I'm going to be a nervous wreck until it's over. VAMOS RAFA!!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rafa at Roland Garros: Quest For Crazy Eights - Round 4

 (The Birthday Boy has his cake and eats it too!)

Happy 27th Birthday to Our Hero, Rafael Nadal. His present to us was a routine 3-set win over Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. The tournament's present to him was a giant-ass birthday cake presented in the middle of the court. Good thing he won. Otherwise that giant cake waiting in the hallway to the locker room would've been AWKWARD.

Kei was sharp to start out but then Rafa took control. Rafa played his best match of the tournament which was very encouraging as a potential semifinal match up against Djokovic looms. First he'll have to beat Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals which shouldn't be too difficult a task. Stan is a solid player who came back today to beat Richard Gasquet, who lived up to his reputation as a total head case as he let a two set lead evaporate into a 5 set loss. For most of the match, it looked like Stan was going to be the one who imploded as he got very angry over a line judge he thought should've been replaced. But by the end of the 4th set Stan was pulling it together and Gasquet was buckling.

So it's Stan vs. Rafa and Tommy Haas Vs. Djokovic in their quarters. I do love me some Tommy Haas, so obviously I'm rooting for an upset. But it really does seem we're getting that semi-final face off I've been hoping to avoid. I hope my Rafa is ready to bring it! VAMOS!