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!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

SYTYCD 10: 10 to 8 Recap - Child, This Show is Fierce!!

Big week this week, Dance Fans! Top 10! All-Stars! I've been so excited for this since the end of last week's episode. They released the names of this week's All-Stars early, so we know we're getting Brandon, Comfort, Jakob, Kathryn, Marko, Melanie, Neil, Robert, tWitch and Witney. A quick look at gender numbers and we can figure out that at some point in the night we're going to get some hot guy-on-guy dance action! Who will it be?  6 contempos, 2 ballers, 1 tappa tappa tappa and 1 hip hopper remain. I'm so ready for this. Let's get to it!

Opening number choreographed by Christopher Scott Music: “The Gravel Road” — score from The Village.

At first I'm like, "Ugh, THE VILLAGE!." But the track is pretty and haunting so I'll try to suppress my memory of the movie. There are lots of IKEA-style old-style rocking chairs. The dance and rock in and around the chairs in every way imaginable. And it looks like the top 10 are paired with their old partners for one last time, which I enjoy. It's a little hard to tell since there are four petite brunettes in the top five girls, but it's a safe bet the guys and girls are with their old partners. Jenna gets a nice featured lift moment. Also of note - there are actually 10 dancers on stage, which mean there are no injured dancers this week! Thank you, Jeebus!

On the judging panel tonight, along with Nigel and Mary, is the incomparable Debbie "This child is FIERCE!" Allen. FINALLY. Her first appearance all season! She must have been just holding off until she could witness the glory of the All-Star routines, and who can really blame her? She is super excited to be here and to get on with the show. I can't wait to hear what she has to say. Maybe she'll tip her hand to who she thinks are her favorites to win!

We quickly recap last week's awesome routines and it's time for the bottom 4 reveal. Tucker has to be in the bottom because he didn't perform last week, and joining him are Nico, Jenna and Makenzie. This is not surprising as Jenna and Mackenzie have both been in the bottom 3 girls for three of the last five weeks. They are phenomenal dancers who have never had strong voter support. The choreographers love them though. Jenna especially gets a lot of featured moments in the group dances (see picture above). Nigel tells us we've seen all of them dance solos enough so there's no need to go through it again. Has Nico ever actually had to do a dance for your life solo? I don't think so. He's been in the bottom, but he's always been sent to safety. Well, it doesn't matter. Nigel wants to get straight to the All-Star routines, and I'm certainly not going to stand in his way. I think being saved is actually up for grabs at this point. These could go either way.

Amy and all-star Brandon Bryant (season 5): disco choreographed by Doriana Sanchez Music: “I Will Always Love You (Hex Hector Radio Mix)” by Whitney Houston.

A few things before we get to the dance. 1. Doriana will not be satisfied until one of her female dancers is decapitated or ripped clean in two during one of her disco routines. I believe she's seriously looking to kill somebody. 2. This is the WORST SONG CHOICE EVER for a disco. Why didn't she just try to have them dance and smile their way through the dance remix of Adele's "Someone Like You?" It's just not a joyous song. What they are doing is extremely athletic and super fun, but they are fighting against the music with every step. At one point, the song cuts completely out for dramatic effect, but it sucks all the energy out of the routine for a long silent moment. There are insane lifts. Seriously if you were trying to kill someone, make them try one of these lifts. I like Doriana, and I generally like her disco routines on this show, but this comes so close to being juuust too manic in my opinion. It's danced so well, but it's almost stressful to have to watch the tricks unfold. It finishes with Amy hanging centimeters from the ground following a death drop. The judges give her a standing ovation for not dying as much as anything else. Mary agrees with me that the song choice was bonkers, and you KNOW she hated it if she couldn't stop herself from mentioning it (twice!) in her critique. Debbie thought they were well-paired and thinks Amy's a stick of dynamite. And that gold DRESS, honey! You're wearing that little outfit! Nigel loves Amy and thinks she should pay close attention to how Melanie Moore gets it done when she returns later as an All-Star, because he thinks Amy has that kind of potential.

Aaron and all-star Kathryn McCormick (season 6): contemporary by Stacey Tookey Music: “I’m Kissing You” by Des’ree.

OMFG. First of all this is one of my favorite sad love songs. It probably holds that place because it's not overplayed and I rarely hear it. And also because it's just simply a beautiful vocal. Aaron is just KILLING IT here. He's SO strong while being so vulnerable. Kathryn can just fly off him and around him and underneath him. She trusts him completely and her technique is exquisite. They have an INSANE connection. God, it's just gorgeous. An obvious standing ovation. The judges are gobsmacked and tongue-tied. They are trying to think of snappy one-liners but are at a total loss. Debbie gives us a "Child, call the fire department, honey!" She rightfully praises Tookey's great choreo here and she is all teary-eyed and proud in the audience. Debbie is so proud of Aaron. Kathryn is beaming at him too. She says he's raised the bar for the competition tonight, and I'd agree with her there. Nigel thinks it was sensational. All the elements came together. Mary thought it was one of the most beautiful routines she's seen on the show and calls out Aaron's mix of strength and tenderness. This one was a home run. Cat even takes more time to talk to Kathryn about how awesome she thinks Aaron is before she gives the audience his call-in vote info. He's a lock to be safe next week.

Fik-Shun and all-star Melanie Moore (season 8): jazz by Mandy Moore Music: “Feeling Good” by Jennifer Hudson.

I sometimes wonder if I oversell Melanie in my memory as being so amazing as The Beast of Season 8, but then she takes the stage as an All-Star and I'm like, "Nope. She's legit amazing." I can't take my eyes off her the entire time. I think Fik-shun keeps up just fine, but she is just on another level. It's really the danger of having her as a partner in this type of situation. She's not trying to steal focus but she cannot help but command audience attention. Hot hot hot. They get a standing O as well, but Melanie really got them on their feet more than Fik-shun. Nigel calls out some moves Fik-shun biffed in the group number and Fik-Shun's eyes go wide in a "are you really calling me out for the group number? DAMN." kind of way. I went back and watched the opening number and it's true. There's a moment where he and Amy mess up a lift and that leads Fik-shun to do a pretty sloppy cartwheel right afterwards. Still, Nigel thinks Fik-shun's been having a great journey on the show. Mary agrees about the poor lines AND the great journey. Debbie lets us know that Fik-shun is REAL! But she can't honestly show up this late in the season and expect that line to be fresh, even with her particular flair. Cat lets Fik-shun give Melanie her props and he's really gracious and charming. I love him, but I think he got really outshone here.There's so little room for error with this few contestants left!

Paul and all-star Witney Carson (season 9): cha cha by Jean-Marc Genereux Music: “Live It Up” by Jennifer Lopez.

First time through, this was a little underwhelming for me. Whitney's hair - but more importantly her energy - seemed to be flying around all over the place. The dancing was so sharp, but it still felt like it could spin out of control at any second. I watched it a second time and decided I liked it a lot better than what I got from a first impression. But I don't know if this was really a great moment for Paul. He's really perfect in the style, but was this enough to keep him safe with two more performances to go from the two guys in the bottom this week? I'm skeptical. I think that has to be mind set of all the choreographers from this week out: Is this routine going to give them enough that they stand out from the crowd? Is there a moment you're going to remember as a high point of the night? If not, then they should dig deeper. Also, I need to note Paul and Witney totally missed one hand connection after a long spin. A very quick flash of disbelief crosses Witney's face but they keep going strong. Tey finish and the judges give another standing O. Mary doesn't mention the missed connection. She loved it. She's so proud of Paul and of Witney. They are on the hot tamale train! Debbie is calling the police for Witney's outfit (which, in truth, is amazing and barely there.) Nigel thinks Paul is going to make it a very interesting race to win the show. Also it's his BIRTHDAY! He's 22. So young and healthy. And he's got so many charms.

Hayley and all-star Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss (season 4): hip hop by Christopher Scott Music: “Locked Out Of Heaven (District 78 Remix)” by Bruno Mars.

Concept: Hayley is a loan officer and tWitch wants a loan... I feel like maybe Christopher didn't have a lot of brain space for this routine on top of his stellar group number. Parts of it don't feel very thought out. There's not enough flash to anything. It's fun, but nothing memorable happens. As I mentioned before, the choreographers have to be focused on highlighting the contestant as much as possible, and nothing about this routine really does that. Plus I didn't think this style fit Hayley well at all. It looked awkward on her. I didn't get her relationship with tWitch here either. They seem chummy, but there's no heat. Were they supposed to like each other? I didn't feel the chemistry. They do NOT get a standing ovation from the judges. First time tonight! Hmm. Debbie felt tWitch overpowered Hayley. Nigel thinks she's a dark horse here and he thinks she epitomizes the commercial dancer. Mary fauns over tWitch and then things get weird when she starts talking about pancakes and hands and her new diet and then she's kinda like "ME WANT FOOD!" Nigel checks to see if she's drinking alcohol on set, but no, that's just how she is.

Jenna and all-star Neil Haskell (season 3): contemporary by Mandy Moore Music: “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Mark Masri.

Mandy Moore and Neil are always a good combo. It's a story about breaking up! One partner is ready to let go and one person is not. Such a story has never been examined on this stage before! Or maybe it's explored at least once a week. There are a million candles spread around the stage which must have really annoyed the stage hands. So Jenna is the partner who's ready to let go and I think her movement is really simple and elegant and her energy is present and lovely. Neil is a great partner. He does not outshine her here. The focus is kept on her. Judges give a standing O. Nigel makes a joke that with all the candles on stage he didn't realize it was Mary's birthday as well as Paul's. Debbie and Cat are like "what did you just say??" But Mary just swipes at his shoulder and laughs. "I'd hit him harder but he'd like it too much!" Nigel thinks Jenna is the most versatile ballroom girl they've ever had on the show, and notes how it's not easy to continually find yourself in the bottom but keep delivering your very best. And I'd say that's true for Makenzie as well. It's gotta suck to always be in danger. Who doesn't want to sail through? But you never feel any sense of inevitable defeat in their dancing. That takes strength. Mary agrees, but then once again falls into a "ME WANT FOOD!" narrative. Debbie mentions that Neil was on the show when she first started judging and how she loved him then and loves him now. OH, how his face lights up at that news! It's so cute. Debbie loves Jenna and said she found mastery in the choreography. Is she being saved or sent home? No clue.

Jasmine and all-star Marko Germar (season 8): jazz by Ray Leeper Music: “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell.

I wish Ray had not said in the rehearsal footage that they should look EXACTLY like the same person because... they just don't! And first time through, that's how I watched it, and it took away from the joy for me because while they are both gorgeous humans, there are times they're not doing exactly the same movement exactly the same way. But they compliment each other very well and viewed as a partner dance, I think it's great. I love the style of the choreo. This is a very fun piece!  Marko is not drawing focus, while still being incredible. He does this one spinning vertical split kick thing that is truly insane and worth the price of admission alone, but then after that the focus is back on Jasmine. She is so slick and has so much personality. The judges give another standing O. Debbie and Mary thought it was all eyes on Jasmine the whole time and loved the routine. Nigel loved the routine and thought it pulled from all sorts of jazz styles. He wasn't sure if he was looking at one All-Star on stage... or two! Jasmine seems thrilled and relieved.

Makenzie and all-star Jakob Karr (season 6): Broadway by Spencer Liff Music: “Too Darn Hot (RAC Mix)” by Ella Fitzgerald.

Ooh, Makenzie and Jakob! This is a perfect pairing. They both have those insane feet. Spencer makes sure you know it with some well showcased développé. This number has a classic, smoky, sexy feel. Mackenzie is gorgeous. Jakob is stellar. Everything is working for them in this number. The non-Tyce Broadway numbers have really been on fire this season! There's this moment where Makenzie is walking away from Jakob with her back to him and her face goes from smoldering to just busting open with this wonderful smile in only a few steps. I love it! Great final pose too. ANOTHER standing ovation from the judges! Debbie loved it and makes the Cyd Charisse reference to Makenzie again. Nigel thinks these two have the best pairs of feet in the business and that Makenzie is one of the best dancers they've ever had on the show. Mary loved that Makenzie matched Jakob and thought it was mesmerizing. Is she being saved or sent home? Still no clue. Total toss up on our hands since both girls are amazing and nailed their routines.

Nico and all-star Comfort Fedoke (season 4): hip hop by Tabitha and Napoleon Music: “Get Ur Freak On (Amended LP Version)” by Missy Elliott.

Oof. Nico gets hip hop and Tucker gets the boy-on-boy dance to close the show? Well let's just say someone didn't get dealt a hand with a lot of trump cards, but we still play the had we're dealt, right? So they are playing giant reptiles to one of my favorite Missy songs. I think Nico does better than he did in that first hip hop routine with Alexis. He's sharp with the movement and strong with the character. He's kind of a sweet innocent lizard. Maybe not quite a freak lizard, but it's good. Comfort is amazing as always. I thought this happened to be a really good routine on a night that's already featured maybe five amazing ones.  This one does not get a standing O from the judges. BAD SIGN. Nigel didn't really love it, but he thought Nico really nailed the style. He thought he held the character even in the transitions, which has been something Nico's been told to work on a lot. Mary thought Comfort and Nico both got their freak on. She liked the routine more than Nigel, and found them both oddly freaky and enjoyable. Debbie felt like she was in Jurassic Park, honey! She reminds Nico that everyone is here to win and that he did himself proud. When Comfort leaves the stage she crab walks (crab sprints?) all the way across the stage. Seriously she moves so fast and it looks effortless. She's crazy! I love her.

Tucker and all-star Robert Roldan (season 3): contemporary by Travis Wall Music: “Medicine” by Daughter.

Well, if you have a contestant who survived a nearly-fatal accident and an All-Star who has survived an even more recent nearly-fatal accident, clearly you have to put them in a Travis routine about one brother saving another from Darkness. I mean, this pairing makes more sense than even Makenzie and Jakob's perfectly pointed feet. The routine is very emotional and the movement is gorgeous. But the whole here is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a very personal piece to Travis and if you have a history with the show (as I assume most of us do) it touches a deep place for these dancers that we've cared about for years now. So it's special. The judges of course give it a standing O. Mary cries and asks the boys if they see and feel the love from everyone in the room. OMG THE TEARS. TEARS FROM EVERYBODY. Mary can't even talk anymore. Debbie calls out how the piece is really about Travis and his own brother Danny Tidwell. The mention of Danny's name makes Travis's face crumble and makes me furiously google "Danny Tidwell" to make sure he's not dead, or being held in a room across the hall from Amanda Bynes in some posh LA sanitarium. But no, he's doing great. He's performing as a soloist with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet which is why he's never around as an All-Star. So HE'S FINE. They're ALL FINE and I'm NOT CRYING! Nigel thinks all of the right elements came together for this piece and that it will always be remembered on the show. SO... Tucker is not going home this week. I mean, obvs.

Elimination time. Nigel lets us know there was a panel of 15 votes tonight. That seems like a lot of people! For the boys, it was unanimous among the voters who would go. He stresses that they really love them both and it's not a matter of one of them being bad, but clearly Tucker just had that MOMENT and Nico didn't, and that's that. Still going on tour though! For the girls it was 9-6 with Nigel in the minority. So Jenna survives and Makenzie is leaving tonight as well. Aww. Jenna is in disbelief that she got through AGAIN. Nico hugs Makenzie oh-so-tight and cries. They are adorable. Nico's reptile makeup gets sweated off onto Makenzie's face. Aww again.

List of tonight's dances in order of my personal preference:

Aaron and Kathryn's contempo
Tucker and Robert's contempo
Jasmine and Marko's Jazz
Mackenzie and Jakob's Broadway
Jenna and Neil's contempo
Paul and Whitney's Cha Cha
Fik-shun and Melanie's Jazz 
Amy and Brandon's Disco
Nico and Comfort's hip hop.
Hayley and tWitch's hip hop

Next Week - It's all All-Stars - as Partners AND Choreographers! Pulling double duty next week, we'll get tWitch (Season Four), Dmitry Chaplin (Season Two), Comfort Fedoke (Season Four), Courtney Galiano (Season Four), Chelsie Hightower (Season Four), Allison Holker (Season Two), Mark Kanemura (Season Four), and Travis Wall (Season Two). SO if you're a HUGE season 2 or 4 fan, next week is pretty much made for you! I'm really excited to see what they bring to the choreo. Predictions for Bottom 4? I just can't believe Aaron or Tucker are going to be in the bottom next week. By default it has to be Paul and Fik-Shun. For the girls? I don't know. Amy... and finally Hayley? Jenna seems like the consistently lower finisher, but I thought she had a better night than the other two. This was a top notch night of routines, though. Really. It makes me want to go and watch it all again and again. Which I'll have to do anyway to write this recap. See you next week!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rafa Returns! Routs Raonic at Rogers!

(taking a bite out of 2013!)

Congrats to Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, for another incredible tournament win today at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. After a very closely fought victory over Our Nemesis, Novak Djokovic, in the semis, Nadal bulldozed Milos Raonic in the final 6-2 6-2. It was sad for the Canadians watching who were hoping for a home grown title winner for the first time in 55 years, and it seemed like Raonic had a shot at it going in, but the wait will have to continue for at least another year. Rafa was at the top of his game. His serve was working for him, the breezy on-court conditions were working for him and he played a well-executed aggressive game throughout. I'm so thrilled to have Rafa back in action after his seven week summer vacation, and to be doing so well again after that unfortunate first round loss at Wimby. This was a very good tournament for him, as he got his first win over Novak on hard courts since 2010 and took down a very formidable opponent in Jerzy Janowicz two rounds before. Excellent, excellent play this week from Nadal.

(TBT - Throw back trophy! taking a bite out of 2008!)

So some fun stats: Rafa has now entered 11 tournaments this year, made 10 finals and won 8 tournaments. He has extended his tour-record career haul of Masters 1000 tournament titles to 25. He is undefeated on hard courts for the season (!!) with two Masters 1000 titles on the surface already. He's jumped up a place from 4th to 3rd in the overall rankings. He's now 48-3 for the year (94% win percentage) and has not won this many tour titles in a single season since 2008. He now has 58 career singles titles to his name.

(TBT - taking a bite out of 2005! just a baby!)

Next up we have the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati - a tournament I don't think Nadal has ever won. He has some formidable opponents in his section of the draw including Federer as a possible quarterfinal match up and then Murray possibly in the semis. If he keeps up this kind of form, Rafa has a great shot at the title this year. VAMOS!!

As a bonus, here's a clip of Nadal accidentally hitting Novak in the head with the ball early in the third set of their semifinal match. He tried to apologize right after, but Novak wasn't having it. Rafa again apologized at the net when the match was over and Novak accepted his apology and they moved on. But damn, that was a crazy moment!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

SYTYCD 10: Recap 12 to 10 - Edge of Elimination / Edge of Glory

Greetings once again, Dance Fans! This week went by pretty fast and now we're back where we belong. This is the one that really counts for our favorite contestants. The Tour is on the line. All-Star partners are just around the corner. They're almost at the last big hurdle. But two will stumble. I hate to even think about it! 7 contempos, 3 ballers, 1 tappa tappa tappa and 1 hip hopper remain. The contempos are dominating right now. We'll see if it lasts! Let's get to it!

Opening number choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan, Music: “Dabangg 2″ (Original Soundtrack) by Pandeyjee Seeti.

Bollywood group number! Everyone is flying around the place! But wait. This week I can count the dancers and I can see we are short one boy. WHAT. THE. HELL? AGAIN??? The routine is super fast and fun and everyone seems to be keeping up. Nico especially seems really into it and has the energy dialed up to 11 and gets a nice spotlight where he flips into the center of the formation. With Top 10 and the tour on the line it looks like he'll be emptying the tank and giving his all. Smart boy!

Kenny Ortega is on hand tonight as a good judge of both dance technique and star quality. Cat is in a darling white dress/skirt that indicates she may have just come from or be heading to her 1st Holy Communion.  She gives us the bad news that Tucker was not in the group dancers due to a knee infection. Come again? No further medical explanation is provided, however. How'd he get a 1-week knee infection? I don't understand. What kind of virus attacks the knees? Tucker seems to already be better, but he couldn't rehearse prior and can't do the routines tonight, so if he manages to survive this week, he'll automatically be in the bottom next week. Unlike Jade who withdrew due to injury and Curtis who was okay but already at the bottom of the pack, Tucker's pretty much avoided being in the bottom altogether before this point. He's never been Nigel's favorite though, so it might just come down to who else is in the bottom if he's in danger.

And is he in danger, Cat? Yes, he is. Along with Alan, Nico, Jenna, Malece and Amy. DAMN. Don't nobody slip on a prop or you sink all the way to the bottom. Amy looks petrified. The safe dancers barely seem to realize they've made the Top 10 as they stagger off the stage in shock. I would say it's curtains for Jenna except Nigel saves her! Over Amy? That means Malece has pretty much no shot to advance. She knows it too. What a quick change of fortune for her! Nico is also saved, so it remains to be seen if Alan can wow them enough tonight to keep himself alive over Tucker.

The bottom 4 do solos. Tucker basically shows he can still move just fine. Amy gives the dance for your life solo Nigel has been looking for as she throws herself around leaving no emotional stone unturned and ends collapsed on the stage, hair flung all over her face. Malece is much more composed but I actually like her athleticism and choice of movement here. Alan forgoes the cape for this solo and does a great job, but his tone and expression is so light here. I think he's going for "joyous" but I'm afraid they misinterpret it as him not taking things seriously enough. That happens in his routines a lot too. Oh, Alan. You and Malece gotta nail tonight's routine if you have any chance.

Hayley and Nico - Broadway choreographed by Sean Cheesman, Music: “Kiss of the Spider Woman” by Jeffrey Huard & Chita Rivera.

Concept: Hayley is a fortune-teller trying to steal Nico's soul with a kiss. Is that an actual thing? Anyway, The Spider Woman song is kind of an acquired taste. I could see some people getting taken out of the dancing because of it. Hayley and Nico go after it FULL FORCE though. I'm not always sold on Nico's acting and some of his facial expression basically looks like "UGH! Kissing this girl would be GROSS." But they have a great connection for their first dance together and they do two INSANE flips masterfully - one where Nico gets flipped over and another where Nico grabs her leg from behind and flips her over his head and across the stage. Somehow nobody died. They get a standing O to start the night. Nigel praises Nico, Hayley, and Sean, calling it one of the best Broadway routines ever on the show (we also really liked Spencer's Ghost Dance this season too!). They talk about Nico getting stronger every week, and it's clear this kid has his head in the fight. Hayley meanwhile has made it to the Top 10 as the only girl never to be in the Bottom 3. Good on her!  

Alan and Malece - jazz by Mandy Moore, Music: “Come Dance With Me” by Michael Buble.

It's old Hollywood! Gene Kelly! Except... well why don't you tell us yourself, Alan? "I'm 19 years old, I've never seen a Gene Kelly film." HERESY! This will not help your case with Nigel AT ALL. Somebody loan this kid a DVD of Singin' In The Rain immediately! Malece claims she has seen a few Old Hollywood movies (as if sensing saying otherwise would be to sign her own death warrant), but I'm not sure how many movies would equal "a few" in her mind. The rehearsal footage interviews did them no favors. Nothing in the routine helps them out either. They have no dance chemistry together here. It's bad that the routine is like two minutes long and can't hold my attention.This type of routine came at the absolute worst time for both of them. Kenny tries to be nice to them (mostly to Malece) but Nigel has a long list of technical and character problems with their performance. Mary tries to land somewhere in the middle of the guys, but also felt the routine was uncomfortable. Malece better hope Amy has another prop heavy routine and that she trips over everything and knocks Fik-shun off the stage. It's her only shot to continue at this point.

Jenna and All-Star Alex Wong (subbing for Tucker) - paso doble by Jean-Marc Genereux, Music: “He’s a Pirate (Ship Ahoy Tribal Remix)” by Chris Joss & Klaus Badelt.

I actually think Tucker would've been a perfectly good partner here, but if you can upgrade to Alex Wong, why the hell wouldn't you? I think a Pirate-themed Paso is a little cheesy and the costumes here are a bit "Party City" (and not in an awesome Sharon Needles way) but the routine is danced well, that's for sure. It's not my favorite of the night, but it's well above what Alan and Malece just did. Mary freaks the hell out for it. She loves her some Alex. And rightfully so. This is the dude that popped two Achilles in consecutive years and still came back from those injuries to dance on Broadway and be an All-Star and like seriously folks, strive above the adversity life throws at you and follow your effing DREAMS! Nigel points out Alex never even got to do ballroom on the show (see above: injuries) but is amazing. Kenny names Jenna his favorite dancer! Until Amy and Jasmine come out on stage? I don't know. I like Jenna! I'm glad she's in the Top 10, but Voting America seems much less impressed with her than I am.

Makenzie and Paul - contemporary by Mandy Moore, Music: Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” (live from A Very Gaga Thanksgiving).

Concept - Secret Loves dancing in their safe space! I don't know that I get that from the routine, but who cares? Mackenzie and Paul KILL IT. They are so gorgeous together. It's one of those routines where all the ingredients come together the right way: the music, the costumes, the lighting, the choreo and the right dancers. It's really perfect. Another standing O. Nigel congratulates Mackenzie on finding her way out of the bottom three. Mary is also totally thrilled. Kenny compares Paul to the Paul in A Chorus Line, and I don't really know what he means having never seen A Chorus Line. I know, I know. This is my own "I'm 19 years old, I've never seen a Gene Kelly film." moment except I have less of an excuse. I know the music, I've just never seen the show. ANYWAY, have we talked about how I'm suddenly in love with Paul? I didn't even pick him for my top 5 guys when the Top 20 was revealed and now he's my favorite! I swear, sometimes dancers on this show really surprise you.  

Amy and Fik-Shun - Viennese waltz by Jean-Marc Genereux, Music: “A Thousand Years, Pt. 2″ by Christina Perri feat. Steve Kazee.

Concept: A celebration of their great partnership. Nobody trips, so Malece is going home. Not only that but it's actually quite lovely. I'm interested to see how each of them do when they're split up. I feel like they'd reached the limit of what the choreographers were going to let them explore together and it will be nice to see them matched with All-Stars and taken in different directions. But I thought this had an elegant feel and a sweet joy about it. Mary thought there were some technical issues in the routine but fails to offer specifics. Instead she focuses on how moved she was by the performance. Kenny mentions they've had a "wonderful love story, week-to-week" which really has nothing to do with these two as partners or the routines they've been given. Nigel's notes how much Fik-Shun applies to his dancing from what he learns in rehearsal. You gotta admit this kid is hungry and does the work to improve. Nigel almost tells Amy she's in and Malece is out right here, but I guess he remembers the twitter outrage he received about cutting people before the end of the show and decides to only suggest that's absolutely what's going to happen.

Aaron and Jasmine - hip hop by Tabitha and Napoleon, Music: “Gold Rush” by Clinton Sparks feat. 2 Chainz, Macklemore & D.A.

Concept: Old West Bandits and Gold diggers! I'm a little concerned about the cheesy sepia-toned filter at the very very beginning, but once Aaron enters the saloon it's ON and it's amazing. The movements are fast and precise and hit at sharp angles, and Aaron and Jasmine totally kill it. Aaron noted in the rehearsal package that it's harder for them to get low and execute so many quick moves because of their height, but you won't see any deficiencies here. Aaron has just got that solid build where the movement looks great on him and the stank-face looks right. Jasmine as well is delivering EVERYTHING - attitude, precision, chemistry, hip thrusts galore. She's so good! When it's done we get another standing ovation! These two had such a great partnership. I think they've nailed every routine they've been given.There's a lot of talk on the panel about pelvic thrusting. We're moving on.

Top 6 Guys -  rope dance by Tabitha and Napoleon, Music: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by Joshua Ledet (American Idol performance).

By the time we get to rehearsing this for the cameras, Tucker has already been afflicted by his knee infection. So it's 5 guys and a rope representing relationship issues from the start. And the rope offers it's own issues, since it seems to be blistering their hands. It's a fun routine. They use the rope to create lots of fun angles. Aaron has a nice solo bit in the middle and Paul and Nico also stand out for me. In judging Nigel gives Paul praise, and knocks Alan for stiffness. If Alan thought he had any hope over Tucker, you can see in his face that Nigel just crushed it. Oof.

Top 6 Girls - fountain number by Stacey Tookey, Music: “Young And Beautiful (DH Orchestral Version)” by Lana Del Rey.

It's a lovely piece. There are some beautiful pictures and lifts. It's interesting how sometimes the girls are intentionally blocking each other from getting to the fountain and sometimes they are lifting each other up or supporting each other. Mary calls them the best Top 6 girls the show ever had. I submit to the men and women of the jury Exhibit A Season 3's Sabra-Lacey-Lauren-Sara-Jaimie-Anya in Season 3 as perhaps an even more varied group of excellent dancers, along with Season 4's Katee-Courtney-Chelsie-Comfort-Kherington-Jessica combo, but this is still a very strong group of six all these years later. Nigel tries to tell us that Amy is actually a jazz dancer and not contemporary, but the SYTYCD website says she's contempo and I'm sticking with that. I think Nigel just doesn't want it to be 5 contempo girls and one baller. But what can you do? Jenna gets a moment from Cat to talk about how much the girls bonded this week. And Jasmine thinks the lifting has left her stronger than ever! Girl Power!!

Obvious Elimination Time! Nigel praises all four solos and claims that while he doesn't have much to do with the tour (is that true??) he will plead the case for the two dancers eliminated tonight to be tour alternates. Who else would they rather pick? Maybe Alexis or Mariah? Or... BluPrint? I feel like Alan and Malece are the best choices here. Especially since it is Alan and Malece who get cut. So many tears! Alan is a crier and he's doing his best to keep it together, but my GOD they're stuck standing there a long time aren't they? The safe dancers in the holding pit are no less teary-eyed. Gosh, Malece looks so heartbroken! I have to remember they're really just kids with dreams and this was their chance! In the end, the other dancers lift them up on their shoulders triumphantly rather than crying and hugging in a circle which is a nice way to celebrate them in that tough moment.

Rundown of routines in order of my preference:

Mackenzie and Paul's Contempo
Aaron and Jasmine's Hip Hop
Hayley and Nico's Broadway
Jenna and Alex's (Tucker) Paso Doble
Amy and Fik-shun's Viennese Waltz
Alan and Malece's Jazz

Bottom 4? I'm guessing Amy, Jenna, Tucker, and Nico. But WHO KNOWS?? I'm really excited for All-Stars. The gang's getting back together!! HOORAY! See you next week!!