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!

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