Thursday, August 24, 2017

SYTYCD 14 Top 9 Recap: You're Not Just Going Home, You're Going on Tour!

Hello Again, Dance Fans! Isn't it nice to be back in the familiar rhythm of the live shows? Two hours of great routines, Cat being her amazing self in an amazing dress, judges being loud, wacky, emotional and occasionally critical - it warms my heart and calms my brain. Now that we're in Week 3 of the partnerships, we can start to see if connections are deepening between the contestants and their all-stars, and what performance strengths and weaknesses exist for those still vying for the title of America's Favorite Dancer 2017. 

Top 9 With All-Stars Performance - Tribal Fusion (?) Choreographer: Luther Brown, "Ya Yar" by Jonte'. No one specifically states what category or dance style this falls into. It seems to be a fusion of several things. It's got great energy! I have an easier time identifying the All-Stars here than the contestants here. The contestants blend together for me, with the exception of Lex who gets featured front-and-center for an extended period of time. He's very good. He's one of those dancers that the choreographers love to focus on in the group numbers. I never know how that contributes to vote counts, but it seems like it can only benefit him to get as much screen time as possible doing cool things.

Cat looks stunning as ever tonight in her dress by Balmain, shoes by Gianvito Rossi and jewelry by xivkarats. The big news of the night (other than the fact the President has to interrupt things to give a speech about how he's not going to tell us his actual plan for war in Afghanistan) is that the the National Tour is back on! Hopefully it's coming to city near you! Currently it won't be making it's way to NYC. Englewood, NJ is close, but the Beacon on the UWS would be a lot closer. Tonight the dancers will once again be performing routines with their All-Star partners (style chosen at random) and solos performed in their own style. I don't say a lot about the solos because there's not a lot of variation in them week after week. Lex, Logan, Mark, Dassy, Koine and Kaylee always impress. It's tougher on Kiki and Lyndsey to do ballroom without partners. Taylor's solos don't really wow me either. The solo offers a small shot of redemption in case a dancer bombs his or her routine, but the solos haven't really had a major impact on the outcome yet this season.

Logan and All-Star Allison - Jive. Choreographers: Emma Slater and Sasha Farber, “5 Months, 2 Weeks, 2 Days” by Louis Prima. This jive takes us back to the time of World War II, when soldiers came home to marry the girl of their dreams and create the Baby Boom. Logan is trying to convince Allison that she's the girl for him. There's a lot of talk about needing "cheeky charm." Logan claims in the taped intro not to know what that means, and that carries over to the live performance. He's having fun, but it's very broad and his limbs are SO LONG, when he goes big, it can get really big. I think Logan's greatest strengths so far are his commitment to character and his undeniably impressive tricks. His greatest weakness seems to be his youth. There's a trace of immaturity to how he handles the expanse of his frame. That's something that will come with age. The judges are very complimentary. Mary says he had it all, but then adds, "If you get this style again..." which means there were enough technical problems that she's not willing to gloss over them. Don't think Mary won't call you out if you had a rough time with Ballroom. Not everyone gets an automatic ticket on the hot tamale train.

Koine and All-Star Marko - Hip-Hop. Choreographer: Dave Scott, “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace feat. G-Eazy. Koine plays a pageant girl who's stressed out and ready to leave that life behind. Marko is her Friend-Zoned buddy who's trying to support her. Well, that's how they describe it in the taped intro, but in performance, it doesn't seem like Koine is ready to let go at all. She's obsessed with her mirror. she's ignoring Marko and  she doesn't want to get out of her chair (You've got 90 seconds to dance! Get up and dance!). But when Koine does get up and dance, it gets awesome really fast. She is a complete performer and Marko is a fantastic partner for her because he's very skilled but not the kind of dude to steal focus. Also at the end of the routine, he manages to kick the chair back across the stage so that it slides right back to make up table perfectly. How did he do that? During judging, Mary wails, “WE DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE!” meant in a positive way. I really think this girl can make it to the final. She keeps elevating the choreo with great characterization and great partnering. If she has a weakness in the competition, I haven't seen it yet.

Dassy and All-Star Fik-Shun - Jazz. Choreographer: Ray Leeper, “Bring the Funk Back” by Big Gigantic. Ray really wants to work on the connection between them in this routine, and I think that is key. If Dassy has a weakness in this competition, it is that there seems to be a wall up between her and Fik shun. I'm not sure what's causing it, but it still looks like they are dancing next to each other instead of with each other. Aside from the parts where she was climbing over him, they might as well have been dancing in two separate rooms. I hope they can find a way to let each other in, because they are both fantastic dancers on their own. But we're at the point where I want to see their connection deepening and I don't see it. That's a disappointment for me and leaves me particularly unjazzed for this jazz routine. Vanessa, tells the Dassy she would've liked more, "rawr.” And I think she wanted that feeling directed more at Fik shun. I'm a bit concerned for these two.

Mark and All-Star Comfort - Contemporary. Choreographer: Talia Favia, “Ending” by Isak Danielson. This one is so intense. There is a raw energy coming through the movement. It almost feels like it's going to overwhelm the movement, but it doesn't. They manage to keep a hold on it so it feels really alive. Seriously, when am I getting my Too Close With Comfort spin off? These two are so dialed into each other. This could grow to be one of my all-time favorite partnerships on the show. For a dance that is so raw in emotion there are still some very difficult moves and lifts. When it ends, Comfort and Mark look spent. Mary is in tears, but tells them, “It was special tonight.” I agree. Nigel points out that Mark's biggest strength is his willingness to do whatever is asked of him and I think that's a core aspect of Comfort's artistry as well
. I think that's one thing that makes them so successful together. 

Maddie Ziegler is here loving dance and promoting LEAP, a new animated movie about kids who love to dance. I think that's all there is to it. I haven't heard about this movie before tonight, but they showed a preview of it during the commercial break and it looked sweet! Check it out this weekend if you want!

All-Stars Group Number - Contemporary. Choreographer: Travis Wall, "Strange Fruit" Nina Simone. Oh man. I knew when the words, "Strange Fruit" came on the screen this one was going to be intense. The imagery is quite beautiful. The All-Stars infuse the movement with intention and a shared energy that comes with having worked together for so many seasons. It's nice that they get to perform together and create art that's not judged as part of the competition. 

Lex and All-Star Gaby - Broadway. Choreographer: Warren Carlyle, “Miss Otis Regrets” by Bette Midler. In the intro, Gaby mentions that Lex has stage experience and he mumbles about being in Billy Elliot, to the point where you almost can't tell what he says. Say it with pride, Lex! It must be hard to be an introvert trying to sell yourself to the public on a reality competition show. Public speaking doesn't seem to come naturally to him. For the dance, Lex wants to have dinner with Gaby but she's only concerned with looking gorgeous in a flapper dress. It's a very nice routine, if not a total "wow" for me. I still think their routines are putting too much spotlight on Gabby. Lex's greatest strength is his amazing moves that show up in his solos, but his greatest weakness is that the routines focus on his All-Star. This particular routine follows her journey the whole time. Lex is just a supporting player. He does do a very impressive leg swipe move at the end that never stops being impressive. My boyfriend Josh noted that we always see him do it one direction. I wonder if he can also do it on the other leg. Nigel points out that Warren Carlyle, choreographed the current revival of Hello, Dolly!, but unless you saw it on stage you haven't seen any of it since they don't believe in doing commercials with any content from the show. Putting that aside, I want to see a routine that really puts the focus on Lex. Hopefully next week he gets contemporary and he can show us really all he can do in a routine.

Sydney and All-Star Paul - Hip-Hop. Choreographer: Luther Brown, “Really? Yeah!” by Kyle. The concept is: Miami Vice 2025. I'm sorry to say it's cooler in description than execution. This is exactly what Sydney did not need at this point in the competition. It would've been better had she wound up with the routine that Kaylee winds up doing after this. Sydney spends her time on stage hidden behind giant sunglasses and a Pulp Fiction wig. She never look comfortable in the routine. Paul seemed more relaxed in it, but he can't really help her. This one's about their connection to the style more than their connection to each other. It's basically all swagger and the moves come out of that. Sydney's greatest strength is her technique and her ability to connect. She can't use any of that here. It's too bad. In judging, Mary puts forth a bunch of descriptions like  “sick,” “frozen,” “lit,” and "disgusting" but then says none of those applied to this performance. Yikes! Vanessa wanted more “stank face,” At this point, if Sydney is in the bottom 3 again, she's going home.

The Top 9 Group Routine - Jazz. Choreographer: Chirs Baldock, "Hey Pachuco!" by Royal Crown Revue. It's always nice to see the contestants getting to dance with just each other. This is a fun routine. Taylor gets a lot of featured screen time here and it occurs to me that her big smile reminds me a bit of Denise Richards as Carmen in Starship Troopers. The problem here is that while she looks beautiful, that mega-watt smile can tip over into "vacant-looking" if there isn't a lot of intention behind her movement. She has a trio moment with Kaylee and Sydney in this dance, and I feel like the other girls both have more of an idea about what characters they are playing behind their eyes than Taylor does. It just seems like its Taylor dancing with no character on top of that. I wonder if that issue will also present itself in her partner dance this week. I hadn't noticed that disconnect in her previous dances with Robert.

Kaylee and All-Star Cyrus - Jazz. Choreographer: Spencer Liff, “Less Talk, More Art” by Vitro Fun & Koil. Fun with hats! Don't drop the hats. That's basically the mission in this dance, and Kaylee and Cyrus choose to accept it. I'm digging the style of this piece. They both look great. The hats are not dropped, but other moves wobble. They're not always together. Sometimes it seems like Cyrus is a half-second early. Other times it feels like Kaylee is a half-second late. Kaylee gets the character though. Is it possible she wants it too much and is psyching herself out? Sometimes she just looks so worried. Nigel compares
Kaylee to Gwen Verdon, and no offense to Kaylee, but that seems like a big leap. I don't think anyone in the competition should be compared to her. She's a legend! Since it's Solar Eclipse Day, it's decided that Kaylee eclipsed Cyrus in the routine and he's cool with it. I wish that it looked like these were having more of a consistently good time in the competition. 

Taylor and All-Star Robert - Samba. Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereux, “Bun Up the Dance” by Dillon Francis & Skrillex. Taylor's greatest strength is that her incredible skill and connection to Robert. Those things have launched her to the front of the pack. That's also her greatest weakness, because when you're out front, the pressure to stay there can be intense. It gets to Taylor this week. She gets the samba, which Mary later says is the toughest of the ballroom styles. Taylor never looks comfortable. She's more focused on the steps than her connection with Robert which is the wrong way to go, because you can nail the chemistry even if you can't nail the steps. If you don't commit to the connection and then mess up the steps, you've got nothing! It's not a disaster, but it's a let down. The judges are sympathetic but they want more fire from Taylor. They know she can bring it. If they were going to have a stumble along the way, this is probably a safe week to experience it.

Kiki and All-Star Jenna - Contemporary. Choreographer: Mandy Moore, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by George Michael. I don't understand the deal with Kiki and his glasses. Why isn't he wearing contacts? Listen, on their own, Jenna and Kiki have sex appeal FOR DAYS so together they are smoking hot. Kiki's greatest strength is his ballroom partnering, but his greatest weakness is shaking those ballroom tendencies when dealing in other styles. They say this routine is contemporary, but it feels awfully like ballroom. Kiki is not being asked to do much beyond supporting Jenna, but he is doing it in expert fashion and looks damn good doing it. They might end the routine by make out on the floor. It's hard to judge from the camera angle. The judges love this routine. Standing ovations abound. Mary is crying again. Because of the way my DVR cut out and then restarted due to Trump's overlong speech, I don't hear everything they said, but i'll take a wild guess that it was all positive. Kiki is here to stay, If he doesn't do a solo or ballroom routine to "Let's Have A Kiki" before the end of the season, I will throw such a fit.

BOTTOM THREE: Dassy, Sydney and... Mark? WHAT? Dassy and Sydney, ok. I get it. But Mark was so strong last week and his partnership with Comfort is fantastic. I do not accept this. The studio audience is in shock. The judges immediately save him, so that leaves us with Dassy vs. Sydney and the writing is on the wall.

This was the right call. Nigel makes a point to say that the women voted against him last week when he would've saved Robert, but since she's already been in danger and the hip-hop didn't work this week, it's here time to go. Sydney doesn't look surprised but looks very disappointed. The judges and Cat don't want her to think about home, but instead to think about the tour! The adventures don't have to end! They just won't be televised. 

So that's it for another compelling edition of SYTYCD. My bottom 3 guesses for next week are Kaylee, Dassy and Taylor. I'm hoping the ladies can bounce back next week! Here are my rankings for the night. See you next time, Dance Fans!

1. Mark and All-Star Comfort - Contemporary
2. Koine and All-Star Marko - Hip-Hop
3. Kiki and All-Star Jenna - Contemporary
4. Lex and All-Star Gaby - Broadway
5. Logan and All-Star Allison - Jive
6. Kaylee and All-Star Cyrus - Jazz
7. Dassy and All-Star Fik-Shun - Jazz
8. Taylor and All-Star Robert - Samba

Friday, August 18, 2017

SYTYCD 14 Top 10 Pt. 2 Recap: Aliens Dropped Into Dancers' Bodies & Having Relationship Issues

Hello Dance Fans! We're back with the Top 10 once again. But this time it's the last time all the contestants will still be in the running for the title of America's Favorite Dancer. Tonight we get dances and solos from all of them and then the 10 will become 9. I'm sad to see any of them go! Let's get into it, shall we?

Top 10-All Star Opening Number. Saturday Night Fever The BeeGees, Choreography: Mandy Moore and Val Chmerkovskiy. Once again, they put the new balcony level and stairs to good use. I am really loving the new stage and studio set-up. It looks great on TV. The routine is a lot of fun. There are some big wigs on that stage. Marko is wearing this brown... mop, is really the only way to describe it. It looks like it was just pulled out of the plastic box that it came in from Ricky's. Most of the male All-Stars have fake hair, but the only male contestant to don a wig is Kiki. Even though she's in a huge blonde wig, Kaylee still gets blue highlights because that is her THING! This is a very fun dance. The style looks good on everybody. A very positive vibe to start the show.

Credits: Hey! We get a new intro! I see mostly All-Stars but also a few current contestants. Does everyone who's competing show up here? It doesn't seem like there's enough time, but I'll keep watching in the coming weeks to make sure. It ends on Kiki and Jenna striking a pose. Pimp spot!

The audience is ready. The judges are ready. Cat is defintely ready with big hair, a subdued Anine Bing shirt, Michael Kors disco ball trousers and Xivkarats jewelry. Someone WILL be going home tonight and it's sad! But we won't find out who's safe and who's in danger until the very end. Right now the main concern is who's gonna bring it tonight?

Mark Villaver and All-Star Comfort (Jazz) — Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Jazz “Hater” by Various Production. The point of this jazz routine is to be as steamy as possible and Mark and Comfort deliver. The wardrobe department decides Week 2 is long enough to go without us being able to commit all of the tattoos on Mark's torso to memory.  The chemistry they found last week is back on display here. It's very focused and intense. They attack the movement and it's exciting to watch. The judges note that Mark's known for his fun and bouncy energy but here he showed a commitment to a different type of character. Nigel points out that Comfort just gets better and better each year, which I mentioned last week. I'd watch a whole show that was just her. Time for a spin-off, Fox! Working title: "Too Close with Comfort!"

Lex Ishimoto and All-Star Gaby (Argentine Tango) — Choreographers: Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, Argentine Tango “Red & Black (Rojo y Negro)” by Ryota Komatsu. I'll start first by saying that there were some impressively controlled lifts here. But the kicks throughout were very flimsy to me. I like Lex and I think he has the talent to win the whole thing, but he has not had a routine yet that brings out the best of his skill set. Gaby looks amazing here, but it's not about Gaby being a great dancer. She already won her season. The routines have to give Lex more of a spotlight. Mary says it was missing steam, and she's right. This routine was mostly a miss for me. Nigel says that people should go to tango class as couple's therapy. OMG that's the show that Comfort can host! Couples in trouble taking dance class together! You're welcome, America!

Kiki Nyemchek and All-Star Jenna (Hip-Hop) — Choreographer: Luther Brown, Hip-Hop “Caroline” by Aminé. Now I get why Kiki was wearing the wig in the opening number. He already had his hair colored green like the Joker for this number and they didn't want to have it be distracting/a total giveaway. In case you forgot, Kiki BOMBED hip hop at the Academy. Like, completely. He forgot the whole routine and just stood there. This routine is his chance for redemption. For the most part, he succeeds. He and Jenna are basically Mr. And Mrs Joker (I'd say "Harley Quinn" except Jenna also has green hair.)  He hits the choreo hard and the character suits him. I wish he had ditched the floor-length sleeveless coat at some point because at times I feel it obscures too much of his body isolations. There was also a moment with a gun that made it rain dollar bills (which had Nigel's face on them! Props budget must be huge!). It was both kind of awesome and a bit too much of a distraction from actual dancing. I thought this was a good showing for him given his previous hip hop disaster. Judges loved it. This should keep him safe another week.

Sydney Tormey and All-Star Paul (Contemporary) — Choreographer: Jaci Royal, Contemporary “The Letting Go” by Melissa Etheridge. This is a perfectly lovely routine. It's very well danced. Sydney and Paul have a nice connection. Really good transitions throughout. It's not really breaking new ground in terms of theme or composition though. It's the tale as old as time of a girl leaving a childhood love behind to pursue her dreams. It's solid, but it's not going to stand out from the crowd and I already thought Sydney was in trouble after last week. If she makes it to Top 9, I hope they give her something truly crazy next time, so she has a chance to surprise us. 

Logan Hernandez and All-Star Allison (Jazz) — Choreographer: Brian Friedman, Jazz Fusion “In the Morning” by Jaded. Concept: Blind dating in the future is truly blind! Until you take your mask off so you can see where you're dancing. Allison is back and Logan has a great chemistry with her. I'm glad her injury didn't sideline her for the whole season. Logan has dialed up the tricks to 11. They are 4 or 5 moves that defy gravity and the normal rules of how the skeletal structure of a human body should bend. This is a very strong performance right when he needed it. The judges are floored by what he can accomplish. I dont' think they'll be sending him home tonight!

Guys, we interrupt your regularly scheduled dances, for a special guest performance! This has happened so rarely ever since the results show got canceled, so it's great to see! Blessin, the stepper from the LA auditions is back, and she brought her whole crew with her! The Lethal Ladies are in the house. The All-Stars join in on the performance as well. It's a high energy love letter to the tradition of step. The girls are great. Cat tells us The Lethal Ladies can be seen in the new documentary STEP, so check your local theater listings!

Kaylee Millis and All-Star Cyrus (Hip-Hop) — Choreographers: Phoenix and Pharside, Hip-Hop “I’m Better” by Missy Elliot feat. Lamb. Kaylee's routine got the least amount of love from the judges last week, so it's her good fortune that Phoenix and Pharside are in her corner this week. Those two always come up with great stuff. Tonight Kaylee and Cyrus play aliens who have beamed into human bodies. Yes! YES, Phoenix and Pharside! Give me more of this!!! The two of them dive into this routine like nobody's business. Kaylee is acting the hell out of this routine through her eyes and her face, while she's also nailing the choreo. They create amazing shapes and perform really impressive tricks together. Cyrus drags Kaylee across the floor while she stands on her head. She balances on his back held up by her hands as he slowly elevates. The whole routine is cool as hell. The judges eat it up. They are so happy to see Kaylee come back so strong. Impavido is back, y'all! May she never leave us again! If Kaylee was in trouble tonight, she just guaranteed her safety.

Taylor Sieve and All-Star Robert (Broadway) — Choreographer: Al Blackstone, Broadway “The Man That Got Away” by Judy Garland. Last week's routine was so incredible, and everyone involved knows that this routine probably won't live up to it, but damned if Taylor and Robert don't give it their best try. The routine is good even if it doesn't offer the flashy tricks that some other routines tonight had. Taylor is conveying the feeling of the music. There's something about her breathing and her movement that feels very Broadway. She gets the style. She's telling the story. The judges seem to think they topped last week's department and I don't think it was that level of success. Nigel think's they're the couple to beat. That might be true, but this routine isn't going to find up at the top of my favorites ranking for the night.

Koine Iwasaki and All-Star Marko (African Jazz) — Choreographer: Sean Cheesman, African Jazz “Speaking in Tongues II” by Sheila Chandra. The routine starts with Kione wearing an ENORMOUS headdress. That thing looks so heavy! Thank goodness she gets to take it off before any intense movement happens. This is a delightfully inhuman routine with their bodies continually intertwined and somersaulting over each other. That keeps going until the end. I can't believe how continually they are flipping over each other. These two are a great partnership. Lots of power, lots of character and great energy between them. I don't know if Koine can take the crown, but I definitely consider her a contender for Top 4 in the finale.

Robert Green and All-Star Jasmine (Contemporary) — Choreographer: Stacey Tookey, Contemporary “Otherside” by Perfume Genius. I feel like the intro package didn't really connect with the meat and potatoes of the routine, but I liked what they did here. With so many routines dealing with relationship dynamics this week, this routine conveyed a deeper, heavier sense of pain than the others. I thought it was really strong, but I was worried the judges would be luke warm, because Robert's execution on some moves was a touch under what it should've been at times. It's not that he never had it. It was just inconsistent. Nigel didn't feel the emotion of it, but I think that's bonkers. The emotion was definitely there. Vanessa and Mary defend the passion that Robert put into it, but Mary agrees with me that some of the technique wasn't quite right. I thought it was cool that a dancer with so much natural swagger in his performance, brought a totally different character to this piece. They praised Mark for that earlier! I'm concerned with how this critique went.

Dassy Lee and All Star Fik-Shun (Bollywood) — Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan, Bollywood “Radha Nachegi” from Tevar (Soundtrack). I love Dassy. I think she's such a captivating performer. Her costume tonight is beautiful and she is radiating energy. And yet... something's not quite right. I felt it a little bit last week, and I feel it more this week. For me, it feels like Dassy and Fik-Shun are dancing next to each other instead of with each other. You know? They're both talented and Fik-shun has a stellar history with partnerships on this show, so I'm not sure what the disconnect is between them. Bollywood is complicated and they handle it well, save for a stumble coming out of a lift toward the end. It pains me to say I found the overall experience here underwhelming! The judges all gloss over the stumble, but I thought it was a mistake worth noting. Could she be in danger?

BOTTOM THREE: Cat reveals that the dancers in danger of going home are Logan, Sydney and Robert. I'm surprised about Robert. I definitely would've put last week's hairspray routine in the mid-to-top range of my favorites. If Kaylee wasn't in trouble last week, I don't think she's going to be in trouble for a good stretch of this competition. 

ELIMINATED: Robert - Ouch. This one actually stung. I didn't think he should've finished 10th overall. I thought his placement as the final dancer in last week's live show was a sign the producers believed in his ability to deliver. Did I think he was going to win the whole thing? No. But he was surprising and fun and had moves to back up his engaging personality. It wasn't a unanimous decision to get rid of him. He seems really sad about getting cut, but his dance out over the credits is still fierce. Thanks for bringing it, Robert! Next week, we're down to nine. 4 Contempos, 2 Ballers, 1 Popper, 1 Jazz Hands and 1 Breaker. Potential Bottom 3? Based purely on tonight's routines, I'd say Sydney, Lex and... Dassy? But it's never just based on routines. Beyond the popularity of the contestant, these All-Stars have fan bases that carry weight. This one's a tough call! Here's how I split my votes this week. Looking back, I should've given 1 point higher to Kaylee and 1 point less to Kiki, but I think she'll do okay without it. If Cat reveals she's in the bottom by one point, I will accept the blame.

My ranking of the routines from Favorite to Least Favorite:
1. Koine Iwasaki and All-Star Marko (African Jazz)
2. Kaylee Millis and All-Star Cyrus (Hip-Hop)
3. Taylor Sieve and All-Star Robert (Broadway)
Logan Hernandez and All-Star Allison (Jazz)
5. Kiki Nyemchek and All-Star Jenna (Hip-Hop)
6. Mark Villaver and All-Star Comfort (Jazz)
7. Robert Green and All-Star Jasmine (Contemporary)
8. Dassy Lee and All Star Fik-Shun (Bollywood)
9. Lex Ishimoto and All-Star Gaby (Argentine Tango)
10. Sydney Tormey and All-Star Paul (Contemporary)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Well, hello again, Dance Fans! It's been a long time since last we met here. I've been blogging over at CrazytownBlog for the past several years, and during that time While Not Making Other Plans was taking an extended nap. But then Crazytown suddenly went the way of the lost city of Roanoke this spring, and SYTYCD live show recaps still had to happen, so here she is, boys! Here she is world, WORLD! It's the reawakening of the blog just in time for Cat Deeley, ageless as ever, to preside over two hours of (mostly) live dancing and the reveal of Season 14's top 10. Grab a glass of Frosé and get comfy, because we have a lot of Our Show of Shows to .

A note on the season as a whole before we get to the dancing. I'm very happy to have the show back again and with grown-age dancers this summer. As is the case with every season, the format has been tweaked and most changes will only be revealed to us right when they show up on screen. The season was billed as "Back To Basics" which means adults and more ballroom, but beyond that, expect new twists and budget-saving techniques all over the place. For the auditions, we only got an hour of airtime a week, so even though there were only two audition cities this year, they stretched on for over a month in TV watching time. Contestants first performed for this year's judging panel comprised of EP Nigel Lythgoe, Returning HotTamaleTrain Engineer Mary Murphy and brand new judge Vanessa Hudgens, who I loved in Grease: Live and I won't have a word said against her! Instead of "Vegas Callbacks" the top 100-something auditioners went to the "Academy" which I assume was an (admittedly rather beautiful) facility somewhere in LA. Here's where the first really big change happens, Instead of the whole group vying for spots in the Top 20, the judging panel disappears entirely and instead the season's 10 All-Stars get to pick a team of 4 dancers they like best and then whittle that group down to just one contestant who will join them as their partner for the Live Shows and thus be in the running to be America's Favorite Dancer. 

I was iffy on this change, because in order to succeed, contestants really had to match well with one All-Star instead of just being an overall great dancer who can look good with any All-Star. I felt like there were some really fantastic and unique dancers who got cut early in this process because of this change. Also the show's narrative shifted from the contestants trying to make it to the Top 20 to being more about the decision-making drama of the All-Stars. It's more in line with how The Voice handles its Mentor-Judges. I'd rather be invested in the contestants' journeys than the All-Stars' Sophie's Choices. But hey, it's Season 14 of this beautiful Dance Show That Could. As long as Cat Deeley is still hosting, the producers can make whatever changes they want to try to keep it on the air and I will show up for it. But please, no more Juniors!

So tonight we find out who each All-Star chose from their top two options... except we don't get to see any of the dancers' reactions to the news. For each reveal, there's a cutaway from the tape of The Green Mile back to live stage and the selected dancer just runs out to perform. Weird. Are they saving that footage for a future clip package? The not-selected dancers really gets shafted without a proper goodbye. Anyway, Cat Deeley is in the house with her stunning red Stella McCartney dress and Tamara Mellon shoes. We've got a lot of dancing to enjoy together, friends. Here we go with the Top 10!

Wait, I lied! Before we get to the contestants, we get more All-Stars dancing together which I will never turn down. The lovely group number with choreo by Stacey Tookey and set to "Knocking On Heavens Door" by RAIGN is notable for 2 things: 1) There's a new set and the set has STAIRS! Welcome back to the show, Stairs! I feel like we haven't seen you for at least 10 seasons! Also, there are now cameras and lights EVERYWHERE! Seriously, what a nice upgrade! This is the stage of the future!! 2) There are only 9 All-Stars on stage! Where the F is Allison? Injured already? NOOOO!!! She is in the audience with her arm in a sling and Twitch by her side. I hope she can return next week because it would be really unfortunate if she picked her Top 10 contestant and then never got to actually dance on the show with him. Okay, NOW to the Top 10 reveals and dances.

Fik-Shun Stegall and Dassy Lee (Hip-Hop) —  Choreographer: Popin’ Pete, “Shake Your Pants” by Cameo. Fik-Shun chooses Dassy over Kyle and I'm not really surprised because Dassy is awesome and Fik-Shun already did the "mentor-a-younger-me" thing when he won last season with Kida. This routine is a lot of fun. They both have personality and moves for days in their favor. What's agains them is that Dassy and Fik-Shun are just a smidge out of sync at times, they spend a lot of time seated in those chairs and Dassy's hat cast a weird shadow over her face at times. Overall, it was very good, but not the explosive WOW you hope for from the first routine of the live shows. The judges are very encouraging toward them. Wait, are we already voting people off tonight? We are. But no more numbers? Just texts and internet votes? Okay. I've really liked Dassy since her first audition. I want to see more from her. I think there's a lot of potential in this partnership and Fik-Shun definitely knows how to win this show, so don't count out Dassy just yet!

Allison Holker and Logan Hernandez (Contemporary) Choreographer: Tyce Diorio, “Protocol” by Leon Else. There was not a lot of drama in Allison's decision for those of us who already knew Zachary joined the Broadway cast of CATS, taking over for former SYTYCD-winner Ricky UbedaWORK! as Mr. Mistoffelees. The surprise here really is that Allison is injured, and we have to call in an All-Star Sub to dance with Logan. So welcome back to the stage Season 9 contestant Audrey Case, who totally nails the routine on just a few hours of rehearsal like the total pro she is! I wonder if the All-Star Subs have to shadow rehearsals so they have a basic idea of what's going on should they be called into service at the last minute. Logan danced and partnered well. I was missing the emotion from his face a bit, but that might be a combo of nerves at having a new partner and being on the younger end of the field at 18 years old. In the judging, Nigel basically told him he's gonna need to work his ass off and let his natural personality come through, reminding us that someone is going home already next week, and with Allison currently on the sidelines it might be a tough road for him.

Jenna Johnson and Kiki Nyemchek (Cha-Cha) Choreographer: Dmitry Chaplin, “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Shawn Mendes. Thank goodness. Jenna was pissing me off during the Academy, seemingly bending the rules all the way through her final 2 decision, until they almost broke. Nothing against Kevin “Konkrete” Davis Jr, but Jenna saved him from being eliminated from another All-Stars team, ultimately dumping three of her own dancers to keep him around. Then while all other contestants had to each dance the same routine with their All-Star, Konkrete got a special routine from Jenna so he didn't have to dance the same style as Kiki. WHAT GIVES, SHOW? Nobody else did this. But in the end, Jenna went with ballroom pro Kiki anyway. (I like to think Mary Murphy staged a behind-the-scenes intervention with her, in which Mary said, "DO NOT ROB ME OF THIS!") When Kiki and Jenna finally dance this routine together, her decision makes total sense. I love a contestant on this show who can really lead in a ballroom routine and not just get dragged around by his partner and "keep up." She could never have danced in her own style like this with Konkrete. Of course Mary loves every second of it. Nigel thinks that Jenna outshines him even though the whole point of the dance is to show off his partner. Whatever. I like Kiki. Jenna might have been stirring up drama at the Academy for no reason, but I'm sending votes his way!

Cyrus Spencer and Kaylee Millis (Contemporary/Hip-Hop Fusion) Choreographer: Tessandra Chavez,“Clown” by Emeli Sandé. Blue-haired Impavido is now known as blue-haired Kaylee. I pegged her from the beginning as someone who would make the live shows. She just has that spark. I don't know that she is a great pick for Cyrus, though. Cyrus is dancing tonight out of his style and comfort zone tonight, and he wouldn't be if he'd chosen Havoc instead. But then again what would Cyrus and Havoc done when they got a dance in one of the more classical categories? Cyrus wouldn't have been able to elevate Havoc's game, just as he struggles to support her in this routine. The routine is kinda heavy and awkward. It's not bad, but it comes off looking like a struggle. Kaylee's dress doesn't seem suited for the routine either, so I'm not sure what the costuming dept. was going for there. The judges don't like it and aren't shy about saying it was subpar. Even Vanessa goes in, saying Kaylee needs more, “weightlessness and breath.” Welcome to the judges' table, Vanessa!

Gaby Diaz and Lex Ishimoto (Tap)Choreographer: Anthony Morigerato,“More” by Bobby Darin. I thought for sure that Gaby picked Evan when they announced heading into commercial that she'd be doing a tap routine after the break. After all, Evan is the tapper. But no, she picked Lex and is having him perform in her style. It's a good routine, but Gaby shines so effortlessly in it and Lex is clearly working at times. His arms are not at ease during some of the more complex tappa tappa tappa that the routine requires of him. He does do some boffo flips and tricks that let you know he's always got something in the tank to wow you. In weeks to come, I think Lex's versatility and training will be an asset to him in a way that this routine didn't fully show off. Instead, this really played into Gaby's wheelhouse and she stole the show. Nigel tells him to rehearse his personality which sounds like terrible advice on a human level, but Vanessa counters that she likes his sweet and shy personality. Mary goes for someone where in the middle recalling how back in Season 9 they said week after week that Chehon had no personality, and he went on to win the whole thing! Dreams come true, bitches! A breakthrough for Lex is on the horizon!

Comfort Fedoke and Mark Villaver (Hip-Hop) Choreographer: Luther Brown, “REDMERCEDES” by Aminé. I love Comfort. She just gets better and better each year, which is insane to me because she already started out amazing. How is there no awesomeness plateau with her year after year? Anyway, I really wasn't sure if Comfort was going to go with Deja or Mark, mostly because we didn't see a lot from either of them during the Academy. But then the routine starts and DAMN! It had to be Mark. These two are SO GOOD together! Personality, swagger and chemistry for DAYS. The routine is so fun and they both let loose and nail it. Afterwards, Mark is still bouncing everywhere while Cat tries to reel him in so the judges can do their thing. Easy, dude. Cat may have two hours tonight, but there's a lot to get to before she brings the show in on time. Nigel brings up Mark's resemblance to Bruno Mars and Vanessa thinks he looks like Rufio from Hook. He is kind of cross between them in a very attractive way. This is the kind of first impression you want to make with the audience in the live shows.

Marko Germar and Koine Iwasaki (Contemporary) Choreographer: Stacey Tookey, “Memories” by Alex Somers. I have to say I really liked Sofia and I hope if this show gets to do Season 15, that she'll try for it again. Koine is a fantastic partner for Marko though, and their routine is beautiful and effortless with great emotion between them. The lighting design does this starburst thing about halfway through that's just gorgeous. It has nothing to do with the actual dancing, I know, but still - attention must be paid. If I have anything negative to say about it, it's that it felt short. I could've used another 16 bars of dancing. Nigel of course comments on their chemistry and asks them if they've set the wedding date. Don't be gross about it, Nigel! Koine smiles and thinks, "First comes love, then comes the title of America's Favorite Dancer, then comes marriage." This girl has her priorities straight!

Paul Kamiryan and Sydney Tormey (Ballroom) Choreographer: Val Chmerkovskiy “All Stars” by Martin Solveig feat. Alma. So close but yet so far for Sofia! I feel like Paul couldn't make a wrong choice between his final two dancers. They both were amazing both on their own and while partnering with him. But there can be only one. Although, maybe in season 15 we can expand it to a Top 20 and each All-Star gets to choose two from the whole field? Guys, Val from DWTS is doing the choreo. I like when these shows are allies for the promotion of dance instead of rivals for dancers and choreographers. The routine turns out to be very solid. Sydney looks gorgeous and has legs for days, but there wasn't a lot of electricity between them. The song they are dancing to definitely has a beat but the vibe feels kinda mellow. The dancing was missing a little crackle of excitement that I expect when it's two ballroom dancers tearing it up in their own style. During judging, Vanessa notes that Sydney was lacking some oomph, and I'm relieved that V's actually going to point stuff like this out instead of just giving us variations on, "I loved it. You did your thing!" after every performance, like some 3rd-seat judges in the past were inclined to do. Was this routine enough to keep her out of danger? I'm doubtful. That's unfortunate because she danced well, but when we start with only 10 finalists and people are really knocking it out of the park, it's important to make a lasting impression in people's minds or you go home.

Robert Roldan and Taylor Sieve (Contemporary) Choreographer: Travis Wall, “Change Is Everything (A Capella Version)” by Son Lux. During the green mile sequence between Taylor and Jonathan, I realized I've never noticed how much shorter Jonathan is than Taylor. When they were standing next to each other facing Robert, Taylor was towering over him! Was this some trick of the camera angle? Anyway, Robert picks Taylor and they do a Travis Wall routine and it blows everyone's minds. It starts with Taylor standing on Robert’s shoulders (!!) and then she rolls forward off of him to the floor ((!!!). The insanity continues from there. The gymnastic poses don't stop throughout and there is a strong emotional presence coming from Taylor supported by the haunting vocals of the song. Robert is the most solid of partners. It was weird that there was that time during the Academy where no one wanted to be on his team. That might have been a result of the weird persona he adopted as he'd declare, "I WANT YOU ON MY TEAM..." the delivery of which landed somewhere between Jeff Goldblum's and Christopher Walken's most creepily oddball characters. The dancers were all like, "Yeah... no thanks! I'll go with the All-Star who isn't scaring me right now!" But these kids should've remembered that SYTYCD loves Robert. He's always going to get the best routines and the best placement in the show and that will only help his partner succeed. Taylor has the skills and personality to win the show and she also has the right partner to get her to the finals. In judging, Mary calls it one of her Top 10 routines of all time on the show. We'll definitely be seeing an encore of it before we crown the winner. I can't wait! Again! Again!

Jasmine Harper and Robert Green (Hip-Hop) Choreographer: Chris Scott, "Perm” by Bruno Mars. Even though Jasmine's team got minimal screen time during the Academy, I still had a good sense of who Howard and Robert were from their original auditions. Poor Howard was in tears before Jasmine could even deliver the killing blow. Come back next year, Howard! I promise you the format will change again and that might give you a better chance! So even though all the other contestants ran out on stage to reveal that they made it, Robert is already set in his spot on the stage which is decked out like a minimalist beauty parlor. Jasmine turns his styling chair around for the reveal to the audience that he made it, and then together they dive into a fantastically fun hip hop routine that's big on energy, precision and sass. There are hairspray can props that are used to great effect creating clouds of mist around them as they dance. Everything about this routine fits Robert like a glove. It's a perfect showcase for him. I'm looking forward to what else these two will do together.

Now, it's almost 10pm and we have to wrap this up before the local news kicks in, but we can't roll credits just yet, because there is still an All-Stars and Top 10 routine to go! Choreographers: Wade and Amanda Robson, Tony Testa. “This Time” by Son Lux. Dude, Wade has not done choreo on this show in FOREVER. I wonder if one his conditions to return involved them adding stairs back onto the stage. He always made great use of those stairs. The routine is very cool and does not conform to traditional gender norms in the costuming which was refreshing to see. The All-Stars are in black and grey pants and hoodies, with flashlights in their mouths while turning giant lanterns into talking heads. The Top 10 are all pink cocoon goo to start and then blossom into tulle-skirted beings and then... i'm not sure what happens. They join up like the Skeksis and the Mystics during the Great Conjuction or something. I can't tell you exactly what the story was, but I liked the visuals a lot. Welcome back, Wade and company!

So that's our Top 10, America! 4 Contempos, 2 Ballers, 1 Popper, 1 Jazz Hands, 1 Hopper and 1 Breaker. I'm pleased with who made it through. I'm thrilled we're finally in the live shows so they can strut their stuff and we can spend some time with them! My understanding is the season finale is in the end of September, so that means we'll lose one dancer a week until the final four face off in the finale. But we'll have to wait until next week to learn just how they'll be eliminated. Will there be a bottom 3? A bottom 2? Will the judges decide? Will their be "dancing for their lives" solos? Who knows? They will tell us right before it happens. Here's how I split my 20 online votes among the contestants. I favored Kiki and Taylor this week, but everybody got some love. It was really based on my initial reaction to the routines. If I had two more available votes, I'd have given one each to Lex and Robert.

For now, I'll guess my bottom 3 for this week are Logan, Kaylee and Sydney. Early picks to win it all? I'll go with Lex or Taylor. But they've all got a fighting chance. Next week will be the first big test to see what they can all do. I can't wait! See you then, Dance Fans!