Friday, September 1, 2017

SYTYCD 14 Top 8 Recap: New Pairings, Same Great Taste!

Hello again, Dance Fans! We've reached the Top 8 and things are looking great. I'm loving this season. Loving these dancers. I can't wait to see what they've cooked up for us tonight. It's hard to imagine any of them going home, but cuts need to be made or we'll never get to a winner! I've been up late every night this week seeing Gaga in concert and watching night sessions at the US Open, so this recap might be loopier than usual. Here we go!

Top 8 and All-Stars Group Routine - Jazz/Vouge. Choreographer: Mark Kanemura, "Call Me Mother" by RuPaul". We are 5 seconds in, and already I am LIVING for this episode. This dance is totally Mark. He's serving us Mama Ru, amazing composition, drama, power, costumes, props and emotional dynamics. It's FIERCE.  I could watch this again and again. In fact, I shall! All-Stars Robert, Comfort and Jasmine take the forefront here, but once again the camera finds Lex as the contestant on display in the front during a group routine. The choreographers love him!

Cat is here looking ethereal in a dress by Zara, with jewelry by xivkarats and shoes by Gianvito Rossi. Her look tonight is totally opposite of what it was last week, but of course it suits her just as perfectly. She looks flawless AND she's got a diamond heart! She lets us know we're getting contestant pairings this week instead of solos! Woohoo! We really ARE going back to basics this season! Let's see what these kids can do together!

The judges are ready to go. Tonight Vanessa is sporting an ice-blonde wig, apparently ready to audition for Elsa in Frozen: The Broadway Musical coming to NYC in 2018, or perhaps Frozen: Live! conceivably coming to ABC/Disney Channel in 2020. Or she might instead be channeling the Mother of Dragons? Either way, I'm cool with her coming out to the Judge's Table with a new fantastic cosplay look each week for the rest of the season. She can do no wrong! Love her!

Koine and All-Star Marko - Jazz. Choreographer: Mandy Moore, “HandClap” by Fitz & The Tantrums. The story here is that there is no story! Just dance! The dancers seem thrilled about this, but I'm less enthused. The stories can get strained at times, but they offer a chance to connect more deeply with the dancers in the routine. The style and dancing and energy is strong here, but is it memorable? We've got a lot of routines still to go tonight and will this one have lasting impact? I'm not sure. Koine and Mark do a great job. I was nervous that all the clapping would go haywire when presented to an audience filled with rhythmless sway-bots, but these two persevere. The judges are supportive but not blown away. It's just not that kind of routine to go nuts over. Gah! Koine is incredible, and now I'm concerned. We have no room for error, here folks! Gotta give 'em routines that will get 'em votes!

Taylor and All-Star Robert - Hip-Hop. Choreographer: Luther Brown, “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B. Luther tells us this dance is, "vibes, on top of vibes, on top of vibes" but then on top of those vibes comes an insane amount of hair extensions. Taylor is saddled with Rapunzel-length extensions that overwhelm everything. This dance becomes all about the hairography. It didn't have to be, but really it's all anyone can see. It's all Taylor can see, because it keeps landing in front of her face! Robert also gets more than one face full of hair when they get close to each other. When I'm not distracted by the hair, I can see that Taylor's perma-smile is gone and she's getting into character. I like the routine, but really the hair detracts from the experience. Robert lifts his shirt and shows us his abs at one point as if he doesn't dance shirtless every week. Still, the gesture is not unappreciated. The judges recognize that they were harsh on Taylor last week, but that she brought the fire back again with this routine. I appreciated Taylor's work here, but I think she was done in by the hair. 

Lex and All-Star Gaby - Contemporary. Choreographer: Mandy Moore, “Work Song” by Luke Wade. In this routine, Lex is a guy who is his own worst enemy. That is hardly the case in real life, however, as he finally gets to dance for the first time in his own style! And boy, does he deliver! His strength is absurd. His technique is masterful. For the first time since the show went live, it feels like Lex is dancing a partner routine where he is actually the focus of what's going on, and not Gaby. He does these turns low to the ground that make me think of figure skating moves. I don't know how he balances like that! The judges are rightfully super impressed. Next week, we'll probably see him back to doing something random like Riverdance (Cat has mentioned it twice so far this season, so I won't rule it out) but tonight is Lex's night to shine for the amazing contempo dancer that he is!

Kaylee and All-Star Cyrus - Cha-Cha. Choreographer: Val Chmerkovskiy, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Cyrus is a house husband and Kaylee comes home with no energy for him. Except that as soon as she walks on stage she has plenty of energy and is ready to Cha-Cha! Kaylee's energy is fantastic here. She is brimming with confidence and joy and her footwork is sharp. Cyrus is also there. I mean, I'm not saying he's doing poorly, I just can't take my eyes of Kaylee. This is a great routine for her. I mean, she's dancing to Aretha - how could she not be having the best time? The judges love what Kaylee brought to the routine. Mary is wow'ed by her ballroom performance. Definitely a home-run for Kaylee right when she needed one. They also acknowledge that Cyrus was on stage. Nigel suggests that he could go on DWTS as a celebrity in order to sharpen his ballroom skills. That's not nice, Nigel! R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Cyrus takes it in stride. Maybe they'll get an animation routine next week!

Mark and All-Star Comfort - Broadway. Choreographer: Spencer Liff,“Criminal” by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox feat. Ariana Savalas. Mark and Comfort have been labeled the season's "Most Destructive Couple," because they are always fighting in their routines regardless of dance style. Tonight we get the Broadway version of their dance fighting. The routine starts with Mark tied up and sitting in a chair and I start getting itchy because I would like to see the contestant dance instead of being danced around. Finally, he gets up and united and things improve from their. Mark is very good with characters and showing dynamics in his movement. Sometimes in his leaps, I notice that he doesn't have the height or the expanse that Logan or Lex can achieve, but then I remind myself that Mark's actually a breakdancer and way out of his style. His form is actually very good considering that. At the same time, I wish he'd try to do more tricks when they give him his intro during the opening credits. He basically just stands there looking cool. He was my pick to make final four, but I think the other guys are currently bringing more wow-factor moves to the competition. 

Kiki and All-Star Jenna - Jazz. Choreographer: Travis Wall, “Pop Hd” by AtomTM. This is a very stylized routine for Travis. The story is that Kiki and Jenna are fighting but then he brings home a giant check so then they fight over who gets to keep the check. Or something like that. It doesn't really matter. The dance looks cool. I mean, the show really looks like 10 million bucks this season. Taylor's mile-long ponytail aside, the hair, makeup, costuming, sets, lighting and props departments have all been bringing their A-game to the live shows. There's just a fully realized vision of 2-dimensional art on 3-D people going on here. It's not Travis' most emotionally accessible work, but I like that we're seeing another side to him. Kiki really disappears into the character behind the makeup. Another strong performance for these two. 

Dassy and All-Star Fik-Shun - Contemporary. Choreographer: Jaci Royal, “Breathe” by Son Lux. In this piece, Dassy is haunting Fik-Shun's dreams. She's not sporting a Freddy Kreuger glove, which is a missed opportunity, but still I'll allow it. It starts with a close-up on Fik-Shun's face and as he lies on the ground, eyes shut, I think to myself, "He's got a great face." The camera zooms out to reveal Dassy's face, eyes open and I think, "Damn, she's gorgeous too." They're a very attractive couple. The dance that follows features the best emotional connection between them to date. They pull off some very difficult partner work without making it look labored. They have great control and expression. This is a home run for them. The judges love it. I'm not sure what the disconnect was for the past few weeks, but I'm so happy to see them feeding off each other's energy and affecting each other throughout the routine tonight. 

Logan and All-Star Allison - Lyrical Hip-Hop. Choreographer: Christopher Scott, “Say You Won’t Let Go” by Boyce Avenue. In this routine, Logan and Allison are brushing their teeth together as loving newlyweds. It's cute because Logan is such a kid with a golden retriever's brightness and energy and Allison is basically Wonder Woman, but they sell the sweet connection between them in the number. It's a delightful routine. Logan has so much power to his leaps and flips and spins. Every week I saw "wow!" out loud at least 3 times over the moves he does. Nigel tells him that regardless of what happens on the show, there's no doubt Logan's going to have a fantastic career as a dancer. I don't doubt the sincerity of that statement, but I always feel like there's a hidden undercurrent of, "You're not the one I personally want to win, but your talent is truly undeniable." Logan continues to work his way up on my List of Favorite SYTYCDancers. 

All-Stars Group Routine - Contemporary. Choreographer: Jaci Royal, "Truth" by Balmorea. This routine blows my mind. The trust that the All-Stars need to have with each other in order to pull this off is so deep. They are using bendable clear plastic sheets to every practical purpose. They are walls. They are stacked platforms. They are sliding floor pieces. They are surfboards. The composition of this routine and the camerawork around it are incredible. It gave me chills. It's one of those moments when I just shake my head and learn all over again that there's no other show like this on TV.

Lex and Taylor - Jazz. Choreographer: Spencer Liff, “An American in Paris” by James Levine & Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Contestant pairings! So listen. I love Spencer, I love these two dancers and I love the music. But they're supposed to be birds and the movement doesn't read bird-like to me at all. If you took away the birdcage and the feather costumes, would I think they were portraying birds? No. And yet... it's still undeniably beautiful and amazing? Technically, they dance the hell out of it, but it has this romance to it that's very playful and engrossing. It's a standout number for two excellent dancers. I just don't get "birds" from it. I guess I needed literal flapping arms or sharp head adjustments, or something. Don't mind me. I'm sleep-deprived. The judges give it a standing ovation. Nigel says it's one of the best dance routines ever on SYTYCD, but that is not true. It's not even better than Taylor's contempo with Robert where she started standing on his shoulders from 3 weeks ago. It's not even my top routine of the night. It was still great though. If I thought her Hip-Hop was lacking because of her extra-long hair, this routine put Taylor back at the top. And Lex continues to soar, not unlike a bird. Even if his arms aren't literally flapping.

Koine and Kiki - Salsa. Choreographer: Val Chmerkovskiy, “Dança Molengo” by Bonde do Rolê feat. Rizzle Kicks. This ballroom routine is hot and fun and tells the tale of Koine vacationing in a foreign country and Kiki being her hot local tour guide. The dancing is great, yada yada yada... let's take a moment to focus on the rehearsal footage and how in it they discuss how the Twitterverse has created the hashtag #daddykiki. This is hilarious. I am not as plugged into the Twitter as some, but I went to look it up and sure enough lots of posts about Kiki with the #daddykiki included. Some people are even selling shirts #daddykiki printed on them. I hope Kiki gets a percentage of the profits. Back to the dance - I love these two together. I'm already worried about Koine for next week, though. Were these two routines enough to really push votes her way and keep her out of danger? The quality level across the board is so high right now. Even having a great night, I'm not sure it's enough.

Logan and Kaylee - Contemporary. Choreographer: Travis Wall, “Shadows” by Woodkid. Kaylee is Logan's shadow who comes to life to manipulate him and eat his soul or something. Wasn't that a plot on Once Upon A Time a few season ago? I think Haylee does a good job in a difficult situation. Logan's body can form such strange shapes and it's her job to mirror him, but if he messes up it will still look like her mess up because she's supposed to be responsive to his movements. It all works out though and creates a delightfully creepy piece. The judges think Haylee did a good job keeping up with Logan's movements. Overall a solid outing for this pair.

Mark and Dassy - Hip-Hop. Choreographer: Christopher Scott, “Tilted” by Christine and The Queens. Mark and Dassy are mannequins who've been thrown out in the trash on a rainy day, but they have umbrellas so they are okay! They do well with the umbrella tricks even if Dassy broke more than half a dozen of them in rehearsal, and even if the routine threatens to get swallowed up by umbrella tricks. For whatever reason, I had to rewatch this one several times because my attention would wander. Not a great sign for a minute-long routine. But when I did finally watch the routine all the way through, I noticed that Mark is really selling the hell out of it. As I've said before, he really understands how to embody a character. He makes the lightness here seem so effortless. I really appreciate his ability to do this. It's not easy. Dassy's characterization seems less specific in comparison. Still, this was solid work. Seeing the contestants dance together makes Nigel long for the days when they had a top 20, instead of 10. You can always go even further back to basics in Season 15, Nigel!

BOTTOM 3: Kaylee, Dassy, and... Koine? I'm really surprised that Koine was Bottom 3 this week. I thought she killed it last week. But the reality is that we have an embarrassment of riches in the Top 10 this season. This Top 8 show was one of my favorite overall episodes that the show has ever produced. SYTYCD feels artistically revitalized this season. So if Koine is in the Bottom 3, it's not because she's not delivering fantastic performances. They all are. This is why I was so concerned with Koine's first routine having no story tonight! But that's a problem for next week. Tonight she's clearly safe and the choice is really between Kaylee and Dassy and both of them gave probably their best performances tonight. They both should be proud of their time on the show.

ELIMINATED: Dassy. She moved to America in hopes to be on the show. Dassy is the American Dream! She is an incredible artist. Her partnership with Fik-Shun didn't have the same effortless connection as some of the other finalists had with their partners, but I thought they really went to another level tonight. Enjoy the tour, Dassy!

Five contempos, one baller and one breaker, are still in the hunt for the title. It remains difficult for me not to only award points to my favorite dancers when they all are nailing their routines. They all deserve love and support! But depending on next week's Bottom 3, I might need to get more partial and start leaving people out. We'll see. My guess is that if Kaytee's in danger again next week, it will be her time to exit the competition. My other guesses for the bottom are Mark and Koine. Here are tonight's routines in order of my preference:

1. Lex and All-Star Gaby - Contemporary

2. Kiki and All-Star Jenna - Jazz

3. Dassy and All-Star Fik-Shun - Contemporary

4. Kaylee and All-Star Cyrus - Cha-Cha

5. Koine and Kiki - Salsa

6. Lex and Taylor - Jazz

7. Logan and All-Star Allison - Lyrical Hip-Hop

8. Koine and All-Star Marko - Jazz
9. Logan and Kaylee - Contemporary.

10. Mark and Dassy - Hip-Hop.

11. Mark and All-Star Comfort - Broadway.

12. Taylor and All-Star Robert - Hip-Hop.

No comments: