Monday, September 16, 2019

SYTYCD 16: Performance Finale - All's Fair in Love and War and Dance

We've made it DanceFans! The performance finale. The last chance for the dancers to impress the judges and get votes from America. Nobody goes home tonight. We'll crown a winner next week. You'd think this would make for a more relaxed show, but typically dancers get a case of the yips around this time every season. There are more routines to learn in the same amount of prep time. Filling 2 hours airtime with only 4 contestants left means it's likely (at least) one routine hasn't gotten enough time to really come together. Now that the live episodes don't go on as long as they did in earlier seasons, there's less burn out or struggles with injury. But the tension and nerves connected to the approach the finish line remains a real thing. Let's see who can keep it together, shall we? 
Top 4 and All-Star Group Routine - choreographed by Mandy More to a music Medley of CATS, inspired by the upcoming movie. Are we getting Broadway-style CATS costumes? Movie-style CGI-fur? No, we're getting regular clothes! What? not event headbands topped with cat ears? The routine itself is charming. Mandy combines the imagery of the white cat with Grizabella's song which feels like a no-no, but I'll excuse it. The end is pretty joyful and ends (a little abruptly) with a focus on our cutie pie Top 4.

Cat takes the stage in a striking yellow dress from Givenchy. She talks at length about the upcoming CATS movie out at the end of the year. Who on this show is a producer on the movie? We get some extended commercials for the movie throughout the show. Tonight we're seeing each of the final four do a routine with the other three, plus an all star routine, plus solos. We'll also be be presented with two slightly competing narratives. The judges and choreographers will be focusing on the two final couples' ongoing chemistry and the contestants will talk about how they all now realize they are each others' competition and they are focused on winning over romance. I rank the solos this way: Bailey (the audience chanted his name afterward), Gino, Mariah and Sophie. 
Gino and Sophie - Jazz routine choreographed by Ray Leper to “All Nite (Don’t Stop) [Sander Kleineberg’s Everybody Club Mix]” by Janet Jackson.
This routine is about meeting someone and having instant chemistry. Ray is trying to instigate another kiss between them. They just went there last week. Look, if they're in love, let them announce it in their own time, and if not, leave them alone. Their parents are watching in the audience! Don't make them all uncomfortable. This routine feels nervous to me. Gino gets a little off-balance at times and has some unsure foot placements. Sophie feels a little in her own world. This is what I meant about finale nerves. In judging, Mary loved it. Dom says he was disappointed they didn't kiss, even though it clearly would've been gratuitous! Laurieann liked their fierce attack during the routine and Nigel appreciated the chemistry and thought it was brilliant. I feel like they could've called out the obvious nerves here and reminded them to breathe and shake out the nerves. After all, nobody's going home tonight!
Bailey and Mariah - Jazz routine choreographed by Jonathan Redavid to “16 Tons” by Leann Rimes.
Another romance-y dance-y. It's stronger than the Gino-Sophie routine, but again it feels like they're a little tight. They might just be pacing themselves for all the other routines still to come. Bailey looks like he's concentrating during the tricks. Mariah seems to be operating at 90% instead of 100%. It's still very entertaining. I've just seem them more relaxed in the movement. D-Trix is blown away by Bailey and his growth this season. Laurieann finds them both inspiring to anyone. Nigel doesn't think whatever Bailey might lack in technique stops him from being totally entertaining. Mary thinks Mariah is full of soul and that Bailey soars in every routine.
Sophie and All-Star Marko - Contemporary routine choreographed by Talia Favia to “90 Days” by P!nk featuring Wrabel.
Marko and his mustache are here to throw Sophie around the stage. Marko is a beautiful dancer in his own right, but he's also gotta be Top 5 in the show's history in terms of partnering. He just has an innate generosity in showing off his partner. Unsurprisingly, Sophie looks great here. There is no hesitancy in her movement, and she's being asked to do some difficult moves that require a lot of strength and trust. She exudes emotion throughout. Bravo. Laurieann thinks she found her strength as a “world-changer” and credits Nigel for being the one on the panel who first saw the potential she had as a dancer. Nigel thinks Sophie proves female dancers are just as strong as men. Mary thinks she's peaking at the right time. D-Trix thinks this is her best performance and also that the choreo deserves an Emmy nomination.
Bailey and All-Star Comfort - Hip Hip choreographed by Luther Brown to “Tell Me When To Go” by E-40 featuring Keak Da Sneak.
Bailey’s crying throughout rehearsal because it means so much to him to do this routine with Comfort. This routine is interesting to me because Comfort's and Bailey's energies are so different, but so complimentary here. He is sharp and energetic and Comfort is so effortlessly smooth. The contrast really works here. Nigel scares us all with a gold grill in his mouth. Mary thinks he couldn’t get any further down in the pocket.” D-Trix notes that he nailed the Bay Area style of hip hop in the routine. Laurieann bestows on him bragging rights for representing the Bay Area. OWN IT! OWN IT! OWN IT!

Gino and Mariah - Quickstep routine choreographed by Artem Chigvintsev and Sharna Burgess to “Bad Boy Good Man” by Tape Five featuring Henrik Wager.
Artem Chigvintsev and Sharna Burgess have landed on the their (dancing) feet from DWTS (after not being included in the pro roster for the upcoming season) and are happy to be here choreographing the dreaded quickstep. It's traditionally a dance that's hard for dancers to pull off the hold position properly. Gino and Mariah do a good job here. The routine is light and joyful and they bring their personalities to it. They end with a side by side one-armed forward flip that impresses. Standing O from the judges. Mary will always be tough but fair with this style, and she thought they did a respectable job with it. D-Trix says everyone on his season wanted to avoid the quickstep because it's so hard. Laurieann thought they did a great job. Nigel says the quickstep can be a dancer’s downfall, but not tonight. Better luck next season, Quick Step! 
Bailey and Sophie - Bollywood routine by Nakul Dev Mahajan to “Butterfly” by Pritam from Jab Harry Met Sejal.
Another routine, another almost-kiss. The performances in this routine feel a little under-baked. Bailey and Sophie are bringing energy, but not a lot of specificity - especially in the hand gestures which are usually such a signature component of this style. Here they are almost non-existent. The partnering feels disconnected. There's an extended bit where Sophie just sits in the wheelbarrow... swaying? I dunno. Nakul's facial reaction in the audience reads like, "Uhh, okay..." D-Trix comments on how much stamina it takes to get through Bollywood. Laurieann admired the storytelling but felt they both lost the details. Nigel agrees and says he’s seen both dancers do better than what they just did. Mary tries to spin it more positively, but also acknowledges the lack of attention to detail.
Gino and All-Star Melanie - Contemporary routine by Jaci Royal to “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi.
This routine is about a break up. Melanie has broken Gino's heart. Time for Gino to express himself! Break down those emotional walls, buddy! Melanie is a force and she will accept nothing less. I'm happy to say that Gino rises to the challenge! Great movement, pacing, and emotion. Another Standing O from the judges. Laurieann has been praying all season that Gino's walls would fall and now that they have, he tells him not to look back. Nigel congratulates Gino on his performance and thinks vulnerability is a dancer's great power. The audience knows when you’re putting up a veneer and will reject it. Mary loves Gino's passion. D-Trix thinks it was perfection and showing such vulnerability is its own win.
Mariah and All-Star Robert - Contemporary routine choreographed by Mandy Moore to “Grey” by Ani DiFranco.
In this routine Robert is representing the path of life (which seems super intense to me, even though there have been crazier dance concepts on this show, for sure.) Gorgeous work between these two. I'd say Robert is also Top 5 ever in terms of partners on this show. Sometimes the lighting design combined with their height differential means Mariah's face gets lost in darkness and I am sad to miss her expression, because when she's in the light I'm getting so much from her. Aside from that, it's a total win. Nigel thinks she is an amazing talent and it's been his privilege to watch her dance all season. Mary considers it dance heaven. D-Trix thinks she is wonderful. Laurieann tells Mariah she has always seen her and she should own her victory tonight and know that she deserves it.
Bailey and Gino - Broadway routine by Al Blackstone to “The Girl From Ipanema” by Nat “King” Cole and Gregory Porter.
The boys are playing friends who are both in love with the same woman. It's a very fun routine and the energy between Bailey and Gino is great. It's too bad they only get one routine to play off each other. I'd enjoy seeing more of them. Great individual character work and dynamic interaction. The execution of movement is great too. Side by side back flips! Nigel thinks this is the best top four across a season ever. I'm not going to argue with him, because they are very strong. Nigel already says this will be one of his picks for the Encore Finale next week. Mary declares them the real couple to beat (I think they'll be the Top 2, honestly). They are the first pair of guys to get tickets on the Hot Tamale Train together! WOO-WOO!!! D-trix thanks them for their great work. Laurieann calls out the partnership between Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov as comparison. Next season, a contestant/all-star gay love dance routine, please!
Mariah and Sophie - Hip Hop Routine by Luther Brown to “Sally Walker” by Iggy Azalea.
This routine is about “catty girls who like each other, but really want to beat each other,” So not exactly women supporting women, but I'm into the costumes so let's see what happens.  This is a lot of fun and has great attitude from both women. Mariah grabs my eye more that Sophie, but she is by no means left in the dust. D-Trix especially loved the bench twerking, and the outfits made him want Fruity Pebbles, which made me laugh. Laurieann was into the shadiness and the ratchetness, and she knows Mariah was gonna kill LB's choreo but takes an extra moment to praise Sophie. Nigel thought it was incredible routine and thought they were fabulous and urges everyone watching to vote for their favorite dancer because these kids deserve to be supported by the audience for all the fantastic work they've done this season. Mary praises these, "two young women from "TENNESSEE!!!" I had forgotten they came from the same state until Mary screamed the reminder at us. She thinks they they brought it and tore the house down. 
And that's a wrap on the competitive routines for season 16. Next week it's all celebration for the art created and for the journeys each finalist went on throughout the season. Nothing left to so except use Mariah's extended braid as a limbo stick during the final dance out to the theme song (Sophie makes them lower it more before she goes under so it's a challenge. That was awesome and made me laugh, especially since the braid is still connected to Mariah's head!). It's a very strong final four. I'm not sure how the final vote will go, but I put my votes towards Bailey. I thought he was the best throughout. I'm excited to see what they all do in the future. I wish them all long and successful dance careers.

Tonight's Routines Ranked in order of my preference:

1. Sophie and Marko Contemporary
2. Bailey and Comfort Hip hop
3. Gino and Melanie Contemporary
4. Bailey and Gino Broadway
5. Mariah and Robert Contemporary
6. Mariah and Sophie Hip Hop
7. Gino and Mariah Quickstep
8. Bailey and Mariah Jazz
9. Gino and Sophie Jazz
10. Bailey and Sophie Bollywood

Predicted Finish:
4th - Sophie
3rd - Mariah
Runner Up - Gino
Winner - Bailey

Monday, September 9, 2019

SYTYCD 16: 6 to 4 Recap - The Couples to Beat

Here we go, Dance Fans. It's the final cut before the Grand Finale! Last week, the judges debated back and forth about who was the couple to beat even though the contestants stopped competing as couples many seasons ago. Also, we said goodbye to Team BenAnna. It will be an uphill climb for Ezra and Madison tonight, but this show loves supporting an underdog on a journey as much as it does celebrating a front runner who has never faltered, so maybe the judges' minds aren't totally made up. Either way, we get two more hours of dancing. Here we go!

TOP 6 AND ALL STARS GROUP NUMBER - Choreographed by Pharside and Phoenix to “Down” by District 78 featuring Alexandra Senior.

My boyfriend thought this number would be a fitting tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion Ride at Disneyland. I like that description a lot. The routine is fun and the return of the All-Stars is always welcome. The only downside for me is that the heavy make up and costuming makes it hard for me to identify who is who. I know Ezra is the tallest and Bailey is the shortest! The rest is a mystery. The dance starts off with everyone under a very sheer fabric like they are corpses and at the end a CGI blanket covers them, which seemed a little unnecessary.

Cat shows up in a fantastic red sequin suit by Zara. She tells us we're getting couple duets, Top 6/all-star pair ups, solos and group numbers. introduces the judges and makes the unusual declaration that the judges already know who's in danger and they'll be making their final decision based on tonight's performances. Typically, the judges sit out this week and let the popular vote determine the Final 4. This change seems odd to me, but oh well! For the record, here's my ranking of the solos starting with my favorite: Bailey (arguably one of the best I've ever seen on the show), Gino, Mariah, Madison, Sophie and Ezra.

Bailey and All-Star Koine - Broadway choreographed by Al Blackstone to “Mambo Italiano” by Dean Martin. 

Bailey is playing a waiter who falls for Koine. This scenario is not hard to believe since Koine is amazing. Al and Koine want Bailey to take a page from the OG Real World and stop being polite, and start getting real. The dancing and character-work here are strong. There is great chemistry between Bailey and Koine. He's giving the judges what they want, for sure. He's still my pick to win the season. Koine is so fantastic! Always great to see her on this stage. Standing ovation from the judges. D-Trix believed the performance and the technical ability from Bailey. Laurieann would buy a ticket to any Broadway show he’s cast in (me too! Come to NYC, Bailey!). Nigel thinks maybe Bailey has them fooled and he's really decades older and has been studying multiple fields of dance all his life. Mary rightly calls Bailey the entertainer of the show this season. Keep it up, dude!

Gino and All-Star Comfort - Hip Hop choreographed by Luther Brown 
to “Get Up” by Ciara featuring Chamillionaire.

FYI - Gino's brother Kevin is a dancer in “Mean Girls” on Broadway! Tonight, Gino's doing an Egyptian hip-hop routine. Bring it with the crazy, Luther! No matter what Gino does, we get to see Comfort dance and I'm always here for that. But it turns out Gino keeps up and delivers a great performance. He does a couple of really cool tricks that look physically impossible. But the storytelling is really there on top of the steps. Another standing ovation. Laurieann shouts at Gino to continue to stay out of his head. Nigel thought Gino was 100% better than his last hip-hop routine. (Last time wasn't a disaster or anything though.) Mary love's Gino's fight and thought it was amazing. D-Trix was really impressed by the old school breaking moves Gino was able to nail. He mentions he's been watching Comfort on the show since he was 9 years old. I get that Season 4 was a long time ago, but DAMN, GINO! Keep that to yourself!

Madison and All-Star Lex - Jazz choreographed by Mandy Moore to “Can’t Rely on You” by Paloma Faith.

Madison's squad is SYTYCD royalty this week. A Mandy Moore routine and dancing with Lex? Get yours, girl. I like these two together. I think their bodies compliment each other well. When they are moving in unison, the dance really fits on them the same way. I wish she would bring the funk a little bit more when she's doing her own moves in the routine, but there are several times her face lights up with a smile that feels so genuine. Nigel thought she got out of her head and let the emotion of the piece carry her.  Mary loved the chemistry between them. D-Trix calls it Madison’s best performance yet. Laurieann rains on her parade by saying Madison needed to let go more. The other judges push back, but Laurieann holds firm in her feeling They keep it civil. Everyone's entitled to their opinion!  

Sophie and All-Star Kiki - Samba choreographed by Pasha Kovalev to “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran.

PASHA! Y'all, he's so good. I can't believe his season was TWELVE YEARS AGO. That seems insane. I'm glad he's back here doing choreo. Even in the brief rehearsal clips, you can see how strong his technique is. And why stop at one SYTYCD alum you can have two? Kiki is her partner and he's fantastic too. Sophie has already danced with him in her Final Cut routine (that I didn't think was her finest moment.) She does a very good job here. I would've liked to see a bit more FIRE in the eyes. I didn't think it was brimming with personality from her. Standing ovation from the judges. Mary thought Sophie looked like a professional, except for the technique on the samba rolls. D-Trix loves her growth throughout the season but also mentions she started singing along to the song, which is totally what I would do in this situation. Laurieann really liked her timing and poise. Nigel went in worried she'd be in her head about the technique, but he felt she avoided that nicely. This was not my favorite ever Sophie routine, but it was solid.

Mariah and All-Star Fik-Shun - Hip-Hop choreographed by Misha Gabriel to “We Gonna Win” by Miri Ben-Ari & Styles P.

Dancing Magicians! Troublesome hats! Mariah is a fantastic dancer, but I don't love this routine and I don't get the sense she's really feeling it. She loses her top hat early on and the routine never really kicks into high gear. I don't think the music really fit with the movement either. D-Trix calls Mariah one of his favorite hip-hop dancers of the season, even though it's not her signature style. Laurieann gives us an unusual amount of word salad before recovering and saying it was in the pocket. Nigel was like me and wasn’t feeling it this time despite her showing previously how strong she can be in hip hop. Mary disagrees with him. She likes Mariah's brand of magic. I'm interested to see what happens when she's back with Bailey in her next routine.

Ezra and All-Star Gaby - C
ontemporary choreographed by Robert Roldan to “Ne me quitte pas” by Jacques Brel.

More alumni choreographers! Excited to see Robert back in this new role. The concept is standard for contempo pieces on this show: a relationship has become a burden. Ezra needs an emotional breakthrough moment to make this work. He has one! And the dance is very good! Definitely Ezra's best work on the show. Gaby of course is phenomenal here as well. I got choked up a bit rewatching it! The judges can't deny them another standing ovation from the judges. Laurieann thinks Ezra is special and he needs to believe that special thing will always carry him through. Nigel basically tells him it was so great and he's going home. He does! Mary says this is Ezra's [last] night and love is pouring out of him. D-Trix tells him perseverance is what makes a winner not a title [and he's going home.] Look there's no way they are gonna drop Bailey or Gino over Ezra, folks. They are celebrating him for a job extremely well done, but it's also clear tonight is the end of the road for him. 

Gino and Sophie - Broadway choreographed by Warren Carlyle to “Down With Love” by Holly Palmer & Michael Bublé.

Dance concept: these two don’t want to be in love but they can't help it! This routine is a lot of fun. They both shine. Gino is really putting all his technique to good use on spins and flips but not at the expense of character. Sophie is sharp and strong and also telling the story in her face. They are just flying across the stage throughout and share a kiss at the end of the routine. Nigel thought it was terrific. Mary likens Gino to Gene Kelly. D-Trix is ready to put the routine aside and just wants to know what's behind the kiss. Cat knows how to cultivate lasting couples on this show and doesn't want Dom messing up all her subtle moves to get these kids together. Laurieann again calls them the couple to beat. Paging Mariah and Bailey...

Mariah and Bailey - Jazz choreographed by Ray Leeper to “Need You Tonight” by INXS.

Sexy and smooth is the order of the day and these two are ready to deliver. This one's SO GOOD. It's sexy as hell. They are both so good individually but they are perfectly matched. They always have such a great, "we're in this together" vibe. Everyone's really having a great night tonight.  What's one more Standing O from the judges gonna hurt? Mary says they set the stage on fire and casts her vote for them as, "the couple to beat.” D-Trix calls Bailey the Filipino Magic Mike. Laurieann simply says, “I stand corrected” in terms of who is really the couple to beat. Nigel agrees: they are the most sensational couple. Again, we don't vote for couples, but if we did they would win!

Ezra and Madison - Disco by Doriana Sanchez to “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Sylvester.

Oh no! Doriana is going to kill them! Is this how the judges avoid eliminating any one tonight? They send in Doriana to challenge them with disco lifts and tricks that no human could survive? This is a fun routine and Ezra and Madison seem to be riding the positive energy building all night. Not all the lifts and spins look effortless. You can almost see them getting dizzy from it. But they survive! You'll have to do your own dirty work, judges! No Standing O this time. D-Trix thinks Ezra did well keeping his energy up throughout. He knows for himself how hard disco lifts on this show can be. Laurieann declares SYTYCD the best dance show EVER and thinks Madison finally let go! Nigel saw the sparkle in this routine and praised their energy. Mary thought they both looked great doing the routine. It's clear these two are the ones going home. But they should leave with no regrets. This was a fantastic night for them.

Madison, Sophie and Mariah - Group Routine choreographed by Ray Leeper to "I Can’t Stand the Rain (2015 Remastered Version)" by Tina Turner.

PVC umbrella hats and black body suits? Sign me up! This trio dances so well together. The movement is almost insect-like. Sharp and powerful and a great compliment to the music. Laurieann thought all three of them killed it. Nigel hopes they all feel they learned something being on the show because they are leaving the show stronger. It’ll be tough to have to say goodbye to one of them [but it's Madison]. Mary through it was the coolest thing ever. D-Trix says it's been an honor to watch them, and looks forward to watching their future careers.

Bailey, Gino, and Ezra - Group Routine choreographed by Talia Favia to
 "Amen (LCV Choir)" by Amber Run.

Oooh. This one is tense and emotional and the staging is incredible. Good work, everyone! Nigel says he prays every week that the show comes together. He thought all aspects about this came together to create something sensational. He thinks it's going to be so hard to decide who's going home [Nigel, come on. It's Ezra.] Mary thought all three had a “flow” experience in this number and it's so rare and she's so happy for them. Dom thinks that the key to winning the competition is in the fulfillment of the path each dancer has been on, and the way to achieve that is to be in the moment, and tonight they've all been in the moment. Laurieann says a lot about dance but my favorite is the power of dance is, "to speak without opening your mouth." She thinks they were all fantastic.

RESULTS! The judges know the audience votes and they are sticking with the votes because they agree with them. the show's voters are like, "Thanks? Isn't that supposed to be how it always goes?" Gino is the first guy to get through to the finale. Mariah is the first girl to make it through. Does this make them... the new couple to beat?

Bailey is also going through. As is Sophie. So Madison and Ezra are eliminated. Again, this was clear from the beginning of tonight's show, but it didn't take away from a night of phenomenal routines. Madison and Ezra are extremely grateful for the experience and are just the most charming and gracious people. Congrats, and see you in two weeks for the Encores Finale!

So here we go again, America. This week's votes will get combined with next week's Performance Finale votes from and they will decide the ultimate winner of Season 16. I really think it's between Bailey and Gino, but I wouldn't be upset if Mariah reigned supreme! I'd be surprised if Sophie was the top vote-getter overall, but she's done an incredible job throughout the live shows to make it to the end of the season. 1 hip hopper, and 3 contempos remain. May America's Favorite Dancer win!

My rankings for this week's routines:

Bailey and Mariah's Jazz
Gino and Comfort's Hip Hop
Ezra and Gabby's Contemporary
Gino and Sophie's Broadway
Bailey and Koine's Broadway
Madison and Lex's Contemporary
Ezra and Madison's Disco
Mariah and Fik-Shun's Hip Hop

Monday, September 2, 2019

SYTYCD 16 - 8 to 6 Recap: Who Lives, Who Dies, Whose Hips Tell You A Story

Last week, the judges made the controversial decision to send Stephanie home instead of Anna. They also sent Eddie home, but most people agreed that was the right call. What curveballs await us this week? 5 contempos, 2 hip hoppers, and 1 baller remain.  Welcome... to SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE!

Top Eight group number: Latin Mashup, choreographed by Jonathan and Oksana Platero to “Himno del Carnaval,” by District 78 featuring Agina.

The routine starts out with three of the four female dancers on the balcony and I immediately assume someone is injured. My fears are not realized. Madison is just on stage doing flips and tricks with the boys. The girls' costumes look so beautiful here, but the boys look kinda basic, in tropical print shirts and colored slacks. It's a good group number with at least one truly insane move where Mariah is sitting on Benjamin's shoulders and then launches over his head through the air to be caught by Gino. That was nuts. How on earth did they practice that without killing her? These kids are fearless. We also get the audience waving glow sticks at the end and trying to stay on beat. I love when the judges wave glow sticks on the beat, regardless of what chaotic movement the non-dancers in the audience might come up with.

Cat comes out looking incredible in in this kinda ruby-strawberry-colored dress by Sant Laurent. It looks so sexy and also really soft and comfortable. She's also wearing these insane platform boots by Sant Laurent, because she wants the camera operators to really work to get everyone's faces in the same shot when she's standing next to these tiny dancers on stage. She explains that since I was just saying how much easier this show is to recap when it's only an hour long, they've jumped back up to a 2-hour runtime. Tonight we get two duets by each couple, plus quick solo numbers for each contestant, and then two group numbers with 4 dancers each. Then after all that, 2 more dancers get eliminated. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the solos because they're so brief and there's so much else to get to tonight but my order of preference for them from greatest to least went like this: Gino (legit incredible, Standing O from the judges), Bailey (legit exciting), Mariah, Benjamin, Sophie, Madison, Sara and Ezra.

Benjamin and Anna: Routine #1 - Tahitian dance choreographed by Tiana Liufau to "Maua Taki” by Te Vaka.

This is a tricky style. If you're don't have it down, it kinds looks like you're flailing around with pompons. And if the pompons get weird, the rest of your arms and legs can look a little chicken dance-y. The execution of this routine veers into that. Benjamin fared slightly better here than Anna, but there was awkwardness to be found all over. Judges: Nigel continues to compare and contrast from seasons past, saying Mark and Lauren did Tahitian better a million seasons ago, and these two weren't really in their characters. Mary loved it, but once again lists off a bunch technical issues for Anna. D-Trix thought both of their hips didn't lie. Laurieann felt Anna was committed this time after she got the tough critique from her last week. Let's see if they can make up some ground in the second routine!

Madison and Ezra: Routine #1 - hip-hop choreographed by Randi and Hef to “Space” by Dizzee Rascal.

Dancers! In! SPAAAAAACE!  They are being dropped in from the ceiling y'all. That's a first. There is a really fun move where Ezra propeller spins Madison in the air. They both seem to having a good time. There's something a little out of pocket in the attitude of the piece. I think they're telling just slightly different stories with their bodies. It's good, but it's not killer. Mary thought it improved as it went on, but there were parts she just wasn't feeling. D-Trix declares Madison an amazing hip-hop dancer and I don't know I'd go that far, but he'd know better than me. Laurieann loved it, and Nigel thought they performed it brilliantly. The judges seemed to be more impressed with it than I was. But I enjoyed it! 

Mariah and Bailey: Routine #1 - cha cha chá choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin “Ce Soir? (Hugel remix)” by El Profesor featuring Laura White.
Dmitry Chaplin in the house with two bad ass dancers from the Moulin Rouge! I love the shapes these two make with their bodies. They are sharp and powerful. Bailey struggles on all the lifts though. You can see the effort on his face. I still enjoyed it overall. D-Trix calls out Bailey's struggle in the sweetest way possible. He's been there! Laurieann thinks Bailey is a dancer beyond labels. Nigel agrees it's the first time Bailey seemed uncomfortable with the task at hand, but doesn't seem think it will hurt him with votes. Mary thought the routine showed some technique flaws, but thinks Mariah is a NextGen Xena Warrior Princess regardless. 

Gino and Sophie: Routine #1 - Contemporary choreographed by KC Monnie to You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen.

With their partners eliminated last week, it's time for these two to develop some instant chemistry. They both get to dance in their own style tonight, which shouldn't hurt. The routine is a story personal to Monnie, reflecting his coming out of the closet. The routine is beautiful, if a little bit literal in it's movement and connection to the song. Laurieann thinks this new pairing is magical. Nigel also likes their chemistry. He also compliments them on their solos and takes a moment to dump on Lara Spencer for laughing at boys who take ballet. You knew there was no way he was gonna let that slide. Mary seems intent on bringing this number back for an encore in the Season Finale. D-Trix thought they did a great job and that they rose to the occasion of suddenly working with new partners after last week's elimination.

Benjamin and Anna: Routine #2 - Broadway choreographed by Al Blackstone to I’ll Be Seeing You” by Tank and the Bangas.
We're getting a different look at these two after Tahitian routine, and it really suits them. It's Anna's best performance, by far. There's a gentleness in their movement that suits the music and the tone of the piece very well. The chemistry feels effortless. Nigel is a fan and hopes it resonates with viewers (provided they can still vote for these two next week). Mary felt they transported her to a different era and it was just right. D was expecting full out BROADWAY! but his breath was taken away with their quality of movement. Laurieann may have come up with a new t-shirt slogan with, “Tempo is one thing. Feeling is everything.” Love her!

Madison and Ezra: Routine #2 - Argentine tango choreographed by Miriam and Leonardo to “Despues Que Te Fuiste (A Daniel Berard)“ by Pepe Motta.

Argentine tango always has great potential to bring the fire. Do these two have the heat? You know, I thought they did a good job. But it was going for a different type of intensity than fire. There was an intentional coolness from the color palette and lighting. So their emotional intensity and strength felt really appropriate. I thought they both did well. This kind of routine makes me wish someone would choreograph an Argentine Tango to the old theme song from "Mystery!" That would be SO GOOD. Mary knows the difficulty of the choreography, and gives her approval on a job well done by these two. D-Trix thought they were amazing. Laurieann thought it was cinematic and also lets out this vocalization that is amazing and leaves even the always-prepared Cat a little unsure of how to proceed. Nigel was impressed with Madison's strength and Ezra's partnering. Good work, team!

Mariah and Bailey: Routine #2 - Contemporary choreographed by Mandy and Elizabeth to “Slide” by James Bay.

Not unlike fiddlers, they’re dancing on the side of a roof. The prop is enormous. They had it in rehearsal. When did production start building it? Where was it stored? How many people did it take to move it on and off the stage? It's essentially just a big ramp, but then there is also smoke coming out of the chimney? Clearly, I'm distracted from the dancing with the roof onstage.. It was really well-executed and Bailey is emotional at the end. D-Trix calls it one of his favorite routines the history of the show. I don't rank it quite that high. Laurieann takes time to applaud Bailey's personal character, and tells Mariah to let her full light shine. She felt Mariah was holding back for Bailey's sake. Nigel thinks the roof prop didn’t overwhelm them when it could have, but I'm still obsessed with the roof and I hope it gets it's own spin-off series. Mary wants them to be partners for the rest of their lives. Enjoy the next few weeks while you can, Mary! That's all you get! 

Gino and Sophie: Routine #2 - Jazz choreographed by Jonathan Redavid to “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” by Elvis Presley.

Typical Tinder situation where you go on a first date, but the person you're meeting is secretly a thief. Instead of a roof for a prop, now we get a hat. The hat may be Gino's downfall. It's distracting him in rehearsal.  If they didn't point it out in the rehearsal montage, Gino's Hat Issue might not have been as noticeable in the routine, but now I'm looking for it and it's there. I think Sophie is phenomenal here. I wish I had a deeper connection to her starting in the audition episodes of this season. I feel like I didn't see her until Top 10 Girls and wasn't rooting for her to make it, and now she's so strong but I'm emotionally invested in other dancers. Standing O from the judges. Laurieann declares Gino and Sophie the new couple to beat. Nigel agrees that they’re giving Bailey and Mariah a challenge. I quietly remind the judges again that the public does not vote for couples on this show. Mary calls a special Hot Tamale Train heading express for Jazz City. D-Trix thinks their two best performances overall were tonight. Sorry, Gino’s best moment this season remains his jive with Stephanie. But these two are great together.

Benjamin | Gino | Madison | Mariah - Group Routine: Contemporary choreographed by Talia Favia 
to “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish.

It's a fun routine, but somehow I thought the dancers looked small on a big stage. It's a different side of contemporary than we usually get on this show. It had elements of jazz and hip hop. The move when the girls pulled off the guys sweatshirts was cool. Nigel thought Talia did a great job with such strong contempo dancers. Mary thought it was powerful, and tough. D-Trix of course loved the abs, because that's his thing. Laurieann wants to hire all of them right away, but she'll have to wait a little while because they're all obligated to do the SYTYCD National Tour, coming to a city near you this fall and winter!

Cat has the results! Gino is safe, which means Benjamin is in danger! Meanwhile, Mariah is safe and Madison is in danger. I didn’t see that one coming. I thought the bottom two would be Sophie and Anna, but now I’m guessing Sophie is safe and Anna will ultimately be eliminated. But the judges surprised me last week, so we’ll see.

Anna | Sophie | Bailey | Ezra - Group Routine: African jazz choreographed by Sean Cheesman to "Rebirth by Lord KraVen.

I liked this second group more than the first. Better costumes and lighting. I felt they filled the stage. Really strong work and unlike the last group, no one is dancing in their signature style. Mary was feeling it. D-Trix praises them all for the amount of dancing they learned this week. It really was a big jump from last week. Laurieann could feel the effort and commitment coming from each of them. Nigel loved it too, but also takes a moment to applaud Bailey's earlier solo, which was incredible. Nigel loves that this show proves there isn't a society across the globe that doesn't dance!

Cat has the results! Ezra is in danger, which means Bailey is safe. No surprise there. Sophie is safe, and Anna is in danger. No surprise there either. I think Anna is done, but it's a toss up for Ezra or Benjamin. Ezra was saved last week, so this might be the end of the road.

Final Results - Benjamin and Anna are eliminated!

Nigel tells the dancers that are in the bottom that America hasn't voted for them and they have to figure out what they're doing wrong. America has voted for them though, just not in as great numbers as their competitors. The way he says it here is harsh. The judges are unanimous tonight in their decisions. For the guys, Ezra stays. Benjamin is going home. For the girls, Madison stays and Anna is going home. BenAnna has been eliminated! Gino Sophie, Bailey and Mariah have all avoided the bottom so far this season. Will they be the final four? Will Ezra or Madison be able to have a breakthrough in voting this week? Tune in and see!

I didn't get to vote this week because I was at Opening Night at the US Open. I hope the rest of you did though! 
Tonight's Routines Ranked in Order of My Preference:

1. Benjamin and Anna Broadway
2. Gino and Sophie Contemporary
3. Gino and Sophie Jazz
4. Bailey and Mariah Contemporary
5. Ezra and Madison Argentine Tango
6. Bailey and Mariah Cha Cha Cha
7. Ezra and Madison Hip Hop
8. Benjamin and Anna Tahitian

Thursday, August 22, 2019

SYTYCD 16: 10 to 8 Recap - There's dancing, and then there's DAAAAAANCIIIIIING!!!!

Here we go again, Dance Fans! 10 Contestants battling it out for the title of America's Favorite Dancer. At the end of the hour, only 8 will remain. Who got the fewest votes? Who will the judges save? Who will dance their last dance tonight? Let's get into it. 

TOP 10 Group Number - Contemporary by Travis Wall to Harry Styles‘s “Sign of the Times”

Travis created this dance in response to America’s gun violence epidemic. It's quite lovely. There are a lot of unique formations and shapes the dancers create together. You can tell how meaningful this routine is to them. Sometimes they fill the space in a way that makes you think there must be at least 20 of them. The old person in me thinks all the jolting back bends look painful, but then I remember that these dancers are very young and their spines are still sufficiently bendy. A great sense of connection between the dancers can be felt throughout. They reveal shirts that spell out "ENOUGH" on the back of them at the end. Indeed.

Cat comes out in a fantastic hot pink dress by Alessandra Rich and shoes by Gianvito Rossi with her hair up in a top bun. Flawless. She introduces the judges, explains the rules about how she'll reveal the results as they go through the night as to which 2 guys and which 2 girls got the least votes, and then the judges will get to save one guy and one girl who'll continue on in the competition. We also get clips of all of the contestants from their first recorded dance performances. They're all cute. Some are really into it. Some of them just kinda stand there and sway. All of their parents knew they were destined for SYTYCD greatness.  

Gino and Stephanie - Jive choreographed by Sasha Farber and Emma Slater to "Long Tall Sally (The Thing)" by Little Richard.

My favorite jive is Anya (ANYA!) and Danny's jive to "Girlfriend" in Season 3. No jive routine since then has really lived up to that in terms of execution and excitement (I've rewatched it several times over the past couple days and I find it thrilling every time.) I gotta tell ya though, this one by Gino and Stephanie comes pretty close to that. It's technically strong and Gino has appropriately dialed up the personality to 11 following last week's critique. This is fun and fast and feels like a substantial routine to tackle. They left it all on the floor.  Standing O from the judges. Mary hires Gino as the conductor of the Hot Tamale Train. D-Trix thinks Gino and Stephanie were stars.  Laurieann smells greatness (which I can only assume smells like a Peanut Butter Cup Sundae with mint chocolate chip ice cream from Friendly's) and Nigel thought Gino had the sharpest jive moves since Benji Schwimmer in Season 2. This comparison is much sharper than the, "best-ever-hip-hop-girl-doing-ballroom-in-Week-1" praise he gave Anna last week.

Cat has the results! Gino is safe, but Stephanie is in danger? QUE QUE?? How did that happen? She looks surprised and sad! What were you thinking, America?? If the judges send her home, that's nuts. Now, I feel like anything can happen with tonight's results. I had thought Stephanie was solidly among the Top 3 girls heading into this week.

Sophie and Eddie - Contemporary choreographed by Travis Wall to Billie Eilish's “When the Party’s Over.” 

Eddie needs some redemption, after last week's Jazz Funk routine left Nigel feeling "uncomfortable." Travis hopes they can have a MOMENT tonight, but Eddie is having trouble with the partnering in rehearsal, so I am skeptical this is gonna work out.  It turns out it's mostly fine. The Travis Routine that everyone is going to remember from tonight is definitely the opening number. This performance is solid, but mostly unremarkable, which is not what they needed this week. On stage, they are dancing on and around a plain mattress that looks too much like a rehearsal prop. It just doesn't pop, and there have been plenty of mattress-based routines Sophie is giving great energy, but the partnership between them is not taking things to the next level. The judges are more enthusiastic for the routine than I was. D-Trix thought it was emotional. Laurieann thought Eddie had a commitment to the truth of the routine, but said it in a way that was like, "so stop faking it elsewhere!" Nigel thought they were both great. Mary thinks Sophie is a mutant with liquid gold that runs through her body, which sounds cool, but how would that help make you a better dancer? Really, wouldn't that just... weigh you down?

Cat has the results! Eddie is in danger, but Sophie is safe. That makes sense. I'm assuming the last spot for the girls is between Anna and Mariah because Madison was so strong last week. We don't yet know the other guy in danger, but the writing seems to be on the wall for Eddie's exit unless someone really messes up their routine this week.

Anna and Benjamin - Hip hop choreographed by Randi and Hef to K-CAMP's "Lottery."

The concept is that they are a young couple that just won the lottery and they are grabbing all the bling they can find. They keep putting on more necklaces from display cases as they go along. It's a solid routine and I like the look of it, but it doesn't wow me. Afterwards, Cat commiserates with them about how hard life is when you can't carry all your diamonds. Love her.  Laurieann says dancing is Benjamin’s calling. Then she turns her focus to Anna, and straight up says, “I missed you this week.” Laurieann has knives out for Anna! This is the kind of critique I'm hoping for. Not because it's mean - it's not. It's also not cruise control praise. D-Trix and Laurieann will really tell you when they're not feeling it. Nigel and Mary will too, but they have over a decade of experience sliding into it delicately. Don and Laurieann are like, "Nope. This wasn't it." But Laurieann is in the minority on this one, as Nigel, Mary and Dom all really dug the routine and thought they both did great. Hmm.

Cat has the results! Benjamin is safe but Anna is in danger. That means Madison and Mariah are safe. My vote for elimination here would be Anna. Stephanie has had the stronger routines. The other male dancer in danger is either Ezra or Bailey? America, I do NOT agree with these results! 

Madison and Ezra - Jazz choreographed by Ray Leeper to Joe Cocker's “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” 

This routine is supposed to be Sexy AF and in rehearsals it's difficult for Ezra and Madison to find the right chemistry together. It definitely seems to be pushing Ezra out of his comfort zone.  I actually think the choreography here is pretty great. Sexy and fun with surprising spins, embraces and transitions.  Madison seems to feel more free in the movement than Ezra. He's dancing well, but I'm not buying the heat from him. There's a point where Ezra sits in a chair and Madison pulls his head back by his hair and caresses his naked torso and she is giving me serious Fosse vibes. Nigel and Mary jump to their feet at the end, but Dom and Laurieann are fine to stay seated, thanks! Nigel brings up how Bob Fosse would love Madison and thinks they both were magnificent. Mary loved the routine, but also clearly really likes the song. Sometimes, I find that the depth of my connection to the music really helps how I feel about how a routine goes. D-Trix admired the moment I mentioned with Ezra’s “shiny and beautiful” chest. Nigel tries to be like "whoa!" And D-Trix is like, "What? That's my feelings, man!" He's fun. Laurieann was so excited, she shouted the title of my blogpost. Thanks for that, Laurieann!

Cat has the results! Ezra is in danger. Madison is safe. America apparently has it in for the Sosa siblings. The judges should save them both, in my opinion. Don't they want to see them dance together in the finale?

Bailey and Mariah - Hip Hop choreographed by Luther Brown to Lizzo's "Tempo."
Oh, remember last week when I was saying you have to get the vibe of Luther Brown piece for it to be successful? Well, from the first rehearsal Mariah is like, "Yeah, I got this." And does she ever! She knows exactly what she's doing. Luther is calling security on her!

Y'all, they KILLED this routine. Everything is working for them. The staging, the lighting, the costumes, hair and makeup, plus an amazing track. At the foundation of all that other stuff is expert dancing from the two of them. Their attitude and connection were right on point. At the end, Mariah even accidentally fell off the vehicle they were riding in the most charming way possible. Standing O from the judges. Mary calls them the couple to beat. (Which I get, but people vote for them individually) D-Trix thinks Mariah is a star and that Bailey brought the soy sauce. Laurieann loves it. Nigel agrees with Mary that they’re the couple to beat. I definitely think they're pulling away from the pack. Having a strong routine last week and now a real stand out moment in week 2 gives them an edge that should take them to top 6 and then Top 4 is right there! Methinks we'll definitely be seeing this routine again in the finale.

Cat has the results! And throws the card away because we know they are safe because the Bottom 4 were already revealed. Now the judges get to talk things over and see which two dancers' dreams are about to be crushed. 

RESULTS:  Eddie and Stephanie are eliminated!

WHAAAT. Nigel says they took both nights' performances into account and blah blah's that it's tough only having two routines to judge them on. Suuure. Cutting Eddie‘s feels like a no brainer. I don't get cutting Stephanie though.  Nigel says it was a split decision on the girls, so I guess Laurieann held strong to her critique of Anna tonight. Bro and Sis Sosa seem shocked and saddened by her getting the chop. She nailed both her routines! What else did the judges want her to do?  Ezra and Stephanie have a little moment of sibling love and then Ezra leaves the stage so Stephanie and Eddie can have their moment. They both give shout outs to family and friends and the judges for all their support. Nothing left to do but dance it out to the credits. I hope you went online and voted this week, people!

My personal ranking of tonight's routines:

1. Bailey and Mariah's hip hop
2. Gino and Stephanie's jive
3. Madison and Ezra's jazz
4. Anna and Benjamin's hip hop
5. Eddy and Sophie's contemporary

Next week: We're down to 5 contempos, 2 Hoppers, and 1 Baller! Gino and Sophie form a new partnership! Top 8 gets cut to Top 6! My guesses for Bottom 4 are Anna and Sophie and Ezra and Benjamin. But who knows after this week? Good luck, y'all!