Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 6 - Top 10

Photo courtesy of Fox
Last night's Top 10 show felt like a tour de force of dance. With 10 routines, 10 solos and very few video montages, even I felt out of breath. Last night's show didn't blow me away like last week's Top 12, but I think that's only because the competition is getting tougher and it's becoming harder to stand out amongst this group of extremely talented dancers.

Though I am all for seeing more dancing than talking, I did find myself missing the videos before each dance, especially with the dancers in new pairings. I liked the individual profiles before each solo, but it just wasn't the same. It was also strange to see almost no air time or recognition of the choreographers last night for a few reasons: 1. SYTYCD is usually so choreographer praise-happy, 2. We didn't get to find out the "story" behind some of the dances (though it was fun to make them up in my head) and 3. We didn't get to see more Anya and Pasha!

Our first new couple of the evening was Noelle and Ryan, who started out by performing a Nappy Tabs "office affair" hip hop routine. This was a fun concept to begin the show with, and a clever way to get beefy Ryan and young Noelle into the same storyline. It also felt a bit different for Nappy Tabs - a little sexier than what they are known for. I, for one, loved seeing Noelle be sexual, and I think she and Ryan had great chemistry. It's been hard to forget Ryan's first attempt at hip hop (I will never forgive Lil' C for that), but this was a much better attempt for him - not to mention he looks great in a tie! The couple's second dance was a JT and Tomas Smooth Waltz to the beautiful "Jeux D'eau" from Cirque du Soleil's O. Ryan, though certainly a great partner, came off too strong during this soft and elegant piece and it made his performance qualities a bit vacant. There were some great lines in this waltz, and Noelle was able to be elegant and sensual (there's that word again. Thanks, Nigel) without being overtly sexual like she was in the hip hop number. Beyond the great partnering, I found this waltz to be a tad on the boring side of the scale. I also wasn't crazy about either of the dancer's solos - Noelle's seemed frantic and disingenuous, and Ryan looked crazy and body builder/stripper-esque. If they continue in the competition, I hope Noelle can bring the elegance and maturity she has in the routines to her solos, and Ryan can figure out how to make his ballroom solos more exciting without being pornographic.

As the two dancers who have undoubtedly grown the most over the course of this season, Ashleigh and Legacy were a couple I was very interested in watching - would they be able to stand on their own, free of their previous partners? The answer was: not really. They began with a Garry Stewart contemporary routine that felt more like American Gladiators than SYTYCD. It was certainly one of the most athletic routines we've seen, but I'm afraid that all the rolling around, coupled with the high velocity of the piece, detracted from my appreciation of the two dancers. It felt like all their concentration went into getting through the dance alive, so performance quality was down, especially from Legacy. Mary thought the routine had a lot of "moments" to hold onto, but I think they were just lost in the shuffle. Things got much worse when the couple tackled a Dave Scott hip hop routine. Goodness gracious. I don't think anyone told Dave Scott that the current vampire craze does not involve capes from Spooktown. This routine's lack of success had way more to do with the choreography and styling than the dancers themselves. Legacy seemed much more relaxed than usual, and the pair showed much better chemistry. That long look towards each other in the middle was hot. Even still, there was a lack of synchronicity and I just couldn't get over the cape. When it came to solos, I thought Legacy looked frantic and lacked musicality - not to mention he used "No Air" which, as far as I am concerned, is sacred and no longer usable on SYTYCD. Ashleigh, on the other hand, won my vote with her solo. We finally got to see a great ballroom solo! It was fun, sexy, basically everything the ballroom solos haven't been in a few seasons. My prayers were finally answered!

Kathryn and Nathan were the first couple in which I thought each had something new to offer the other dancer. To Kathryn, Nathan was able to provide a partner with equal technical prowess versus her first five weeks with Legacy. More significantly, Kathryn was able to provide to Nathan an older, more mature partner to bring him out of the world of the tweens. The pair started off with a Spencer Riff Broadway routine. Spencer is quickly becoming my favorite Broadway choreographer on the show - step aside, Tyce! The choreography was great, and the whole routine had a wonderfully cutesy 1950s feel. Kathryn was stunning as always, and her classic beauty fit well into this genre. Nathan looked so much more mature; even with a cutesy theme he managed to have a sophisticated quality about him. In my opinion, Kathryn outshone Nathan, which might explain the less-than-stellar chemistry between the two. The same occurred in the Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin Rhumba - Kathryn gave a full-out performance while Nathan looked a little stale and uncomfortable. The demise of this routine was ultimately with the choreography - it failed to excite and stand out. This was, however, a much better attempt for Nathan than his Samba with Mollee (a.k.a. the catalyst for his scolding from Nigel). When it came time for solos, Nathan busted out his impressive pirouettes, but seemed to spend most of his time caressing his body and lifting up his shirt. He also got incredibly emotional after his solo - but I have to question his sincerity, especially since Adam cautioned him last week about not being accessible to viewers. Were the tears just a stunt, or have the pressures of the competition just gotten to him? Kathryn, on the other hand, left the tears to her mother (it must run in the family) and delivered a fabulous, show-stopping solo performance. She was once again graceful and elegant, and displayed a star quality that made me fall in love.

I've been waiting and praying for Jakob and Ellenore to be paired up - their styles and performance qualities just compliment each other so well, not to mention they've both been a part of some of this season's most memorable routines. It seemed nothing could bring the Dream Team down. And then they picked the dreaded, kiss-of-death Quickstep. My heart sank, but not for long. This was one of the easiest Quicksteps to watch, and went by so quickly. Ellenore and Jakob both have wonderful poise that fit this style so well, and they didn't have the incessant bouncing that Peter and Pauline had earlier this season. I loved the dance derby theme, and even liked the trophy at the end. But the "Champions" banner on the backdrop was just too much cheese for me. Tony and Melanie choreographed a fun routine in a genre that is usually hard to enjoy. That was all well and good, but after their second routine, Jakob and Ellenore could've done the Dave Scott vampire piece and it wouldn't have mattered. The SYTYCD gods (...producers...) answered our prayers for the holy trinity: Jakob+Ellenore+SONYA. Chemistry - yes. Passion - yes. Perfection - yes. This routine, accurately describe by Shankman as the sequel to Sonya's Season 4 "Garden", put all others to shame. Everything came together beautifully - it was Sonya's work at its absolute best. Whatever planet Ellenore and Sonya (and now Jakob) come from - I want to go live there, because it is perfect. Their solos were equally fantastic - Ellenore brought her usual fun, quirky style and Jakob displayed technical perfection. If there was ever a dream team this season - this was it.

The final couple of the evening was Mollee and Russell - a pairing that at first I just couldn't wrap my head around. They began with a Mandy Moore lyrical jazz routine to [insert 80s song here]. Mollee looked fantastic, much better off without Nathan, and Russell was an incredibly strong partner. I thought the routine lacked the strong chemistry in terms of performance that the judges felt, but had a wonderful sense of trust. The standout moment from this piece was definitely when Mollee jumped and Russell caught her by hooking their arms together - it was a display of technique, strength and absolute faith. For a couple that had only been together for a week, it was impressive to see them rely on each other so naturally. Things got even better during their Jive, choreographed by Season 3 vets (and so much more) Anya and Pasha (yaaaaay). Russell and Mollee had much better chemistry in this piece, which was wonderfully playful. Like Nathan in the Broadway routine, Mollee proved she was able to be cutesy and fun without looking like a 4 year old. And, seriously, is there anything Russell can't do? We saw him do Jazz, Jive and Krump all in the same broadcast, and all incredibly well. His solo exuded confidence, and it was great to hear about his upbringing in Roxbury (yikes!). Mollee's solo, however, felt more like a rhythmic gymnastics routine than a dance solo - she just went from trick to trick for 30 seconds. Compared to solos from Kathryn and Ellenore, this simply did not compete.

There was a LOT to consider before voting this week. After taking into consideration the routines, solos, video montage, past performances and everything else imaginable - I ended up voting for Jakob, Ellenore, Russell, Kathryn and Ashleigh. Tonight we'll say goodbye to 2 more dancers, and either be relieved that America made a smooth transition to having 100% of the say, or frustrated that an incredible dancer was overlooked and sent home. Fingers crossed for a sigh of relief!
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