Thursday, June 17, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 7 - Top 11

Photo courtesy of FOX

And away we go! After what was certainly the shortest amount of audition episodes in recent history (far shorter than the three months of American Idol auditions), the live performances for So You Think You Can Dance Season 7 have begun. After all of the speculation of changes and All-Stars, we finally get to see what we came to see - dancers competing to be the best.

With a Top 20 out of the way, the "grace period" for the contestants to get used to performing on live television with a brand new partner after only three days of rehearsal is non-existent. Perfection, passion and performance are not an option - they are an expectation. That is good news for some, and terrible, terrible news for others. Let's break it down in performance order...

First up was Billy Bell, who cannot be called anything but Billy Bell, performing a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine with All-Star Lauren to Kenny Loggin's "Footloose." I haven't been a huge fan of Tyce's work in a while, and this was no exception. The lockers, the leather, Billy Bell's horrid blowout - it all just felt incredibly dated. The dancers certainly performed it well, it just was not something I will care to remember after this paragraph. Mia was also right on the money when she told Billy Bell he danced like a boy and not a man. With so many great male contemporary dancers this season, Season 6's early favorite needs to man up fast before he finds himself in trouble.

Up next was ballroom vixen Cristina who was paired with All-Star Mark for a Sonya Tayeh Jazz piece. Like most, I was incredibly nervous that the Sonya/Mark reunion royale was going to outshine poor out-of-her-element Cristina. But, as she showed us during the contemporary round during Vegas Week, that girl can do way more than shake her hips! I love Santigold's "Starstruck," and the pairing of the snake theme worked really well for the hard-hitting yet sultry bass line of the song. Mark and Cristina slithered and wriggled all over the stage, and I was impressed with the trust they shared after such a short amount of time together. I even found myself watching Cristina more than Mark most of the time... gasp!

Okay, let's talk about Jose. Sure, he is adorable. Sure, for a b-boy he is impressive in other styles. But we need to clear the air about something. He is not Legacy. As much as I did not care for Legacy, Jose does not even come close. The past two episodes he has had the fortune of performing hip hop and even though he is not technically a hip-hop dancer, it's about as close to his style as he's going to get. That being said - he is not nearly as hard-hitting and aggressive as he needs to be and his illusions are about as common as they come. I wasn't a huge fan of Comfort during her season, but she outshone Jose big time during their Nappy Tabs routine to Ne-Yo's "Beautiful Monster." Jose's likability and praise from the judges will probably keep him safe for the first few rounds, but I'm not holding my breath much longer.

Speaking of male dancers who don't have a prayer of being competitive against the other guys, Adechike is wearing thin on me. Travis Wall gave him and All-Star Kathryn a Jazz piece that was all about lust and sensuality (I promise to not overuse that word), and all I got from Ade-"cheeky" was 5-6-7-8. After all of his crying during Vegas Week and "I'm the underdog" mumblings last week, I'm starting to think he is all talk. Technical excellence? Sure - but not nearly as excellent as his fellow competitors. And without the passion and drive, I'm stuck trying to find a reason to root for Adechike. In other news, Kathryn looked absolutely gorgeous and danced beautifully. Work!

Things got a little better when Melinda and Pasha took on a Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin Jive. I don't know about you, but whenever I see Melanie I have horrible nightmarish flashbacks of her dancing with Russell last season. [shudder] Anyways, I disagreed with the judges here - I thought Melinda's over-the-top faces made the routine exciting and fun. Nigel chastised her that she used it to distract from her mediocre footwork... well, uh, of course she did! Jive is no easy style to master, so if you have a trick up your sleeve to keep me from staring at your pigeon-toed jabbing monkey feet - go for it! Definitely not one of the highlights of the evening, but not as bad as the judges made it out to be.

Alex Wong. Allison. Sonya. Contemporary. Jeff Buckley. The perfect ingredients for a standard-setting moment for Season 7. This was a display of pure, raw emotion at its finest and proof that Sonya Tayeh is SYTYCD's all-star choreographer. The breath, the strength and the connection between the dancers elevated this piece to phenomenal heights. After being told time and time again to bring his emotional guard down, Alex showed beautiful vulnerability and somehow matched the incredible power of Allison. When Mia (and I) critiqued Billy Bell for needing to dance like a man - this is how it is done. I look forward to seeing this performed again during the finale.

How great is it to have Twitch back? Season 4's fan favorite is the king of swagger, and Napoleon and Tabitha know just how to bring that attitude and style out. That being said, I don't think the judges gave Alexie nearly enough credit for keeping up with her All-Star partner. She was cute and flirty and it worked way better than the panel said. I loved that Nappy Tabs did a hip-hop routine to a Jason Mraz song, once again proving they are innovators within their style who are constantly expanding their repertoire. Alexie is hands down my favorite girl - she is cute as a button and supplied a clip of 90s era Shankman - how can you not want to keep her around?!

Of any of the girls, Lauren definitely had the most hype going into last night's show. Her "At Last" solo in Vegas was out of this world, not to mention the only full solo we got to watch, and she had a pretty lengthy clip of Nigel visiting her house to deliver the good news of her making the Top 10 Top 11. So what happened?! Let's break it down. First off - Mandy Moore did a Pop Jazz routine to an 80s song? Surely you jest! Seriously, Mandy, I love you but you need to move on. On top of that, she was paired with Ade, whose participation as an All-Star will probably boggle my mind all season.  And unfortunately, like Glee's Vocal Adrenaline, Lauren is apparently an emotionless automaton. True, she's only 18. But with only 11 dancers and an incredibly talented crop of guys, I'm not sure if Lauren has enough time to mature as quickly as she needs to in order to be competitive.

Oh, Kent. The producers have been training us to love you ever since your audition. And you know what? It has totally worked. How can you not adore corn-fed Kent? Sure, his Cha Cha with Anya was over the top cheese (notice the judges didn't mind his goofy faces...right, Melinda?!), but he did it with total gumption. Tony and Meredith's choice of using a jukebox version of "Lady Marmalade" was not my favorite, and neither was Kent's shimmy, but there is not a doubt in my mind that Kent has a bright future on the SYTYCD stage.

I have a serious question to ask. Who the hell is Ashley?? I know Lil' C told her she made it, and I know she performed last night with Neil. But is she really in this competition? Every time I count up the Top 11 in my head, I always end up forgetting poor Ashley. And after her Tyce Diorio Contemporary routine last night, I'm not sure that's going to change. Her expression during the routine was just about as confusing as her tears and admission of knowing true love during her critique. Performing to "For All We Know" should bring out a feeling of desperation and release, and next to Neil she just looked stone cold. I wouldn't be surprised if we said good-bye to Ashley tonight and then I won't have to worry about remembering her, or the fact that Mia called her a little bunny, ever again.

The night ended with a romp through Sean Cheesman's mystical forest of African Jazz with Robert and All-Star Courtney. The moments of total abandonment and joy were brilliantly pulled off and made me want to see more and more African Jazz (and Sean Cheesman) as the season goes on. Robert is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with, but he needs to get rid of those rehearsed surprise faces every time he gets a compliment. Careful careful, Robert, too many of those faces and you are going to get a Mia Michaels bitch slap.

Yes, a long night of performances - some out of this world fantastic and some dreadfully dull. I'm hoping to see Lauren, Ashley and Adechike in the Bottom 3 tonight. It's definitely looking to be a season for the guys and we might even get a winner that is the best dancer, not just the favorite! What did you think, fellow judgers? Was Alex and Allison's routine one for the ages? Do you have just as much trouble remembering Ashley? And are you hoping the judges might turn down the Paula Adbul-ness of their critiques ASAP? Sound off in the comments!
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