Thursday, July 15, 2010

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

Photo courtesy of FOX

New styles! New choreographers! And, unfortunately, a new injury. Yes, with Alex Wong out of the competition, So You Think You Can Dance did its best to get a new lease on life. And, for the most part it worked. Last night's episode chugged along quite nicely with some really great routines.

We do, of course, need to discuss Ashley's injury. With Alex injured last week and Ashley injured this week, I'm starting to see an evil plot afoot. Anyone else think Adechike has a hit out on the best dancers? You laugh now, but just you wait until Robert shows up with a black eye tonight. Yes, just as Ashley took advantage of Alex's absence last week to launch herself into the spotlight, Robert emerged as the front-runner in last night's crop of six. So, Robert, if you're reading this - please be careful.

First up was Lauren, our lonely female contestant of the evening, taking on a Tahitian routine with All-Star Mark. New cultural styles have a tendency to go one of two ways in SYTYCD land - they can soar or they can sink; there is rarely an in-between. For comparison's sake, let's call soaring "Bollywood" and sinking "Russian Folk." This Tahitian routine, choreographed by Tiana Liufau, definitely fell on the Bollywood side of the spectrum. Adorned in (what I imagine to be) traditional Tahitian garb, the two dancers proved their hips do not lie. There didn't seem to be a lot of range in terms of choreography, and like Nigel I'm not sure how to really critique the technique, but Mark and Lauren pulled it all off with gusto.

Following the harsh criticism (and unnecessary apology) from Mia Michaels, Adechike still managed to avoid the Bottom Three last week. "Perhaps I am missing something," I thought to myself. And then I watched he and Anya salsa last night and realized that, no, I am not missing something. New choreographer Liz Lira created a routine chock full of tricks, and though the judges felt the duo pulled it off, I felt a sense of uneasiness and lack of trust coming from Anya. For me, it just didn't work.

Things didn't get much better as Jose and Courtney teamed up with Joey Dowling for a Broadway routine set to Chicago's "Mister Cellophane" (which, by the way, I sang in high school during a One Acts show...flashbacks....). The story of a vaudeville star ignoring her secret admirer fell flat as Jose gave us one "puppy dog" expression the entire time. Unfortunately, his lack of performance allowed us to take a long look at his technique, or lack thereof. No, this didn't come as a surprise, but in the past Jose has been able to mask his weaknesses with his bright smile and gumption. Last week I wondered when the judges would snap and decide that Jose's heart is not enough to keep him in the competition, and though it did not happen last night, we certainly got a glimpse of what that moment is going to look like.

As mentioned before, last night brought Robert ahead of the pack as he took on an emotional Travis "If you don't win an Emmy for this" Wall contemporary routine with All-Star Allison. Inspired by Travis' mother's recent surgery, the routine was already a guaranteed cry-fest (just like Mia Michaels' "Time," Jean-Marc's "A New Day," and Tyce's "This Woman's Work"). And then "Fix You" started playing. That song gets me every time, and last night was no exception. The choreography was beautiful, the connection between the dancers was palpable, the partnering was effortless and the emotions were outpouring. Perfection. A huge bravo to the choreographers and dancers, and well wishes for a speedy recovery to Denise Wall. 

Fellow judgers, how do you solve a problem like Billy Bell? The boy is an unreal dancer with incredible skills. And yet.... and yet.... it's just not jiving, which brings us to his Jive routine with Anya. I love me some Louis van Amstel and I love me some "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," but I didn't really love this routine. Billy Bell was a little too bouncy and the whole piece felt a little too rushed. This song is all about telling a story and this routine was just steps on a stage. Not a great vehicle to bring Billy Bell back into his former glory.

Though I am quick to criticize the camera-crazed choreographer, Tyce "Chinstrap" Diorio delivered a wonderfully cheery Broadway routine routine to "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, MO" for Kent and Neil.  Let me tell you, if playing baseball was always like that routine, I would've never quit (also, it would've helped if I could hit or catch the ball...). Kent, an aspiring Broadway performing, and Neil, a current Broadway performer, were a great pair as they flipped, swung, rolled, leap-frogged and brightly smiled their way across the stage. I'm trying to think of a fun sports pun to throw in here, but "touchdown" is the wrong sport, huh...?

Another choreographer that gets a lot of criticism around these parts is Miss Mandy "I Love the 80s" Moore, who proved me wrong by busting out an adorable jazz routine for Billy Bell and Lauren to "Boogie Shoes." The whole routine can be summed up with two words: bedazzled Converse. It was light, fun and groovin'. The same bounciness that drove me crazy in the Jive was what made Billy Bell so great in this jazz piece. And Lauren is just cute as a button, isn't she? She definitely kept the girl power going last night against those five boys!

After a string of disappointing performances, Jose should thank his lucky stars that he chose that gold star which allowed him to perform with an All-Star in his genre. Along with Dominic, he took on the first b-boy routine in SYTYCD history - although the whole thing is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Anytime a b-boy or b-girl is on the show, the judges praise them because they've never had to learn choreography before. So how do you choreograph a routine for a style that by its very nature does not involve choreography? Hmmm. Anyways, Jose is thankfully better in his own genre than any of the others and it was nice to see that confidence return. That being said, I have to agree with Mia that there is a lack of strength that would push his performance over the top.

Sometimes a routine is made greater by its story, and other times the story just plain doesn't matter. Such was the case when Kent and Adechike took on a Dee Caspry contemporary routine. It was supposedly about Kent being in a bad relationship and Adechike's attempts to get him out. That's all well and good, but I was too much in awe of the intricate choreography and exquisite dancing to really care. The use of the chairs was so well thought out and the subtlety in both dancers' movement brought out a maturity and sophistication that elevated the performance to another level.

Finishing the evening were Robert and Ashley Kathryn and the first Season 7 appearance of the lovely and talented Doriana Sanchez. This lady knows how to choreograph a disco routine, huh? Disco is all about having fun and bringing high energy to the stage, and this duo did just that. It's amazing that Kathryn was able to learn all of that insane choreography after Ashley's injury (and trust Robert after that failed lift in the Barbie routine). I'll agree that Robert's movement was a little thin - it lacked the power and precision of Brandon and Janette's jaw-dropping Season 5 disco routine - but it was still fun as hell to watch and a great way to end the evening.

So what did you think, fellow judgers? Are you praying along with me that Ashley can recover quickly and remain in the competition? I'm guessing that Jose and Adechike will join her in the Bottom Three, though I would not be surprised if Billy Bell was there once again.

But regardless of what happened last night and who is getting kicked off tonight - didn't a show without Wong feel wrong?
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