Thursday, June 23, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 8: Top 20 Redux

The Top 20 returned last night on So You Think You Can Dance, and in case you weren't sure why this wasn't actually the Top 18 we were treated to an intensely dramatic recap of Indecision 2011—also known as the judges' decision to not eliminate anyone last week. I've bemoaned that choice enough for now, though I'm sure it'll come up again tomorrow after 20% of the finalists are axed tonight.

For now, let's discuss last night's performances, the most important and exciting one being the brilliant performance by guest judge Ms. Debbie Reynolds, famous for being Princess Leia's real-life mom and Grace Adler's TV mom... oh yeah, and for being fan-effing-tabulous at all times. Whoever decided to bring the Singing in the Rain sensation onto the show should be given a hefty raise—she was at least 75% of the entertainment last night. The impression of Woody Woodpecker alone was enough to make me want to go home with Mommy Debbie. Okay, I'll stop now, but you get the point. Debbie Reynolds for President in 2012.

Now... ON TO THE DANCING. Let's break the couples down from worst to first...

10. Missy and Wadi - Cha Cha (Jean-Marc Généreux); "Cannibal" by Ke$ha
First of all, where was Jean-Marc's trusty fiery-haired sidekick France?! I demand an answer. Anyway, this cha cha fell way short for me. Missy gave great face, but the chemistry between the pair was severely lacking and the partner work was timid and weak. They really needed to dig in to the choreography and embody the movement in the hips and legs, but instead it felt like a poor imitation. Poor Wadi really got lambasted by the judges, but I can't say I really disagreed with them.

9. Ashley and Chris - Broadway (Spencer Liff); "Please, Mr. Jailer) by Rachel Sweet
It pains me to put a Spencer Liff piece this low, because he is just so fantastic to look at, but I hope he'll understand that it wasn't his fault. The story of a woman visiting her man in jail was perfect to show off the chemistry between a pair of dancers, especially considering they only occupied about a 10 foot area of the stage, but Chris and Ashley's connection didn't translate. Improved from last week? Yes. But still not up to the standard expected on the show.

8. Miranda and Robert - Hip Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha D'uomo); "Break Ya Neck" by Busta Rhymes
There were some fantastic moments of musicality in these number—the feet and head picking up those woodpecker-esque drum beats were the perfect nuances to get the theme of the dance across without hitting us over the head. Miranda surprised me with her aggression and her stunts... girlfriend got down and dirty! Ultimately, though, the chemistry between her and Robert wasn't coming across, and the more serious character wasn't really working for "Woo-Man" Robert.

7. Iveta and Nick - Bollywood (Nakul Dev Mahajan); "Baawre" from Lucky by Chance
I love a good Bollywood routine on this show—they always tend to be fun and bouncy and not take themselves so seriously. I was a little worried that this pair, the whitest of all the couples, would have some trouble throwing down, but they both showed off exuberant energy and personality throughout the piece. Nick, who at this point is the weaker of the two, had some trouble connecting with Iveta on some of the more "intimate" moments (granted, she looks about three times his age) and, fine, it wasn't as fantastic as Katee and Joshua's legendary routine in Season 4, but overall a lively and entertaining number.

6. Melanie and Marko - Jazz (Mandy Moore); "Sing with a Swing (Raf Marchesini Remix)" by DKS
Eek. You guys. I really didn't expect this to rank so low. Truth be told, it has nothing to do with Melanie and Marko's performance: they had Pizazz (with a capital P!) and were totally adorable with their bowler hats and bow ties. We all held our breath when Marko dropped his hat right before he had to catch Melanie, but the pay off was worth it when she landed safely in his arms. So how did this routine end up in sixth? Plain and simple: the music. It was so hard to connect to performance on the screen with that horrid remix of "Swing Swing Swing" blaring through the speakers. I'd only watch this again if it was on mute.

5. Sasha and Alexander - Hip Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha D'uomo); "Coming Home" by Diddy-Dirty Money and Skylar Grey
NappyTabs covered some pretty serious territory here; telling the story of a soldier coming back from war to his wife, it reminded me a lot of their "Bleeding Love" routine in Season 4. The routine was wonderfully danced and I especially enjoyed Alexander's slow walk at the beginning and his flip over Sasha Fierce. I have to say, though, that I wasn't as emotionally touched as everyone else seemed to be. I agree that SF really conveyed the story, but Alexander seemed stone cold the whole time. Where was the rejoicing? Where was the relief of being back in the arms of the one you love? I just wan't feeling it. Am I alone here??

4. Clarice and Jess - Contemporary (Stacey Tookey); "Cathedrals" by Jump Little Children
For the second week in a row Clarice and Jess end up as one of my favorites, despite my vocal dislike of Jess. Their chemistry was much improved this week as they told the story of a royal wedding (settle down Queen Jess...), and each of them displayed incredible technique within Stacey Tookey's gorgeous choreography. Now if only they could eliminate any interviews or behind-the-scenes footage of Jess...

3. Caitlynn and Mitchell - Contemporary (Stacey Tookey); "Turning Tables" by Adele
Mitchell finally got to dance with his partner this week, and just as Melanie and Marko were penalized for performing to heinous music, Caitlynn and Mitchell get bonus points for point their toes to "Turning Tables" by Adele. Loves it. The piece was very character driven—Caitlynn as the girlfriend trying to get out and Mitchell as the controlling boyfriend—and the two dancers kept that aura going from start to finish. My only complaint is that this week should've been all about displaying Mitchell, but the staging and choreography had me locked in on Caitlynn, who has really lucked out with her genre picks so far.

2. Ryan and Ricky - Jazz (Mandy Moore); "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer
Was anyone super surprised that Mandy Moore used a popular song from the 80s for her piece? No? Cool, then let's move on. The choreography, on the whole, was a bit forgettable and started off a little too Showgirls for my taste. What can't be denied, however, is that Ryan and Ricky Roderick committed 100% to the choreography and danced it brilliantly. It says a lot about these two that they made an otherwise forgettable routine at the beginning of the show one of my favorites of the night, even if Ricky's corset was visually and spiritually concerning.

1. Jordan and Tadd - Viennese Waltz (Jean-Marc Généreux); "Fade Into Me" by David Cook
These two are so cute together, aren't they? And they tackled the Viennese Waltz with wonderful fluidity and grace! Tadd displayed such strength in his carriage and in the lifts with Jordan. We are only two weeks in and you can tell the strong trust they have between each other—they are definitely one of my favorite couples of the season so far. Jordan occasionally extended her head too far back on some of the lifts, but that is a minor complaint in and otherwise lovely and touching piece.

Four of these 20 dancers are going to be sent packing tonight, and I have my eye on Missy, Wadi, Ashley and Chris. Who were your favorites from last night? Who do you think is going home? And, since you are so opinionated, have you joined my HitFix SYTYCD Fantasy League?! Click here to go the site, then type in the following information:
Player ID: (whatever username you'd like)
Enter League Name: PWYJudges
Enter League Password: pwyjudges
Then all you need to do is rank the Top 20, making sure you have the dancers you think will be eliminated at the bottom. You can change your rankings week-to-week—check out the full rules on the site and the let the games begin!
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