Thursday, June 30, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 8: Top 16

The competition really heated up last night on So You Think You Can Dance, and I'm not just talking about Jordan and Tadd's bedroom romp (yet). With four dancers out of the picture, the Top 16 all did their best to stand out from the pack and earn enough votes to stay out of harm's way. Some did so quite successfully, while others should definitely be prepping their solos for tonight's elimination show.

Joining permanent judges Nigel and Mary last night was Broadway legend, Emmy award winner and overall firecracker Kristin Chenoweth, who will never be able to do any wrong in my eyes. "Shut the front door! Shut the back door, shut the side door, shut the garage door!" will most likely enter my lexicon now thanks to Ms. Chenoweth. Oh, Lil' C also guest judged but I tend to block him out, especially when he talks about his future rap career and whatnot. Ugh.

We have a lot of dancing to discuss, so let's not waste anymore time. Here are your Top 16 dancers, ranked from worst to first...

8. Ashley and Chris - Jazz (Sonya Tayeh); "Lights Go Down (District 78 Remix)" by Telepathe
These two just can't catch a break, huh? And it's such a shame, too, because Ashley was one of my favorites throughout the auditions, Vegas and Meet the Top 20 week. But SYTYCD is a fickle world and, despite her exquisite leg extensions, Miss Ashley just hasn't been cutting it. Chris hasn't helped the situation much either with his lackluster technique and bland personality. Now, all that being said, this Beetlejuice-inspired piece was the best they've been together, and Chris was much improved compared the last two weeks, but it wasn't memorable enough to get them out of last place.

7. Miranda and Robert - Broadway (Tyce Diorio); "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" from Sophisticated Ladies (1981 Soundtrack)
This story of a music man picking up a call girl fell completely flat for me, and the couple's lack of chemistry is mostly to blame. The entire piece felt like two solo dancers on the same stage instead of one cohesive unit. They struggled through a majority of the partnering work, and Robert's lack of technique is really starting to stick out. Miranda isn't my favorite girl this season at all, but I have to admit she shows way more potential than her partner. It may be time for the judges to split them up and get Miranda with a different boy. 

6. Clarice and Jess - Foxtrot (Jean-Marc Généreux); "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra
Honestly... can someone tell me where Jean-Marc's trusty sidekick France is?? This was the second week in a row without her fiery red hair! Someone explain!!!! Now, as for the performance... here's a routine that looked technically perfect—gorgeous lines, stunning leaps and lifts—but didn't connect emotionally. There wasn't nearly enough release and abandon when they weren't in the traditional closed position, and Jess should've been able to pull off the crooner character a lot better. C'mon... what is more Broadway than portraying a member of the Rat Pack?! Clarice continues to be stunningly gorgeous, but I'm starting to think the other ladies are flying past her at this point.

5. Sasha and Alexander - Contemporary (Dee Caspary); "Belong" by Cary Brothers
This routine centered around the piano prop, with Alexander recalling the memories of his past love. First of all, it's time these two went a little bit more out of their comfort zone. This is the third week of the competition and the second time they've performed their style. Maybe they're due for disco or the quickstep? In any case, Sasha was once again fantastic while Alexander's performance came up short in comparison. Sasha's hands coming out of the piano at the end gave more expression and power than Alexander's entire face and body. Like Clarice and Jess, this was technically wonderful—with the exception of some clumsiness while maneuvering around the piano—but emotionally flat.

4. Ryan and Ricky - Contemporary (Sonya Tayeh); "With Every Heartbeat (Acoustic)" by Robyn
I loved the concept of this piece—feeling the pain of a love that's ending—materialized with fabric, and I was so glad that Ryan and Ricky didn't allow the prop to hinder their performance. They delivered a subtle, quiet, effortless performance to a gorgeous Robyn song (playing on loop as I write this). I've come to expect wonderful technique and lines from these two, but I was really impressed at how much Ryan pulled back her expressions that often border on cheesy.

3. Caitlynn and Mitchell - Samba (Jean-Marc Généreux); "Put It In a Love Song" by Alicia Keys featuring Beyoncé
Soooooo... Mitchell's hips don't lie, huh? Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! That boy totally owned that hot tamale samba (and kudos to wardrobe for those tight, tight pants).  I honestly don't remember much else of the routine—and if we're being honest I thought Caitlynn tried a little too hard to be "super sexy"—but Mitchell's performance was enough to skyrocket this pair to the Top 3 this week. Side Note: It's not a good sign that Mary Murphy couldn't remember Caitlynn's name, huh? Yikes.

2. Jordan and Tadd - Hip Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha Duomo); "Memories" by David Guetta featuring Kid Cudi
This crazy "morning after" scene was beyond amazing. The music, the sweatshirt swap, the chemistry between the dancers... it all clicked. Tadd, who is such a cutie, was totally dy-no-mite in his own genre and Jordan surprised me with how well she kept up. Nappy Tabs moved the dancers expertly over, under and around the bed without making it ever seem cumbersome or forced (see: Sasha/Alexander's piano). I know not everyone will agree with me, but this is definitely one of the power couples this season so far.

1. Melanie and Marko - Lyrical Hip Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha Duomo); "I Got You" by Leona Lewis
Of course, any discussion about SYTYCD power couples really should start and finish with Melanie and Marko, who are the definition of the phrase. Forget that they are both expert dancers... they are so much more than that. They are brilliant actors, telling the heartbreaking tale of being left at the alter with full believability from the very first second. Of course, the story didn't end there and the moment when Marko realized he loved Melanie and they ran together for the kiss was PURE MAGIC. I'm not going to lie... I clapped. I did. And that's what this couple is so fantastic at: engaging the audience and making us care about their characters, even if just for those brief yet wonderful 90 seconds.

One thing's for sure, Napoleon and Tabitha definitely win the Most Valued Choregraphers award for the week!

Tonight, two dancers will be sent home (barring any suspicious behavior by the judges, of course). My sights are set on Ashley and Chris, though I wouldn't be surprised if the couples started to do a little bit of rearranging starting this week.

Who do you think is in danger of going home, and who were your favorites of the week? And, as always, have you joined my HitFix SYTYCD Fantasy League?! There's still time to catch up! 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 16, 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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