Thursday, July 14, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 8: Top 12

First things first: CONGRATULATIONS ON THE EMMY NOMINATIONS, SYTYCD!!! In addition to its annual nominations for choreography, the show was nominated for Outstanding Reality-Competition Series and Cat Deeley was fiiiiiinally nominated for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. Hooray!!!

Now, Top 12 week is always an interesting one on So You Think You Can Dance; you can tell just how focused everyone is on making it to the Top 10 and to the national tour. For some dancers, this extra drive pushes them to new levels, and for others it gets in their way. Last night was no exception.

Joining Mom and Dad, a.k.a. Mary and Nigel, on the judging panel this week were Modern Family funny guy (and Emmy nominee) Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who rightfully pointed out how much Cat Deeley deserves an Emmy nomination and was a pretty great guest judge, and resident weirdo Sonya Tayeh, who wasn't afraid to keep it real—and I wish they would've let her swear!

The couples each did two routines, so the show went by briskly. We have 12 dances to break down, so without further ado, let's rank last night's dancing from worst to first...

12. Caitlynn and Mitchell - Hip Hop (Christopher Scott); "Break the Chain" by Lupe Fiasco featuring Eric Turner and Sway
I'm not quite sure what happened here. Great dancers, great choreographer... terrible, terrible showing. The intense theme, kidnapped Ugandan children being forced into militant groups, was completely lost once translated on stage—and, no, the puff paint tank tops didn't help. You could tell that Caitlynn and Mitchell were trying to put a lot of emotion into the choreography, but the whole thing was out of sync and disjointed.

11. Jordan and Tadd - Broadway (Spencer Liff); "Out Tonight" from RENT (Original Soundtrack)
Has there ever been a lamer version of "Out Tonight," a song originally sung by a drugged up exotic dancer? And if there was any dancer to pull off a sexy seductress, you know it's Jordan! Instead, we got a Kidz Bop version with a Sleeping-Beauty-turned-rocker-chick princess and a charming prince (breath spray and all). The first half had a lot of character but hardly any choreography, and for the first time ever I wasn't feeling the connection between Jordan and Tadd—who, by the way, needed to work on getting those legs higher.

10. Ryan and Ricky - Broadway (Spencer Liff); "All I Need is the Girl" by Frank Sinatra
Both Broadway routines fell flat for me last night—though, to be fair, I don't think the judges gave Ryan enough credit for really transforming into the sultry starlet that jumped out of the Broadway poster on the street. Ryan and Ricky had two routines focused on loosening them up which is exactly what they needed going into tonight's elimination. I'm just not sure if Ricky sold it as much as he needed to.

9. Sasha and Alexander - Paso Doble (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin); "Alley Dash/March of the Trolls" by Taylor Long/Rick Powell
Well, hello, Alexander. Welcome to the show! This was the best we've seen him all season (until their second routine, of course). The two leather lovelies dashed around that stage in quite an intense Paso Doble—it's a shame that the footwork was too loose and they lost steam at the end. And I really wish they hadn't done that kiss at the end. Sasha's answer to Nigel's question indicated it wasn't choreographed, and it just kind of reeked of desperation and "Please vote for us—we kissed!!!!!". Ick.

8. Ryan and Ricky - Cha Cha (Louie Van Amstel); "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" by Enrique Iglesias featuring DJ Frank E
It's not that I particularly disliked this dizzying cha cha, it's just that it wasn't terribly memorable. Ricky did a much better technical job and it's the most we've ever seen the boy smile, while Ryan was overselling the emotion and lost focus of the tight foot action required. The entire time I kept thinking how glad I am for this partnership to be over, as neither of them seem to really benefit from the other (see: Mitchell and Caitlynn).

7. Sasha and Alexander - Jazz (Tyce Diorio); "That's Life" by Aretha Franklin
Alexander really brought it in an attempt to show us he deserves to be in the Top 10. For the first time, it felt like he was on the same playing field as Sasha, who, to be quite honest, felt a bit lackluster last night. This was some phenomenal, joyous choreography by Lord Chinstrap, but the fudged ending was a bit of a bummer, huh?

6. Jordan and Tadd - Contemporary (Travis Wall); "Brotsjór" by Olafur Arnalds
Telling the story of a vulture feeding on its pray, Jordan and Tadd wriggled and writhed around that stage with choreography that was more intense and dark than we've ever seen from Travis Wall. You'd never know that Tadd isn't a contemporary dancer watching this piece, which reminded me a lot of a more sinister version of Wade Robson's hummingbird routine from Season 3. Despite their Broadway flub, these two really are a great pair, and I'll be sad to see them split up. Special shout out to Jesse Tyler Ferguson for his "in it to win it" Randy Jackson impersonation.

5. Clarice and Jess - Jive (Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin); "Ain't Nothing Wrong with That" by Robert Randolph & The Family Band
I've been very critical of this partnership over the past couple of weeks, but they really came alive last night! Their feet were fast and furious, and I was willing to overlook some of the clunky lifts because of their height difference. Jess still had some irritating facial expressions, but for the first time I was watching him more than Clarice—I especially loved when he slammed into that split, then started bouncing and clapping to the rhythm of the music.

4. Clarice and Jess - Lyrical Hip Hop (Christopher Scott); "Just the Way You Are" by Boyce Avenue
Yes. I know. The painting at the end was horrible and super cheesy. And Jess looked positively ridiculous in his hipster hat. But this was the best I've seen these two dance together. They were effervescent and totally living in the moment. They hit the sharp, staccato movements with brutal force and then backed off for the lighter moments. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that I love this cover version of Bruno Mars' song. Fine.

3. Melanie and Marko - Contemporary (Dee Caspary); "Skin & Bones" by David J. Roch
Our favorite power couple spent their final piece together dancing around a light bulb like moths around a flame. I was mesmerized the entire time as the choreography ebbed and flowed without stopping. It was masterfully danced and I am so upset that we have to split this partnership up. Please, oh, please let them dance again down the line!

2. Melanie and Marko - American Tango (Louie Van Amstel); "Triptico" by Gotan Project
Louie Van Amstel sure didn't hold back with Melanie and Marko—this piece had every trick in the book and then some. These two have such sensual passion between them. Melanie was incredibly sexy and Marko had a strong, macho quality to his movement that I loved. The dip off the stage was fantastic and HOLY COW that final moment when Melanie was pulled through Marko's legs twice. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. 

1. Caitlynn and Mitchell - Contemporary (Travis Wall); "Piece of My Heart" by Janis Joplin
These two keep pulling contemporary, huh? Not that I'm complaining, because they totally killed this piece. There was so much sass coming out of Caitlynn and Mitchell, and all the while they were throwing themselves all across the stage in their corsets and leather costumes. Mitchell proves week after week what a strong partner he is and Caitlynn's legs seem to have no limits. I would've put these two on the Hot Tamale Train in a heartbeat.

Tonight, two dancers will be eliminated and just barely miss being in the Top 10 and going on tour. I have a feeling Jordan/Tadd, Ryan/Ricky and Sasha/Alexander will be in our Bottom Three. As for who is going home, I'd say the only two who are definitely safe out of those six dancers are Tadd and Sasha—the rest are going to have to deliver unbelievable solos to save themselves.

What did you think of last night's show and who do you think is going home tonight?
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