Friday, July 27, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance, Season 9: Top 16

I know, I know. I missed a week of So You Think You Can Dance recapping. Let's just all pretend that I was so offended by that wretched "Teeth" number that started the show that I was unable to type about dancing for an entire week. Yes. That's it.

Anyway, I don't like to live in the past, so we are just going to charge on. This week, the Top 16 took the stage with mostly good results. We are still at the point in the competition when there are some serious weak links in the chain, and it's only a matter of time before they get weeded out. Luckily, the majority of performances were a clear indicator that Season 9 has an incredibly talented pool of contestants that will yield a dynamic Top 10 in the coming weeks.

Joining Nigel and Mary in the panel was comedienne extraordinaire Christina Applegate, who was—like last season—an insightful and passionate judge. I love that she approaches her critiques as someone who watches the show and knows the dancers, and her fangirl-iness was a delight to watch.

Now, as always, let's break down the performances from worst to first...

8. Janelle & Dareian - Cha Cha (Pasha Kovalev); "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen (Watch video)
This was just so wrong. First of all, you knew that "Call Me Maybe" would pop up as the requisite popular song this season. It was bound to happen, but that doesn't mean we needed to like it. Maybe I've just seen too many videos of people lip-syncing this song to their cats, but Pasha's sexy choreography just didn't match the ultra-pop sound. And speaking of that choreography, I can imagine that if Pasha and Anya were on that stage I would've been swooning and fanning myself. Unfortunately, Janelle looked like she was being forced to dance with her annoying, scene-stealing gay cousin, played oh-so-perfectly by Dareian. There were more limp wrists and sassy faces than there are at a Britney concert. I know you probably all love him, but Dareian has officially joined the list of dancers I just don't get, along with Ade, Adechike, Legacy and Ricky from seasons past.

7. Audrey & Matthew - Salsa (Liz Lira); "Cinco Salsa" - Sverre Indris Joner/HSC/Kork (Watch video)
Unfortunately, neither ballroom piece worked this week, and this one might've actually been a bigger disaster. They certainly struggled through the choreography (especially that tornado turn) and had these glazed looks of concentration and forced happiness on their faces the entire time. On top of all that, the music was like a funeral dirge compared to most cha cha music we are used to hearing. Audrey held her own a bit better than Matthew, and I still love the two of them, but this was not their night.

6. Amelia & Will - Jazz (Mandy Moore); "You!" - The Creatures (Watch video)
I've been hard on Will in the past, but he is seriously growing on me. Not only does he have a charming and hilarious personality, but he's also proven himself as a reliable and strong partner for Amelia, who has struggled a bit since making the Top 20 but is certainly still a force on the show. This piece was what we've come to expect from our gal Mandy Moore: a funky '80s soundtrack with staccato choreography and bizarre retro costumes. It didn't totally work for me—the music was especially off-putting—but it was enough to keep them above the ballroom disasters.

5. Amber & Brandon - Jazz (Ray Leeper); "Dr. Feelgood (Love is Serious Business) - Aretha Franklin (Watch video)
While I didn't get as steamed up as I did during "Misty Blue" last year, Amber and Brandon's performance this week was, as Mary put it, a "big bowl of soul." They were much better suited as partners than they were with Nick and Janaya, and it's a real shame they were paired up so late in the game. I couldn't keep my eyes off of Amber (no, not just because of that Troll gem-esque patch on her costume) and Brandon was such a phenomenal partner throughout, and I think he could've given some of these boys a run for their money.

4. Eliana & Cyrus - Hip Hop (NappyTabs); "Toxic" - District 78 ft. Cheesa (Watch video)
God bless NappyTabs for just completely understanding how this show works. Here you have a ballerina and a dancer whose claim to fame is his robotic movement, and what do they do? A piece about a toy ballerina and a robot. Hello! I'm not saying that every choreographer needs to cater to the specific talents (and constraints) of their dancers, but it certainly goes a long way in making it an enjoyable experience. Not that Eliana needed the help; she fit in just perfectly to the hip hop genre and continues to be one of my favorite girls. Cyrus, on the other hand, benefitted greatly from NappyTabs' generosity; his talents took center stage and his inexperience with choreography wasn't nearly as noticeable.

3. Tiffany & George - Hip Hop (NappyTabs); "Out of My Mind" - B.o.B. ft. Nicki Minaj (Watch video)
Yes, the soundtrack, props, costumes and concept were a little bubblegum (babysitters, really?), but I'll be damned if Tiffany and George didn't sell the crap out of their Rugrats-esque NappyTabs routine. We all know how talented George is, but it was surprising to see him do so well in hip hop. Meanwhile, Tiffany has been excelling these past few weeks—I know I said I wouldn't live in the past, but she was gorgeous in last week's foxtrot—and I think she could be a dark horse in the competition.

2. Witney & Chehon - Contemporary (Stacey Tookey); "I Will Always Love You" - Whitney Houston (Watch video)
Let's be honest here: Witney and Chehon could've just stood still with their backs to the audience and let "I Will Always Love You" play for three minutes and I would've had them in the Top 2. That's just a fact and I'm not embarrassed by it. Even better, though, is that they danced the crap out of the routine, and that death fall is one of the best moments of the season so far. Chehon's performance energy started to wear off by the end of the piece, but Witney was going full throttle from start to finish. And, by the way, Mary Murphy: let's not mixup Witney and her girlfriend Lindsay in a critique again. Yikes.

1. Lindsay & Cole - Contemporary (Mandy Moore); "Wild Horses" - Charlotte Martin (Watch video)
After an aforementioned disaster with a dentist chair last week, Lindsay and Cole return to the top of the charts with a mind-blowing Mandy Moore contemporary routine. The fact that a martial artist and a ballroom dancer could perform that routine so beautiful is one of the many reasons this show continues to amaze and surprise me. Cole did a phenomenal job, but this was really all about Lindsay. Christina Applegate nailed it on the head: for most of the piece, Lindsay's face was completed covered by her hair, and yet I felt every single emotion through her movement. That is seriously impressive dancing.

With the new, truncated format of the show, we were also treated to two group performances. And while the Tyce Diorio "silent movie" routine by the Top 16 didn't exactly light me on fire (it was cooler in its production value than otherwise), the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater guest performance was absolutely fabulous. Those six men were living in that piece, and the giant skirt-like pants gave a soft contrast to their strength and power. I could watch Alvin Ailey dancers performer 24-7, and this piece was no exception.

When it came to announcing the Bottom 6, I was not surprised to see Brandon, Dareian or Amber there, but George, Lindsay and Eliana? No way! And while Dareian's solo was full of dazzling tricks and acrobatics, I think Brandon is a better performer and entertainer, and he had my vote to stay in the competition. Alas, I'm not one of the judges (...yet), and so it was auf wiedersehen goodbye to Amber and Brandon.

As for the rest of the dancers, here are my updated rankings:
  1. Witney
  2. Cole (+2)
  3. Eliana (-1)
  4. Lindsay (+3)
  5. Tiffany (+7)
  6. Matthew (-3)
  7. George (+1)
  8. Chehon (+3)
  9. Amelia (-2)
  10. Cyrus (+3)
  11. Audrey (-2)
  12. Will (+2)
  13. Janelle (-8)
  14. Dareian (+2)
No surprise here, the biggest winner of the week is Tiffany and the biggest loser of the week is Janelle. And don't forget you can always see the most updated rankings in the sidebar of the site!

What did you think of this week's episode? Did the ballroom numbers disappoint you? Did Alvin Ailey dazzle you? And are you upset about the upcoming Olympics break?! Sound off in the comments!

[Image Source: FOX]
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