SYTYCD: Season 8, Part 4

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Halleluiah, the So You Think You Can Dance competition begins. This week (June 15th and 16th, 2011) we finally get to enjoy our exceptional top 20 dancers heat up the stage. I equate these dancers to Greek gods. The caricatures boldly drawn in my mind have them with breast plates, winged heels and snakes erupting from their heads. They ride mythical creatures and passionately love and fight one another. They are a tough group and they would make a dream company. Sooo… if I’m ever casting…

The experts were joined be TV star Megan Mullally (Will & Grace). We already know she is a Prada bag of talent but we also find out that she was in a ballet company in Jr. High and High School. She went to the School of American Ballet and has done a few Broadway plays. I was happy to see her on the panel of judges.

One of the male contestants, Mitchell Kelly, injured his elbow this week. I feel for him because being hurt is a poor way to start a challenging adventure like SYTYCD. He is at a huge disadvantage and is automatically up for elimination.

Jordan Casanova and Tadd Gadduang opened the show with an explosive afro-jazz duet. Like tribesmen they were covered in tattoos and had hot burgundy hair. The whole piece was violent, destructive and beautiful like a volcano. It gave the feeling of watching something you should be running away from, but can’t because you are transfixed by its splendor. I feel that afro-jazz is sometimes an ambiguous category. So the fact that choreographer Sean Cheesman actually used very fast and athletic traditional african choreography, was a big plus. Tadd’s performance was unexpected. Not only could he keep up with Jordan but I couldn’t tell he was a hip hop dancer at all. I think he’s a contender.

Sasha Mallory and Alexander Frost danced a Travis Wall Contemporary piece. Travis is a solid choreographer. He is very good at creating for the, less that two minute, TV short format. He can develop an entire story along and move the audience to tears. I would love to see a full length evening work by him or a whole concert, at the very least.

Sasha, with her dark skin and wild Mohawk, is a modern day Amazonian princess. Often when she graces the stage, everyone else disappears. Many of the women in the competition this year have this affect. Sasha could have been doing a solo. Alexander is a lovely dancer but he was the wall paper and the hook that holds great art. In figure skating, the proverbial “They” say when the male partner disappears he is a great partner. Is this the case here?

Clarice Ordaz and Jess LeProtto were up to bat next in a Tyce Diorio Broadway number. These two were good together but Clarice had trouble holding her own next to Jess’s big personality. In fact, Jess was compared to a young Jimmy Durante. He did an incredible pirouette with too many turns to count. This feat is genius in itself, but simultaneously he was able to lower himself to the ground and back up again.

Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime told a beautiful lyrical/hip hop love story created by Christopher Scott. Ricky’s character was having a nice memory of a woman who, for whatever reason, was no longer in his life. The judges got confused about the emotional intent, but I thought the story telling was clear, and they danced like a heartbeat.

Miranda Maleski and Robert Taylor Jr. did a 60’s mod squad jive made by Jason Gilkinson. It was very geek-chic-a-go-go, complete with silver boots and sequence. It was an entertainingly goofy piece. Robert kept up, but I agree with Nigel that his has to learn dance basics like pointing is feet.

Due to inclement, weather while my wireless router was being destroyed by lightening, I’m afraid I lost a couple of dances. I can’t comment on Missy Morelli and Wadi Jones’ duet by Sean Cheesman. Apparently it pleased the audience, which is always good. Nigel called Missy a beast, and from clips it looks like our hip hop boys are picking up the other styles very well.

The highlight of the evening was another Travis Wall dance performed by, my favorite Atlanta gal, Melanie Moore and her partner Marko Germar. They were painted from head to toe in Butoh white, playing statues that move at night to try to become one by morning. Now, the girls this year are great, but Melanie is in a class of her own. The energy from her legs lengthens infinitely off into forever. When the music got faster they danced in unison as though one was the reflection of the other. In the end, they turn back into stone with his arms around her opening position, connected. The judges were moved to tears and almost speechless. Could we have just witnessed the first Emmy nominated piece of the season?

Again due to the storm, I only got to see half of the next hip hop routine by Christopher Scott. Ashley Rich and Chris Koehl were a couple cheating on each other. I felt the performance was self conscious, not believable, and I couldn’t take them seriously.

In the evening’s conclusion, Ivetta Lukosiute got lucky on two accounts; she picked the quickstep and dynamic tapper Nick Young out of the hat. Quickstep has the reputation of being the “dance of death” on SYTYCD. She is a champion in the style and he had to go to ballroom boot camp. It all paid off. As expected, Iveta floated across the floor, every step perfectly placed but she couldn’t match Nick’s dynamics. He was vivacious, fun and absolutely marked his territory as a contender.

All that is left to discuss is Thursday night’s results. In the opening, Sonya Tayeh presented the whole company in an industrial cabaret. Everyone was in black, had canes and slick hair. These dancers perform together like a well oiled machine, but the girls really are special.

America’s votes put three couples in jeopardy, they are: Jordan and Tadd, Jess and Clarice, and Miranda and Robert. Due to his injury the night before, Mitchell also had to dance for his life. As the dancers were getting ready we got to see recording artist Keri Hilson. I think the show needs to stick to dance. I find it a little uncomfortable when the musical artists perform. Their dancers pale in comparison to the contestants. Plus, they have radio and their own shows. Dance is special and it is something that the average Joe isn’t exposed to often or ever. The beauty of SYTYCD, is that it is making dance accessible to all.

The next performer was Bolshoi dancer Gennadi Saveliev doing a gopak. The gopak was done once on the show and it was a giant flop. I was thrilled to see it done well. It was like going to a zoo and watching a wild gazelle running and leaping. I told my daughter, Lady H, that this is what a real ballet dancer looks like.

Finally, we got to see our dancers, dance for their lives. Mitchell didn’t look injured at all. Jordan did an astonishing cartwheel on her elbows to the floor. I love Tadd’s music choices and personality. He is very good at dropping to the floor and getting up again. I find when the ladies are put on the spot, most tend to resort to the same tricks; battements, développé à la seconde, grand jeté the list goes on. Clarice fell into this trap. Her solo was generic and a little stiff. Jess masterfully executed nine pirouettes. Miranda had nice off center turns. Finally, Robert frantically locked, popped, and milked the crowd for all their affection.

After a Lady Gaga video, the judges came out and did something they have never done before. They asked Robert and Mitchell to dance again. I have to say, even I gasped. The boys had to defend their honor again. Robert gave a much better performance the second time around and Mitchell stayed consistent. You could tell the judges were struggling with the verdict and in the end they did something else they have never done. NOONE WENT HOME!

Of course this decision is fabulous for the audience, we get to see everyone, including Mitchell, compete again. All the performers get second chance to work with the talented choreographers. Next week, however, will be brutal and four very deserving dancers will go home. I, for one, can’t wait. So, tune in and let me know what you think.

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