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So You Think You Can Dance 2011

SYTYCD season 8, part 9.

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July 20th was a special day.  It represents a landmark moment in So You Think You Can Dance, where the contestants get to be judged for their own performances and not as a pair.  At this juncture, the show came up with the brilliant plan of introducing the All Stars.  Last year they used the All Stars throughout the whole competition, and idea I thought I was going to hate but ended up really enjoying.  Previous years the contestants danced with each other the whole season.  This way we get the best of both worlds.  July 20th was special for another reason.  It was your favorite dance reviewer’s Birthday.  Another excuse I have for falling behind and keeping all of you hanging.

So here we are at the top ten finalists.  This is the group that will be dancing on tour: Sasha Mallory, Ricky Jaime, Melanie Moore, Tadd Gadduang, Clarice Ordaz, Marko Germar, Jordan Casanova, Jesse LeProtto, Caitlynn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly.  I am still mourning the loss of Ryan Ramirez, if you want my impolite honest opinion I would trade her in for Caitlynn in a heartbeat.

I have to give a little shout out to someone I actually have never mentioned but really is the one that  keeps the ship afloat.  I speak of our lovely MC and Amazonian princess Cat Deeley.  She looked stunning in a short black and silver sequined dress.  She always makes the audience feel welcome and creates a warm and positive atmosphere.

OK, back to the show.  Star of How I Met Your Mother or my generation knows him as Doogie Howser MD, Neal Patrick Harris joined the panel of judges this week.  I really enjoyed what he and to say.  He wasn’t just complimentary of the show he gave really good advice from a performer’s perspective.  He was honest in both directions and  wasn’t shy about calling out a choreographer on their work.  I think if the choreography isn’t up to par, it’s not fair to judge a dancer who is doing the best they can do with what they’ve got.  Granted this is all a subjective grey area.

Not only did the contestants get paired with our favorite finalists from years past, but they also all had the opportunity to show off solos.  Again, I am going to share my favorite moments.

Marko starts off the show dancing with All Star Chelsie Hightower (season 4) in a Jason Gilkinson Cha Cha.  I thought the loss of his regular partner was going to be devastating for him, but he really rose to the challenge.   Chelsea affected me the same way as when she was a contestant,  much better than I though she was going to be.  As a pair they were well matched and dare I say spectacular?  A little note to the audience, if you are actually watching the male partner and he is performing with someone who looks like a disco ball, he is doing a fabulous job.

We had the pleasure of Sasha being the first soloist of the evening.  She has this primal quality that just hits me indescribably at the core.  I think it’s the way she works with the floor and transitions seamlessly into the air like an articulate frog.  I find that in these circumstances the ladies generally all resort to the same old tricks to sell themselves, but Sasha breaks the mold every time.

Jordan and the exquisite Brendon Bryant (season 5) had the extraordinary opportunity to work with one of the best teams in modern dance royalty, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson.  I can’t think of a better couple to be paired with this unstoppable force.   The piece, about the relentlessness of love, didn’t stop. I believe great choreography is in the details.  Anyone can string steps together and use the ballet dictionary to make Dolly Dinkle dance pieces. It’s the gestures, all the little connections and transitions.  For example, Jordan got lifted with both legs extended and flexed in front.  Before she was put down she executed a tiny double ronde de jambe with her left leg that sent a jolt through my heart.  This is what great choreography can do to you.  Jordan is the kind of technician who can handle all that Desmond and Dwight dish out.

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’353′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wduex_8M7LA[/pro-player]

 

Jess dazzled us with a campy yet technically solid Broadway style solo.  He can Pirouette for days and control it to slow down with the tempo of the music.  He’s skilled.

The next highlight was of course my Atlanta girl Melanie.  Decked out in silver, like the moon, she took my breath away with her committed movement prose.  At one point she turned to land in a half
middle split and luxuriously twisted into a roll.

Ricky always reminds me of an elegant flamingo when he dances.  In the interviews he comes across as young and goofy.  But in his solos he becomes this long elegant figure.  He dances well beyond his years.

There isn’t much I can say about some of these dancers technically.  At this point it is a matter of taste.  In my humble opinion, Mitchell’s solo was perfection.  From his turns to how he uses his legs to every curve his body makes.

The next duet that must be mentioned is Sasha and Twitch Boss (season 4) doing a Hip Hop piece by Christopher Scott.  This is a legendary pairing and the chemistry was explosive.  The piece was about
reigniting the passion in an old relationship.  They start at the mundane breakfast table.  Then Sasha character becomes overwhelmed with passion and starts throwing plates, climbing the table and pulling off accessories.  Needless to say, it wasn’t hard to convince Twitch to go along for the ride.  Christopher Scott, whom I love, has disappointed me on a couple of occasions, but I think he has learned his lessons, and I’m excited to see what he produces in the future.

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’353′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=8ikZGh62Cvg#t=53s[/pro-player]

Before I talk about Jordan’s solo, I have to discuss a pet peeve of mine.  I absolutely hate what the girls are wearing these days.  I think a bra belongs under a shirt, and from the auditions to the solos, I’m sick of seeing them.  I want the girls to step it up and be classier with their costumes.  Ms. Cassanova has been one of the worst.  After having said this, when she came out in the classic “little black dress”, I felt proud of her.  It matched her great technique, and I was able to take her seriously, really for the first time.  This costuming choice took her from the teenager she is to a professional performer.  This was reinforced by the multiple Fouetté  turns into a Sauté à la Seconde ending in a roll to the floor.

Our little Broadway baby Jess was paired up with Kathryn McCormick (season 6) in a Stacy Tookey contemporary piece about a woman who can’t see the love that is right before her eyes.  There was no eye contact and Kathryn just doesn’t see him and sadly neither did I, which is very uncharacteristic of Jess’s dancing.  The piece was well choreographed and danced but it brings up the question was he great because was such a good support, or not so great because he didn’t draw our attention?

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’353′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vTEWW0KpGk[/pro-player]

I still believe Tadd is a serious contender.  His solo had quality, nuance and humor.  I think it is imperative to have interesting music and I always vibe with his choices.  Plus, he walks on his hands like an insect.  Who doesn’t love that.

Melanie and Pasha (season 3) glided across in a Viennese Waltz.  If I would describe this waltz,  it would be the Ballet of Ballroom.  Choreographer Jason Gilkinson had the dancers glide across the floor, the steps floated seamlessly into lifts.  My oldest daughter, Lady H, said Melanie looked like an Angel.

There really isn’t anything better than one of your favorite songs being coupled with excellent movement.  It doesn’t happen often for me, because I’m  a movement inspired person and, no offense, the music is secondary.  Tyce Diorio gave me this connection with his contemporary piece, My Worst Nightmare, with Ricky and Allison Holker (season 2).  Ricky was able to transcend his gazelle like quality and it was a stretch in character.  I happy to say he rose to the challenge.  He tucked his pretty dance style into his pocket meeting Allison at a much more sophisticated level of performing, .

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’353′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM8fVlgbIdg[/pro-player]

Realizing there was a lot I liked in this episode, I am going to try and wrap this up.

Marko’s solo was well done.  I think he proved that he hasn’t just been riding on Melanie’s coat tails.  He is spectacular standing alone.  I’m not into tricks, except for the B-boys because that is what they do, but  Marko executed the most flawless and beautiful back flip.

The show ended with a glittery and fast Bollywood number performed by Clarice and Robert (season 7).  Nakul Dev Mahajan created complicated, fast and bouncy choreography that put the dancers on the same playing field.  The dancers were well matched and no one outshone the other.

We can’t just ignore Thurs.  It’s only going to get harder from this point on, folks.  The biggest perk to results, is that we get to see this remarkable group of artists perform together.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, they are a dream company.   This Josh Bergasse piece could have been transplanted right onto Broadway.

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’353′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AunbupD5UCY[/pro-player]

We also get the pleasure of watching guest artists.  This week we had Daniil Simkin ,from the American Ballet Theater (ABT), perform Les Bourgeois.  It was truly a professional performance.  So
You Think You Can Dance
is super saturated with modern and jazz dancers this year, which I love, but I have to admit it was refreshing to see a true ballet dancer.  The piece was dramatic, funny, well performed and Daniil told a great story with a couple of wowzer leaps towards the end.

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’353′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwhYfKTIyjA[/pro-player]

OK here is the bad news.  Mitchell, Clarice, Ricky and Jordan were all on the chopping block.  It is interesting that the one person I would have sent home wasn’t in danger at all.  I have to admit Clarice’s solo was a little boring and she resorted to all the same tricks and the dancing in between didn’t move me at all.  Mitchell was solid as always.  He used a scarf that was completely unnecessary. Useless props tend to bug me, but his off-center attitude turns were lovely.  Jordan played with different qualities, and didn’t fall back on her sexy vixen persona.  Stretching her repertoire, she worked with a balance between soft and strong dynamics.  I’m thrilled to say she became a woman this week.  Finally, Ricky experimented with aggressive movement and as hypothesized it was a success.  He became a man this week.

At this point all the dancers will be in the 2011 tour, so they are actually going home winners and employed.  The two dancers sent home were Mitchell and Clarice.  Good job guys and I can wait to see you when you pass through Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

So You Think You Can Dance 2011

SYTYCD season 8, part 11

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It is easy to do steps to music, but performing is a whole other monster.  To really be present on stage you have to realize that the lines between the performing arts are perforated.  Dancers have to be able to learn choreography quickly, interpret, understand music, and act in order to pull off a seamless
performance.  Dancers are actors in disguise.  Unseasoned movers don’t understand this, and it is something that can’t be taught.  Although, I’m sure all the choreographers of the world have been trying since the beginning of time.  I have never seen a cast of characters do this as well as the contestants in this season of So You Think You Can Dance.

On Aug. 8th, 2011 Christina Applegate and Lil’C joined the panel of judges to give the final 6 dancers constructive criticism and lots of praise.  At the end of the show Nigel Lythgoe phrased it very well when he said, “at this point it doesn’t matter who wins because dance is the winner.”  We are now trading pearls and emeralds from the show’s treasure box.

This article just might be another love note to our Atlanta girl Melanie Moore.  On top of the fact that
she is in this piece, I have to admit I love a fairytale gone bad.  Napoleon and Tabitha put their brains
together to re-envision Little Red Riding Hood, or rather Little Red Swaggy  Hood with Melanie and Twitch (season 4).  It just goes to show that there is nothing this young lady can’t do.  She hit everything hard, got down and dirty, and turned the big bad wolf into a little submissive puppy.

I think Tyce Diorio has topped himself this evening.  I’ve been hard on Tyce, behind the scenes, with my friends and loved ones.  I always thought he had more potential, and I was right.  He made his best duet to date on Sasha Mallory and last year’s runner up Kent (season 7).  They were a couple going through a tumultuous relationship and there was a wall.  The wall was quite literally and metaphorically a wall between them.  A prop must be used well, and Tyce nailed it.  They did a split lift where Sasha was upside down with her feet anchored to it.  They ran up and catapulted themselves off of it and the piece ended with her sliding down it.  Sasha is the perfect amalgamation of athleticism and emotion.

I don’t want to spend too much time on their solos but I will give a quick synopsis.  I love that Ricky is dancing with so much power.  At the beginning of the show he was just a bag of good possibilities and he has grown into all that potential.  Caitlynn Lawson is the only person left in the show I feel doesn’t belong there.  She should have gone home weeks ago, and I would trade many of her predecessors for her including last week’s Jordan Casanova and one of my early favorites Ryan Ramirez.  Caitlyn’s
solos don’t do a thing for me.

In my scribble scrabble notes I always, unconsciously, write Tadd Gadduang’s name upper case
letters.  TADD!  That tells you how I feel about him.  I always say, “…modern dancers will inherit
the earth”.  I never thought I would say, “…how nice it is to see a B-boy in the mix”.  Tadd is dancing among the greats, but he is like a cucumber, crisp and refreshing.

Sasha is passionate creative and athletic.  Never boring!   Marko Germar blossomed into a real contender once he started dancing alone; I now know it was all there.  It was just hidden behind his partner Melanie, but maybe that is just how good a partner he is.  Not only was he exceptional, I was happy to see him having a lot of fun.

Melanie…oh Melanie.  She moves with such clean abandon and gets totally absorbed in it.  She is the true artist of the group, and is naturally more mature than the rest.  Melanie is clearly my favorite.  I’ll take it a step further; I would love to experience a day in her shoes.  Well done!

There was a lot to chew on this episode, but let’s us cut to the chase.  On Thursday night everyone
got to do more solos.  They were consistent with the night before.

Last year’s winner and runner up, Lauren Froderman and Kent Boyd respectively performed Collide.  A now Emmy nominated piece by Travis Wall.  What I love about watching the All Stars is that they were children when they competed on SYTYCD, now they are adults and that much more exciting to watch.

Now for the results…the four dancers, piqué turning into the finale, are Melanie Moore, Marko Germar, Sasha Mallory and Tadd Gadduang.  This is a really good line up going into the final week.  Again, Nigel was right when he said, ‘it doesn’t matter who wins because the dance world already has.’

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So You Think You Can Dance 2011

SYTYCD season 8, part 10

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To my friends and family, and hopefully a few others, I have to admit a little something.  These past  10 weeks have been tough.  I thought when I started my newest writing endeavor about, So You Think You Can Dance, It would just be a quickie weekly column.  I have to tell you, it’s been the converse.  I have labored for hours/ days/ almost a week on each article.  I just have so damn much to say.  This show has brought what I know and have loved my whole life into your TV rooms and it is changing the face of dance.  I just hope my prose have been acceptable companion reading.

In a nutshell, this was an amazing episode, purely because one of their guest judges was Pop Icon Lady Gaga.  I woman I respect in all ways, know I would love to create and be friends with, who also leaves me a bit conflicted…but that is another article.

Lady Gaga reinforces things I’ve been saying for years to all the impressionable dancers that have crossed my path.  Things like, “…less presentational, lose yourself in it.” Or, “…really mean it.” Or, “…the interpretation was contrived.”  She gives great perspective from a performers eye.

I have to say, at this point in the competition, I am just as excited to see the All Stars as I am to see this year’s competitors.  One of my all time favorite dancers was Ade.  I’ll never forget when Nigel  Lythgoe said, “What a difference Ade makes.”    He joined Jordan  to perform a Tyce Diorio Jazz piece about a secret rendez-vous.  Her body can do anything and he is just a lot of fun to watch.

The 80’s queen choreographer, Mandy Moore brought Melanie and All Star Neil together.  At the end Lady Gaga said she would hire Melanie in a heartbeat.  Plus, she did a leap that took her halfway across the stage.

Sonya Tayeh made a beautiful dance on Marko and All Star Allison that was one of the best pieces she has ever made and it moved Gaga to tears.  Marko held his own and was an equal partner.    The dancers were serious and mature and matched in technicality and emotional investment.  The most touching part was that Marko’s mother flew in from Guam to see this show, and he was able to dedicate this perfect performance to her.

As the evening rolled on the contestants got to, once again, dance with each other.  The biggest surprise and best twist was that Sasha and Melanie were paired up, and Sonya Tayeh had the unique pleasure of choreographing.  I was sweating and excited before it even began, talk about inspiration.  It was one powerful beastly creation.  They were regal Barbarian Queens in a post-apocalyptic meeting of the minds.  Gaga said, “I don’t know what sex you are, what race you are, where you are from and how much money you have… everyone can go home because that was the performance of the evening.”

Results night opened with a beautiful group piece about the circus setting up, which I would love to see as a full length ballet, by Tyce Diorio.

We had the pleasure of enjoying the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers choreographed by Christopher Scott and Gaylin Hooks.  I love the way they take dancers of all  genres from ballet to breaking, superimpose them on one another to create a cohesive dramatic work.  It always takes
my breath away.

Lady Gaga with her blue ponytail graced the So You Think You Can Dance stage doing what she does best, pop music with a performance artist’s flair. It is always sad to see the dancers go home.  This week it was Jess LeProtto and Jordan Cassanova.

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So You Think You Can Dance 2011

SYTYCD season 8, part 8

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Another week has past and it’s time for our favorite show.  July 13th and 14th, 2011 presented itself again with just a few highlights.  The judges were joined by choreographer Sonya Tayeh and Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who was actually one of the most entertaining parts of this episode.

The first piece worth mentioning was by the golden boy of the show, Travis Wall.  I have to take a moment to give Travis a pat on the back.  He was a contender in season 2 and I have really enjoyed watching him become one of the essential cogs that’s keeps the show running and in the 21st century.  Jordan Cassanova and Tadd Gadduang pulled him out of the proverbial hat and away they went to create a piece about a Vulture and vulnerable wanderer.  The piece was solid, gutsy, exciting, and the two dancers brilliantly battled it out until the wanderer, purely in self-defense, overcame.  It just couldn’t have been done better, congrats to all of you.

In a competition such as this one, you have two different kinds of players.  Regardless of technical ability, you have the artist who gets knocked down but it gives them a nourishment of sorts.  They pick themselves up off the floor, dust themselves off and move forward in positive ways.  Then there is the artist who lets it weigh heavy on their heart.  Their bubble gets burst and this is a really hard place to come back from, almost impossible.  I saw it in season 5 with jazz dancer Evan Kasprzak, and I’m seeing it this season with one of my early favorite contemporary artist Ryan Ramirez.  She has danced for her life a few times now, but I hope she snaps out of it.  I think she is dreamy and I don’t want to see her go home.

Well it is painfully obvious that Melanie Moore and Marko Germar is the couple to beat.  I also believe that Marko lucked out, because my Atlanta girl definitely flies that particular plane.  Once again they did not disappoint in a Louie Van Amstel Tango.  They danced like two pieces of chocolate melting into one another.  They executed a stunning lift which resulted with her dripping off the end of the stage.  It ended with Marko pulling her backwards… well… you will just have to see it to believe it. 

Christopher Scott was a mixed bag this evening, earlier he made a piece that was just a little more than mediocre, but he was able to pull it together for Clarice Ordaz and Jesse LeProtto.  They told a simple yet beautiful story about the insecurities of women and the men that love them just the way they are.  The feel of the movement vocabulary was a good balance of sharp and oozy, and the dancers were connected as any two lovers should be.  The best way to describe the performance is, really stinkin’ sweet, and a smile creeps up on my face every time I watch it.

I’ve already spoken about two of my favorite ladies and I cannot leave out the third.  Yes, the powerhouse I speak of is Sasha Mallory.  With partner Alexander Frost they teamed up with Tyce Diorio for a barefoot jazz number.  It was sexy and hard with strong drops.  They had a fun desperation for each other, and the only words that resonated in my mind were, “Wham, Bam, Pow.”

In this show all the couples got to perform twice.  Of course the last highlight of the evening was good old Melanie and Marko doing a Dee Caspery contemporary piece, later deemed by Jesse Tyler Ferguson “the moth dance”.  The set
included a single lonely light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and the dancers had mixed feelings about it.  Melanie’s character was drawn to the light but Marko’s was skeptical and unsure.  In the end the bulb remained a mysterious entity as Marko gently drags Melanie away.  The whole piece left me wanting more, in a good way.  It made me feel as though a poignant experience had been missed, but the taffy tension between the two performers was perfect.   Thank the almighty spirits for Dee, he is definitely an asset to the show.  I agree with Sonya when she said, she is so, “…grateful that this is the future of dance.”

Thursday was inevitably around the corner.  SYTYCD went through the whole ceremony of grand opening numbers, some guest artists, whittling it down to 6 endangered dancers and having them dance for their lives.  After an unimpressive ballet solo, the boy sent home was Alexander Frost.  It upsets me to report, that being in the bottom six a few times did get the best of Ryan Ramirez.  She was also eliminated.  The heart breaking part is that they will not be performing with the rest of the dancers in the So You Think You Can Dance national tour.

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