Reality Rocks - Archive

‘So You Think You Can Dance’: Electric Six

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Well, the stakes were nail-nibblingly high tonight, SYTYCD fans. Tonight's competition determined which four dancers will ultimately make it through to next week's finale, and chief judge Nigel Lythgoe put the pressure on by griping that "no one is popping this season" a la past standouts (Benji, Twitch, even Gev).

I, of course, could not have disagreed more. Kayla is pure "white lightning" every time she hits the stage. Brandon is a "racehorse." Jeanine is a total hot tamale; Ade is an Olympian athlete; Melissa stands out as the all-time oldest SYTYCD contestant and the only traditionally trained ballerina to make it this far on the show. And even Evan, who lately has gotten a lot of flak from both judges and viewers who seem to think it's his time to go, has brought a style and spark and zing to So You Think You Can Dance never seen before. How could Nigel claim none of these dancers are "popping"?

However, I did agree with Nigel on his other point. "The public is often voting on the choreography, on which routine they like best," Nigel said. Let's face it, that's true. I actually believe the biggest stars to come out of the show, the ones that really "pop," have been the choreographers, like Tyce Diorio, Sonya Tayeh, Tabitha & Napoleon, and of course Mia Michaels. And it was, say, the "cancer dance" or the "addiction" routine that probably saved dancers like Melissa and Kupono, respectively, during particularly competitive past weeks. (While both routines were executed flawlessly by the assigned contestants, it was still the choreography itself that won viewers' hearts and votes.) So Nigel advised the top six tonight: "They've got to become stars, otherwise the public will vote for the routine." Good advice, indeed.

That being said, there were eight awesome routines tonight (not counting solos): six duo numbers, plus a quirky Willy Wonka-inspired boys' routine and a dynamic Aeon Flux-esque superheroine dance for the three girls (bet the fanboys loved that one). The two group dances, both masterminded by Sonya Tayeh, showcased all the dancers at their best, even Evan, who totally kept up--although guest judge Lil' C's typically verbose comment to Evan ("Allow me to commend you for not getting swallowed by the dominant excellence of Ade and Brandon!") seemed like a backhanded "compliment" if ever I'd heard one.

But as excellent as the group routines and solos were (especially Brandon's solo, which Nigel declared one of the best in the series' history), we all know the viewers' votes are always based chiefly on the couples' dances. So this week I have concentrated on those dances, by ranking the three newly configured couples from my favorite to least favorite. Here goes:

 

Brandon & Kayla

Huzzah! My favorite boy and favorite girl of the top six, together at last! Nigel told them tonight, "I would have liked to see the pair of you dance together sooner," and this was another one of his points I wholeheartedly agreed with. I even kind of agreed with the often indecipherable Lil' C, when he told Kayla: "I felt everyone you were paired with before was at a disadvantage because you're such a beast...this is the first time you were equally matched." (Well, I thought my old favorite Kupono was a good match for Kayla, actually. But I understood what Lil' was trying to say: that these two formed quite a power couple tonight.)

For their first number of the evening, Brandon and Kayla were assigned a spectacular contemporary number by So You Think You Can Dance Canada import Stacey Tookey, set to "All I Want" by the Ahn Trio. In this routine, Kayla portrayed the distraught mistress of married man Brandon, and she seemed to dig up the same emotions displayed in her aforementioned "addiction" routine with Kupono, in which she played a similar role of a hapless female victim unable to escape from a dominant, callous male. This dance--which also sort of reminded me of the fantastic "traveling businessman" routine by Mark and Chelsea last season--had sooooo many wonderful moments, not the least of which was when Kayla expertly ripped off Brandon's breakaway button-down to reveal the impossibly sinewy Greek-god torso underneath. (Dance does a body good--Kayla didn't look too shabby in her red lace "other woman" teddy, either.) Lil' C called this number "beyond intense, and beyond amazing," and fellow fudge Mary Murphy said it was "absolutely exquisite." Judging from the thunderous applause, the studio audience agreed. As did I!

For their second dance, Brandon and Kayla did a "circus disco" choreographed by Doriana Sanchez that was even more difficult than the warp-speed Doriana disco number Brandon danced with Janette earlier this season. Brandon apparently did pushups to build his stamina all week long, but he was still winded by this routine's end, and understandably so. ("Are you alive?" concerned hostess Cat Deeley asked him, to which he answered flatly, "No." Kayla then wheezed, "I can't breathe!") But all their hard work and hyperventilation paid off. This was SUCH a freakin' fun routine, it made me want to put on some platform shoes and dance along with them to Sylvester's "Dance (Disco Heat)" all around my living room. But of course, I never would have been able to pull off Brandon and Kayla's double-death drop. Hell, I couldn't do a single-death drop, without probably risking actual death.

Speaking of being out of breath, this disco dance inspired Lil' C's wordiest speech of the night. "Being out of your comfort zone represents unfamiliarity, and it also represents darkness. And when faced with certain challenges, you have to go and befriend the characteristics of your challenge," he began cryptically. "You have to go and see the music. And you have to see certain pieces of music with your ears. And when you see with your ears, there is no darkness. And I saw no darkness within this routine." Um...I guess that means he liked it, right? I personally preferred Nigel's critique, which got right to the point when he did the UNTHINKABLE: launched into a Mary Murphy impression by jumping out of his chair and screaming as if he was being run over by the Hot Tamale Train! Woooo!

 

Ade & Jeanine

I knew this would be a good pairing too, since Ade and Jeanine are the two feistiest contestants in the top six. For their first routine they did a samba choreographed by Louis Van Amstel, and I absolutely loved that it was soundtracked by Lady Gaga's "Lovegame"--only on So You Think You Can Dance would that happen! Ade was back in his "ball-room" pants (heh heh), another wise wardrobe choice that showed off another finely honed dancer's physique. While I didn't think this dance was the best either contestant had done during the course of this competition, I did think they pulled it off, and that they both had great moments (when Jeanine backed that thing up, sassily jutting her backside up against Ade, I could practically hear the Hot Tamale Train's whistle screeching in the background.)

I did think the judges were unusually harsh on this couple here. Mary criticized Ade's heel-rolls and said the overall routine "looked so novice to me." Lil' C said: "I actually was excited when I heard about this partnership...I was hoping to get an explosion of excellence, but it really fell short for me....Ade, you were frolicking and I didn't want you to frolic, I wanted you to get down." I just thought this was another explosion of words from Lil' C, and I ignored him.

Luckily for them, Ade and Jeanine's second routine was one of the best of night and fully redeemed them in the judges' eyes. A Tabitha & Napoleon hip-hop number set to Mims' "Move," it could have been really tough for them to pull off. It was rather slow, and midtempo hip-hop doesn't always get the crowd going or keep the momentum up if not done properly; it required acting, as it had a storyline about two urban urchins being evicted from their tenement; it had a "double-dutch" segment in which Jeanine had to jump-rope with Ade's long legs while carefully avoiding his "family jewels"; and on top of all that, at one point they had to dance with cardboard boxes on their feet. Such props were even more cumbersome than the shackles Jeanine had to wear during her hip-hop number with Phillip earlier this season! But these two delivered every step of the way. It was, to quote Lil' C, totally bucc.

And to further quote Lil' C, he was quite garrulous following this routine, a sure sign that it was superb. (It seems the more Lil' babbles, the more flattered the dancers should be.) Lil' started by saying, "I wish moving was always that fun! I'd relocate every day!" Then he continued: "Ade, you have a real dirty kind of groove about yourself and it's real earthy, but I feel you don't utilize it much of the time [until now]...You pulled Jeanine down to the depths of the dirt with you!" Meanwhile, Mary predicted Ade and Melissa would be in the finale, saying: "I have a feeling that you two will not be getting an eviction notice after that performance!" And Nigel, sounding oh so British, declared, "You got down"! Phrases like that always sound odd coming from Nigel, but hey, it was positive feeback, and no odder than anything Lil' C said.

 

Evan & Melissa

While there's no one on this show that isn't a formidable talent, and no one that doesn't deserve a place on this program and on the SYTYCD tour, I have to say I think these are the two dancers who should probably go home this week, as amazing as they both are. While both have adapted admirably and unexpectedly well to genres way outside their specialty styles (Broadway for Evan, ballet for Melissa), at this point in the game they're just not as strong, well-rounded, and diverse as the other four. It pains me to say that, as they are both so gifted...but this season has been the stiffest competition yet, and it's especially stiff now, in the all-important pre-finale week.

I admit I almost suspected that the show's producers had deliberately fixed the competition this evening by pairing up Melissa and Evan, given their respective limitations, in some sort of attempt to handicap them and get them voted off. But then I wondered if the show's producers had tried to rig it in their favor by giving this couple a Tyce Diorio Broadway dance, to My Fair Lady's "Get Me To The Church On Time," for their first routine. Evan was obviously totally in his element, doing "my kind of Broadway: big flashy smiles, jazz hands!" Tyce even declared Evan "the dream man for this style."

It was definitely a cute routine, with Evan and Melissa cast as an engaged couple that oversleeps and has to rush in a panic to their wedding. Evan was adorably expressive, facially, throughout--proving once and for all that his "heavy eyelids" do not hinder his dancing in any way. (Take that, Nigel!) But Evan's outfit--boxer shorts and grandfatherly sock suspenders--was distracting and not quite as visually appealing as the hot himbo outfits Ade and Brandon got to wear tonight. ("It's hard for me to take you seriously in your underwear," Mary told him.) Melissa looked a lot lovelier in bridal lingerie, complete with a much sexier type of stocking garter, and more importantly, she totally kept up with Evan every step of the way.

But in the end, as cute as this routine was, it didn't quite have the wow factor of some of the other dances this evening. Said a disappointed Lil' C: "I expected so much because I know how amazing you are, Evan...You could have shot and aimed for excellence." The other judges were a little more enthusiastic. Mary said: "This could be 'Get Me To The Finale On Time'!" Nigel conceded that this wasn't the most technically demanding routine of tonight's episode, and that it all came down to their personalities--but that both dancers completely delivered in that department.

When it came time for Evan and Melissa's second routine, I once again wondered if they'd been set up. Because, you see, they'd been given what Cat called "the dreaded quickstep." Not only is the quickstep one of the kiss-of-death dances on this show, but it's especially challenging for dancers of such different heights. (Evan is basically an elf.) But choreographer Louis Van Amstel somehow cleverly managed to create the illusion that Melissa was much shorter than Evan by basically making her dance in a limbo-style backbend throughout most of the routine, and they did a good job. Good, but not great--as in, it certainly wasn't one of the routines that stood out tonight. Lil' C commended Evan for "dancing bigger than you've ever danced on the show," but then criticized his retractions. Mary complained that the dancers did not maintain their momentum, saying, "Everything started to crumble down" and the number "did not live up to my expectations." Nigel agreed that the energy plummeted about midway through and it was "not one of best routines of night," but then he pointed out that Melissa and Evan are "two of the favorites" on the show, so "who knows what's going to happen?"

Who knows, indeed. I do think it's Evan and Melissa's time to go--the idea of Ade, Brandon, Kayla, and Jeanine not being in next week's finale is utterly unfathomable to me. But Evan is the only male left on the show who's never been in the bottom before, so clearly he has a devoted fanbase. So there could be an "upset" with either Brandon or Ade going home tomorrow night instead. As for the girls, all three have been in the bottom at one time or another, so that elimination is a real tossup.

But whoever goes home, it's going to be a sad Thursday indeed. Parker out.

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