BY KATHY LALUK
This week’s opening routine was like something out of a Charlie Chaplin nightmare. The girls and guys were indistinguishable from one another, each clad in a loose fitting suit, bowler cap, and mustache. The routine was filled with lots of nice smaller moments – the guys lifting the girls on develepe and at least one of the dancers had a lovely spinning stag leap – but I didn’t feel like the routine had a good sense of direction. There was also a red umbrella they were passing around (at least I think there was one), but it didn’t seem to have a purpose, symbolic or otherwise. Tyce DiOrio choreographed the routine.
This week the third judging seat was filled by Christina Applegate. She’s got a few Broadway credits to her name, so she can at least recognize dancing, but I think there are probably more qualified options. If you’re judging something, I want you to know what you’re talking about. Or at least be funny. Christina didn’t provide any intelligent critiques all night. In fact, there were moments she was – dare I say it? – worse than Lil’ C.
George & Tiffany started off the night with a Nappytabs hip-hop routine about adventures in babysitting. Their married choreographers clearly have baby on the brain (seriously, Tabitha looks like she’s about read to pop). It started off with the two “babysitters” going crazy as soon as they heard the baby’s cries. The routine was set to “Out of My Mind” by B.oB. feat. Nicki Minaj and had some serious popping. The two started on the floor, gradually popping their way upright – all the time, perfectly in sync. At one point, George got behind Tiffany, controlling her every move. It was impressive how on point they were, considering they got punk’d by wardrobe with those ill-fitting neon pants. Nigel called out Nappytabs for getting too light with their hip-hop (although admittedly this routine had more popping than Nappytabs’ last dozen or so routines combined). Christina’s critique was that on the slower parts the dancers got “soupier” (“is that a thing?” she asked Nigel) and then she said something about “X” marking the spot. I’m sorry, Christina, but you’re going to need to do better than that. This is why we need true dance experts, not celebs to judge this show.
Amber & Brandon had a major challenge this week. As first-time partners, they had to bring some steamy chemistry to a Ray Lepper jazz routine about a couple in the South in the summer – and it was hot. Amber’s extension is simply sensational. I don’t think there’s a way that girl can’t bend. I loved the moment when she was picking herself up from a floor spin and Brandon slid the chair from across the stage and it ended up under her butt. There were a few moments where the routine missed it, though. Toward the end, there didn’t seem to be any moves planned; they kind of just seemed to be making it up on the spot. Brandon partnered her well, but he was largely invisible to me. The judges praised Amber, but ignored him. Nigel called it “baby-making choreography.” Oookay. Nigel also warned Brandon to watch his shoulders (agreed). He tenses up too much, and that sends his shoulders into his ears. Not good for dance.
Apparently Janelle likes to write raps and Dareian is a daredevil. It didn’t matter what they said, because their choreographer this week was Pasha! Thank you, dance gods. You’ve clearly been listening to my prayers. Unfortunately, not even a prayer could save these two in their routine, set to, I shit you not, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson. That song was fun for about 10 seconds … like two months ago. Now it’s like a cockroach, living in the proverbial apartment of the world’s mind, and it refuses to die. ENOUGH. I was somewhat distracted by how poorly that poppy tune fit a cha-cha routine. I wanted some spicy latin flavor. Instead, Janelle and Daeian gave us a big, messy bowl of bland grits. Their footwork was too turned in (Mary picked right up on that) and they struggled with the transitions. Their hand connections were so sloppy, it was almost as if their hands were covered in butter and they couldn’t get a grip on one another. On top of that, they were both trying WAY too hard to be sexy (although that might have had something to do with their teacher), but not with one another. Mary slammed their lack of chemistry, footwork, carriage — basically everything. Christina shrugged it off saying it wasn’t their genre. Christina, sweetie, that’s the whole point of this show: to challenge dancers to excel in styles other than their own. These two could be in trouble.
Lindsay & Cole got gorgeous a Mandy Moore contemporary routine that they threw themselves into. Lindsay reached new heights with her arabesque on point before collapsing into Cole’s arms. I got chills. She was the unquestionable star of this routine. It seemed almost super-human the way she floated into the air on her leaps. Cole was no slouch either. On that grand jete in second, his extension was flawless. Every move with him seems so perfectly placed, any dancer would envy him. I loved the way they lit the stage for this, too. As the two dancers floated across the stage, their shadows danced behind them on the walls. Simply incredible. Nigel called Cole’s dancing “meticulous” and all the judges agreed Lindsay was a revelation this week.
During rehearsals, Mandy Moore tried to steal Will away from Amelia. The two danced a jazz routine about how opposites attract set to “You” by The Creatures. The moves for this number were more angular than some of the couple’s previous work. They were in-sync overall, and there were a few “wow” moments – I loved it when Will grabbed Amelia’s ankles, hanging her upside-down from his shoulders and spun her ‘round – but this wasn’t their strongest week. I’ll say this much, though: kudos to Amelia for being able to dance a jazz number in those 4” heels – damn! Christina started off judging by telling Will and Amelia how amazing the routine was. Nigel quickly contradicted her, scolding the pair for not connecting with one another. There are differing opinions, but Applegate was unable to string a sentence together for most of the night. Mary took the middle of the road, saying it was good, just not as good as some of the other routines they’ve done so far. Largely, I’d agree.
Matthew & Audrey got a salsa with new choreographer Liz Lira. They seemed to be faring pretty well in rehearsals, until they got to the tricks. I was a bit nervous for this, because these two have been the couple to beat in my mind so far. They stumbled this week. The costuming proved that even hotties like Matthew can’t pull off a shocking red full body suit slit down to the navel. The dancing wasn’t much better. The whole routine felt lethargic and lackluster. The pot stir Audrey did at the beginning slowed them down. Matthew seemed to always be thinking about the next step, and he let it show. That’s a big no-no in dance performance. The judges tore them a new one, too. I think these two have a strong following, but I could see them landing in the bottom. That said, I don’t think the judges will send them home unless they really botch next week’s routines.
Witney & Chehon took on a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine about two people who love one another but circumstances get in the way. The routine was set to “I Will Always Love You” by the late Whitney Houston (that still feels strange to write). The pressure was on for Witney, whose parents named her after the iconic singer. Witney seemed to grab onto a moment in time and hold onto it with her slightly forward-leaning arabesque. Just when it looked like she couldn’t hold on any longer, Chehon was right there to catch her. They cut the song to get to the climax a little too soon for me. I would have liked to see the pair struggle with this forbidden love a bit longer before getting to that moment, but it was incredible. Witney dove at Chehon, who threw her spinning into the air and then caught her, as she draped herself perfectly across his body. Wow. The pair got a standing ovation from the judges and Nigel called it “flawless.”
Cyrus & Eliana got a customized hip-hop routine from Nappytabs about a ballerina from a jewelry box corrupted by a robot. Strange as the concept sounded, it kind of worked. Set to a slower version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” the number featured great partner work. There were times when Cyrus would start an arm isolation, and Eliana would seemingly finish her sentences. When it was sharp, he was spot-on, but Eliana killed it when it came to swag. It’s probably not a good sign when a hip-hop dancer gets outdone in his own style by a ballerina, but that didn’t stop the judges from fawning over Cyrus. I don’t get it with this guy. I mean, the is the king of the robot, but that move is so 10 years ago, and it’s about the only thing he’s good at. And every time he doesn’t do well in a style, they chalk it up to “not being his style.” That’s bullshit. This show is about excelling at styles other than your own. And he hasn’t yet. Christina was the voice of reason this time, warning him to prepare for contemporary soon or he could be in trouble.
Elimination time, and once again, there were few surprises for me. Amber, Lindsay, and Eliana landed in the bottom for the girls, and George, Brandon, and Dareian were in danger of going home on the guys’ side. Unfortunately with the new format, even though these dancers bombed last week, they all redeemed themselves this week. Lindsay was lukewarm in the dentist routine, but brilliant at tonight’s contemporary routine; Eliana struggled through a jive last week, but bucked up (see what I did there?) with her hip-hop number tonight. I thought Amber sizzled in last week’s tango (with no help from her partner) and she was hot again tonight. Surprised to see her land in the bottom this week – it seemed like her star was just starting to rise.
I thought George’s foxtrot was perfection last week and he was good again tonight. Not sure how he landed in the bottom. Dareian botched it both weeks for me, and Brandon is largely forgettable. I didn’t even remember what routine he did last week (it was the Broadway bookworms-on-a-bench number with Janaya, who got axed last week).
The judges asked four of the dancers to dancer solos: Amber, Eliana, Brandon, and Dareian. Amber’s solo showed off her incredible extension, but it felt like a series of moves, not a routine. Like I’ve said before, a good dancer does not a good choreographer make. She did get great height on her leaps and her center was nice, but the number dragged on. Stepper Brandon had a lot of fun with the routine, but it didn’t include much stepping. It was mostly him wiggling his hips. He’d do a few short sequences of stepping, but then stop and make some ridiculous face. Not so buck.
Eliana went sans-toe shoes, but decided to dance in hot pink spandex pants (eek!). She’s got gorgeous control of her movement though, pirouetting and arabesquing all over the place. Her hands felt a little sloppy at times, but overall, not a bad solo. Dareian seemed to always be falling, and it didn’t feel as controlled as it should have been. His center is stunning though. I’m pretty sure his pirouette count at the end was close to a hundred or so.
The special guest dancers tonight were from Alvin Ailey Dance performing a routine called “The Hunt.” I’m a huge Alvin Ailey fan. That company does some absolutely incredible dancing, but tonight’s routine didn’t do it for me. It featured six guys shirtless (yes, honey), but in big black skirts with red undersides (no, honey). The routine had strong warrior-like hand combat-style moves with a mish-mosh of other sporadic leaps and such. The tribal circle was cool, but then the music stopped all together, the men paired off and started tangoing. I didn’t totally get it. I will say this much though, as much as I didn’t like the routine, their technique is breathtaking.
Nigel started off saying that each of the dancers got a lot of votes, but not enough. The judges were surprised all three of the girls ended up in the bottom 3, and I agree. Ultimately, they ended up sending Amber home. So sad they had to get rid of one of these three, because Amber was brilliant tonight and didn’t deserve to go out like this. For the guys, Nigel seemed less sincere about being bummed about the guys being in the bottom three, and ultimately, they decided to eliminate Brandon. I think that was the right call. So sad to see Amber go. That’s bullshit, America. You’ve got two weeks to think about it though, as the show is taking a break during the Olympics. “So You Think You Can Dance” resumes August 8. See you then!