Friday, August 8, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance S11E11

First off, so sorry it's taken me so long to get this review up. Thursday was my birthday, so I've been having a very busy week with friends, and I didn't even get around to watching the episode until today. But either way, here we are at the 11th episode of this 11th season of SYTYCD and with it, we get to look at our Top 10 and their first routines with the All Stars, so without further adieu let's get down to it.

The night opens with a group number that I think perfectly set the tone for the night to follow: Fun! It's fast, its adorable, everyone gets a bit of the spotlight and some time to shine, and I loved every minute of it. Including the costuming which I couldn't say enough good things about. It was just a wonderful way to kick off the night where we usher in the 10 "best" dancers of the competition and bring out the all stars.

Once we get that out of the way and we're introduced to our judges (Tara Lipinski is the guest judge this week, and she's actually a lot better than I thought she'd be), Cat informs us that the results are going to be handled differently. The dancers will each get their results at the end of each performance. Because America is deciding who stays and who goes without any input from the judges, there's really no point in telling the dancer's who's in danger before they dance. Nothing they do during the routines will be able to save them anyway. So unlike in the weeks leading up to this, the knowledge of who's in danger is purely formality. In general, I like this outlook, and I like the way it helped us to get right into the dancing, but the only drawback to doing results in this fashion is that after the dancers have danced and gotten great feedback, the moment is then ground to a screeching halt as Cat has to tell them if they're safe or not. So while this move improves the momentum of the show leading into the first routine of the night, it also has the ability to derail that momentum right at the end of the judges' feedback.

But there's nothing to be done about that, so let's get down to business with the first routine of the night: Bridget and Brandon dancing a cool hybrid Disco and Bollywood routine. If the theme of the night is Fun, then this routine started us off on exactly the right foot. I thought it was an interesting and really great fusion of styles. The ending result is a routine that lacks the typical number of lifts we get from a Disco routine, but managed to make the lifts it did feature really count in terms of strength and athleticism. I thought Bridget did a great job of keeping up with Brandon, and it actually wasn't until I watched the performance through for a second time that I realized he fell on the last acrobatic trick of the routine while she pulled it off well. So in that sense, at least, she might have even out performed her All Star. After the fun routine and glowing praise from the judges, Bridget is informed that she's the first girl in the bottom two. It's a clear let down and sucks some of the energy out of the room and out of the performance, but there you have it.

Tanisha and Ryan follow up with an Argentine Tango which happens to be fun and ridiculously sexy at the same time. Tanisha is the last Ballroom dancer in the competition. As such, it's almost as if she has to carry the mantle all on her own after a season that seemed poised to be the first Ballroom dominated season we've had in quite some time.  Tanisha effortlessly keeps up with Ryan and matches his skill level and his passion. Ryan's strength is also well on display here as he moves her through some of the most intense and crazy lifts I think we've seen thus far. Anyone who doubted that Rudy was holding Tanisha back from being able to shine to her fullest extent need only watch this performance. None of what we saw from these two would have been possible if she had still been dancing with Rudy instead of Ryan. Tanisha has quickly established herself as one of the strongest girls in the competition.

The night progresses to Emilio and Jasmine's amazing Hip Hop number from the returned NappyTabs. With a story about a king and his pet snake who actually is scheming to try and steal the throne, this is easily the best Hip Hop routine we've seen on the show this season. Emilio is perfectly in his element and he shines as you would expect him to. He's also well aided by the sheer perfection that is Jasmine, and the fun and exuberance that is NappyTabs' brand of choreography. If there's one thing I could say to detract from this performance at all, it would be that for certain stretches of time, I couldn't take my eyes off of Jasmine. But whether that has to do with a failing on Emilio's part or just because I've been in love with Jasmine from day one remains to be seen. After another perfect and glowing review from the judges, Cat tells us that Emilio is the first boy in the bottom two. Clearly America didn't enjoy the Soul Stealing number from last week as Bridget and Emilio find themselves in trouble early on.

The first hiccup of the night comes from Valarie and Ade's Jazz number. I think we can start by pointing out that Valarie is slightly hampered here by yet another uninspired and unoriginal piece of choreography from Tyce. But on the other hand, I also think there's something to be commended in the way Tyce seems to want to challenge her to step outside of herself and play a character that's really the opposite of who she is. Versatility is very important in this competition and as a dancer in general. This is to say versatility as a dancer and as a performer too, and it's the latter that Valarie lacks. I've loved Ricky since day one, and I enjoyed the majority of he and Valarie's performances, but they weren't ever a couple I felt sad to see split up and this is why. While Ricky is elevated by his All Star, Valarie is overshadowed by Ade. She doesn't get into the character, she can't sell the emotion, and as a result the performance fails. It's also a glaring misstep in what was until this point a fairly perfect night. Valarie is safe this week, but I'm guessing she won't be so lucky next week.

Rudy pairs with Jenna for a Cha Cha and.... yeah that happened I guess. I don't know what more I can say about Rudy that I haven't already said. While I'm willing to concede that he certainly danced well in the weeks leading up to forming the Top 10, I still don't think he's talented enough to be here, and this week I feel as though that showed. The confusing thing to me is I've officially found myself in a position whereby I'm totally incapable of telling if it's my own personal bias against him that's coloring my view, or if he really just isn't dancing well enough. But either way, I wasn't impressed with the Cha Cha at all. I didn't find it sexy, I didn't feel any chemistry between him and Jenna, and I wasn't captivated by it. Moreover, I find the faces he constantly makes to the camera to be distracting and a false affectation, and his demeanor during the judging feels forced and fake to me. Compared to Ricky's banter with Cat later on, it looks like someone trying hard to have some kind of personality that he doesn't have otherwise. But of course he's safe, and if the judges' kid gloves this week is any indication, he'll be safe again next week. I mean, really, Nigel doesn't even say a single word about the dance routine, he simply talks about Rudy's personality and performance, and I'm over it. I'm officially guessing Rudy will be in the finale going up against Ricky, and here's hoping talent wins out on that night.

The second fusion number of the night is Jacque and Chehon's Contemporary and Ballet piece from Travis Wall. I wish it was possible to put the beauty and perfection of this number into words, but it really isn't. This was a number that simply couldn't have been danced nearly as well by any other two dancers. Nigel points out the direction of the performance and the way their shadow's were perfectly in frame in the background the entire time, and he couldn't be more right. I don't think the direction of these numbers gets enough attention, but this is a number that demands attention. I had goosebumps from beginning to end on this one. Jacque is the second girl in the bottom, but I'm honestly hoping she doesn't find herself there again after this. I suspected that she'd really shine with the All Stars (not that she didn't also shine with Zack) and this week proves that's highly probable. So I hope she sticks around for awhile.

Ricky is paired with Lauren for a Jazz number. Again we see a great dancer elevate his game for the Top 10. I think Ricky dances it really well, he keeps up with Lauren effortlessly, and embodies Mandy's odd quality of movement well. But with that being said, this wasn't my favorite Ricky performance. So much of that is because I'm just not really into Mandy's choreography here. It's oddly nondescript and just kind of there. I think it's a lot fun (there's that word again), and to his credit I think it didn't matter that he was dancing with an All Star (a previous winner no less) because I thought he would have been equally amazing with anyone. So while it seems like he elevates his game here, I think he's just been at all star level all along. Either way, he's wonderful and perfect, and I love everything about this kid.

Casey and Kathryn are brought together for a Broadway number and it's a very interesting affair. I think that Casey fought hard last week and elevated his game to find himself in the top 10 this week. He earned his spot, there's no doubt about that, but the odd thing is that I think he had to kick his game up last week in order to find himself on equal footing with the boys. In a week when everyone had to elevate a little higher than they were last week, Casey is leg behind. By which I mean had this routine been danced in this fashion a week ago, I'd be raving about it, but it being danced here just makes it feel like the junior partner. Casey lacks the technical skill of Ricky (no matter what Nigel says to the contrary), and the personality and perceived personality of Zack and Rudy. As such, I don't know what his place is in the competition. His stellar performance last week earns him a place in the Top 8, but I'll be slightly surprised if he makes it farther than that.

Jessica and tWitch get the second Hip Hop number from NappyTabs. Jessica also earned her way into the Top 10 with her dancing with Casey last week, but I think she might have punched her ticket to the finale this week. I pointed out the oddity that has been Jessica's messy partnering situation last week while suggesting that she needed to be with the perfect partner and in her own style in order to shine. I think I was half right; when she's found herself with Ricky, Casey, and now tWitch, she's been at her best. She can do other styles wonderfully well, as this week shows, but she does seem to be the kind of contestant that'll dance up or down to her partner. Given that the rest of the competition will see her dancing with All Stars, I think this bodes well for her. If she can deliver this kind of fun every week, then there's no doubt that she's here to say. Tanisha, Jessica, and Jacque seem to be the girls distancing themselves from the others. Or at least they're the three who's names are easily remembered, which is saying something.

Since it was revealed that Casey was safe back on his performance, the writing is on the wall that Zack is the boy in the bottom two with Emilio. This makes him the only contestant to know he's in danger before he takes the stage. He's joined by last season's winner Amy in a Sonya Tayeh Contemporary number that's designed to grab votes and sympathies. It's about a friend that died suddenly. Zack is playing said friend while Amy plays the part of the girl who misses and grieves for him. It's an obvious tearjerker performance the likes of which we've seen many times on this show, but it's no less affecting and perfect because of that. Zack dances with a powerful kind of somber poise that is moving and chilling at the same time. I've never hidden the fact that Zack is my second favorite guy this season, and my guess is that with the group so stacked with talented boys, he finds himself in the bottom this week simply because someone had to be. It's going to be tough from this point forward as guys are in danger and sent home not through any lack of their own but simply because someone has to go until we reach the (seemingly) inevitable Ricky/Rudy showdown at the end. But I will say that if Rudy does indeed outlast Zack this season, it'll be a real travesty.

In the end, Bridget and Emilio are sent home and while I'm disappointed to see Emilio go (he was certainly the third guy on my list of the best boys this season), I also recognize that the cuts are just going to get harder and harder on the guys going forward. The longer the judges continue to play like Rudy is the best thing since sliced bread, the more likely it is that we'll see more deserving talent fall in his wake. I think Jessica, Jacque, and Tanisha are at least the three best girls, but where we go from there is beyond me. As such, my expectation is that Valarie and Casey go home next week, but we'll see.

Stray Observations:

--Oliver is back over on AV Club this week, and his review, as always, is well worth taking a look at.

--Also about Oliver's review: he points out that we're only having one winner this year instead of one guy and one girl. I don't remember anyone saying that, but I have no reason to doubt him on this either. If it is indeed the case, then I have to say I'm really happy about it. One winner is the way it always should have been.

--Did anyone else get a slight Pee Wee Herman vibe from Ricky's performance tonight?

--I don't generally talk about the guest performances on here, but this week featured something I've wanted to see on the show for a long time: a musical guest accompanied by a pair of dancers. Christina Perri's singing left something to be desired, but I thought that Chehon and Kathryn's dancing was almost worth it.

--Nigel mentions that next week will be the Michael Jackson tribute episode I've been wanting them to do for years and years now, so I can't help but to be excited for this. But on the other hand, their tribute episodes tend to be a hot mess, so maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up?


  1. a) Brandon is a terrific contemporary dancer with great range. Why is he stuck doing disco all the frickin time? Bollywood Disco struck me as an odd fusion, though I'm a fan of more explicitly fusion dances. I knew Bridget would be gone as soon as she was paired with him, though.

    b) Tanisha and Ryan were smoking hot. Ryan was really underrated his season because of how he got to the finale (arguably) and he is really terrific in his own style. Also, he kinda shows up that the show's age limit is silly. So glad she was safe.

    c) Right there with you on Jasmine. I think one of the harder things about the all-star pairings to work around is that the choreographers can want to showcase them more than the "new" dancer, because of just how good they are. It's virtually impossible for anyone not to be outdanced by Jasmine, who's hip-hop performances in season ten were better than anything done by the hip-hoppers (seriously, that Girls number?). Emilio was quite good, but there was nothing he could do to pull focus back.

    d) I didn't dislike Valerie's performance all that much, but I do not like Tyce's work so.....

    e) Rudy? I think we'll be lucky if he doesn't win. I've already said my piece on why I believe that.

    f) Casey is a really interesting dancer for me inasmuch as I think he showcases one of the flaws of this show's obsession with youth. Not one female dancer in the top twenty last season was older than 19! Tucker was the oldest guy at that ripe age of 24. Now, so many of these young dancers are insanely talented and should be on the show, but someone like Casey... can you imagine how good he'd be in five or six years? With more musicality (he totally missed that "Maybe this Time" is a raging lament of a song) and individuality he would've been a force, I can watch his technique for days, though.

    g) I loved Ricky's performance and thought that the choreography was a light, playful bit from Mandy Moore. But I'm curious if it's enough with Rudy seemingly grabbing all votes from everywhere and

    h) Jessica didn't impress me all that much, but Twitch is such a generous dancer.

    i) Jacque and Zach were my favourite couple (if not my favourite dancers individually) and they were arresting apart. Both dancers had real moments and I'd be floored if these two dances weren't on the performance finale.

  2. "g) I loved Ricky's performance and thought that the choreography was a light, playful bit from Mandy Moore. But I'm curious if it's enough with Rudy seemingly grabbing all votes from everywhere and "

    and... Zack's moment. Casey is likely in the bottom two, but who joins him? If we're lucky, it's Ricky with Casey going home. Ricky's fans get shocked into voting and Ricky wins. If we're REALLY lucky, it's Rudy and he goes home.

    1. I'm hoping it is Rudy in the bottom with Casey. But I'm not dumb enough to expect it. I would be happy to see a situation in which it was Rudy's fans who weren't strong enough to keep him from the bottom this week, but I don't think anything can save Casey at this point. I agree that Jacque and Zack's performances should be featured again in the finale. I'm surprised I forgot to say so.

  3. So, I guess we're really lucky. I haven't seen the episode yet, though, but really lucky indeed.

    Ricky and Zack would be the strongest top two guys since Russell and Jakob; please let this happen.

    1. Truthfully, if you haven't watched it yet, you certainly should. It was brilliant.