Yes! It’s time to get into the real competition and my favorite part of this show: awesome partnerships performing amazing choreography. There were some costuming and makeup issues with the meet the top 20 episode that made me nervous for the season, like making the two already young and tiny jazz dancers look twelve or doing Amelia up like she just came out of a Tim Burton movie. Luckily, everything went better this week and now I’m pretty stoked for the rest of the season.
Quick note: my ratings for the dances are based on my impression of the routine overall, not necessarily just the dancers. I may take into account how much I like the choreography, costumes/makeup, etc.
Opening Group Routine
Choreographer: Christopher Scott
Christopher Scott usually comes out with interesting, unique choreography and this was no exception. This piece crossed genres and had elements of jazz and contemporary as well as hip-hop. Nigel described it as Mad Men inspired. I definitely got that vibe from the 60s-esque office attire and frantic, dramatic movement surrounding a desk, papers, and coffee cup (ok, if it were really Mad Men it would have been scotch glasses, but whatever). There were a couple of featured dancers. One was Brandon, the stepper. Stepping is awesome but I think it’s difficult to incorporate seamlessly into other styles. Dareian’s million pirouettes later flowed much better with the rest of the piece. Cyrus’ sharp animator style of hip-hop worked really well here. I actually liked this more on the second viewing. The choreography is intentionally a bit frantic, so it wasn’t quite as synchronized as I wanted it to be, but that may not be a bad thing.
Whitney and Chehon
Choreographer: Louis van Amstel
This week’s getting to know you schtick was a 9-second introduction of each of the dancers. I won’t go into their personal fun facts, but if you do happen to watch it, here’s a hint: the bullet points the show makes for them are funnier than what the contestants actually say most of the time. Given that Whitney is a kickass ballroom dancer, we knew she would kill Louis van Amstel’s sexy samba, and she did. Chehon is an incredibly talented ballet dancer, but ballet and ballroom technique are extremely different. It’s not easy to retrain your instincts as a dancer that quickly. Chehon was a little stiff and his footwork was not tight enough. However, he did a solid job partnering Whitney, he moved with a passable level of style, and he looked hot doing it. The judges generally gave him the advice to relax and enjoy it more.
Tiffany and George
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Tiffany’s genre is jazz, George’s is contemporary, and they got Sonya Tayeh for a contemporary routine. Yeah, the piece was about the stars aligning for two people which they pretty much did here. Their connection was beautiful. There were moments where they really did just melt into each other. I wasn’t sure about either of them before but they definitely captured my attention in this.
Janaya and Brandon
Choreographer: Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo
I didn’t have really any kind of expectation for either of them because they were so scarcely featured during the audition process, but I was excited to see the first lyrical hip-hop this season by Napoleon and (pregnant! Aw!) Tabitha. The story was an alcoholic having to choose between his addiction and the woman he loves. Wait, why do I feel like I’ve seen this before? Oh, that’s right, because Napoleon and Tabitha already did this (watch it, it’s awesome) on SYTYCD Australia. Down to the bottle prop. Unfortunately for Janaya and Brandon, it was better the first time. I actually thought they did a pretty good job in terms of working with the choreography they had. Without the bottle and a couple of really obvious and contrived moments (like at the end when she actually points to the bottle asking him to make a choice) the meaning of the piece would not have hit home for me at all. NappyTabs at their best make creative use of props and musicality to tell a very specific story, but at their worst they rely too much on the gimmick and not enough on the movement. The sharp musicality was missing; there were good moments but it felt disjointed. Even the music choice just didn’t fit. That, along with emotion that felt more forced than organic at times from the performers, made it fall flat.
Alexa and Daniel
Choreographer: Sean Cheesman
When I saw that Alexa and Daniel were paired together I thought they would be a major power couple. I liked Daniel’s original audition and Alexa really stood out during the meet the top 20 episode. They were given an extremely difficult and high energy routine. First of all, the bright red costumes were terrible. They somehow managed to invent pants that are unflattering on Alexa of all people (see: drop dead gorgeous). The choreography was too fast for them to connect to each other or the audience in any significant way and they honestly didn’t keep up with it very well. They seemed rushed. They just didn’t have the necessary energy to pull a routine like this off. The best moments were up in the jungle gym prop thing because they were able to perform without looking strained. Hopefully they have more luck next week in terms of costumes and choreography that suit them better.
Amber and Nick
Choreographer: Jason Gilkinson
Style: Viennese Waltz
I have to admit that I’m happy about all the ballroom dancers being given ballroom in week one. This is like Christmas for me. The choreography here was very pretty and Amber looked lovely. Nick did well, but was a little lacking given his ballroom background. His facial expression was a bit strained at times (but he’s so cute and earnest!) and his arm extensions weren’t always quite there. Mary commented on Amber’s technique being less than perfect, but I didn’t really notice. She pulled it off with a lot of grace.
Amelia and Will
Choreographer: Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo
Style: “Hip-hop” (jazz)
These two are obviously adorable but the quotations around “hip-hop” up there are well earned. Instead of actual hip-hop, Napoleon and Tabitha gave them what they call a “character pop.” Uh. It’s basically a jazz number with no hip-hop elements I can place. I like it when choreographers push the envelope of their given genre and draw inspiration from other styles, but I’m not so much a fan of them ignoring the intended style altogether. I mean, they are playing to this couple’s strengths and giving them a routine that can showcase their characters, but it doesn’t show whether they can rise to the challenge of doing something outside their comfort zone. Anyway, it was highly stylized and Amelia and Will fully embraced their roles as slutty cats. It wasn’t hip-hop, but it was pretty awesome.
Janelle and Dareian
Choreographer: Sean Cheesman
Style: African jazz
This was a fun, high-energy dance with a tribal feel. I felt like Dareian had more spring in his step and a deeper feel for the musicality, but they both performed the hell out of it. Aside from that awkward moment where they’re staring at the camera at the end like they want to crawl out of the TV and cannibalize you, I liked it. They were both solid.
Eliana and Cyrus
Choreographer: Tyce Diorio
Ok, here’s the thing. I definitely think Cyrus is a freaking genius at what he does. I actually love that he’s in the top 20 because even though he’s not going to have the versatility of some of the professionally trained dancers, it’s nice to have someone on this show every once in awhile who just has raw talent and is learning like crazy. That’s awesome for him. But it needs to be said: this choreography was way watered down compared to what you’ll normally see on this show. Still, both Eliana and Cyrus put 110% into their performance and it was fun to watch. It was an appropriately cheesy Hairspray-inspired Broadway number. My grade here may be slightly influenced by Tyce Diorio being adorably enthusiastic for Cyrus. You just can’t help but root for that kid!
Audrey and Matthew
Choreographer: Travis Wall
What we have here is Audrey (my early favorite) and Matthew (the Ryan Gosling lookalike) dancing to Unchained Melody. Sold. Travis is smart to give the piece a story and setting (love aboard the Titanic) because it gives viewers something to connect to and makes it more memorable. But what makes it work is that it really doesn’t need that. The movement was expressive and the dancers performed from a place of genuine emotion. I have a crush on Audrey’s feet and control (that does not sound as weird if you’re a dancer). She dances with maturity that makes you forget that she just admitted to being on Team Jacob in the interview (ok, fine, I’m Team Jacob too). The combination of dancers, music, setting, and choreography made for a very beautiful and memorable piece.
Lindsay and Cole
Choreographer: Jason Gilkinson
Style: Paso doble
Uh, this was awesome. In this paso doble, Lindsay represents a poison Cole is trying eradicate from himself rather than the traditional cape to Cole’s bull fighter. Pasos can be pretty intense, which usually means they end up being epic or epic fail. This was definitely the former. Cole’s strength, power, and stage presence were incredible. Lindsey’s sharp movement and the way she was working that skirt were equally impressive. This was definitely the most exciting performance of the night for me. Also, Jason Gilkinson, will you marry me?
My 3 favorite dances: Lindsay and Cole’s paso doble, Audrey and Matthew’s contemporary, Tiffany and George’s contemporary
My Bottom 3 Guys: Nick, Chehon, and Daniel
My Bottom 3 Girls: Janaya, Alexa, and Eliana
I know, it’s kind of crazy to see some of the most amazing technical dancers in my bottom 3 this week, but there were others who definitely outshone them. Also, I really, really hope we see some better hip-hop this year. What do you think? Favorite couples? Who would you put in the bottom 3? I know a lot of this is extremely subjective, so I look forward to seeing some other thoughts and impressions!
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