"So You Think You Can Dance" Season 11 Recap: The Top 10 Perform
The "So You Think You Can Dance" Top 10: By definition, that's a pretty rarefied crowd. At this point in the competition there are no obvious weak links in the contestant lineup, so eliminations are starting to feel...weird. We're invested in all the remaining dancers, which means, to horribly misquote Sheryl Crow, now every cut is the deepest.
The good news? None of these dancers are going down without a fight—and last night's episode included some of the best dancing we've seen this season. Here are my top five highlights from the show.
1. The opening number made "neon cowboys" a thing. I was a tad confused, initially, by Jamal Sims' concept. The dancers were supposed to be "getting a drink at the Last Chance Saloon"—but the Last Chance Saloon is a place where everyone wears highlighter-hued crop tops and carries parasols? Once the whole updated-take-on-the-Wild-West thing clicked, though, the piece was good cheesy fun. I especially liked that it gave each contestant a moment in the sun—even the tappers, who frequently get shafted in group pieces like this. (And Mr. Sims: Props to you, sir, for wearing a neon suit in solidarity with your dancers.)
It's a hip-hop hoedown, y'all.
2. Nappytabs absolutely dominated. Tabitha and Napoleon's absence so far this season had created a gaping hole in my heart—a hole they promptly filled last night with two fantabulous hip-hop routines. First we had Emilio as an Egyptian king alongside Jasmine as a slinky pet snake with royal asp-iriations. I swooned for Emilio's tutting at the opening of the piece—and I love Nappytabs for never being afraid to go on-the-nose literal in the best way possible (tutting for King Tut, naturally!). Next up, the dynamic duo gave us tWitch as an old-fart creeper creepin' on pinup girl Jessica, and my mind pretty much exploded. #grandpatwitch forever. (Maybe the "bench test" should be a way to determine choreographic personality? I.e., give Mia Michaels a bench and she makes this; give Tabitha and Napoleon a bench and they make the world's greatest dirty old man jokes.)
Creepers gonna creep.
3. #TeamBallroom. I think I have a ballroom problem, you guys, and "SYTYCD" is not helping. Tanisha smoldered in her Argentine tango with Ryan; the two of them nailed all of the routine's leg-flicking intricacies. And the lifts that choreographers Leonardo Barrioneuvo and Miriam Larici incorporated? Mind-boggling. (At one point Tanisha balanced on Ryan's neck. His neck!) I was thoroughly impressed by Rudy's ballroom skills in his cha cha with Jenna, too. I'll put it this way: When Jenna is wearing a super-naked hot pink dress trimmed with feathers and yet your eyes still occasionally flicker to Rudy, Rudy is doing a darn good job.
We see you, Rudy!
4. Travis Wall made the show's first-ever contemporary ballet piece, and...don't hate me, but I'm feeling conflicted about it. On the one hand, I'm a ballet freak and a half—in my eyes, anything ballet is always a DO. On the other, much as I love Travis (and think that his routine for the Top 7 guys last week will go down as one of the greatest in "SYT" history), why not choose a choreographer who specializes in contemporary ballet? Where's someone like Dwight Rhoden, whose company literally has "Contemporary Ballet" in its name, when you need him? The piece was successful in some ways; Jacque and Chehon were utterly committed, and I loved the super-dramatic lighting. But I'm not sure what pointe shoes added to the overall picture. This wasn't just a one-off experiment for TWall—he's made work for the Los Angeles Ballet, too—and it's exciting to see his curiosity leading him down different dance paths. My official verdict? Let's all keep a close eye on Ballet Travis.
That lighting, though.
5. Sonya Tayeh dug deep. Sonya began the rehearsal process by telling Zack and Amy that their routine was a tribute to a friend of hers who'd passed away suddenly—and right away, I knew we were in for a teary ride. The resulting work was intense and moving, thanks in part to the beautiful, atmospheric music by Max Richter. While I was touched by how involved Zack and Amy became in the story, I have to admit that the choreography didn't scream "Sonya" to me. It felt strangely...generic. But I think I must just be a grump, because everyone in the audience gave it a big old standing O. And excuse me—Sonya's making a piece for the Martha Graham Dance Company? Now that I can't wait to see.
Zack and Amy, hauntingly lovely
Ultimately, we were forced to say a painful goodbye to Emilio and Bridget. Our consolation prize? Next week's show will celebrate the work of—ahem—Michael Jackson. Color me verrrry intrigued. 'Til then!
Well, this brings class videos to a whole new level! Choreographer Phil Wright and dancer Ashley Liai have been together eight-plus years, but she was still in total shock when he proposed to her mid-dance at Millennium Dance Complex earlier this week. Why? Well, the whole thing was unbelievably perfect.
In the dance industry, dancers don't always have a say in what they wear on their bodies. This can get tricky if you're asked to wear something that compromises your own personal values. So what should you do if you find yourself in this sticky situation? We sat down for a Q&A with "Dancing with the Stars" alumn Ashly Costa to answer that very question. Here's what she had to say about the options dancers have surrounding questionable costumes.
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽