The true dance portion of “So You Think You Can Dance” has finally begun! Last night’s episode (“Meet the Top 11 & All-Stars”) was fantastic. Each contestant performed in his/her own style (although, there was a bit of leeway—Broadway isn’t technically tapper Melinda Sullivan’s style, but we’ll go with it) accompanied by a few all-stars. There was some outstanding choreography (Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo know how to get the audience excited!), some truly memorable dancing (The all-boy contemporary routine choreographed by Mia Michaels, wow!) and I think it’s safe to say that the competition is already stiff. Onto the recap…
First of all, Cat Deeley, you stunning goddess of beauty. I’m glad we’re out of the audition rounds and Vegas Week, because now we get to see Cat’s red carpet-worthy looks. Last night she dazzled in a gorgeous multi-colored fringe dress. Very lovely. And on the judging panel: Nigel Lythgoe, Mia Michaels and Adam Shankman. We are so glad to have Mia back on board!
The episode opened with the 12 all-stars and 11 contestants all dancing together. There were a lot of people up on that tiny (blech) stage! Choreographed by Wade and Amanda Robson, the all-stars began onstage dressed in blue, demonstrating clean, precise, exacting movement. Then the newbies came out in red. The standouts for me were Billy Bell and Melinda Sullivan, both of whom already seem so comfortable onstage. But was this the Mark Kanemura show? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Mark, but the camera seemed glued to him! It’s important that, with the new concept of mixing old and new contestants, the show focuses more on the actual contestants. As tempted as I am to watch Mark the whole time, I want to get to know the new kids, since that’s who we’ll all be picking up the phone for. (But seriously, I love you, Mark! You rocked last night!) Overall, this was a great opening number to kick off the season. And the song was fitting: “Fame” by David Bowie. After all, these kids are all quickly becoming household names as they move forward in the competition each week. As the dancers filed off the stage (I really can’t stand that stage. I still miss the old one. Boo.), it was time for each contestant to show off in his/her individual style; plus they were each given 11 seconds to tell us a bit about themselves. First up:
Contestants: Lauren Froderman (“I’m 18, from Arizona, just graduated high school and I’m friendly and outgoing”) and Kent Boyd (“I’m from Ohio, I’m 18, I just graduated high school…and I’m single!”)
All-Stars: Mark Kanemura and Kathryn McCormick
Choreographer: Travis Wall (Who looked adorably preppy in the audience. Too cute. And he’s so humble!)
Song: “Paris is Burning” by St. Vincent
As always, Travis utilizes exceptional partnering and strong, hard-hitting moves in his choreography. I was worried that the all-stars would be showing up these new contestants, but right off the bat that was hardly the case. I did have to force myself not to watch Mark (ugh, he’s so dang talented), but once I did I was totally glued to Lauren. She’s gorgeous! She’s got lovely lines and great presence. And it’s funny, she sort of looks like a blonde Kathryn! This routine, about “dark and twisted people coming out to play at night,” according to Travis, was wonderfully executed by the dancers. Both Lauren and Kent pulled off some impressive tricks. I didn’t love the girls dancing with umbrellas (I’m a prop hater, sorry), but overall it was enjoyable. Adam Shankman praised Travis, of course, then stood up to scream for Kent and Lauren. A bit over-the-top and semi-obnoxious, but it was well-deserved. They were fantastic.
Contestants: Alexie Agdeppa (“I’m a former Laker Girl, UCLA graduate and it took me four tries to get onto the show!”) and Melinda Sullivan (“I’m 22, from Thousand Oaks, California, I’m a dancer, singer, actress and I’m my own invention”)
All-Stars: Allison Holker and Lauren Gottlieb
Choreographer: Tyce Diorio
Song: “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from Sweet Charity
I adore Alexie and Melinda. But as I watched this uber-girly Tyce Diorio classic, I was way more drawn to Allison and Lauren than I was to the contestants. True, Alexie and Melinda are wickedly talented. But Allison and Lauren are so comfortable onstage and have so much presence. Melinda needs to work on her technique and flexibility in order to advance in this competition. She can tap circles around the best of ’em, but with just four other girls up there, she’s got to step it up to stay in the competition. Alexie has an adorable smile (and showed off some great attitude turns!), but a smile isn’t enough. As Nigel said, the girls need to find their fire. Once that happens, they’ll be unstoppable.
At this point I’m thinking “Dang, I still really want Cat’s dress…”
Contestant: Jose Ruiz (“I’m 21, from Miami, I’m humble but confident and I’m the only B-boy in the competition”)
All-Stars: Comfort Fedoke, tWitch, Dominic Sandoval
Choreographers: Tabitha & Napoleon D’umo
Song: “Din Daa Daa” by George Kranz
I love this song. And I love that the fabulous D’umo team really made an effort to make this dance about Jose. It was great when Jose battled the all-stars and hilarious when he attempted to booty-pop like Comfort. His somersaults—complete with a totally smooth outfit switch—were awesome, and Jose proved that he really fit in with these all-stars. (Although Comfort, an all-star? Really? She barely made Top 10 her season! Where was Sara Von Gillern?) I like Jose a lot. I think he’s adorable, but I also think that he’s good enough to stick around for a while. Still, the boys are all so good this season—voting is going to be crucial this season! Oh, and tWitch is still crazy hot.
At this point I’m thinking “Ugh, I really hate this stage.” The lighting is super distracting. It was way too dark during the hip-hop routine and the camera angles are rarely where I want them to be. Step it up, production team!
Contestant: Christina Santana (“I’m 24, I’m a salsa dancer from Mexico, I’m in college, I work and I’m a salsa instructor”)
All-Stars: Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison
Song: “Work” by Kelly Rowland
This piece was too cute! And it was so much fun. As the only ballroom dancer in the Top 11, Christina stepped it up and worked it in this love triangle with dynamos Pasha and Anya. Pasha was one lucky man, dancing in between the two sexy girls in their fabulously fringey and sparkly dresses. The choreography was bouncey and flirty (though again, not a prop girl, I didn’t like the chairs) and all the hip shaking made for a fiery routine. Oh, and Pasha took his shirt off. It was awesome. Nigel acknowledged that Christina has lazy feet and needs to pick them up more. But overall it was fiery and energetic.
Contestants: Alex Wong (“I’m 23 from Miami, I was cut during Season 5, I’m a crazy goofball and I like to sing and dance”) and Billy Bell (“I’m 20, from Palm Beach, and I got sick during Season 6″)
All-Star: Ade Obayomi
Choreographer: Mia Michaels
Song: “This Bitter Earth on the Nature of Daylight”
It’s so good to have Mia back. This routine was beautiful, and it was exemplary of all Mia’s previous work (it especially reminded me of Neil and Lacey’s “Time” piece during Season 3). Billy began the routine, about a man’s journey through life, as the young boy, playing with a toy truck. Billy was brilliant in this role. From his playful movement to his goofy grin, he really took the role he was given and ran with it. Then the light moved onto Alex as the middle-aged man. Crazy talented? Yes. Big personality? Not showing yet. Then we see Ade, who has “gone gray” and is the old man in the piece. The three men move fluidly around each other, weaving intricate patterns onstage, each showing off his individual strength: namely, Alex with that signature jump of his, where he throws his upper body forward and his legs straight up behind him, and Billy, with his solid turns and precise placement. This piece was captivating, and even Mia acknowledged that it was “an honor” to work with the three men. Let’s hear it for the boys!
Contestants: Adéchiké Torbert (“I’m from Brooklyn and I’m the underdog in the competition”), Ashley Galvan (“I’m from California, I’m a lyrical dancer and I love to shop, I love football, I love popcorn and I’m a huge nerd”) and Robert Roldan (“I’m from California, I’m always smiling and I used to play baseball”)
All-Stars: Neil Haskell and Courtney Galiano
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Song: “Freak” by Estelle
A little punk jazz to end the night! I have a huge crush on Neil Haskell. Always have, probably always will. So when he busted out some of his new and improved tricks, I was blown away. Then I redirected my eyes and saw that I just may have a new crush: Robert Roldan. Gorgeous! Aside from the hot, hot men onstage, the talent was hot, too. Ashley showed off a stunning developpé, followed later by a perfect penché. According to Sonya, all the dancers “conquered it.” She also let Adéchiké know that he’s on the show—thus, he’s not an underdog, so he’s gotta stop saying that (Agreed!). But the routine was powerful and strong and is it wrong that I kind of want my own leather costume like the girls had on? Still, I was distracted by the stage lighting. Work on that, “SYTYCD” team!
A fantastic show to kick off the season of dancing. I can honestly say that I really like the contestants in the Top 11 and I’m looking forward to next week. Bravo, dancers!