With only 11 contestants this season, these initial results shows are going to be more painful than before. It's not so easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. But this is "SYTYCD," and tough decisions must be made.
Before we get to the results and performances, let's start with the first disappointment of the night. And this one was truly shocking: Cat Deeley, what happened? You look like a tartan Christmas present with a bow tied on your shoulder. Why, why, WHY?! We look to you for sartorial inspiration, and this, this is truly tragic. We'll forgive you this once. But please, make it better with some sort of slinky dress or ultra-sleek pantsuit. Make it right, Cat.
Now that that's out of the way, on with the show. The opening number was by Tessandra Chavez (making her "SYTYCD" choreography debut). With so many contemporary/jazz pieces on the show, they all start to look similar. I know this one featured white outfits with shimmering gold accents, and there was a cool moment when a girl was held by her hands and feet and swung like a jump rope, but otherwise, pretty standard stuff. You need a strong choreographic eye (Mia, Wade) to make an impression.
Then it was time for the first group of dancers to receive their results. Alex Wong, Robert Roldan, Lauren Froderman and Kent Boyd walked out on stage and I sat back on the couch knowing nothing was about to happen. As expected, all four were safe. Good, more time for me to focus on shoveling chips and salsa into my mouth.
Melinda Sullivan, Billy Bell, Ashley Galvan and Alexie Agdeppa were next. Last night, Nigel predicted Melinda would be in the bottom three, and he's right. Tonight he tells her she's got to alter her persona on the show and "appear a little more vulnerable." He also suggests that she work on making her performing style more nuanced. "Performance isn't just about a smile," he says. "It's about heart." Billy is safe, as is Ashley, but Alexie joins Melinda in the bottom three. Mia tells her "cute will only take you so far."
And the last group to get their results included Jose Ruiz, Adéchiké Torbert and Cristina Santana. Although the judges felt Adéchiké didn't perform up to par last night, Cristina ends up in the bottom three.
While Melinda, Alexie and Cristina get ready to perform their solos, the audience gets a treat: Karine Plantadit and Keith Roberts from Broadway's Come Fly Away perform a duet to Frank Sinatra's "That's Life." (Look for another Come Fly Away cast member, Meredith Miles, on our July/August cover!) It's a brassy number, with Plantadit hurling herself all over the stage, legs flying—but always beautifully stretched. Brief moments of stillness offset the thrashing, like when Roberts catches Plantadit by an arm as she leans back, her body hovering above the ground. But I have to wonder: Why is Plantadit's mouth perpetually agape? At high school poms competitions, this is what we called "catching flies."
Solo time. Melinda performs to James Brown's "I Got the Feeling." I love that the stage is properly miked for tap! We can easily hear her feet and the music, crucial to understanding the relationship between the two. She seems to have choreographed with a general audience in mind, starting with steps that fill in the rhythmic gaps (which demands more attentive listening) and finishing with steps that more closely mirror the music. My fingers are crossed (yes, I'm shamelessly showing my cards here).
Then Alexie performs to Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long." She's clearly a skilled dancer, with refined technique and control. But there's no wow factor. In a crowd of contemporary dancers, she wouldn't stand out.
And finally Cristina performed to "La Guarachera" by Celia Cruz. Cristina does a lot of shimmying, but her footwork looks a little lethargic. I always feel a little bad for the ballroom dancers during the solos. It's hard to choreograph a 30-second salsa routine sans partner that really shows off your abilities. Also, the over-the-top expressions that usually make ballroom so enjoyable come across as slightly desparate in this type of performance.
The judges deliberate and the audience gets more special performances. First up, Usher performed "OMG." I'm usually a big fan of his, but I was underwhelmed. Girls wearing black leotards has been done already (see: "Single Ladies"); and I soon realized that their thigh-high black leggings were meant to disguise their knee pads—a necessary accessory when much of the "dancing" includes crawling on the floor.
But the most entertaining performance of the night came care of Justin Bieber (no, I'm not ashamed of that statement). The Biebs premiered his "Somebody to Love" video and it was fantabulous! The Beat Freaks were featured prominently, which meant there was a lot of dancing. B-girling, popping, hip hop—and a flashy set reminiscent of the Puff Daddy/Mase era. Justin Bieber for the win!
Oh right. The elimination. What a downer. Nigel gave each of the dancers feedback. Melinda needs to "bring some fire" to her cool style; Cristina made it clear she was "dancing for her life," but her choreography wasn't stellar; and Alexie needs to extend her movement and elevate her dancing by finding "maturity."
Alexie was cut.
I have to say, I'm not all that surprised. Because there are so many contemporary dancers in this arena, a dancer in this genre really needs to do something special. Alexie has determination, but her dancing lacks personality. It's sad to see her go so early in the game after trying for so long to get on the show. But as both Mia and Adam said, she's a beautiful dancer and choreographers will be itching to hire her.
One down, nine to go. Do you think the right person was sent home?