You may have noticed I never got around to posting a recap of last week’s results show. Well I’m sure by now everyone knows that there actually weren’t any results resulting from the results show. For the first time in eight season, Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe and his cohorts on the judges panel, Mary Murphy and guest judge Megan Mullally decided not to eliminate anyone from the competition. Contemporary dancer Mitchell Kelly had been forced to sit out the night’s performances due to a shoulder injury, and seeing as it was the very first week I suppose Nigel and Co. felt that the audience deserved a chance to see the entire Top 20 all perform before anyone was cut.
And so, here we are. Week Two, and it’s time for the Top 20 Performance…again.
Our guest judge this week was none other than the legendary Debbie Reynolds. Singin’ In The Rain is one of my all-time favorite musicals, and I was curious to see how she would respond to these kids and the diverse styles they’d be demonstrating*.
(*Mostly she just wanted to kidnap them and take them home with her, but I don’t think it was in a predatory way.)
Ryan & Ricky
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Music: “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer
This week, rather than 8-second bios, the partners get to reveal secrets about each other to millions of television viewers. This could never be a bad idea. Ricky lets the world know that Ryan has freakishly fast growing leg hair (eww), and in return Ryan exposes Ricky’s real name: Roderick. He hates it, but I’m pretty sure Ryan got the short end of that stick tonight. As for their performance… meh. I feel like Mandy Moore has been one of the better choreographers in past years, though I can’t think off the top of my head right now of what routines she’s done that I’ve loved. But tonight’s routine, all about sex, sexual tension, and sex, isn’t particularly memorable either. Ryan tries to transform her slightly scary grin from last week’s dance into a sexy grin here, and it’s not a good idea. She’s obviously talented, but her stagecraft can be distracting. Ricky on the other hand did wonderfully, considering the moves he was given to work with. Perhaps it didn’t help that I’m just not a fan of the song choice. I’ve heard that song more than enough for this lifetime, I vote for a moratorium please.
Caitlynn & Mitchell
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Music: “Turning Tables” by Adele
Mitchell is back! Well, for the first time I guess. And his shocking secret about his partner? Her boots turn her feet blue. Um, sir… I think that says more about her footwear than her, but whatever. She fires back with his zebra-print Snuggie. Wow… let’s just move on. The dance tells the story of two lovers on the verge of breaking up, and it’s pretty great. It’s a “prop” dance in as much as both dancers begin in separate chairs, which they commence to dance in, on, around, and over. Caitlynn is just as passionate and powerful as she was last week, but I’m overjoyed we get to see Mitchell because he is so lithe and graceful and was absolutely committed to the role. The highlight of the dance was probably her leap from the chair across the stage and into his arms. I’m always moved by the trust these partners must develop for each other in so short a time. Although Mitchell does end up punching her in the face at one point. I told you he was committed to the role.
Missy & Wadi
Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereux
Music: “Cannibal” by Ke$ha
Missy apparently has video evidence that Wadi uses feminine hygiene products to remove the hair from his chest. Wadi demonstrates how Missy laughs, kind of a stuttery, choppy laugh, which of course MAKES her laugh, which makes HIM laugh… it was kind of funny. Their choreographer this week is Jean-Marc Genereux, who has a great personality that meshes well with this couple. Unfortunately the music he chooses is scientifically formulated to make me hate this number. Neither dancer manages to capture the hip movements necessary for a cha-cha, but sadly Wadi is the only one singled out for this by the judges. I agree that of the pair he seemed to struggle with the moves the most, but I felt pretty badly for him as he was criticized while his partner was praised. Still, once we’re past the sort of honeymoon glow of the first week it really does become time for the judges to start making some more honest and constructive critiques.
Iveta & Nick
Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan
Music: “Baawre” from Luck By Chance (Soundtrack)
Seems Iveta likes to talk to herself in the mirror, while Nick can’t stop wearing shorts all day, every day. What makes these stories funny is Nick’s impersonation of Iveta’s accent, and her mocking him for his skinny little chicken legs. The dance is good, fast like a proper Bollywood dance should be. Both dancers did pretty great. The problem here is the same as last week: Iveta is so accomplished in so many different styles that it really wasn’t much of a surprise that she would do well. Whereas Nick, a tap dancer, seemed to have the steeper learning curve, and the fact that he did such an amazing job kind of singles him out for the lion’s share of the praise. Plus he’s just got such a great personality.
Miranda & Robert
Style: Hip hop
Choreographer: NappyTabs (Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo)
Music: “Break Ya Neck” by Busta Rhymes
In the duel of embarrassing secrets, Robert wins this round. Miranda calls him a grown man whose still obsessed with professional wrestling (yes, that IS embarrassing). But he gets to out her secret crush on one of the other dancers (Tadd), which seems to genuinely embarrass her. Well played, sir. Now, speaking of embarrassing… NappyTabs come up with what had the potential to be the most ridiculous, asinine dance in the show’s history: the story of one woodpecker teaching a younger woodpecker how to fly and… peck? Seriously. I’m not making this up. And coming on the heels of my comments last week about Robert needing to move away from the sort of goofy, “Woo Man” schtick, I was ready for this to be a garish, campy train wreck. But as it turns out it was actually pretty good. Far from the best thing the husband and wife choreo team have ever done, but it wasn’t awful. Both dancers were fast AND strong, hitting the punctuation beats with appropriate force. Since this is Roberts style, the surprise here was how well Miranda did. And it all paid off with Debbie Reynolds doing a nice Woody Woodpecker laugh, so there’s that.
Clarice & Jess
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey
Music: “Cathedrals” by Jump Little Children
Clarice sleeps with her eyes open. That’s just slightly disturbing, but not particularly funny. Jess draws stick figure orchestras, which is perhaps one of the most unique, original “fetishes” I’ve ever heard of. Unfortunately the choreography isn’t particularly unique OR original. It’s about a royal wedding… or something like that. Jess is so short he’s outsized by his partner, which makes the number of lifts he had to perform sort of silly. It wasn’t an issue of strength, I just don’t think he has the mass to really pull off lifting her over his head. They both do wonderfully when they are moving separately, longing for each other from across the stage. But it was just a tad clumsy when they were in physical contact. I love the song choice though.
Jordan & Tadd
Style: Viennese waltz
Choreographer: Jean-Marc Genereux
Music: “Fade Into Me” by David Cook
Jordan isn’t the brightest crayon in the box? Cue reel clip of her misreading her plane ticket to Vegas. Oh yeah? Well Tadd is obsessive-compulsive in a way that would make him a perfect match for my sister-in-law: he folds his shirts immaculately, puts them each in a separate ziploc bag, and packs them in color sequence. Like… a box of crayons?? Weird. Anyway, the dance. Jordan is undeniably graceful, and her moves are smooth and elegant and as flowing as her beautiful sparkly gown. But the revelation here is b-boy Tadd absolutely NAILING the lines and curves of the waltz. It was truly stunning how well he adapted to the style.
Melanie & Marko
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Music: “Sing With A Swing (Raf Marchesini Radio Edit)” by DKS
Adorable little Melanie has an adorable giggly overreaction when anyone touches her ears. Marko, brave young man that stood up to a robber and sports a bullet in his shoulder for his efforts, reads a lot of romance novels. Perhaps I’m biased, but both these facts just make this couple even more endearing. However, as much as it pains me to say, this routine is probably my biggest disappointment of the night. NOT because of the dancers, who are both extraordinary. But the choreography, a bubbly little jazz number with hats, just is not challenging enough for this pair. There was far too much standing still, waggling their knees or swiveling their arms. Not nearly enough complex interpersonal choreography. It wasn’t bad, just not nearly good enough for my favorite couple of the competition.
Sasha & Alexander
Style: Hip hop
Music: “Coming Home” by Diddy-Dirty Money & Sasha Grey
Sasha apparently sweats like a dude. Alexander likes to look at himself in the mirror. Umm…
This routine is like the bookend piece to NappyTabs extraordinary Season 4 “No Air” piece, danced so beautifully by Katee and Joshua. Where that one was the story of a man leaving his girl to go off to war, tonight we get the happy ending of the man returning home to the woman he loves. Personally I preferred the former routine (and dancers), but there’s no denying the emotional power of this set, particularly coming as it does right after President Obama’s announcement that he would begin bringing military personnel home. Alexander’s slow-motion march in the background as the music first starts is striking. But the strength of the dance belongs to Sasha, who threw herself full force into it, truly expressing the overwhelming joy at the reunion. It was moving, and indeed both Debbie and Mary were brought to tears by it.
Ashley & Chris
Choreographer: Spencer Liff
Music: “Please, Mr. Jailer” by Rachel Sweet
According to Ashley, Chris has a creepy smile. I don’t seen it. Chris says Ashley doesn’t have quite the level of swag she likes to think she has. I’m a 40+ year old white guy from Seattle, so I can’t comment on swag. But the dance was freaking phenomenal. Again, it’s a “prop” routine, which I have a tendency to love. This one is the story of a woman visiting her man in jail. The prop is a large row of cell bars separating the dancers. At first it seems like it will be awkward, as the staging makes it difficult for the studio audience to see Chris’ performance behind Ashley. First time I’ve been thankful for the manic, circling camera operators they’ve had the past few seasons. Ashley is elegant, and just a tad wanton, as she struts and kicks in front of the cell. But Chris is kind of a monster, using the cell bars to lift himself up, swing, suspend himself in all sorts of gravity-defying poses. Me likey!
And that’s how it went down. Overall, despite a couple of real gems, I think the whole night suffered from subpar choreographer. This seems to be a really strong group of dancers, and they all could have benefitted from stronger pieces. And sadly, due to last week’s act of mercy allowing all ten couples to stay, tomorrow night we will be saying goodbye to TWO couples, four dancers. Who do you think it will be? Do you agree or disagree with my take on the choreography? Any suggestions for future guest judges? Let us know by leaving a comment here on the blog, or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.