SYTYCD 7/7 Performance Recap: Missing in Action
Top Eight At-a Glance
- Lauren & Pasha - Cha Cha (Jean Marc and France)
- Jose & Lauren – Contemporary (Mandy Moore)
- Kent & Comfort – Hip Hop (Dave Scott)
- AdéChiké & Courtney – Jazz (Mandy Moore)
- Billy & Katee - Broadway (Spencer Liff)
- Ashley & Dominic – Hip Hop (Napoleon and Tabitha)
- Robert & Kathryn – Contemporary (Sean Cheeseman)
Alex Marla – Bollywood (Nakul)
- Lauren & Kent – Contemporary (Travis Wall)
- Robert & Ashley – Quickstep (Jean Marc & France)
- Jose & Billy – African (Sean Cheesman)
Best Moment: Cat Deeley asks the judges why AdéChiké’s Bollywood was being judged by a different standard than Jose’s version a couple of weeks ago.
Worst Moment: Cat’s announcement that Alex is seriously injured and won’t be able to perform.
“I’m not looking forward to Jose’s ADD in rehearsal, because all he can talk about is Lauren Gottlieb’s butt.” - Billy
We welcome the top eight dancers… wait a minute… (one, two, three…). Someone is missing. Cat tells us that the contestants will perform twice, but as she makes that announcement, someone kicks up the reverb and feedback on her microphone. She ad libs through the glitch like the pro she is (and totally deserving of an Emmy nomination, which unfortunately she did not receive this week. Harumph!)
Her frock tonight is an off-white / mother of pearl sparkly mini-dress with long sleeves. It’s fine from the front, but the back has a distinctly unflattering hump. (“What hump?”, as Marty Feldman would say in Young Frankenstein.) Her hairdresser is apparently still enjoying his / her summer vacation, since Cat looks like she just pulled up to the studio in her convertible and walked out on stage.
Twist of Fate
She introduces our judges, Adam, Mia, and Nigel. Then she gets to the question on everyone’s mind: Where’s Alex? It’s terrible news: Alex was injured Tuesday night during rehearsal for his Bollywood number with AdéChiké’. After a punishing series of jumps, he stopped with pain in his leg. The doctors won’t clear him to dance tonight. Cat asks Nigel, “What’s going to happen now?”
Nigel explains that Alex has been for an MRI, and the results are not yet in, but they suspect that he ruptured his Achilles tendon. If that is the case, then healing process may take weeks or months. Last season, you might remember that there were several injuries – Noelle early in the season, Ashleigh the week before finals, and Russell on the Finale results show. Apparently that got the producers doing a long hard look at how they deal with disabled dancers, and they have some new guidelines this year. Here’s the gist:
- Alex will automatically be in the Bottom Three, which means that the judges could send him home tomorrow (or, at their discretion they could send someone else home).
- If Alex makes it through tomorrow, he must dance next week. If he cannot, he will be dropped from the show. (In that case, I would guess that the last person eliminated would then come back.)
In a season of extremely talented guys, Alex made his mark in the last three weeks as being a notch above the others. I think he was easily the front runner for taking this season, and having him out with an injury is really tragic. Not just for him, but also for the audience who has come to look forward to what he would do every week.
Now Cat takes us back in time to last week to see the dancers pick this week’s assignments. We have a new development – no “drawing out of the hat” this week. I guess Nigel got frustrated with Ashley picking three Contemporary / Jazz routines in a row and Robert dancing twice with Courtney. That’s what happens when one relies on random choices – anything can happen, and it’s rarely “equitable” or “fair”. So, to guarantee variety the producers have made the assignments themselves. Each participant gets a card with their All-Start partner and dance, and the name of a fellow contestant and a dance.
Lauren – Hairography
In this routine Pasha will be a Cha Cha hairdresser. I’m not sure what that means. During rehearsal I am struck by Lauren’s resemblance to a young Goldie Hawn. So maybe that means that Pasha is Warren Beatty and they are doing Shampoo: The Musical. Our musical score is supplied by Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s Telephone. The dance is quite fun with a lot of give and take between the two. Jean Mark has unleashed some personality in Lauren, although not really given the couple much of a story. Or all that much of a dance – this is nowhere near the difficulty of the routines Jean Mark did for Christina and Melinda. But it comes off well and shows Lauren to her best advantage.
Nigel compliments Lauren maturity. Cat asks her what was going on differently with her this week. Lauren answered, “I had to pretend that I was a tiger, and he was walking in my jungle unaware, and I made a bite sized meal out of him.” I’m not sure what that has to do with hair styling, but whatever works. Mia says “Pure murderation.” (My poor spellchecker is going nuts right now.) Mia felt that Lauren danced like a woman. Adam adds “What very little of that costume exists, you really made work…Sharp, specific, strong, smokin’, and smoldering.”
Jose – When You Believe
Mandy Moore has put together a dance about two soul mates – but Jose is having trouble getting past the “eighth grade dance” phase. “It was awesome getting close and personal; it was fresh”, he says. Yeah, Billy’s already outed you on that, Jose. Unfortunately this routine (done to Never Tear Us Apart by INXS) was totally DWTS. Mandy has choreographed around Jose and given all the dance technique to Lauren. Jose has some lifts and partnering moves, but other than that it’s run-flail, run-flail. He has a sweet spirit that comes across early, but Lauren quickly out-emotes him to the point where it looks like they were Photoshoped together from two different dances.
Nigel thinks that Jose looked amazing and has improved so much over the season that he epitomizes the theme of So You Think You Can Dance. “You are pushing yourself beyond barriers”, Nigel says. To which I respond to my TV, “And Ashley, Alex, Kent, Robert, and Lauren aren’t?” But the judges ignore me, and Mia comments on Jose’s lack of ego and open heart. “If your spirit dances, then your body will follow.” (Mia definitely has a future in writing fortune cookies.) “I believed every single step that you took”, she finishes. Adam chooses his words a bit more carefully. He praises Mandy for choreographing to Jose’s strength, which is his honest heartfelt performance. Adam adds that Jose is growing technically.
Kent – I Know We’re Cool
Kent’s goal is to match Comfort’s face as well as her moves. Dave Scott’s goal is to wipe the “deer in the headlights” look off the white farm boy’s face. The music is You’re Not My Girl by Ryan Leslie and Dave has given Kent quite a gift – he’s invented a new style: Hip Hop Jazz. This number doesn’t require Kent to be arrogant, belligerent, or a sexual predator. He’s just a laid back, cool guy dancing with a cool girl - and that the teenage Contemporary dancer does just fine. He and Comfort have a wonderful sense of dancing together as two people who enjoy each other. This is a huge attitude improvement from his “hungry jazz face” last week. On the other hand, he needs to hit these steps a little bit harder. Even in this soft style some of his moves are a little mushy.
Nigel loved Kent’s “Soft Hop” and praised him for not overacting. He also complimented Comfort on how much she has grown. Mia got the cool vibe from Kent, but feels that he needed to go a lot further to match Dave Scott. Adam tries to say that enjoyed the way Kent has grown to fill the small moments of the routine, but somehow the comment flips into double entendre, egged on by Mia. Kent’s wide open Bambi-like expression deflects all coarseness, so the moment passes unnoticed by many.
AdéChiké – Closing Time
Unlike Jose, AdéChiké seems to have no problem getting beyond “eighth grade dance” mode with Courtney in their afterhours bar seduction. The music is a sophisticated remix by Rae & Christian of Dinah Washington singing Is You Or Is You Ain’t My Baby. AdéChiké is the very willing object of Courtney’s affection, and the number lets him alternately pursue and be pursued. He does some great dancing here; this is his style, after all. In addition, the personality unleashed last week is still going strong. But, maybe a little too strong. AdéChiké needs now to bring some subtlety to his characters. He needs to give us the real AdéChiké in these situations instead of putting on a face on like a costume.
[Also, let me put in a word for how much better the directing is this year. She put us right in the scene by starting out with the camera in the back getting AdéChiké’s face. Then it circled around the bar changing our point of view so we could see the scene from Courtney’s vantage point as the dance begins. Shot by shot, we always knew where we were and what was going on.]
Nigel says that AdéChiké found the character for himself this week. He particularly liked the side by side Jazz steps in the middle of the number (and would have liked to have seen more of that). Mia completely disagrees. She feels that AdéChiké relied too much on personality, and his technique was mediocre. The performance was filled with “donut holes” for her. Adam is flummoxed. He tries four or five approaches to explaining AdéChiké’s issue, changing tack each time. Finally he offers that AdéChiké needs to let go of the choreography and be able to express the music and specifics of the character. He feels that this was too much like last week’s character. Nigel responds back that last week AdéChiké was a geek, so how could this be the same character? Cat cuts off all further discussion and moves the show forward.
Billy – Cat Power
Billy was paired with Allison for Spenser Liff’s Broadway choreography. But rehearsals aggravate a rib injury that Allison sustained last week. She decides to go to the hospital. The producers call in a replacement: Katee Shean, the runner up from Season Four. The audience yelps in delight when Katee appears on screen, so we won’t be lacking for star power in this routine. Spenser has made Billy and Katee sexy thieves preparing for a heist, scored to Macavity: The Mystery Cat from the musical Cats. (I hate Cats.) Fortunately there are no furry costumes with tails. They are decked out in sexy black spyware.
For the first time in this competition, we can appreciate the grace and detail in Billy’s dancing. When he swings his leg over Katee’s head, it’s done with precision and at a deliberate pace. There’s a point at the end of the first chorus where the two walk forward scrunched down and raise their bodies up as they walk while doing an isolated circle with their necks. Billy nails that kind of element, even more than Katee. (Though, of course, Katee came in with just a couple days of rehearsal.) His performance here is believable and the chemistry with Katee works.) It’s a big step forward from the blankness he gave us last week.
Nigel proclaims this Billy’s best dancing on the show (aside from his solos). He thinks that Spencer’s style fits Billy perfectly. Mia concurs that Billy was “fabulicious”. She loved his sharp, snappy quality. Adam notes the fact that Billy kept the performance tight and small and drew the audience in.
Ashley – Ninja Assassins
This week Ashley and Dominic will be Hip Hopping ninjas. Tabitha and Napoleon are trying to get an intimidating persona into Ashley, but she keeps breaking into smiles during rehearsal. The routine opens in fog to How Low by Ludicris, where first Dominic, then Ashley crawls up from the floor. The music is hard hitting and the movement matches the intensity. But I am confused by the ninja theme which seems to be represented by bad costumes and not much else. In the end, it is a very good, but not altogether remarkable Hip Hop routine. Ashley does well and hangs in there, but doesn’t add nearly as much to the performance as Dominic. She does have a remarkable move where she raises her leg up to her head, and then falls forward into full splits – ouch! The best part is the ending, as they threaten the judges, then slowly disappear behind the table.
Nigel is happy to see Ashley do something other than Contemporary, and he congratulates her on a good job. (He also tells Dominic to stop touching Cat. Cat says that she’s not worried; she has a ninja between her and Dominic.) Mia saw Ashley dancing full out and hard core. The only thing missing was the “kill” in her eyes. Adam calls Ashley the “quiet contender”.
Robert – Toy Story 3.5
Robert and Kathryn get a Toy Story inspired piece from Sean Cheesman to Sinking Feeling by Roisin Murphy. They are “Bob” and “Kathie” dolls, boxed and on the shelf as the music begins. They press their faces against the plastic to get a better view of the outside world, and then plot an escape from the boxes. They break out and dance in front of the boxes. It’s a clever number, with lots of stiff straight leg moves that enhance the plastic doll characters. This is the best use of Robert’s goofiness all season. It fits his dance style, too. He was born to play a toy.
Nigel thinks that Sean’s concept is fun and wished that there was more time to develop it. He can’t figure out why Robert ends up in the bottom group every week, so he went online to survey some comments. (Meaning, that a production assistant did some research and handed it to him.) The conclusion was that people complained that Robert was arrogant. Nigel counters that Robert is sweet and hard working. Oh, Nigel – welcome to my world. Where every highly trained dancer is labeled “arrogant” and every pretty girl is “too full of herself”. Mia agrees with Nigel, and thinks that the routine was tailor made for Robert’s dancing and personality. She particularly enjoyed the first part with the dolls in the boxes. Adam thinks that Rob is great and gives “1000 %” to everything he does.
AdéChiké – Death by Bollywood
AdéChiké and Alex were paired together for a devotional dance to the Hindu god Ganesha by Bollywood choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan. Unfortunately, we know what happened to Alex, so for this performance he is replaced by Nakul’s sister, Marla. Performed to the song Mourya Re from the soundtrack of the movie Don the Chase Begins Again, this is a punishing routine. Nakul often adds charming touches and interesting interaction between the dancers, but not here. This is all power and speed, probably because he developed it for two guys, so he pulled out all the stops. But it is simply too fast for AdéChiké. He throws himself into it and pulls off amazing feats of skill. But the details (hand positions, feet) are all rounded off in trying to keep up with the music. The synchronized portions are also off, (but I don’t know if that is AdéChiké’s fault, or the result of Marla going in to the number just this morning). He also did the whole piece with a chorus boy smile plastered on his face, which didn’t really plumb the depths of devotion, which was the purpose of the dance.
But the huge disappointment is watching the number and imagining Alex there next to AdéChiké. The power and precision that Alex could have delivered would have made it a completely different experience. Clearly the number has been re-choreographed for Marla, so we aren’t even seeing Nakul’s original conception of his story. It’s hard not to feel a little cheated – like going to the theater and discovering that the star is out and you’ve now paid all that money to see the understudy.
Nigel warns AdéChiké that he lost some of the distinct shape of this style of Indian dance by injecting too much of his own funky approach. Nigel says that he heard that the rehearsal with AdéChiké and Alex was fantastic, and he wished that they could have seen them together.
Cat comes back to Mia asking why Jose was praised a couple of weeks ago for putting his own twist on Bollywood, but AdéChiké is being criticized for it. The audience cheers and some stand and applaud. Mia replies that Jose’s light charm made his routine work, (but she can’t look AdéChiké in the eye as she says this). The studio crowd boos – they are getting nasty. Mia continues saying that AdéChiké lacked focus and his flaily movement suggested more of an African style (which, she said may or may not have been the choreographer’s intention). She finishes her comments by saying “No disrespect to Marla, who did a wonderful job, but I miss Alex right now. Hard!”. Adam applauds AdéChiké’s power, but notes that he lacked the snap and finish in each move.
Nigel jumps in to soften some of the criticism by reminding AdéChiké that their goal here is to make him better as he continues on. AdéChiké immediately agrees with him; he’s not taking it personally. But the whole experience – losing Alex, the killer routine, and Mia’s complete disappointment and rejection of the performance – are clearly taking an emotional toll on AdéChiké. (On the audience, as well.) Still, he puts on a professional face as Cat reads out his voting number. As the show goes to commercial, it feels like they should just pull the plug and send everyone home. Nakul’s “inspirational” Bollywood routine has plunged the show into disappointment, anger, and depression.
Kent & Lauren – Hello, Young Lovers
Into this mess, we launch our two enchanted teenagers: Lauren and Kent. Hopefully, they weren’t paying any attention to the previous segment. In a cute video package, Kent complains that Lauren “burps as loud as the man that I’m supposed to be”. Lauren hopes that teenage girls won’t be too jealous of her dancing with Kent, and generously offers to share him with everyone.
Travis uses Collide by Howie Day to set up his Prom Night scene. Kent and Lauren begin slow dancing in each other’s arms and then move simply into more choreographed positions, before launching into a full extensive partnering routine. It’s a wonderful progression from the literal to the more abstract. This has all of Travis’s best qualities: real technique, combined with inventive and organic partnering moves that seem to lead inevitably to next position. Most importantly he has given his couple two characters for which they are perfectly cast. Kent’s leaps and partnering have never been better. Lauren’s jumps and spins in Kent’s arms are full of emotion. They both encapsulate “young love”. It is a welcome tonic at this point in the evening.
Nigel tells Lauren that she let the audience see the heart in her dance tonight. He tells Kent that all his hard work is paying off, and that the pair of them are “the ultimate male and female dancers in the competition this year”. Mia comments that the number was gorgeous, and says to Lauren that she has the complete package of athleticism, technique, and soul. Adam revealed that the number was so intimate and honest that he felt a bit uncomfortable – which, he added, is a good thing.
Robert & Ashley – Be Quick Or Be Dead
Ashley & Robert tackle the Quickstep with Jean Mark and France. This dance is often labled “the kiss of death”, but just last season Jakob and Ellenore (both Contemporary dancers) did a “Dance Competition” Quickstep that was fun and technically fine. Ashley and Robert arrive at rehearsal a well matched goofy pair, but are abruptly confronted with speed and precise requirements of this specialty. At one point Robert stares slack jawed into the camera after witnessing Jean Marc and France demonstrate a sequence.
The dance begins with Robert in his chair, apparently a powerful man with a white cane, to the music of Man With the Hex by the Atomic Fireballs. Ashley entices him to get up and dance. Then they take off into their slightly sinister running steps across the stage. It’s a valiant attempt, but Robert’s face is so paralyzed with fear that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Ashley seems to be doing better, but it’s hard to see her because in all the tough sequences Robert is facing the audience and Ashley is facing upstage. There is also a lot of bouncing going on in steps where they should be staying in a straight line, parallel with the floor.
Nigel points out that Robert’s elbows dipped down at times, and the bounciness was caused by him not going down into the knees enough. He thought Ashley was lovely and kept the correct shape. Mia says that the routine was not as bad as it could have been. She was confused by the hard driving music being used for a stiff postured, very upright dance. She concludes, “It wasn’t the ‘kiss of death’, it was just a bad kiss”. Adam got more of a Jive feel from the music. He also saw the look of terror on Robert’s face, but he congratulates them on getting through it.
Billy & Jose – Eye of he Tiger
“The Hunter and his Prey” is Sean Cheesman’s theme for this African Jazz routine. Billy and Jose hope they can complement each other, and that their different styles won’t clash.
The music is The Hunt by Mickey Hart, which is mostly percussion and perfect for this wild piece. The beginning is very good – in the dim blue light we see our jungle cat (Billy), and then our hunter (Jose). They encounter each other and the fight is on. Billy is especially effective here as he pounces up on Jose, then flips him down. He always seems to be moving two directions at the same time. Jose is working the performance, but his technique is weak, so he only really shines in the few break dance spins Sean has thrown in for him.
But halfway through the number they both slowly run out of gas. This should be a ferocious battle, but in the end it looks like they are just going through the motions during a rehearsal. They need much more power and energy, but they just don’t have it.
Nigel loved the concept, but thought that Billy’s jaguar was closer to his Broadway cat than a feral jungle creature. Likewise, Jose’s hunter wasn’t powerful enough. Mia says that she didn’t quite read “jaguar” in Billy’s character either, but she loved the animal he was doing. She pointed to the section where he sank way down into his knees and twisted his body. She tells Jose, however, that this was his weakest performance. Adam encourages Billy to let go of his perfect lines, because they are preventing him from going all out in performance.
Everybody’s Doing a Brand New Dance, Now
Cat closes the show with the dance recap and phone numbers, and then dedicates the “dance out” to Alex. Apparently “The Alex” consists of raising one bent arm then another while hopping on one foot. This might be a reference to the only dance Alex is currently capable of pulling off. Alex claps and mimic’s the movement from the audience.
Did the ghost of Alex hover over that Bollywood routine for you? Would the judges actually send Alex home tomorrow? Is it possible to lose another girl?