Top Ten At-A-Glance
- Cristina and Pasha – Paso Doble (Jean Marc Genereux and France)
- Adechike and Allison – Contemporary (Mandy Moore)
- Alex and Lauren – Broadway (Tyce Diorio)
- Ashley and Mark – Jazz (Travis Wall)
- Billy & Comfort –Krump (Lil C)
- Robert and Anya – Argentine Tango (Jean Marc Genereux and France)
- Melinda and Ade – Contemporary (Stacey Tookey)
- Jose and Kathryn – Bollywood (Nakul Dev Mahajan)
- Lauren and Dominic – Lyrical Hip Hop (Tessandra Chavez)
- Kent& Courtney – Jazz (Tyce Diorio)
High Point: Kent’s sexy Jazz number with Courtney
Low Point: Stacey Tookey’s “Mother Earth” fiasco with Melinda
“Dance is a heart form.” – Mia
“Dom, do you want to get to a deeper place?” - Cat
Welcome to week two of our terpsichorean decathlon. Once again, we have a two hour marathon – ten dances to get through. The show starts with a look backstage. This is supposed to be a “reality show” glimpse behind the curtain, but really it’s a staged “walk and talk” shot moving from character to character, reminiscent of The West Wing. I’m betting that little piece was on tape.
Cat and the Hat
But Cat brings us back to the studio as the lights come up and the credits roll. When we come back we see Cat in a simple white shift with some feathers spread across the chest. Her hair is straight and unadorned – a blond Cher. She introduces our usual panel of judges: Adam, Mia and Nigel.
For the first time we get to see the dancers picking from the hat. They pick an All-Star partner, and that partner comes with a choreographer and dance style. At the end of the process, Neil and Twitch are left out, and they are dismissed for the week. Cat also says that this week we will be learning something about how each of the dancers got their start.
Cristina – This is Thriller
Christina’s childhood memory was a dance recital where she was dressed as a flower, but was traumatized by the fact that her underwear was showing. Hopefully the wonder of this week will erase those awful memories because Christina is dancing with … PASHA! Her dream partner! They will do a Paso Doble choreographed by Jean Marc Genereux and France. Watching the rehearsal, all I can say is what did Cristina do to piss off Jean Marc? He is trying to kill her with this routine! Blind flips; falling backwards out of Pasha’s arms… Jean Marc wants it to be like a “the rides at the attraction park.. whoo woo”.
The music is Ira Deorum/ Sanctus by James Dooley, and Pasha and Christina come on like gangbusters. She runs and leaps, enfolding herself around his waist; he flips her around one and a quarter revolutions; then she does a back bend out of his arms, barely grazing the floor. He leaps over her, and then in a single move grabs both her hands and in an amazing show of strength pulls her up from the floor; and up towards his head. She sails aloft and does a quarter turn with her legs in splits all the way up above his shoulders; wraps her legs around his chest – still turning; circles around him in the air for the remaining ¾ of the turn; then drops her head to the floor while extending her leg straight up past Pasha’s head. This is the first 15 seconds of the dance, and yeah Jean Marc, I’d say the roller-coaster thrills have been achieved.
Needless to say, the difficulty factor in this routine is off the charts – and Christina certainly pulls it off with all the power and passion for which she was aiming. But I’m going to nitpick. In a couple of those back bend moves I would have liked to have seen a little more extension, and just a bit more “sticking” the pose before moving to the next one. Also, she had a bit too much intensity in her face. Pasha had the look just right: focused, confident, but slightly relaxed – like this is no big deal; they do this every day. But given the difficulty of what she was asked to do, I have to say “Well done”!
Cat’s response: “I love it – girls on top!” Nigel says the number needed passion, power, fire, and control. Nigel was thrilled that Christina didn’t go home last week because we would have missed that routine. Mia said Christina had the whole package: power, passion, partnership with Pasha. Adam thought the “Pasha Doble” was “muy caliente”! And, keeping with Mia’s theme of alliteration, he loved Christina’s confidence and commitment to her character.
Adéchiké – In the Rocket’s Red Glare
Adéchiké is next. He recalls that his dad was a dancer. Unfortunately, all of Adéchiké’s family photos and videos were lost in a fire, so all the dancing he did as a child only exists in his memory. Today he works with Mandy Moore and Allison Holker on a contemporary piece that is just about emotions, no story. Mandy is trying to bring out the character that was missing in Adéchiké last week. She says “He just needs to connect the strength he has in his body with the power and the passion he has in his heart.”
The stage is beautiful – columns of light piercing upward and hitting a mirror ball over the stage sending shards of steel blue light in patterns all over the stage. As the intro to Listen to your Heart by D.H.T. Feat and EDMEE begins on the piano, Allison and Adéchiké are shoulder to shoulder holding hands. She breaks away, and then comes back and they begin an intricate partner dance with some beautiful lifts and gentle emotion. Adéchiké is definitely more relaxed and connected to Allison than he was with Kathryn last week. But Mandy has solved one problem and saddled him with another – for most of the dance he is stuck behind Allison. This would be bad enough if Allison was just an average dancer – but she is far from average. Allison’s personality radiates off the stage – it’s like Adéchiké is carrying a roman candle around that burns so intensely, it’s hard to focus on him. And what he is doing is magnificent – beautiful lines and perfect partnering work. He does get a couple of moments to shine – a beautiful arabesque, and then an attitude turn leaping backwards.
Nigel sees a major improvement, but he warns Adéchiké not to interrupt the emotional flow with the steps. Mia wants him to tap into the joy, because he smiles then it goes away, so it comes across dishonest. But when his movement is small and coming from inside himself, it’s gorgeous. “Dance is a heart form – that is what was lacking. “ Adam says Adéchiké is technically great, but ”dancing from your head.” He encourages him to get to the point where “who cares what the steps are”.
Alex - All That Fosse
Alex started out as a tap dancer at seven years old. He thought ballet was boring. Today he and Lauren Gottlieb have a Bob Fosse inspired Broadway number with Tyce Diorio. Tyce describes Fosse as “a quiet fire”. Alex doesn’t know Fosse, so he says he will have to go off and do some homework. Since Fosse is all about cynicism and playful sexuality, this is going to be the polar opposite of his spiritual piece last week.
Immediately, Tyce has built some major positive factors into the number. First, he doesn’t redo an existing Fosse number; instead he picks a rare Broadway cover of George Gershwin’s Summertime by dance diva Sylvester. Next, unlike Mandy, he gives Alex the chance to take as much focus in the number as he wants to grab. And Alex pretty much takes the whole thing. Fosse’s trademark is doing everything the “wrong” way: the feet turn in, every body part moves in isolation – hips, shoulders, neck, wrists. Alex’s training is paying off big time. Once again, he is equal to (or better) than his All-Star partner. At one point mid-way through they do a set of double pirouettes in demi-plié (on bended knee), perfectly coordinated staying completely at the same level throughout. Alex does not have the most expressive face – but he uses everything he’s got to put the saucy attitude over and it works for me.
Nigel wants Alex to bring a little more power to the performance. He also thought Alex’s shoulders were up a bit. Mia wanted it to be more about the attitude inside, and less about the tricks and the power. Adam says that the competition for Alex is about growth and versatility. It was too much on the same level. Alex reiterates that he is here to keep learning.
I have to say that I am a bit taken aback by those comments. This isn’t a Bob Fosse routine – it’s a Tyce Diorio routine. Most of what they describe is the great difference in detail and subtly between Fosse and Diorio. Which is not Lauren and Alex’s fault. There were bursts of expansive ballet moves because Tyce put them there.
Ashley – I Want You Back
Ashley’s mom liked to dress her up in ruffles and curls. That’s probably not going to be much help now that she is paired with Mark in a Travis Wall Jazz number.
Travis has really become a master at crafting steps that are unique, yet flow inevitably from one to the other. It’s almost impossible to discern where one step begins and another ends. At the same time he keeps his dancers motivated. Mark is like a yo-yo: stepping away from Ashley, then getting pulled back in. Ashley fights to keep him, and is in ecstasy when she manages to draw him back. There is an especially beautiful moment where he pivots her around while she has her arms out – seemingly relaxed almost like a rag doll. The he lifts her up to shoulder level while she spins her legs over his head. There’s another move when she dives head first through his arms and down towards the floor, but he catches her and rotates her complete over, setting her down on the floor. Ashley holds her own against Mark – quite a feat – helped by Travis who keeps the dance focused on her.
Nigel felt that the number was not Jazz ,but Contemporary. He also didn’t feel like he learned anything new about Ashley. Mia loved the walk in the beginning. Ashley is one of her favorite girls. She gives her a note to keep the story alive in the transitions. Adam saw the challenge of the lifts, but needed a moment to for her to breathe and loose herself in the music. (Once again, most of these notes are for the choreographer, not the dancers.)
Billy – Cap’n Krump
Billy was a fat baby dressed in awkward, belly revealing T-shirts. His first dance experience was at about nine years old doing a Backstreet boys hip-hop number. “It was pretty epic; I’m not gonna lie.” So I guess today Billy goes back to his hip-hop roots with partner Comfort doing a Krump routine with Lil C. Lil C says his goal is to transform Billy Bell into Bill B-Buck. Hmmm… this is going to be quite a stretch.
Tha J-Squad ‘s So U Think You Can Krump (how appropriate!) starts blaring, and we have Billy getting bullied by Comfort (she steals his iPad something or other) and Billy has to stand up for himself. Here’s the bottom line – I’m not buying “Billy B-Buck”. I’m not saying he was embarrassing – he was good enough. But it wasn’t coming from deep within him – the attitude was put on like a costume. Still, I like what he did with the movement – he made it somewhat organic and beautiful. Unfortunately, I think that probably eviscerates the authenticity of the dance. I’m no Krump expert but I preferred what Billy was doing to what Comfort was doing. So, I guess that makes me not very buck.
Nigel starts out by saying that he hated that music. “You’re not supposed to like it, Nigel”, Cat interjects. “All the young people like it”. Nigel continues that Krump is a warrior’s dance and he didn’t see the warrior in Billy. But he appreciated how he threw himself into it. Mia felt that Billy got as far as knocking on the warrior’s door. But his feet were turned out and it was too pretty. Adam said that it was a failed experiment. Krump is about hit, rebound, and suspend. And there wasn’t enough hit.
Robert– I’m In Control
Robert remembers jumping off the walls and dancing wildly at weddings. Today he gets an Argentine Tango by Marc Genereux and France. The good news is that he has Anya as a partner. The bad news is that he has never done anything remotely like this, so all the footwork is new to him. “It’s gonna be hot. Hopefully” says Anya.
They begin dancing to Libertango by Bond Quartet and it is immediately HOT. Robert brings exactly the right attitude and performance to the piece. If there are a few moments where the footwork is just a bit unfinished, you’d never know it by the way he threw himself into that dance. Anya was great, but as required by the Tango, Roberto maintained his power and control. Smoldering!
Nigel praises Roberto for taking control and dominating the dance. He also praised his upper body carriage. For Mia, however, it didn’t work. She thought that Anya dominated the number. Adam thought Robert’s footwork was fabulous. He looked nervous, though. And he needed to stretch his steps more.
Melinda – Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Melinda pulls Ade’s name and Contemporary from the hat. She tells us that as a child she started tap at four years old. This week she has Stacey Tookey, who is back as a choreographer! Stacey’s number explores the balance between man and the earth to the song Squander by Skunk Anansie.
As the song begins, Melinda turns around and … I am aghast at the costume. It’s a forest green one shoulder satiny thing with big flowers stapled to it - the most literal interpretation of “Mother Earth” imaginable. Unfortunately the choreography isn’t much better. Contemporary dance can veer toward the ugly, as it tries to uncover deeper truth. This is uncovering lots of ugly, while only brushing past the most obvious of aspects of our troubled relationship to the planet. The routine is almost “Russian Folk Dance” bad. I can’t even really critique Melinda, because the number itself was so awful – it was unsalvageable from the get-go.
Nigel thinks the number was a lovely idea. (Sounds like faint praise to me.) He liked Melinda’s lines, which are so different from her tap routines. Mia also like the concept, but the dress “was a little something”. She never would have thought that Melinda was just “a hoofer”. Adam had nothing to add.
Jose – You Gotta Rub Me the Right Way
Jose was into sports and martial arts and then started breaking at 14. Nakul Dev Mahajan is going to teach him Bollywood, along with All-Star Kathryn McCormick. This is going to be as tough as Billy doing Krump. The music is MarijAdéchikéni MarjAdéchikéni Kasame from the Billu Barber soundtrack.
The story is about a genie in a bottle (Kathryn). All I can say is that Jose does much better than I thought he would. The number is fast, almost all in side by side synchronization and very unforgiving. But he holds up pretty well, and his impish sense of fun adds extra energy. Where he falters is in the multitude of small details (hand positions, head positions) that give Bollywood it’s extra kick. Kathryn, of course, is right on top of everything.
Nigel notes that Jose didn’t quite make it all the way to India (maybe as far as South Africa). However, his performance was tremendous. Mia thought it was fun, if it wasn’t quite perfect. Adam says Jose takes the prize for the brightest light on the show.
Lauren – Caught in a Hit and Run
Seventeen years ago Lauren was really hyper. She hasn’t changed that much. She joins Dominic with the woman who choreographed last week’s results show group number, Tessandra Chavez. They do a Hip-Hop about an abusive relationship. This won’t be easy for sunny Lauren, but she is taking it as a gift, since last week the judges wanted to see more character from her.
They dance to Beyonce ‘s If I Were A Boy and I think I would have like it better if they hadn’t told me what it was about. As a matter of fact, I’m going to rewind and watch it again just on its own terms. We have two people here locked in a cycle of violence and attraction. Both are reacting; neither getting what they want from the other. Lauren does a pretty good job on the choreography; she hits the moves hard, but doesn’t give quite enough of the stops and push-through that give hip-hop its shape. She does amp up the character work, though. I believed her all the way through the routine, until that moment at the end when she is on her knees facing front, and for a split second she loses the character and just blindly goes in to the last movement. As an actor – that kind of full stop with a chance simply to react in full view of the audience is a golden moment, but Lauren threw it away. Too bad.
Going back to Tessandra’s intention – I had two problems. First, all the side by side synchronized steps didn’t seem to tell me anything about the violence that preceded each section. It seemed like the number was fight-dance, fight-dance. The second problem I had was Lauren physically attacking Dominic. No, no, no, NO! That is 100% the wrong tactic for a woman in a physically abusive relationship. A woman won’t win that battle, and will most probably get beaten even worse. She needs to leave and find a safe place and allies. I’m glad Ms. Chavez is getting us into a conversation on this topic, but I think her direction is way off. Anyway, kudos for Lauren for stepping up to that number, and to Dominic who went to a really dark place and made it chillingly real.
“I believed the performance”, says Nigel. He welcomed Tassandra as a new choreographer. Mia felt the performance was one of the best of the night, but she would have liked to go even darker in the abuse sections. Adam was thrilled that Lauren took his comments from last week. “You just turned in to an actor”, he tells her.
Kent Boyd - Steam Heat
Kent shows us some cute pics of him in Mickey Mouse ears, as well as a wild performance at eight years old. Tyce is going to make him grow up real fast, though, as he pushes him through a steamy jazz number with Courtney Galiano to Amy Amy Amy by Amy Winehouse. “I get to work with Courtney, and she doesn’t even care, you get to touch her all you want! “
From the moment he pulls himself up on the table with Courtney, Kent is sexual desire personified. He throws himself though the number with such abandon, it’s almost unbelievable that this is the same wide-eyed small town boy we see in rehearsals. And the number has so many powerful moves.
He dove and flipped on to his back on the table – twice! He lept full speed into the air and dove on top of Courtney. Every moment was real and connected. Neither of these two are holding anything back. Courtney all but pushes Kent off the table at the end. What incredible acting talent this kid has. Two weeks in a row we have seen him surrender to a character so completely different than himself.
“Your journey from Wapokeneta is moving really fast”, says Nigel. “That was a jazz routine, thank you very much, Tyce.” (Cut to Tyce beaming and Travis mumbling under his breath.) Mia found great moments of technique. But she needed Kent to leave his big “Oh, gee!” personality behind. Adam agreed, but underlined that it was not about putting on a character, but finding it inside himself.
That’s the end of the show. We get a quick reprise of each routine, then all the dancers swarm the stage to dance out. As the camera circle we see Dominic quickly tip-toe by with a very specific destination in mind. Wanna guess who he was aiming for?
So, what did you think of the second live show? Did you believe Kent as a lusty Romeo? Was Roberto masterful enough in his tango? Would you like to join me in taking the pruning shears to Melinda's "earthy" costume? Tune in Thursday night for the results.