Thursday, July 10, 2014

Season Eleven, Week Two: Top Twenty Elimination

Some disasters. Some clever choreography. Some fun performances. And some bitchiness.

Group Performance (Choreographed by Joshua Bergasse)

They just sold me a ticket to On the Town. Josh Bergasse is a genius choreographer (just check out some of his stellar work on NBC's Smash, especially "The National Pastime" and "I Heard Your Voice in a Dream"), and this was no exception. It was a really smart mix of traditional musical theatre with modern dance elements, plus he expertly mixed in Emilio's disparate b-boy style in a really strong solo. There were a lot of places to look, but it never seemed frantic or messy; choreographers on the show take note of how well you can work with twenty distinctive dancers and make them all look good without the big picture suffering.

P.S - For anyone who wasn't paying attention, this is the show the winner will be offered a role in.

Tanisha and Rudy (Jazz by Sonya Tayeh)

Ugh, here's the Sonya I didn't miss. When will she realize that her more tender pieces are the ones the judges and audiences connect with? This looked exactly the same as a dozen other dances she's choreographed in the past, so I just didn't give a shit. I remain unimpressed with Rudy and uninspired by Tanisha.

Valerie and Ricky (Contemporary by Travis Wall)

This was pretty simple, all things considered. Aside from the last thigh stand, this choreography was visually interesting without seeming too difficult. Valerie was better than she had any right to be as a tapper, though I felt she was dancing more than performing. Watch Ricky's extensions and you can see the energy coming out of his limbs, the tension releasing out through his toes. Valerie lacked that. I didn't feel a lot of connection to the material or to either dancer, but it was perfectly danced by Ricky and surprisingly well danced by Valerie, even with the lack of emotion.

Bridget and Emilio (Hip Hop by Luther Brown)

The styling of this piece was horrendous. I really wish the wardrobe department would share whatever they're hitting sometimes... seriously, they put Emilio in pleather drop-crotch pants and a tunic. It happened. The actual dance was unmemorable. Emilio is fun and personable, but I don't really like him as a dancer. I mean, I like him... he's likeable. I just don't think he's very good. Bridget didn't do much but twerk. She was fine, could have been worse, but also could have been a lot better. Meh.

Jessica and Nick (West Coast Swing by Benji Schwimmer)

More like Mess Coast Swing. I have nothing positive to say.

Carly and Serge (Contemporary by Sonya Tayeh)

Let me start by saying how fucking full of herself Sonya has become. In her rehearsal interview, she actually said, "I expect this piece to be profoundly moving." Thinking pretty highly of yourself there, no?

I thought the actual performance was wildly overpraised. This song is so unbelievably emotional, Sam Smith's voice so deeply affecting, that I felt more for the music than I did for the movement. The choreography and performances didn't live up to that. Serge was a hot mess, so I don't understand the love for him. He was flat-footed, he didn't get down far enough into plie for some of those opening movements, he was stiff throughout, he had no emotion showing on his face, and he was shuffling through a lot of the lifts. Don't get what the judges love, unless they just got carried away by the song and transferred that emotion onto the movement.

Emily and Teddy (Hip Hop by Dave Scott)

I really don't like Teddy. He has a creepy smile that reminds me of Jack Nicholson in the Tim Burton Batman. He also has an attitude about him that says, "I'm good looking and talented, and I fucking know it." On to the dance... what was the point of the rockabilly styling? Pointless. And that stupid little crab walk thing Teddy did while Emily shimmied over him was both awkward and unattractive. I'm not really a fan of Dave Scott, and this just showed why. His choreography is kind of fun but mostly unmemorable and middling. I liked Emily fine, I liked Teddy's actual movement fine, but the routine was a bit of a snooze.

Malene and Stanley (Broadway by Spencer Liff)

I absolutely loved this concept and choreography. It was like Fosse meets Bells Are Ringing. But these two dancers were atrocious. How did Malene make it to the top twenty when she can't kick above 60 degrees? I also stand behind my critique of Stanley from last week: he's all over the place, and this week it came off as hammy since he was over-dancing to make up for Malene's shortcomings.Malene also can't really bend her back or do turns... again, what are you doing here? Spencer clearly tried to work with her, giving Stanley more difficult choreography than her. (Fuck you, Nigel, for saying that Spencer should have given her "other things to do." No, she should have worked until she could do the fucking choreography. This isn't summer camp; get your shit together and stretch your damn leg until you can kick your face.) This could have been a stellar dance if it were done by better dancers. As it stands, I feel bad for Spencer for wasting such a great idea on two lackluster people.

Jourdan and Marcquet (Jazz by Sean Cheesman)

Remember when we did this concept before with Robert and Kathryn to "Cool?" Or when Mandy Moore did the board room dance? Because this just took those basic concepts and made them uglier and annoying. The lighting was out of control for this number; I hope nobody with epilepsy was watching, because they're probably in the hospital today. You could barely see the movement at times, which might have been a blessing considering how absurd some of it was. Marcquet's wonderful energy from last week made him look over the top in this one. He was slightly ahead, and he overacted. Jourdan was... there. I don't care about her.

Brooklyn and Casey (Argentine Tango by Miriam Larici & Leonardo Barrionuevo)

This was a much better showing for Casey than last week, though he definitely played second fiddle to Brooklyn here. I will remember her from now because of this. The Argentine Tango is hard to pull off because of the tight frame and control required, but they did a pretty good job. Brooklyn wasn't as good in this style as Caitlyn was back in season 8 (which I think will always be the best performance from a contestant doing this style), but she was much better than Hayley was last season and even than Lauren Froderman was back in season 7. Casey was a bit too short to really properly partner her, but this was definitely a success.

Jacque and Zack (African Jazz by Sean Cheesman)

Best performance of the night. Fun choreography, insane costumes, great music. Jacque really proved herself to be more than a ballerina here, and I was shocked by how well Zack moved, especially as a tapper. They both really lost themselves in the style and the movement and the craziness of the piece, and it was so much fun. That first lift with Zack lifting Jacque using just his neck, the floor work... all of it worked for me. This was probably my favorite African jazz number on the show since Russell and Noelle's in season 6. (Sorry for all the callbacks to earlier seasons in these last two critiques, but I remember everything and think about this stuff constantly as I'm watching.)


Bottom Three Girls: Brooklyn, Jourdan, Malene
Bottom Three Guys: Nick, Serge, Casey

Bye, Malene. I thought you were great last week, but you royally sucked in Spencer's Broadway routine tonight, so it was pretty obvious you were getting the toss. Same with you, Nick. You got a style that was pretty impossible to learn in the allotted rehearsal time, and it showed on stage... plus there are too many ballroom dancers this year, so it was going to be one of you. Seeyabye.

My Bottom Three Girls: Jessica, Bridget, Jourdan
My Bottom Three Guys: Rudy, Serge, Stanley

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