Tonight on So You Think You Can Dance, we enter the brave new world of the top ten. Nigel has promised us radical changes to the show’s format. This is uncharted territory, folks. But let’s cling to the familiar by examining Cat’s outfit before we go any further.
At first I think Cat is dressed normally, in a fairly conservative navy-blue dress. I mean, it has a cutout between the boobs, so you wouldn’t wear it to church or anything, but it’s conservative by her standards. Then, I start to think that I’ve been fooled, as it appears that there’s some strange yellow ruffly action going on up near the top of the dress. Then I realize that that’s just her hair, which has been poofed out to within an inch of its life. I guess she’s going for jungle theme tonight, and this is her best simulation of a lion’s mane. Meanwhile, the dress, is, in fact, pretty normal. I am let down. Incidentally, it’s quite unflattering – it makes her look like a straight tube.
The lion’s cheap tonight.
Cat does the intros, and I am happy to see that Donyelle is up and dancing, despite her famed toe injury. She’s in combat boots, though, so nothing too pinchy. Martha looks perkier than she did after her horrendous solo last week. Natalie flips her hair, demonstrating that she’s decided to ignore the judges’ advice to stop trying to be a sexpot all the time. Dmitry does little other than swivel his hips, demonstrating that he has also decided to ignore the judges’ advice to stop trying to coast by on, well, being a sexpot all the time. I miss Ashlee and Musa already, y’all.
Cat boogies on out and explains the format changes. First, the dancers will draw their partners randomly. They will dance with these new partners not once, but twice. Then, every single dancer will perform a solo, “to prove to you that they deserve to stay.” Yep, that’s what Nigel explained last week, and I didn’t think it could possibly be right, since I thought it would result in thirty performances in a two-hour show. Well, my math was wrong – it will only be twenty performances, but that’s still a whole lot. They are going to have to hustle to pack all of that in. Could this mean – gasp – no audition footage? Oh, a girl can dream.
Cat goes on to say that from now on, voting will be by dancer, not by couple, and the lowest-polling boy and girl will be eliminated. Thus, the judges’ role will become merely advisory, like on American Idol. Cat introduces tonight’s “jidges,” who are Jean-Marc Genereux; Cicely & Olisa (who are billed as one person, like the Two-Headed Monster on Sesame Street); and Nigel. Aw – I’m always kind of sad when Mary isn’t on, and Cicely and Olisa never say anything interesting, although they are charming and cute.
Nigel interviews that expectations are high in this round. He doesn’t seem to be feeling much sympathy for the dancers. We jump right in, with Ivan as our first contestant. Cat, in her Slinky dress from last week, makes him pick his partner’s name out of a hat, and he draws Martha. She screeches, all happy and excited. Then they draw hip-hop, so this is right in their wheelhouse. If they screw it up, they’re really going to hear about it.
Their choreographer is Shane Sparks, and Martha says that she’s nervous because she doesn’t think Shane likes her. Well, that’s interesting. Why does she think that? Ivan interviews that he’s pumped about Shane Sparks, but nervous about not dancing with Allison anymore. Then Martha says that she’s bitter about not drawing contemporary. Um, I thought Martha billed herself as being expert in both contemporary and hip-hop. And I thought her contemporary solo was horrific, so maybe she should be happy about this.
Shane Sparks yells out that things are tense in the studio, which does, indeed, seem to be the case. Shane interviews that he thinks that the dancers are nervous because of the variety-packed new performance-show format. Ivan confirms this, saying that one routine a week was hard enough; three is ridiculous. I agree, so far. Martha says that this week, we will find out who has been using his/her partner as a crutch and who hasn’t. True that.
We see virtually nothing of the actual rehearsing, and then it’s time for the dance. When Cat announces “Martha and Ivan,” I initially think she’s made a mistake, so accustomed am I to hearing her say “Martha and Travis.” Or rather, “Marther and Travis.” Anyway, the routine starts with them sitting on the steps, wearing fedoras and trench coats. The dance has popping-type elements and goes perfectly with the ultra-modern music; the whole thing is very stylish, but I think the trench coats make it a lot harder to see whether they’re doing a good job. Ivan has a couple of MJ/Timberlake-type moves – he’s just plagiarizing those guys, but he’s doing it competently. Martha is pretty much of a non-entity.
Nigel says that the choreography was great; he calls it “Spy vs. Spy,” which is a good description. He says that Ivan out-danced Martha, and this is especially bad for Martha because there’s no chemistry between the two of them, which means that she can’t really free-ride off of Ivan’s sparkier performance. Olisa says that Martha is good, but hasn’t improved much from week to week. Cicely agrees that Martha seems to be lacking some life. Jean-Marc says that it’s tough to establish chemistry with such a short time to practice, which has got to be true. He thinks the quality of the dancing was there, but he, like the other judges, was looking for something more. Martha looks totally depressed, and I must agree that she is at risk.
Unfortunately, this will set the tone for Martha’s evening.
Donyelle is next, and Cat points out that she has never danced a solo in competition. Yes, and neither has Benji, because this show promotes them so breathlessly that they have never been in the bottom three. I like them, but they have been overhyped. Oddly, Donyelle is dancing her solo right now. I don’t get the order of this show – is it random, or what? She does a routine that reminds me a little bit of Missy Elliott. It’s good, but again, the boots and the relative lack of jumping around make me wonder how badly her foot is hurting her.
Cat asks Donyelle about her foot and she says, rather unconvincingly, that it’s okay. Nigel gives a weird sort of backhanded compliment when he says that seeing Donyelle do a hip-hop routine reminds him of how brilliantly she performed in all of her other dances with Benji when she had to dance outside of her specialty. Cicely gets up and does a little booty-shaking Donyelle impersonation, causing Nigel to recoil in mock-horror, saying, “Why do I always get them next to me?”
Cicely says that Donyelle is number one. Olisa says that Donyelle’s dance gave Nigel “heat rash.” Jean-Marc calls Donyelle a “money player.” I have to say, I think most of this praise is based more on Donyelle’s past performances and general awesomeness than on that routine, which was good, but nothing really special.
After the break, Dmitry is up. It’s solo time. He does a truly awesome routine with ballroom moves, and hip-hop moves, and legs and hips moving at the speed of light in certain parts, and other parts that are slow and dramatic. It’s pretty amazing how he packs all of this into thirty seconds. Then he makes me hurl when he rips open his shirt at the end of it. Oh, how I hope he’s trying to be ironic. Nigel thinks this is hilarious.
Jean-Marc gets up and makes a big show of fanning Cicely and Olisa. Cat snuggles her head on Dmitry’s shoulder and acts lovestruck – it’s pretty cute. Nigel, still laughing, jokes that he’s sure no ladies will vote for that. What about the Dmitry-lovin’ boys, Nigel? Cicely says that Dmitry’s shirt-ripping move reminded her of Michael Jackson. Olisa says Dmitry was in his element and did great. Jean-Marc says that Dmitry has grown a lot and is showing a lot of versatility. The way Cat says “Jean-Marc” is really pretentious – she’s trying to be way too Euro all of a sudden.
Nigel stands up and pretends he’s going to rip his shirt open. Cat tells him to put it away, because he’s scaring the kids. Jean-Marc gets up and shields Nigel’s chest with a sheet of paper. Hee.
Travis is up next, for his partner dance. He draws Heidi, and they both pretend to be happy. They draw the paso doble. And, yippee, they’re being choreographed by Mary Murphy. Mary looks like she got dressed during a solar eclipse. She has streaked hair, a flashy gold-coin necklace with earrings to match, a shirt tied under her boobs, a flowy skirt – it’s an attempted gypsy look, but it goes just a little too far. Travis practices growling and being macho. Mary says that this dance is so intense that someone may die. Oh, Mary, don’t get my hopes up like that.
Mary is now being boycotted by gypsies worldwide.
The routine opens with Travis holding Heidi upside down behind his head, so that her legs point straight up. It’s backlit and melodramatic. He takes a few steps forward and then drops her (yes, on purpose). The dance is a hundred percent high drama, as the paso doble is supposed to be, but in my opinion, Travis just doesn’t project all that much testosterone. There have been times when the judges have said that to him and I thought it was mean, but this dance is supposed to be really butch, and I think it matters.
Nigel makes a comment about how amazing it is that Mary can choreograph something so brilliant, and then just “sit here and giggle.” Good point. He says the dance was great, but it may not matter, because they’re thinking of changing the name of the show to “So You Think You Can Open Your Shirt.” Nigel says that Heidi and Travis have chemistry; I disagree. Cicely and Olisa say that their form and intensity were great, and they made them believe in the presence of a bull and a cape. No, ladies, I think that’s the effect of the special Kool-Aid they put out on the judges’ table for the benefit of Mary Murphy. Jean-Marc says the dance was passionate, and Heidi and Travis rocked.
After the commercial break, Ryan draws Allison as his partner. Aw – they might be cute together. They draw contemporary, which is their mutual specialty, but they’re being choreographed by Mia Michaels, and she’s kind of a tough bitch. We see Mia putting some kind of terrifying headlock on Ryan, and he comments that her requirements are really specific, and she got frustrated with them when they didn’t understand that during the first half-hour. Makes sense – Allison usually just rolls around like an adorable puppy with Ivan during rehearsals; I bet Mistress Mia doesn’t stand for that sort of thing.
This is what happens when you piss off Mia Michaels.
Then Ryan accidentally whacks his nose on Allison’s butt, and he really hurts himself. Wait, someone’s butt can be that hard? News to me. He says he blacked out, but I think he’s exaggerating. Then, OW, we see the marks on Allison’s back where Ryan’s face hit. Okay, so it was his nose AND mouth, and it really wasn’t her butt – it was her lower back. She’s seriously bruised. I can’t believe he didn’t bleed. That was a serious collision.
Here goes. Oh, my God, this is the most mockable type of contemporary routine. First of all, they’re wearing eye patches. Why? I would imagine these would make it harder to see, and therefore to dance; unsurprisingly, they push them up onto their foreheads after a few seconds, which makes it even dumber that they have them on at all. Second, they’re not wearing pants. Long-sleeved black leotards, with hardly any legs. This looks okay on Allison, but it is a BAD look on a guy; I don’t care who you are or what you’re trying to project. The dance is a series of postmodern mime-like poses. It turns out to be exactly what Ryan is best at, whereas Allison looks kind of fake jerking around and trying to be all serious. Also, their unison is not very good. The dance ends when they dramatically run off the end of the stage, like lemmings over a cliff. The main thing I got from it is that Ryan is better than I realized.
This is also what happens when you piss off Mia Michaels.
Nigel says that he couldn’t understand that dance without a book interpreting the mysterious mind of Mia Michaels. Word. Mia snickers in the audience. Nigel says it was good because it involved having them put their bodies into unprecedented positions. He compliments them, and I think he’s right that it was a very difficult dance. Olisa says that Allison nailed it, while Ryan didn’t “melt” into each move. Cicely says that Ryan’s lines and moves are great, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to come from within. Jean-Marc says that they’re both amazing dancers with incredible extension.
Next up is Martha’s solo. Really, this order is so random. Obviously Martha figured out that her last solo was a stinker, so she’s now gone in the opposite direction, dancing to “What You Waiting For?” and wearing a very, very, very unfortunate green hat. This is, I guess, a pop routine, lighter on the moves and heavier on the personality, which she must realize she really needs to show. She’s rocking some serious cleavage and has a big glittery dollar sign on her chest.
Nigel tells Martha she’s in the danger zone – there was nothing outstanding about her dance, and she has to go up against four other girls. The audience boos. Cicely says the exact same thing as Nigel. Olisa says the dance was cute, but Martha seemed to hold something back. Jean-Marc liked it – he says Martha looked “expensive” and “fun,” but needs to smile more. She grins, but unfortunately, the stupid hat completely shades the top half of her face, so she really appears to be hiding from the judges and all of their comments. Finally she pulls back the brim and we can see that she’s crying. She tries to smile as Cat reads the phone numbers. Yeah, she sees the writing on the wall. There’s no way she can get more votes than Donyelle or Natalie or Allison. I’m not sure about Heidi, but if Martha gets past Heidi this week, she’s still going to hit the wall next week.
It’s safer under there.
There’s another break and then Ivan does his solo. It’s a fun little R&B number, but what is this? Ivan appears to have wheels in the heels of his shoes – he goes rolling all over the place. Okay, if he actually has wheels in his shoes, how can that possibly be allowed in a dance competition? Nigel says the dance was gimmicky and probably won’t garner votes, but he thinks Ivan should still be pulling votes from his performance last week. Cicely and Olisa are not pleased with Nigel’s comments. I am relieved that they still have the capacity to disagree with him. Cicely makes claws and hisses at him – awesome. Olisa and Cicely both say that Ivan is a great freestyler, but they don’t see enough in his eyes. Jean-Marc agrees that the rolly shoes were a fun gimmick, but Ivan can do better.
This is how I roll..
Ivan makes the always stupid move of talking back to the judges about how he thinks that part of his job is to entertain America. I know the judges aren’t voting anymore, but you alienate the audience when you do that. I am speaking as a voter. Well, not a voter, but a potential voter. I once tried to vote on American Idol in 2002 (yes, it was for Clay; don’t hurt me; I have since seen the light), and I voted at least four times during season two of Dancing with the Stars, so I am obviously a key demographic. Listen up: When you talk back to the judges, it makes you seem like a little snot.
Now it’s time for Dmitry to draw a partner. As we have all been reminded ad nauseam, his three previous partners have all been cut from the show. Cat makes a totally random and uncalled-for slam on Colin Farrell by saying that Colin Farrell is the only person who may have had more partners than Dmitry. Ouch! What did Colin Farrell ever do to you, Cat? Don’t answer that. Anyway, Dmitry draws Donyelle. Things get off to a bad start when he can’t even pronounce her name. She gives Benji a long, sad hug goodbye. Aw.
Dmitry and Donyelle draw the Lindy Hop. Eh? Is that a real ballroom style, or is it just, like, recreational or something? I know it’s from the ’20s, but I kind of thought it had stayed there. Donyelle ogles Dmitry’s chest. I would be very happy never to see Dmitry’s chest again, at this point, but I know that is not to be. The choreographers are that boring couple that choreographed swing or something in a previous week. I think the Lindy Hop might be a form of swing. We see one awkward moment where Dmitry kind of tosses Donyelle over his head and it looks like she lands pretty hard on her feet, and maybe on her injured toe. Donyelle interviews that whenever Dmitry dances ballroom, the judges gush over him and slam his partner.
They do the dance and it is just amazing. The speed and energy are totally frenetic. You can tell that Dmitry is a little better at these moves than Donyelle is, but her speed is right there, and her personality and presence are so overwhelming that it never, ever seems like she’s lagging behind him. There are a bunch of flips and stuff that are flawlessly done, and they both really project a “swing” persona. This is the best dance I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks.
Cat says, “We’ve had hip-hop, we’ve had pop, and now we’ve had Lindy Hop.” Except she pronounces everything wrong and says “hoop” and “poop.” Huh? Is she trying to imitate Dmitry’s accent, or is she drunk? Anyway, Nigel says the routine had great energy, but Dmitry didn’t have the proper “double bounce.” He says Donyelle is “like a little bundle of dynamite.” He points out one part where she flung herself backward across the stage, on faith that Dmitry would catch her, which he did. It’s true – Donyelle doesn’t do anything halfway.
Cicely calls Dmitry “Demetrius.” Is that intentional? And, hey, I guess those two names are probably from the same root. I never thought of that before. So, Cicely and Olisa thought that Dmitry executed well, but didn’t quite convey the style of the dance. I didn’t notice that, myself, but I do agree that Donyelle had several times more personality than he did. You know, Benji was a great partner for her – she will probably tend to overpower anyone less joyful. Olisa kind of has a seizure when she talks about Donyelle. She stands up and starts yelling, “Blah! Blah! Blah!” Er, okay. I think she means “You did very well.” Jean-Marc says the dance was pretty good; he expected something even better, but overall they did a very good job.
After the next set of commercials, Benji draws Natalie. If you were paying attention, you realized that they were the only two left, but I didn’t. They draw jazz. Benji says that Natalie is beautiful and he is a geek. They do “jazz hands” on their way into the studio, where their choreographer is Tyce DiOrio. Tyce says that this jazz routine will be influenced by modern and African. Natalie is stressed out by the fact that she has to learn two partner dances. Tyce tries to help her focus. We don’t see much rehearsal.
I don’t know what to say about this dance. It’s graceful and melodic; there’s a lot of leaping; it all strikes me as a bit disorganized and almost improv. I know it isn’t really; that’s just the feeling I get from it. I think this might be mainly because I hate this song (“Wonderful” by India.Arie) – it sounds like noise. I feel like they’re off the beat, or they’re doing two separate and unrelated dances, or both.
Nigel says the dance was great, just joyful, with wonderful choreography. Cicely and Olisa don’t have a lot to say – basically, they say it was pretty good. Oh my gosh! Natalie is snuggling her head into Benji’s neck just like she always did with Musa. All this time I thought she had a thing for him, and she’s really just a huge partner slut. Jean-Marc says he didn’t want the music to stop. Well, that makes one of us.
Next up is Heidi’s solo. She does what she does best, which is to gyrate her hips and legs almost too fast to be perceived by the human eye. What makes it interesting is that it’s set to a hip-hop song. It’s good, standard Heidi. The judges all say the same thing – Heidi is perky, bubbly, technically skilled. Nigel and Jean-Marc both say that this was a smart, well-planned solo. Jean-Marc says that Heidi doesn’t need a partner.
Whoo – we’re only at the halfway point. Whose idea was this “second routine” crap? I think this would be an excellent place to end the show. Anywho, Martha and Ivan draw “smooth waltz” for their second number. Again with the overly specific dance styles. Why not just give them a video to watch and say “copy this”? Ivan and Martha pretend to be happy about the smooth waltz. Their choreographers are another generic ballroom couple. There’s a funny bit where the guy choreographer spins Ivan all around as though Ivan is the girl, and Ivan gets really dizzy.
The choreographers tell Ivan and Martha to pretend that this is their wedding day. Instead, Ivan is up to his old shenanigans, growling at the camera and fooling around. Martha points out that she is massive compared to Ivan. She refers to herself as “Diesel” and him as “Yea Big,” and then Cat introduces them with those names before their dance. Cat is trying way too hard this week.
The dance is all floaty, and the lighting is like prom in a high school gym. Martha’s dress billows; Dolly Parton sings. This is boring. There are some lifts and spins, which are good. I mean, the whole thing is executed well; it’s just a slow dance with no frills. Poor Martha – I wish she had drawn something flashier that would have at least given her a chance in hell.
Nigel says that neither Ivan nor Martha correctly reflected the style; the dance was too simple and not good enough. Cicely says they failed to glide and it wasn’t very good. Olisa says it was pretty good, but not the best – Ivan’s footwork was not what it should have been. Jean-Marc says that the choreographers tried to design something that was at their level, but Martha was kind of screwed because Ivan didn’t provide her with a strong enough “frame” in which to dance. Jean-Marc hopes people will vote for them anyway and give them another chance. Not bloody likely, at least when it comes to Martha.
Next is Travis’s solo. What can I say about Travis? He’s the same as always. He spins like a mofo, and he tumbles around the stage. He’s fluid and beautiful. His music is tortured – all about the emotional pain. Travis does one strange move where he clutches at his chest like he’s having a heart attack. He ends with a split, and, unfortunately, makes cutesy Little Orphan Annie fists under his chin.
Nigel thinks Travis is one of the most talented dancers they’ve ever had, and for some reasons, he liked Travis’s cheesy fists. Cicely says Travis is fighting for his life the way it’s meant to be done. Olisa says Travis’s spins were “off the chain,” and he shows emotion from within. Actually, yeah, he does. Jean-Marc says that Travis can do anything and should just keep going exactly the way that he is. Y’all, I like Travis and everything, but he’s TOO SHORT. I notice that Jean-Marc has an interesting accent. I’m thinking maybe he’s actually French-Canadian. Just like Celine Dion! Hey, I smell a conspiracy.
We move on to Allison and Ryan’s second dance, which is Broadway. They should both be good at this, although Ryan’s lack of visible personality could hurt them. Their choreographer is Tyce. Rehearsal footage basically just shows them hopping around. It turns out that they’re dancing to Liza Minnelli’s version of “Bye Bye Blackbird.” This should be fun. Oh, God, what are they wearing? Their outfits are Mr. and Mrs. Claus dressed up as pimp and ho. I don’t know any better way to describe it. Anyway, the routine is jokey and fun. There’s a lot of mugging for the camera. I don’t think it’s quite Broadway-caliber – it’s more cruise-ship caliber.
Ho, ho, ho.
Nigel didn’t like this one – he starts out by saying that he’s going to try to be constructive. Always a bad sign. He tells Ryan that he’s not sure whether he’s “got it.” His extensions and lines are always perfect, but he missed the little nuances and flourishes that should have come from Liza Minnelli-slash-Bob Fosse-slash-Tyce. As for Allison, Nigel liked the fact that she improvised a little flourish around her hat falling off. I didn’t even notice that anything had gone wrong, which supports the theory that she handled it well.
Olisa says that Ryan has a lot of technique, but doesn’t show enough character (acting, not moral fiber). Cicely doesn’t have anything to add. Ryan looks totally sullen. Jean-Marc says that when you dance Broadway, you have to be felt all the way in the back row. Cat then hijacks his comments by asking the people in the back row whether they “felt it.” Of course, they all screech obligingly, thus depriving Jean-Marc of his opportunity to actually complete his thought. He seems annoyed. Could we just replace Cat with a robot, please?
Natalie performs her solo. She starts out sitting on the edge of the stage, and the camera totally looks up her dress. I swear, Natalie’s crotch has been a whole separate contestant on this show. She does your stereotypical contemporary routine with tormented leaping and rolling. Nigel points out that Natalie’s parents are there. Wow, they look really young, and also really normal. Nigel says that he hopes her parents are as proud of her as he is, because she’s sensational. I wonder if they’re proud of the way she’s always flashing her crotch and whoring up her routines. Seriously, though, they’re cute and so is she.
Natalie’s siblings, er, parents..
Cicely commends Natalie on her turns and control. Olisa praises her emotion. Jean-Marc cites her passion and calls her electric. You know, he’s kind of dressed like a gangster. I like it. We see Natalie’s parents again. Okay, I swear she and her mom are roughly the same age. I have a feeling Natalie looks much older on the show than she really is, because of the makeup.
I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse, man..
After commercial, we see Benji’s solo. This is a major turning point for me – a milestone in my watching of this show. As of this moment, I officially want Benji to win. I love this dance. It’s just old-fashioned rock and roll – “Land of 1,000 Dances” – but he makes the most of every one of his thirty seconds. He starts out shaking his hips up on the steps, but he also throws in a split and a spin, almost offhand. Then he does a crazy backbend. Then he slides down the railing. All of this is perfectly set to the music. He throws in fist pumps and finger-gun pointing. This is an example of someone who gets the nuances – none of these little touches is necessary; it’s just about being a performer. He does some more spins, and some sliding across the floor, and some Dmitry-caliber footwork. He looks great, by the way, in a black shirt and pants and a pink tie. At the end of the routine, he shakes his butt and then points to it. Ew – I could have lived without that part. The crowd chants Benji’s name.
Benji wins my love.
Nigel says that this routine means that no one can ever again use the excuse that they’re used to dancing with a partner rather than solo – Benji has just shown them how it’s done. Cicely is totally incoherent. Here’s a full transcript: “Good gracious, great balls of fire! I didn’t know what to do; I was back here like, all right [nonverbal noises]. Go for it.” O…kay. Olisa says Benji had better look out or somebody is going to smack his butt. She calls him “a one-man show,” which is a good description. Jean-Marc says that Benji owned it, and Jean-Marc believed it, man.
Nigel interjects. He wants to know whether Benji has wheels on his shoes, and whether he has his shirt open. Benji answers no. Nigel says, “THANK YOU.” Ooh, burn on Ivan and Dmitry. It’s an excellent point: You shouldn’t need gimmicks. Some people rely on them, and some people don’t, and the ones who don’t are better. Although really, I don’t see much of a difference between Dmitry opening his shirt at the end of his routine, and Benji pointing to his ass at the end of his. Cat snuggles with Benji. Y’all, that dress makes her look like she has a gut. Obviously, she has like one percent body fat. Why would she wear that?
For their second dance, Dmitry and Donyelle draw samba. Man – ballroom twice in one night. That’s rough on Donyelle. Awesomely, they get Mary Murphy, and she’s accompanied by some guy who was a contestant last season. I’m sorry, but I didn’t watch then, so this guy’s name and face mean nothing to me. Dmitry and the other guy speak Russian to each other. Mary doesn’t like this – she yells “Nyet! Nyet!” Not sure why it bothers her so much, but it’s still funny when she yells that. Most of the rehearsal footage centers on them all laughing and having fun.
Here comes the samba. They’re dancing to a Black-Eyed Peas song, and there are definitely some hip-hop elements to the dance. In general, this dance doesn’t seem difficult enough to be a real ballroom samba. I know none of the dances on this show are ballroom-competition caliber, but this one seems exceptionally easy. (Not for me, duh. I can’t even move my arms and legs at the same time in opposite directions.)
Nigel demands to know who dresses Dmitry. He is unhappy about this constant chest-baring, which he says must be geared toward Dmitry’s “fans.” Donyelle confirms that she is now one of said fans. Nigel compliments Donyelle on her facial acting, which is always superb. He says that her eyes are always visible and draw the viewer in. This is true, but I suspect it’s because she wears weird light-colored contacts. If I’m right, those contacts are a smart career move on her part, because they really do make you look at her face.
Donyelle handles the merchandise.
Cat lets Jean-Marc go next. She must feel guilty about cutting him off earlier. Jean-Marc says it was great – Donyelle transformed herself into a ballroom dancer. He says Dmitry is a great partner and frames Donyelle beautifully, and Mary is a fantastic choreographer. Cicely says that Dmitry has finally found a partner, after failing several times. Oh, boo. Dmitry was very happy with Ashlee, and he was totally bummed that she got sent home. I object, Your Honor. Anyway, Cicely says that this is Dmitry’s element, but “Danielle [sic], this is not your element. Excellent, excellent, excellent.” Olisa just nods. How do Cicely and Olisa work together day in, day out? Are they really both happy to just utter half-thoughts all the time? They must be REALLY good friends.
Heidi and Travis draw contemporary for their second dance. Travis is so happy that he literally falls down on the floor. Feh – we have to look again at Heidi’s dress o’rags from last week. It’s as bad as ever. Their choreographer is Mia Michaels, who greets them with a weird bow and a bouquet of flowers behind her back. She interviews that she’s going to “create as we go.” Oh, I know what that means. It means you didn’t prepare anything, and now you’re going to pull this routine out of your ass.
We start rehearsal with Mia telling Heidi and Travis to “think circular.” I swear, Mia Michaels is a frustrated mime. She is all about the weird avant-garde posing. It turns out that for once, Heidi is not the A+ student in rehearsal. Travis interviews that he was trying to come up with different ways of explaining things to Heidi. Heidi interviews that her body won’t do the things that Mia wants it to do. I highly doubt that – I’ve seen Heidi’s body do a lot of things, and Mia works with a lot of dancers, and I don’t think she would ask Heidi to do something physically impossible. Then we see Heidi crying. I am not surprised. She seems like someone who only knows how to be the teacher’s pet and would have a meltdown the first time she’s confronted with something that’s difficult for her. She interviews (crying some more) that Travis is a contemporary dancer, and she isn’t, and she just has to figure out a way to get through this. Oh, cry me a river.
Here comes the dance. Their props are a park bench and a sunflower, and their music is a Celine Dion song I’ve never heard before. It seems quieter and therefore less appalling than your average Celine Dion song. I like this routine. It piques my visual interest, both because of the way they use the park bench and because of the positions they get into. I find myself actually wondering what they’re going to do next, which doesn’t happen to me that often, especially with contemporary routines. If Mia Michaels actually improvised this, she’s a genius. On the other hand, the park bench is a gimmick and a bit of a cop-out – it makes everything a lot easier – and there’s not as much actual dancing as usual. A lot of it has been replaced by acting, reflecting, and staring off into space.
How is it possible that I liked this?
Travis is noticeably better than Heidi here, but she totally pulls it off, as you would expect from someone as driven as she is. For one thing, she’s always been one of the better actors on the show, so the longing stares are a good fit for her. She looks relieved when it ends. Nigel says that he knows he’s a hard old bastard, but some things touch him, and that routine was one of them. He feels privileged to have been there to watch that choreography. Then he tells Heidi that she grew a lot this week and raised her game.
Cicely acts out how she wants to kiss Nigel all over his face, because this routine made her fall in love. She was impressed with the way that Heidi was able to soften her usual persona. Olisa doesn’t get to say anything, even though I never hear her say that she doesn’t want to. Jean-Marc gets all deep with his comments: “Space, roundness, and story. You two was fabulous. The story was emotional, and it’s so true in life. We look for love, and through the movement of Mia, you show that sometimes it’s not easy to fall in love with somebody or make somebody wants to love you, and it’s fantastic.” Oh, yeah. I didn’t bother to mention that the theme of the dance was “lovers kept apart.” Isn’t that the theme of 50 percent of all dances? However, it was well-portrayed here, I will admit.
Allison’s solo follows. Yay! It’s “We Belong” by Pat Benatar, which my friends and I did in karaoke last weekend! That prejudices me in favor of this routine, which has Allison doing a more African-influenced dance than she usually does. It’s very good. Nigel agrees, but says she should watch out for just keeping one expression on her face. Yeah, I noticed that – she has this frozen grin which starts to seem less authentic after a while. Cicely says the same thing – Allison needs more facial expressions. Olisa says it was expressive and good. Jean-Marc says that on the first season of this show, the guys were better than the girls, but this year, it’s much more even, and the girls are kicking some butt.
Natalie and Benji draw hip-hop with Shane Sparks. He says that Natalie and Benji are “not the most ghetto couple in the world,” so he gives them alter egos. Oh, jeez, not that again. Natalie says she’s gotta be gangsta, and she can’t even pronounce it. Benji interviews that between Shane and Natalie, he was kind of intimidated by all the booty in the room. Natalie says she has junk in her trunk and always thought that “booty popping” would be easy, but now she’s learned that “there’s an art to booty popping.” Shane wants Natalie to learn a move where she will “make [her] butt cheeks bounce to the music.”
Benji tries to be ghetto.
My favorite thing about the dance is the clothes – black coveralls and red baseball caps. This is one of the more fun hip-hop routines I can remember. They really move fast. But I keep waiting for Natalie’s ass to work some real magic and it never comes. Yeah, she uses it a lot, but I don’t see anything unprecedented like Shane was hinting about. Nigel says the dance was a lot of fun, but he didn’t think it was very good. He plugs his ears as the crowd boos. He says that the two of them weren’t in unison when they should have been, and that “just because you put on a mean face doesn’t mean you’re doing hip-hop.” He also says that they didn’t show chemistry, and that the judges always let people know when they aren’t up to snuff in ballroom, so they have to do the same in hip-hop.
Natalie and Benji say that that’s totally fair, and they try to stop the crowd from booing. Cat follows tonight’s pattern of interjecting herself into the proceedings more than she should, making an unfunny joke about how they’re dressed all ghetto and tough but acting all sweet with the “That’s fair.” Shut up, Cat. Cicely says they both danced great but weren’t together as a pair. Olisa says that Cicely took the words right out of her mouth, and Cicely mimes doing that. I bet this happens a lot. Olisa adds that Natalie was boyish as appropriate and sexy as appropriate, and that Benji was believable in a hip-hop role. Jean-Marc says, “You brought it home, baby.” He loved it. Meanwhile, Natalie continues to rub and paw all over Benji. Is this a security-blanket thing with her?
Now we have Ryan’s solo. He dances to Jamiroquai, which allows him to take his usual amazing leaps and extensions and funk them up a little. He makes an obvious effort to show more feeling in his face than usual, but he’s only partly successful. It’s not just about the facial expression, Ryan, it’s about trying to draw the audience in. But he gets partway there. I think this was an excellent solo for him. Nigel congratulates Ryan and says he foresees him having a career as a soloist with a dance company. Olisa says that when Ryan’s in his element, he gives it; Cicely agrees. Jean-Marc says there’s nothing Ryan can’t do; he just has to choose well and should keep it up.
And that, at long last, is the end. Cat shows the recaps of each dancer in all three dances. When they’re grouped together like this, it’s easier to see who put up a good night and who didn’t. Martha and Ivan were by far the weakest. Natalie also didn’t impress me too much tonight. As for the other seven, if any of them is sent home, it will be a travesty. But luckily, I’m watching this the next morning, so I can’t be tempted to vote. (For Benji.) See y’all tomorrow for the results show, which I guess will be exclusively filler now that the judges aren’t making any actual decisions!