SYTYCD: “Puttin’ On the Ritz” Best Season-Opening Routine Ever

Last night So You Think You Can Dance began and ended with classic entertainment and artistic power. I was going to say that the opening routine — Herb Alpert’s Puttin’ On The Ritz choreographed by Tabitha and Napolean — was the best ever in the history of the show, but others have already beaten me to it. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. This routine had everything, including dance appearances by judges and choreographers: Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Sonya Tayeh, Travis Wall, Christopher Scott, and I probably missed somebody because I was trying to look everywhere at once. This performance is one to be saved and watched over and over.

The entertainment level of the entire show was so way up there I never dozed off once and Mike didn’t leave for parts unknown. I kept the hotline going to sister Katie’s phone, who, instead of saying “hello”, went immediately into her judge’s imitation. Stole the words right out of my mouth, so all I could do was play second chair. It is so refreshing to find a TV show we can squawk about.

None of the dances were boring — which in the past some have been — and the performance quality for an opening show surely rated in the top five of all SYTYCD seasons, and that’s in spite of dancers who never had professional training. You couldn’t tell it by looking, that’s for sure.

My favorite of the evening is no surprise. It’s the one that got the only standing ovation, choreographer Sonya Tayeh staring in head-clasped wonder, and Cat showing off her “first chills of the season”. It ended the night with something to remember. It was a contemporary routine about a girl with “unresolved issues” being pushed by the guy who loves her to confront and settle them so they can go on with their lives. It was performed by Amy Yakima and Fik-shun (Du-Shaunt Stegall), a young hip-hop dancer with no previous training in choreographed moves. The opening of the performance captured a frozen moment where intensity was etched into the faces of the dancers. The routine was filled with startling and impressive stop-motion moves perfectly held and performed. It told the story with such clarity that even an untrained eye like mine could not only grasp it, but be drawn into it.

The most amazing performance was a contemporary dance routine choreographed by the incomparable Travis Wall and executed beautifully by Jasmine Mason and Alan Bersten — while they were blindfolded. I didn’t get to see this performance last night because our Birmingham Fox 6 station ran commercials over it — and this is the second time they’ve done something like this in the past year. But watching it on YouTube brought tears to my eyes. The music — I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You by Ingrid Michaelson — was melting, and the blossoming of blind love was so completely sweet and touching.Then there were those heart-stopping moments when she jumped blindly into his arms, and “the drop” that Wayne and Mary were so taken by when she fell backward and he caught her. Wow! The costumes added flow to their already graceful, liquid movements. Wow, again. And the kiss at the end when they removed their blindfolds was — okay — Wow!

In a powerhouse performance by Jasmine Harper and Aaron Turner, this Samson and big Delilah duo literally rocked the stage. These two colossuses made Cat Deely (she’s really tall) “feel normal”. Jasmine is as beautiful as she is big. Again, Sonya Teyah is the choreographer of this contemporary jazz routine, and explains that the couple are crawling through thick, muddy, swampy trenches. They are fighting to reach a goal. And sometimes the battle for a goal feels like slogging through mud and muck. It is danced to the music of “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae, and is a perfect match in its sound effects for the performers. Jasmine’s legs are so long, lithe and powerful in her kicks, it made me wonder how Aaron held onto her — until I remembered just how big he is. And yet, his performance of those moves was so eloquent it made me forget about his size.

As for the other dancers:

Contrary to popular opinion I love Malece Miller, the little blonde with the cute short hairstyle I wish I could get away with wearing. When I first saw her in the auditions, I was impressed by how light on her feet she was. When she leaped she would float to the floor like a feather. This is the little dancer who was dropped on her head by a partner who cared more about talking on his cell phone than practicing. I still think she’s awesome, but since others see something lacking I mark it down to loss of confidence after almost getting her neck broken. She is partnered with Jade Zuberi, who did a surprisingly good job in their jazz routine by Travis Wall. But, small as she is, he is even shorter, and it makes for an unbalanced profile. They danced to Sliver Screen by Felix da Housecat. (Oh, these names). Malece was elegant, graceful, and still “floated” effortlessly.

I didn’t like the contemporary routine choreographed by Jason Gilkison to Fantasia’s “Get It Right”. This might be the same choreographer who has nearly killed his dancers before by giving them “impossible” routines with too many lifts and contortions in too small a space and time. This early in the season, the good choreographers try to make their dancers shine, suiting the art to the individual and partners as best they can while still stretching them beyond their personal bounds. This routine was, as Simon Cowell would say, “self-indulgent” by Gilkison to the detriment of his dancers, Mariah Spears and Carlos Garland. It came across as “frantic” and judges picked it apart.

Jason Gilkison’s “Roman Holiday-esk” Viennese waltz routine with Makenzie Dustman and Paul Kamiryan was beautiful in a music-box dancer sort of way. Very romantic danced to “I’m With You” by Avrill Lavigne. I was really impressed by Latin dancer Paul Kamiryan. From the first moment of the routine, his stance was eloquent and elegant and drew my attention like a puppet on a string, and it continued that way throughout the performance. The lift with Makenzie’s full-skirted pink dress and froth of petticoats was exquisite.

Brittany Cherry and BluPrint’s Afro-Jazz routine by choreographer Shaun Cheeseman, to the music of “Drumming Circle” by Professor Trance and The Evergreens, was entertaining and well-performed. These untutored dancers this year add an element of expectation, and so far I have not been disappointed. Though the two were out of sinc at least once, and BluPrint was smiling in a routine that called more for harsh aggression than happy humor, I was pleasantly surprised by his performance.

Though Alexis Juliano and Nico Greetham may not have gotten “down and dirty” enough for the judges in Christopher Scott’s hip-hop routine, I found them and the routine cute and funny. I was entertained and that trumps dozing off anytime.

Haley Erbert and Curtis Holland gave a great performance in another of Christopher Scott’s hip-hop routines to the music of “Go” by Delilah. I found it refreshing in the practice session video that Curtis was so afraid of touching Haley, “the little vixen”, inappropriately, that he had difficulty getting his moves right. A gentleman in this day and time. But on stage, Curtis transformed. He didn’t look anything like the little smiley shy guy we see when he’s not performing. I think these two will last awhile.

I would like to see Jenna Johnson and Tucker Knox in something else besides Tyce Diorio’s broadway routine. Although Diorio is one of SYTYCD’s top choreographers, and I usually like his routines, I found the clothesline, flapping sheets, and unwieldy clothes hampers somewhat distracting and the music jarring. However, the ending was really cute.

And that’s “The End” for me, too. I’m outta here.


13 thoughts on “SYTYCD: “Puttin’ On the Ritz” Best Season-Opening Routine Ever

  1. Jasmine H and Adam blew me away, at the sacrifice of all the other routines. Jasmine is elegant beyond belief with extensions and “legs that go on forever,” to quote Nigel. The routine was absolutely breathtaking and Sonya designed choreography that showcased both dancers strengths. I hope Cyrus was watching. I’d love for her to win.

    I also liked the opening group number and Amy and Fik-shun’s routine. He was amazing and it was hard to believe he’s a hip-hop dancer. The Travis Wall “blindfolded” routine would have been wonderful even without the blindfolds, but it was wonderfully scary with its leaps and drops…BLINDFOLDED !!!.

    I really love this season so far.

      • oops! We’re both wrong. His name is Aaron.

        I noticed when watching your video that Tanya made great use of Amy’s beautiful extensions too. She certainly plays to a dancer’s strengths.

      • I just checked the post and I had it right with Aaron. Also, do you mean Sonya Tayeh for Amy? And yes, I did notice how Amy could extend those legs. Sonya was spot on with her routines last night. I believe that was the best opening night as well as the best opening routine of all the seasons. Mike, Katie, Randy, and I had a ball watching.

  2. Oops #2. I think the heat today got to me or something. Yes, I meant Sonya Tayeh’s choreography for Amy, not “Tanya.” I guess I was trying to combine Sonya’s first and last names. (Is that an acceptable excuse?)

    Aaron was as much of a surprise for me as Fik-shun was. Aaron is a tapper and Fik-shun is a hip-hopper, but they both excelled in other styles.

    The guest judge Wayne mentioned that Aaron’s dad was a famous Las Vegas singer/entertainer. This must be the man he meant. I wonder if Aaron is adopted or if his mother in white because he doesn’t look at all African-American.

      • I already AM no longer “middle aged”: !!! Doesn’t matter though because I still feel younger than I am. Hee!

        Speaking of that, how is your shoulder coming along? Is the PT helping?

      • Yeah. You and me both. Yes, I’ve gotten much more range in my shoulder. Just some tight holdouts with certain movements. The PT is great, but boy does he put me through the ringer. But there are older ones and worse off ones than me there. I just can’t stand that I’m not as tough as I used to be. I’ve become an old wuss who can’t stand a little pain. My grandmother would disown me. I told the PT that five years ago I could still stand on my head. He came back that it might be what got my shoulder. But counting back it was more like ten years ago. Remember when you commented that you wanted to borrow that quote from my friend? Well, I’m going to have to use it, too — my memory’s so bad I don’t know if I’m lying or not. LOL By the way, after a doctor’s appointment last week I met her and another former church bud at Waffle House for coffee. It had been months. It was so good catching up. I feel like I’ve been relegated to a dungeon with the only time out given to torturers. Complain. Complain.

        I’m now having to take medication for cholesterol or high triglycerides or something along that line — can’t remember. Also medication to keep glucose from going through my kidneys. And now I have to find an endocrinologist because my thyroid levels are off. It may be a reason for my unreasonable body heat and sweating and lack of energy. If that’s the case, I hope they can give me a magic bullet pill and it’ll all go away.

        The good news is, the proctologist dismissed me. I have some minor problems still but he said they could be let go as long as they weren’t bothering me.

        So I’m thankful my shoulder is healing. I’m only in PT once a week now rather than twice a week, and only for three more sessions, then just home therapy where I have to make myself give myself pain. And I’m thankful for no longer having to see THAT doctor.

        Someone once said age is not for the faint of heart. Amen to that.

      • P.S. Mike and I just finished watching another Longmire. It’s still great. Have you seen any of them yet? If you haven’t and still want to, I recommend starting at the beginning. It’s like a continuing saga in the lives of the characters, even though the “mystery” part of each show gets settled during that episode.


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