It was good to see SYTYCD back to a logical format Tuesday night by having the reveal at the end of the show rather than the beginning. This is better, but it still doesn’t have the same excitement and expectation of the two-night show — one simply for the competition and voting and one for the outcome. The first of the season’s contestants who got bumped, Brittany Cherry and Carlos Garland, had to go through the torture of dancing AFTER elimination. Probably the rationale behind that odd change was to shake up the norm to keep the show from getting into a predictable routine. But, whatever it was, it backfired. Apparently the public outcry via tweeters and bloggers was a solid slap in the face to the show’s producers, who woke up and took notice. “We listened,” said Nigel Lythgoe. But even though the elimination came in the right place and time, I felt it was not the right time for Jasmine Mason to go. She has been in some top routines where she has given excellent performances.
This long-lived hit program was also back to some fine quality choreography, which failed miserably last week. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Paula Abdul as a guest judge. She is always so cute and chirpy and eternally young. But she came across as slightly more grounded than in her “Idol” days, with comments more solid and discerning. She was Nigel’s birthday wish come true.
Though being a guest judge in the shadow of Paula Abdul’s much anticipated debut might be a little daunting, TV personality and journalist Erin Andrews held her own. She was impressive in her comments as well as likeable and entertaining. But I must say here that my favorite judge is still Mary Murphy. Her comments are not only astute, but she so obviously cares about the contestants. And her free-rein emotions from the “hot tomale train” to the deafening decibels of her exuberant delight, are avidly anticipated by her audience of contestants and viewers alike.
As for the contestants themselves, I was already cheering when I saw All-Star Marco paired with Malece Miller. I knew that was going to be a match made in heaven, and they definitely took us up into the stratosphere. Malece only needed a partner she could trust, and a remarkable routine by Sonya Tayeh to bring out her distinct and beautiful qualities as a dancer This “Tinkerbell-Angel” and her All-Star partner drew the first standing ovation of the night from the judges. Malece has been a favorite of mine since the beginning.
I suppose Malece will be paired next week with Alan Bersten (another personal favorite) since her partner, Jade Zuberi had to bow out with an injury, and Alan’s partner, Jasmine Mason, unfortunately, was sent home. I thought Jasmine was awesome in that previous blindfold piece choreographed by Travis Wall, but I believe it was the luck of the draw on that quirky choreography Tuesday night that was the death knell to her future on the show. But since there are many really good performers this year, each episode is going to be a heartbreaker. It will probably all boil down to personality and that toss of the dice on choreography and choreographer that will be the deciding factors..
There are some slim-lead front-runners (that I can determine). Each season usually has an underdog that viewers get emotionally caught up in. This year there are two — the street-style performers Fik-Shun and BluPrint, with Fik-Shun leading at least by a nose. Though he doesn’t have every step down pat, Fik-Shun’s personality lights up the stage while BluPrint maintains one unfathomable facial expression. I like BluPrint. He’s a great dancer and is learning the ropes of other styles exceptionally well for his background. But the performance package does include appeal and connection with viewers, and that’s where BluPrint is falling behind. Fik-Shun and partner Amy did well in their first Paso Doble and I loved the all-black outfits. I agreed with the judges on the fact that Fik-Shun had homework to do on this style, but for a first-timer — not bad. However, I was having to compare this one to Jasmine Mason and Alan Bersten’s performance the week before. No comparison. To me, Jasmine and Alan’s performance was a keeper.
Jasmine Harper and Aaron Turner are two personal favorites for their powerhouse performances (with the unfortunate exception of the routine they drew last week). Jasmine, with those eye-popping long legs, unbelievable extensions, and fearless style is no surprise, but, — gosh and gee whillikins! — the big guy just keeps the “wows” coming. And to think this natural hoofer almost didn’t make it into the top twenty!!! I found the broadway “detective” routine different and entertaining, and, as usual, they turned in a stellar performance.
I’m trying not to succumb to too many favorites, but it seems I can’t help myself. Paul Karmiryan has caught my eye in every routine so far, and though Mackensie Dustman makes a great partner, it’s him I watch. Often in partnering routines, both dancers stand out equally, like Jasmine Harper and Aaron Turner. But in this case, my attention turns more to Paul. There is an old-world, classic quality to his dancing, which I also found in Mark Kanemura, who was Chelsie Hightower’s partner in “Bleeding Love”. Mark always reminded me strongly of Gregory Peck. Paul and Mackensie’s contemporary piece choreographed by newcomer Lindsey Neiko, was beautifully sad. Paul absolutely seemed to wear his emotions on his sleeve and his movements were so compelling. Mackensie flowed. As Mary Murphy said, she was “liquid gold”. The judges also connected with Paul’s open emotions.
Another dancer who never fails to surprise me is Tucker Knox, who is paired with Jenna Johnson. Tucker, at first glance, looks tall and awkward — until he gets on the dance floor, where he uses all that long lankiness to advantage. His movements are more sharp and precise than I expect from him and he gets the story across. Also, I just like him as a person. And although Jenna is lauded for her dancing abilities, and perhaps rightly so, I can’t seem to warm up to her, nor to her “story presence”. I get the feeling she is more focused on getting across her “hot tomale” qualities”, which has not impressed me in the least. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. The female dancers on the show who have presented the most memorable feminine attributes, are the ones who don’t flaunt it, but bring it naturally to the routine. I did like the new “hip-jazz” routine by another fresh choreography couple, the Madrids.
Nico Greetham is another dancer who is completely transformed on stage. He kind of blends into the background when not performing, but once he’s under the spotlight he is so beautifully graceful and masculine. However, Alexis Juliano, his partner, is another dancer that just hasn’t blipped my radar. I would have chosen her to go home rather than Jasmine. But . . . whatta I know. I enjoyed their hypnotic jazz routine, and they have undeniable chemistry together.
As for BluPrint, I think he is very fortunate to be paired with Mariah Spears. She is awesome. In that hip-hop routine Tuesday night she was hitting on all six cylinders while that beautifully expressive face just drew you in. She came to my express attention in the first top twenty performance of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. She was puttin’ on the moves with her shoulders, eyes, mouth, head movements, body movements — she WAS the ritz. And to stand out in that amazing routine with a smorgasbord of mind-blowing moves to distract, is nothing short of brilliance.
Hayley Erbert and Curtis Holland’s samba, though entertaining, was nothing to write home about, and Curtis, a tapper, was obviously not in his element. Samba’s seem to be cookie-cutter dances to me, and have a hard time rating up there with dances that make an impact. These two have turned in much better performances before, but they have never made it into my top five.
The opening group number was another winner this week with the fiery inferno choreographed by Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott. Now there’s a combination for ya. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was about, whether fiery Hell and demons, with some light and angels intervening, or whether it was a type of Joan of Arc inferno Whatever it was, it was still impressive and evocative and this group of dancers really pulled it off.
Here’s hoping next week’s performances will live up to, and perhaps surpass, the quality of this episode. And let’s keep our fingers crossed that America (and the judges) “get it right”.