At first I didn’t know If I had the right channel. There was this tall vampire or zombie with blacked-out eyes, slicked-back hair, dressed in an oily bilious-looking dress standing on stage with a microphone introducing the show. If I had to guess, I’d guess it was a zombie who had been tarred, but not yet feathered. And it was only the otherwise sweet and lovely Cat Deeley. Her wardrobe and make-up people ought to be fired. Summarily. That means forthwith and immediately with a boot to the rear. This was the absolute worst in a season of underwhelming looks for the beautiful Cat.
It was an emotional night with contestants telling about the people who inspired them. Their stories were of supportive parents or other family members, or strong childhood friends who never lived to adulthood. Hearing them, I understood how so many of these young artists could exude such deep emotion just from their movements and facial expressions.
I wasn’t crazy about the opening number by Mia Michaels. In fact, I didn’t even watch it all the way through. It started out looking like a weird rip-off of Paula Abdul’s “Cold-hearted Snake” routine. Then it went in some other direction, and somewhere around there, I lost interest.
Jenna Johnson finally got eliminated after being in the bottom about five or six times with repeated reprieves from the judges. Sounds like Nigel Lythgoe may have had his own Hitchcock moment straight out of “The Birds” lately. Apparently he’s been nearly tweeted to death by irate voters. He tried to put a positive spin on it, but it sounded a little lame. I don’t think Jenna’s dancing was the issue so much as lack of personality and charisma off-stage. For some reason she didn’t hit it off with audiences, who lost favorites because of her repeated saves by the judges. Over the years, other judge favorites have been let go after being in the bottom more than twice in deference to the will of the voters.
Jenna and her weekly partner Tucker Knox were both eliminated. I really hate to see Tucker go, but each elimination this year seems to leave an empty hole in the tight-knit fabric of the family of contestants. Most of these kids are so good that I miss them when they are gone. That’s probably why the All-Stars are so popular. It’s like old friends have come back to shine, and we are proud of their successes. Tuesday night, for the first time, All-Stars choreographed their own routines. A couple of them were inspired and original. All of them were good.
Fik-Shun landed in the bottom for the first time, but took it well in stride. He has repeatedly amazed and astounded the viewers with his ability to adapt to anything thrown at him, even though he has none of the dance background of the other contestants. But it remains to be seen if his heartwarming personality and unselfconscious style will get him through the finals. Every time I mention how much I love Fik-Shun, my sister reminds me that everyone does — but look who would have to go if he stays. Aw, sheesh, I didn’t want to think about that. But remember, next week it is voter only. No last-minute reprieves from the judges and choreographers.
I’m still wowed by Aaron Turner’s big-body ability to move quickly with grace, style, assurance and expression, and there were many of these moments in his jive with the amazing Chelsie Hightower (now a regular on “Dancing With the Stars”). But the awkward moments were perceptible even to the uninitiated in dance or its lingo. I may not understand what an arabesque is, but I capisce a hip roll gone wrong and shoulders up not down. So the jive didn’t jive with the judges.
I love listening to Nigel and Mary Murphy’s shop talk about the dancers. Even the language of dance sounds beautiful and she and Nigel speak it with such panache it makes you think, hey, these dancers did really really good — or bad — as the case may be. Okay. So I’m a sucker for language, even when it’s as foreign to me as the language of dance.
Fik-Shun was up next with Twitch’s fiance, Allison Holker, an All-Star I don’t remember. There have been several seasons, after all. Allison chose racial bias as her theme. Darkness represented the blindness of bigotry as she and Fik-Shun held up lanterns to illuminate the way to acceptance and peace. Fik-Shun always shines right along with the All-Star, and he didn’t let us down this time. As the guest judge Jenna Elfman commented, he IS an All-Star now.
It came as a shocker when I learned that Courtney Galiano, whom I do definitely remember, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease of the central nervous system causing loss of muscular and mental control. Symptoms can occur in isolated attacks, as in the one that left her blind in one eye for a month. The symptoms can go away between attacks, with periods of normalcy. But as the disease progresses, the problems become permanent. There is still no cure for multiple sclerosis, and Courtney’s courage and refusal to give in to self-pity were inspiring, especially with her beauty and obvious gift for dance.
She chose Romeo and Juliette, to the music of “Clarity”, as the theme of her jazz routine, going to new heights with her leaps and physicality. And Tucker Knox partnered her beautifully. She was especially affecting when she assured the audience that — “Sorry, Shakespeare. Nobody’s dying at the end of my dance.” She is truly unforgettable.
Paul Karmiryan, my favorite, pulled a hip-hop routine with hip-hop gal, Comfort, to the music of “Dum-Dum”. I was more than a little skeptical and nervous about this one. How would my classy, graceful, beautiful Paul handle such down-to-earthy movements, and hit them DOWN and fast and hard. Not to worry. He hit that one outta the park. Loved the routine. Loved him. He doesn’t just tackle a dance routine. He owns it.
Dmitry came in with his signature Mr. Sexy routine and wowed the women — Mary Murphy being already in his corner. Ain’t my type, by the way, nor a favorite All-Star. Nothing wrong with him, but if you’ve seen one of his shirtless or unbuttoned-shirt routines you’ve seen them all. Yawn. But I must say, this routine with Haley and it’s theme of jilted lover, was a grade above his usual move-it, move it, twist from the torso style. I leave it to Dmitry and Haley fans to go ga-ga over it, though.
What I did go ga-ga over was Lady Ga-Ga’s floor man, Mark Kanamura and his zaney, bizarre, and totally enjoyable jazz routine. It was, like, CRRAAZY, man. From the zigzagging patterns of the costumes, to the “room” with its pictures of two eyes hanging over the red lips-shaped sofa, to the rolling out of a red carpet from the center of the lips like a long tongue, and the crazy music “I Am the Best”, it was a show-stopper that left you exhilarated and not a little dizzy. Standing O. Standing O. And deservedly so. Loved it. It was fun, totally original, and absolutely entertaining. Jenna, his partner, worked that long braid of hers like a master and went out of the competition on a really really high note. Guys, you gotta see this dance to believe it.
Jasmine Harper and All-Star Twitch are, of course, a match made in heaven. They were LOOOOOKing Goooood in Twitch’s hip-hop routine to “The Power” by District 78. And, man, did they ever have the power. Jasmine not only kept up, she matched him hit for hit and move for move. As someone — think it was Nigel — said, she nearly out-twitched Twitch. Nigel, who along with most of the males in America, (including one of my readers) was still grieving over the loss of Makenzie, now switched his allegiance, and his heart, to Jasmine. Fickle, fickle man.
Last, but not least, is the contemporary routine by the incomparable Travis Wall. He and Amy flowed and flew and twined to the strains of “Wicked Game”, about the games people play with each other in relationships. Like Nigel, I knew I was watching something different from the usual run of generic routines. And, like Mary Murphy, who was inspired to comment of Amy Yakima, “I don’t think anyone has gone to where you went tonight.” Watching this very original — yes — genius composition with moves that made me gasp out “Oh, my goodness!”, I knew I had seen something so beautifully new and different, that it was an experience not to be forgotten. This is a routine that will be on everyone’s top ten to watch over and over.