SYTYCD: Best Opening Night Ever; Breathtaking Routine from Sonya Tayeh


As one impressive and sometimes breathtaking dance performance flowed into another last night, I said to myself — This can’t continue on and on, somebody’s going to lower the bar. But sister Katie and I were amazed at the quality of the choreography and performances, and they just kept coming. (We called each other every commercial to oooh and ahhh over the dances and judges’ comments).

And then . . . came the next to last dance by Jessica and Ricky. They didn’t look too promising in rehearsals, once even nearly knocking themselves out when they butted heads. But, Oh my gosh. The stage, for them, became another world, and, like in a fairy tale, they transformed into these ethereal beings that brought the entire house to awed silence. When it ended, the judges rose to their feet as one. They knew they had seen something unearthly and unprecedented and all who saw it were privileged spectators. I know I’m gushing, but, like Jason Derulo, I think I held my breath from beginning to end. It will be at the top of the list of SYTYCD’s all-time best performances.

It was a contemporary routine from Sonya Tayeh, who wrapped their moves in music like a breeze from a softer, gentler world, flowing around and through them. It was “Vow”, by Meredith Monk. I have never heard Nigel so awed by a performance. He couldn’t quit talking about how this routine had brought dance to an entirely different level, and how quiet the audience was. This is one of those performances with a Divine spark that is hardly ever completely captured again. Always, we will want to return to the original.

Now, to get out of gush mode and back down to earth. The second best routine of the night was a Stacey Tookey routine to “Take it Easy” by Jetta, and performed so beautifully and emotionally by Carly and Rudy. Though he’s more than a bit of a clown behind the scenes, Rudy is another dancer who transforms onstage. Though judges say his techniques need some work, you just say, who cares. His entire heart is in every motion. He and Carly, in her filmy, flowing skirt that moves like a current along with them, brought me chills and tears. It was beautiful. Mary talked about Rudy’s passion and heart. Carly was the more technically correct, but who knew. These two blended so smoothly and beautifully, and evoked such emotion, it will be a favorite of mine to come back to again and again. I would never have believed there would be a better one to come just two dances away.

Another favorite was Emily and Casey, dancing to a Travis Wall contemporary accompanied by John Legend’s “All of Me”. This one is especially beautiful also and their legs and arms seem to go on forever. Their technique seemed perfect to me, and they performed with depth and feeling. But whatta I know. Ten seasons of watching this show, working on number eleven, I’ve learned a little something. I hope.

My next pick is Bonny Story contemporary to “Doesn’t Mean Goodbye”, by Jon McLaughlin, performed by Bridget and Stanley. I’m with Jason. It looked effortless as well as beautiful. And, as Mary said, they told the story. Stanley’s leaps looked like he could just go on up, up, up, if he wanted to, like a graceful bird. Bridget was beautiful in character and motion.

I loved Christopher Scott’s hip-hop routine to the beat of “Nightshift” by the Commodores. An oldie but goodie, but who knew dragging in this hit from the archives would work so well. Performing with a mop and bucket, Emilio and Teddy are a guard (Emilio) and a cleaning man (Teddy) on the night shift (of course). Last night’s SYTYCD paired dancers in their own genres with choreography which was supposed to bring out their best qualities. Well, it worked. Teddy was smooth and looking good — I want to see him paired with girl — while Emilio constantly drew the eye to his quick sharp moves. He looked like a pro and could entertain to the hilt. This was another Chris Scott routine that made for a fun and entertaining story with great moves and music. And, hey. Is it just me, or does Teddy look a lot like a young David Bowie?

Brooklyn and Serge were the first up last night with a cha-cha choreographed by Dmtry. Though Brooklyn is beautiful and has gorgeous legs — that were showcased well in that dance, there were some things that she didn’t quite follow through on. Mary said her balance was off and I’ll take her word for it. All in all, it was one hot dance and Serge was fiery perfection.

Malene and Marquet did the Brazilian samba to a Louis Van Amstel routine. Nigel praised Malene for attacking the fiery, fast-paced performance right out of the chute. The eye-popping, jungle green of her costume flashed and jiggled with every move, and Marquet was sleek, lithe, and lean, matching Malene all the way. But though they danced it well, the routine didn’t do a thing for me. It was forgettable.

Valerie and Zack were our tappers, but who were given a particularly difficult routine by Anthony Morigerato, which I though was a bit unfair to them for their first performance. Dancing on stairs has to be hard, particularly as fast as the tempo pushed them to move. Jason said that tap shoes were also slippery. Be that as it may, the choreographer wanted them to look so effortless as to almost float up the steps. It was more like clunking up the steps for Valerie, who had to look at her feet more than she did the audience or her partner. However, she looked great and I loved her feminine, flouncy, bouncy skirt. Zack, though, was a tapper with personality and style. He reminded me a little of Benji, SYTYCD’s first season winner.

Tanisha and Nick danced a cha-cha choreographed by Louie, the professional dancer from Dancing With The Stars. Louie warned them they had to have chemistry and the viewers could not be fooled. Well, they didn’t listen, or there was no chemistry to project. They did their steps mugging the audience and, unless I’m mistaken, never once looked at each other. Even though this was the last routine and followed on the heels of the heavenly miracle one, this performance would have never made it. There was nothing wrong with the cha-cha. It was totally the dancers.

I’m sorry, but the only ballet dancer I have ever loved was Baryshnikov. That Divine spark I mentioned before? He had it. All the time. He could make the same moves as the best of the best and still make him look like a light among the shadows. That said, this ballet routine by Marat Daukayev, and performed by Jaque and Jourdan, was, as I said of the tap routine above, a little too hard for these new performers. Swan Lake? And 15 pirouettes? What Nigel called “fouettes”. These girls were mirror images of each other in costume and features, and when they were a little off, it showed. To me, Jacque was a somewhat better than Jourdan.

All in all, it was a great night for SYTYCD’s 11th Season. For me, it was the best opening night ever because of so many exceptional dancers this year. I looking forward to next week.


5 thoughts on “SYTYCD: Best Opening Night Ever; Breathtaking Routine from Sonya Tayeh

  1. Well thank God for small favors…you saw this show. I was all set to give you the pitch of my life to encourage you to start watching. When I saw Ricky and Jessica, my first thought was that it was Marco and Melanie all over again. I was speechless and you could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium. Normally I’m not a fan of Sonya’s choreography, but this was truly inspired. She should step out of her comfort zone more often. I have never seen Nigel so impressed; he was wonderful. I loved Ricky’s one-handed delayed roll at 1:45. Stunning control.

    I had to laugh when Nigel say Ricky reminded him of Harry Potter because when I first saw him in the auditions, I was struck by how much he resembled Daniel Radcliffe who, of course, played Harry Potter. I agree with Nigel that it’s a shame to split up dancers who obviously have great chemistry and similar styles. I would love for Ricky and Jessica to continue as partners. 😦

    I loved the tap routine and I thought they did splendidly with the difficult and tricky choreography. I like the two Latin dances choreographed by Louis Van Amstel. I’m also very impressed with Stanley. He’s like a male version of Jasmine with those long legs that seem to do on forever.

    Having studied ballet for 13 years, I was quite impressed with Jacque and Jourdan. Nigel was right in calling their 15 turns fouettes. They’re not the same as pirouettes. The fouette is considered the most difficult turn in ballet and takes a very long time to master. but boy! are they fun to do. I’ve never seen them done as fast as the ballerina at the end of this video does them. Some of the other dancers in the video have better form, but this gal sure can spin.

    I think this season of SYTYCD is going to be awesome and I’m so glad you’re watching so we’ll be able to discuss it every week. BTW, I just read yesterday that all three judges will be back for the next season of American Idol. I’m so glad because I think they worked wonderfully well together last season.

    • Yes, I had read the news they were coming back, and how glad I was. Thanks for your take on last night’s show. I always enjoy seeing what you see. I looked up fouettes before I wrote the blog, but they called one part of it a fouette and another a pirouette. It was confusing. I THINK — correct me if I’m wrong — that the fouette is a part of a pirouette where they bring the leg back. Otherwise, all I know of a pirouette is that it is a turn.

      • You’re right. A pirouette is part of a fouette, but the right leg stays in one position during the prioutte. This video shows the combination perfectly.

        Pirouttes can also travel across the stage by taking a step forward with the standing leg before each turn. I couldn’t find a video of that because off the top of my head, I can’t think of a ballet that has a lot of them.

  2. My favorite, Natalia Osipova, in Don Quixote. She was only 17. This ballet is famous for its fouettes. The audience liked it so much they brought her back for more. She has perfect leg positions.


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