Saturday, July 28, 2012

MercerMZ review (with LOTS of videos) - So You Think You Can Dance Top 16

This week, joining Nigel and Mary on the judges panel was actress Cristina Applegate, who I must say not only looked great but did a pretty fair job in giving her honest opinions about the routines.
Group Performance - Broadway - SYTYCD goes Charlie Chaplin with this routine. All the dancers are dressed up like Mr. Chaplin and much of the choreography seems to imitate the style of movement that Charlie is known for. It's quirky, dramatic, and very, very technical all at once. I don't think I've been this impressed with the group routines for a few seasons now. Starting with Travis's group routine for the girls, these large group performances have been amazing this season. I'm not sure if the reason is whether the dancers are just so versatile or if the choreographers are really taking advantage of the dancers, but whoever is responsible for this should be commended. Typically I'm not always excited to see the group performances, but after this routine, I can't wait to see how the show will start next week.

Tiffany/George - Hip Hop - NappyTabs delivers the first hard-hitting Hip Hop routine this season. Drawing inspiration from their (NappyTabs) recent pregnancy, Tiffany and George are playing the babysitters of NappyTabs' newborn baby, who are losing their heads over this baby. It's a bright colorful routine with big broader steps mixed with smaller intricate movements. All 3 judges loved the routine, though Nigel thought George seemed to be running out of energy towards the end and Cristina wanted it to be a little "soupier" (Hey, don't blame me, if that's how she wants to phrase it then so be it).

I really enjoyed this routine. Many fans have been asking for some hard hitting hip hop like the routines we would get from Shane Sparks, Olisa & Cicely and Dave Scott, and this was definitely in that vane. And while I typically find Nappytabs's strength is delivering the lyrical hip-hop pieces, there have been a few exceptions (*notably Alex/Twitch's unforgettable routine from Season 7- click here to watch), and this might be one of them. Both of them brought a lot of personality in their performance and executed the choreography well. Plus, George has had my focus in their last two performances, but Tiffany completely outshined him this time. And I do agree with Nigel, she kept the energy flowing the whole way through. I do agree with Cristina though, I wish the dancers had been a bit more sharp and isolated in their moves since in spots it seemed just a bit too fluid, particularly in those smaller intricate movements. Still, it was great performance, and it was one of my favorites by the end of the night. This couple is one of the strongest, most consistent couples in the competition. Between this and their Foxtrot last week, they're quickly becoming some of my favorites.

Amber/Brandon - Jazz - Choreographer Ray Leeper gives this new couple a sexy piece all about Southern Love. Brandon is essentially a "Dr. Feelgood" character, who comes home to his wife and the two of them get it on. The most important aspect of the routine would be the chemistry between these two, since it's a very sexual and flirtatious kind of piece, and indeed there was a lot of flirting going on in the routine. All 3 judges liked the routine, and they all unanimously thought this was Amber's best performance so far.

I liked this routine; not loved but liked it. I do agree with the judges that Amber was really, really good in this piece. It played to her strengths and she gave an amazing performance. And as much as I like Brandon, I think this was his weakest performance thus far. Jazz is a very technical style and a lot of the movements he was given to do felt a bit labored from him. Plus, it didn't help that this routine used him as a tool to lift Amber much of the time here. However, the chemistry between them was important for this routine, and I do think there was some chemistry between them; it felt like they were enjoying themselves and each other’s company. So, between Amber's stellar performance, Brandon's not-so-good performance, and believable chemistry, it was enough for me to like here (after all, 2 out of 3 isn't bad at all). It's no surprise they're still here; out of the two performances they had with their former partners (Janaya & Nick), I felt Amber & Brandon outshined them in both of their routines. And for me, Amber has been one of the strongest girls in the Top 16 dancers.
Janelle/Dareian - Cha Cha - Season 3's Pasha Kovalev returns to choreograph a sexy Cha Cha. The routine itself is actually what you expect from a Cha Cha; it features a lot of partnering mixed with a few difficult tricks. It requires a lot of chemistry between the dancers as well as some solid partnering. The judges felt that the routine had a lot of technical issues but felt the dancers were still a great couple.

I did not like this routine, to put it bluntly. I didn't like it at all. And granted, one could argue that Eliana & Glitch's Jive last week was much worse, but I can't in good conscious say it was worse. True, Glitch was a technical mess, but Eliana did very well and honestly, both of them had much more believable chemistry than these two here. I had two big problems here: the first was of course the dancing. Yes, it's true neither of them are ballroom dancers but this was clunky from beginning to end. And while much of the partnering was solid, they both looked like they were trying to work through the performance instead of living in it. My second and biggest problem with this was the music. I don't just dislike it, I whole-heartedly hate "Call Me Maybe"; I think it's one of the most over-played, overrated songs out there right now. And here in this routine, in fact in this style, it's completely out of place. Cha Cha is a very sexy ballroom dance, in which the dancers can get pretty intimate with one another... and they're trying to dance sexy to a bubblegum pop song about a girl giving a boy her phone number. I'm sorry, it just doesn't work. The truth is, Pasha's choreography is the only thing I didn't dislike about this routine, but everything else wasn't great. Considering these two had my least favorite performance last week, it's safe to say I'm not a fan of these two right now.
Lindsay/Cole - Contemporary - Mandy Moore returns to choreograph a contemporary piece about a love/hate relationship. No really, Lindsay plays a loving free spirit and Cole is a hate-filled spirit trying to bring her down. As Mandy puts it, "There's always going to be people that don't like what you're doing, but I think if you can be as free and pure as you can possibly be, you will win in the end" (a lesson I think a good chunk of us online users could learn from). The routine features a ton of partnering with Lindsay throwing herself all across the stage, while the stage projects these huge shadows of the dancers in the back. The judges absolutely loved this piece and were surprised at how versatile these two were.

I loved this performance. I really can't say too much more about it, except that I'm very impressed with how versatile these two are. They made it look effortless, and the shadows projected in the background were gorgeous to look at as well. Last week was a hiccup for these two, but performing two out of three routines very well makes them some of the strong competitors at the moment.

Amelia/Will - Jazz - Mandy Moore's second routine of the night is a quirky Jazz number about opposites attracting. I really wish I could say more, but much of the rehearsal footage was spent on Mandy flirting with Will... It's a quirky piece with a lot of technical movements, partnering and some flirting going on. For the first time in the night, the judges gave it mixed reviews. Mary and Cristina thought they danced it well and were fun to watch, but Nigel didn't connect with the piece at all.

I'm kind of siding with Nigel here; I think it just an okay routine, but it's not something I'll remember in three weeks. I think the reason for this is because of the routines they've done before. Both the Lovecat and Sonya's routines were very character/emotionally based pieces that brought out big personalities from these two, and this routine didn't have as much depth as the other two, so therefore I don't think they were given a lot of personality to bring out this time around. I mean, yes they danced it well, but eventually, that won't be enough to stick around. Like I said, it was kind of forgettable by the end of the night.
Audrey/Matthew - Salsa - This strong contemporary couple takes on one of the sexiest, intimate styles of ballroom dancing choreographed by newcomer Liz Lara. The routine features some difficult tricks including a tornado spin that gave Audrey some difficulty in the first rehearsal. Just like Janelle/Dareian's routine earlier, the judges love the dancers but felt that this routine wasn't good at all.

So ballroom goes 0 for 2 tonight, and it's unfortunate because just like the other routine, I thought the choreography was okay, perhaps it was a little too slow. But my criticisms of Kanelle/Dareian's routine are pretty much the same here: the song choice was terrible, the dancers were struggling all the way through this, and there was no chemistry between them. In fact, both of them didn't seem to be truly enjoying this routine the entire time they danced it. It's a shame since they've had two strong routines already and with this routine, their golden train might have just dived off a cliff. Hopefully, they can recover from this.
Witney/Chehon - Contemporary - Stacey Tookey returns to deliver a contemporary piece about an impossible love story; a story about a couple that want to be together but circumstances won't let them. In a way, it's like a Romeo/Juliet story but not directly or exactly. It’s performed to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" with both staying close and intimate to one another. The performance received a standing ovation from the judges, so you can guess how they felt...

This routine is quickly becoming a fan favorite for many other fans, but for me... I just didn't care for it. I'm sorry, even taking away the story behind the piece, there wasn't enough there to make me stop and say "That was spectacular". In fact, it looks a lot like many other contemporary routines that the show has delivered and I believe that Stacey has choreographed much more interesting pieces (such as the Fear routine and the Mad World Routine). I think it's the concept; the whole "two-lovers-who-can't-be-together" thing has been so many times now, it's just not interesting to me anymore. I'm also wondering if this routine is so popular simply because it was danced to one of Whitney Houston's most well known songs. But looking past the concept, both dancers delivered a solid performance; in fact, I'm impressed that both Ballroom girls managed to do very well in contemporary. I may not have cared for this, but I have a pretty strong feeling they'll be safe. However, this couple has gone back and forth for me, and they need to deliver an incredible performance next week if they want to win me over.
Eliana/Glitch - Hip Hop - Last, but certainly not least, NappyTabs returns to give possibly the oddest couple on the show a robotic, popping influenced hip-hop piece. Glitch is a robot (both in real life and in the routine) who brings a jewelry box ballerina (Eliana) to life. The routine is a perfect mix small intricate movements to slower fluid motions mixed with the occasional ballet movements. And once again, the judges gave this piece a standing ovation.

This was by a clear mile my favorite routine of the night. It's strange because this couple has been the center of controversy from the fans, many of whom feel Glitch is holding down Eliana. And while I disagree with that idea, I can't honestly say their first two performances were spectacular. This on the other hand, was definitely their best performance on the show so far. And while Eliana continues to show how amazing and versatile of a dancer she is, this routine played to Glitch’s style and I could not take my eyes off him. The most surprising aspect about this couple is that while on paper this pairing might look like a recipe for disaster, they work well together and play off each together so well. A fantastic performance from them both, and one that I can guarantee will be on my favorites at the end of the season.
So with the performances finished, the Bottom 6 are revealed to be the following:
Lindsay, Amber, Eliana, Dareian, Brandon and George. (click on names to watch their solos)

I think the guys were much easier to choose from then the girls. I think perhaps the audience may have found both Brandon & George's performances forgettable but Dareian's performance was easily the weakest of the group last week. As for the girls....

I can understand Lindsay being in the bottom, but Amber and Eliana!?!?! WHY!?!?! Both of them performed much, much better than their partners last week, so why they voted in the bottom, I have no idea. The judges decide that Lindsay & George don't need to dance solos, which means it was safe to assume they're safe. And after the other 4 dancers perform a solo, the judges decide to eliminate Amber and Brandon. This is yet another elimination that makes me sad since both of them were among my favorites for the season. Still, it's nice to see them both leaving on a high note with their solos. Though it's a shame that Janaya, Alexa, Daniel, Nick didn't get to dance a final solo before they left.

As for tonight's show, once again, it's on the same level as the other two. All three weeks have had a good chunk of average performances with  1-2 great & not so good routines. I think tonight might have had some of the weakest performances yet, particularly in the Ballroom styles, but the Hip Hip finally got better. I'm still waiting for that week where the performances are spectacular all the way around, which typically comes during the Top 12-8. And as far as the dancers in danger for the next show, I think this week might be easier to guess:

Girls - Amelia, Audrey, Janelle & Witney
Guys - Will, Matthew, Dareian & Chehon
Well, that's it for this review. What did you think of this week? Did you have any favorites? Are your favorites still in the competition? Let me know below. The show will be leaving the air to make space for the Olympics and will return, on August 15th. In the meantime, good luck to the USA national team/competitors and good luck to the remaining 14 dancers.

Click here to leave comments and to return to the first page. Thanks again MercerMZ!