Thursday, August 30, 2012

MercerMZ's Review (with all the videos) of So You Think You Can Dance's Top 8 Show.

So last week, with the arrival of the All-Stars to change things up, I decided to change up the format of these reviews. After the group routine, I will review the performances from the girls (in alphabetical order) and proceed to the performances for the guys. I'll also have a short paragraph giving my thoughts on each dancer and their journey in the competition. It should make things more interesting. Onto the performances:

Group Routine
- Contemporary - Newcomer Peter Chu choreographed this Chinese themed piece for our Top 8 dancers. It was certainly an interesting piece visually, since the dancers framed at an angle from the front of the stage. And honestly, much of the partnering was executed well and in sync among the dancers. While I can't say this was as exciting as some of the earlier pieces in the season, this definitely fit among them from a visual image alone. I'd be interested to see if Mr. Chu will continue to choreograph for the show.

Eliana (with Ryan) - Quickstep - This season's lone Ballet girl takes on the most difficult and dangerous style of Ballroom dancing the show has seen: the Quickstep. Here, in this routine choreographed by Jonathan Roberts (of ABC's Dancing With the Stars), Eliana plays a bored and lonely housewife who wants to be with her husband, but when he comes home and continues to ignore her, the gloves come off... so to speak. This routine contains all the traditional elements of a quickstep: fast footwork, close partnering sections, and a pretty good use of the whole stage. There was also a very impressive lift mixed in towards the end. The judges liked the routine, and praised Eliana for her ability to adapt to all the styles given to her.

There's a reason why Quickstep is also known as "the Kiss of Death" on this show: because from Season 3 and onward, dancers who gave an average or below performance in this style typically found themselves leaving that week. However, there were a few exceptions here and there where the dancers were safe, and given Eliana and Ryan's performance tonight, she'll have no problem staying. They both danced through the steps seamlessly and played off of each other very well. In fact, the lift mentioned above was one of the highlights of the night.

Eliana is the strongest girl in the competition by a clear mile in my eyes. Not only has she been able to pick up and performance a number of different styles effortlessly, but her ability to find chemistry with her partners has allowed her to deliver strong performances every single week. At this point, she has most certainly deserved a spot in the Finale.
Lindsay (with Alex) - Jazz - Our first of two Latin Ballroom dancers takes on her first Jazz number, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. The routine is an emotionally based piece about two people who have a bit of sexual tension between one another. The routine itself more emotion based than just a technical showcase or story-driven, so the routine largely relies on the chemistry between the two dancers. The judges felt that the dancers danced it very well, but they couldn't connect to the piece and felt no chemistry between the dancers.

In a way, I see what the judges mean. If we're talking about a routine where two people feel some kind of tension with one another, it's important that the audience feels that tension, and I didn't really get that from these two. Granted, I wouldn't say this is a weak performance; on the contrary, this was one of the best-danced pieces of the night, but I didn't really see a connection between Lindsay and Alex, which was crucial for this piece.

Lindsay's had a bit of a bumpy journey in her time on the show. While she's delivered some really great performances, she's also given 1 or 2 that were not so good. In fact, I thought she had the weakest performance from the girls in Week 2. With a routine like her Broadway piece from last week, it was nice to see how diverse she is and how well she's performing her routines, but I'm not sure if she's doing much else to stand out. It would take perfection in all her routines from here on out if she wants to be in the Finale.
Tiffany (with Ade) - Contemporary - Jazz meets Contemporary to perform a romantic piece choreographed by Mandy Moore. In what has to be the simplest explanation for a piece yet, it strictly a piece inspired by Celine Dion's "The Power of Love".... Hey, don't blame me, that's all I can tell you. Okay, not true; I can tell you that the judges gave this piece a standing ovation, with Mary saying this was Tiffany's best performance all season.

I suppose it's just me, but I don't like this piece as much as I want to. Don't get me wrong, it was really good, but compared to many of the other routines in the night, it didn't quite lift me out of my seat like it was hoping too. I'll put it like this, I thought Tiffany's 1st Contemporary routine from Week 1 was much more engaging. Still, the dancing was effortless and both dancers looked like they were in love with this piece from beginning to end. We can chalk this up to yet another solid performance for Tiffany.

And speaking of Tiffany, if there was any dancer who truly deserved the title of "underdog", it would be her. For her to get absolutely no airtime in the Auditions/Vegas Week and to never ONCE give a bad performance or reach the Bottom, I must stand and applaud her. She has most certainly earned her spot in the Top 8 and is a strong contender to be in the Finale. Click here to watch (embedding was disabled on this)
Witney (with Twitch) - Hip Hop - Our second of two shining Latin Ballroom dancers takes on her first Hip Hop routine of the season, choreographed by SYTYCD Canada veteran, Luther Brown. Rather than attempt to explain his style, here's a quick summary of how his work can be described: "Conglomerate", "Lil Freak" & "Hands Where My Eyes Could See" (the first features Kim Gingras of Blueprint Cru (ABDC S5) and the latter two feature Janick Arseneau of Irratik (ABDC S7)). Essentially, Luther's style is exactly what many fans of the US seasons have been begging for. And this routine is no different, as Luther and Twitch attempting to make Witney more "ratchet" (which I'm assuming has the same meaning as gangsta). All of the judges loved it, and praised Witney for being able to pick up the style so well.

If Shane Sparks can't come back to choreograph for the show, then I welcome Luther Brown with open arms, especially if he's gonna continue to bring this kind of work to the show. In a season where Hip Hop has been primarily lyrical and story-based, it's nice to see a piece more about attitude and style. I mean Twitch looked like he was really enjoying himself up there. As for Witney, she definitely got the attitude down, though I thought at times she could've loosened up a bit more. Still, I'm impressed at how well she picked up the style. This was definitely among the best Hip Hop routines this season.

For me, Witney is peaking at this point. She was under my radar the first few weeks, but starting with The Bench redux, I've been enjoying everything she's done. Her routine last week with Nick was among my 5 favorites and I definitely enjoyed seeing her solo, so for me, her place among the Top 8 is rightfully deserved. If she keeps peaking and performing the way she is now, she could potentially make it into the Finale.
Chehon (with Anya) - Argentine Tango - For this week, Chehon pairs up with Anya to take on an Argentine Tango from renowned ballroom couple Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo. This style is one of the hardest styles in Ballroom to perform, as it requires not only a great deal of partnering between the dancers, but at least some intimacy between the pair. This performance received a standing ovation from the judges, with Mary putting Chehon on her "Hot Tamale Train".

This was a genuine shock for me. Way back in the first Week 1, I criticized Chehon's performance in his Samba, saying how incredibly stiff he was and he needed to loosen up, so upon hearing that he got another Ballroom, I thought this could be a disaster...... Boy was I wrong. I was so... so wrong. This was an amazing performance. Not only did Chehon make the dancing look effortless but his connection with Anya was on point. In fact, they're connection was so good that when the music began to build, they built up the intensity of the routine perfectly to the music. And while I would say Cole's performance tonight was more exciting overall (as you'll read below), the fact that Chehon did so well tonight puts his performance right at the top of tonight's performances.

Chehon has been a back-and-forth case for me; he's had both good and bad performances throughout his ride on this show. Oddly enough, for all of his weaker performances, he's managed to balance it with an equally good performance (tonight for example). If Chehon wants to make the Finale, he really can't afford to make another weak performance, or that winner's title will slip through his hands.
Cole (with Allison) - Contemporary - Cole's third attempt at Contemporary finds himself playing yet another dark and sinister character in a routine choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. Here, Allison is playing a woman who desperately wants to win Cole's heart but Cole is a man with no heart. It's a dark and depressing piece where Cole is essentially toying with Allison's emotions. The routine comes with a mix of Sonya's quirky personality and some incredibly difficult partnering. The judges loved the performance, with Mary predicting Cole has a pretty good chance to make the finale.

I love watching Sonya's Contemporary pieces. I love how she's able to translate that dark, Jazzy, quirky style of movement she's best known for into a style that's more soft and fluid. And the choreography was only enhanced by two amazing performances from Allison and Cole. Not only did they capture Sonya's style so well, but they completely nailed their characters. It really felt like I was watching a confrontation between two people rather than two dancers performing a routine, which is the best compliment I can give the dancers.

Cole has continued to be one of the strongest males this season, with his ability not only to understand his characters so well, but his versatility too. His Cha Cha with Anya last week was his only slip-up for me, mainly because I don't think they had a whole lot of chemistry together. But still, his 5 stellar performances have more than made up for his 1 not-so-good performance. I truly believe he deserves a spot in the Finale.
Cyrus 'Glitch' (with Melanie) - Jazz - This season's only animated popper pairs up with last season's winner Melanie to take on a quirky fast-paced Jazz routine from Mandy Moore. It's the basic story of two people strutting their stuff all throughout town, meaning it's a piece that is catered more towards attitude and style, something that Glitch is chalk full of. It's fun, it's uplifting, and as promised, it was certainly a fast paced routine. The judges thought the piece was a lot of fun and continue to praise Glitch for rising to the occasion for all of these routines.

While this wasn't the most technically sound routine of the night, I still thoroughly enjoyed this routine. Creating a piece that relies heavily on the dancers bringing character to it is perfect for Glitch; that's where he shines and when he's the most fun to watch. Honestly, Melanie and Glitch danced really well together and their chemistry was fantastic. They really looked like they were having fun with each other. And weeks into the competition, I'm still very impressed with how much he is working hard to perform these routines.

Look, it's no secret; Glitch is clearly the least technically trained dancer in the competition, and all the other males have delivered more technically sound performances in their time on the show. However, while Glitch may lack in technical training, he is one of the most entertaining dancers among the males, an ability that many of the technical dancers have struggled to deliver. For me, I want to see him dance these routines, regardless of how it goes. His journey has certainly been one of the most interesting and his ability to make it this far is nothing short than astounding.
Will (with Lauren G.) - Hip Hop - The lone Contemporary dancer takes on his first *ACTUAL Hip Hop routine of the season (*see my review for Week 1 to understand what I mean), choreographed by Chris Scott. Here, Will is a man who comes under a lot of stress and decides to dance away the pain, while Lauren is a part of his mind that comes out to help ease the pain. Chris gives a mixed bag of styles here, with lyrical hip hip choreo. to tutting and even some housing thrown in there. The judges liked the routine, and felt Will nailed the musicality of the piece while also toning down his personality.

This was definitely a step up from Chris's earlier routines this season, and both dancers did pretty well in transitioning between the different styles thrown at them. That being said, I still had a problem with the concept of this routine. I felt like Lauren's part in the piece wasn't necessary at all; had she been removed, I probably would have connected to him more. The issue was the routine felt like there were two solo performances dancing around one another with no actual chemistry between the two. Plus, I slightly disagree with Mary when she said Will's movements weren't as big and sloppy from previous weeks; I would say he was articulate in certain spots but many areas could have been cleaner.

Admittingly, I've had a hard time connecting to Will. Without knowing much about him before the Top 20 showcase, I didn't have much time to adjust to his personality. Believe me, I like the guy's personality (as I can be the same way sometimes), but at times I've felt his personality distracts me from his dancing such was the case in his Bollywood routine last week. Still, giving credit where credit is due, he's tackled each routine like a champ, and his personality could certainly help him get to the Finale.
In addition to all the routines tonight, all 8 dancers got to dance an individual solo tonight:
Tiffany, Will, Lindsay, Chehon, Witney, Cole, Eliana & Glitch (click on the name to see the solo)

At the end of the night, the Bottom 4 dancers were revealed to be: Witney, Lindsay, Will & Cole. And shortly afterwards, the judges eliminated Lindsay and Will.

So, did America get it right? Almost. Swap Cole and Chehon and it would been just right. As far as the elimination goes, I think the judges made the right call for both genders: Witney has been peaking while Lindsay hasn't really progressed and Cole has been the stronger performer by a clear mile. It's tough to see both dancers go, but that's all part of the competition. As for tonight's show... this was the best episode by a long shot. Almost all the performances were strong this week, and the All-Stars certainly helped bring out the best in the dancers. Plus, we finally got to see some individual solos from all the dancers, and they certainly strut their stuff.

Well, that's it for this week. Be sure to tune into FOX on Wed. at 8pm to see who will survive the Top 6 and become the Final 4 for Season 9. Oh and also, ticket sales for the SYTYCD Season 9 tour have already begun, so if you're interested in seeing these dancers perform live, I suggest you do a search for the local show.

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