7/14 SYTYCD 5 Ten for Ten (almost) for the Top 10 Performances

Tonight breaks the mold because the dancers must all change partners after dancing with their prior partner for weeks. Partnering is a very difficult aspect of dance. Sometimes there is chemistry, sometimes there is beauty and sometimes there is just discomfort. It is conveyed by the dancers if the match is not right and it cannot be hidden.

But as time progresses, as they spend weeks together, a chemistry evolves as the dancers learn each others personality and movements. Their strengths and weaknesses. Their rise and fall.

And then, suddenly, just as the dancers get in a rhythm, they are split apart and thrown at new partners. This is kind of odd in another way, because it does not favor the dancers that lost partners like in prior weeks. A dancer that lost a partner was at a significant disadvantage while the rest of the dancers maintained their partnerships, but tonight, they all were broken.

Other than having to dance with new partners, the solos really come onto play now because every dancer has to suddenly do a solo that can impact America’s vote. And this is even more important because the judges can no longer save a dancer. It is down to America to vote. Whomever gets the lowest votes on the male and female side go home, no excuses, no whining, no second chances.

So, tonight, we have to do things a bit differently. We have to rank each dancer and how well they did in their pairing and solo. We have found in the past the solo weights much more lightly than the pairing because the pairing tends to be more memorable, but it can be a differentiator in a close race.

Before we start, we want to say that all these dancers are fantastic. We love them all and we do not think any should be eliminated. They should all win. Which is what is great about this show, because all these dancers did win. They will all be on the tour, and they will all have the chance to be professionals with exposure beyond most dancer’s dreams.

Let’s start… we shall go in order of the voting numbers.

1. Brandon – Brandon drew Melissa as a partner. She is the most graceful and composed dancer in this competition, so she helped him. They did a contemporary piece to “Aquarius” from the play “Hair”. The piece was the best of the night by any couple. Brandon was strong as ever, leaping with aplomb and yet remaining in character throughout. Brandon win this night among the men, but his masculinity is sometimes just not evident and, in dance, it is required, so we can only give him. Brandon’s solo was too frantic and did not help him. He needs to realize that less is more and timing the music is more important than squeezing in the most moves. (9/10).

2. Randi – Randi drew Kupono, and this was difficult, because he is the tallest man and she is not tall at all. The dance is also a dance meant for a matched pair, the Paso Doble and this couple was not well matched. We felt Randi did a commendable job, but she lost a major feature that has been an advantage in past weeks. Randi is by far the cutest look on the dance floor. She has that truly innocent girlish quality. And this week, she wore a dark wig that hid her personality in an attempt to make her sexy. It may have helped the overall dance, but it did nothing for her personally. She danced the better of the pair and we think America has a major thing for her, but that wig puts her in danger. Her solo was not strong either. It seemed, not frantic, but at times strained. We felt some of the moves were accidents as a result of a slip or stumble and we couldn’t say it was memorable. (8/10)

3. Kupono – Kupono drew Randi, and it was not a successful pairing. There was little chemistry and Kupono was weak in the dance. We have to say, though, we give him credit considering this is a new partner and this was, by far, the hardest dance of the night. But Kupono does not have strength. He studied under Mark from last season, but Mark had this ability to portray a dark personality and an evil strength. Kupono just can’t do it. This dance was not good. Kupono’s solo was quirky and creative as usual and it was among his best. But it can’t save him on that dance. Oh my. (8/10)

brandon_melissa4. Melissa – Melissa drew Brandon and that is a great pairing. They did a contemporary piece to “Aquarius” from the play “Hair” and nailed every move. WE have to give Melissa the nod in this performance, but overall, both were fantastic. Melissa took her time in the solo, she was not frantic like so many others. We felt she could have taken some more risks, but we liked it. Still, there is something unappealing about her, which gets her a demerit. (8/10)

5. Evan – Evan was both lucky and unlucky in the partnering tonight. He drew Kayla, who is the tallest woman in the competition. She brings so much grace to the dance, but she also poses a problem for the shortest man in the competition. They did a Viennese Waltz, which is also trouble because this type of ballroom dance plays to the man’s dominance. The dance looked more like a regular waltz, but was still quite lovely. Evan wore heels to compensate and Kayla wore slippers with no heels. This helped balance them. Evan, we feel, did an amazing job.

There were some criticisms by Nigel, but they were misplaced. What was especially evident was how amazingly well Evan did the lifts. He is much stronger than people thought, as is often the case with compact men. His lifts were smooth and effortless and it made each of them memorable. Evan’s solo did something that only could be done by Evan. It was totally memorable, bringing out the Fred Astaire in the show and yet also proving he is no slouch as he flipped effortlessly near the end. It was the best solo of the night. (9/10)

Top 10 Solo introduction and dance recap

6. Kayla – Kayla is so incredibly graceful. Her points on her dance with Evan were incredible. Every move was graceful, but her dress was too ruffled and distracting. We cannot discredit her for wardrobe although the audience may without realizing why. Kayla’s solo was better timed than many of the women, and she can flip over upside down with both feet almost touching the floor at the same time while her head faces the floor. We have no idea how that is humanly possible. The dictionary shall have to be reprinted to place a picture of Kayla next to the word “flexible”. Kayla is just too diverse and too good to go home yet. (9/10)

7. Ade – Ade partnered with Janette. Now, this was an interesting hip hop piece in which Ade hypnotizes his partner into total funk. He did a commendable job and his strength and rhythm helped him in his performance. His solo, however, was not a help. Not because he didn’t have spectacular moves, but as is the case for so many dancers, he tried to do too much, looking frantic in the process rather than graceful. His acrobatics are undoubtedly the strongest of the dancers, but this is not a gymnastics contest. Still…(9/10)

8. Jeanine – Jeanine drew Jason, which is a good match of styles, height and talent. Jeanine had suffered with Philip, who was clearly inferior, and yet came through every week. Still, that could have been an advantage, consistently making her look superb in comparison. Jeanine is by far the prettiest girl here and it shows. Yet, she has the same cute personality that graces Randi. Her grace is unsurpassed, even by Kayla, who does, admittedly have better lines. Jeanine nailed this contemporary piece and is near the top this week. Her solo was flawless and well timed. She doesn’t do flips and gymnastics, it is just pure dance, and it is beautiful. (9/10)

9. Jason – Jason danced very well with Jeanine. and was on par for one of the best performances of the night, but we feel she outperformed him. The choreography was done by one of the best dancers the show has seen, Travis, who only lost to Benjie in season two on a personality vote. He introduced some incredibly difficult moves and Jason, while executing many of them, did not have Travis’s extension. Still, this was his first attempt at these moves, and Travis is a very tough act to follow. WE are torn on Jason. What can we do? Jason’s solo was cute and performed to character in what could be characterized as his best solo. It wasn’t as acrobatic as many, but it played to his strength and looked like a true performance, not some frantic attempt to get in more moves than the other guy. (9/10)

10. Janette – Janette and Ade did a great hip hop piece, but in our opinion, Janette stole the piece and she is anthing but hip hop. She is not the prettiest dancer in this competition, but she has the best legs and is the sexiest. That does draw attention to her when she dances. She also introduces a massive amount of expression and personality into her dance that makes you believe her. Now, the solo, well, that would of course be a problem right? Janette is all ballroom and a partner dancer. So, how do you pull off a solo with limited contemporary training? Well, Janette has the main component of a ballroom dancer doing a solo. She is sexy. And it shows and it makes her solo memorable where other ballroom dancers would fall. We are certain she can dance pretty much anything except extreme forms of contemporary. Her personality is top notch. (9/10)

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So, where does that leave us? Shoot, it is easier to pick the best than the worst again this week. Sigh, it is so difficult to say who should go home, especially considering the luck of the draw can play such a major part in the result. Partnering with a new partner can’t always work, and it that dance doesn’t work, history has shown the solo can’t save you. Remember, this week, they are all ranked separately and the girl and guy with the least votes will go home regardless of whether they partnered or not. And the judges can only weigh in with their opinions, not votes this week.

Our bottom three men…

Kupono, Evan and Jason. How could this be? Look at our scores. These guys are fantastic. Kupono was here because of the dance he was condemned to dance, the Paso Doble. He was not believable. Evan is not as strong a dancer, but has massive personality. We think America will not vote him out, but we can’t place him in the top 2. And Jason, we felt, was not as strong as Ade or Brandon. So, who is at the very bottom? Our guess is Kupono, but this is a tight one.

Our bottom three women…

Randi, Melissa and Janette. Now this is tougher than the men to call. Randi, we believe, sacrificed her own votes for the dance. Wearing the wig hid who she was and America is voting for that all American look. She lost that this week. Melissa just doesn’t have the cute factor. She is graceful, but butch, and it doesn’t play well as we watch her perform. She looks like she is putting in a major effort to be female despite her grace. Janette is fantastic, but we have to give Kayla and Jeanine the night, so someone had to be in the bottom three.

OK, now our absolute bottom this week is Randi. We think the wig, as well as the dance style, blew her chance. And we also believe America had a love affair with Randi and Evan as a couple, and that was busted this week. We think Randi is at major risk. Melissa is also at risk, primarily because of the persona she conveys, and the fact that no one would vote for her above Kayla or Jeanine. If Janette goes home, it is because of the solo, which does not favor ballroom dancers. But we don’t see that weighing that much and think she is safe.

THE DANCES and the music:

The top five girls: Bollywood dance routine, Music to “Dlohna” from Pyar Ki Jeet, choreography by Nakul Dev Mahajan
The top five guys: African dance routine, Music to “Ballant Funk” by Ayanda Clark and Shawn Kelly choreography by Jeffrey Page

The couple routines were done to the following music:
Kayla Radomski and Evan Kasprzak Viennese Waltz, “Kiss from a Rose” —Seal choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Janette Manrara and Ade Obayomi Hip-hop, “Love Sex Magic” —Ciara featuring Justin Timberlake choreography by Tabitha D’umo and Napoleon D’umo
Jeanine Mason and Jason Glover Contemporary, “If It Kills Me”  (The Casa Nova Sessions)—Jason Mraz choreography by Travis Wall
Randi Evans and Kupono Aweau Paso Doble, “Dies Irae” —Karl Jenkins choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Melissa Sandvig and Brandon Bryant Broadway, “Aquarius”  from the musical “Hair” choreography by Tyce Diorio

THE SOLOS:

Brandon Bryant: “In Your Eyes” —Jeffrey Gaines
Randi Evans: “Dream” —Priscilla Ahn
Kupuno Aweau: “Marina Gasolina” —Bonde do Rolê
Melissa Sandvig: “Gabriel” —Lamb
Evan Kasprzak: “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” —Rufus Wainwright
Kayla Radomski: “Rock Your Soul” —Elisa
Ade Obayomi: “Unchained Melody” —The Righteous Brothers
Jeanine Mason: “Violento (Up Mix)”–Bailongo!
Jason Glover: “Train Fare Home” —Muddy Waters
Janette Manrara: “This is Miami” —Sander Kleinenberg

7/8 SYTYCD 5 Top Performances from the Top 12, Only 10 gets to Go on Tour…

This week we have to work top down. Most weeks we are thinking we have to nail the bottom three. So we go bottom up and try to pick who we liked least. This week, we loved every performance. These dancers are true stars and a step above everyone else in dance. The choreographers do deserve much of the credit, and we believe that choreography may have more to do with the elimination of this week’s pair of dancers than the dancing itself. But maybe a fan base could save one or two from elimination. We think Philip and Evan have a strong following that will bail them out on the telephone in many cases, but will it help them this week?

As a note aside, this is the last week these couples will perform with each other. They have to face the music with a different partner next week. This could result in some very interesting mismatches. For example, we could never imagine Kayla or Melissa with Phillip.

When you get down to it this week, there isn’t a dance we disliked. There were no major flaws. So, it comes down to how each dance made us feel and expect that we are in tune with the audience. We aren’t always, but we think we can tell you what happened and who was the most likely to get votes this week.

Normally we go through the dances in chronological order, but this week we are going to list our dancers top down, top to bottom, best to worst, and ecstacy to pain. Let’s see how this goes… (Watch solo introduction and dance recap at the bottom of this post)

Janette Manrara and Brandon Bryant Argentine Tango to the song “Libertango” from Forever Tango choreographed by Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo
Janette Manrara and Brandon Bryant Jazz to the song “Ruby Blue” —Róisín Murphy choreographed by Wade Robson (Complete performance videos here with judges comments)

In every show, this couple has nailed every single dance. No slips, no flaws, just pure and perfect entertainment. Tonight exemplified their run with two of the best performances by any couple this season. One will definitely be on the tour. The first was a tango. Every move was executed with phenomenal precision. Jeannette is the dark horse here. We keep forgetting about her until she dances and suddenly we believe she could take it all. Every week she has been our number one or number two pick of the women. Brandon is brought out personality-wise by her. Her slightly cocky (in a good way) personality is exactly what Brandon needed to bring out his excellence as a dancer because it got him to lighten up. (Dance 1: 10/10)

The second dance will be on the tour. It was a jazz dance that has some of the sleekiest choreography we have seen. If executed correctly, it should have you laughing and still amazed at how well it is performed. This one had us laughing at the cocky character acting, but almost in tears over how amazingly delivered this dance was. You have to watch it, because if you don’t, we cannot explain it. If this were a final contest among couples, Jeannette and Brandon are well above the rest of the pack.(Dance 2: 10/10)

Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi Disco to the song “Move On Up” —Destination choreographed by Doriana Sanchez
Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi Waltz to the song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” —Mary J. Blige choreographed by Ron Montez (VIDEO PERFORMANCES HERE with judges comments)

The first dance was disco, the second dance a waltz. Melissa did one split upside down that would have likely killed a normal human being. Ade was strong throughout. When he needed to lift Melissa it was effortless. When he needed to deliver that perfect dance move or spin, it was there. Melissa was the top performer in this couple, but both kicked it up a notch even in that difficult first slot. Dance 1 was fast and furious. It was not as good as last week’s disco by Jeanette and Brandon, but it was so very well performed nonetheless. (Dance 1: 9/10) Next was a waltz that brought both of these dancer’s beauty into perspective. (Dance 2: 10/10)

Kayla Radomski and Kupono Aweau Contemporary to the song “Gravity” —Sara Bareilles choreographed by Mia Michaels
Kayla Radomski and Kupono Aweau Broadway to the song “The Dance At the Gym”  from West Side Story choreographed by Joey Dowling

In their first dance, they drew contemporary and it was superbly performed. The synchronized moves were spectacular. The touch of craziness in the dance had us mesmerized. (Dance 1: 9/10) Kayla, though, outshines Kupono. The second dance was a jazz performance and we just couldn’t help but giggle at some of it. It had a truly off beat appeal. We loved both dances. Kayla was spectacular. Kupono quite good. This was difficult to score because we loved the dance, but felt Kupono did not perform up to par. (Dance 2: 8./10)

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Randi Evans and Evan Kasprzak Hip-hop to the song “Halo” —Beyoncé Knowles choreographed by Tabitha D’umo and Napoleon D’umo
Randi Evans and Evan Kasprzak Samba to the song “Ritmo De Bum Bom”—Jababa choreographyed by Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev

In the first dance, hip hop was their task, and Randi was able to hit the beat and lead us into the dance much better than Evan. We like Evan’s personality and style, but he hasn’t been as much of a dancing standout of late, and this was not his best performance. It looked like he was dancing a different style. On time, on the beat and off the mark. (Dance 1: 8/10) Randi is just so cute that as long as she shows up and doesn’t fall, she looks great on stage. Her perkiness and energy bring that cute nature home even more

The second dance truly demonstrated the dichotomy this couple presents to us. Once again Randi was stunning, made every move flawlessly and led the dance with pure dazzle. Once again, Evan was a disappointment, disappearing behind Randi’s aura and just not showing the style and personality of a winner. Evan has the personality, we have seen it, but he hasn’t been bringing it to the show the last couple of weeks. Unlike loveable dancers from years past, such as Benjie in season 2, he can’t bring his personality consistently to the floor. He looks like he is straining and just not having the fun he should be. (Dance 2: 8/10)

Jeanine Mason and Phillip Chbeeb Russian folk dance to the song “Kalinka” —Barynya choreographed by Youri Nelzine and Lilia Babenko
Jeanine Mason and Phillip Chbeeb Jive to the song “Stuff Like That There” —Bette Midler choreographed by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin

If Jeanine can dance as well as she has while partnering with a dancer as weak as Phillip, she deserves to win this year. And she has. Every single dance she has delivered pure perfection, and tonight was no exception. The start was a Russian dance that brought back memories of last year when Twitch and Joshua danced up an energetic storm of Russian movement. Jeanine was believable and on mark throughout. Phillip was not, but put in a commendable effort despite a stumble and being incredibly outmatched. Honestly, though, Phillip is way out of his league and is just plain no Joshua or Twitch (Dance 1: 7/10).

The second dance was swing, and once again, Jeanine shook the hips and took the dance away. Jeanine is championship quality, Phillip is not. But we think that quite possibly the judges promoted Phillip in these routines because they want Phillip’s entertainment factor on the tour. And only the top 10 are guaranteed to tour. Jeanine was so good in the second dance and Phillip put in an underdog performance worth noting, so this dance can’t be downgraded that much. (Dance 2: 9/10)

Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover Foxtrot to the song “Minnie the Moocher” —Big Bad Voodoo Daddy choreographed by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin
Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover Lyrical jazz to the song “Show Me Heaven” —Maria McKee choreographed by Mandy Moore

The first dance was a 40s type slow swing. The dancers executed the dance with aplomb. Our issue was not the performance, it was the choreography. The dance, while amazingly performed, was dull, and votes come from how well the audience remembers the dance. Caitlin is better than this dance showed her to be. Jason as well. (Dance 1: 8/10)

The second dance was Lyrical Jazz and was their exact style. And once again, despite some beautiful movement, it was dull. We cannot place our finger on it, but this was the couple we would be least likely to vote for this week. They did the one thing that cannot be done. They bored us. (Dance 2: 8/10)

Top 12 Solo introduction and Dance Recap

RESULTS?

Now it becomes a bit more clear…We have two obviously safe couples…what about the rest?

Brandon and Jeanine are not going anywhere. They are spectacular and the best couple in this competition by a decent margin.

Melissa and Ade have strong movement and finesse that is magnified by the incredible strength of both dancers. Melissa is a bit butch at times, but never is anyting but perfect grace. Ade is strong and always at home. So, they are SAFE!

But then we get into the gray area. All these couples, with the exception of Caitlin and Jason, are tied. And Caitlin and Jason are not far behind. What do we do? Well, we won’t cop out, we will make our guess for the bottom three, but it may not be how the audience votes.

Let’s start by saying that Jeanine and Kayla are outstanding and carry their dances repeatedly. They are both easily top ten talents, but their partners? Well….not so much. Phillip is weaker than any man here, but has a major underdog factor combined with a lovable goofiness. And you have to give him a major A for effort in that second dance. So, how do we think it will go down. In this order.

Kayla & Kupono – They were marginally the best of the four.

Jeanine & Phillip – Jeanine gets 10/10 on both dances. Phillip gets an A for effort and just being on the floor with her and not looking downright stupid. They are lovable. But at the end of the day, someone has to dance for his and/or her life.

Randi and Evan – Randi, like Jeanine, gets top scores for her dances, but Evan had an almost sleepy quality to him as he danced. No pizzazz, no personality and just not a winner. And we really like Evan and are so disappointed. Perhaps he just isn’t cut out for the limelight? We just think he has to look like he is having more fun, but this is hard, and we think he is displaying a bit of stage fright.

Caitlin and Jason – Dead last for boredom. Neither stood out, both were equally dull, but much of it was the choreography which is just the luck of the draw. Jason is better than this and we think Caitlin is as well. But, at the end of the day, no matter what the champion draws, the champion only wins if he or she brings it, so we crave their next performance. These performances made us just plain not care if this couple was not here next week, and we think that the audience won’t care either.

We think that if it plays out the way we think, Phillip has to go home unless the other two dancers blow their solos. Phillip will perform a predictable hip hop solo that will be no surprise and that demonstrates that, in the end, he has little versatility relative to the other dancers. But, Evan could fall flat as well. This is mainly because he has been a disappointment, not only to us, but repeatedly to the judges. He has to nail his solo and remind us of what he can do, or he will be on the bus out of here.

Of the women, this is very difficult. We love them all. If we had to choose, we would prefer to see Randi and Jeanette move through. Melissa we think is spectacular, but we don’t see the personality in her that makes us want to vote for her. Caitlin is spectacular, but she has to nail the solo against some pretty stiff talent and we think she is last this week in our eyes as well as the judges. We think Caitlin will be shipped out.

SYTYCD 5 Elimination Top 14 Results, Did America get it Right? Yes, they did (not)!

America’s vote nailed Phillip and Jeanine and we were only right on two couples in the bottom three. But Phillip did a great solo and did not belong here tonight after he got hip hop again last night. He should have gone last week or the week before, but this week, he didn’t belong here. The other two couples unfortunately did, but only by a hair.

Randi and Evan thankfully escaped. We love them and think the judges were totally unfair in their criticisms last night. Still, we did see them at the top of the bottom three, and they survived without having to dance for their lives.

Kupono was not so lucky. We felt that he didn’t cut it last night, while he was great other nights, but he was thrust into the bottom. And his solo was horrible. But lucky or not, he survived.

karla_vitolioSo that left Vitolio, someone we thought could make the bottom three because of a rather unmemorable performance. The judges were cruel after his solo saying that at the end of the day all he had was a great presence on stage but the performance was lacking. These judges have been calling his praises for weeks and know that is far far from the truth. He had a bad night. His solo was better than Kupono’s. There were other factors at work here. But still, we did see him in the bottom three if Randi and Evan did not get in.

For the women, the best solo by far was danced by the one woman that did not belong here. Jeanine nailed the solo and literally embarrassed the other girls. She is a stunning dancer that has carried Phillip for weeks and she deserves to be in this.

So, that left Kayla and Karla. Not much difference in the names, but there is a difference in their talent. Once again, the judges missed the mark as to why. Kayla is just better. Karla could have spun cartwheels in the stars and not won this. The judges had already made up their minds. So their comment that Karla was lacking star quality was just stupid filler. If she isn’t a star, what do you call the top 20? They are all star quality.

And so we say goodbye to Karla and Vitolio. We think that Phillip is entertaining, but doesn’t belong here on the basis of his overall talent. We do like him though and he did kill it last night. And we think Kayla had better step it up big time, because while the judges are singing her praises, we, the audience, obviously aren’t getting it and she keeps getting the honor of doing survival solos.

Elimination recap from the judges and comments from Karla and Vitolio

7/1 SYTYCD 5 Perfromance Night: Only 14 Dancers Remain… Awww NUTS!

How does one judge a bag of nuts. Well, the judges were nuts, but that is not what we mean. You are given a basket of the best and freshest nuts. Walnuts, almonds, filberts, macadamia, cashews and pecans. Then you are asked to pick your least favorite. What would happen?

We know our choices. We would pick almonds and have a tough time between macadamia and filberts. But others that crave the walnut would beg to differ. And those that have that passion for the cashew, no other nut will do, of course we have to be wrong. And anyone knows that the macadamia is the most royal, creamy and perfect nut of all. But the champion of nuts that spans the entire spectrum of nut lovers because everyone loves it is the almond.

So what would you choose? It all comes down to taste. It all comes down a number of factors that are not exactly intuitive on the surface, but that make sense as you drive deeper into the selections. So, as we snack on peanuts, we shall judge the rest of the nuts.

First, let’s begin by saying we believe this show is a bit of a hoax. No, the dancing is fantastic and the judging real, but if anyone believes the judges are spontaneous, they are wrong. The judges are rehearsed. And the part that bothers us about this is the judges had to have their minds made up before the performance, which is kind of disgusting. There is no shock, no stammer, no loss for words. It is all staged and as choreographed as the dancers which is disappointing. The judges are great at what they do, but they are poor actors.

Tonight was a night when we saw every couple hit their number.  Normally, we judge from the bottom up on this show (no we are not referring to the spectacular performance last week by Evan and Randi), but this week, we had to judge from the top down.  Every performance was so well done that we were taken aback.  Not one dancer flinched.  None flubbed.  There was no chance for anyone to lose, but someone has to.

That said, the dancers were given their time to perform in their niches tonight.  It was no coincidence.  This was no luck of the draw or you have to believe that you can actually beat the casino at roulette.

Well, does it come down then to the wheel, the dice or the machine?  If the player isn’t winning, could it be the instrument?  In this case, the instruments are the choreographers.  And the choreographers on this show are so tremendous that it would be hard to judge them.  But a new choreographer, not quite as well understood and not as adept at training dancers that must perform in this level of competition often do have weaknesses, and the dancers can pay for them.

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To the dancers: (Solo introduction and dance recap at the bottom of this post)

1. Janette and Brandon – Cha-Cha-Cha “Hush Hush”—The Pussycat Dolls, Choreography by Jean-Marc Généreux

There is often a really subtle standout in the show that comes out as the show progresses.  In this show, it is Janette.  She is spectacular.  Her legs are as fast as any dancer, and when you compare her to so many others on this show that had fast legs, that is a tremendous achievement.  She is mesmerizing to watch.  Brandon is a wonderful dancer, but is too effeminate.  We hope he shakes that because he is truly talented.  Even with his weakness, though, this dance was amazing.  (10/10)

2. Kayla and Kupono – Contemporary “Eyes On Fire”—Blue Foundation Choreography by Sonya Tayeh

You know, we thought this was an absolutely great set.  We love dark theme performances and this was no exception.  Kayla, as usual, had awesome lines, but we didn’t see her being as much of a standout as in prior weeks.  Kupono was great here as well, but we didn’t find the performance particularly memorable.  The judges loved it, but it just wasn’t overall as good as they made it out to be and yet (9/10)

3. Randi and Evan – Broadway “Rich Man’s Frug” from Sweet Charity Choreography by Joey Dowling

Now, sometimes, someone just has to get art.  You can look at a masterpiece and stare at it for hours and have no idea what makes it great.  This performance had a twist of the odd in it.  The most important part of the dance, independently of making every step perfectly, was the character acting.  Evan pulled it off with amazing accuracy.  His acting persona was spectacular.  Randi was not quite as good this week as last, but that is like saying she was only genius.  These two were once again fantastic.  The judges had to find someone to criticize after praising the first two dances, but this dance was every bit as good. (9/10)

4. Caitlin and Jason – Pop-Jazz “Creator”—Santigold Choreography by Brian Friedman

There are times that being the oddest person in the group makes you stand out in a positive way.  In other cases, no matter how wonderfully odd you are, you are just odd.  We blame the choreographers for the fact we did not like this dance as much as the others.  The judges could not place their fingers on it and blamed Caitlin’s distracting outfit, but she was supposed to be an alien for heaven’s sake, and it is not like the dancer’s pick their outfits.  Stupid for the judges to mention it.  But the quirkiness of the dance did not take away from Caitlin and Jason’s talent.  They performed amazingly well. (9/10)

5. Jeanine and Phillip – Hip-hop “Love Lockdown”—Kanye West Choreography by Tabitha D’umo
Napoleon D’umo

OK, now let’s give Phillip a chance here.  Give him what he does best so we can show why he belongs here.  Fine, we get it.  But so many other dancers have had to dance out of their element every week and as Phillip got in trouble two weeks running with that, they brought him back with this performance. OK, Phillip is amazing at this style and Jeanine can do anything, so we cannot take anything away from this performance.  It was a delight to watch, the choreography was amazing and the dancers on mark throughout.  So, what didn’t we like?  We feel the show is giving Phillip a strong amount of favoritism because of his entertainment factor within his niche.  The show may be right, we enjoyed watching this performance enormously.  And we believe Jeanine is as good as any woman here. (10/10)

6. Melissa and Ade – Classical Pas de deux Romeo & Juliet: Provofiev’s Suite (No.1 Op 64b, 6th Movement)—Orchestre De La Suisse Romande & Armin Jordan Choreography by Thordal Christensen

This was perfect for Melissa to show her lines and specialty.  Finally, she was given an opportunity to perform like the ballet artist she truly is.  There was no doubt throughout who we were watching.  Melissa floated through the air, pointed like the most talented ballerina and made the Nutcracker look like a show for amateurs.  This was her best performance.  Ade, on the other hand, was out of his element.  The judges praised him, but to us, Melissa outclassed him so greatly that it made him look silly at times.  Melissa was so graceful and perfect though that she totally disguised any lack of grace by Ade.  In a lift that took us to a world of enchantment, Melissa arched her body and bent her legs so gracefully that it looked for sure like she could fly.  During the lift, Ade was merely her support and little else, but no one was looking at Ade.  In another move, it was grace by Melissa that made her look like she was literally flying across the stage like a real life tinker bell, and once again Ade was merely a prop.  So, how do we judge this? (10/10)

7. Karla and Vitolio- Quickstep “Puttin’ on the Ritz”—Rufus Wainwright, Choreography by Jean-Marc Généreux

Ah, if only Vitolio could work that goofy smile into something a bit more serious. His smile tends to make us want to laugh when we see it. But he can dance. Karla needed a great performance tonight to pull out of the bottom three. This is a new couple, and that brings some very interesting and difficult challenges. In this performance, Karla pulled out all the stops and performed the best we have seen her. Vitolio was great, but somehow detached. The chemistry was not there for us. But it was still a performance one should not miss. (9/10)

Top 14 Solo Introduction plus Dance Recap

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OK, now if we were judging, what do we do now?  We have just said everyone is amazing and yet we have to have a bottom 3.  Usually, in a given week, we see a blunder that stands out to us.  But none stood out in any way this week in a negative fashion performance wise.  So, now it comes down to taste.

We don’t like walnuts.  Caitlin and Jason were our walnuts.  We see them in the bottom three because we believe they will not make the final snack bowl.  The choreography was too odd, and even their great talent could not bring it out in as positive a way as the rest of the group.

We love macadamia nuts.  They are delightful and we know they could never be in the bottom three.  Jeanette and Brandon were our macadamias.  They were the number one or number two couple.  No question.

Now, normally, we don’t care much for cashews.  They are mealy at times and often much sweeter than we like a nut to be.  But every once in a while, you get a perfect cashew.  Jeanine and Phillip were out perfect cashews.  If they are in the bottom three it is only because someone had to be.

Filberts are always a surprise the first time.  They have a hard outer shell and look much like an acorn.  Seems like food for squirrels, not for humans.  But then you taste one, and you realize that they are among the best of nuts. Well, this is how we would classify Melissa but not Ade.  Still, as a team, they were what makes a cashew lover remember why they crave them.  No bottom three here.

Shoot, now we only have one bottom couple.  What do we do?  We have no choice but to place Kayla and Kupono and Randi and Evan in our bottom three.  Not because they were not spectacular, just that they were a hair behind in a photo finish.

We still believe that in the long run, Phillip cannot win and has no diversity.  We don’t believe he has any chance here, so the judges should make way for the more diverse and stop pandering to him.  That said, he nailed his specialty so amazingly well this week that he cannot go home.  That places Randi and Evan in our bottom three.  And we love Evan.  They were our almonds.  The standby you love every time you have them.  And yet, could you give them up for a great cashew?  We think it more likely, though, we will be sending home the walnuts.  But we can still use them in cookies that no one eats.

Hedging our bets on our bottom three though, we have to turn to the set that was least memorable even if well performed. This also places Karla and Vitolio square in the cross hairs. Anyone other than these four possibilities in the bottom three would be a mistake. But who knows what America will do with ballet? How cultured are we after all?

The solos will tell all.  But our bottom three are:

1. Caitlin and Jason
2. Randi and Evan
3. Kayla and Kupono
4. Karla and Vitolio

6/25 SYTYCD Top 16 Results Night, So You Think You Can Judge?

Well, once again, we were not totally surprised, but maybe a little, at how poorly America can choose a dance performance. While two of our bottom three couples made the bottom three, one did not, and the one that did, just plain did not belong there. Thank heavens, the couple that did not belong there humiliated their competition in the solos.

Before we get into who was here that did not belong, let’s go to the couple that did belong and escaped. Phillip and Jeanine. It is possible that Jeanine was so good she saved Phillip, or there is some goofy god that saved Phillip, but honestly, he has no true dance talent. He is a one trick pony. It shows week after week, but he has some followers that do vote for him. We are not sure who they are, but they know little about dance, and the result this week was a dancer with vastly more talent and an actual chance at winning was sent home tonight. Get it right America. Phillip is not a dancer, he is a circus act.

Caitlin and Jason did not belong at all in the bottom three. They were one of the best couples of the night. And while they easily escaped elimination with their excellent solos, it shows how foolish things can get. We have no idea how anyone could have not seen how fantastic their performance was last night, and yet, somehow, Philip was better? Please. Pathetic.

So it came down to two women for the bottom two, both of whom we thought would be there. Asuka and Karla. But we thought Karla had more diversity and performed much better last night. Asuka has the sleek lines and the ballroom finesse, but you have to do it all in SYTYCD and when it comes to a solo, the ballroom dancers, if not absolutely sensational, usually do not get through. But tonight, Karla was weak on her solo. Nothing stood out. It seemed she played it so safe as to be in danger. The judges were unanimous as they told Karla… she was safe. Asuka went home, but Karla did not help herself with that solo.

asuka_jonathanAnd now the saddest part of the night. There is no question that of the two men left, one did an off tempo out of sync solo and one did an excellent on key solo that was on par with his performance last night. One man was great, and one man was not, but according to our picks last night, both men should have been in the bottom three. The one of the two that was not able to dance to the music. The one off his step. And the one with, by far the weakest solo, was kept. And so Jonathan goes home and Vitolio survives in a pathetic play by the judges to favor minorities over true talent. A sad statement.

We bid Jonathan goodbye and wish him the best. He just has to get that goofy kids smile off his face, because his dance is wonderful and he makes Vitolio look second rate.

So goodbye to Jonathan and Asuka. One deserved to go, one did not, but both were in our bottom three from last night.

Now if someone could just get a clue and kick Philip out of here..

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6/24 SYTYCD 5 Top 16 Perform For your Votes America!

There are times we feel the judges are not on their game. Most of the time, the judges on SYTYCD are quite good, but tonight, we are not so sure. They were inconsistent, and Mary seemed like the only person really paying attention. Nigel Lithgoe was way off, criticizing dances that were performed wonderfully. Mary would correct him, but he continued to miss the mark.

The first performance, though, all the judges seemed to miss.

1. Karla Garcia and Jonathan Platero Hip-hop,  “By My Side” —Jadakiss featuring Ne-Yo choreographed by Dave Scott

OK, this was not the best hip hop we have seen on the show, but it was very well done. Our biggest criticism of it was Jonathan’s face. They were supposed to be gangstah here and instead he was smiling like a goofy teenager throughout. That, we think, is what brought down the performance, because overall, it was very fun and we think better than the second dance, which the judges praised. (7/10)

2. Asuka Kondoh and Vitolio Jeune Jazz, “Heartbreaker” —Pat Benatar choreographed by Mandy Moore

Asuka came out dressed like a tramp. It is not becoming for her, but she was trying to look the part of a rocker as they danced to Pat Benatar. We found nothing thrilling in the performance. The moves and lifts were dull. The choreography took few risks and left us flat. Then we listened to the judges praise it? What is wrong with this picture. (6/10)

3. Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi Rumba, “Emotion” —Destiny’s Child choreographed by Tony Meredith

This has the ability to kill some dancers, but it plays well to a ballet style and Melissa is all ballet with a massive dose of style. Her body is so physical, that it makes movements impossible for anyone look simple. Ade was on mark and great at leading. He is no Joshua, at least not at this stage, but in some ways reminds of him. His strut just screams Joshua at times, but he doesn’t have the total masculine demeanor that made Joshua commanding. Overall, though, this was clearly the best of three. (9/10)

4. Janette Manrara and Brandon Bryant Hip-hop, “What a World” —Common choreographed by Dave Scott

Now we’re talkin. Janette came out wearing a burlesque style outfit as sexy as anything worn by Liza Minelli in her jaunt into the genre. But something was missing. We think it was Brandon. He did OK, and he danced well, but he seemed feminine which doesn’t work for the man in hip hop. He was sharp on his moves though and Janette was smokin’. (8/10)

Top 16 Solo Introduction plus Dance Performance Recap

5. Kayla Radomski and Kupono Aweau Viennese Waltz, “Sweet Dreams” —Jewel choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux

Now this was to be very difficult. Neither of these dancers are ball room. And by the luck of the draw, they picked this seemingly off character dance for their first week together after losing their partners last week. We were incredibly surprised. Both delivered graceful performances with moves, lifts and timing that were impeccable. No bottom 3 this week. (9/10)

6. Randi Evans and Evan Kasprzak Contemporary, “Koop Island Blues” —Koop featuring Ane Brun choreographed by Mia Michaels

This performance had a major jazz style even though contemporary. There was nothing outstanding about it from a dance standpoint. No spectacular lifts or death defying leaps across the stage. There were no flips or somersaults. Just a story, a simple one, of a rascal of a man mesmerized by the derrière of a cagey blonde. We were shocked to see Randi has a rump. Nice job Randi. Evan and Randi nailed this routine. Mia Michaels brought us in again, and we have no idea how she can do it every week. We loved this and we’ll upload vids later for you guys to watch if you missed it. Fantastic. (10/10)

7. Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover Paso Doble, “O Fortuna” —Mozaretum Orchestra Salzburg & Kurt Prestel choreographed by Jean-Marc Généreux

This dance has to be done with total strength and confidence. Jason pulled it off beautifully, and we think this dance, if improved slightly with time, is one for the live show. We loved Jason’s strength throughout the dance. And Caitlin’s lines and feminine but powerful moves were equally as captivating. There were a couple of minor issues the judges picked up on, but if you watch the dance as a dance lover and not a complete critic, this was wonderfully done. (9/10)

8. Jeanine Mason and Phillip Chbeeb Broadway, “Moses”  from Singing in the Rain choreographed by Tyce DiOrio

Phillip is just not this kind of dancer. He did manage to jump over a sofa the long way and mastered it, and his facial expressions were fun in this type of performance, but he is not diverse enough for anyone to believe him a finalist. Jeanine on the other hand is a firecracker, beautiful, graceful and consistently delivering performance after performance. She just can’t carry the act by herself. This was fun. We liked it a bunch. We had fun. But Philip just does not belong in this group of men, and may force Jeanine to dance for her life tomorrow. (7/10)

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Our bottom three:

Asuka & Vitolio

Jeanine & Philip

Karla & Jonathan

The pair of dancers that should go this week? We think Philip should go no matter how flexible or popular he is. And Asuka, while graceful, is outclassed by the remainder of the gals. Jonathan is at real risk though if his solo isn’t great because Philip has a strong following. Karla is fantastic though and we would hate to see her have to dance for her life. Vitolio is fun, but we don’t like him all that much. So it is hard to pick, but we think Philip should go, if not Philip, then Vitolio. From the gals, Asuka is the weakest, and if it comes down to a solo, we think it will be a clear cut choice.

Top 18 Results Night Group Dance: A Mia Michaels Choreography to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’

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Behind the look of the Top 18 Group dance, from SYTYCD costume designer- Soyon

6/25 SYTYCD 5 Results Are In for the Top 18

We have seen disappointment on this show repeatedly over the years, and we have watched it since year one. We go to see the show live each year, and are repeatedly stunned by the endearing personalities and inspiring talent of the dancers. So when we see any dancer that does not deserve to go home get eliminated, we are saddened.

When that dancer was part of a team that wowed us the night before and was clearly, if not the absolute best, among the best of the night, we are even more disappointed. And yet, we have yet to see what we considered the top three of either the male or female groups eliminated before the top 10. And we felt the same this week.

Still, last night, Randi and Evan were weak and were lucky. We believe it is their cute personalities and their humble origins that make them both way too lovable to vote against. Cuteness won out, and this couple was pardoned for a less than stellar evening last night. They escaped the bottom 3, but we think they deserved to be there more than one couple that was placed there and would eventually lose a dancer.

Caitlin and Jason were very weak last night in their Hip Hop routine. Jason was better, but wasn’t stellar. Caitlin has no feel for hip hop at all. But we feel that what transpired is ashame in a way, because we think that hip hop is the least important dance to master. Honestly, it is not in the same category as ballet, contemporary and ball room. This show has brought it to the forefront and made it entertaining, but to eliminate a dancer that is excellent because they cant “hit” a Hip Hop routine is sad. But would this doom them? Well, it did put them in the bottom 3.

Ashley and Kupono were also weak in their Hip Hop, and as we mentioned, when you get to go last, you have a chance to really nail the routine and get the most votes because the audience will remember you the best. The problem is, if you don’t, they remember that as well. Ashley and Kupono stepped out and embarrassed themselves. There was no style to their dance. It hit about as hard as a helium balloon. And the moves were as crisp as over-cooked spaghetti. Nothing about this performance did anything for us. In the other dances, one dancer was significantly better than the other. In this dance, neither did it for us. And they went to the bottom 3. So of the two soft Hip Hop performances, both couples were sent to dance for their lives.

max-ashleyKayla and Max performed one of the absolute best routines last night. Janette and Brandon were better, but there is no way this couple was in the bottom 3, and yet, there they were. America abandoned them. We expected Ashley and Kupono. We expected Caitlin and Jason. But Kayla and Max? No way. Compare them to any other couple last night and they were as good or better consistently than almost any of them. But America did them a disservice and placed them in a situation in which they had to dance for their lives.

Where does that logically place us? Well, Kayla is untouchable in our minds by the judges. They have promoted her too strongly, so if she didn’t fall down and hit her head on the stage, she wasn’t going to get sent home. That left either Caitlin or Ashley. It could have gone either way, but Caitlin’s solo was much better and that put the final nail in Ashley’s coffin. A sad ending to a great season and a horrible follow up to last week’s stellar performance. All primarily because of hip hop, a dance that, while fun, really is weak in the world of dance competition. Ashley is not the best of this group of women, but she did not deserve to go home yet, and it is pathetic that it is because of a hip hop routine.

Jason pulled out a spectacular solo and is amazing as a stand alone dancer. We would have been very upset if he had been eliminated as well because of being assigned a weak dance style. He wasn’t. He was great and the judges acknowledged it.

But what comes next is ashame no matter which dancer gets eliminated. Max was in one of the two or three best couples last night and shouldn’t even have to dance for his survival. And Kupono is an incredibly diverse and talented dancer. Kupono’s solo, though, was weak. He should have done much better. But the judges went for diversity over quality in this case and eliminated Max. Max was robbed because he should never have had to do a solo tonight. It was sad, but he wasn’t the man that was going to win this competition anyway.

FOX 11’s Jane Yamamoto reviewing the So You Think You Can Dance results show with Courtney Galiano

That said, two dancers departed that could not have been the winner of this year’s competition, so we don’t feel all that badly about their departure. However, we believe one was the luck of the dance draw and the other a victim of an audience that missed the performance.

We did pick two of the couples in the bottom three correctly. We do think Ashley lost the solo and thus was the correct gal to ship off. Max isn’t diverse enough. At best he is a Dmitri, a fourth place finisher. But we still felt he did not deserve it this week.

So, we were left a bit perplexed at one of America’s choices for the bottom three, but were in tune with the other two. We did expect Caitlin’s elimination, but could have seen either Kupono or Max go home.

The hardest thing now is it splits a couple. Max and Kayla were great together. Max is a great leading man for Kayla to follow on the floor. He has possibly the best partnering skills out of the group of men this year. As a result, Kayla has to dance with a partner with whom she is not familiar. And Kupono has a vastly different style. It could be very difficult for Kayla to get past that, and certainly it puts them at a severe disadvantage next week.

Couples who are safe and dancing next week:
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Brandon and Janette
Karla and Jason
Evan and Randi
Ade and Melissa
Asuka and Vitolio
Philip and Jeanine

Bottom Three:

Kupono and Ashley
Caitlin and Jason
Max and Kayla

Eliminated: Max Kapitannikov and Ashley Valerio

Elimination Week Video Recap