by Kathy Laluk
This season has been more of a whirlwind than usual (programming issues to blame there), and it feels that way, too. Between skipping weeks, the new elimination format, and multiple double eliminations, we've got some winners and some definite losers in the Final 6, and ultimately in the Final 4 - but we'll get to that in a sec.
Tonight's show started off with a dark Sonya Tayeh contemporary group number set to "Scream" by Kelis. Each girl and guy was paired up and cloaked in tattered black ballet-inspired costumes with masks a la Lady Gaga. The cannon of lifts was stunning, but overall I thought the routine gained and lost momentum. The psychedelic disco ballet segments popped in and out of the routine and didn't add much for me. Still, there were some great moments - especially when the girls flipped head-first over their partners' knees. Overall, inconsistent.
Christina Applegate was back again as a guest judge. Correct me if I'm wrong, but last time around she seemed like she had knocked back a few too many cocktails. Seems like they're struggling to book solid talent on that panel. I'd rather they bring back choreographers who actually have relevant critiques or comedians with witty retorts.
Tiffany (who I feel like I barely know) got paired with S2 winner Benji for a jive with Jean Mark Genereux. The rehearsal alone looked like a ton of fun, and the routine somehow managed to top it. Once these two got going, they never stopped moving. Their kicks were on point, bouncy, and full of energy They both nailed the tricks - Tiffany even lifted Benji up for a triple partnered cartwheel. I definitely remember her now. Nigel was impressed that Tiffany could keep up with Benji (me too). Tiffany certainly benefited from having an incredible partner here, but she more than held her own in the routine. Cat said these two could have powered the electricity in the entire studio. It was, indeed, an electric way to kick off the show.
Whitney performed her solo to "Malaguena." Ballroom solos can be tricky and don't always fare well on this show. I think the flowy cap skirt helped increase the drama, but distracted a bit from her footwork (not good).
Cole got paired up with reigning champ Melanie Moore for a Sonya Tayeh contemporary piece about a man trying to break free (I think). Sonya said she wanted to help show Cole's "softer" side, but I'm not sure this routine accomplished that. The routine, set to "Too Close" by Alex Clare, certainly showed off Cole's masterful technique, but I'm not sure it was more docile emotionally speaking. He and Melanie were throwing somewhat violently at times and then melting flawlessly into one another between flips. The contrast was interesting, but didn't do much for Cole's vulnerability push. Still, this was a partnership that really worked and made for a solid routine.
Chehon's solo routine was darker and futuristic (or at least that whackadoo vest he was wearing was). Boy got insane height on his leaps and spinning leaps. It made me sit up and say, OK, this kid's got something.
Eliana got paired with Twitch for a hip-hop routine that ultimately flopped. The premise was Eliana was in love with her postman (Twitch), and wrote him a love letter. Christopher Scott's choreography was totally disjointed. The number seemed bipolar - switching between cutesy, almost Broadway-ish moments to half-hearted hip-hop moves. Eliana was clearly trying, and fared alright with the footwork, but didn't hit it. It was more theatrics than swagger. The judges slammed her pretty hard.
Tiffany's solo had all the usual parts of a contemporary number: spins extensions, etc., but she managed to light up that stage. Her lines seemed to go on forever and her smile was full of joy. I could have lived without all the standing and reaching for the sky stuff though.
Chehon and all-star Kathryn did a Tyce DiOrio routine about how people cope with tragedy. The two were dancing around a suitcase, which I think was supposed to represent the pain we carry around with us. I loved this concept, but wasn't head over-heels for the routine itself. That said,Chehon and Kathryn absolutely killed it. It was masterfully danced, full of emotion and had some great moments. When Chehon flew - and I mean FLEW - across the stage at the suitcase, I actually got chills. Same when the two silently screamed side-by-side. Very powerful. But the moments in between were less that spectacular. The judges gave it a standing ovation. Mary even started to cry during her critique.
Cole's solo music a wolf howling, while he ticked and seemed to transform into this beast of martial arts and dance. He has such power when he moves. There was one moment where he seemed to levitate from the ground to his tippy toes. Incredible. This guy is a masterful dancer and artist.
Whitney got paired with Marko for a Ray Leeper jazz routine about a girl who gets second thoughts on her wedding day. I loved the way she pulled away from him, and then slowly fell away from him moments later, only to be pulled back in. Whitney has so much control of movement, and each seemed to flow perfectly into the next - whether that next move was smooth or sharp. Marko partnered her very well, too, throwing her around his hips like a swing dancer. Ray Leeper nailed the climax with the music and the lift. Mary said Whitney had masterful attack and control (agreed).
Eliana's solo was beautifully controlled and effortless at the same time. She went sans toe shoes this time (interesting choice). You can definitely see the joy and love of dance radiating from her smile.
Cyrus was last (suspicious) and he "randomly" picked a dupstep routine. With Comfort.On the final week. I call BULLSHIT! I feel like he's gotten completely babied this entire season. When he doesn't get his genre, the judges comment on his personality and when he does get hip-hop or something like it, they fawn all over him. Utter crap. That said, this was incredibly well choreographed by Christopher Scott. Comfort absolutely killed it. The handwork was insane. They did one sequence that looked like Jacob's ladder, but with their hands. Mind-boggling. Cyrus seemed to have trouble with the wicked fast footwork, but (as expected) nailed the robotics and hand work. While Comfort was throwing herself completely into the piece, Cyrus was only halfway there. And the guy got a standing ovation. I just do not understand. Christina even tried to disguise a critique - that the routine was "carved out for him" - as praise. Just does not make sense.
PHEW! Okay, then, if those routines weren't enough, the final 6 paired up with one another.
Whitney and Chehongot a cha-cha. Chehon noticeably struggled with the lifts and couldn't quite get his hips and feet in order at the same time. He all but botched the first lift. He picked it up pretty well with the footwork section, but it couldn't really save him. The judges slammed him on his technique, particularly his sloppy hips (that's not something any guy wants to hear). Whitney, not surprisingly, nailed it. Although the judges barely talked about her. Mary even accidentally called her "Lindsay" (not a good sign when the judges can't even remember the names of the finalists). The judges also picked on the choreography a bit - saying Jean Marc including more lifts than footwork and partnering because Chehon's cha-cha skills just weren't up to par.
Cyrus's solo was all ticking and robotics, at which he is no doubt brilliant. Sometimes I wonder if he's even human, but it's all he can do. To me, that's not what this show is about. Being absolutely amazingly talented at whatever your given style is, but also being able to excel at other styles.
Eliana and Cole got a Mia Michaels routine about fighting, inspired by rams. You could definitely see the inspiration in the movements. The idea was very much contrasted by the slow, more classical music. Saying trust was essential to this piece is an absolute understatement. Eliana threw herself at Cole multiple times, and each time he caught her without breaking a sweat. He was throwing her everywhere. This is a routine that could have very easily ended with an injury (or two or three), but thankfully didn't (*knock on wood*). The couples' anger built to the end where they were silently screaming and then collapsed. Nigel compared the characters' relationship to Newton's cradle, in that they hated each other as much as they loved them and that can make for a volatile relationship. Mary called it mesmerizing. Christina finally had her first intelligent critique of the night, saying that Eliana finishes every move all the way through the tips of her fingers and toes (I agree).
Tiffany got paired with Cyrus for a Broadway routine by Spencer Liff. Described as a 50's TV show episode that never made air, the two were supposed to be a pair of horny teens left along to "do homework." Instead, they got into some serious hanky panky. The choreography was fun, but not overly complex. Cyrus mostly stood there. Tiffany really sold it. She leapt and frolicked and groped Cyrus left, right and center. Cyrus seemed too tight in the hips to really give any of the moves the full "oomph" they needed. And the judges fawned all over both of them. At one point, though, it seemed like Mary and Nigel seemed to be giving Cyrus's swan song. Their critiques basically said that no matter what happened, he was an "inspiration."
I didn't catch the names of tonight's guest performers, but they were absolutely incredible. The routine started with two dancers center stage: one in a regular chair, the other in a wheel chair. The dancer in the regular chair eventually danced his way to his feet, but every step of the way, the man in the wheelchair was right along side him. It was such a powerful piece. It shows that we truly have the power to anything no matter what our outward limitations appear to be. Once standing, the man picked the man in the wheelchair up (chair and all), then flipped over him and finally balanced on the titled wheelchair and the man sitting in it. I could not take my eyes off this routine so fascinating.
Finally, it was time to find out who was in the finale. Going into tonight, I thought Tiffany was expendable, but all three of these ladies really served it tonight. Losing any of them was going to be tough. Tiffany was the first to make it through, and then Eliana was named a finalist. Sad to see Whitney go. She is a killer ballroom dancer, and finalist or not, there's no doubt the girl is a star. Perhaps an all-star in the future (too soon?)
As Cat ran out of time, she hastily made the announcement that Chehon was also a finalist. But despite the earlier swan song from the judges, my hopes were dashed when Cole was ELIMINATED and Cyrus made it through to the finale. WHAT. THE. FUCK. AMERICA. He's got a cool trick, but he is a one-trick pony. Cole got robbed. Effing robbed. Even watching his "Green Mile" piece, I was reminded that some of my favorite routines were his. I cannot even fathom how Cyrus is still here. I swear will stop watching this show if he wins.
On quick side note, the finale show will be on Tuesday next week, not Wednesday. This season seems to be all over the place. I'm hoping for a little more consistency next season (assuming there is one) and hopefully, a better set of final contestants.