I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s special episode of SYTYCD, in which the viewing audience was treated to performances by the top 20 in their respective styles. Why have the show runners never done this before? Probably because it was hard enough to cram a full season into the short summer season. So now we have an added benefit of a fall season: time to do more showcasing of the contestants’ individual talent. Read on to see who danced what, who choreographed them, and how they did. I’ve listed the performances from my most to least favorite.
- Nathan, Ariana, Jakob, and Channing – Contemporary – Choreographed by Tyce Diorio – “Crying” by K.D. Lang – I absolutely loved this routine! It helps that two of my early favorites were in it (Nathan and Channing), and they didn’t disappoint. I loved the costumes, the choreography (I so prefer Tyce’s contemporary stuff to his Broadway), and the dancers’ complete investment in their charge to “convey sadness.” All these guys are so light on their feet, have impressive leaping abilities, and were basically a joy to watch. They reminded me why I love this show so much. 🙂 Ariana mostly caught my eye when she was leaping into someone’s arms, and I was impressed by Jakob’s strong movement. Channing manages to dance gracefully while also taking advantage of her strength, and I still maintain that she’s very elegant despite her tomboyishness off stage. And I continue to love everything that Nathan does.
- Top 20 Group Routine – “Comanche” by The Revels – Choreographed by Wade Robson – The setting of this routine is a smoky 1930s bar, and “the four slickest gangs in the city have showed up, and a turf war ensues.” This was a great way to kick off the night, and it’s my second favorite performance of the night. All 20 dancers were stylin’ in their 1930s-era clothing – I loved the guys in their suits, and the girls in their luxurious, shimmery, colorful dresses (especially the red and green). Everyone exuded personality and seemed spot on with the choregraphy. It was super cool and fun. It seems like this is a top 20 to be reckoned with!
- Legacy, Kevin, and Russell – Hip Hop – Choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon – “Beggin’ (District 78 Remix)” by Madcon – No doubt about it, these guys are a talented trio. I’ve discovered that although Russell is one of my favorites, I prefer serious Russell over smiley Russell. He has more intensity when he’s not grinning. I’m curious to see him in a contemporary or ballroom routine, but not so much Broadway. Knowing Kevin’s backstory, of how he’s worked hard for three years to be on the show, makes me like him more. Otherwise, I wouldn’t pay much attention to him – not with Russell and Legacy in the room. That Legacy sure is a scene stealer! He had the most impressive moves during this performance. Overall, though, all of them did a great job.
- Karen, Ryan, and Ashley – Latin Ballroom (Samba) Choregraphed by Jason Gilkison – “Everything I Can’t Have” by Robin Thicke – This was a fun, spicy routine, although not as effective as a traditional one on one partnered samba. Ryan was certainly working his suit, and Karen stood out to me more than Ashley. Mary called Karen “animalistic” – she definitely had a grittier stage presence than the more pageanty Ashley. These guys may be pretty good ballroom dancers, but they have nothing on Pasha and Anya, my all-time favorite ballroom couple on the show. Oh, how I miss them. I really hope they will choreograph some routines this season!
- Billy, Victor, Kathryn, and Noelle – Contemporary – Choreographed by Mandy Moore – “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay – Oh, I love this song! And I also found the beautiful autumn backdrop inspiring. Unfortunately, those were my favorite things about this routine. The dancing itself was so-so, which is more to blame on the choreography than the dancers – I think Mandy Moore is saving her best stuff for the actual competition. I didn’t particularly care for Noelle’s “Dorothy” skirt, but everyone else’s clothing seemed appropriate. Honestly, when I try to remember the difference between Kathryn and Noelle, they kind of morph into one person in my mind. Neither of them is high on my list of female contestants. Billy and Victor both did a good job, but didn’t wow me. During the partnering, the two couples were out of synch at times – it could have been much tighter and sharper. Overall, I was underwhelmed by this performance, especially compared to the outstanding Tyce Diorio routine from earlier in the show.
- Mollee, Pauline, and Ellenore – Jazz – Choreographed by Sonya Tayeh – “On a Cloud” by PPP – Adam said it best when he called this routine “cute as a button.” This was supposed to be a sexy, flirtatious dance, but the tu-tus made it seem more juvenline than the “grown up” women Sonya kept talking up. Ellenore is my favorite of these three girls, but she didn’t seem fully invested. While the other two girls were bouncing around and all smiles, Ellenore seemed unsure of her steps and afraid that her top was going to fall down. It’s true that the costume did not suit her at all. She seems more mature and refined than someone who would be jumping and bouncing around in a tu-tu. So, yes, this dance was more suited for the younger-seeming (they are actually all about the same age) and more playful Mollee and Pauline, who were actually quite good here. But as we know, the contestants who fail to show America their personality and ability to adapt to even the most awkward dance styles (remember how fantastic Joshua was doing the Bollywood dance in season four?). I fear that unless Ellenore does a great job in the first performance show, she is in danger of being the first girl sent home.
- Peter, Phillip, and Bianca – Tap – Choreographed by Derick K. Grant – “Take the ‘A’ Train” by Ella Fitzgerald – This routine was charming and pleasant, but didn’t blow me away. I’ve said before that I’m just not a huge fan of tap. It lacks the excitement of other forms of dance. However, I’m glad these guys had a chance to show off their talent in their style, since – as Nigel said – they won’t be including tap in the rotation of dance styles this season, because it would take too long to teach it to the other contestants. (I’m not sure I buy that. If they make people figure out various ball room styles, surely they could manage with tap, too.) In this performance, I was most drawn to Phillip, who had the most understated stage presence. I was able to appreciate his tapping without being distracted by over the top grinning.
So did this special episode change my opinion of any of the dancers? Well, I still love Nathan and Channing, think Russell is pretty cool, and think Ellenore may be in trouble. The dancer who I didn’t know much about beforehand that stood out to me was Jakob. He is pretty fantastic and fun to watch, and I can’t quite place it, but he reminds me of some actor. Who does he look like to you?
Who impressed you the most in this episode?