I'd braced myself for it to be Matt and Kourtni to be booted off this week. I knew after the judges' remarks on Wednesday they were going to be in the bottom (since this season votes seem to echo the judges), and it seemed from earlier comments during elimination rounds Matt was their least favorite of the remaining men. So I was prepared, but am still so sad. I loved Matt's beautiful line, his endearing personality, his infectious smile. But I also wanted him to remain because he was so different from the rest who are still on. His tall, thin willowy body, wonderful leg extensions, his pronounced point and high-arched feet gave him a kind of weightlessness, made him seem like he was one with the air, whereas most of the others are so grounded, even the other Contemporary dancers like Thayne and Mark. There seems to be two kinds of Contemporary, one more Ballet-like, the other more Modern, the former being danced on high demi-pointe and involving long lifts of the leg giving it that airborne feel, the latter more Martha Graham-ish, more earthy and rooted as if springing up from the ground then returning to it. Hip Hop and Latin dance are naturally more grounded. So, with the eliminations of Marquis and Matt practically everyone from the balletic kind of Contemporary is now gone.
I thought Matt and Kourtni's Hip Hop this week was not all there, but I really liked their Mambo. At first when I was watching the Hip Hop I thought, well, they're really doing well, they're really trying hard, and that ending pose with her arching back dramatically and him nearly kissing her was hot! But it hit home when judge Napolean said that if this was a real Hip Hop competition, they'd have been booed off. Just didn't have the proper force, "bang" as he said, or the humor of a real Hip Hop routine.
But their Mambo was something else. He had an opening series of chaine turns that he did probably better than any Mambo dancer I've ever seen, and they had some beautiful lifts, good hip action on the side-stepping cucharachas, Kourtni had some fast fun sexy bachacatas (backward-traveling steps with each foot crossing in back of the other in rapid succession), and Matt some good, rhythmic swivels. Their leggy-ness makes them appear not grounded, like Mambo traditionally is, and at times, Matt, tall, thin and dressed all in black looked almost like a silhouette. But he was a silhouette with great rhythm, great timing, great hip action. They brought something new, a lean Contemporary feel to Latin, which is part of what, to me, this competition is -- seeing what fresh feel someone from a certain dance background can bring to another.
One thing about Nigel's "Matt needs to be more macho" comment: a commenter here argued earlier that such criticisms were out of place on a dance show, and I agree. Dance is an art, and art is about transcending stereotypes, not succumbing to them. Matt's off the show now, but I still feel like it's worth mentioning because such criticisms are not unique to this show: a judge on Step It Up and Dance said the same thing of a male contestant there last season.
I was surprised to see both Thayne and Comfort and Courtney and Gev in the bottom three this week, since I thought both were very good. I loved Thayne and Comfort's first "Cool" routine, taken from Jerome Robbins's West Side Story. I love, by the way, that two dances this week had as their basis Robbins' work: this one and Courtney and Gev's take-off from Fancy Free / On the Town (the first a Ballet version, the second Broadway). This year happens to be the 90th anniversary of the prolific choreographer's birth, and there have been celebrations all over the New York dance scene this season. Anyway, "Cool" really suited Thayne -- his jumps, kicks, bent-kneed barrel turn - everything; it was really his thing. And they had perfect chemistry together. Comfort wasn't technically perfect, but she was flirty and fun and sexy - great attitude struts! Given that she's not comfortable dancing in heels, she greatly improved with Thayne. I agree with Nigel that Robbins' original dance is more about pent-up aggression (since it's about rival gangs), but it seemed like the choreographer here, was going for more of a seductive, romantic feel. There could have been a little more holding back on Thayne's part, I suppose, showing his struggle not to give into his sexual attraction toward her.
Their Waltz was lovely. Very romantic and with a forlorn but pretty ending. When he dances ballroom, Thayne's upper frame is good and poised, but from the waist down something about him looks a bit awkward. It looks like he is struggling to maintain proper connection with her, or his toes are pointed the wrong way or something. Both lifts were good; I loved her high developpe (slow leg lift starting with a bent knee).
I thought this was Courtney and Gev's best week so far. To be honest, I'm kind of glad they were in the bottom three though because otherwise we would not have been able to see that wicked Hip Hop routine he did! That blew me right away! And their Hip Hop piece on Wednesday night was their best performance ever, I thought. Such spirit. Very sexy, very ghetto. Gev's opening flare was stunning and Courtney's pelvic thrusts were killer. I really can't believe she considers herself a Contemporary dancer. I definitely think she excels at Jazz / Funk (jazzy Hip Hop). Their Broadway was a lot of fun too. Very believable that they were seeing New York for the first time, were in Times Square, enthralled. He had some great sailor kicks and the leap frogging over her at the end was cute. Great choreography from Andy. It retained the original 1940s choreographic flavor of sailors on shore leave hilariously trying to pick up girls, but went off on its own updated, guy 'n girl, direction. (If you haven't seen either the short Ballet Fancy Free or the Broadway production On the Town, try to see one of them -- I think both exist in DVD form now; Robbins was a genius!)
It was Will and Jessica who I actually expected to end up in the bottom three this week. Their Jive was fun, but Will far outshined Jessica. She was way too bouncy for Jive. Jive needs to be more rooted in the ground, not jumpy. Will's footwork was so fancy, his jive kicks had so much polish. In their side by side shuffles, he really outshined her. She wasn't fast and precise enough. Their trick was good (with her somersaulting over him), but it looked like she just barely made it over his back. I'm always afraid of a lift mishap with them.
Their Jazz was so amazingly hot! Will's leap at the beginning, the turns, how he just swung her up in the air like that ... And it looked at one point like he was balancing on the tops of his feet. He's beyond amazing. I thought that her leg lines at the beginning weren't what they should have been, though. And I felt that she looked a bit sloppy throughout, though I sense she is trying really incredibly hard.
Another great night for Mark and Chelsie. The Jazz was really sexy, like when they were biting at each other! What I love about Mark is that he takes everything as far as it can possibly go, and he compels her to do the same. Like, 'I'll show you how much I want you by biting at you!' Their lifts were good; he really got her up in the air high and she had great lines - I loved the little girl kicks on the last lift. Mark had good shoulder isolations at the beginning and Chelsie great hip rolls.
Their Foxtrot was good too, although it dragged in places. Gorgeous ending dip with her leg high in the air. He had good rise and fall action throughout, but his Foxtrot was a lot more jazzy, not perfectly ballroom, but, again, that's part of the fun of the show -- seeing what a Contemporary, non-'Foxtrotter' can bring to the ballroom floor. She looked like she just flew into his arms during one lift, completely effortlessly.
I loved Twitch and Kherington, both routines. Melanie and Tony gave them one of the hottest Paso Doble routines I've seen. I love their opening side-by-sides with all the fancy cape action. She really was a "Matadoress," rather than a cape or a bull, as in traditional Paso. Great, powerful lifts, great attitude, perfect matador posture, and his rotating lunges -- where he jumps from one leg to the other in a deep lunging position -- I've only ever seen (Latin champion) Slavik Kryklyvyy pull that. I can't believe Twitch did it as well. Most men bounce on the same knee; it takes a lot of leg strength and energy to transition back and forth like that so quickly. And I loved the Flamenco work at the end. Gorgeous, gorgeous Paso!
I loved the idea behind their Mia Michaels routine, but I thought at points it became a bit too much about the mattress. But it told a nice little story. I like how Kherington seemed to appear from out of nowhere, over the top of the slanted bed, how he went to lie down on her and she was gone, just like that. Good choreography and excellent acting from them. There were no real gymnastic feats here but this was a story told well through the beauty of movement, gestures and facial expressions alone.
Another excellent week for Katee and Joshua. Their Mia Michaels was over the top with passion and intensity. Michaels gives her dancers a chance to show their acting ability, and I love that. And of course these two did an excellent job at that. He's a real wiz at Contemporary. He had a high jump in there with multiple changes of the feet, back and forth, behind and in front of each other. That's major Ballet skill. And, as the judges pointed out, the assisted run was heavenly. My only problem was that I had a hard time getting over her hair. Why did the cosmetologists give her that kind of goofy 80s, rooster-bangs style?
Their West Coast Swing was full of character, humor and surprise, and how fun that Benji Schwimmer returned to choreograph. They had excellent rhythm and I love how she caught him at one point, as he fell back, into a kind of dip. Cute to see the girl dipping the boy instead of the other way around. And great ending with him bouncing off her fanny bump, all the way across the floor. They do everything with so much character, so much personality.
I like how they had two performances each this week instead of all the chatting and behind the scenes footage. It may be hard on the dancers but it gives them another chance if one dance style isn't their thing. And it also gives us more dance to watch!
I also love Nigel's idea for a popping show-down. I loved watching the poppers in auditions, their beyond real elasticity, how they make their bodies appear so skeleton-less, like rubber bands. I was sorry none of them were on the show. Robert was excellent on Thursday night.