This show outdoes itself each week. I was in a very blissful state of shock Wednesday night to see none other than the breathtaking Desmond Richardson, one of the greatest Ballet / Contemporary dancers in the world right now, helping to choreograph. I only wish they'd had him perform, though Will does resemble him. Here's a picture I took from my cell phone of a video of him getting ready to jump and rise god-like over New York's Lincoln Center Plaza in David Michalek's mesmerizing Slow Dancing exhibit last summer. And what a lovely tribute from Nigel. "You bring your love of the art of dance wherever you can," he said, likening Richardson's being on this show to Nureyev's tap dancing on The Muppets. So true!
So Comfort got another shot, due to Jessica's injuries (I can't imagine dancing with a broken rib!) and, probably surprisingly (at least to some in the live audience), she won enough votes to stay for yet another week. I was sorry for Kherington and Gev go, but at this point, everyone's so talented it's impossible for someone good and deserving not to get the boot. Especially the men; they've really shone this season. There's not a single man currently remaining who I don't love and want to win.
It made sense to me that this week Kherington had less votes than Comfort. Neither of she and Mark's routines really delivered, and I felt her solo was technically good, but, compared to the others, not memorable. The Two-Step was a lot of fun (and I'm happy for exposure to yet another new dance), but I think choreographically it lacked variety. Had too many turns -- first solo turns in sync, then him turning her, then them turning together, then him turning her again. I thought they did pretty well with some of those very intricate, complicated arm connections in the double turns, but they did miss a couple of connections and at least the first one appeared to be her fault, like she'd forgotten the choreography for a split second and Mark had to remind her by rather conspicuously holding his arm out. Mary said Kherington wasn't letting Mark lead enough. I think learning to follow is one of the hardest things in the world in Ballroom, especially for someone used to Contemporary, to dancing on your own, being responsible for yourself and your own footwork rather than having to wait for a partner to put you where you already know you're supposed to be. So my heart goes out to her with that criticism. But if the man doesn't lead and the woman follow, the connection can be off, and the partnering look awkward and uncomfortable, which it did. It looked like a struggle.
Their Jazz was good, but lacked spice. But I'm not sure if that was their fault. Thus far, I'm not an enormous fan of Tyce DiOrio. It seemed like there was a lot of strutting forward, wide jazzy chasses across the stage, but other than a couple of spins and body rolls thrown in, there didn't seem to be a lot of original movement. Everything was technically good, but they looked a bit uncomfortable with the retro disco-y music.
I just have to say, I love the men on this show -- both how they dance and how sweetly humble they are. Will always made sure to say how proud he was of Jessica when the judges were insisting he was the powerhouse of the couple, and Mark clearly felt uncomfortable when Mary and Nigel were giving him kudos saying Kherington wasn't following him well. Says a lot about how big they are that they're unwilling to take all the credit.
I also have to say, even though he doesn't do any athletically astounding acrobatics or flashy moves during his solos, Mark is a true original. He is insanely creative. I think, even if he doesn't go all the way to the end in this competition, he'll make a name for himself, perhaps as a choreographer. It's hard to tell from seconds-long solos what he is capable of, but if he has a sustaining vision, he kind of reminds me of a Mark Morris or a Matthew Bourne with all his pent-up weird energy that could be genius.
Comfort really came through this week and showed what she was all about, and I was so happy she had that chance. She and Twitch's Waltz left a bit to be desired -- it was OK step-wise and the goddess-lift at the center was gorgeous -- but they both lacked the necessary gracefulness and it looked, as Mary said, "clunky." They looked like two Hip Hop dancers doing the Waltz, which is of course, what they are. But Comfort actually had some really nice lines -- she had a beautiful developed lift of the leg and a pretty ronde en l'air at the beginning, and a nice position in the first, waist-high lift. She has the strength in her legs and body and the flexibility for those lines; she just needs more control, she needs to slow things down a bit and carry them out to make them look more graceful and elegant.
But their Hip Hop was where she really came alive -- both of them did. She looked just liked Michael Jackson at points. When she threw those glasses from her face, her arm went out with such speed and strength. This was a serious Hip Hop; I think the first we've seen this season. Robotic precision (made literal with this choreography) turned to Gumby-esque seemingly impossible elasticity, with humor and originality. I loved the folksy-like but strutting deep knee walks.
I'm realizing this season how creative and witty you can be with Hip Hop. It's so open. It's like there are basics in the vocabulary but they're only basics; they're meant to be built off of. Comfort's solo was excellent -- I loved those open legged struts turning into the beauty queen-style posturing at the end. And Gev's continuously grabbing his non-standing foot, then taking his t-shirt off during floor work using alternating hands to support himself while he did so, using the shirt to excellent effect as a prop, and then ending with those head spins but at an angle. I find him fascinating. Joshua's solo was intriguing too, with the cool crossed-leg position in the flare and the almost burlesque-style chest muscle manipulations at the end. I feel like every time I see a Hip Hop routine there are so many moves I haven't ever seen before.
I thought Gev did really well this week and I'll definitely miss him. His and Chelsie's Contemporary was great. He had three excellent leaps in a row, though he seemed to lose his energy a bit on the third. As a break-dancer, he really knows how to throw himself on the floor with abandon (and without hurting himself). That crazy flip right on the beat, his landing right on top of her. He can really blow me away at times. I loved Chelsie's back leg in the high arabesque penchee, that lowered slowly, rhythmically beat by beat. She really excels at Contemporary, which is unusual for a Latin dancer.
And I thought their Jive was the best so far on the show. She did outperform him a bit, but only slightly. His kicks had good speed and height. He executed his little slide well and they had some great lightening-fast pivot turns (and those are hard!) She was on fire, with everything from that beginning sexy pelvic roll to basic steps like the cute little sugar push, to those crazy lifts - loved the ending one with her in an upside-down split. He partnered her well, lifted her like a big strong guy, and made her shine.
I thought Joshua outshined Courtney in both of their routines this week, though Courtney made the Hip Hop her own. She rounded out some of the moves, made them sexier and more hip-py, which is more her, though it lacked the popping precision of his. They both really got into their characters - Joshua's facial expressions, his lusting over his creation, and her turning the tables and electrifying him in the end.
Joshua brings his own sweet thing to Rhumba the way Courtney does to Hip Hop. He is just a natural at Latin; he does the fully rotating hip and slinky pelvic action without even trying. But he's more like an R&B Latin dancer in that, instead of the sharpness of movement there's a certain relaxed coolness that makes him even more passionate and sexy than a good Latin dancer. I love the interpretation he gives some of the beats; he seems to dance to the words just as much as the rhythm (perhaps that's part of Hip Hop). During the cucharachas (stationary hip rolls side to side), he seemed with each hip shift to enunciate each word of the line "you can take my breath away." His lunges were extraordinarily lush. Love his pony tail too. Courtney's hips weren't all there and some of her upper back movements looked forced, but she was cute and had a sweet sexiness and kept up with him. She could definitely benefit from lessons from Anya Garnis in Latin technique because I think she's capable of better, but just hasn't learned how. Maybe they'll work together once again before the show's over.
By the way, the look on Josh's face was hilarious when Nigel complimented him by saying, "you're a man and you can still use your hips." I think it's kind of a white thing to think of hip movement in dance as "girly." Ian Ziering said something like that on Dancing With the Stars. But there's plenty of hip movement in Samba and African dance!
How great that they put Katee and Will together. The Broadway routine was cute, but I honestly expected a bit more from the choreographer. He gave them pretty simple moves and I think with these two, one can go all out, like Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson did. That pas de deux was one of the highlights of the entire season thus far for me. It reminded me of a beautiful Ballet piece Rhoden made for Richardson and the famous ballerina Diana Vishneva a few months ago with the hyper-extended arabesque penchees, the back and forth of a relationship, the passionate intermingling of bodies. This one seemed to have an Olympics theme, like she was a gymnast and he perhaps a jumper or runner, some kind of big mover. They were like two pieces of a dream, each beautiful on its own but which, when shared, became all powerful. Gorgeous ending no-hands lift, where she's holding herself in the air entirely on her own. These are two true pros.