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So You Think You Can Dance Top 10, Alvin Ailey, and Bollywood

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Wow, what a week. Highlights to me were definitely Alvin Ailey, which happens to be my favorite dance company in the world. And they danced my favorite excerpt, "Sinner Man," from my favorite dance, Revelations, Mr. Ailey's greatest work, a creation he called from "blood memory," celebrating the African American church with powerfully evocative movement set to hauntingly beautiful slave spirituals. And the second high point was that crazy fun Bollywood routine performed very well by Katee and Joshua.

And we now have our top ten: those who will go on to dance the tour: Mark, Will, Twitch, Joshua, Gev, Courtney, Chelsie, Kherington, Katee, and Jessica.

I completely agree with Nigel's remark that it was too bad they had to lose one man instead of two women this week. It hurts to see Thayne leave, though it absolutely couldn't have been either of the two others in the bottom two to go. I was sorry to see Comfort go mainly because I thought she was a woman who represented Hip Hop well, and I would have liked to have seen her on the tour. Jessica, on the other hand, is probably the least advanced of the Contemporary women -- and almost all of the women left are Contemporary, interestingly. Maybe Comfort will go on tour anyway; they usually have a couple of non-top-10 guests.

Just a moment on the solos: it goes without saying that Will's was going to be breathtaking (I'm starting to think he's the best dancer ever to be on the show, but I know Danny Tidwell fans will argue with me), but how excellent was Twitch's! I love the classical music - what a surprise for Hip Hop. I love the conductor's tux. And of course the perfectly staccato, perfectly isolated, robotic here, elastic there, simply mesmerizing movement.

It's not surprising of course that Thayne and Comfort ended up in the bottom. I think choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha tried to play off Thayne's weakness at Hip Hop by creating a story about him trying hard to play the cool hipster who gets the cool girl. But the story got lost. He acted it at the beginning with the mouth spray and the attempted bad-ass posturing as he climbed the stairs toward her, and again at the end, when he looked jilted, but in between he smiled too much, dropping out of character. And she didn't seem to reject him at all, was just dancing as if on her own. Their movement was pretty sharp though, with excellent isolations, especially from Thayne.

Their Contemporary routine was nice but lacked power. The lift they were doing in practice looked so much more graceful and expansive and her leg lines more beautiful there than in the actual performance. Maybe her shoulder injury had something to do with it or maybe she gets a bit of stage fright. Thayne has good movement; he makes full use of his body, bends his knees widely, dances full out, and he did some one-handed lifts that must be hard that he makes look effortless. She sometimes has odd leg lines - not pointing toes, sometimes looking pigeon-toed. And she makes mistakes that beginning dancers often make, and it's no surprise if, as she said at the end of the show, she'd only been dancing a couple of years: she tries hard to act the role she's dancing but with her face. She needs to perform the character more with her body. Using facial expression (along with subtext in language) is how a play is performed, not a dance; in dance the story needs to come out of the body.

Will and Jessica's Contemporary was gorgeously full of understated beauty. It kind of reminded me of something out of The Sheltering Sky; there was a beautiful sadness to it. It wasn't really a linear narrative, but they were like two figures, two shadows making evocative shapes together. I loved his backward fall, her splits above him, her sharp circling leg in the air, his flexed feet - those made it very almost African-looking, the opposite of more balletic Contemporary with the pointed feet, and I love that every line of his is always so pronounced and clear.

Usually the Quickstep is pretty basic, but Tony and Melanie really spiced this up, I'm sure to play up the dancers' strengths, especially Will's. I think they tried a little too hard though. That opening tumbling pass of his was gorgeously executed but looked completely out of place for this routine. And it made her following cartwheel seem paltry in comparison (of course, she was in heels). I did like his little jumping and jiving barrel turn at the end though - that was a fancy move that did fit, wasn't too overbearing. I loved the Twist and the little Charleston kicks, and his alligator-like crawl toward her at the end. I disagree with the judges that Will wasn't excellent. I thought he had perfect rhythm, perfect carriage, and his footwork - those heel taps, hopping kicks, backward runs --- were swift and clean and bouncy great fun. My main problem with them is that it always looks to me whenever they do a lift or even a complicated floor trick, like the traveling splits here, that she's on the verge of falling out of his arms, that she's not holding her herself up properly and may bring both of them down. It always looks like they're just barely making it.

I'm probably in the minority, but I thought Twitch and Kherington's Krumping routine was rather bland. I loved the beginning with him flying out onstage in that amazing jump and then his knee spins. That was killer, and I wish the dance would have had that momentum throughout. But once she emerged the choreography turned lackluster, probably because Lil' C felt she wouldn't be able to keep up with him, and so simplified the steps. Their movement was good and solid though. I liked it when he jump-started her heart.

The Mr. and Mrs. Smith motif was a great idea for a Standard Tango (which can sometimes be pretty boring), but it ended up being rather bland, and I'm not sure whether it was the choreography or the execution. There were many basic steps and often-used lifts, like her cartwheel over his head into a cross position on his back. When I first saw it, I thought, oh I've seen that one so many times in theater arts routines, but when I watched again, I realized Jean Marc had a reason for including it here. If he was going for that "I love you, I hate you, and now I'm going to kill you" feel, they could have danced it more that way: she flies toward him, stiletto heels-first, but then he grabs her and she ends up hanging precipitously on his back. So, who's got the upper hand? It changes pace by pace. But they didn't really dance it that way. They just did the lift. I love that the show is giving the dancers two chances per night (it saved Jessica tonight), but I'm wondering if that's leading to lack of rehearsal time forcing the dancers to concentrate more on the steps than really creating a world.

I'm probably in the minority with this too, but I thought Chelsea and Mark's Salsa was cute, but overall lacking spice. I'm not sure why because they had a hot connection with each other and the choreography had some interesting parts - like her series of spins around him and the slow, dramatic rag doll dip and cute ending lift. Mary Murphy said the dance was fast, but it looked at points almost like they were dancing in slow motion, like the music wasn't fast enough. Mark didn't have enough hip action; he was too straight-bodied. And I felt like I kind of lost him in the dance, which is actually okay for Salsa because in Ballroom the man really is supposed to be the frame and the woman the picture, so Chelsie should have stood out front and center. But I still like to see the Latin men shine with flashy footwork and sexy rhythm. Perhaps Alex Da Silva could have given them a bit more flair on their side-by-side shines, a pretty substantial part of the dance.

I loved Tyce DiOrio's sultry Broadway routine for them - it was packed with fun, original choreography. But I felt Chelsie didn't quite have the star power to pull it off completely. She should have been killing him, in a stiletto-in-your-face sort of way - that's definitely the way he was dancing it. When she pushed him away or smacked his head back and forth between her hands it looked more cutely sassy than vixenish. Her lines were beautiful though -- gorgeous high kicks, that fast sharp lift of the leg. Mark is the king of character. Maybe it's just that he out-acts her. I loved how he slid up to her then submissively bowed down, and looked really pissed at the end after having to jump out of the way of her flying backhand. I loved her jump onto his back but I wish it would have looked more unexpected. He looked ready to catch her, when she should have been taking him completely off guard.

Courtney and Gev's Cha Cha was sizzling. They impress me more and more each week. They were such naturals at Latin - both had perfect hip movement, perfect Latin pizzazz. I love the little embellishments Pasha and Anya gave them - the ending dip with him shaking her, the little dip where she unexpectedly lifts her legs and kicks about in the air. And I like how they slowed down some of the movements, giving different interpretations of the rhythms. He had a great barrel turn up front. Gev can do everything - Latin, Contemporary, and of course Hip Hop. I disagree with the judges that she was the better of the two - I thought he was on fire as well. And I don't know what Mia says when she asserts they're not the "best" dancers on the show. I'd like her to define "best." If she means in terms of not having perfect Contemporary technique, then fine, but I think they are certainly two of the most versatile dancers on the show.

I liked but didn't love their Jazz routine. There was some cute choreography with creative lifts (like where he picks her up with the map in her hands to he can read it too) and some difficult activity with the props (it's got to be hard to dance with a satchel around your shoulder the whole time), but it seemed to lose steam, precision and story-line about halfway through. I loved Gev's jazzy bouncing flare at the beginning - nice how Mandy Moore played on his strengths, giving him something familiar but having him jazz it up for a different style. But it seemed like they either got tired or forgot the story because suddenly they were just jumping around monkey-like with no regard for line or intention.

Katee and Joshua's Viennese Waltz was really lovely. I easily believed he was a ghost. At the beginning it looked like she looked right through him; then her quick, light touch of his hand indicated she saw something that wasn't really there. And it looked like she was so caught up in her memory of him that she flew through the air at points on her own, the lifts were beautifully effortless. There were several quick chaine spins they both did perfectly - he's got to have some Ballet training, I know it. Joshua wasn't quite as light on his feet as he should be for Waltz, and his arms weren't quite expansive enough, though his legs were. But that was it, the only flaw I could find.

Their Bollywood was the highlight of Wednesday night for me. That "Oooh!' Joshua made when the choreographer told him he may offend half the world if he did one of the hand movements wrong was hilariously endearing. So genuine. There was no one better to do that routine than these two. I've only seen one Bollywood dance before but this looked pretty close to that. I loved the synchronized arms at the beginning, the gorgeously expressive wrists, the perfectly splayed fingers, the deep-knee bouncing into the floor, and those amazing continuous turns on their knees around the periphery of the floor. They really got the shapes down with the hyper flexed feet and hands. And at one point Katee had some had some sharp hip jutting movements that looked very Belly-dance-like. I agree with Nigel: "brilliant job." I hope they do more World dance on this show. I'd love to see Belly, West African, even Capoeira. What else?