I am shocked. Will's Samba this week completely blew me away, as did his slow Hip Hop. As did his solo. He hasn't done a thing this season that hasn't been excellent. I really thought it was going to be Twitch to go, though I have to admit I got a bit teary-eyed when he got so emotional. Wow.
Well, regarding what ended up being his last dances on the show, I felt Will's the best Ballet-trained dancer I've ever seen Samba. Better than my favorite Contemporary guy from last season, Danny Tidwell, I have to admit. Gorgeously lush pelvic rolls, shoulder shakes, upper-body isolations, deliciously serpentine forward walks. Some of his forward movement, though, particularly when he was partnering Courtney, was more American Jazz than Samba -- like those promenade runs in the middle of the dance. And her hip movements, while fun and cute, weren't quite fully-rounded enough either. Samba's an Afro-Latin dance; in order to give it that African look, the pelvis needs to open up entirely. When you move forward you need to think of your back hip bone as pointing upward, toward the sky, not forward. Then when you take another step, the other hip has to point upward, so that your pelvis faces sideways, and moves side-forward-other side, side-forward-other side, with each step. Sorry to go on -- Samba's my favorite! It's incredibly hard to learn, but beautiful to watch people do it correctly. Still, they were both rhythmical and cute and mesmerizing to watch even if it was more Jazz. That ending lift with her draped over his shoulder was astonishing. He let go of her, leaving her to support her own frame in the air all by herself, which is hard, especially at the end of a long routine when they're both dead tired (did anyone notice, the routines are now longer?) If this was the Olympics, they'd get points for that lift!
Their slow Hip Hop was really lovely too. The choreography was emotionally moving I think because of its specificity, like the side-by-side swaying with their hands in a prayer-like position and their hug where each held one foot up in back at an awkward angle. It showed their desire, and their anguish.
And Will's Wednesday night solo was my second favorite, second only to Courtney's. I thought he perfectly inhabited James Brown's essence, in movement. Great high jump straight down into attitude splits. Excellent, fun idea; great wig.
I felt that Courtney's Wednesday night solo was overall the best of all of them. It had the most passion, emotion and thematic development. I like how she began scrunched up in a ball, almost childlike, something making her draw herself inward, and how throughout she almost literally came out of her shell, in the end struggling to reclaim what is hers by holding out her arms, kneading her hands as she brought back them toward her. I think it's amazing how Contemporary dancers balance on the tops of their feet like she did, and she held that position for a moment, without the support of pointe shoes.
I'm not that surprised Comfort left, though her Hip Hop with Mark was excellent. That choreography seemed really intricate; you can tell Tabitha and Napoleon trusted both dancers to be able to pull it off. They both acted it perfectly: she the ultimate misbehaver; he more vanilla but perfectly willing to follow her down the path to delinquency. What an awesome entrance for her with those jumps and attitude poses, which she hit right on the beat. And the lift with her diving over him was smoking. He didn't have quite as much precision as she, and I noticed he was more flat-footed, didn't roll through the foot, use the tips of his sneakers like she did. But I think it's only something you notice if you watch a few times.
Their Foxtrot was far inferior to their Hip Hop, but I didn't think it was quite as bad as the judges made it out to be, especially regarding Mark's performance. I loved his opening jump kick, he had great spins, he hit all the beats with a perfectly jazzy pose, and he had ideal straight upper-bodied posture and rise and fall ballroom movement. I thought he was near perfect really. Together, though, they did look awkward at points. Comfort wasn't elegant on the grapevines (sideways running cross-over steps); it looked like she may have flubbed a bit of footwork or lost count, and then they weren't moving together. She had great lines in the lifts though. The ending one was beautiful, and difficult-looking for him the way he turned so fast with her in his arms.
Twitch and Katee's Mia Michaels Contemporary was a lot of fun, but I have to say, watching it a few times, it began to lose its power; it began to look like a lot of jumping around. Big kudos to them for their immaculate precision in partnering; using a prop like that narrow-looking doorway meant they had to get every little kick, every lift, every twist right or someone might hurt themselves on the frame going through. And of course they acted it brilliantly -- Twitch's cool posturing at the beginning, how Katee kicked that door in and ripped that cigarette right out of his mouth, and what a droolingly sexy kiss! I loved Twitch's rolling hips on his side of the door, while she clawed at it. They perfectly illustrated his taunting defiance of her.
Their Broadway routine was one of my favorites by Tyce DiOrio yet. It was like old time Broadway. I liked how it was a bit cartoonish at points, especially in the runs. I loved her jumps on his back and their beating kicks to the side. It did speed up a lot, as Twitch said in practice, and I thought she kept up a little better than he did (but she's a lot smaller so can move faster). I thought Toni Basil made a really interesting point and I'm thrilled a judge finally had the courage to disagree with the others; once one speaks, it seems no one wants to disagree. I thought her observation that Twitch brings more real-ness to the stage because he's fundamentally Street was astute. Dancers in Broadway musicals do seem to know they're putting you on in a way, that people don't really break into song and dance when arguing, when talking, when thinking. So they go all out, take on that alternate universe created by the musical and make the song and dance as over the top as possible for maximum entertainment purposes. Twitch did look a bit out of his element in parts, especially when the music sped up, and I think it may have been because that's where the dance really went off into that cartoonishly unreal other world. Yet I didn't dislike his performance; I thought his character was more like a real guy.
Joshua and Chelsie's Argentine Tango was excellently choreographed by Dmitry Chaplin. (I love how they're letting a variety of dancers from prior seasons, and not only the winners, back on to choreograph.) Nigel was right on the mark when he said Dmitry choreographed perfectly for them, using Chelsie's strong legs and Joshua's great strength. Some of those lifts were hard, with his turning and turning with her high in the air. She had razor sharp leg action, both on the Argentine hooks, the whippingly fast back swivels, and the high arching back kicks. Joshua really got into the character, playing the consummate mysterious, darkishly sexy Argentine barroom man. I loved how he approached her, lifting her leg and taking it with him as he traversed her chair, tracing her thighs with his palms, then sneaking up and following closely behind her. He's also better developing his upper-body, making fuller shapes with more rounded arms.
I loved almost everything about their Disco: the choreography, the styling, the song -- Gloria Estefan provides the perfect music for updated Disco! I loved the overhead lift, which Nigel called the Superman. That's the biggest one in the show so far I think. He is strong. They both showed some great technique -- both had some very polished spins. His styling was hilariously adorable with the Travolta arms and glittery shoulder shakes. My only problem was with the death spiral: it seemed awkward both the way they got into and out of it; seemed like she lay down and lifted her leg too early, waiting for him to pick her up, and then it seemed like she landed a little hard. I love watching Joshua get down; the guy is too much fun. Love the cotton candy pink dress -- very sweetly sexily retro, very Donna Summer.
Is it just me, or are the judges' repeated jokes about Joshua's rear end a bit embarrassing? He seems to be playing along with it (what else can he do?), and a dancer's body is his / her instrument, but sometimes focusing on the appearance of a certain body part can be, at best, just silly, and, at worst, reductive.
I was excited Ballet finally made an appearance, in the form of George Balanchine's Who Cares danced by Los Angeles Ballet, a company with which I'm unfamiliar. What did you guys think? I thought it was sweet, although I hope for an excerpt from, say, Kenneth MacMillan's magnificent Romeo and Juliet, sometime.
I hope Toni Basil is right and this show will bring back people's love of dance. Concert dance was once so popular, in the era of Baryshnikov, Fonteyn and Nureyev, Martha Graham, and Balanchine. And then something happened. It seems like all the great choreographers began to pass away and the big stars died or retired. I love how this show celebrates both street / social dance and its more performance art forms. To me it all provides the same enjoyment, whether you're moving yourself or appreciating others doing it brilliantly.