SYTYCD: Season 8, part 5 By Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully

Legendary Debbie Reynolds joined our panel of judges on So You Think You Can Dance this week. She bridges the gap from a time when dance had more value and was an integral part of entertainment. Hopefully this is a sign that the “heart” form is back on the rise.

Remember, no one went home last week so there is a lot at stake and nerves are high.

Wednesday evening started off with a Mandy Moore Jazz duet. Right off the bat, I have to say I am on the fence with this choreographer. She has been with the show for a while now but her work always tends to be on the cheesy side. As am I, she is a product of the 80’s but she is stuck there. Mandy has a lot of talent. The movement is well crafted but the overall package is dated.  Ryan Ramirez and Ricky Jaime did a fine job. They were sexy and goofy in an 80’s way, with costumes only a six year old would love.

My favorite piece of the evening was Caitlynn Lawson and Mitchell Kelly doing a Stacy Tookey piece about a complicated relationship. The stage was gorgeous, set with two elegant armchairs and matching standing lights, one white, one black. The props elegantly created his and her worlds, suggesting an emotional disconnect between the couple. Beautiful dancing strong set and competent choreography resulted is a breathtaking performance. I loved it so much I watched three times.

Next, a b-boy and a jazz dancer attempted the cha cha. Missy Morelli and Wadi Jones got to work with Jean Mark Genereux in the toughest piece he has ever made for the show. The music growled at us, and she personified the sound perfectly, he struggled, a bit, to keep up, but the whole thing was very entertaining.

I would describe Bollywood as a contemporary Indian dance form that combines the traditional styles with everything else. I call it the funky, East Indian, contemporary form made for cinema. The trailblazer Nakul Dev Mahajan got to work with Iveta Lukosiute and Nick Young. It didn’t move me this time. Nick, with his long limbs, was remarkable in keeping up with the lightning fast choreography. Ivetta, however, was a little flat.

Woodpeckers, what a subject for dance! Miranda Maleski and Robert Taylor Jr. got to rehearse with hip hop choreographers Napolean and Tabatha Dumo (Nappytabs). It was the classic tale of the wise teaching the young. Who would have thought studying woodpeckers would be so rich in movement inspiration. The bouncy/hard pecking motif was so conducive to the style. Fifty percent of the time Nappytabs make a throw away piece, this was definitely not one of them. The dancers were amazing, by the way.

Clarice Ordaz and Jesse LeProtto told a tale reminiscent of the recent royal wedding. A contemporary fairytale created by Stacey Tookey. The piece was nothing to write home about but it was performed well. The biggest issue was that Jess is a smallish fellow and lifts were labored.

The biggest surprise of the evening was Tadd Gadduange, partnered by Jordan Casanova, doing a very sexy Jean Mark Genereux Viennese Waltz. I think Tadd is a real diamond in the rough. This couple was equated with old greats such as Sid Charise, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.

As SYTYCD progresses my favorites are definitely emerging, one of which is Atlanta’s pride Melanie Moore. With partner Marko Germar, she gave a flawless performance in Mandy Moore old jazz/cabaret piece. Melanie has it all, perfect turn out, legs and is seasoned beyond her years. Marko should thank her for keeping him safe this week.

Sasha Mallory and Alexander Frost did a nice Nappytabs sensitive hip hop number about a girl waiting on her soldier boy to come home. The piece was beautiful but I couldn’t get past the costumes. He looked elegant in his khakis but she was goofy in her tennis shoes and acid washed jeans. Costuming is so important and it took away from a nice dance. Clothing aside, the judges were moved to tears.

The final piece in the evening was a Broadway number by Spencer Lift and performed by Ashley Rich and Chris Koehl. This duet was actually a trio, because there were a set of jail house bars between them. He was an inmate and she was the gorgeous woman visiting. They used the prop well; they reached through it, climbed it, dropped down from the top, flipped through and hung upside down from it. It was a great concept but the dancers didn’t quit pull it off. I would have loved to have seen some of the other dancers work their magic.

After a fine night of dancing we have to get to the results. Thursday night started with a fabulous original ensemble piece by Dave Scott. To the tune of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” the dancers were decked out in plaid shorts, black jackets and bowler hats. I love that we couldn’t tell the gals from the guys which is a topic I find infinitely interesting. The dynamics were breathtaking and everyone danced on the same very high level. Dave, you gained a lot of points with me, if you ever need a wise, slightly older dancer give me a call.

O.k. the contestants that had to dance for their lives were; Missy, Wadi, Iveta, Nick, Ryan and Ricky. Wadi is our resident free runner and is great at dare devil tricks like spinning and running up walls. I think he gave a nice well crafted solo. Missy who truly is a “beast” threw a little bit of everything at the audience. It is always hard to watch a ballroom dancer do a solo, it just isn’t in the nature of the form. Iveta was no exception. Nick is an excellent tapper and completed eight pirouettes. Ricky who is a trained dancer was all legs, turns and flips. Ryan, one of my faves, was all heart and had the most interesting female solo of the year.

Drum roll please… the contestants staying for another week are Ryan and Ricky.  It is unfortunate that four dancers had to go home this week, but I think a good decision was made. It’s going to be really tough to see 19 of these dancers go home, but if the choreography stays up to par, it should be a very exciting summer.

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