The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: A Terrific Trio

It’s been a while since I’ve written from a dancer’s/choreographer’s perspective on here, and I’ve missed it. Few things in my life bring me more joy than combining my two passions: dance and writing. I knew it was only a matter of time before this season of Dancing with the Stars made its way into one of these posts—it’s been a phenomenal season with one of the most talented and charismatic casts in recent memory. I just needed the perfect routine to inspire me.

And then two Disney Channel boys teamed up with a creative choreographer, and I had no doubt what I was going to write about this week.

I dare you to watch that without dancing in your seat and smiling from ear to ear. It’s impossible. The joy this combination of dancers—Corbin Bleu, Lindsay Arnold, and Jordan Fisher—radiates is infectious, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen people look like they’re having more fun on the Dancing with the Stars dance floor.

I know it’s a weird thing to say, but this routine made me cry the first time I watched it. There’s something moving and magical about watching people having so much fun doing what they love. The joy of performing is something I’ve never been able to accurately describe, so I love those rare moments when I can point to a performance and say, “That’s it. That’s what it feels like.” This was one of those moments. It brought me back to my days as a competitive dancer, stepping onstage to perform a routine you’re 100% confident in with people you love dancing with. Every so often as a dancer, you’re part of a routine you know is special from Day One, and when you know you’re performing it well on the biggest stage, everything about you radiates happiness: your body language, your facial expressions, the sharpness of your movements, your eye contact with your audience…You can tell when a dancer knows they’re on, and I’ve never seen three people on this show as on as these three were in this routine.

I could go on and on about the technical brilliance of this trio—the way Lindsay’s choreography flowed and seamlessly utilized everyone’s strengths, the tricks, the rhythms—but what made this dance were the smiles all three dancers had the whole time. Dancing has always made me happier than anything else—yes, even happier than writing—and it warms my heart whenever I get to see other people find joy in it, too, and project that joy for everyone watching.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week? 

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/22 – 11/29)

I hope all of you who celebrated Thanksgiving this week had a beautiful day, and I hope the start of the holiday season fills you with joy, love, and peace. 

A relatively light week in television started on Sunday with a beautiful episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that introduced us to Terry’s new baby girl and Jake’s new goddaughter, as well as an episode of The Good Wife that featured Kelly Bishop coming to play with this talented cast of actors in a showcase hour for Diane. On Monday, big changes and huge revelations were in store for nearly every character on Jane the Virgin, and Castle and Beckett reached a place of honesty and understanding on Castle. In addition, Monday also featured the first part of the Dancing with the Stars finale, which concluded on Tuesday with Bindi Irwin being crowned the winner. Finally, Thanksgiving Day gave us the always entertaining Macy’s Parade, as well as one of my personal favorite holiday traditions: the National Dog Show.

It was hard to choose between the two most joyful moments I saw on television this week. On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the birth of Terry’s daughter and Jake’s first time seeing her showcased just how much nuance and subtle emotional depth Andy Samberg has brought to this role. And seeing the way the whole team came together at the hospital reminded me of Parks and Recreation, which is the highest compliment I can give a television show. It made me cry, which is a true sign of a winning TV moment.

However, nothing could top the beauty and vulnerability (and the tears) on display during the first night of the Dancing with the Stars finale. While the lovely Gissane over at MGcircles honored Bindi Irwin’s strength and spirit better than I ever could, I would be remiss without writing about why her freestyle touched my heart so deeply.

For many years as a dancer and dance teacher, I’ve seen the way dance can help people express emotions that are difficult to reach with words. And that’s what’s so special about what Bindi and Derek brought to the stage in their freestyle: They showed the world the way dance can bring healing, express hope, and move everyone who experiences it. But even more than showing the power of dance, that routine showed the power of positivity in the face of pain. Bindi suffered such a great loss so young, but instead of using that loss to turn her into someone cold and afraid to open her heart, she became a beacon of light—a symbol that life can be beautiful again even after loss, as long as we choose to find the beauty.

Bindi has become a true inspiration for so many—myself included. Her big heart shines through in her dancing, and her generous spirit is mature beyond her years. And Derek’s ability to honor those things that make her special in her routines shows just how brilliant he is as a choreographer but also how attentive he is as a partner. It’s been wonderful to watch him grow from basking in her light, too. We’re all better for having watched Bindi Irwin dance this season, and I’m certainly going to miss having her on my television each week.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/1 – 11/8)

This was a slightly lighter week than normal for my TV viewing schedule, thanks to some World Series baseball, the CMA Awards, and my choice not to watch Saturday Night Live last night. That gave me some time to start Aziz Ansari’s Master of None on Netflix. I’m halfway through the first season’s 10 episodes, and I already want to go back and re-watch “Parents” about 10 more times. It also gave me a chance to watch the early streaming of the pilot of Starz’s new series Flesh and Bone, which was everything my high expectations were hoping it would be.

As far as my normal TV schedule goes, Sunday featured an episode of Once Upon a Time that put the focus on Belle (and Rumplestiltskin, but I was far happier to see the spotlight on Belle, to be honest), as well as an episode of The Good Wife that reminded me why I’ve had a crush on Jeffrey Dean Morgan for almost a decade. On Monday, Supergirl continued bring some entertaining action to the start of my week. Also, the contestants paid tribute to people they admire on Dancing with the Stars, and the dancing fun continued over on Jane the Virgin. (Although it was less fun to feel my heart break over the latest twist in what’s probably the only good love triangle on TV.) Finally, Tuesday’s episode of The Muppets brought Kristin Chenoweth into the mix, Fresh Off the Boat tackled the topic of representation in great way, and The Flash made me love Patty Spivot and her adorable relationship with Barry more than ever.

Looking back, there was a lot of dancing on TV this week, and I loved all of it. However, no dance made me feel more deeply than Nick and Sharna’s contemporary performance on Dancing with the Stars. Everything about it was beautiful: the song (“Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”—a personal favorite of mine), the choreography (Sharna is doing amazing work this season.), and the execution (Nick looked like a real dancer out there in those side-by-side sections.) But what I’ll remember most about that dance was the emotion Nick and Sharna poured into it. The dance was dedicated to Nick’s wife and the baby they’re going to have, and the love the came through in every moment of that dance was stunning. It was such a vulnerable, honest moment for Nick, and it showed me how much Sharna cares about her partner and telling his story. This performance is what dance is at its best—it’s an expression of all the things you feel but can’t say with words; it’s emotion and passion and total honesty. It’s a thing of true beauty, and I’ll never get tired of watching it.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (11/23 – 11/30)

This holiday week in television began on Sunday with another fun episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and a very emotional midseason finale of The Good Wife. On Monday, a champion was crowned on Dancing with the Stars, and Esposito found himself in the middle of a hostage situation on Castle. Tuesday featured another Thanksgiving celebrated by the gang on New Girl and another exploration of Danny’s relationship with his mom on The Mindy Project. And, of course, with Thanksgiving comes the TV trifecta of the Macy’s Parade, the National Dog Show, and plenty of fun football games.

In a week that celebrates the things we’re thankful for, one thing I’m thankful for is the amount of dancing I get to see on TV. I don’t talk about my love for Dancing with the Stars a lot on here, but I’ve been a devoted fan of the show since its first seasons. And this season, Alfonso Ribeiro captured my heart like very few contestants have. His freestyle with Witney perfectly summed up everything I loved about watching him dance: his pure talent, his feel for the music, and his innate sense of joy. I love when you can see in someone’s body language and stage presence how happy dance makes them, and that kind of enthusiasm for dance was written all over this routine.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (8/31 – 9/7)

This week in television began with the penultimate episode of Bachelor in Paradise, which mercifully featured Jesse Kovacs’s exit from the show while basically everyone else found a romantic partner. On Wednesday, Ricky was crowned the winner of Season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance. And Thursday brought the NFL back to our TV screens, as the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Green Bay Packers in the league’s opening game.

If I’m being honest, the best thing I saw on my TV this week was probably the first three episodes of Masters of Sex, which I started watching on DVD Saturday afternoon. However, I know that’s cheating, so I’ll go with my second choice, which happened on Wednesday’s SYTYCD finale.

While I was disappointed with the fact that my favorite and pick to win (Zack) came in fourth, I have to admit that the most technically talented dancer won. And I couldn’t stay mad for long when there was so much good dancing to watch. In an episode full of reminders of some of the show’s best moments of the season, my favorite routine was a new one: the group routined that combined this season’s Top 10 and All Stars. It was incredibly cinematic; this routine was like something out of a movie musical. Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott created something so contagiously joyful. It was a true celebration of these dancers, and it was incredibly fun to watch.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (8/24 – 8/31)

I apologize for the slight delay with this post. I’ve been enjoying the holiday weekend, and I hope all of you who are celebrating this unofficial end of summer have been enjoying yourselves, too! 

An entertaining—if very unimaginative—Emmy telecast began this week in television. The week continued with a “dramatic” two-part episode of Bachelor in Paradise that featured way too many people falling in love way too fast, an emotional breakdown in the middle of the jungle, and even a trip to the hospital. Wednesday’s So You Think You Can Dance performance finale was quite possibly the most entertaining episode of the season. And the Labor Day holiday weekend featured plenty of marathons of both TV shows and movies to keep viewers thoroughly entertained as they enjoyed their days off. 

While part me thinks I should choose Billy Crystal’s incredibly personal and moving tribute to Robin Williams at the Emmys as the best thing I saw on television this week, I decided to go in a bit lighter direction. August has been a heavy and often sad month on a lot of levels, so it was nice to leave this month with a smile brought to me via the SYTYCD stage. I’ve said probably too much already about the brilliance of Zack and Aaron’s “Piano Man” tap duet, but I could talk about it for days and never be able to fully express how happy it made me to watch (and re-watch…and re-watch…). Dance has always been my greatest source of happiness when other areas of my life have been stressful or sad. So it was a beautiful thing to see that happiness brought to such a large audience with the pure, easy joy of this tap routine. 

Thanks, Aaron, Zack, and Anthony Morigerato, for this lovely dose of instant happiness that we can all turn to whenever we need to smile. 

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week? 

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 4 Perform”

What a time to be a fan of great dancing. Last night’s So You Think You Can Dance finale felt like a true celebration of dance—from the lack of eliminations to the adorable final moments of camaraderie at the end of the episode. Even with so many routines, each dancer managed to keep their energy impressively high, and they actually seemed to get stronger as the night went on (maybe the presence of the All Stars helped). In doing so, they produced my favorite Final Four night of routines in quite some time. However, that might just because of all the tapping.

Yes, this week was a great week to be a tapper or even just a tap enthusiast. Having one of my all-time favorites, Aaron, back as an All Star was the icing on the cake that was this week’s joyful explosion of tap. As someone who spent years wishing this show would throw even the tiniest of crumbs of attention towards tappers, this episode was a feast. Each of the duets and solos showcased not just how technically difficult tap is as style but also how much fun it is to watch and to dance. If nothing else, I hope this finale inspired some little kid to try their first tap class because they want to be like Aaron, Valerie, or Zack.

More tap love to come later on in this recap. For now, let’s get to the rest of the dances!

Top Four Routine
When Travis Wall is at his best, there is nobody better. And this was Travis at his best. No dance this season moved me with its message like this one did, and that that’s because we weren’t told ahead of time that we were supposed to be moved by it. We could interpret it however we wanted to, and I chose to interpret it as an ode to marriage equality. The story unfolded through the choreography in such a beautiful, gentle way, with gorgeous contemporary partnering between both girls and both guys. Ultimately, I think the guys caught my eye a little more than the girls did because of their total commitment to every emotional facet of this piece, but that final image—with the two guys and two girls holding hands before joining to form one unified line—was so powerful and inspiring and joyful that I forgot for a second that this was still a competition at all.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 6 Perform”

I sincerely apologize for not posting a recap of last week’s episode. I spent most of the week traveling, so I didn’t have a chance to watch the Top Eight episode until Tuesday night. I hope this recap makes up for it!

How is it already almost So You Think You Can Dance finale time? My heart always ends up broken when it gets to the Top Six eliminations because, by this point, I’ve fallen in love with all of these dancers for one reason or another. This season was no exception. While I was fairly indifferent toward Jacque, I’d grown to love Casey. Watching him grow to become the confident, poised dancer he is every time he takes the stage now was a pleasure.

With that being said, I am ecstatic to see not just one but two tappers in the Top Four. In case any of you missed this the other 8 billion times I’ve made my bias known, I’m a tapper, and I get ridiculously attached to any and all SYTYCD tappers. I remember the days when there weren’t even any tap auditions shown, when any tapper who actually made the show was eliminated before the Top 10, and when “tapper” was basically a dirty word that the judges said with disdain (which still happens sometimes, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why). To see Aaron make the Top Four last season and be asked back as an All Star is incredible, and the sense of pride I feel when I think about his success only grows when thinking about Valerie and Zack both bringing the style I love to audiences in a SYTYCD finale. I know Ricky is probably going to win (and let’s be honest—he should win), but it’s incredible to see the style that has meant everything to me for 21 years represented in half of this season’s Top Four.

I cry at every tap solo on this show, so I can only imagine what a mess I’m going to be next week watching so much tap on that SYTYCD stage.

Solos
In a shocking turn of events, my favorite solo of the night actually belonged to Ricky and not one of my beloved tappers. I still think Zack is otherworldly in terms of the rhythms he creates and the ease with which he carries himself onstage (he’s also a noticeably better tapper than Valerie, actually), but Ricky danced with such abandon in his solo. His technique is flawless, but what astounds me the most about his dancing is the incredible emotion and passion he gives to each movement. He is poetry in motion. I thought Jacque’s solo was creative and cute; Casey’s was pretty predictable but still impressive with all of his turns; and Jessica’s was much stronger than Nigel made it seem. However, Ricky is just in another league. It’s a true joy to get to watch him dance every week.

Ricky and Valerie: Broadway
These two are still a match made in dance heaven. Ricky’s technical brilliance makes Valerie a better dancer, and Valerie’s effusive joy makes Ricky a better performer. That was true during their first weeks as partners, and it was true in their reunion, too. Is Valerie the most graceful dancer ever? No. But I can’t help but get caught up in how happy she looks onstage, and it’s a happiness that comes from within, a light that can’t be faked. Valerie shows on her face what I feel when I dance, and that pure, radiant joy was such a great fit for this routine. It wasn’t the night’s most memorable dance, but it did exactly what it was supposed to do: It made me happy.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 10 Perform”

This week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance was a tough one to break down because so much of it boiled down to the politics of the show, which I dislike to the point that I actually stopped watching the show for a time because of it. I understand why Emilio and Bridget when home, so it didn’t come as much of a disappointment, despite the fact that they were one of my favorite pairings to develop this season. However, their elimination still frustrated me because it was telegraphed from the moment the show started last week: They were given a boring routine with uninspired choreography, ugly costumes that hid their expressive faces, and the unfortunate position of dancing first. I like when shows surprise me, and there was nothing surprising about this elimination.

This season appears to be yet another where the powers that be have anointed their favorites and will do anything to keep those favorites in the competition, including telling them over and over again just how much they hope they make it to the finale. Don’t get me wrong; Ricky is clearly on another planet in terms of his talent, but sometimes I wish the judges would just let us see that for ourselves.

It was also a bit of a bummer to see which contestants ended up in something close to their style of dance and which ones were thrown to the wolves. Thankfully, those results were a lot more surprising than I thought they’d be.

Bridget and Brandon: Bollywood Disco
If you need a clear-cut example of a contestant being thrown under the bus (and then run over by said bus), look no further than Bridget. Not only did she get stuck with last week’s forgettable jazz routine and first-dancer position, she also had to go first this week with a style that’s a made-up fusion of two types of dance that aren’t known to bring in voters. If Bridget wouldn’t have gone home this week, they certainly seemed to make sure she would go home next week. Her performance was bright and energetic, but I couldn’t pay much attention because I was so frustrated with the blatant fact that they clearly wanted her to go home.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 14 Perform”

It’s amazing how in one week So You Think You Can Dance can go from feeling it like it was struggling for content to being jam-packed with dancing this week. While it was a bit jarring to have to see four dancers go home instead of two, I think the cuts that were made were fair. Carly and Serge had become one of my favorite partnerships on the show, but sometimes a pair does something so special that they simply can’t go home, which is what happened with Jessica and Casey.

It was nice to see the dancers in the bottom do their solos, but it reminded me of how generic most SYTYCD solos are. Nobody really stood out to me, which made their work in the group routines even more important. Sadly, Carly and Serge were given the dreaded quickstep, which I thought they did a great job performing, but it wasn’t going to beat what Jessica and Casey did. And Teddy and Emily have been a difficult pair for me to connect with from the start; their inability to accurately translate Bob Fosse’s signature style just made it worse.

It was sad to watch those four dancers receive their critiques from the judges because it was so obvious who they were keeping. However, I can’t blame them. What Casey, Jessica, and Travis Wall created together was stunning. There was a simple beauty to the choreography that made it my favorite Travis piece in quite some time. (I even liked it better than his small group routine for the guys this week.) Travis uses music brilliantly, and when his dancers exhibit that same musicality, it’s a match made in heaven. Both Casey and Jessica were so fluid in this piece, but Jessica’s strength is what absolutely blew me away. Her movements required incredible amounts of control, and her lines looked flawless throughout. And for two people who I’ve had trouble connecting with in terms of genuine emotion, I found myself completely buying the joy they exuded through their whole bodies.

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