The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (6/29 – 7/6)

This week was heavy with reality television and not a lot of scripted programming (with Suits taking a week off). It began with a new episode of The Bachelorette that made it perhaps more obvious than ever that Josh is the one for Andi. (Her genuine, glowing smile when he said he was falling in love with her was a close runner-up for my favorite moment of the week.) The week continued with the hilarious penultimate episode of The People’s Couch and the first So You Think You Can Dance live show of the season. The rest of the week was filled with special TV events—from World Cup soccer and Wimbledon tennis to Marvel Universe and Indiana Jones movie marathons.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise that the most fun I had watching TV this week was when Zack and Valerie performed their tap duet on SYTYCD. It always puts a smile on my face to see my favorite style of dance in the national spotlight, and this routine brilliantly captured the essence of why I love tap. It was complex in its rhythms, stylish in its execution, and entertaining from start to finish. Watching Zack in this routine is like watching a master at work, and his performance only gets more impressive with repeated viewings.

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

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 11 “Top 20 Perform”

I hope all of you who celebrate it are having a fun and safe Independence Day!

So begins another season of So You Think You Can Dance live shows, and I’m trilled to be writing about them once again. As a dancer and choreographer myself, no other show on television makes me smile like SYTYCD, and I can’t wait to discuss the highs and lows of each week of the competition with all of you. Until the Top 10 is selected, my recaps will be a bit more general—focusing on some thoughts about the episode as a whole as well as my favorite routine and dancers of the evening (there will also be some predictions for who’s going home after I’ve started to see who the audience is gravitating towards).

If this episode is any indication, we’re in for a real treat this season in terms of both the talent and variety of dancers we’ll be getting to see over the next several weeks. Yes, there’s still an abundance of contemporary dancers who are difficult to tell apart (but some did make a name for themselves in this episode), but I loved seeing a Top 20 episode with multiple ballroom duets, two ballerinas, two tappers, and two hip-hop dancers with very different styles. If there was one thing I was most impressed with while watching this episode, it was the variety of dance styles I saw on display.

In an episode that featured 10 dances (and one subpar group number from Sonya Tayeh), it was easy for at least a few routines to get lost in the shuffle. Despite the variety of styles presented, there were still too many contemporary routines about a couple in the middle of an argument. (Travis Wall, you can do better.) Also, the embarrassment of riches in terms of ballroom numbers meant that there was now the ability to directly compare partnerships, and the duos of Nick/Tanisha and Serge/Brooklyn didn’t have the same fire and stage presence as the dynamite pairing of Malene/Marcquet.

The dances that stood out to me more than any other in this introductory week were the ones unlike anything else we saw that night. The energy of Malene and Marcquet was unmatched. The rare treat of the female pas de deux between Jacque and Jourdan was impressive to behold, even if I did feel the choreography was a little above their abilities. (There were simply too many turns.) Teddy and Emilio’s “Night Shift” duet was an inspired blending of their two hip-hop styles. Zack and Valerie’s tap duet was as challenging as it was entertaining. And Ricky and Jessica’s breathtaking contemporary piece set them apart from their fellow contemporary dancers by showcasing a stunning combination of strength and grace.

Standout Performers: Malene, Marcquet, Teddy, Emilio, Ricky, Jessica, Valerie, Zack

Favorite Routine: If you read my SYTYCD recaps last season (or my Tweets so far this season), you know that I will readily admit to being biased towards tappers on this show. Tap is the style of dance I specialize in as a dancer and a choreographer, so it has thrilled me like little else to see the style I hold close to my heart finally getting the SYTYCD respect I felt it was denied for so many seasons. In fact, thanks to last season’s Top Four finalist Aaron Turner (and Nick Young before him), we’ve been treated to some great tap routines on this show in the last few seasons. But none of those could even hold a candle to the show Zack and Valerie put on this week.

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Top 10 Performances from SYTYCD Season 10

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Today is the finale of the 10th season of So You Think You Can Dance, so it seems fitting to wrap this season up with a countdown of my 10 favorite dances. I’m keeping this list to duets, but feel free to tell me your favorite solos and group routines in the comments!

10. Jasmine and Marko Jazz: Top 10 Perform (“Blurred Lines”)
I love routines that have a very defined sense of style, and that’s what this routine was all about. It needed to be a complicated mixture of staccato movements, fluid transitions, and charismatic stage presence—and Jasmine and Marko delivered like only they could, with great lines and the magnetism of born performers. This was the dance that made Jasmine my favorite performer this season. Not only did she hold her own against her All Star partner, she out-danced him with the classy kind of swagger that’s all her own.

9. Fik-Shun and Twitch Hip Hop: Top 4 Perform (“Hello Good Morning”)
This dance was a testament to what can happen when two of the best in their genre get together to perform. Both of these men have star power to burn, and it was so entertaining to watch them play off each other. They made this dance look easy, and, even more importantly, they made it look like so much fun.

8. Jasmine and Comfort Hip Hop: Top 4 Perform (“Run the World”)
This dance was all about the girl power. It featured two fierce women sharing the stage and elevating each other to new performance heights. Comfort was incredible in this routine, and her strength allowed Jasmine to reach inside of herself and bring out a ferocity we’d never seen from her before. This performance was Jasmine’s way of throwing down the gauntlet and showing just how much she deserves to win.

7. Amy and Fik-Shun Viennese Waltz: Top 12 Perform (“A Thousand Years”)
Sometimes a SYTYCD routine moves you unexpectedly, and that’s what happened with this dance. It wasn’t technically perfect, but it was full of such genuine emotion. It took these two dancers far outside of their comfort zone, and the result was a beautiful display of a kind of innocent, sincere chemistry that put a smile on my face and happy tears in my eyes.

6. Aaron and Jasmine Hip Hop: Top 12 Perform (“Gold Rush”)
Jasmine and Aaron really sold this sexy, strong, and hard-hitting routine that was a perfect match for their partnership. This was the first routine where I really noticed just how fierce Jasmine could be, and I loved watching her inner diva take center stage. Jasmine sliding into a split on top of Aaron was probably the hottest move I saw on SYTYCD this season, and this whole routine balanced playful entertainment, pure dance ability, and grownup sex appeal better than any other this season.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 10 “Top 4 Perform”

Can there actually be too much of a good thing when it comes to dance?

For me, the answer will always be “no,” but even I have to admit that last night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance sacrificed a little bit of quality for a lot more in terms of quantity. And while I was happy to see so much dancing on two hours of primetime network television, it was clear that some of the routines suffered from a lack of energy and focus from a group of dancers who should all be given awards for making it through those two hours without collapsing onstage.

I won’t waste my time talking about guest judge Gabby Douglas because, although I adore her, she was on the same level as Carly Rae Jepsen in terms of her clichéd, generic responses. They should have just kept the panel to Nigel, Mary, and Paul Abdul, whose heartfelt (if sometimes spacey) critiques and compliments can grace my ears any day.

But enough about the judges, we have approximately 5000 dances to recap (and I’m only half-joking)!

SOLOS

Jasmine: Remember when we all thought Jasmine’s relationship with Cyrus was going to be a major storyline this season? I cannot say enough about how thrilled I am that this was the only time since Vegas Week that her heartbreak was mentioned, because her narrative became all about her dancing as soon as she stepped on the SYTYCD stage. Jasmine has an incredibly believable duality to her personality: the humble, shy girl who comes alive and finds her confidence when she dances. Her solo this week was another lesson in projecting passion to an audience while never sacrificing technique. And watching both Jasmine and Cat get emotional when it was revealed that Cat got her into the Top 20 was my favorite moment of the whole show last night.

Amy: Amy is a beautiful soloist in terms of pure technique. Her legs are so strong, and her core strength blows my mind. However, sometimes her movements can feel a little choppy and rushed, with too much manufactured angst rather than pure emotion. I think she’s a brilliant technical dancer, and this was my favorite of her solos so far. But I just don’t connect with her solos emotionally in the same way I did with the best SYTYCD female dancers.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 10 “Top 6 Perform”

I would just like to take one moment to say I CALLED IT!

From the very first week of the competition, I knew there was something special about Amy and Fik-Shun and Jasmine and Aaron. These two couples just seemed to click and bring out the best in each other in a way no other couple was able to this season. Both were perfectly matched and great compliments for one another—with the youthful energy of Fik-Shun and Amy providing a good counterpoint to the mature chemistry between Jasmine and Aaron. Both of these couples were made up of performers, dancers who come alive in a special way as soon as the music starts and the lights go on. They were power couples from the first week, and now they’re the only couples left standing.

As excited as I am to see the four best entertainers left in the competition move on to the finale, I can’t say I was 100% pleased with the results. While I agree that Haley’s time had come, I’m not so sure I was ready to say goodbye to Paul. He was clearly the best technician left, and I thought he had really grown into his own as a performer as well. In the last couple of weeks, I found myself falling under his spell and becoming more and more impressed with his versatility and stage presence. I would have liked to see him in the finale instead of Fik-Shun (I just think Paul has grown more and shown more versatility throughout the season), but saying goodbye to any of the guys this week would have been hard.

You know what wasn’t hard at all this week? Listening to Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the guest judge. He proved once again why he’s my favorite to fill the third seat on the panel with his jokes at Carly Rae Jepson’s expense, self-deprecating sense of humor, and adorable crush on Aaron. (Note to Jesse: Get in line, my friend.)

Ferguson was kept busy this week with a full slate of dances, so let’s start discussing them!

SOLOS

Fik-Shun: While I may not think he’s shown the same level of growth and versatility as Paul and Aaron, there’s no denying Fik-Shun’s genius in his own style. This solo was one of the best hip hop solos I’ve ever seen on So You Think You Can Dance; his musicality was perfect, his movements were ridiculously fast and precise, and his smile absolutely lit up the stage once again.

Paul: Ballroom solos can sometimes fall flat, but this solo was captivating from start to finish. Paul is such a chameleon that I sometimes forget what his specialty actually is, so this solo was a great reminder of just how good he is as a ballroom dancer. He oozed controlled power while still managing to exude the easy charisma that’s made him so likeable, which is a tough balancing act to perfect.

Aaron: I’ll announce my bias before I say any more: I’m a tapper. Tap holds a special place in my heart, and sometimes I get emotional just thinking about what this style of dance has given me. There’s a certain joy that tap gives me—the joy of a little kid putting tap shoes on for the first time and discovering that they can make music with their feet. And this solo was such a pure expression of that joy. Aaron’s love for this style came through in every part of his performance—from the genuine smile on his face to the relaxed and easy way he moved his upper body. It was like watching someone come home, watching someone in their happy place. Yes, his rhythms were incredible and his musicality was precise and thoroughly entertaining, but what really made me love this routine—what made me cry happy tears while watching it—was seeing Aaron show the world what I feel when I put on my tap shoes: the joy, the comfort, and the thrill of entertaining an audience with the music of my feet.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 10 “Top 8 Perform”

I’ll start this recap with a confession: I cried a lot during this episode. A LOT. Read my tweets from last night, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It wasn’t because of the “Who inspires you?” stories each contestant told (although those were sweet and some were truly touching). It wasn’t even because of the contestants for the most part.

It was the All Stars who left me wiping my eyes after nearly every performance. There was something so profoundly moving about watching their reactions to getting praise from the judges they once stood in front of as dancers. They all looked so genuinely appreciative of each compliment given and each kind word said. Those kinds of humble reactions are so rare on reality TV, and we saw it eight times last night.

And those compliments from the judges were well deserved; the choreography we saw was excellent. I also felt the All Stars did a fantastic job of showcasing their partners—much better than a lot of the regular choreographers when it comes to working with All Stars and contestants. It was exciting, entertaining, and a breath of fresh air to see these dancers come into their own as choreographers. The show felt different last night, and I mean that in the best possible way. It hummed with a new energy, and I loved every second of it.

In fact, the only thing I didn’t love was having to see someone go home. By the time the elimination results came, I wished both girls could have gone home instead of one of the guys. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t dislike either Jenna or Haley, but I like both Fik-Shun and Tucker so much more. I was ready for it to be Jenna’s time to leave, but it broke my heart to say goodbye to Tucker after two weeks in a row of truly beautiful dancing.

Now, let’s get to recapping; we have an outstanding bunch of routines to talk about!

Aaron and Chelsie: Jive
Before I start, I would just like to remind everyone that Aaron was dancing with a shoulder injury, quite possibly a torn labrum. I’m not totally sure why this wasn’t brought up since Aaron and Chelsie both tweeted about it, but it frustrated me to hear Mary critiquing his shoulders when that was where he was injured. However, I was impressed with his professionalism and determination to dance as well as he could. I thought his jive technique was solid, and his performance level was off the charts. While I did think some of the turns and lifts looked awkward, I was thoroughly entertained, which is what I’ve come to expect from this consummate pro and showman.

Fik-Shun and Allison: Contemporary
I love Allison. I love her relationship with Twitch. And I love any and all versions of “Skinny Love.” Needless to say, I would have loved this routine no matter who was dancing it with her. But there was something special about watching Fik-Shun raise his game in the presence of such a talented dancer. I thought Allison was smart for using Fik-Shun’s unique skills in her choreography (I also wonder if she was inspired by her fiancé and his ability to blend genres, as well as her own work with many different styles). While I couldn’t take my eyes off her while they were dancing apart (Allison is just ridiculously captivating), I was so pleased with his work in the side-by-side section. In fact, that was one of my favorite moments of the whole show last night. His technique is raw and imperfect, but he matched her beat for beat and put his whole heart into that section of choreography—and the result gave me the best kind of chills.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 10 “Top 10 Perform”

I apologize for the unannounced hiatus—Saturday was my birthday (turned the big 2-5!), and I celebrated with a trip to Yankee Stadium with my sister and best friends. Hopefully now that I’m home and caught up on sleep I’ll be able to get back to my normal posting schedule. 

There’s something special that happens on So You Think You Can Dance once the All Stars arrive. And I’m not just talking about the special joy of getting to see dancers like Twitch, Neil, and Robert again (a trifecta of handsome, talented, charming men).

What’s special is the way putting new dancers with proven “beasts” (to use a favorite Nigel-ism) allows the audience to see who exactly is worthy of being considered an All Star from this current season. It helps us see how the Top 10 match up with some of the best of the best. And it creates some of the best moments on the show each season.

When I watched this season’s Top 10 dance with their All Stars, the results seemed divided into three categories: those who were overshadowed by their All Star; those who became a unit with their All Star, and (the rarest of them all) those who were flat-out better than their All Star. But who fell into which category?

Before I get to the answer to that question, let’s talk about the elimination for a moment because it was the hardest one yet. I was more than a bit frustrated with Nigel for acting like their solos didn’t matter and couldn’t have helped them. I would have liked to see all of them, especially Nico (who never got to do a solo), show America their talents again—even if it would have been as a swan song.

I was ready for Nico to be eliminated, but I was not prepared for how attached I’d become to Makenzie. I don’t think she’s worlds better than Jenna (I wish she danced with a bit more personality), but she is the better dancer, in my opinion. Jenna is versatile, but she’s yet to have a standout performance—while Makenzie has had a few (both of her contemporary routines and her jazz routine). It’s getting to the point, though, where almost anyone who goes home is going to break my heart, so I can’t be too angry with voters or the judges. Watching Nico cry after his elimination was difficult, as was seeing the remaining dancers crying over their friends’ eliminations. You can say what you want about this show, but I will always believe it’s one of the greatest reality shows on TV because of the genuine camaraderie between the contestants.

Now, on to the routines!

Amy and Brandon: Disco
Sometimes I really love disco on SYTYCD (Neil and Sara, Brandon and Janette), and sometimes it just doesn’t work for me. Sadly, this was closer to the latter category than the former. It was well-executed, and both of them had a ton of energy, which they kept up throughout the routine. However, there were points when I felt Amy was just being moved from trick to trick. She never looked completely comfortable in the style (which is understandable given the lifts she was asked to execute); her perennially adorable smile felt a little less authentic than usual. But my lack of enthusiasm for the routine might have just been a product of a truly horrific song choice. (“I Will Always Love You” for disco? It wasn’t even the right decade!)

Aaron and Kathryn: Contemporary
Romantic contemporary pieces can start to feel repetitive after a while, but every so often a couple is able to breathe new life into the concept with their chemistry. That’s what happened with Aaron and Kathryn. Aaron is so present with his partners—you could feel his tenderness with Jasmine, and it was gorgeously evident with Kathryn in this routine. He dances with strength and a surprising grace, which worked beautifully with Kathryn, who dances with grace and a surprising strength. Their fluidity of movement was incredible and only added to the romance of the piece. It was probably one of the most fluid displays of contemporary partnership I’ve seen on this show, and that speaks to how well Aaron is able to disappear into different styles and stories every week. Could he go from alternate to winner? I don’t think it’s crazy to say it could happen.

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TV Time: SYTYCD Season 10 “Top 12 Perform”

Now it’s getting good.

We’re starting to reach that magical part of each season of So You Think You Can Dance where I genuinely respect every dancer who’s left. We’d already reached that point in terms of the male dancers before this week’s eliminations, so it broke my heart to see Alan go (although he—along with Tucker—is probably the weakest link among the guys). And with Malece gone (I’m sorry—I could never warm up to her and grew tired of the unwarranted praise she often received from the judges), I really do like all of the girls left, too. Jenna may not be my favorite—and I am frustrated with the judges constantly saving her at this point—but I definitely respect her versatility.

I was going to format this like my usual SYTYCD recaps, but I have way too much to say about this week’s dances. I’d been waiting all season for an episode like this—a week where the choreographers were at their best and the dancers were, too. Besides one less-than-stellar routine, I enjoyed all of the routines we saw last night.

This week, I’m going to break down the episode dance-by-dance before picking my favorite dancers and routine of the night.

Nico and Haley: Broadway
This was a fantastic way to start what was a fantastic episode. While I am getting tired of the “Haley is sexy” shtick, there’s no denying that the girl has a sensual magnetism about her movements and presence that was perfectly suited to the choreography. (Also, does anyone else think she looks like Rachel Bilson?) She and Nico brought the best out of each other as many thought they would; I was especially impressed with the lifts the pair effortlessly executed, including the one where Nico flipped Haley over his back using only her leg. It wouldn’t crush me to see either of them go home in the near future, but this routine was proof that they both deserve their places in the Top 10.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (7/28 – 8/4)

If I had to pick the Worst Thing I Saw on TV, my choice for this week would be easy: Part One of the The Bachelorette’s two-part finale was a depressing downer, with Desiree being dumped by the only man on the show she grew to love and 40 minutes of crying, which proved to be the most painfully real moments I’ve ever seen on reality TV.

Beyond those heartbreaking two hours, the rest of the week featured some strong performances from my favorite couples on So You Think You Can Dance, a new love interest for Donna (and rival for Harvey?) on Suits, the usual laughs from Hollywood Game Night, and some great reruns of New Girl and The Mindy Project—two shows that get even better with repeated viewings.

The best of the best, though, came from SYTYCD, but it wasn’t a moment by anyone in the Top 14 (now Top 12). Instead, it was one of those rare moments when a true pro in their genre shows the kids how it’s done.

With Curtis injured, Spencer Liff had to step in and perform in the Broadway group number he choreographed to “Come Together.” It’s always a treat to watch a choreographer perform their own piece, and this was no exception. Liff was everything this routine called for its dancers to be: fluid, strong, sexy, and thoroughly entertaining. His natural stage presence and technical ability made it impossible for me to take my eyes off him throughout the dance. This is what “Broadway dancing” should look like—it’s not cheesy or corny; it’s simply all about stage presence and style.

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

TV Time: SYTYCD Season 10 “Top 14 Perform”

I feel like I should be more upset than I am about the results of last night’s So You Think You Can Dance. I’m a tap dancer. Yes, I’ve trained in many other styles, but tap will always be the one closest to my heart. I cried when Nick Young got eliminated way too early in Season Eight. But this time, I watched two tappers go at once and felt strangely okay with it. I’ll miss Alexis and Curtis, but it was time for them to go. They’re both great tappers, but they just weren’t Top 10 (or even Top 12) material—and even I can admit that.

Strangely enough, I felt the loss of Curtis more than I did Alexis. I think it’s because Curtis just seemed like such a genuinely sweet guy (not that Alexis didn’t seem lovely, but there was something so adorable about Curtis and his enthusiasm). And I think the final image of Curtis holding a crying Haley got to me a lot more than I was expecting. Maybe there was more to their partnership than just that one sushi date.

Also, I ended up hoping Alexis would go home because my favorite female dancer would be eliminated if she wasn’t. Whatever happened that led to Jasmine being in the Bottom Three needs to never happen again. That girl is a one-of-a-kind mixture of grace, strength, stage presence, and personality. The only good thing about her place in the Bottom Three was her solo, which had the best musicality I’ve seen in a solo this season and truly looked like she was “dancing for her life.”

Besides the mini heart attack over my favorite female dancer being in jeopardy throughout the episode, this week’s show was a big improvement over last week. First of all, Anna Kendrick was a credible and fun guest judge. I adore her and think anything is better when she’s a part of it (especially the Twilight films).

The dancing itself was vastly improved, too—with some minor exceptions. I thought Tucker and Jenna’s hip hop was immediately forgettable if not just plain awkward. The style did not suit them at all. Alexis and Nico’s contemporary was well-danced and emotional, but the running in place made me laugh instead of get chills—a rare misstep from Sonya Tayeh. And I couldn’t find anything to really latch onto in Malece and Alan’s salsa. The tricks were cool (and I loved seeing Jonathan Platero from Season Five and his gorgeous eyes again!), but I thought Malece had no real feel for the style. Alan lietrally and figuratively carried her through most of that dance, but once again he was criticized by the judges while Malece was praised. The obvious favoritism towards Malece is stating to get a little old.

Something else that’s starting to get a little old to me is watching Fik-Shun and Amy dance the same kinds of pieces over and over again. With the exception of their Paso Doble, it seems like choreographers can only create cute routines with a lot of fluid hip hop flavor for them to perform. I think both of them are great at embodying charismatic, downright joyful characters, but, like Nigel, I’d like to see them try something different. That’s not their fault, but it’s starting to affect how I rate their routines. I think I would have loved this hip hop had I watched earlier in the season, but this felt a little “been there, done that” to me. I think they can do more, and I want to see them be challenged so that if they do win, it feels earned.

Someone who certainly seems to be rising to challenges in this competition is Paul, who continues to impress me every week with his versatility. While his jazz piece with Makenzie felt a little familiar in terms of its choreography (I love Sonya but sometimes all her dances start to look the same), there was nothing boring about its execution. The two of them together were sharp, sexy, and impressively in-synch. I loved the music choice, and the way these two dancers inhabited each beat of that music was really impressive. I don’t know why Makenzie keeps landing in the bottom (but I don’t think jealous girls have much to do with it, Nigel), but I hope she sticks along for a little while longer.

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