A night of first class choreography, hairography and standing Os; we have our Finale Four

By Meredith Hoffa
September 06, 2012 at 10:35 AM EDT
Fox

A visit to the 1950s, a visit to the 1960s and *so many* silent screams. Plus a dance marathon — three performances for each of our top six! My God, that’s a lot of blisters. So let’s get into it. There’s much to discuss.

The opening number, a Sonya Tayeh contemporary routine to Kelis’ “Scream,” was pretty sweet. I loved the contrast between the more lyrical sections and the more driving, dramatic parts. And what about that that front walkover Eliana did in the air over the guys’ heads? Insane. My only wish is that the costumes wouldn’t hide so much. I like to be able to distinguish the dancers from one another.

Listen, Cat’s dress tonight really commanded my respect. All her colors were working so brilliantly together, Ice Storm style: the orange and the browns and metallics on her frock plus that ever-so-mauve creamy lip color. I’ve felt that Cat has been going through a strange phase recently where she’s been eschewing lip color altogether, but tonight everything was just right.

The big deal about this evening: no saves from the judges. Eliminations are now based solely on America’s vote. For me, this added a spark and a little dash of intrigue to the whole affair.

How cute was it during the micro-solos when the boys mimicked each other’s styles? Three Cs!

The first duo of the night was Tiffany and all-star Benji with a Jean-Marc Genereux jive to “What I Like About You.” What a festival of happiness! So much energy, so much infectiousness – and I don’t mean disease-wise. Any choreography in which Tiffany can be a dynamo and get to cash in on her unlimited supply of cutes ‘n sass is bound to be winner. She’s really an athlete, maybe moreso than an artist. The pair got a standing O — the real, genuine, pop-out-of-your-seat kind — from all three judges. Nigel said the routine’s energy lifted the entire audience. Mary said she likes everything about Tiffany, who looked like a pro swing dancer. Christina’s hair looks great. Oh yeah, Christina Applegate was the guest judge tonight. I’m deeply ambivalent on the matter of Christina. I think she’s gives some smart feedback, and she sure does love dancers. Yet she’s such a show, is she not? I said it before and I’ll say it again: everything she utters is fraught with such *production.* She’s like that friend who’s super adorable and funny but knows it never knows when to dial it down for a second. Like maybe not everyone’s in the mood for a whole Broadway song and dance in every interaction, mkay?

A few more profound thoughts about T-Maher-Star:

–  She really likes that Pebbles hairstyle for rehearsals.

– Girl is a powerhouse. She can do everything. And she’s more than just a technical dancer; there’s real joy in her performances.  But she just doesn’t have star quality that Eliana has. And this got me thinking about star quality. It’s so elusive, so hard to articulate. If anyone’s so compelled I’d love to discuss this in comments.

– Costuming for this routine got me thinking about cut-outs and mono-kinis and the like, which in turn got me thinking about Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” and that blue, two-piece cut-out dress she wore during the whore parts of the movie. I’m not sure what actual fashion people think about this look — is it in at all? totally out? in an ironic way? in for dancers only? — but I’d really like to take part in it somehow. Swimsuit, I guess. Summer 2013.

Did anyone else hear Cat say that this jive was a “lovely ending to the show?”

NEXT: Don’t blame the dancers for the choreography, yo

Cole and all-star Melanie got a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine, and Sonya’s hope was that it would show a softer, more uplifted side of Cole. The other goal, she said, was to “f***ing fly.” Did this routine show a softer side of Cole? A little, I guess, but a piece that has him playing a guy who wants to break free from his relationship and leave his girl in the dust was maybe not the best choice for conveying vulnerability. I did love the mutual lifting. And the repeated movements like that front walkover into a squat thing that Melanie did. Christina said the piece was beautifully androgynous even though Cole’s foot was terrible and bleeeeeeep in his pirouette. Nigel praised the way Sonya tried to break down Cole’s martial arts armour (Nigel’s spelling). “You’ve done extraordinarily well in this competition,” Nigel said to Cole, at which point I thought uh-oh. How goodbye-ish. Also, Cole’s mom is outrageously dear. I loved when she put “audition tape” in “air quotes.” Also, stirrup pants. Yes please.

Sonya is so pretty!

Is anyone else intrigued by “Ben and Kate?” I love everything about Nat Faxon, that charming little shark.

Next Eliana and all-star tWitch did a Christopher Scott hip hop routine to a cool remix of “Please Mr. Postman” about a foxy lady ballet dancer who has a crush on her hot postman. What a delightful candy treat! Innocent yet dirty! These two dancers are so well-matched, not just because of their technical prowess, but because they both embody absolute playfulness in their performances. Meanwhile for the love of God I cannot take it when the dancers stay in character after a performance. Can there be a rule against this? Snap out of it and walk over to Cat, you guys! I have to say: I hated the judges’ feedback on this one, both in content and in tone. Christina said something about how Jay-Z wouldn’t hire Eliana, but that’s okay because she could do the dance equivalent of singing the phone book and it would still be great. Compliment wrapped in an insult (wrapped in bacon)! I don’t like that! Then Nigel spouted off some nonsense about how this routine relied too much on comedy and character and was like a cheap burger. Really? Because it seems OK — nay, fantastic — by Nigel when Cyrus’ performances rely solely on character. Judging fail!

Was anyone else curious about Eliana’s decision to wear heels to the rehearsal?

Quick plug for a new product: the SYTYCD camp experience. In Vegas. You can sign up online. See you there.

Chehon and all-star Kathryn and a suitcase performed a Tyce contemporary routine about moving forward in the face of tragic loss. Right off the bat, this piece had Cancer Dance written all over it. I knew it from the little teaser before the commercial break when Chehon and a makeup-less (but still totally stunning) Kathryn wore deathly somber expressions. Indeed, in the rehearsal footage, Tyce spoke in his quiet, Serious Issue voice, while Chehon assured us that if they did their job right, tears would flow. Blegh. Not a fan of the manipulative stuff. Not a fan of result-oriented routines. I love serious pieces as much as the next guy, and I do love the idea behind this piece, but I just don’t appreciate being handled that way. In happy news, Chehon’s performance was lovely. Much more emotional and naked than the old Chehon from three weeks ago. It’s so nice to see him opening up — and silently screaming — and my hope is that he’s peaking at just the right time. I could watch him and his bespectacled, Swiss mom cling to each other and whisper sweet nothings all day long. I loved when she said she was so proud of him not because of dancing but because he’s himself.

Sigh.

NEXT: Deep thought: Is a girl more than her hair?

The judges loved it (standing O) and so did Tyce (misty-eyed). Nigel, in a compliment to the dancers that was really a compliment to himself, said he was so stunned that this show can do emotional things like this. Mary said it was one of the most amazing numbers she’s seen all season, and as evidence, she pointed to the fact that Chehon was still emotional even though minutes had passed. Kathryn was catatonic, presumably still deep in characterland. For cripes sake. But which judge would be the first to say it was “an honor” to have witnessed this piece? That’d be Mary.

Ray Leeper, the choreographer with the name of a criminal, was back to choreograph a lyrical jazz routine for Witney and all-star Marko about a not-so-happy couple on their wedding day. This piece wasn’t a showstopper, but it was, in a word, pretty. The movement was pretty, the stained glass backdrop was pretty, and the warm lighting was pleasing. I also liked Witney’s dress. Girlfriend made me laugh with her Utah/marriage comment and the one about her dad waiting back home with a shotgun and a bat. Marko’s haircut looks great.

Christina commented that Witney’s distracting hairography often obscured her face. I’m glad she said that because I often feel this way about Witney and her hair. Here’s a question to chew on (and I don’t know the answer, I really am just putting it out there): What would Witney be without her hair?

Cyrus and all-star Comfort performed a Christopher Scott hip hop/dub step bit to “Cinema” that was rad. The two dancers appeared to be gliding on ice. Is it just me or does Cyrus often not appear until the second half of each show? What the dub? Anyhoo, the performance got a standing O from the jidges. Christina said she wants to throw pens through Cyrus’ earrings. Nigel confirmed/announced/predicted/commanded “America loves him, people.” Mary said Cyrus was definitely in his Comfort (Fedoke) zone and “WE’RE GETTIN’ THE MESSAGE, WE’RE GETTIN’ ALL THE TWITTERS, FORGET ABOUT IT!” Heart. Melts. Splat.

Witney and Chehon danced an ill-fated cha cha by Jean Marc Genereux to Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been,” replete with clunky, near-disastrous lifts and general lack of hip movement on poor Chehon’s part. In judges’ comments, Mary called Witney “Lindsay” and said she wanted to see more from her, which I thought was a rather lame thing to say considering Witney was in the air for half the piece and then dancing with a partner who couldn’t keep up the other half of the time. Nigel called the performance “disappointing.”

Mia Michaels was in the house to choreograph a contemporary number for Cole and Eliana about hatred. The movement was inspired by rams and their headbutting, stubborn, sparring ways. I loved this piece for all its physicality, especially the beginning part when the two dancers skulked across the floor to each other. More silent screams! Another standing O from the judges. Nigel called it brilliant said the dancers drew us in to the emotion. Christina praised Eliana, saying there is light coming out of Eliana’s feet. She also said Eliana creates a picture at every moment. That’s the truth. Eliana’s hair was so cuckoo during feedback and I simply loved it.

NEXT: Watch out, her dad might have a bat

Finally, Cyrus and Tiffany were up with a Broadway number by crazy-shirted Spencer Liff about a teenage girl and her boyfriend home alone circa 1950. This was another great showcase for Tiffany: she could be her cute, young, firecracker self with reckless abandon, and it was such a charming, sweet snapshot of young love. Cyrus brought a ton of charm to his role. For all the complaints — including mine — about choreography being dumbed down for Cyrus all season long, I thought he brought to this piece a stage presence and playfulness and boy-man impishness that I don’t think the other two male contestants could have pulled off. And Cyrus has a looseness in his movement that, in the right routine, often makes more “pedestrian” styles look really stylish and snazzy. I know, I know. But these two were a great pair. Nigel said Tiffany is the girl next door and also talented (the flip side of star quality, if you will?). Christina called them dirty little birds and said they both breathed through the movement. Mary said “THIS IS THE CUTEST NUMBER EVER, HOLY SMOKES!” Me: I say Tiff’s ensemble (yellow dress, cropped cardigan) is just dreamy and I would like to have it.

Two members of Axis Dance Company took to the stage next to perform an excerpt from one of their pieces, and while I like their mission of physically integrated dance — i.e. dancers with and without disabilities performing together — I didn’t love this performance, probably because the music made me panicky. If you’re interested, check out this cool article about how this particular piece came to be.

Results, time! These actually were some slightly tense results tonight. Good job with the tension, Mademoiselle Cat.

The lowest vote getters — and our departing dancers — are Cole and Witney.

On the girls’ side of things, this seems fairly straightforward and non-surprising. Like or dislike Witney, but she’s been amongst the low-vote-getters all season. No doubt a lot of people are outraged that Cole is out while Cyrus remains, though. Are you one of those people? (I’m not, necessarily.) Do you think Chehon has a shot at the guys’ title? And does Eliana have it wrapped up for the girls’ win or could Tiffany potentially usurp her? What did you think of tonight’s performances and silent screams? Cat’s dress?

Until Tuesday!

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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