Tuesday, September 3, 2019

So You Think You Can Dance S16E12: Top 8 Perform

And Then There Were Six
by Stephen Mosher

The Top Eight Dancers took to the So You Think You Can Dance stage for the first two-hour episode and what a night it was. Just watching, I was exhausted! Three group dances, two duos for each team, and one solo for each dancer. It’s a good thing these competitors are all young people! The thing is, they are also really talented, so sending two of them home at the end of the night will be difficult. Last week’s elimination of Eddie was to be expected, but I did feel that Stephanie was sent home prematurely. Still, water under the bridge, as the saying goes. I would not venture a guess on the boy that will go home tonight, but unless something changes, this week will probably be Anna.

This week’s show started with a big group number by The Plateros to the song “Himno del Carnaval”. It must be said that, while the number was wild and lively, I thought it was also a little haphazard and that I thought the women all looked like they were moving a bit slowly. I don’t guess it really mattered because the fact is that you don’t see anyone else when Gino is on the stage. He is absolutely magnificent.

During the intro, Cat mentioned that two people would be going home and someone up in the back of the auditorium whooped, to which she replied, “Do you know who’s going home? Is it me? I hope not!” which shows why Cat Deeley is the best live show host on TV. It was a fabulous save!

First up we had Anna and Benjamin dancing a Polynesian Dance by Tiana Liufau to “Maua Taki”. Let’s get this out of the way: I hate this sh*t. I know that dance is a universal, an international thing, and that everyone, everywhere does it. But this is a dance competition, and unless you are an expert on Polynesian dance, what frame of reference do you have upon which to base your opinion? Are any of these judges experts on this type of dance? Mmmmmm I don’t think so. What's more - they CAN’T do it. Over the years some dancers have been lucky and put up good performances of this stuff, but usually they just look STUPID in their native costumes, trying to do moves that they CAN’T DO. I hate this and this dance, effectively, spelled what would probably be Anna’s downfall. I’m just sayin’. It looked like the judges weren’t crazy about it either, since Nigel said he didn’t like it, Dominic erred on the side of diplomacy, and Laurieann told them to “push through the pain.” Mary, on the other hand, thought it was amazing. The one real note was Laurieann telling them to “constantly remember your ‘why’.”

The first solo of the night was from Sophie and it was pretty neat, but I do often wonder why contemporary dancers spend so much time rolling around on the floor. Song: “Skin”.

Randi and Hef provided a cool Hip Hop routine for Madison and Ezra to a song called “Space”, so space became the theme of the number, with the dancers being flown in wearing space suits. It was a cool enough number with some fun tricks. They really do have a great partnership and it shows. Mary said she got into it near the end, while Nigel thought it was brilliant. Dominic said Madison was amazing and Laurieann told them “the intent was met.” The big reveal came when Cat asked how it felt to fly in and Ezra confessed he is terrified of heights. Atta boy! Way to go.

Gino was the next soloist, performing to “Burn” and, kids, this is it. This is what it’s all about. If he doesn’t win this show, it won’t matter, because he will be one of the most oft-employed dancers in the business. Just. All of this.

SYTYCD alum Dmitry Chaplin created a cha cha for the fun size duo of Mariah and Bailey, and during rehearsals there was much talk about how hard it was for Bailey. So when they hit the stage to “Ce Soir”, even though it was sexy, with a lot of chemistry and talent, there were times when you could see how hard it was for Bailey to lift Mariah. They truly do have each others’ backs, so you know he wouldn’t drop her - but it was clear he had to really work at those lifts, a fact noted by Dominic, who admitted that he had had the same difficulty when he did the show, and that struggle for Bailey made Dominic love him even more. Not Nigel, though -- ever the diplomat, the 5’11” septuagenarian said it made him uncomfortable. Meanwhile Mary loved every second of it, finding it exposing, stronger and stronger and full of joy and happiness, while Laurieann thought to herself, “Oh this is the real one.” Bailey, it was revealed, is such a gentleman that he gives Mariah flowers every time they tape. Yeah, he just won the show. America is in love.

Madison’s solo to “Cellophane” was the kind of solo we have come to expect of her. She simply is the beating human heart personified through dance.

Ezra solo’d next in a sadly ill-fitting vest that didn’t match the color of his pants. If you look past the costume, though, the dance was smokin’ hot, even if a ballroom dancer dancing solo always looks odd to me.
KC Monnie is a new choreographer to SYTYCD and one hopes he will stick around because both the emotional and technical content he gave Sophie and Gino for their powerhouse performance to “You Will Be Found” is the stuff SYTYCD legend is made of. This juggernaut performance will put these two over the top with the judges and the viewers, that is how spectacular it was. Nigel found the chemistry magnificent, Dominic thanked them from the bottom of his heart, and Laurieann declared this pairing to be magical. Mary had the big comment when she told Gino, “You are the change,” to which he replied, “I’m here to be the change.” No, he’s here to take over the world. Watch out.

In an interesting variation on a theme started by Sophie and continued by Madison, Mariah delivered a solo to “Somebody” that made me wonder if maybe these three girls all choreographed their solos together. Now they should do them together, because they’re all doing the same thing.

Beautiful, brilliant Al Blackstone did Benjamin and Anna the favor of their lives by giving them a stellar routine and impeccable direction. Their number to “I’ll Be Seeing You” was as lovely as anything I’ve ever seen. It’s probably the best they’ve had, the best they’ve done and it could save Anna, at some point, because she was totally and completely in the pocket and perfect. All of the judges agreed that it was magical, with Dominic remarking his breath was taken away by the quality of the movement, and Laurieann saying that feeling is everything. “Make me feel something!” - and they did. Cat points out, when BenAnna are onstage together, what good care he takes of her. Lovely.

An Argentine Tango was next up for Madison and Ezra. Dancing a Leonardo and Miriam routine to “Despues Que Te Fuiste”, they captured everyone’s attention. This sh*t’s really hard to do and they did it so well - even if their costumes are clunky and chunky and ugly. No, seriously, they were both so beautiful in this dance, but what was that schmatta he was wearing, and why the headband on her? Leave her beautiful hairless head alone. Ugly ‘stumes or not, the judges all heaped praise on them both, with Dominic singling out Ezra, something that doesn’t always happen.

Benjamin’s solo to “Run Boy Run” was powerful and demanding and thrilling and sexy. But those red samurai pants! Did you see his quads?! Heavens to Betsy.

Anna’s solo to “Bellyache” was par for the Anna course, with nothing new on display. But it was new from the other female solos of the night, all of which looked the same. Not Anna’s!

Mandy and Elizabeth gave Mariah and Bailey a gorgeous, sweet, simple, complex contemporary piece to “Slide” and they even gave them a slide! Dudes, this number was just sublime, absolute perfection, start to finish, showing off both dancers to their most breathtakingly beautiful best. Dominic said it was one of his favorite routines he’s ever seen and Mary told them they must “be partners for the rest of your life.” Laurieann, the poet laureate of the show, said they must “stay focused, stay humble” and Mariah “must not suppress your ability because of Bailey.” Nigel still says they are the couple to beat.

Sophie and Gino JUST started working together. Sh*t doesn’t show. Cause these two are CONNECTED. Damn. Their routine to “Trouble” by Jonathan Redavid was super fun and they are just as perfect as perfect can be, prompting Laurieann to tell Nigel, “THAT’s the new couple to beat, honey!” Nigel did have to own up to it that Mariah and Bailey have some great opponents. Right after Mary put them on the Hot Tamale Train, Dominic did his best Mary Murphy scream (it wasn’t bad either). The entire segment was pricelessness in a bag.

Bailey’s solo to “Let’s Shut Up and Dance” confirmed that the men in the competition are outdancing the women. Each male solo tonight was stunning and original, and this number, with its hankieography, was simply irresistible, just like Bailey.

Rounding out the night were the group numbers, with some results after each round. The first group number was by Talia Favia to “bad guy” and it featured Madison, Mariah, Ben and Gino. It was way cool, even if the story wasn’t clear. Maybe there wasn’t meant to be a story, only hot, hard, hitting, sexy dancing. For the sheer technique of it, the dance was interesting, but the lack of story … all of the judges praised it, with the most serious being Laurieann, who said they were four dancers that she wants to hire, and the silliest being Dominic, who couldn’t get over the abs. I love the way that Dominic, weekly, teases everyone with flirtatious comments about girl dancers and boy dancers. It’s a fluid world and Dominic is using it to his flirty, quirky, sexy advantage.

SAFE: Gino and Mariah. No Surprise

IN DANGER: Ben and Madison. Both Surprises.

“Rebirth” by Sean Cheesman was an African Jazz dance created for Anna, Bailey, Ezra and Sophie. Unlike the Polynesian dance, this was okay because it is based in jazz dance and there were actual recognizable techniques for anyone to spot and evaluate. Do I love the costuming for the number? No. It’s unflattering and distracting. Will I survive having had to see it? Yes, because the dancers are delicious and delightful and therein lies the popularity of the show. Again the judges had heaps of praise, with Nigel remarking on the freedom of movement and Dominic referring to the amount of work they go through (which he, of all people, would understand).

SAFE: Bailey and Sophie. Of course.

IN DANGER: Ezra and Anna. Well, I guess this is it for the two of them. That’s what I thought while I was watching.

It isn’t what happened.

I would not want the job of the judges. I think these young people are all wonderful and I certainly could not pick between them. I pretty much knew Anna would be leaving because she has something, but it isn’t translating through the TV and her technique hasn’t been able to carry her through. But I thought they would send Ezra home, and I was wrong. They opted for Anna’s partner, Benjamin, and in the moments after their decision, I could see why. They were a true partnership. Splitting them up would have caused the remaining dancer to suffer; and Benjamin is special but he’s also very fluid and gentle, kind and laid back. There is something in him that didn’t ignite, and Ezra ignites every week. The judges love to see growth and they love to reward it, and that’s what they just did.

It’s sad to see this sweet twosome go - but we will see them again, make no mistake. Their careers are just beginning and with SYTYCD as a springboard, I expect they will be good ones.

Congratulations Madison and Ezra! See you next week.

So You Think You Can Dance airs Mondays on Fox at 8 pm

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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