Here we go for votes gang!
We've got something I've never seen before to lead off the show. Our Top 20 dances from outside through the entrance to the theatre and backstage and then the control studio onto the stage. They are joined by choreographers and judges as they go. That was really cool. The routine was choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon D'Umo.
Cat Deeley...magnificent in a pink tunic and fabulous gold heels. I typically prefer Cat's hair loose and wavy, but the straight 'do looks good.
Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy are joined by guest Wayne Brady on the panel.
So let's get started.
Mariah Spears, a 19 year old Hip Hop dancer, is paired with Carlos Garland, a 24 year old Contemporary dancer, for Jive choreographed by Jason Gilkison. I don't really feel much chemistry between them. Some pairs have it right from the first move, but not this couple. They could grow into it. This was a very difficult and very fast Jive. I liked their energy, but they seemed to struggle with the side by side synchronization. I thought it was really clear that neither of them was comfortable in this style, but that they were committed to it and working hard to master what they could. Of course, that's an issue because I prefer not to see how hard the dancers are working. I thought Carlos was decent as a partner. I liked the way Mariah adapted to the choreography and the 1960s flavor of the piece. I liked the overall presentation. It was entertaining. I'm not sure how much potential these two have as a partnership though.
Jasmine Mason, a 19 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with Alan Bersten, a 19 year old Ballroom dancer, for Contemporary choreographed by Travis Wall. Oh my. Travis has blindfolded them for this piece. I love the concept. You really have to trust your partner as well as your choreography. I expected Alan to be an excellent partner, and he was. Jasmine is stunning. I loved the piece and I loved the way they performed it. There were no breaks, no stumbles, no lost timing. The transitions were seamless. I was very impressed by the way they managed to connect with each other despite not being able to see. I felt the emotion in the routine, mainly coming from Jasmine. I think she is the strength of this pair, although they do have potential together. I loved the fluidity and detail within the story they told together. Nicely done.
Malece Miller, a 19 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with Jade Zuberi, a 21 year old Animator, for Jazz choreographed by Travis Wall. I like the contrast of sharp movement on the beat with more sensual movement in between the beats. I think this style suited both dancers pretty well. Jade relied on his tremendous body control as an Animator to crisply define details, while Malece softened the edges with her style. I thought they handled the story in the piece very well. One of the criticisms about Malece is that she can come across as an immature dancer. I saw plenty of maturity in her dancing in this routine, proving that she can take notes on board and make immediate improvements. As for Jade, I'm impressed with his ability to partner, particularly for an untrained dancer. This is an interesting partnership. I think the individual talents of each are greater than the partnership though. It'll be interesting to see how they blend.
Jenna Johnson, an 18 year old Ballroom dancer, is paired with Tucker Knox, a 22 year old Contemporary dancer, for Broadway choreographed by Tyce Diorio. Tucker has amazing extension and expression. He kept pulling my focus from the pair with the way he presented his character. He had wonderful Broadway flare. He buried himself in the style, the time period of the piece, and the story. At the beginning of the routine, Jenna kind of disappeared for me. But then suddenly she blossomed and centered my focus on the whole routine. To me, that demonstrates generosity and understanding of how 90 seconds can show off the strengths of first one and then the other dancer, and then the pair in partnership. I thought the choreography suited them both. I thought it was full of fluff and fun, but also tremendous skill and control. They embraced how playful the piece was, and put their own interpretation little details that round out a performance. And they had chemistry. This could be a power couple.
Brittany Cherry, a 19 year old Ballroom dancer, is paired with Dorian "BluPrint" Hector, a 19 year old Animator, for Afro Jazz choreographed by Sean Cheesman. This is a style that should not be sharp. The movements need to be clean, but they also need to flow and feel natural. It's all about rhythms. I love how BluPrint embraced the style. Everything he does in choreographed pieces is going to be totally new to him, and he's off to a great start. I was so impressed with his leaps from a standing start. One criticism for him has been a lack of expression...not in this piece. He was immersed in the entire experience. Brittany was amazing. I like the connection between the two of them. She completely trusted that he was going to be there for her, despite his inexperience. And she was fearless. Ballroom paired with Animation...if these two can maintain the focus and momentum to take on choreography this well, this is pair with the potential to translate that into votes and stick around. Well done.
Alexis Juliano, an 18 year old Tap dancer, is paired with Nico Greetham, an 18 year old Contemporary dancer, for Hip Hop choreographed by Christopher Scott. So this routine is supposed to be both goofy and cool. I like Christopher Scott's routines. He has a basic concept or theme that he requires of the dancers, but then he also brings elements of their individual styles to the table as well, which allows the dancers to personalize. I think technically they both struggled with the Hip Hop flavor...they didn't dance down into the floor and they weren't able to relax from the precision of their own styles. I think they got the goofy part, but not the cool part. I think what they did was entertain through those struggles with the Hip Hop flavor, but if I were giving this a score out of 10 on pure Hip Hop, I'd have to go about 4. The strength of the performance was their connection with each other and the side by side synchronization, which did capitalize on the precision and training they both have in spades. That part gets about a 7 out of 10. I like this pair, and I like each of them individually. We'll see if they've done enough so far to grab a fan base and stick around. I suspect that they could be dancing solos next week, just based on this presentation.
Makenzie Dustman, an 18 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with Paul Kamiryan, a 21 year old Latin Ballroom dancer, for Viennese Waltz choreographed by Jason Gilkison. Now Paul is a Ballroom dancer, but not a 10 dance competitor. He is trained in the Latin styles, so his only real advantage here is that he should be a strong partner. To stand out with this piece, they have to make it beautiful. And they did. They connected well together. Paul has a natural elegance and grace that suits the piece. Makenzie was beautiful. They made each movement fluid, smooth, and romantic. The performance had a fairy tale quality, which is what I love about this style of Waltz. I thought they mastered the technique, the story, and the full flavor of the choreography. I don't know how well Paul will adapt in other styles, but this first performance with Makenzie was outstanding. I think she might be the stronger of the two and carry the partnership.
Jasmine Harper, a 19 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with Aaron Turner, a 25 year old Tap dancer, for Jazz choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. Sonya calls the movement in this piece "swampy". I have no idea what that means. After watching the piece, I'm still not sure I understand what swampy movement is. I can report that it was a strong piece made for powerful dancers. It fit both Aaron's and Jasmine's style. I love the quality of Jasmine's movement...her extensions and her lines are amazing. I really liked Aaron's confidence. He wasn't in the original Top 20...he replaced a dancer who had to withdraw, and he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands and his entire soul. He taps, but he's clearly got training in other styles. This is definitely one of the better performances of the night. I liked the pair of them. I think the challenge for them could come in softer styles, but I also think they are both versatile enough to adapt.
Hayley Erbert, an 18 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with Curtis Holland, a 19 year old Tap dancer, for Hip Hop choreographed by Christopher Scott. I'm not sure if I liked that or not. The parts that were supposed to be sexy felt a little uncomfortable to me. I don't think the dancers were uncomfortable...rather the discomfort was mine. I just found that part of the choreography a bit unsettling. I don't know why. However, I loved the parts where they danced side by side. That had swag and attitude. Hip Hop is all about confidence...they had it. That's what Alexis and Nico were missing in their piece. Curtis is another Tap dancer who, like Aaron, has a lot more to offer in this competition. Hayley catches me by surprise...maybe that's what I found disconcerting in the first part of the routine. It wasn't what I expected from either of them.
Amy Yakima, a 19 year old Contemporary dancer, is paired with Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall, an 18 year old Hip Hop dancer, for Contemporary choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. The story is that she has problems and he is the personification of the problems, forcing her to deal with those problems. I expected her to be brilliant...she was. But he was brilliant times 10. I was impressed by his strength, precision, and emotion. Their timing together was incredible. Remember, he is a completely untrained street dancer...but you couldn't tell from his work in that piece. And Amy trusted him to be there at every moment. They matched each other in intensity, commitment, and control. I loved the way they look together. The shapes and extensions were just stunning. This piece gets my vote for dance of the night...you'll see a clip tomorrow for encores.
We didn't vote. I can report that our favorites so far are Jasmine M, Tucker, Jasmine H, Aaron, Curtis, Amy, and Fik-Shun. I don't think any of them are in danger of going out after the first week.
Now I'll give you some encores tomorrow, but there won't be a results recap because this season is the same as last season with results announced during the following week's performance show. I don't like that, but nobody asked me.
So here's the drill...check back here tomorrow for encores, and tune in next week for results and our Top 18.