The 33 dancers who made it through Vegas Week were put through the equally nerve-wracking reveal of the Top Twenty. The night opened with host Cat Deeley introducing judges Nigel Lithgoe, Mary Murphy and Adam Shankman.
First to get the good news/bad news were the hip hop dancers. Fik-Shun, Emilio and Mariah were given the good news that they would be sticking around for another week. Unfortunately, Emilio was forced to withdraw shortly after due to injury. The first performance of the night was a Luther Brown piece which Mariah made look like a stroll in the park and Fik-Shun smiled charmingly throughout. The audience was on their feet with approval (spoiler: every performance of the night was greeted this way). Nigel was glad to have a strong hip hop girl and encouraged Fik-Shun to be stronger technique-wise when paired with a person of Mariah’s strength. Mary encouraged him to believe in himself and told Mariah she dominated the routine. Adam Fik-Shun has a lot of charm… Mariah was “killing it.”
Four contemporary dancers were pushed on to the Top Twenty: Makenzie, Jasmine, Nico and Tucker. They took the stage in a stark contemporary piece by Stacey Tookey to Sleeping At Last’s “Goes On and On.” There was plenty of shapes, lifts and sharing of weight with the unison and canon movements being the most powerful. Overall, it was a good introduction to the group-though better work is likely to come-and overwhelmed Tucker to tears. Mary found the performance “seamless” and “gorgeous.” Adam advised that Jasmine clarify her movement, Nico open his back and Tucker let himself go a little more.
For the tappers, Alexis and Curtis were asked to stay while Aaron was initially sent home. Due to Emilio’s injury, however, he was called back to join in Anthony Morigerato’s piece to “You Really Did It” by Jason Mraz. It was one of the most fun tap routines that SYTYCD has featured. Alexis and Aaron seemed to have the most stage presence although the unison and musicality of all three was beyond exemplary. Adam hailed them a “brilliant trio.” Nigel said they looked as though they had been dancing together for a long time. An effusive Mary called them “sensational.”
Both animators Jade and Blueprint were chosen and performed a Christopher Scott number to “Trigger” by Kezwick feat. Mel Preston. In the piece the pair stood among mannequins and were two that came alive. Despite the obvious height difference they danced incredibly well together and-as usual-animation is a great show which often defies words. Nigel said he felt validated in their decision to keep the two dancers by the audience’s reaction and is happy to have them on the show. Mary said-in a robot voice no less-that they were from another world and that they were thrilling to watch. Adam told them he was humbled and grateful to be a part of the show as a result of their performance.
Three more contemporary dancers for the Top Twenty were revealed: Carlos, Haley and Malece. They were treated to Mia Michaels choreography to Rihanna’s “Stay.” The piece was what looked like a 50’s stylized, love triangle dance with plush chairs. Carlos was a competent partner and the girls were great technicians. There was a really unforgettable moment where the girls flipped onto their chairs which seemed to make the piece. However, it was lacking in the emotion department despite the girls’ raccoon eyes. Mary said Haley was gorgeous but Carlos had more work ahead of him. Adam found the piece technically sound but wanted something deeper to “sell” the audience. Nigel encouraged Malece to work to mature and push herself.
And what would SYTYCD be without some ballroom dancers? Brittany, Jenna, Paul and Alan made it into the Top Twenty and Louie VanAmstel’s choreography. The movements were sharp and dynamic for all four dancers although the girls really dominated the stage. Paul and Alan did have an impressive tour where they both defied gravity. Adam called them a formidable group. Nigel suggested that the guys work to be a little stronger while praising the girls. Mary said the girls were “on fire.”
Two jazz dancers-Amy and Jasmine M.-made it to the Top Twenty. They danced Sonya Tayeh’s jazz choreography to “Enjoy” by Bjork. The costumes gave a hint of Brünnehilde from the opera Der Walkure and the powerful movement solidified that mental picture of warrior women. Aside from an awkward developpe a la seconde-which admittedly may have been the choreography, not the dancer-Amy seemed to have the better muscle control. Both girls had impressive articulation of their shoulders in a “sumo wrestler” moment. Nigel hailed Amy as “great” and Jasmine as “incredible” noting that is true even if Jasmine is not the best technician at this point. Mary said it was her favorite piece so far. Adam found Amy “magnificent” (living up to her nickname as “The Truth”) and is buying into what Jasmine is “selling.”
The top ten guys performed a Christopher Scott piece which required playing with sand. The premise of the dance was very clever-although one could not help but feel sorry for the stage crew-as they manipulated the sand. There was a lot of pouring the sand from hand to hand, or to the floor with some great articulation of the fingers. Each dancer got to do his “thing” and the piece ended with a wonderful instant of stillness and a handful of sand tossed in the air. Nigel’s response summed it up perfectly: “No wonder these choreographers pick up Emmys.”
Ray Leeper choreographed a piece of the top ten gals to “Let’s Have a Kiki” by Fanny Pak and District 78. The music tended to be a little on the obnoxious as the gals-decked out like futuristic Go-Go dancers-performed this competition style jazz choreography. Adam said the performance was “great fun” and Mary praised the girls as being strong. Nigel, however, seemed unimpressed (much like your Examiner). The sand dance was a dreadfully hard act to follow.
The final performance of the evening was Sonya Tayeh’s piece for the Top Twenty dancers. The track was “Ghost of Sky” by Steed Lord though the dance itself evoked images of a pagan ritual like The Rite of Spring. Some dancers could have been sharper but the big picture was a pleasing spectacle and a high point for the end of the show.
Albuquerque viewers can see SYTYCD on Fox Tuesdays at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. EST).