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TV Review: So You Think You Can Dance

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Wow! And wow! Nigel cried, Mary cried, Mia cried, and Ellen said it was the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen and will remember it always. What a night for So You Think You Can Dance!

We are down to the final weeks of the competition and at this point, I will be sorry to see any of the final eight dancers go. Tonight’s was a very special episode, with guest judge Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen brought her own inimitable style to the show, with her quirky encouragement for all of the dancers. I loved the way she would say after each of the performances, “I can do that.” She was great.

After a glow-in-the-dark, neon performance of a contemporary piece choreographed by Travis Wall, the competition got off to a slow start. First up were Evan and Jeanette doing an unusual “shut-up” dance choreographed by Sonya Teyah. While it was danced well by the couple, I wonder if America will be able to embrace this particular style of choreography.

Next up: Brandon and Jeanine, doing a very slow waltz. I had to agree with the judges on this one – the waltz was almost too slow and seemed to drag. The difficulty for the dancers was to control their steps and show lines to match the beauty of the choreography, but for the first time in the competition I was disappointed in these two dancers.

Melissa and Ade were paired up again, for a cha cha that did not match the heat and sensuality of the rumba they did earlier in the season. For the first time in this competition, it seemed that Melissa’s ballet training interfered with her ballroom technique, and Ade seemed to lack the earthiness needed to pull off the sexy dance.

Last up in this first round of couples’ dances were Jason and Kayla. This is where the show finally started to take off for me. They danced to the song “Mr. Monotony” from Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, which is one of my favorite numbers. In the stage show, the song was accompanied by a very sexy ballet. Tonight’s performance, choreographed by Tyce Diorio, was full of the jazzy feel and sexy style of the original choreography. Like Mia Michaels, I wondered if Kayla could also sing and act. Should she decide to perform on Broadway, Kayla would be a powerful force to be reckoned with. She could command any stage with her legs, her lines, her grace, and her talent. Jason was a wonderful match for her in this number. He has grown so much in this competition and is a joy to watch.

The energy of the dancers seemed to pick up in the second half of the show. Evan and Janette did a sexy rumba, with Janette stealing the dance once again with her Latin style. Evan held his own of course, and I felt bad that he had to endure an unfair and undeserved critique by Nigel over his eyes. I like Evan’s style, and would rather see him be himself on stage, than try to look like all the other dancers. He is unique.

Jeanette and Brandon danced next, to the song “Battlefield” by American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. The danced was choreographed by Laurie Ann Gibson, and was a hard-hitting, powerful number that the dancers nailed. The audience loved the dance and Nigel thanked the choreographer and the dancers for bringing the show up to the level that should be expected at this point in the competition. Mia called Brandon a powerhouse – such a change from her initial reaction to the dancer during the audition process. In this dance, I thought Jeanette gave her best performance of the evening.

Melissa and Ade brought the show-stopping number of the night to life. They danced a contemporary piece that was brilliantly choreographed by Tyce Dioro. In the dance, Melissa was to portray a woman who is fighting breast cancer. The song was “A Woman’s Work” by Maxwell, and it was probably the most moving and important number ever performed on the show.

In the rehearsal film, Melissa said the dance couldn’t be judged on the technical ability of the dancers, but by their ability to stay in character and portray the meaning that was inherent in the choreography. She and Ade not only brought their characters to life, but they danced brilliantly and fearlessly, bringing everyone to tears. All of the judges were crying; Nigel was nearly speechless and struggled in describing the beauty of a dance that could show such human emotion wordlessly. Mary ruined her makeup, Mia was sobbing, and everyone who watched (including me) had tears in their eyes. As Ellen said, it was truly an honor to behold such a moving and significant dance. As the show cut to commercial break, Melissa’s husband was shown in the audience holding a sign with a pink ribbon.

I think everyone was grateful for the commercial break because it provided the opportunity for everyone to regain their composure. I almost felt sorry for Kayla and Jason, wondering how they could top that last number. Luckily, their hip hop routine was choreographed by Shane Sparks. Jason portrayed a zombie, who makes Kayla his zombie mistress. They danced it well, which was a relief to Nigel, who, until their performance, had been disappointed in the hip hop routines danced this season. I’m sure that Shane was happier with their dance than he was with his earlier choreographed numbers this year which seemed to garner sharp criticism for the dancers. Tonight’s routine was entertaining, beautifully choreographed, and precisely executed, and it provided just the right amount of whimsy to end the show on a positive note.

Tomorrow night is the 100th episode of So You Think You Can Dance. It promises to be an amazing event with performances of some of the top dances created for the show, appearances by former dancers, and a special Judy Garland tribute choreographed by Tyce Diorio and danced by Katie Holmes. Tune in Thursday night at 9:00 for the live results where two more dancers will be eliminated and the top six dancers will be revealed.

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About CindyC

Cindy is a Connecticut writer and member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. She has had many changes in her life, but one thing has always remained the same: her life-long love of theater.