So You Think You Can Dance Canada: Leaps, bounds, swag and twists
Monday's episode of So You Think You Can Dance Canada could have been renamed So You Think You Can Dance Really Fast Canada.
From Matt and Denitsa's contemporary routine to Carlena and Kevin's hip hop to Lindsay and Shane's disco to Adam and Geisha's jazz to Yuliya and Francois's mambo to Shelaina and J.P.'s Bollywood, fast seemed to be the watchword of the night.
But wait, are you scratching your head and saying, “Huh? Those aren't the same couples as last week.” You're correct. Everybody picked new partners for this go-round. Whether it was just to keep the dancers on their toes (literally and figuratively) or to help keep certain couples from return trips to the bottom three, I don't know. But I can tell you some of those new pairings turned out to be inspired. And some dancers who were in danger last week upped their games this week.
The night also brought us a Season 1 reunion of sorts: Natalli Reznik and Francis Lafreniere, both Season 1 standouts in my books, were back to choreograph a hot paso doble for “it” couple Jordan Clark and Christian Millette. And Season 1 winner, the wonderful Nico Archambault, was back as a guest judge. (Plus Season 2 winner Tara-Jean Popowich was in the audience, as were Season 2 finalist Jayme Rae Dailey, Season 1 finalist Alli Bertram and Season 3 Top 10 dancer Jonathan Arsenault.)
Nico did well for his first time on the live show, mixing useful advice for the dancers in with his praise. I hope he's invited back for future episodes, both as a judge and a choreographer.
Joining Nico, and regulars Jean-Marc Genereux, Tre Armstrong and Luther Brown was Mary Murphy from the U.S. SYTYCD, who says she tweets about our Canadian dancers every chance she gets, asking Americans to watch the show on the web.
But now it's time to talk about Monday's performances. As usual, I've ranked them from my most to least favourite. And as always, I remind you that these rankings are totally subjective. Obviously, my favourites are not necessarily your favourites:
Melissa Mitro and Joey Arrigo: These two stake their claim on top four status week after week, no matter who they dance with. Of course, it helps that they drew a routine in their genre, contemporary, created by respected choreographer Mandy Moore, but they always bring an extra something to everything they dance. Mandy wanted the piece to be “flowy and air-like.... You're don't want to start looking like a turd being pulled through space.” Nope, no turds on that stage. Melissa and Joey danced it beautifully and with an emotion that felt visceral. The routine had great flow and fantastic lines, and the tough lifts looked effortless. It brought all five judges to their feet. “Easily my favourite number of the night by far,” said Mary. “You know how Mandy built this routine and just kind of custom made it for the two of you, with all of your talents, all the technique that the two of you possess, all the lifts, all the turns, both of your footwork, both of your legs. It's just a pleasure to sit up here and witness such great dancing. Joey, I see you going all the way. And right now, Melissa, I feel the same about you. I see you going all the way, too. I think you're underestimated in this competition and you are my favourite female dancer tonight. That was spectacular."
Lindsay Leuschner and Shane Simpson: I'm giving my second spot to Lindsay and Shane's disco routine instead of Jordan and Christian's more dramatic paso doble because I love the way Lindsay and Shane inhabited this style. Seriously, this routine, choreographed by Melissa Williams, should be distributed to every dancer on every SYTYCD stage who pulls disco out of the hat for a lesson on how it's done. “This was my favourite disco,” said Nico. “It was better than any disco I've seen, it was better than the disco Natalli and I have done (in Season 1). That was amazing, because that felt like genuine disco. It felt like you guys were there for real. Lindsay, you're smooth, you're pretty, you have a really, really amazing calm strength about you that is a great pleasure to watch.... Shane, everything just seems so easy for you.... You are my favourite male dancer on the show.” Jean-Marc said it was the best disco he'd seen on any SYTYCD worldwide and put Shane and Lindsay on his VIDD list: very insane disco dancers.
Jordan Clark and Christian Millette: Never fear, Jordan and Christian fans, they're still at the top of the heap. Jordan joined Christian on Mary's Hot Tamale Train after this paso doble, choreographed by alumni Natalli Reznik and Francis Lafreniere, and had Mary, Tre and Jean-Marc on their feet. The highlights included Christian dragging Jordan across the stage on a long piece of fabric at the beginning and Jordan jumping backwards over Christian's head and onto his back at the end, but there was lots of sharp and very intense, passionate dancing in between. “Canada rocks, Canada absolutely rocks,” said Tre. “You guys are phenomenal ... you guys performed the beep out of it. I will say, Miss Jordan, you are now Miss Phoenix Rising, you performed the hell out of that.... And Christian, you are all man in all ways all day, baby. I'm eating you up.”
Shelaina Anderson and JP Dube: JP ended up in bottom three last week, so he needed to make an impression on Monday's show. Boy, did he! He and Shelaina were both excellent in this lightning-quick Bollywood routine, choreographed by Longinus Fernandes of Slumdog Millionaire fame. Sure, Shelaina's dress got caught and interfered with the head spin that was a centrepiece of the routine, but whatever. Everything else was sharp and joyful and really well synchronized. Jean-Marc said it was JP's best routine on the show so far and I agree. “This routine has so much detail and you need to concentrate because you miss one beat and it's gone," Jean-Marc said. "The synchronization was absolutely phenomenal and I really think that, Shelaina, I've never seen you so beautiful. You were glorious out there and you enjoyed every single moment of it ... you were a princess of all palaces. It was amazing. And you JP, you went from ... the hood to the Bollywood and I love you.”
Carlena Britch and Kevin Howe: Welcome back, Kevin. Last week was a bit rough, what with Kevin faltering in the Viennese waltz and having Tre tell him he wasn't becoming a memorable competitor. But Kevin vowed he would prove himself, which he did in this hip-hop piece choreographed by Sho-Tyme. It was very fast, very sharp and bursting with swag and, to my admittedly non-expert eyes, Kevin was in the pocket with Carlena almost all the way through. The judges' reviews were positive, although they said Kevin needed to be a little tighter and, according to Luther, put some more resistance in certain steps. And Carlena got raves from everyone. “We had a moment last week, right?" Tre told Kevin. "I wanna say that I'm glad we had the moment because you did prove to yourself, to me and Canada why you should stay here.... Carlena, this is your style, so you definitely rocked it. You rocked that amazingly: you were very, very precise and sharp.” Added Jean-Marc: “It's the third week, Season 4, we want to see and we want to taste the blood and that was bloody out there. I loved it.”
Yuliya Zavadska and Francois Pruneau: Sure, ballroom dancers Yuliya and Francois lucked out by pulling a mambo out of the hat, choreographed by Gustavo Vargas, but you've got to give them credit for mastering the very fast steps and making it all entertaining and sexy. And I think Tre and Luther are right: Francois has crazy swagger. There was just one small flub at the end with a shaky lift. Mary joked about Yuliya's barely there costume, “We've got to talk to wardrobe. This poor girl didn't get a full outfit,” but Luther was more of a mind to praise the wardrobe department. And, oh yeah, the judges liked the dancing, too. “Francois, I think you are probably the swaggiest ballroom dancer ever seen on this stage,” Luther said. “The thing about it is you're like a show-off and I don't normally like show-offs, but you are the show-off that I like.... And Yuliya, you know, this is your situation and you definitely smashed.”
Matt Marr and Denitsa Ikonomova: Alright, you East Coast types, I know you're out there and I know you'll keep Matt safe again this week. On Monday's episode, he got to show off his contemporary chops in this routine choreographed by Sabrina Matthews, about a man who lets his lover down, while ballroom dancer Denitsa had to play catch-up in the style. Denitsa's a tenacious little thing and acquitted herself well, although I didn't love her performance quite as much as the judges did. I felt her movements could have been bigger, although she certainly had the emotion down. The routine had some great lifts, too, and Matt was really strong technically. “This is why I love Denitsa," said Luther, "'cause I represent the hip-hop portion and I know how difficult it is when you've been given something that's not your genre and you have to go for it. And you go 100 per cent every single time.” Tre commended Matt, telling him “to me, your technique, Matt, really held up the performance and you're even more genuine with your emotion this week. You are growing from a boy to a man.”
Boneless Gulston and Teya Wild: I'm a big fan of Boneless, I'm a fan of choreographer (and occasional SYTYCD U.S. judge) Lil' C and I love to see styles like krump on the show, so I wish I could say that I loved this routine. However, I found it lacking fierceness and occasionally out of synch. The judges' consensus seemed to be that Teya hit harder than Boneless, but Luther was still impressed with him and Mary complimented his abs. “I know you and I know where you came from," Luther told him, "and when it comes to choreography and picking up steps and just doing your thing, and I am so, so, so impressed ... freestyle dancers don't normally do routines, so I'm just proud of you for getting them steps. Yes, could you be a little harder with it? Because, for krump, you've got to be able to dance in between those lines and bring a certain energy, but I'm proud of you, you did your thing. Teya, you did your thing as well ... props to you because you do bring performance, but challenge yourself, don't just be comfortable and dance how you normally dance ... you need to get buck.”
Adam LoPapa and Geisha Chin: The judges often talk about living dance rather than just doing the steps, and how dance can have shades and levels. Unfortunately, for me, this routine was a little monochromatic, despite the eye-popping costumes that Adam and Geisha wore. (Yes, the blacklight part was fun, but otherwise, I really disliked the costumes.) Adam seemed to me not 100 per cent committed to this jazz routine, choreographed by Blake McGrath, although his technique was good, particularly that tough lift. “Blake gave you guys a lot of steps, you guys were dancing your butts off, but what you can't do is just allow the steps to dance you," Luther said. "You got to take them steps and take it to another planet.” Nico praised Geisha for getting into her anime-style character, whose world Adam's character was supposed to be mesmerized by, but “Adam, I felt that a little bit less from you. It's not that your performance was not good; it's just it was Adam dancing Blake's routine rather than really, really embracing the character." Still, "I don't know if people realize how hard it is having to cover so much ground on that stage while making sure that you're not sacrificing the steps and the sharpness, and that you're there for your partner and that you do your tricks on time, and that you give the performance, so I gotta give you props for that,” Nico added.
So what did you think? Which routines did you love? We'll find out how things sat with the voters Tuesday at 8 on CTV. And we have been promised "the most unusual opening number on any So You Think You Can Dance world stage," choreographed by Sergio Trujillo of Jersey Boys fame. I'm sure you'll want to see that.
(The photos of Nico, Melissa and Joey are courtesy of CTV.)