So You Think You Can Dance: Sweet 16
Full disclosure: I love Kristen Chenoweth. She can say what she wants, do what she wants; she can even put out a freaking country album (seriously, that's actually happening) and I will still love her, because Kristen Chenoweth can do no wrong.
So I was freaking out a little when I found out she was a guest judge on SYTYCD's mega-panel, which also featured the understated craziness of Lil C (something tells me he doesn't really need those glasses) along with regulars Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy. Sure, there was some dancing last night, but the judges stole the show; I think Mary is slowly unraveling and Nigel is having to pick up the pieces. Cheno was just so happy to be there and Lil C told us he was bringing his "elocution" to rapping. Please, please let his first record be calledHip hop souffle.
The 16 dancers were split into two groups, and the first routine of the night was a Broadway jazz number that had the women dominating the men; in rehearsals we find out the chairs represent bowling balls and the men are pins that get knocked over. Sounds a little zany until the performance, when we find out that little glow-in-the-dark spots are und the seats of the chairs, making them look like bowling balls. Cute.
Alexander and Sasha are the first couple to perform, and they do a stunning Dee Caspary routine centered around a piano. Sasha pops out of the piano, representing the memory of a lost love of Alexander's. I know what you're thinking: That's effing ridiculous. But their dancing is so controlled and beautiful that you don't really care. Only at the end, when Sasha goes back into the piano and her hands come out over the keyboard does it start to look kind of weird.
Nigel says Sasha, who's first dancing role was as a frog when she was a kid, has turned into a beautiful princess of dance. He says Alex is a great performer but needs to work on his emotional connection with the audience. Mary says she actually liked the hands coming out of the keyboard and praises Sasha's power and stage presence. Cheno reveals that her first role was a tulip and a frog peed on her. Okaaaaaay. And Lil C made up a word, but I think his reaction was positive.
Mitchell and Caitlynn team up with Jean-Marc Genereux's French Canadian insanity for a samba and slay it. They nail the intricate leg and mid-section work with style and power and look like they're having a blast while they do it (even though Mitchell is dressed like Fes from That '70s Show.
Mary calls it spectacular, Cheno says to shut the front, back and garage doors, Lil C says to turn down the volume on the bass of dance while Nigel calls Mitchell the Chris Rock of dance and praises Caitlynn's articulation. I only understood one of those comments.
Miranda and Robert's swing routine is kind of a let-down after the previous performances, but it's hard to tell if it's the dancers themselves or the choreography. Minus a few lifts, it didn't seem like there was a lot to it (realizing, of course, I'll never be able to dance like that), and Robert looked kind of bored. Still, Cheno says they killed it (and she does no wrong), Lil C says they leave him in awe every time, Nigel says Caitlynn's the most changed dancer and Robert's learned a lot, and Mary also comments on Caitlynn's transformation.
Marko and Melanie, are the couple to beat in the competition, and they perform a Nappy-Tabs hip hop/modern routine about a guy left at the alter and the girl who saves him. It's sweet, emotional, and the two move perfectly in sync. Lil C calls them limited edition Swiss Army Knives for their versatility, Nigel says he can't judge them individually because they work so well together, Mary praises Marko's emotional expressions and Melanie's nuanced performance.
And then the panel got a little crazy. When Mary asks the couple how hard it is to kiss each other, Nigel leans over to kiss Mary. Then Cheno, in the middle of giving her comments, leans over to kiss Lil C. Then Nigel kisses Lil C. Awesome.
Then we've got Ashley and Chris, who work on a Sonya Tayeh jazz routine. Sonya Tayeh is known for being abstract, but some of us just kind of call her crazy. Her routines are always creative and always tell a story though. When she says this piece is inspired by Beetlejuice, I think "YES!" The finished product, though, is a little underwhelming. With Chris and Ashley's jerky, lurching movements and tattered zombie clothes, it comes off as an updated, inferior "Thriller." I just keep waiting for something to happen, which might be because of the minimalist music.
Nigel says he thinks the music was the wrong choice (SEE?) and there wasn't enough character development. Mary praises the clean, sharp dancing and says Ashley's good at everything and Chris has come a long way. Cheno says the dance wasn't her thing but praised the dancers' skill and says Ashley's one of her favorites. Lil C calls her the sleeper cell of the competition.
Jess and Clarice are in their element with a jazzy foxtrot choreographed by Genereux. It's sophisticated, fluid and classy. Mary says they nailed it, Cheno says it's her favorite of the night, Lil C praises Jess' performance and Nigel loves Clarice's dress.
Ryan and Ricky are up next with a kind of meh Tayeh routine. Ricky comes off as the better dancer; Ryan's extensions somehow seem awkward and weak. Lil C calls them a power couple, and Cheno tells Ricky she'd give anything for his turnout.
Jordan and Tadd are the final couple to perform. They team up with Nappy-Tabbs for a routine that begins with them crawling out of a bed in what is presumably a frat house room that's littered with empty Dixie cups. Really? They do what they can with it, but I'm not sold on the story. Cheno, once again, tells everyone to shut all the doors.
The episode closes with the second group performance, a contemporary number in which the women of a medieval village (actually, Dee Caspary, their costumes are late 17th century at the very latest) poison the men. It's beautiful without being creepy or weird, and it's probably one of my favorite routines of the night.
Tonight: Two more dancers go home.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events