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The prelims are over. The Top 20 has been chosen, and for the first time, they were all subject to America’s vote. Ten guys paired up with ten girls, and from what Cat said, these pairings will be permanent until we reach Top 10. If a guy and a girl from different duos ends up going home, then their partners will hook up next week, but otherwise, these will be the pairings for the next month.
The three judges presiding over the opening week were regulars Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and, in a bit of a surprise twist, actress Megan Mullaly, who most people know as Karen from Will & Grace. What you might NOT have known was that she studied ballet from the age of six, and attended the School of American Ballet in New York. She also had a role in the 2009 musical Fame, which I did not see, but I know for a fact included many past contestants of SYTYCD as dancers.
Vegas Week gave us some taste of how the contestants are able to adapt to other styles, but in many cases, we didn’t get to see much of that. Now that I get to witness it first hand, I expect that my initial rankings may change quite a bit. Plus, Week One is an excellent thermometer for who the viewers like, such that any couple that finds themselves in the Bottom Three early on have an uphill climb just to survive.
As it turned out, the Bottom Three consisted of Jordan/Tadd (Boo! Hiss!), Clarice/Jess (not surprising, she was just okay and he’s just not that likeable), Miranda/Robert (easily the worst of the night), and Mitchell (who was automatically put there because he was resting an injured elbow on doctor’s orders, despite the fact that his intended partner, Caitlynn, made it through on her own).
However, my immense fear that the wrong couple would be booted was quashed at the end of the show, when the judges revealed that no one would be going home this week. This is good news, because it means that Jordan/Tadd will have a chance to avoid the same fate next week, and Mitchell will get a chance to set foot on the stage and be judged. But this means that four people, two guys and two girls, will be cut next week, which is pretty darn brutal.
After one week of competition, here are my rankings:
1. Melanie Moore partnered with Marko Germar, doing a contemporary routine choreographed by Travis Wall. And what a routine this was… they played Greek marble statues who come to life and use dance to express their love. This was my favorite routine of the night, starting off softly before exploding into a cascade of rhythmic movement at the end. Melanie is so brilliant and fluid, and I just love her. Mary was actually moved to tears, and Nigel called Melanie “possibly the greatest girl dancer ever to be on the show”. Yikes. How could I not make her #1 after that comment?
2. Jordan Casanova partnered with Tadd Gadduang, doing an African Jazz routine choreographed by Sean Cheesman. My favorite girl paired up with my favorite guy on Week One? Love it! Plus, it was her 19th birthday on Wednesday. With all that positive mojo, could she still be brilliant? Absolutely. She ROCKED it, and the judges adored her. Sadly, being the first couple out of the gate can often lead to fewer votes by the time the show ends, and this week, she wound up in the Bottom Three. However, I have the greatest confidence in her, and I’m hoping her brilliance will keep her safe next week, when presumably they’ll be placed later in the rotation.
3. Tadd Gadduang partnered with Jordan Casanova, doing an African Jazz routine choreographed by Sean Cheesman. The number was very primal, with lots of writhing around in skimpy (yet colorful) costumes. I pegged Tadd as the guy most likely to pick up other styles the most easily, and so far, he’s 1-for-1. He’s terrific, and the judges agree with me. I can only hope that his and Jordan’s trip to the Bottom Three was jut an aberration, and will be their last one for a while.
4. Sasha Mallory partnered with Alexander Fost, doing a contemporary routine choreographed by Travis Wall. Contemporary dances tend to be the most expressive, the most metaphorical, and Wall has become a monster in the field over the past couple of seasons. Sasha is the spiky-haired Serena Williams of this genre, and she totally kicked butt. Alexander’s lucky to have her as a partner.
5. Marko Germar partnered with Melanie Moore, doing a contemporary routine choreographed by Travis Wall. Granted, anyone dancing with Melanie would also look great, but Marko held his own. They had terrific chemistry together, and Marko was nearly as brilliant as Melanie. Nigel even said that this routine might be the first of several this season to garner an Emmy nomination, despite one tiny stumble Marko made. Wow. Pencil this duo into the Top Ten right now.
6. Ashley Rich partnered with Chris Koehl, doing a hip-hop routine choreographed by Christopher Scott. In this routine, they played exes who broke up after mutually cheating on the other. I expected more anger and less playfulness in the routine, but it was set to Cee-Lo’s “Forget You”, so the reverse ended up being true. Ballerina Ashley had some moves, but this wasn’t the routine to truly showcase them. I hope that changes in the future.
7. Wadi Jones partnered with Missy Morelli, doing a jazz routine choreographed by Sean Cheesman. I was very impressed with Jamaican-born Wadi in this routine, which allowed him to display his natural athleticism. Nigel praised his ability to pick up other styles, and he and Missy played off each other very nicely.
DANCERS WITH A GOOD SHOT AT TOP TEN
8. Iveta Lukosiute partnered with Nick Young, doing a quickstep choreographed by Jason Gilkison. One of the more interesting pairings, a ballroom star with a tapper. Iveta was fortunate to get one of the many dances that she excels at (and one she’s being doing for nearly a quarter century). Of course, on SYTYCD, quick step is often called the “dance of death”, but if anyone was bound to avoid that pitfall, it was Iveta.
9. Ricky Jaime partnered with Ryan Ramirez, doing a lyrical hip-hop routine choreographed by Christopher Scott. Ricky and Ryan are a great match, and I was actually more impressed by him than Ryan, probably because the more difficult individual parts of the routine were performed by him. Ricky could very easily find himself inching up this ladder.
10. Ryan Ramirez partnered with Ricky Jaime, doing a lyrical hip-hop routine choreographed by Christopher Scott. I didn’t know what distinguishes hip-hop from “lyrical”, but I learned that it tends to be more fluid, and the music it’s danced to tends to be more down-tempo. Case in point: this number was danced to “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Ryan did fine here, and she displayed tremendous chemistry with Ricky, and the judges loved her, so I’m sure she’ll be around a little while.
11. Caitlynn Lawson partnered with Mitchell Kelly, but because of his injury was forced to perform her first routine, a jazz number choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, with Season Seven contestant Robert Roldan. This was right in Caitlynn’s wheelhouse, and was brilliant, but it’s hard to know just how well-rounded she is in other areas until she does them. But based solely on the judges’ comments, I have to wonder if Caitlynn is a better pick for Top 10 than Clarice is. If Mitchell proves to be a worthy partner, it may just happen.
12. Missy Morelli partnered with Wadi Jones, doing a jazz routine choreographed by Sean Cheesman. This routine, which featured Missy and Wadi playing demonized versions of themselves let “out of Pandora’s box”, was pretty darn cool. Missy may be a force to be reckoned with, but I’m not yet convinced that she’s Top 10 material.
13. Clarice Ordaz partnered with Jess LeProtto, doing a Broadway routine choreographed by Tyce Diorio. I was a little worried about Clarice being paired with Jess, but between Jess and Tyce, she was able to turn in a terrific routine, full of cheesy grins and showy twirls. However, I worry about Clarice’s chances over the next month, partnered with the only guy this season that’s the same height as her, plus the fact that Nigel questioned her ability to keep up with Jess.
THE DARK HORSES
14. Jess LeProtto partnered with Clarice Ordaz, doing a Broadway routine choreographed by Tyce Diorio. Lucky bastard! The one Broadway dancer gets a Broadway routine right out of the gate. He needed to be perfect to impress me, and he was. Nigel called him a “natural performer”, and actually worried that Clarice might not be able to keep up with him. Of course, mere performance isn’t enough on this show… the viewers have to LIKE you. Nigel dubbed Jess “arrogant”, and that’s a tough label to shake. The fact that Jess was in the Bottom Three tells me that he may be on his way out the door no matter how brilliantly he dances.
15. Mitchell Kelly, sadly, was scratched from the episode because he injured his elbow after the first rehearsal. Now, if it was so serious an injury that he had to pull out, I’m sure the show would have replaced him with the last person cut in Vegas, but that’s not what happened. He did end up in the Bottom Three (well, Four), but was spared and given the chance to dance again next week. If he can keep up with Caitlynn, he should be fine.
16. Alexander Fost partnered with Alexander Fost, doing a contemporary routine choreographed by Travis Wall. He lucked out by drawing his own genre, and he did not disappoint. Sasha kicked his ass, but that was the point of the routine, so good for him. The judges chided him for now showing the same emotion on his face that his body displays, and that’s something that can turn viewers off.
17. Chris Koehl partnered with Ashley Rich, doing a hip-hop routine choreographed by Christopher Scott. Despite the routine being hip-hop, Chris admitted that a lot of the moves were more old-school than he was used to. He did fine, but this was one of those “fun” routines where you tended to ignore the technical aspects. If Chris makes it past the next few weeks, he’s going to tested ten times harder.
18. Nick Young partnered with Iveta Lukosiute, doing a quickstep choreographed by Jason Gilkison. For someone who’s never done ballroom, he did fairly well… the fast footwork of the quickstep is nothing new to him, as a tapper. He may slide by for a few weeks, but I think his luck will eventually run out.
19. Robert Taylor Jr. partnered with Miranda Maleski, doing a jive routine choreographed by Jason Gilkison. Nigel pegged it: Robert’s got the most ebullient personality of the season by a country mile, but worried that that might be a double-edged sword with viewers. Whether Robert has the actual ability to keep up is now a big question mark. Their routine was the worst of the night, and they’ve got one week to turn it around. Don’t think it will happen.
20. Miranda Maleski partnered with Robert Taylor Jr., doing a jive routine choreographed by Jason Gilkison. Miranda was worried about displaying sexiness, which is rather uncharacteristic for her, but it wasn’t a lack of sexiness that the judges had a problem with, it was a lack of confidence. It is now evident to me that Miranda is definitely one of the weakest girls in the field this year. I’d be surprised if she survives past next week.
So, next week: ten couples dance again, and four contestants will be cut