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'So You Think You Can Dance': Ring that Bell

July 28, 2010 | 10:29 pm

_2PM5109 Last Thursday I complained that Billy Bell should have been sent home, but this Wednesday he made the judges look smart for keeping him in the competition.  While the judges heaped praise and predicted that Lauren and Kent would make up the top two, I’m now a Billy believer: I hope he makes it to the finale.

The night got off to a sexy start: Is it me, or is there a surplus of kissing this season? That was the theme of Kent’s cha-cha with Anya. It was funny seeing Kent portray a “bad boy” who’s hot for teacher (who wouldn’t be, if your teacher looked like Anya) but as he got into the dance it sort of worked.  However, when Kent was actually supposed to cha-cha and not just play a character, his moves looked a little stiff to me.  Mia and guest judge Toni Redpath felt similarly, saying they wished Kent had a little bit more flow and manliness onstage.  Mia also chided Kent for getting too Kent-y with his face.  While I’ve found Kent’s idiosyncrasies annoying before, I don’t think it was issue with this performance, and Kent actually stood up to Mia this time for making comments about his facial expressions.

Next, Robert danced a contemporary routine with Kathryn choreographed by Stacey Tookey about a soldier going off to war. It was funny because as I watched the dance I admired Kathryn’s extension and the character she poured into her performance but thought, “I’m not really getting ‘Soldier heading off to battle’ from Robert here,’” and then, boo-ya, Stacey got me. Robert wasn’t the soldier in the piece; Kathryn was.  I loved that, and it further solidified my admiration for Kathryn’s work in the piece. The dance had a lot of wonderful little details, like an especially desperate hand-grasp, but I think Kathryn hands-down was the star of the performance. The judges praised Robert’s partnering skills but I think that’s a little bit of faint praise.

Adechike then danced a Tyce Diorio jazz routine with Courtney that looked and felt very old-school jazz, a happy, dynamic routine to Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca.” Adam called it “just balls-out dancing” and then giggled about his live TV faux pas but that pretty much summed up the routine. While Adechike looked happy and comfortable onstage, the judges wished they could have gotten just a little more style and spring from him, saying, as they’ve said to everyone now it seems, to forget it’s a competition and JUST DANCE!

I, like the judges, loved the choreography in Marty Kudelka and Dana Wilson’s hip hop routine for Jose (both in hats, the choreographers seemed to be giving Nappytabs a run for their money) to perform with Comfort.  I expected bigger, heavier moves than we got and I loved the quiet, sly steps the dance employed and enjoyed seeing Comfort in a gentler, more seductive role. Even though I found Jose charming in his role he didn’t do anything groundbreaking in his performance, and the judges by and large criticized him for not tackling the dance in a darker, sleeker manner. Nigel called his performance “flappy” which actually made sense in the replay.  I think this may signal the end for Jose, although Nigel explained why he hasn’t been present in the group numbers to date: Jose was nursing a groin injury.

Finally we got a girl-girl dance this season, as Lauren and Allison danced a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine. There wasn’t much of a story to it, but I liked that the dance for once didn’t focus on fighting or sexuality.  The routine was cute and sassy and I thought Lauren looked as much like an All-Star as Allison did. The judges praised Lauren for her skill and even though they noted that the dance wasn’t terribly memorable, she was likely to appear in the finale.  I actually thought Lauren’s solo was her best performance of the night, as it reminded me why we liked her so much in the first place when she originally auditioned. Nigel obviously had that other show on his mind as he addressed Lauren and referred to “SYTYCD” as “American Idol” but Lauren helped him smooth over his slip by saying that her singing during the package must have made him say that.

The next dance was not only Billy’s best but one of the strongest of the whole season, perhaps only second to Alex’s hip hop routine.  Billy played a homeless man in a contemporary routine by Stacey Tookey, as Ade played a well-to-do gentleman who encounters him on the street.  The setup sounded a little trite to me before I saw the dance but it was just amazing. Stacey’s contrast of two styles, Ade’s precision and Billy’s total abandon was gorgeous (and nice blocking too, with Billy up front and Ade behind him).  Then, when they started dancing in tandem, swirling like leaves on the sidewalk, I got goosebumps.  It made the decision to keep Billy for another week look incredibly wise and I think Nigel was happy about that.  I was a little surprised that none of the judges complimented Ade, who, while not the star of the performance, played a key part and did it beautifully.

Things got less serious with the next performance as Jose and Kent portrayed a couple of movers checking out dames in a Spencer Liff Broadway number.  It was prototypical old-school Broadway dancing with big moves and lots of mugging.  I thought it was entertaining but not really anything that we haven’t seen before.  The judges took this opportunity to give Jose his props before he’s (possibly) sent home, and tell Kent that he’s likely to make it to the finale with Lauren.  I have a hard time feeling as passionate about Kent’s performances as the judges do. There’s nothing technically wrong with his dancing but I’ve never been able to see him perform and not think, “That’s Kent!” the whole way through. Other great dancers in the show (Katee Shean, for instance) were able to disappear into characters and that’s something I miss in Kent.

Lauren and Adechike paired up next for a sultry Fox Trot. She looked sexy in her black sequined dress and the two of them appeared to be having a good time performing together.  The dance was a little hypnotic (which isn’t always a good thing) although I noticed what a great and present partner Adechike was being. Nigel commented on the sultriness and connectivity of the dancers but felt that otherwise it wasn’t an outstanding performance, and I have to agree with him.

We closed with quite a grand finale as Robert and Billy battled it out in a Bollywood dance. The two of them both strutted like peacocks in the beginning of the performance, and since the dance was about a competition, I couldn’t help but pit them against each other. I thought Billy outdanced Robert in the first half of the dance, but then I perceived a bit of fatigue from Mr. Bell, and thought Robert picked up his slack.  I’ll proclaim Billy the winner just because I liked his solo better than Robert’s. The judges loved the routine but expressed concern for Billy’s knee, which seemed to be in pain after the performance. But Billy, you can’t be hurt because I’ve decided you and Lauren should appear in the bottom two. What’s this now? Lauren’s being treated by the medic? What is it with this season?! (This was all the information that was provided on Lauren as of the Wednesday night airing: if we learn more before Thursday we’ll update.)

Thursday night I am going to be traveling and won’t be able to cover the results show, but my more than capable colleague Todd VanderWerff will be filling in for me. I predict Robert and Jose will make their exit: how about you?

--Claire Zulkey


Cr: Phil McCarten/FOX