“So You Think You Can Dance” mini-cap: the top eight get critiqued by Toni Basil

It’s down to eight finalists on this week’s So You Think You Can Dance and I’m curled up on my comfy couch with a carton of Ben and Jerry’s, spoon at the ready. Like last week, each couple will dance twice and each dancer will do a solo.

The guest judge is Toni Basil of “Mickey” fame. (Everybody chant: “Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind! Hey Mickey!”) She didn’t die after her famous video but went on to choreograph for many including Bette Midler’s current Las Vegas show and soon, Tina Turner. Impressive credentials to be sure, but as the show goes on, I just want her to shut up. She’s so busy proving what she knows about different dance forms that it becomes more of a speech than a comment on the dancers’ performances.

First up are Will and Courtney hip-swiveling through a hot samba. I confess I missed a lot of the individual moves because I was focused on that dress Courtney was almost wearing. I’m convinced a herd of wolverines attacked her just before coming on stage and tore most of it off. Scratching my head, I wondered how those little patches were staying on the, er, important parts. Invisible wire? Duct tape? Super glue? Mama spit? At any rate, I guess they did a good job ‘cause Lythgoe said it was absolutely fantastic and Basil really enjoyed it. Murphy started off with a comment about how two contemporary dancers had become two samba dancers, then gradually increased in volume to 10,000 decibels. (More than 1,000 decibels and that means she loves it.)

Comfort solos next and gives us her best. I’d be impressed if she was dancing in a club but as a finalist on this show, I’m not. It was, however, interesting to hear her story about being a street dancer and being helped along by her brothers. She went to a performing arts school but hated the ballet and jazz classes. At least that gave her some training. Since she’s in the first slot, it’s a sure sign that the producers think she’ll be gone soon. (Generally that is the slot of death since those first up are least remembered by voters. I got that from the official guidebook for entertainment reality shows. Really.)

Next up are Twitch and Katee with a contemporary number by Mia Micheals. Yikes, it’s intense, but then, it’s Mia. It’s about a guy and his psycho girlfriend &mdsah; the same story you can see played out in any queer bar on a Saturday night. OK, they’re a boy-girl couple here but there’s the same “I want you / I don’t want you” angst going on. It includes a hot kiss and effectively uses a door as a prop. I think it’s damn wonderful and so do the judges with Lythgoe wondering what’s going on inside Mia’s head. (Maybe it’s better that we don’t know.) Basil said she loved it and Murphy screams something about the two best dancers in the competition but I’m not sure because I’ve escaped to the kitchen for more Ben and Jerry’s.

Will jumps and slides through a really great James Brown-inspired solo. He’s even got the dome o’ hair Brown was so famous for and it’s all done to his “Get Up Offa That Thing.” It’s the best solo I’ve seen Will do.

Mark and Comfort dance a hip-hop routine. It starts with them slumped behind school desks. They jump out, knocking over the desks, and pop their way through a routine while the “teacher” is out. It’s great and really shows off Comfort’s moves and I’ve gotta say that Mark does a credible job. He even has that “stank face,” as Comfort puts it, that’s vital to this dance style and choreography. Oh! And there’s this way cool move where Mark picks her up and flips her over his head. He doesn’t look big enough to lift her up that way but kudos to her too for nailing the landing and making it all look good. The judges liked it although Murphy didn’t reach a high decibel mark.

Next, Katee does a solo. I like her better with a partner. (Please don’t throw things unless it’s a few marshmallows for my ice cream.)

Dmitry Chaplin, a finalist from season two, choreographs a tango for Chelsie and Joshua. It has a 1940’s feel and it briefly uses a chair and a table as a prop. The choreography could’ve been a bit more creative but I like the hot ending, with Joshua practically thrown on to the table, Chelsie right behind him, her leg propped up next to him, her body pressed close. Murphy screams that they’re on the hot tamale train. Lythgoe says Joshua has the biggest bum in the competition. Um, OK.

(Sidenote: I love that some of the dance couples are black and white. It’s something you never would’ve seen on TV twenty years ago. It gives me hope that in twenty years — hopefully less — that we’ll see same sex couples on a show like this and no one will blink twice.)

Before Mark’s solo, we learn that he started dancing in musicals and was the only male dancer in a performing arts school. For his solo, he combines a contemporary sensibility with a hip hop beat and really rocks it. It was a smart move, considering the popularity of hip-hop. I’d say that it keeps him in the competition but given who he’s up against, I’m not so sure.

Courtney and Will do a slow hip-hop dance put together by Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo. I prefer my hip-hop at a faster pace but this was good. Lythgoe called it emotional. Basil babbled on about great art. Murphy reached record setting decibels screaming about exploding emotions. Her head shot off her shoulders and into the back row but then, that’s what you have to endure when you’re in the cheap seats.

It’s Chelsie’s nineteenth birthday and she celebrates with a hip swiveling solo.

Then Katee and Twitch bounce through a cute Tyce Diorio choreography to “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Lythgoe comments that Twitch is the least trained dancer but yet rises to every challenge. That’s one of the things I like about him too. Murphy yells that they’re fantastic and Basil intones that because Twitch comes from the street, he dances from the inside out. Katee, she says, has more of a personality problem since she has to find inspiration from outside and this time, she needed to rough it up more to match the vocal in the song.

Joshua talks about a teacher who was a great inspiration, then pops his way through a great solo.

Courtney solos next, using a Missy Higgins song. Afterwards, standing next to Cat Deeley, I’m surprised to see that she only comes to Cat’s shoulder.

We find out that Twitch didn’t start dancing seriously until his senior year in high school. (It’s seems common that the boys start later. What a shame. Imagine the dancers they could be if they started at three or four, like many of the girls.) He’s wearing a stylized “T” on his shirt, looking like some super hero but he’d seem like that, even without the shirt. Afterwards, two people in the audience wearing the same T-shirt leap up and give him a standing ovation. Hmm, think they’re family?

Mark and Comfort do their best with a jazzy foxtrot. Mark glides through with ease but Comfort looks awkward. She knew it was going to be hard though, exclaiming before the routine, “Lord Jesus how am I going to pull this off?” You’ve gotta give her props for being honest. The judges don’t like the routine. Lythgoe says there was no chemistry.

Ending the show are Chelsea and Joshua, with a difficult disco piece put together by Dorianna Sanchez. There are many lifts and something called an airplane where Joshua swings Chelsea around by one leg and arm. Yeow. While that and the lifts were impressive I thought they interfered with the flow of the piece. You could almost hear the wheels turning too, as they placed this foot here, that hand there, now lift, etc. I want to see a dance that looks more spontaneous, especially with this style. The judges loved it though. Basil said they pulled together the spirit of disco.

As usual, I paid close attention to the end where the dancers jumped and gyrated free form across the stage as the credits rolled. It was cute to see Deeley wiggling her stuff too. Joshua, still wearing his disco costume, struck some mighty fine John Travolta poses.

Tonight is a two ice cream carton night. I think Comfort will really go this time but the guys? It’ll probably be Mark although I’m hard pressed to name any guy who I really think should go. How do you feel?

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