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Champagne and Caviar – So You Think You Can Dance 2, 6-28-06


After losing their partners last week, Dmitry and Aleksandra find themselves working with each other for the first time for the waltz. Ballroom is Dmitry’s specialty, and the two should excel in this style. Choreographer Heather Smith tells us that the dance is about connection and chemistry, no easy task for these two dancers who have just started working with each other. Heather designs something very smooth and flowing for them, nothing like the rigidity that Aleksandra had expected.

A bit of an odd music selection, Kenny Rogers’ If I Were A Painting starts, and Dmitry looks unsurprisingly elegant in his suit while Aleksandra looks, well, neon. I thought she did beautifully from the waist up, but some of her footwork was too quick and short. Nigel, calling her a soulless “Corpse Bride,” is right in saying that some of her turns were not as smooth as they could have been. While I don’t expect perfection, such subtle misses are incredibly noticeable in such a formal and silky dance. Olisa compliments Aleksandra on doing much better this week than last, which really doesn’t say much, and makes note of Dmitry’s “masculine elegance.” I expect them to be in danger as the curse of Aleksandra strikes again.

Allison and Ivan yank Argentine tango from the Hat of Fate, a selection neither were very enthused about. Their reaction is understandable, given their rough time with Latin dancing last time. They find themselves working with Alex da Silva again, who feels he will be able to teach them much easier now, already being familiar with their styles and mannerisms. He calls this tango “the war of the feet.” While I could understand Ivan’s concerns about where Allison’s feet were kicking and flying between his legs, any dancer can tell you bruises and pain happen. Get over it, and get through it.

Having worked together for quite a while now, you would think the couple would finally be able to work up the connection and chemistry needed for this type of dance. But while Allison’s passion was beautifully elegant during Libertango by Bond, Ivan looked barely interested in her. I thought Ivan looked a tad stiff, and I could almost hear him counting his steps through the television as he kept a closer eye on his feet rather than on his partner. Gauging from the judges’ reactions though, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Nigel calls them both incredible and “sensational,” saying that Allison gave them one of the best performances on the show ever. Mary, calling Ivan “the man,” lets out one of her joyous (and irritating) screams. I personally thought they were very good, but not worthy of the loud exclamations the judges were giving them.

Benji and Donyelle’s performance of the cha-cha last week garnered them a standing ovation from the audience, says Kat. Wait… aren’t they already standing? Whatever the case, their dancing left this humble writer speechless. Their challenge this week was “pop jazz.” Brian Friedman describes the style as very “Madonna, Paula Abdul, Britney Spears…” Well, I get the “pop” part, but what makes it “jazz”? Brian tries to create a cool, chic persona for Benji, which clashes a bit with his natural goofiness. Benji also has to get accustomed to the sexual tension that is an integral part of so many of the dances he’s experiencing now, much different from his “happy-go-lucky” swing background. However, he says “it’s very easy” to work in the sexual nature with a partner like Donyelle.

The couple prove why they’re becoming the top dogs in this show to the addictive beat of Danii Minogue’s Put the Needle on It. Although a bit of an oddball of a pairing, they both have tons of energy, the right amount of confidence and attitude, superb showmanship, and of course, chemistry. I loved it. Although Benji is not really believable as a dj-persona, his moves and steps blended perfectly with the music and with his partner. Once again, I thought Donyelle looked stunning in her asymmetrical dress and veil. After Nigel’s comparison of this pairing to that of “champagne and caviar,” Mary remarks that she truly believes the chemistry between them, that it’s more than just playing a role. Olisa calls Donyelle a “transformer” because of her ability to transform any choreography into her own. I’ll admit, I didn’t care much for Benji at the beginning of the series because of his cheeseball factor, but considering his abilities, I may have to stop hating on him.

The judges were blown away by the onstage chemistry of Musa and Natalie’s contemporary, but the couple found themselves struggling with the amateur dancer’s Valley of Death, the quick step. Heather Smith describes the style as “high, light, and bubbly.” Musa has such a hard time that the choreographer pulls out a torture device called a ballroom training bar, a brace which holds the man’s neck, back, and arms in a proper high position. Their faith in themselves seems half-hearted though.

Dancing to Zoot Suit Riot by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, the couple perform a dumbed-down version of the quick step. Still, the footwork was messy, and like Musa said, they often looked like horses galloping around the floor. This time, Nigel gives the pity speech, talking about how Musa gave such a great effort for something that was completely alien to him. Olisa talks about their showmanship and sexiness, and Cicely emphasizes how hard they tried. Yes, yes, yes, I agree with all that. They did give it their best. But no one should win a competition just for good effort. I think this couple belongs in the bottom three, but their popularity may keep them safe.

Out from the hat emerges contemporary for Jessica and Jughead. As with his pop jazz piece, Brian sets up a background story for this dance. He’s not exactly happy about working with this couple, emphasizing the need for real emotion from Jessica and for Jughead to lose his “competition kid” mannerisms. Jessica is sure that once the cameras are rolling, the emotional connection that is needed will come on strong.

I thought the couple’s stairway opening to Frou Frou’s Let Go was awkward, and I don’t understand why Brian worked it into the choreography. And why must the women always wear lingerie? Surely there have to be comfortable dancing clothes out there that do not look like teddies. Ah well, I suppose they did alright. It was clean. Mary, however, thought they “put the ‘W’ in ‘wonderful’,” and Olisa loved their “graceful drama.” I still believe Jessica and Jughead’s performance was nowhere near as emotive or impressive as Musa and Natalie’s of last week, but they can’t all be superb.

Another hip-hop routine works its way into the show, this time for Martha and Travis. Todd Sams says his style of hip-hop is “really just no style.” Well that’s helpful. I’m liking this guy less and less. Again, no counting, only sound affects. He has plenty of good things to say about the couple though, so we’re left hoping for great things.

These are the pitfalls that great expectations bring. Looking a bit like a hooker and her underage client, Martha and Travis dance two completely different numbers to Just Fine by Chris Brown. Nigel is spot-on: “You were two individuals tonight… You lost me because you were two different people.” They had two different styles going on. Martha was flowing and smooth; Travis was hitting the beats too hard. (And yes, Travis, we all know you’re cute, stop milking the damn camera.) Personally, I think the choreographer deserves some of the blame on this because he, as their teacher, should have recognized what was going on. Whether Martha was too soft or Travis was too hard, it was Todd’s responsibility to teach them not only the steps, but also the style. Travis whines that he’s a contemporary dancer who is unfamiliar with hip-hop style… but last week, he was a contemporary dancer who was unfamiliar with crump, and he mastered that beautifully. If your background wasn’t a hindrance before, why is it one now? Again, this is another group that I think belongs in the bottom three, but Travis’ collection of fangirls will keep him alive.

So, my ideal bottom three? Dmitry & Aleksandra, Musa & Natalie, and Travis & Martha. However, I think that Jessica & Jughead may find themselves in trouble in place of Travis & Martha, because although good, their performance was not stunning or memorable.

Looking masculine elegance mixed with Latin influence? Bring the champagne and caviar to polomex@realityshack.com.


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