Sara Von Gillern, a 23-year-old hip-hop/b-girl dancer from Fort Collins, CO (and attended my alma mater), used to dance for the Denver Nuggets’ Mob Squad. She was first noticed at her auditions in Chicago (my hometown!), where she said she was “representin’ for the ladies in hip-hop culture.” However, she does have experience in many different genres, which was evident in her Vegas trials. She does admit that she’s nervous about partnering. Her dancing partner is Jesús “Chuy” Solorio, a 23-year-old contemporary/jazz dancer from Paso Robles, CA. He admits that he wanted to become a dancer after watching a Janet Jackson video. I have to give him credit because ALL of us have wished we could pull off the moves that Janet can. Most of us would just never admit it on national television. Because his family didn’t have much money, his hometown would actually hold fundraisers to pay for his dance lessons.
So will a b-girl and a lyrical dancer handle a Wade-Robson routine? He calls his pop-jazz choreography “vagabond cabaret.” “What if you took a couple vagabonds from early 1900s, three in the morning, all of a sudden, when no one else is around, they break into these little mini-cabarets?” Um… okay. Sure.
They dance to Cabaret Hoover from The Triplets of Belleville soundtrack. The whole routine is rather hard to describe. There’s zombie-ish stylized walking, jazz hands, shoulders, faces, arms, shoulders, jazz hands, step, step, faces. I’m just not getting it. I mean, they’re doing it very well, from what I can tell, but I’m just not getting the choreography in general. It’s… weird. The whole thing is one big syncopated series of movements with very little independent motion.
All that togetherness is difficult to maintain though, and Dan notes that, saying that Chuy and Sara weren’t always as together as they should have been, “but you still went after it and you got so into character, and you hit it. It was great.” Cat adds, “And completely different from the characters that they are in real life!” Yes, Cat, because I really thought that Chuy and Sara were early-20th-century hobos. Oy. “It was twisted, demented, and spectacular!” screams Mary. Nigel actually says something very relevant, commenting on the styles of Bob Fosse and Charlie Chaplin that were incorporated into the choreography.
Jessi Peralta, a 24-year-old hip-hop dancer from Valley Village, FL, now lives in Los Angeles, working as an event planner, “literally” sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day. I think that’s one of my biggest pet peeves: when someone uses the word “literally” as a way to intensify what they are saying. For example, “I literally cried my eyes out.” Really? Did they fall to the floor and roll away? How did you get them back into your skull? Ugh. Rant over. I’m not sure why we’re supposed to pity Jessi for doing what millions of other people do—that is, do their JOBS. There’s a clip of her audition where she magically materializes oil from her hands and rubs it all over her body. To me, that would have been a deal-breaker. Ladies and gents, that is what we call a “gimmick.” And if you need a gimmick in order to be memorable, instead of just dancing, then you don’t deserve to be sent through.
Pasha and Jessi will be dancing the smooth waltz. Tony Meredith is their choreographer. This intro runs against the usual theme of “OMG this is too hard!” Instead, they focus on how they feel about the dance itself and how they can keep it classy. At the end of rehearsal, Jessi claims, “We’re going to go home and pray.” Pasha quickly corrects her, “No, we’re going to go home and practice.” Awww… his Russian accent just makes me want to blush and giggle like a schoolgirl.
The stage is set with Come Away With Me by Norah Jones. I’m pretty sure we all know what a waltz is, so I don’t really need to describe it. I must say, they are absolutely beautiful. Smooth, flowing, soft… the lines are clean and distinct. Pure elegance. I could watch them dance for hours.
“First of all, you guys look like the prom king and queen,” says Dan Karaty. “I usually say that this style bores me… but I feel like you just floated around the stage, and it was so beautiful to watch.” Mary compliments them on both their technical precisions and classy quality. Nigel concludes by saying, “I don’t know many young ladies in the audience tonight that wouldn’t love to be in that gown dancing in Pasha’s arms.” Pasha is humbly surprised. Awww…
Faina Savich is a 21-year-old Latin ballroom dancer originally from Russia and currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Her brother is Stanislav, who was in last year’s top 20. In Vegas, she was impressive when working within her style but encountered troubles when trying to adapt to other genres. At one point, she was so physically exhausted, she collapsed… I think. Cedric Gardner, a 23-year-old hip-hop dancer from Milwaukee, WI, calls his style of dance “improv”. And as much as he says he can observe moves and make them his own, Nigel wasn’t sure that he’d be able to overcome his limitations in genres other than hip-hop.
Shane Sparks will be choreographing their hip-hop routine. Faina has a lot of difficulty picking up the steps, and even Mr. Nice-Guy Shane gets a little frustrated with her: “I love you girl, but you got to pick it up!” But even Cedric, the hip-hop master, was having problems, so how was he going to be any help to ballroom dancer Faina?
The lights on stage flash to the beats of Lloyd’s Get It Shawty. The whole routine goes as expected. Hip-hop dancer Cedric excels while Faina lags behind. Moves and syncopation aside, they don’t even seem to be dancing together. I feel like I’m watching two soloists dance next to each other. Even their interaction feels fake.
Dan points this out, much to the audience’s detest. Enough with the booing already. Mary said something placating. After two hours, I’m pretty tired of her. She gives Faina credit for stepping outside her comfort zone, which is crap actually because the whole competition is about who can dance ALL genres well. More compliments for Cedric. “It became, from Faina, a little bit like dance-by-numbers… It lost some of the fluidity,” says Nigel.
Lauren Gottlieb, an 18-year-old contemporary/jazz dancer who currently lives in Sherman Oaks, CA, is paired with Neil Haskell, a 20-year-old contemporary/jazz dancer from Clarence Center, NY. Lauren’s been a big hit ever since her audition, but this is our first good look at Neil. They’ll be dancing salsa, choreographed by Alex da Silva. What’s that? They’re having difficulties picking up the steps? Go figure. The best line comes from Lauren: “Alex thinks we’re a hot mess.” Hee.
They dance to Mazerati 5’s Friday Night Rhythm. They’re doing their steps very well, including a lot of flips, turns, and arm tricks. But there’s no passion whatsoever. Salsa’s supposed to be sexy, and this just isn’t. Neil has this big cheesy cheerleader grin going the entire time, and it just doesn’t fit. Stop being happy, and be sultry! Dan points out that they danced the routine well, but it didn’t feel like Neil even recognized just how hot his partner looked. Mary agrees, and FINALLY gets some boos from the crowd. Nigel keeps the train of criticizing cheesiness going.
Shauna Noland is an 18-year-old contemporary dancer from Santa Cruz, CA. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Shauna before. And there’s not a whole lot of information about her in her intro either. She’s been dancing since she was three, and her mother was a ballerina. And… that’s it. Don’t you feel like you know her now? Jimmy Arguello, a 21-year-old contemporary dancer from Miami, FL, is also a new face. He runs a dance troupe for kids. We don’t learn much more about him either, other than he almost made it through to the top 20 last year.
Ease on Down the Road from the Wiz… OMG. I can’t understand why so many choreographers insist on using this song. Maybe I’m just rehashing bad memories of my “Grease: You’re the One that I Want” recapping days. Anyway, the routine is fun, campy, energetic, and all that other stuff that Broadway is supposed to be. Shauna is in a Dorothy get-up while Jimmy plays a scarecrow, but despite these questionable costumes, they look like they’re having loads of fun.
“Jimmy, I’m shocked,” Dan begins, “you outperformed her!… I thought you guys had a blast out on the stage, and it was fun to watch!” Mary thinks that they’re wonderful together, while Nigel thinks that Shauna looked “frumpy-dumpy” in her outfit. Right, because I’m sure she picked it out herself. Uf.
Cat recaps the dancers’ routines and phone numbers and then asks the judges who they think is in danger of going home. Nigel cops out, saying Benji Schwimmer’s in danger, “because these kids are going to wipe the floor with him this year!” Mary squirms out of an answer as well, “I don’t know who’s in danger, but I know who’s safe, and that is Anya and Danny! Woooooooo!” And to think I went so long without hearing that scream. Dan gives a real answer, advising Ricky and Ashlee, “You guys just didn’t step it up as much as everyone else did.”
My opinion? I’m hoping Mary Murphy goes home.