Our guest blogger Lenni G. is back, reporting on the dance and the drama:
If last night is any indication, this is going to be a weird season.
First, we found out yesterday morning that Billy Bell, one of the best dancers, is out - we don't find out what's wrong with him, just that, "His doctor won't allow him to continue."
So the show brings in hip hop guy, Brandon to replace contemporary Billy - not exactly an even, or really fair, replacement.
Next, shortly after the show starts we see Noelle Marsh (our Sanford girl) with a huge brace on her knee - Nigel announces that they are not sure whether she will be able to continue but they are giving her a week to find out.
This injury creates the very first "cougar pairing" when the choreographer, the fabulous Melanie of Tony and Melanie, dances with the obviously less old Russell. With all of that out of the way, the competition begins with judges, Nigel, Mary and Adam watching carefully.
Channing (contemporary) and Phillip (tap) started the evening with a Jive from Jason Gilkison. The judges were lukewarm though Adam did say he thought it was a "classy pairing."
Ashleigh (Latin) and Jakob (contemporary) were next doing a Tyce Diorio "sultry" Broadway number. Totally agreed with Nigel when he said that Jakob is one of the most gifted dancers and that Ashleigh has really proven herself since her rocky start at the tryouts.
Ariana (contemporary and New Bern born) and Peter (tap) did a NappyTabs hip-hop number which I loved. The judges - not so much. Adam thought they were not dancing together????, Mary liked the beginning and the end but though the middle was sloppy???? and Nigel just didn't like it and said he was disappointed???? A little harsh if you ask me, particularly since it's the first week.
Russell (hip hop) and Melanie (Latin dance choreographer supreme) did a cougar, whoops, fox trot. Russell got mad props for doing so well in a style so different from his own. Though Melanie was cool, I'm really looking forward to seeing Russell with Noelle if she heals in time.
Bianca (tap) and Victor (contemporary) got a contemporary number from former contestant, Travis Wall. This was clearly the first really outstanding pairing of the night. As Mary said, "Holy smokes, Bianca and Victor, you took it to another level." Nigel called them the "most connected partners" and felt they really cared for each other. And, maybe it's just me, but Bianca reminds me a lot of Fantasia of American Idol fame.
Karen (Latin) and Kevin (hip hop) blazed through a cha cha from Tony and Melanie. As Adam said, this was Karen's world and Kevin was just visiting. Nigel and Mary agreed that Karen was fabulous and that Kevin did really well for being so far out of his style.
Ellenore (jazz) and Ryan (Latin) did one of Sonya's unreal contemporary jazz numbers. Mary said their chemistry was "crazy" (it was!). I'm thinking Ryan is going to go a long way this season and the eye candy he brings to the party doesn't hurt either.
Pauline (jazz) and replacement Brandon (hip hop) had to do a Jason Gilkison waltz that Brandon had a day and a half to work on. Loved the "judge-speak" comments from Adam - "Good for a sub", and Mary - "You two are the cutest." Nigel could not bring himself to the judge speak level and told it like he saw it - "Love you both BUT, you are not strong enough". Hello show producers - you brought in a hip hop dancer at the last minute to do a waltz????
Kathryn (contemporary) and Legacy (hip hop) amazingly got a Dave Scott HIP-HOP number. What, no waltz, no pasa doble? The reviews from the judges were hugely positive - what a surprise. And yes, I agree that it was good and that they play well together but I want to see Legacy do something way outside his comfort zone before I give him huge props. How's about a Russian folk dance for next week?
Mollee (jazz) and Nathan (contemporary) danced last to another phenomenal Disco from Doriana Sanchez. I agree with Mary that the choreography was great, the charisma was obvious and that these two are a dream team. But, Mary, can they waltz?
Judges put Ariana, Brandon, Pauline and Russell in the danger zone, with Ariana and Brandon hitting the Bye Bye Train.
Many questions remain for next week - Will Noelle be able to go on with Russell and, if not, who will Russell get for a new partner? Who will Pauline dance with now that sub Brandon is gone? Who will pair with Peter since Ariana has been invited out? Have all the dancers and judges had their H1N1 shots?
The mysteries continue.