Step It Up and Dance: Damn Yankees

The Challenge

This week’s challenge is Musical Theater. Some of the dancers are feeling pretty good about their chances to win this week. Cody and Mochi have both performed on Broadway. Oscar has appeared in many productions throughout Europe. Others without as much technical training are worried. Janelle and Michael are out of their element. Miguel has immunity from last week and cannot be eliminated, so he could care less about this challenge.

Jason Alexander is the celebrity guest this week. He introduces the challenge, an audition piece from his production of Damn Yankees. In real life, George Costanza seems remarkably modest and truthful, advising the competitors to always dance with joy. He is on the show as an observer and sits in the audience for all performances; his Damn Yankees choreographer Lee Martino is the guest judge.

After a grueling audition, the performers are split into a winning group and a losing group.

Winning Group – Cody, Nick, Mochi and Janelle

The dance is a seduction between a man and a woman, so the group is split into two couples – Cody and Mochi, Nick and Janelle. There are fishnets and lifts and plenty of sad attempts at sensuality. In rehearsal, the guys are comfortable. Mochi is comfortable. But Janelle falls into girl mode, copping the Ugh-I’m-so-fat-sorry-you-have-to-lift-me attitude! Her partner Nick is patient and good-humored about it all. What a guy! (Yep, I think I’ve finally found my SIUAD crush – the scruffy beard and the easy smile, plus he’ll put up with all my girl neuroses… perfect!)

Nick and Janelle are the first to perform on-stage. Neither dancer fits the part. Nick thinks he’s in character, but can’t keep a smile off his face. Janelle is supposed to be sexy, but looks more like a street fighter ready to rumble, scowling, pulling out a switchblade… you get the idea.

Cody and Mochi dance second. Mochi is flirty and sexy and completely in control. Cody plays well off Mochi – first acting a little shy and nervous, then gradually opening up and embracing her energy. These two dancers are pro. They are both confident, experienced & extremely skilled. But who will the judge choose?

And the Winner is…

The judges are truly torn. Cody is such a great dancer. The judges know it, the other dancers know it. He has had issues in past challenges with being too rigid and emotionally closed off. The judges wanted to see him take more chances and show some personality. He nails it this week.

The only person who might beat him out of the top spot is Mochi. The little firecracker owns the stage and often completely eclipsed Cody during the performance. She executes the dance, the character and the style perfectly. It is clear the two are equally talented and worked well together. After some deliberation, the judges choose Cody as the winner.

Losing Group – Oscar, Miguel, and Michael

Miguel and Michael are on the verge of scratching each other’s eyes out the entire episode. Oscar is surprised to be in the losing group, since he has so much experience with musical theater. Attitudes and egos conflict in the biggest drama queen way and, ultimately, their performance for the judges falls completely apart.

Each guy blames the other guy and they all look bad. Bad enough, even, that the judges offer them another chance to perform their routine. They squabble and storm away from each other, but pull it together – with the help of an inspirational pep talk from Jason Alexander – and try the dance again.

… Struck Out?

Judge Nancy O’Meara still has issues with Miguel and Oscar’s blatant lack of masculinity. Michael may have plenty of diva moments off the dance floor, but at least on-stage he still looks like a man. However, Miguel has immunity and cannot be eliminated. He’s safe. Oscar has technical skill, but lacks masculinity and musicality. Michael has the masculinity and musicality, but he is not a technical dancer and it shows. We really need to create a hybrid – Moscar? We can build him, we have the technology. Equal parts Baryshnikov and Flavor Flav, throw in a dash of Madonna. Ah, but I digress. The judges decide it is time for Oscar’s last dance. He is gracious with nary a tear.

Coming up next week: “Modern Lovers” – I suspect the producers had Michael and Miguel in mind, all that pent-up tension.