exuberating banoodles

Okay, so "exuberating" is a word, but I'm pretty sure "banoodles" is not. It is a dance competition, after all, not a vocabulary quiz. But the "banoodles" bit pretty much set the stage for some annoying judging on last night's episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Ignoring Mia, Mary, and Nigel for a bit, though, here's what I thought of the nine couples. Overall, I didn't enjoy last night's episode as much as last week. I thought there were a handful of good performances, but much of the judging turned into a choreography love fest, which is almost always code for the dancers somewhat butchering what's probably not a stellar routine to begin with...without actually saying that.

All that knocking on wood couldn't save Chelsea and Thayne from a lackluster performance of probably my least favorite routine choreographed so far on SYTYCD by Mandy Moore. As a couple they just weren't as good as last week, but, as much as it pains me to write this, I don't think they were given the greatest choreography either.

Chelsie and Mark did some "meaty dancing" in the style of the Argentine Tango. I thought they did better than last week. Mark was a bit hunched throughout but that didn't bother me; his "quirkiness" is usually a plus, but Chelsie still hasn't quite grown on me. I felt like there were a few things she actually did better in the rehearsal footage.

Finally, a routine I can get excited about. I enjoyed Cecily and Olisa's hip hop routine, danced by Jessica and Will. I think the judges like Will a little too much. I really hate when they start predicting the top four dancers this early in the competition. That said, I do think Jessica will be eliminated before him and it's going to keep him near or in the bottom three probably more often than he deserves. She did better than last week but she's like the goofy guys this season. She needs to find some edge, especially given this kind of choreography.

Kourtni and Matt did a fox trot choreographed by the always entertaining Jean-Marc. Yay, ballroom. This is so not my thing, but I thought they did a pretty good job. Matt's actually growing on me a little, I'm not sure why.

And finally, a performance I can get a little excited about. I thought overall, Courtney and Gev did a pretty good job. I'm a fan of Mandy Moore, in case I hadn't already mentioned that, and even though I thought this was done better than the first routine of the night, it reminded me too much of something Mia Michaels might put together. Courtney was a little shaky here and there but I felt like there were a few moments that really worked and their chemistry overall was great.

As with Kherington and Twitch last week, I think I groaned a little when I heard that one of my favorite couples so far would be doing a Broadway routine. But like last week, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Another solid performance from Katee and Joshua, easily the tightest couple of the bunch, for me at least. Watching that clip again, though, I didn't realize the first time around how excited Nigel was at the end. I think all the judges were on a little crack or something last night.

Anyway, moving on to Susie and Marquis, who did a salsa routine. I wouldn't know the difference between street and non-street salsa, so that doesn't bother me necessarily. And I can't quite put my finger on it, but I just don't care for Susie. The girl can dance better than me, that's for sure, but I don't really understand how she's made it this far in the competition.

Another groan when I heard that Kherington and Twitch would be doing the Viennese Waltz. But I actually enjoyed it, and of course Jean-Marc's personal impetus for the routine certainly didn't hurt. Kherington is just lovely and Twitch continues to impress me. That said, I hope they get something a little edgier next time so Kherington can go at least a week without the wavy, feathered 'do. I mean, it's a perfectly fine hairdo, but the girl is barely out of high school. Why do they keep giving her mom hair?

The night ended with what I thought was a mediocre performance by Comfort and Chris, especially considering how excited I was to hear that they'd be doing a krumping routine put together by L'il C, Comfort being possibly the best female hip hop dancer they've seen on the show. But then I remembered that as much as I enjoy hip hop and I like when some krumping makes its way into other kinds of choreography, I rarely enjoy these routines. It's like listening to a song without melody or something, it just doesn't work for me.

Man, I'm such a negative sap this week. Oh well. At least we have a Shane Sparks group routine to look forward to tonight. And hopefully the judges are back on their meds.


more stuff that will probably never sell

I've been crocheting coasters like mad the past few days. Actually, that's not totally true since I can get through an entire coaster in less than a standard-length pop album. So they haven't really been taking up too much of my time, but I have managed to crank out two sets (one set of four that I blogged about here and a second set of six, pictured above). For kicks, I put them up for sale in my Etsy shop. As much as I enjoy the interface and having a shop, I have a feeling Etsy is a bit like Cafe Press was back in its day. A few shopkeepers make a lot of dough but for the most part, you're lucky to get a sale here and there. On the other hand, it motivates me to finish projects and it's not like any of it takes up much storage space or costs much to list.

I've yet to get to the exciting stuff, i.e. doilies (in case you weren't sure what I meant by pairing the word "crochet" with the adjective "exciting"), as I mentioned in the previous crochet-themed post. I'd like to use up all this leftover yarn before I buy any more supplies, but hey, I've got all summer...


what happens when a contemporary dancer goes hip hop

Well, it was nice to finally meet all of the top 20 last night on the first real episode of So You Think You Can Dance. I've read a few recaps here and there and it seems there was some disappointment overall. There was a range, certainly, but I think it's a pretty tight group. Every season the top 20 seems to get stronger. That said, I limited my voting to my favorite three couples, only one of which I didn't particularly care for as a couple but voted for because I think one-half of the team has a lot of potential. And I made three calls to my most favorite, two calls for second place, and just one call for the runner up. But before I get into who I just loved, here's my take on all the dancers.

I liked the routine Tabitha and Napoleon came up with for Jamie and Rayven (seriously, who named these kids?). I thought their performance was just "a'ight", to borrow from another talent competition reality television show, preferring Rayven's dancing over Jamie's, but feeling like after all that talk about "pulling faces," Rayven was actually the one guilty of this in the end. No votes for you!

Susie and Marquis danced what has to be my least favorite genre - the smooth waltz. The only time this works for me is when the dress is nice and flowy (which it was) and the song is somewhat contemporary (like the show's use of Enya last season...or was that the season before?). I don't think they should get bonus points for it being "difficult choreography" - the dancers should be and I think are challenged regardless of whether they get something super technical like ballroom or something less traditional like hip hop. As for Nigel's comments, I don't know much about the smooth waltz but even I knew they messed up that lift. Who's to say the disco routine at the end was technically any easier than this one? But more about that later. And not to be petty, but the discrepancy between the color of Susie's hair and eyebrows bugs me.

Ah, 12 feet of dancing talent! I loved Mandy Moore's work last season so I was super excited to see Kourtni and Matt dance her first piece of the season. I think Kourtni has the look for Moore's 80s-infused (at least as far as song choice goes) choreography (according to the many names the judges threw at her, she looks like any famous blond chick), but Matt was just a bit too goofy throughout. I thought it was pretty good, but not great. Definitely room for improvement here and this is one of several couples who might take a couple of weeks to get beyond awkward. But I'll be keeping my eye on Kourtni.

Chelsea T. (two Chelsea's and two Courtney's, albeit different spellings, in one season...again, strange baby naming trends for the late 80s and early 90s, no?) and Thayne (see what I mean?) did a salsa routine that I had to watch twice to make a decision as to whether or not to vote for them. Their performance continues to grow on me, and in the end, I was convinced that Chelsea is hot enough for the both of them, and Thayne did a decent job himself (by the way, skip ahead about two minutes in the clip above to see actual dancing, or 3 minutes for the really hot stuff).

Chelsea H. and Mark did a Mia Michaels routine that has kind of done the reverse for me as the routine above. What's the opposite of "to grow on"? I've watched it again and the more I think about it, the more I wonder if not all of Mia's routines quite live up to her Emmy-winning reputation. My main complaint last night, however, was Chelsea's poofy wedding tutu. Every time Mark had to lift Chelsea or drop her down in the always graceful jackknife position, the dress completely obscured about 90% of her body. I'm not a dancer, so what do I know, but that would seem problematic to me.

And how funny is it that my early favorites were paired together? Initially I was apprehensive to hear that Kherington and Twitch were doing a Tyce Diorio routine (not a big fan of Broadway), but they are definitely one of the few couples with a lot of chemistry early on and I thought they both did a great job. A lot of fun to watch. Two calls for couple number 6 (again, you'll have to watch about two minutes of introductory material in the clip above before you get to the routine itself).

I really can't wait to see what Comfort can do (and yes, she is the dancer Nigel claimed to be perhaps the best female hip hop dancer they've had on the show but have shown only snippets of her audition and Vegas performances) but I wasn't terribly impressed with the jive she and Chris danced. Why are so many of the guys so goofy this season? I'm sure he has more personality than a tree but I haven't seen much to get too excited about just yet.

Three calls for couple number 8. For me, this - a second Tabitha & Napoleon routine danced by Katee and Joshua - was by far the best performance of the night. I too have a loved one in Iraq and I'm just a little pregnant right now, so maybe I'm biased, but I even teared up a little at the end (and had chills right from the start). Katee reminds me a bit of Sabra from season 3 - something about the way they both, being contemporary dancers by trade, do hip hop. There's a flexed foot here and there and a general lightness that worked for Sabra and I think will work for Katee as well, especially paired with Joshua, who definitely lucked out with hip hop on the first night. Not that I don't think he's capable of other stuff ("I've had ballet training a little bit"...uh huh) - he definitely has a lot of potential - but the routine benefited from his particular talents as much as it did from Katee's performance and T&N's choreography.

I barely remember Jessica and Will's tango. All I have written down (yeah, I take notes, so what?) is that the judges were too generous with them.

On the other hand, even though I didn't love Courtney G. and Gev's disco, I thought Nigel, at least, was too hard on them. Like the smooth waltz, there's just not much that's contemporary about the disco routines we see on this show, from the choreography, to the music, to the wardrobe. I enjoy watching it, but it's been mocked one too many times. That said, I thought Courtney definitely had the look and worked it out, but as a couple, they've got some work to do. I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the bottom three tonight.



I've been wanting to use up the leftover yarn from the blanket I blogged about awhile ago and initially thought now would be a good time to finally learn how to knit. Right before Christmas I bought myself a "I taught myself to knit!" kit and as a gift a few weeks later, received a half-year subscription to Creative Knitting magazine. Since then I've made a couple of attempts at mastering the knit and purl but I have to admit - it's a lot harder than I thought it'd be. It's been awhile since I gave it a go, so I forget at exactly what point I get confused, but let's just say I'm stuck at knit. It feels a lot more awkward than I thought it would, I remember that much, and the row kept falling off my needle at some point. Maybe I'm just a one handed kind of crafter. Which is why I returned to crochet to use up this leftover yarn. The only problem is every project I wanted to start involved working in rounds. I know I've done it before, but for the life of me I could not figure out what they meant by working directly into the center ring. I looked at about a half-dozen online tutorials before I finally stumbled across the Dummies page for this particular task, which explained what I was trying to accomplish, step by step, with very clear illustrations. It was incredibly frustrating that I wasn't just picking it up again, but I was determined and spent quite some time to finally crank out one coaster.

What I really want to make, for some mysterious reason, are doilies, but I thought making a few coasters would be a good warm-up. Stay tuned as the crochet/knit drama unfolds over the summer months. I wonder, how many crocheted coasters can I produce during one season of SYTYCD?


let the show begin

If you haven't been watching So You Think You Can Dance because, like me with American Idol, you find it hard to get through the first couple of weeks of auditions, you'll be happy to read that the top 20 competition gets down to business next Wednesday. The Vegas episode aired last night, when the judges whittled the group down to, as Cat says, 10 boys and 10 girls. Curiously enough, there were quite a few guys and gals in the top 20 who have yet to get much air time at all (not sure if she's in the top 20, but, for example, why would you include a clip in which you tell a girl she's possibly the best female hip hop dancer you've seen on the show but not show her audition?), but I am already looking forward to a few dancers in particular, including Twitch and Kherington (funny, they were a couple of the few who did manage to get some decent air time during auditions and Vegas week).

I'll admit that I'm biased, but I do think the SYTYCD auditions are so much easier to get through than the same intro to American Idol. They show the bad and the downright crazy, but they show a lot more talent in those first couple of weeks. What I don't understand is the seemingly random process by which they send some dancers to choreography and others straight through to Vegas. Poppers and breakers almost always have to wait until choreography, and yet not one, but two tap dancers made it straight through (and then both got cut, of course)! Maybe there's something I don't know about tap, but I don't follow that logic. I can kind of understand, on the other hand, why most of the good ballroom dancers go straight through, since so much of the show requires an ability to follow choreography and partner, which, if they're any good, they've obviously already got down.

As for Vegas week, I enjoyed seeing a preview of choreography to come. I'm a little burned out on contemporary, I have to admit (especially the male contemporary dancers...they just all seem the same to me), but I do love Mia Michaels' work. I'm curious to see what husband-wife hip hop team Tabitha and Napoleon have in store, and hope the show brings back old faves like Shane Sparks, Dan Karaty, and, perhaps my absolute favorite from last season, Mandy Moore.

Anyway, Entertainment Weekly has a pretty good wrap-up of last night's show, with bits about dancers who were altogether MIA (like Philip Chbeeb) and those sassy few who talk back (and at least one of which went home because of it). Maybe it's just me, but I'd have to disagree with his claim that Katee's response to the judges that she wouldn't necessarily try a third time if cut again are going to be a handicap for her on the show in terms of gaining votes. I mean, seriously, how endearing were those matching onesies? That alone should gain her back some points for personality.

And in closing, the Snuggle bear must be growing on me, because at the end of the show last night, I was actually considering submitting my own pregnant happy dance. How hilarious would that be, especially if I actually won tickets to the finale. Can I bring my colicky newborn along?


keepin' it local

Deciding to stay in Boston at least another year after grad school, and in the neighborhood of Dorchester specifically, I've experienced a renewed interest in exploring more local services lately. And by local I mean avoiding Boston proper and north of Boston altogether. We live in a very residential area, which hasn't really been a big deal for most of the past three years since I spent some part of just about every day crossing town to go to my studio or across the river, through Cambridge and Somerville to get to a class at Tufts. But now that I'm not making those commutes on a regular basis (not to mention insane gas prices) I feel the need to seek out the occasional haircut, burrito, and cupcake a little closer to home.

Dorchester has its own pockets of commerce here and there, but for the most part, it seems like I'm finding what I need in Quincy (locally pronounced Quin-zee), just south of our neighborhood and technically outside of Boston, the very northern part of the "south shore." The websites for various businesses are decidedly more sophisticated in Boston and points north. But ultimately, the goods and services have to match whatever design savvy the business-owners might have. In the last few weeks, I found a new hair salon (one that I was pretty happy with on the first visit but the real test will come with the return trip later this summer), a few breakfast joints (none exceptional but good to have nearby), an alternative to summer cravings for Dairy Queen, and next week, Chipotle will open a new restaurant just a five minutes drive from our place (I know, I've clocked it already). They've opened a couple of restaurants near Tufts over the past year and we go whenever we're in those neighborhoods. To be honest, I'm not that crazy about the place (if only Cactus would open a franchise in Dorchester), but they do make a decent burrito, one that'll be even more tempting when it's just a few minutes away.

And for dessert, I can drive just a little further into Quincy and pick up a few "babycakes". Since Chrissa blogged about Somerville's Kickass Cupcakes, I've made two trips (again, when I was already near Tufts or Davis Square). On the first excursion I got the Lucky and three special edition cupcakes to share with Neal. I remember enjoying the more basic Lucky but feeling like the special edition varieties were too intense in their creative flavor combinations. But I enjoyed them enough to return, vowing to keep it simple and bringing back one chocolate chocolate, one vanilla vanilla, one brownie-like cupcake, and one special edition that involved carrots and ginger in some way. I was fairly disappointed in all four; the cake was dense but dry and the frosting kind of has the consistency of toothpaste. Babycakes, on the other hand, is a somewhat simpler experience. They still experiment with flavors, offering four or so daily varieties in addition to the staples, but they seem to have a more classic take on the cake and frosting. On this first visit, we tried the bakery's namesake (the "babycake" is kind of like a Hostess cupcake, but better), vanilla vanilla, lemon coconut, and chocolate raspberry. The chocolate cupcakes were good but really intense (dark chocolate cake paired with ganache); I would have liked to sample the chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting but they appeared to be out by the time I arrived. The vanilla and lemon cupcakes, both with fluffy buttercream frosting, were delightful. I've still had better, but let's just say I'll be sticking with Babycakes for my local cupcake fix, and it's not just because they're closer.