THAT was dance variety

There's a giant universe out there, under the title of "dance." That was especially clear in tonight's "So You Think You Can Dance."

Back-to-back, we saw pieces that may have been overthought. One had an alien woman impregnating the last Earth man; the other had a man and woman chained together, literally. The dancers (Caitlin Kinney and Jason Glover, Phillip Cabeeb and Jeanine Mason) did their best, but the pieces limited what they could do.

Then came the show's first ballet piece. Melissa Sandvig (who is a ballerina) and Ade Obayomi (who isn't) became Juliet and Romeo. It was smooth, flowing and wonderful. To the show's credit, it was the excact opposite of the pieces that preceded it.

Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) If you live in the Lansing, Mich., area, please read and comment on the obituary that precedes this. Len Kluge was an astonishingly good actor and a fascinating person. I'll write more about him in a future blog.

2) Part of tonight's mixed reactions involved sub-conscious racial images. The alien piece had a blonde woman (Caitlin) taking a black man (Jason) in tattered clothes for her sexual needs; it flashed of a plantation nightmare from America's past. By comparison, the black and white of Romeo and Juliet created stunning beauty.

3) Credit goes to the costumer who came up with that final gimmick. With a flip of the hand, Karla Garcia switched from an ugly, polka-dot dress to a gorgeous red one.

4) Negative credit goes to putting Caitlin under all that cloth and Spandex. Television's best torso remained hidden.

5) My prediction for the bottom three: The two duos chained (almost literally) by imposing routines -- Caitlin and Jason, Phillip and Jeanine. Also, Evan Kasprzak and Randi Evans, who did their best with a so-so Broadway piece in the Bob Fosse style. We'll see on Thursday (9 p.m., Fox), with Kelly Clarkson as the musical guest.


Len Kluge was a great actor, fine person


Len Kluge, who died early this morning, was as fine an actor as I've ever seen. He was also a fascinating person, a guy who loved theater, baseball and life. Here's a quick obituary.

If you're reading this from outside Lansing, Mich., go on to the previous blogs. (Also, remember to savor the great actors in your town.) And if you're from Lansing, please add your own thoughts:

Len Kluge, whose intense performances
were a key part of local theater for decades, died early this

Kluge, 63, was founder of Spotlight
Theatre, which had a 20-year stay in Grand Ledge. He was also known
for work in other theaters, from a much-praised “That Championship
Season” at the Okemos Barn to “Our Town” at BoarsHead Theater.

He died at 12:20 a.m. this morning
after being hospitalized for 40 days, said Jeff Magnuson, a longtime
friend and acting colleague. “He had an amazing sense of humor, a
love of food, a love of Mexico, a love of his wife (Heather
Lenartson-Kluge) and his cats,” Magnuson said.

On stage, however, Kluge was all
business. Trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New
York City, he learned and taught the Method technique, sinking deeply
into a role.

Magnuson first saw that when he was a
16-year-old Everett High student, running the spotlight for Kluge's
one-man show as crusading lawyer Clarence Darrow.

“It was something to see him so
totally in the moment,” he said. “He was so natural, so

The son of a small-town grocer, Kluge
grew up in Lakeview, a town of about 1,100, 30 miles west of Mount
Pleasant, where he went to Central Michigan University. He left early
to go to New York, where he had some success. He did a praised,
two-man play with Danny DeVito, had some TV roles and headed toward

That changed, however, when he met a
CMU professor who sensed his alcoholism and convinced him to return
to school. Kluge ended up winning the school's acting award twice, 10
years apart.

In Lansing, he turned the Ledges
Playhouse – known for light, summer shows – into a place where
people often found tough dramas by Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill and
more. Magnuson recalled such shows as “The Deputy,” “A Man For
All Seasons,” “Royal Gambit” and “Long Day's Journey Into

All were done with Method-style
passion, Magnuson said. “He followed the system that he learned in
New York and became the character. It was amazing to watch him.”


Kings and queen of the jungle

The show started as sheer silliness and ended with reassuring news: Nice people can finish first ... and second ... and third, even on "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here."

Lou Diamond Phillips won, with former wrestler Torrie Wilson second and former Detroit Piston basketball player John Salley third. Here's my interview with them; scroll down and you'll find interviews with some other evictees, from Sanjaya Malakar (who is thoroughly likable) to Janice Dickinson (who, alas, is not):

When all the early commotion – the
Spencer-Heidi-Janice fuss – was gone, “I'm a Celebrity … Get Me
Out of Here” became a picture of civility.

Lou Diamond Phillips – the camp's
rock-solid leader from the beginning – was named “King of the
Jungle” in Wednesday's finale. The next day, he praised the people
who came close, including Torrie Wilson (second), John Salley
(third), Sanjaya Malakar and Patti Blagojevich.

“They are just amazing human beings,”
Phillips said by phone Thursday.

The top three lasted all 24 days in the
Costa Rican jungle, facing various amounts of displeasure. Phillips
had fierce insect bites; Salley didn't. (“I got about five bites,
total,” he said.) Wilson was somewhere between. “The flies were
what made me insane,” she said.

And what about the verbal insanity of
the week with Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag and the two-plus weeks
with Janice Dickinson? “Their behavior speaks for itself,”
Phillips said.

At first, Pratt kept stirring arguments
and announcing they were leaving. When they returned – despite the
others voting not to let them back _ they were “contrite and a
little more human,” Phillips said.

Salley got along with them (“I've already got Spence on my
Twitter”), but not with Dickinson. “All of our fights were real,”
he said.

Phillips marvelled at the excesses of Pratt and Montag, the young
reality-show stars, and recalled his earlier days with Charlie Sheen,
Kiefer Sutherland, Emilio Estevez and others. “They called us the
brat pack, but we've got nothing on them.”

Not all the young competitors
misbehaved, though. Phillips raved about Malakar, both physically –
“there's a lot of strength in that scrawny body” – and
personally. “What a sweet, wonderful kid, without a mean bone in
his body.”

In his own generation, Phillips was
impressed by Blagojevich. “She was a rock (alongside) those
ridiculously flamboyant personalities.”

Phillips now returns to a mixed career
that recently has had him singing (“Camelot,” on tour), directing
(Hallmark Channel's sweet-spirited “Love Takes Wing”) and acting.
Wilson – retired from wrestling after eight years and back surgery
– said she decided in the jungle to have a work-out video. And
Salley is doing … well, everything.

In addition to sports talk and acting
(he plays the world's tallest shopping addict in “Confessions of a
Shopaholic”), he's preparing books, a radio show and his
vegan-cooking Web site.

On “Celebrity,” cooking was his
obsession. “I know there's a so-called Hell's Kitchen, but I was in
sub-Hell's kitchen,” he said. “We were in 90-degree heat in the
jungle, but we always had the fire going.”


Justice in 30 seconds?

Did Asuka Kondoh realize she might need to do a solo tonight?

It didn't seem like it, and that's the key to "So You Think You Can Dance." First, the show chooses the bottom three duos, by viewer vote; then those six people each get 30 seconds to impress the judges, who oust one man and one woman.

Most people try very hard. They run, leap, throw a lifetime of dance moves into that half-minute. Nigel Lythgoe then criticizes them for seeming "a little desperate"; instead, he should simply consider expanding their time a little.

Asuka, however, did none of that. She wore heels -- not your best solo-dance choice -- and sort of moved around appealingly, without really doing anything.

We weren't surprised when she was ousted. We were, however, surprised when Johathan Platero went, too. He mixed dance and acrobatics vibrantly; he may have been desperate, but he was also entertaining. And he was out.

We had expected Jonathan and Karla Garcia to be in the bottom three, along with Asuka and Vitolio Jeune. The surprise was that Jason Glover and Caitlin Kinney were the other duo ; it had seemed like their dynamic, "Carmina Burana" routine would draw votes. It didn't, but they both danced their way to survival.

And yes, it was nice to see the show give a nod to Michael Jackson, who died today. This was the guy who reminded us that rock-pop-r&b music can merge wonderfully with dance. He transformed MTV from a mostly white channel to an exciting place ... until, alas, it kind of forgot what the "M" was for. It once stood for music and magic and Michael; it had some great moments.


Reality: Good guy wins; great dancers soar

Good guys really do win reality shows sometimes.

Tonight, Lou Diamond Phillips -- strong, sturdy, dependable -- won "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here." Two other good people (Torrie Wilson and John Salley) finished second and third. By then, the seedy sort -- Janice Dickinson and Spencer Pratt and such -- were gone.

For interviews with some "Celebrity" people, catch the blogs leading up to this one. Meanwhile, some comments on tonight's "So You Think You Can Dance":

1) Dancing with furniture can be precarious. Last week, a couch number sent a couple to the bottom three. Tonight, Brandon Bryant and Janette Manrara had an easy chair, Phillip Cabeeb had to leap lengthwise over a sofa. If I were them, I'd at least try to bargain it down to a folding chair.

2) Evan Kasprzak, the Bloomfield Hills dancer, is vibrant whenever he's given a zesty number. Tonight's admire-her-butt piece with Randi Evans was a delight.

3) Nigel Lythgoe was reasonably restrained with his "butt" puns. He had already topped himself, however, when pointing to the great support Ade (pronounced a-day) Obayomi provided. Quoting the old Vicki Carr song, he said, "What a difference Ade makes."

4) Ade does, indeed, make a big difference. Paired with ballet dancer Melissa Sandvig, he works wonders.

5) I'm not so sure about Nigel's claim that hip-hop dancers must incite fear. That sounds way too white-English-guy to me.

6) Tonight, we heard what fields these contestants would be in if they couldn't dance. It probably doesn't surprise anyone that the choices include model, actress and dance teacher. Caitlin Kinney chose broadcast journalist; Karla Garcia chose print journalist ... which was, if memory serves, once an actual profession.

7) There were, however, some happy surprises in there. Evan fixes cars; Randi, to her immense credit, is close to a degree in teaching special ed to elementary-age kids.

8) Then there was Janette, who didn't exactly capture the mood of the nation with her desire to be a bank loan officer. She did grant that it's "not the funnest thing in the world."

9) The music can make a huge differennce. Jason Glover and Caitlin had music from "Carmina Burana," which has done wonders for figure skaters, movies, ads and more; it added magnificence to their piece. And Ade and Melissa were helped by the lush beauty of "Emotion," sung by Destiny's Child.

10) OK, I've been kind of avoiding making a prediction on who will be in the bottom three. (This is a strong field, hard to separate.) I'll guess three of the early duos -- Janette and Brandon, Karla and Johnathan, Asuka Kondoh and Vitolio Jeune; I could, of course, be extremely wrong.