Dancing into the finals

Six talented young dancers are now a step away from the big time and the big stage.

They'll get their chance Wednesday (8-10 p.m., Fox) and viewers will vote. At 9 p.m. Thursday, the field will be trimmed to four, for the Aug. 5-6 finale amid the elegance of the Kodak Theatre.

First, let's meet the two people eliminated so far. Here's my interview from the next day: 

Show business has plenty of people who
admit they can't do much else. In the real world, they are skill-less
and clueless.

Then there's Janette Manrara. After
being ousted Thursday from “So You Think You Can Dance,” she told
viewers she isn't going back to her comfy bank job.

“I had a pretty solid position,”
Manrara said by phone the next day. “I had a good job, my own

She was a senior loan processor at a
Miami bank. It was good work, but maybe it wasn't her.

“At the office, I played music all
day,” she said. “I couldn't stop moving around.”

By dance-career logic, Manrara
shouldn't be going pro so late, at 25. Still, she's tiny, talented and
limber; tough judges – Mia Michaels, Nigel Lythgoe – praised her

Manrara was already 19 – and already
working at the bank – when two of her musical-theater friends
started a dance studio. She followed them and became intense – even
while also being a part-time finance student at Florida International

For Jason Glover, the other person
ousted Thursday, there are no such distractions. He focuses full-time
on dance – something he's loved since he first saw Michael Jackson.
“When I was little, I would just stand in front of the TV and copy
his moves,” he said by phone Friday.

He started studying at a Fresno studio
at 12 and worked professionally in wide-ranging fields – tap
alongside Gregory Hines, ballet (which he had no training in) in “The

Glover seemed to be in a strong
position the performance show Wednesday. He and Kayla Radomski were
doing the night's final piece (usually the one viewers remember), as
hip-hopping vampires.

Waiting in the wings, they saw Ade
Obayomi and Melissa Sandvig do a stunning piece about breast cancer.
“It stole the night,” Glover said. “It overshadowed all the
other pieces … It threw everyone for a loop; no one expected
anything like that.”

He and Radomski admired it, but
realized something else: “It was, 'Oh crap, we have to follow

They finished in the bottom two for men
and for women. Radomski survived (with Manrara) going home; Glover


Oops, ignore my "Dance" prediction

OK, I think I'd better withdraw my prediction that Jason Glover will win this year's "So You Think You Can Dance."

I really thought he had the perfect package -- a great dancer, well-conceived solo pieces and the sort of face that has taken others (Kris Allen, David Archuleta) to or near the top of "American Idol."

So I was startled to see him in the bottom two tonight -- and more startled to see him be sent home. Here are some of my comments; please add yours:

1) From the beginning, the judges have adored Kayla Radomski and Janette Manrara. Still, both ended up in the bottom two again. Kayla has been there (or in the bottom three) often and keeps surviving; Janette had never been there before and was promptly sent home.

2) We knew that Ade Obayomi and Melissa Sandvig wouldn't be in the bottom. Their duet -- to a Tyce Diorio piece about breast-cancer -- was stunning. Still, it was surprising to see Evan Kasprzak and Jeanine Mason escape with them.

3) Credit some of that to Evan's immense personal popularity. I'm pretty sure he's never been in the bottom two or bottom three; even when his partner -- first Randi Evans, now Janette -- is ousted, he survives easily. This Bloomfield Hills guy brings an everyman quality and a great touch with Broadway-style moves.

4) It was great to see those previous masterpieces done again for the 100th episode, including Mia Michaels' brilliant "The Bench" and Wade Robson's superb "The Hummingbird and the Flower." The latter was the closest I've ever come to desiring carnal knowledge of a plant.

5) Katie Holmes' piece was also terrific, particularly the filmed part that opened it. Still, the lip-synching took away something.

6) Mostly, though, this was a night to celebrate how much "Dance" has accomplished. I agree with producer-judge Nigel Lythgoe's comment; Diorio's brilliant piece Wednesday reminded us that "television at its best can reach out and give people a shared experience."

7) Now the show rushes headlong to its finale. It's shifting from summers to autumns, requiring a quick-turnaround. As a result, the show will trim to its final four next week, then will have its finale Aug. 5-6 at the Kodak Theatre, which has sometimes been the home of the Oscars and the "American Idol" finale and more. Someone will be the new champion. I'm starting to think it won't be Jason, after all.




"Dance": Second-half comeback

You could sense the judges' mood in the first half of tonight's "So You Think You Can Dance."

"I feel like everything is in slow-motion," Mary Murphy said.

Later -- after one number he actually liked -- Nigel Lythgoe added: "This is the flattest night we've ever had -- until now."

What he didn't reailze was that the night had just started its leap from blah to brilliant. The final three duets were great, then beyond great, then great again.

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

1) I want Ellen DeGeneres as a guest judge every week.

2) The "slow-motion" gripe made sense. There was a flowing beauty to seeing Brandon Bryant and Jeanine Mason float through an ultra-slow waltz (to a gorgeous Hayley Westenra song), but the piece was so low that the dancers seemed to be working by rote.

3) The next dance had Ade Obayomi and Melissa Sandvig doing a cha-cha. Like the Brandon-Jeanine piece, it seemed sort of dance-by-numbers.

4) And then, in the second half of the show, those same two dancers gave the season it's best moment. Ade and Melissa danced to a Tyce DiOrio piece about a woman with cancer. It was brilliant in its choreography and its performances. Three of the judges were moved to tears; this was dance and television at its best.

5) Sandwitched around that were two other great, high-energy pieces -- a Laurieann Gibson one with Brandon and Jeanine, a Shane Sparks one with Jason Glover and Kayla Radomski.

6) I also thought the first Jason-Kayla number ("Mr. Monogamy," by DiOrio) was excellent. It was the highlight of a weak first half.

7) Now that I think of it, I want DeGeneres to be guest judge on ALL competition shows. Surely, she must know something about cooking, modelling and country duets.

8) Only one duo, Evan Kasprzak and Janette Manrara, didn't have a big, show-stopper number. Evan also dropped his hat during his solo, but recovered nicely.

9) Those solos have been so-so for most of the women (Melissa excluded), but the guys have shone. As usual, Ade and Jason were superb.

10) My prediction for who will be ousted Thursday? I'll say Jeanine (whose solo was weak) and Brandon. The latter is just a guess, though. Jason and Ade are out of the question, that leaves only Evan (who keeps getting singled out because of his charm) and Brandon. Brandon might go, proving anew that life is not fair.






"Dance" resumes, without its Hawaii flavor

A new round of "So You Think You Can Dance" starts tonight, with two of the more interesting people gone. Here's my recent interview with Kupono Aweau and Randi Evans:

In his pre-teen days in Hawaii, Kupono
Aweau learned two lessons: Life isn't always fair, but it can be

That was when different classrooms
combined for a 5th-grade play.

“We had the crappiest scene in the
play,” Aweau, who was eliminated Thursday from “So You Think You
Can Dance,” said by phone. “The other classroom had all the
coolest kids. There was this one girl who did a dance solo. I had
never seen one before, but I thought that was so cool.”

He would practice dance at home, then
started studying at a studio when he was 15. He reached the “Dance”
finals, again learning that life isn't fair:

– The best parts: He and Kayla
Radomski did two duets from master choreographers, drawing praise.
One was a crash-test dummy number by Wade Robson, the other an
addiction piece by Mia Michaels, bringing personal impact. “My
father and sister were … crystal-meth addicts,” Aweau said. “It
was a rough time for our family, but they fought their way through it
… This was like therapy to me.”

– The worst: Partners were shuffled
this week and he did a Spanish-style ballroom number with Randi
Evans. “Kupono's a great guy and we had a lot of fun togther,”
Evans said today by phone. “It just wasn't the best (piece) of the

Small (5-foot-3) and zesty, Evans had
often drawn praise when paired with a down-sized partner, Evan
Kasprzak. This week the duos were broken up and she found herself
doing a tough piece. Judges disliked many things about the result,
including her wig. (“That wasn't my choice,” she said.) Viewers
apparently agreed and they had the lowest male and female totals.

Both were eliminated, with the field
trimmed to eight. The key thing, Aweau said, is that they'll both be
in the show's tour. “Being in the top 10 just lifts this weight
from you.”

The two eliminated dancers, both 23,
sounded extraordinarily cheerful today. Aweau said he's looking
forward to visiting Hawaii and celebrating with his family; Evans
will “rest my body” briefly in Utah.

That's where she and her husband like
to go four-wheeling (“I'm an outdoor junkie”), but not dancing.
“My husband couldn't be more on the opposite end of the spectrum.
It's like he can't even keep a beat.”

A busy day for moon memories

For one day, viewers can forget current troubles and enjoy a long-ago triumph. Today (Monday, July 20), TV celebrates the first anniversary of man's walk on the moon. That includes:

-- Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room," at 4 p.m. ET on CNN. At 4:17 p.m. -- precisely 40 years after the landing -- Blitzer plans to talk to Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man (after Neil Armstrong) to step out of the lunar module that day and walk the moon.

-- "Moonshot," from 9-11 p.m. on the History Channel. It beautifully blends scripted scenes and historic footage. Please see my previous blog on Walter Cronkite (featured in the film) and moon converage.

-- "When We Left Earth," at 10 p.m. on Discovery.

-- And more, including all the news shows, plus Turner Classic Movies, which has the 1902 "A Trip to the Moon" at 8 p.m., "For All Mankind" at 8:15 and the brilliant-but-quirky "The Right Stuff" at 10.