Thursday, June 19, 2014

SYTYCD: Tara's Top 25

Summer is upon us and with that comes the return of my favorite show (and that of nearly every dancer I know), So You Think You Can Dance. Before the onslaught of new talent and amazing choreography arrives, I thought it would be fun to commemorate the first 10 seasons with my own list of 25 routines. I've been working on this list for nearly a year now! A couple of notes before the rundown:
  • Season 1 routines are not included in this list, as I was in the process of moving from TX to D.C. during Season 1 and did not have great access to television during that time.  Bummer. I know there were some amazing dancers that season, but I just didn't catch them.
  • Music selection did play a big role in some of my Top 25. I often feel that the choreographers' music choices play an instrumental (haha) role in the success (or failure) of the piece.
So, without further ado, my top 25, organized by season:

1) Season 2: "Calling You" (Celine Dion)
Dancers: Heidi Groskreutz and Travis Wall
Choreographer: Mia Michaels

I believe that this is the routine that elevated the show to a new level. Travis is divine and Heidi really stepped up her game. Beautiful.

2) Season 3: "The Chairman's Waltz" (from Memoirs of a Geisha)
Dancers: Jamie Goodwin and Hokuto Konishi (aka Hok)
Choreographer: Wade Robson

I don't always love Wade Robson's stuff (sometimes it's a bit out there for me), but this piece was an unbelievable use of a dancer's unique gift. Jamie was beautiful, but Hok, as the hummingbird, was breathtaking in his movement quality.

3) Season 3: "Hip Hip Chin Chin" (Club des Belugas)
Dancers: Lacey Schwimmer and Danny Tidwell
Choreographer: Dmitry Chaplin

This dance gets better and better the more times I watch it. Probably the hottest samba that I've ever seen.  Maybe even the hottest dance routine I've ever seen! And Danny isn't even a ballroom dancer. Just goes to show what an amazing ballet dancer can do!

4) Season 3: "We Are the Champions" (Gavin Degraw)
Dancer: Danny Tidwell (solo from Week 9)

I will insert here that Danny Tidwell is my all-time favorite SYTYCD contestant. It infuriated me when Nigel kept trying to put Cheon in the same category as him in season 9. Not even close, as this solo demonstrates. That pirouette sequence . . . I never tire of watching it!

5) Season 4: "Bleeding Love" (Leona Lewis)
Dancers: Chelsie Hightower and Mark Kanemura
Choreographers: Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo

This was the first lyrical hip hop routine (and quite possibly the first hip hop routine in general) that I ever really loved.

6) Season 4: "Mercy" (Duffy)
Dancers: Stephen "Twitch" Boss and Katee Shean
Choreographer: Mia Michaels

The emotion and energy in this routine was just phenomenal. The strength of Katee's technique behind those movements was superb, and I just love, love, LOVE Twitch.

7) Season 5: "Koop Island Blues" (Koop, featuring Ane Brun)
Dancers: Randi Evans and Evan Kasprzak
Choreographer: Mia Michaels

While neither of these dancers were my favorites of Season 5, OMG, I LOVED this routine. Unbelievably good.

8) Season 5: "Gravity" (Sara Bareilles)
Dancers: Kupono Aweau and Kayla Radomski
Choreographer: Mia Michaels (again!)

As someone who has dealt with the power of addiction, I was unbelievably moved by this piece. I don't think I've ever watched anything so compelling. Kupono was downright terrifying, and Kayla's despair and desperation was heart wrenching.

9) Season 5: "If It Kills Me" (Jason Mraz)
Dancers: Jason Glover and Jeanine Mason
Choreographer: Travis Wall

This routine marked the real arrival of Jeanine Mason, who was one of my favorite female contestants in all 10 season, as well as the debut of Travis Wall (Season 2 contestant) as a choreographer.  The combination of talent, choreography, and music in this piece were really special for me.

10) Season 5: "Loving Is Really My Game" (Brainstorm)
Dancers: Brandon Bryant and Janette Manrara
Choreographer: Doriana Sanchez

Whenever Cat Deely announces a disco routine, I groan. I'm not a fan. BUT - this disco routine with Brandon and Janette was fantastic. I loved every minute of it and have not seen its equal since 2009!

11) Season 7: "Hallelujah" (Jeff Buckley)
Dancers: Allison Holker and Alex Wong
Choreographer: Sonja Tayeh

I know most people can't take their eyes off of Allison Holker when she's onstage (and she is tremendous),  but she met her match in Alex Wong. I couldn't take my eyes off of him. His ruptured achilles tendon later in the season was one of the true tragedies of SYTYCD.

12) Season 7: "Outta Your Mind" (Lil Jon and LM*AO)
Dancers: Stephen "Twitch" Boss and Alex Wong
Choreographers: Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo

Just genius. I'm still in awe of the fact that Alex, a professionally trained ballet dancer, could get down that like that.

13) Season 7: "Collide" (Howie Day)
Dancers: Kent Boyd and Lauren Froderman
Choreographer: Travis Wall

This routine almost didn't make the list, but Lauren Froderman is my all-time favorite female contestant (and who didn't love Kent?!) and this dance was just so sweet and beautifully danced. A lovely pairing.

14) Season 7: "Oblivion" (Astor Piazzolla)
Dancers: Lauren Froderman and Pasha Kovalev
Choreographers: Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo

This was just an amazing Argentinian tango. I'd sacrifice a lot to dance with Pasha for just 10 minutes.

15) Season 8: "Misty Blue" (Dorothy Moore)
Dancers: Stephen "Twitch" Boss and Sasha Mallory
Choreographer: Christopher Scott

This routine . . . Twitch, Sasah, the choreography, and the MUSIC. I could listen to this song over and over, and watch this routine over and over as well.

16) Season 8: "Turn to Stone" (Ingrid Michaelson)
Dancers: Marko Germar and Melanie Moore
Choreographer: Travis Wall

I loved the concept of this routine and the music made my heart jump about 3/4 of the way through. Melanie and Marko were amazing in this number.

17) Season 9: "Unstoppable" (E.S. Posthumus)
Dancers: Lindsay Arnold and Cole Horibe
Choreographer: Jason Gilkison

I'm no expert in the paso doble, but this was by far the best I've ever seen on SYTYCD. Unreal. Cole was one of my favorite contestants on Season 9.

18) Season 9: "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" (Nancy Sinatra)
Dancers: Eliana Girard and Alex Wong
Choreographer: Stacey Tookey

Alex Wong. Alex Wong. Alex Wong. Amazing choreography, haunting music.

19) Season 9: "Power of Love" (Celine Dion)
Dancers: Tiffany Maher and Ade Obayomi
Choreographer: Mandy Moore

Cheesy - yes. But the way Ade just tossed little Tiffany around that stage was breathtaking. I loved the movement quality in this routine.

20) Season 10: "Pretty Lil Heart" (Robin Thicke, feat. Lil Wayne)
Dancers: Mackenzie Dustman and Paul Karmiyan
Choreographer: Dave Scott

This was possibly my favorite hip hop routine ever on SYTYCD. Mackenzie stuns, but Paul is also unreal (I so wanted him to take the whole thing!). The way his body moves in this routine is downright criminal.

21) Season 10: "Edge of Glory" (Lady Gaga)
Dancers: Mackenzie Dustman and Paul Karmiyan
Choreographer: Mandy Moore

Another Mackenzie/Paul routine. I really loved these two dancers together and this routine was just beautiful in the intimacy they created on stage.

22) Season 10: "The Gravel Road" (from The Village)
Dancers: Top 10
Choreographer: Christopher Scott

This was probably my favorite group number in SYTYCD history. The choreography was inspired (amazing use of props) and the music and dancing just superb.

*For some reason, YouTube is not cooperating and letting me post the video here, but I think if you click here, you can link to it.  find the video of this routine (even though I can find it via another browser). I'll keep trying and post later, if I can get it!

23)  Season 10: "Wicked Game" (James Vincent McMorrow)
Dancers: Travis Wall and Amy Yakima
Choreographer: Travis Wall

It was so great to see Travis dance again, and he pulled out all the stops on this routine with Amy, who is definitely a powerhouse of a dancer.

24) Season 10: "Sand" (Nathan Lanier, feat. Karen Whipple)
Dancers: Top 10 Guys
Choreographer: Christopher Scott

Another phenomenal group routine by Christopher Scott. I think I like his group work better than this duets. The boys were awesome in this and that sand could not have been easy to work with.

25) Season 10: "Spiegel Im Spiegel - Arvo Part" (performed by Angela Yoffe and Vadim Gluzman)
Dancers: Jasmine Harper and Du-shaunt "Fik-shun" Stegall
Choreographer: Travis Wall

Possibly my favorite routine of Season 10. I was moved to tears by the music, the choreography, the costumes, and the dancing. Jasmine's legs just went on for forever, and Fik-shun stepped up his game to partner her quite nicely, despite the height difference.

And there it is!  Can't wait for Season 11 to kick into high gear in the upcoming weeks. I'll be interested to see if any new routines take over some spots in my Top 25. Let the dancing begin!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween 2013

What a difference a year makes!  Last year's Halloween was kind of a fail.  Reed hated his costume and only consented to wear the giraffe head for one picture, if he could also suck on a paci.  Our then new neighborhood turned out to be a ghost town, since all the kids go across Rte. 28 to the Lakelands and Kentlands where the houses and townhouses give them more bang for their buck.  We only had one group of trick or treaters!  By the end of the night, Reed was kind of into knocking on doors, and he really loved his first piece of Halloween candy, but overall, it was a bit of a disappointment.

This year was a whole different ballgame.  Reed ADORED his Mickey Mouse costume (I suspect it might come out of the closet a few more times in the upcoming months) and he couldn't wait to go trick or treating with his friend, Jack.  We decided to join the crowds in the Lakelands, which was definitely the right move.  Nearly every house was decorated and there were tons of other little ones out and about, which made it a lot more fun for our little Mickey.  By the end, he was a pro at saying, "Trick or treat!" and "thank you" at every house, and we were impressed that he lasted nearly an hour trick or treating.  At bedtime he told Mommy that he wanted to go trick or treating again and that next year he wanted to dress up as Donald Duck.  We'll see how many times that changes in 12 months!

In the meantime, here are some pictures to commemorate our first successful Halloween with Reed!

Carving pumpkins on Halloween Eve

Finished products (Jeff's on the left, Tara's on the right)
Our sweet Mickey Mouse

Enjoying the loot after a good night out

Cuddles with Daddy and Elmo

Construction worker Mickey

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What's Your Favorite Team, Part II

Albeit a disappointing season, Reed's and my answer to this question is still the Washington Nationals.  But as my brother kindly pointed out in a comment to What's Your Favorite Team, Part I, their season is over and I am gearing up to root for the Dodgers in their first playoff game tonight against the Atlanta Braves.  Before doing so, I wanted to say one last hooray for the Nats.  While their exciting play in September was indeed too little, too late, it sure was fun to watch them slowly but surely narrow that gap in the Wild Card race.  In memory of the 2013 season, here are some pictures from my trip down to the Nationals Park field to watch the club take batting practice - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I'll remember forever!  If only my dad had told me to bring a ball with me for signing . . .

Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper taking a stroll down the third base line.

The Zimmerman.  Ryan Zimmerman.  #11.  Love him.

Fellow Nats fans and AU colleages Lisa Arakaki and Traci Crockett shared the excitement with me!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Growing Reed

Yes, I missed the 2-year update.  By almost five months.  But Reed is so much fun at two years and nearly five months that I thought  I might as well just share some of THOSE updates now!

  • Reed is GROWING!  A month ago in CA, he weighed in at 28 lbs, but Jeff and I are sure he's gained at least one, if not two pounds since then.  He's getting harder and harder to carry around (yet he still asks, "Mommy carry you?" whenever possible).  According to his Baseball Hall of Fame height chart, he's just at 36 inches.
  • He still takes one nap during the day, between 1 and 3:30 or 4 p.m.  As much as I love being around him, I'm not going to lie - those naps are heavenly for Mommy and Daddy too!  He goes to bed around 7:45 and wakes up between 6:30 and 7 a.m.  He still sleeps in a crib, but he does know how to get out and has swung himself over the edge three times.  Fortunately, he's so big now that he's not far from the ground and 99% of the time, he's perfectly happy to stay in.  We're starting to make plans for the big-boy bed, but he's probably got another month or so in the crib.
  • Speaking of nighttime, his routine with me is precious.  After we read a book and I put him in the crib, he says, "One more hug, one more kiss", about three times before I leave the room.  
  • Reed is still such a snuggle bug!  He loves to be held and his favorite place is in our lap to read a book or watch one of his shows.
  • He's very into labeling everything - "That's a dog.  That's Pooh.  That's a mermaid."  He also likes to ask, "What's that?", even when he knows exactly what something is.  Some of my other favorite phrases are, "Mommy [or Daddy], where are you?" (said in a sing-song voice); "Mommy, what are you doing?"; "Mommy, are you doing exercises?"; "Mommy, can Reed watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in Mommy and Daddy's room, I fink?" 
  • Reed's gotten a lost less picky with food.  While he's still far from adventurous, he eats much more now, both in quantity and in types of food.  Some of his favorites are cereal (Life, Raisin Bran Crunch), chicken nuggets, fish sticks, ground beef, eggs, bagels with cream cheese, bread, cottage cheese, pizza, and fruit.  Of course, he loves sweets, especially lollipops and yogurt-covered raisins.
  • He is still our music-loving boy.  He can ID musicians from just hearing a bar or two of music, and he loves Michael Buble (hooray!), the Beatles, Sesame Street, and Mickey Mouse songs.  He's got quite a repertoire of songs he can belt out, including several tracks off the new MB album and a whole host of other diddies.
  • Reed also likes his TV.  This summer he fell in love with Mickey and the gang on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and he still loves his Classical Baby DVDs (The Poetry Show is a new fave), Elmo, and Barney.
  • Fortunately, he still loves books too!  Current faves include Oh Say Can You Say, The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat, The Shabbat Box, The Little Engine That Could, and The Giving Tree.
  • While his CD player still keeps him occupied most mornings while Mommy and Daddy are getting ready for work, Reed has a growing interest in blocks, and he also enjoys stickers, his water table, and the park.  
  • Generally, Reed wants to be doing whatever Mommy (and sometimes Daddy) is doing, whether that's exercising, making the bed, putting on makeup, or cooking.  He is definitely my little sidekick!
Here are a few pictures of Reed from the last few weeks, as well as a fun video of him singing a duet with his new friend Sadie.

Fun at the park by Bubbe and Zaide's house

Just enjoying his shades and lollipop

A rock star in Mommy's sunglasses

Sunday, August 18, 2013

California Dreams

When thinking about our summer vacation plans this year, we considered renting a beach house in North Carolina's Outer Banks or Rehoboth Beach, like so many of the other folks around here do.  But Reed is notoriously wussy when it comes to new situations, and we worried that we would pack up for a week at the beach, get there, and Reed would steadfastly refuse to get anywhere near the sand or shore for the entire time.  Instead, we decided to head home to Agoura, where a heated pool waited in the backyard for twice daily swim sessions, the beach was a mere 20 minute drive away (in case a certain 2-year-old hated it and needed to leave NOW), and our Sherwin family awaited our arrival with big smiles and open arms.  We made sure to plan our trip with Rob and Brie, so that we could all be there at the same time.

It was an amazing week.  Some of the highlights:

  • Twice-daily swim sessions (as mentioned above!).  Reed particularly enjoyed the noodles, his circle raft, and seeing Uncle Robby wear his swim sweater.
  • The beach!  Turns out, Reed could be a beach bum.  He loved it all - the sand, the waves, the tunnels on the canyon.  
  • Watering Grammy's flowers.  Reed loved his daily chore.
  • Colin's performance and Aunt Candy's choreography in TADW's Aladdin.  So cool to get to see all of their hard work this summer pay off in such a great show!  Colin was an amazing Abu and Candy's choreography was wonderful.  I think the best part of the experience was Reed's comment once we got in the car to leave.  After being on the verge of tears the entire time and whimpering into my ear every five minutes, "Home!  Go home!", he says cheerfully, with zero sarcasm, "That was FUN!".  I kid you not.
  • Telestrations.  Perhaps a new Sherwin family favorite?
  • Old friends.  A special treat for me was visiting with my old ballet teachers Kim Maselli and Joyce Hurley.  They were such an important part of my childhood and teenage years, and I owe so much to them.  
  • Family BBQ.  Catching up with our family and seeing Reed enjoy his cousins Colin, Evan, Brooklyn, and Chelsea was so precious.
  • Splash park!  Well, maybe not a REAL splash park, but the water fountain at the Janns Mall was definitely a highlight for Reed.  
  • Talking, talking, talking . . .  Reed had a huge language burst while we were in CA.  All of a sudden, his three and four word sentences turned into six, seven, and eight word sentences, and we could actually have real conversations with him.  It's only increased since then.
And here are some of my favorite pictures of our vacation.  I just wish it had lasted longer!

Reed and Uncle Robby playing telephone through the noodle

Reed thought Uncle Robby wearing the swim sweater was HILARIOUS!

On a search for rocks at Zuma Beach

Surfer dude

An expert with a pail and shovel

Good times burying Mommy's feet in the sand

Gorgeous Rob and Brie

Enjoying some afternoon animal crackers with Daddy and Bampa

Dinner al fresco (every night!)

The fam at CSUN for Alladin

Our awesome Abu!

Reed loved pool time with Bampa (and the blue noodle!)

He just hated being the center of attention

Floating like a big boy in the spa with Mommy and Grammy

Light of my life!

Scoping out the flower beds

He doesn't delight us at all . . .

The love affair continues with cousin Chelsea


Strike a pose, buddy!

Pure joy!

What's Your Favorite Team?

I've trained Reed carefully on this question.  While I was raised a Los Angeles Dodgers fan and I will always love the boys in blue, it's pretty hard to be a die-hard Dodger fan living on the East Coast.  Their games are rarely televised and, when they are, they often start at 10 p.m., just when I'm ready to conk out from exhaustion.  For a while I would try to "watch" day games at work, following those pitch by pitch images on my computer, with no sound, in between answering emails and preparing event briefings.  Needless to say, it was a challenge.

So, I'm not ashamed to admit that I jumped on the Washington Nationals bandwagon in 2012, when the team finally acquired more than two or three solid players and started making a name for themselves.  While Jeff does not enjoy my often over-the-top reactions to key plays in the games, he's been a supportive spouse, watching the games with me (every game is televised on MASN - hooray!) and indulging my love-hate relationship with F.P. Santangelo, the color commentator.  

All this to say that I encourage Reed to watch games with me whenever possible.  He enjoys clapping for the Nats and singing the old softball cheers I dragged out of the corners of my memory when the Nats are up to bat.  When singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", we root, root, root for the Nationals, and I now have proof, on video, of his favorite team and players (well, his mommy's favorite players, at any rate).  Sorry, Bampa, but we're raising a Nats fan in this house.  If the Dodgers make it to the playoffs this year and the Nats get aced out by the Reds, we'll be cheering for Puig, but until that wild card race is over, it's Zimmerman, Harper, and the Nationals!

Shabbat Shalom, Hey!

Much to our delight, Reed adores Shabbat.  His standard response to our question, "Reed, do you know what tonight is?" (regardless of the day of week) is "SHABBAT!".  He loves every step of preparing for our Friday night ritual: running into the dining room to get the candlesticks, kiddush cup, kippahs, and prayer book; lighting the candles; singing the blessings; and, best of all, drinking the "Shabbat juice" (his words, not ours!).

Earlier this summer, we captured Reed singing the barucha while paging through the prayer book.  He's pretty darn close to getting that "chai" sound!