And we’re down to the final four on this week’s Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition! Abby even knows who she’d pick for a winner — a dancer with Amanda’s feet, Brianna’s strength, Asia’s face and Madison’s leaps and turns. But given that no such creature exists, let’s get on with the competition.
This week, the challenge is balance. The theme is The Circus. And the product placement is Paramount’s only-in-theaters 3D movie experience Cirque du Soleil’s World’s Away — which the girls are going to be the very first people to get a peek at. But this isn’t just a special treat for making it to the Final Fabulous Four. Abby wants the girls to study what the dancers do well and learn from it.
Then comes the special treat. The winner of the challenge will receive — courtesy of Cirque du Soleil — 2 plane tickets, hotel accommodations and an invitation to attend the world premiere of the film in New York City.
Then comes the special prop — a balance beam. A little feller, maybe half a foot off the floor. Asia says she’s going to do a-mazing because she knows the balance beam and the other girls don’t. Turns out, that’s actually the case — Asia is the only trained gymnast in the room. Plus, she has the lowest center of gravity. I wonder if Kristie has already headed back to her hotel room to pack for NYC. Nope. She’s still there. Beaming about the guest choreographer being from Brittany Spears’ Circus Tour. Enh. Get it? Circus Tour choreographer for Circus week. Good one, AUDC.
The choreographer’s name is Shannon Beach. And Shannon Beach only has 20 minutes to teach the girls the Dance of Happy Travels. The girls look completely unnerved by that. Despite Asia’s comfort with the prop, even Kristie’s worried that the short timeframe coupled with Asia’s natural tendency to be one beat behind on the choreo could cause her to, uh, fall short.
Oh boy. Shannon Beach just slid into a nice controlled splits on the beam, beamed at the girls like she just invented the move … and damn near gave Mayelin, especially, a heart attack.
Asia aces the beam split. Amanda comes close, but falls. Brianna, too. Madison has the longest way down — and the most trepidation. I don’t think this is her competition to win. And Abby’s back already. How did it go, she wants to know. “It was ohhhhkaaaay,” shrugs Shannon. OK ain’t winning a trip to the Big Apple, so let’s see who pulls off perfection.
Asia’s first. She manages to pull her leg up past her ear and sink into an almost perfect split, but plops off, just shy of total success. She tries this to see if it will salvage anything.
Abby looks at her like she’s poorly constructed puppy, turns to Kevin and says, “It’s cute and it’s little. It’s … ridiculous.”
Yes, but ridiculous good or, you know, ridiculous ridiculous?
That would be the latter. Without Asia’s Robin/Richy cheer squad on hand to overlook the technicals, Abby zeroes in on the mugging child and admonishes, “I feel like you’re trying to pull one over on me all the time. ‘I can’t do the steps, but I’m just really cute, Miss Abby!”
Coreen is relieved.
Brianna is next. Like Asia, her leg lift goes perfectly and she falls out of the splits. “So close,” sighs Abby. “AUGH! THERE GOES MY TWO TICKETS TO NEW YORK!” wails Kris.
Not much different for Amanda. She looks exceptionally graceful in the leg lift and in her descent into the splits, but she falls off anyway.
Madison does least well of all. Before her long, long legs can come close to spanning the length of the beam, she pitches forward onto her palms.
“There are smart kids that just aren’t getting it,” growls Abby. She tells Asia she is doing really advanced, big-girl steps without the proper training. Though this challenge was ostensibly about being able to maintain a split on the balance beam, Abby suddenly goes off on Madison about her face. “Get a video camera, tape her face and see what she looks like!” she screams at Madison while pointing to Asia. Or you could tape Abby’s face. It’s pretty expressive right about now. Especially when she says she wants to chop Madison’s and Asia’s heads off and put Asia’s mugging noggin on Madison’s talented body. Asia’s a little worried about that sudden revelation and looks toward her mother to make sure she wouldn’t actually let that happen.
And the rage train rolls on, with the balance boxcar left way back at Asia station. Abby tells Brianna she has horrendous feet and she knows it and she has to fix that or wear heels. Kris doesn’t know why Abby is being so harsh, either. “It’s not what you say, “ she sighs of the ferocious criticism. “It’s how you say it. How you deliver it.” Maybe Kris hasn’t watched Dance Moms, either.
Amanda’s on the firing line next. “You think in your mind that you’re giving me all of these facial expressions and I’m seeing three emotional levels during the performance your nailing it,” Abby snaps. “And it’s little. It’s nothing.”
Mayelin vows to make it something.
Then she tells everyone the challenge was bad. I maybe think Kevin’s getting the plane tickets. Or Abby’s keeping ’em. Nope. Amanda is getting a very big prize for Abby’s version of a bad performance. I think Abby made the right decision. The girl may not have stuck the splits, but she was by far the most elegant throughout the attempt.
Abby admonishes her to take the correction about her face, comprehend it and apply it. In other words, forget your body, kid. It’s all about your mug. “It wasn’t that you were the best,” she tells Amanda. “You were just the best of the worst.”
“I got robbed,” says Asia. Consider it karma for all the times you stole victory away from more technically sound dancers, little muffin. Also, anybody else think Amanda reminds them of a dark haired Chloe, for all her even-tempered elegance? I just got a big dose of that right now during her charmingly giggly aside.
For the competition round, each of the girls will have a solo and take part in a group dance. Abby says Asia needs to improve her technique. Madison and Amanda need to work on their facial expressions. And Brianna has to let go.
Oh, this makes me happy — Madison got a lyrical dance choreographed by Ricky Marcelino Palamino. If Amanda gets a lyrical dance, too, it’ll be my favorite episode ever.
Coreen, who’s a pretty even-keeled gal herself, tries to coach her girl in emotional performance, but Madison scolds that she’s not a dance teacher. Coreen wisely invokes the names of the banes of all of their collective existence — Kristie and Asia — to remind her suddenly sassy girl of what’s at stake. You can non-emote that kid right into the final, Miss Madison. Just … don’t.
No lyrical for Amanda; she’s got a jazz dance choreographed by the ever surlier Anthony Burrell. I’m not too happy about this at all. Jazz requires a lot of big faces and even at her biggest, Amanda’s going to still look like a music box ballerina. “Everyone keeps telling me to dance like Asia,” she laments. “That’s her thing. It’s not mine!” Also she feels AB’s choreography isn’t that great either.
Coreen shows up for moral support — or to scout her kid’s comrade in lacking facial expressions — and Mayelin warns her to not make any noises. Privately, she wishes she would just go away.
Meantime, Anthony has decided he’s just going scare the emotion right out of Amanda, bellowing away at the child to emote for the living love of God. “You’re spatially challenged, facially challenged — go figure it out.” I think Anthony wants to go back to working with grown ups. Like, now. To wit … he just walked out of Amanda’s practice. Hey. Quitter.
Ricky Marcelino Palomino is also choreographing Brianna’s musical theater solo, in which she will play a clown. Her job, she says, is to make the judges laugh. No, Toots. Your job is to make faces. Lots of them. Lots and lots. The face is the thing. I should call this recap About Face.
Brianna says she’s too serious a dancer to play a clown. Kris is a little freaked out, too.
Oh oh. Speaking of serious, Anthony is also choreographing Asia’s solo about captive animals. Well you’re going to get yourself some face now, Mr. Burrell. All the face that you can handle. Kristie calls Asia her little captive animal.
Asia will be dancing in and on a cage, which she isn’t too happy about at all. Anthony isn’t too happy about her refusal to point her toes. “You shouldn’t be a dancer, if you can’t point your feet,” he crabs at her. Well she can do this:
That has to count for something.
On break, Kristie reminds Asia to stay on task so they can beat Amanda and Madison. Asia picks Amanda to beat the most because her facial expressions killlllll her older rival.
Shannon’s back to choreograph the group routine which Abby says will be inspired by the circus Cirque du Soleil. Is Cirque du Soleil actually considered a circus? I always thought of it as an acrobatic troupe. A performance troupe, I guess. Not a circus … because, you know, no lions and stuff. But I suppose there is “circus” in its name, so who am I to argue? Besides, the clip we’re looking at right now pretty much makes me want to go on the road with them immediately, whatever it is they are.
Finally back to the business of balance, Abby says there is nothing better to demonstrate it than a complicated, Cirque du Soleil-themed routine. The mothers think otherwise. Coreen opines that the girls have been going nonstop for 45 days straight and to have something as strenuous as this routine seems particularly brutal.
And Shannon’s not doing much to dispel that theory. She seems to think that the ladies were born in the circus, for all her clambering up and down the silks and believing they can do the same, just like that. Brianna says the silks hurt her physically and the stress of learning them hurts her emotionally and I’m pretty sure — oh Gawd I wish I wasn’t — that all context clues are pointing to this not being Brianna’s day. Kris, too, because on competition day, she ‘fesses up that she’s on the verge of vomiting.
Kristie says she’s worried that Asia is going to go out there all amped up about performing — AKA killing people with her face — and forget to point her feet and straighten her legs. Especially now that at least Abby seems to realize she actually has body parts relevant to dancing besides her face.
Elsewhere, Madison and Coreen are having a confab about Asia and how Madison should not fear her, even through the tyke is still here. Madison admits she sometimes wishes she, too, were 7 and cute, because the expectations are clearly lower. They’re certainly … different … anyway.
Mayelin gives Amanda a similar pep talk to Coreen’s and Mad’s and tells her daughter that if she puts her mind to it, she can outperform everyone — including the Little Asia That Could — facially and dance-wise. Amanda corrects her mother and says she is not going to focus on outdoing Asia but rather on outdoing her own previous performances. Very mature, Amanda — even if your mom is looking at you like you’ve lost your noble mind right now.
Oy vey. Kevin decided to pair a dusty orchid shirt and red-orange tie, apparently in honor of circus night, and the effect sort of makes my eyelid twitch. Robin must have woken up cold because she’s all covered up in shades of midnight and a hefty set of bangs. Richy’s vest du jour has “RCH SQL” across his collarbone. Abby, in spring green spangles with nails to match, makes her signature throat-cutting move.
Once everyone’s introduced, Kevin asks the panel what they’re expecting from circus night. Abby widens her eyes and says, “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Robin apparently needed a few more seconds to think up her answer because she offers, “We … better … see … the … … best of the best tonight.” Abby throws a pitying glance her way. And Richy is looking for a girl who’s willing to fall on her face because she wants to dance so hard. Given that they’re about to be strung up in silks and dangled from trapezes and the like, Rch Sql, I think tonight’s your night.
Abby says she better not see one … .
One. … sickled foot on that stage tonight.
Group dance time. Coreen’s terrified for everyone because the girls were still getting the hang of their props an hour before show time. Looks like all Asia has to do is dance atop a box. Amanda’s in Asia’s cage. Madison has a ring-shaped trapeze. And only poor Brianna scored the silks, but she looks completely awesome on them.
Whoa, here’s a swerve. Coreen just said the one person she would like to go home tonight is … A … manda. She doesn’t even mind if Asia stays in the competition. OK, I get it — Madison and Amanda are the most closely matched, technically sound and evenly-keeled dancers, making the competition between the two that much tighter. But seriously, Coreen. You seriously want it to seem like Asia is a dancer on par with these three other girls? Someday Asia probably will be a dancer on par with these three other girls. But right now she is a precocious, bendy, facially-gifted little work in progress. Abby said it, so I can say it, too.
Anyway, Madison’s contemporary lyrical high-wire solo is first. Emote! Emote, Madison. Three kinds! All the time! I see one — intense. I see two — happy. I saw two. I hope that’s enough.
It is for Abby. She calls Madison’s facial expressions very natural without being rehearsed and cheesy. Hurray! Then she gives a minor correction about Madison fully extending her leg, but still says she would hire Madison for her circus and the dance was very entertaining. Over on Planet Antin, Robin is troubled by certain angles that just don’t look great where Madison’s flexibility is concerned. Richy says Madison gave him a lot more than every before, and if she can be this expressive in a lyrical dance, she can be this expressive in every other kind, too.
Backstage, Amanda — whose costume brings to mind the chicken pox or maybe this dude from “Put Me In The Zoo” — appears relieved that the judges like Madison and says if she wins, it’s because she deserved it. Mayelin scowls at her and says they all deserve it.
Kristie and Asia — who’s dressed like a teensy lion — are having issues. Kristie asks her little animal to run her routine, but her little lion is feeling pretty sure of herself. She kinda does the dance, but doesn’t want to hear any noise out of her mother. She dorks around, playing lion, prompting Kristie to threaten not to walk her to the stairs and then growl, “You’ve got this time to run it and you’re not going to run it?! Really?!”
Really. Nyah. Kristie walks her up anyway.
In an aside, Asia says no one is going to touch her and if they touch her, she’s “bringing back with claws.” And big ones. Nyah.
Robin and Richy love our baby kitty before she even does a move. “Ahhhhh!” screams Richy gleefully. Richy is scared! Props to Burrell for choreographing a dance that makes the most of Asia strong suits — tumbling and making scary faces. (Someone give this kid a lyrical dance and see what happens. OK? Just one?) But I have to admit, that was one seriously entertaining dance. And all three judges are on their feet. So is the audience.
But when she sits back down, Abby wastes no time in bursting everyone’s collective bubble — Asia’s feet were still sickled, says she. “How do you do these amazing performances, but forget to turn the feet out?!” Abby howls. Easy. Because Asia has done that for the past eight episodes and suffered not one consequence. And she likely will do the same tonight, as well, even though Abby admonishes, “Asia, fix it. It needs to be more important to you,” as the audience boos around her. Case in point: Richy (who can’t seem to accept that he’s watching dancing, not the movies) says that this performance was all he was asking for from all of the girls. Robin calls the dance flawless. Yeah, if either of these two is back for a second season, I’m going to eat my shirt. Especially if anyone else with a lick of cred wants the gig.
Backstage the girls are incredulous. Madison holds up a sickled foot, drops her voice and says, “I’m an animal!” Coreen smacks her good-naturedly. Onstage, Abby says she still doesn’t know if Asia has what it takes to make it to the top three, but Robin says her little Pussycat was puurrrrrfect.
Amanda’s jazz routine is about a freak show contortionist. Mayelin is worried that the choreography and style are so far out of Amanda’s wheelhouse that Abby will notice. The camera doesn’t linger very long on Amanda’s face, but I don’t see enough expression to make the Face Brigade happy at all. And it really annoys me that I’m so focused on these girls’ faces now that I don’t even watch their dances.
I like the performance very much, but Amanda’s critiques are all lukewarm at best. Abby says that her dance wasn’t really contortionist … but isn’t that Anthony’s fault more than hers? Huh. Depending on what Brianna does next, it could actually be Amanda’s night to go home instead.
If the judges want face, Brianna has a boatload for them in her Mardi Gras clown routine, which is also incredibly entertaining. Abby enjoyed the performance. Richy said the antics were more circus clown than Cirque Clown. Again, blame the choreographer, not the dancer. Robin’s just going to say that this was Brianna’s best performance yet. And give Richy the thrombosis. Forced by his vigorous headshaking to defend herself, Robin adds that no one else in the competition could have done that number. Madison begs to differ. Madison is full of fire tonight, boy howdy.
Judges deliberations. Everyone calls Asia the cat with 9 or possibly 11 lives, so I’m pretty sure Asia’s in the finals. Abby loves Brianna, but Robin says she’s too goofy and Robin wouldn’t miss her if tonight were her night to go home. Brianna’s possibly the least goofy kid here, but whatever. Abby says Amanda blew her away with the number, but not the face — but Robin says she is her favorite. Is not, Robin. But it’s nice to hear you say so. Madison gets props for taking corrections and making them, but Abby says she doesn’t seem to want it enough.
When the ladies return for elimination, Abby says that the judges are all sad for what’s about to happen. Not sad for Madison and Asia, because they’re the first to make it to next week’s final.
Richy says Amanda’s technique is flawless, but she needs to be more of a performer. He loves Brianna’s chutzpah, but not tonight’s performance. And tonight is not Amanda’s night.
I’m philosophical about the whole mess. I think Amanda, Madison and Brianna belonged in the final shoot out, but there”s no denying Asia and Kristie have made for entertaining television. For better or for worse.
So what say you, AUDC fans? Will Asia’s face take her all the way to victory? Or will Madison’s grace or Brianna’s passion come out on top? Do you want to see Planet Antin and RCH SQL back for Season 2? And most importantly of all — who’s pumped for Season 3 of Dance Moms?!
The season finale of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition airs Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 9/8CT on Lifetime.