Wednesday, December 25, 2013

One of my Favorite Christmas Special Moments - The Church Scene from "Home Alone"

Plenty of Christmas specials have memorable moments. There's the love story between Rudolph and Clarice, The Grinch's heart growing three sizes Christmas Day, Ebenezer Scrooge's sheer happiness when he discovers that he has not missed Christmas, George Bailey running through the streets wishing people a Merry Christmas, and of course, Linus's brilliant speech about what Christmas is all about.

But then there are the ones that aren't talked about too much or even noticed. One that comes to mind is the church scene from Home Alone (1990). This movie is about a little boy named Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, who is accidentally left behind at home when his family goes away for Christmas vacation. Thereafter, while the family is away, it is up to him to protect his home from a pair a burglars.

However, the part I really love involves the subplot, which concerns Kevin's fear of his neighbor, Old Man Marley, played by the late Robert Blossom, because of rumors about him and Marley's scary old man demeanor. Towards the middle/end of the movie, Kevin goes to sit in a church and ends up meeting a rather friendly Marley there, thus easing his fear of him. Marley explains that the rumors about him aren't true, but that he does have an estranged relationship with his son and the only way he can see his granddaughter is by watching her perform in the church choir, which is singing in the scene. Kevin suggests that Marley should patch things up with his son, which he eventually does in the final scene with Kevin watching from his window and the two wave at each other.

In a movie where everything is pretty much slapstick crazy, this church scene is a nice juxtaposition to the rest of the film. It's nice to see a Christmas movie have a spiritual vibe, an acknowledgement for the reason of the season, no matter how brief. It's kind of rare to see religion and spirituality even mentioned in Christmas specials, oddly enough.

Mass isn't even taking place in the scene. Very few people are in the church at the time, the lights are dim, and it is very peaceful and quiet. It shows how welcoming the church is, that you can walk in at any time and just sit there to have one on one time with God. It reminds me of church during the Christmas season in real life and even brings back some of my childhood memories involving church and Christmas.

Another thing that is so great about this scene is that at church Kevin gains a better understanding of his so-called enemy and ultimately a friend (Marley plays a huge part later on in helping Kevin when he is in trouble), therefore suggesting that God is involved.

Isn't that part of what Christmas is all about? Looking beyond differences and fear and just loving one another? In the midst of all the slapstick and humor, this movie manages to teach valuable lessons about having Christmas spirit as well in a serious, well done way.

I unfortunately couldn't find a decent clip of the scene to include in this, but I definitely think you should check it out.

Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"So You Think You Can Dance"'s Season 10 Will Always Hold a Special Place in my Heart

The So You Think You Can Dance Tour 2013 is over, so now it's time to reminisce.

Now I have a lot of favorite "So You Think You Can Dance" seasons, including Season 10, but after I went to the Season 10 tour at the Pine Belt Arena in Tom's River, New Jersey, it dawned on me that there is something particularly special about this one, so I decided to dedicate a whole blog post to it.

I have an attachment to this season. Here are some reasons why. If you just want my recollection of the tour, skip down to #6.


The show has been on for ten years and people still love it. That's a big deal. The season began airing May 2013, which is the same month and year that I graduated college, so I knew that it was somehow going to be epic. I looked forward to both my graduation and watching this season.

After graduation life was difficult for me because like all post-grads, I had difficulty finding work and sometimes still do, being a freelance writer. "SYTYCD" was one of the things that brought me joy in my otherwise frustrating life and helped ease my post-college pain.

2) It was my first time watching the show using Twitter.

I had my Twitter account (@MissStefSears) in time for Season 9, but I didn't really use it as much back then like I do now and didn't know the advantages to it.

This time around, I was able to use Twitter to contact the dancers better, and they would favorite, retweet, and respond every so often, so I feel like I got to know them on a more personal level, a lot more than I did with dancers in past seasons. It was fun following their journey like this throughout both the show and tour. I tweeted with contestants Alan, Aaron, and Jasmine the most.

This was also the first time I watched the show with the CheForce Girls (SOTTMP). These are a bunch of women I met on Twitter through Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, the male winner of Season 9. During the SYTYCD Tour 2012, Chehon tweeted one of the members, Joanna (JoJo), who went to the performance in Atlantic City while she was there and is from New Jersey like myself. I began contacting her and then met other Chehon fans through her.

Made by Ana-Isabel, who actually just gave birth to her first child, Nina, on October 28, Chehon's birthday! :D

They include Jane, Christine, Jess (Canada), Angela (Texas), Jenna, Ruth, Erika (California), Sarah (Louisiana), TheresseBlanche (Delaware), Susan (North Carolina), Kelley and her son Maddox (South Carolina), Heather, Brenda (Massachusetts), Ana-Isabel (Guatemala), Samantha (Trinidad), and Nicole, also from New Jersey. I actually physically met her at the SYTYCD Tour 2013.

Ever since Chehon tweeted Joanna, I have been corresponding with them about the show and life on Facebook. We fangirled when each of us went to our own tour stop this year. It is so great to have met a bunch of girls that share in my SYTYCD obsession, in addition to my childhood friend Lauren, of course. This season I also befriended some more SYTYCD fans on Twitter as well, such as Marie-Eve, Kat, Ivana, Leisa, Kristina, etc.

3) They kicked off the season like this:

This concept is something that has never been done on the show before, and it was also the opening number of the tour. The music blasted out of nowhere and they charged into the aisles from the back, causing screams from their fans. I saw Aaron behind the doors in the back with the rest before anything happened and knew that it was about to happen, but it was only a matter of when. It took us all by surprise.

It was awesome. :D

4) #TeamTall

#TeamTall is the team name for the dance couple consisting of Aaron Turner (tap) and Jasmine Harper (contemporary), my early favorites and picks for the win. They shared a lot of chemistry and threw everything they had into their performances. Jasmine was only in the Bottom 6 once throughout the entire season and they both made it to the finale.

Jasmine always says that her whole life is dance and that she loves everything about it, including the blood, sweat, and tears, and I find her passion and dedication to the life in this way admirable. Aaron returned to the show after rejection from last season and was actually placed in the Top 20 this season through pure luck because another contestant injured himself and couldn't do the show. Making some TV history, Aaron is the first ever tap dancer in the series that made not only the Top 10, but the Top 4 as well!!

What is cool about Aaron too (and some of the other contestants as well, but mainly Aaron) is that we got to interact with HIS WHOLE FAMILY on Twitter. I've corresponded with his mother Christine a bit on there and so have some of my friends, especially Ruth from SOTTMP. 

However, Dushaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall and Amy Yakima won, but I'm okay with it. During the finale I told myself that I'd be happy with any outcome. They're very talented and awesome people as well. They deserve it. :) AND I also discovered that Amy and I share the same birthday ON our birthday! :D

5) This guy.

Courtesy of FOX

This is nineteen-year-old Alan Bersten. He is a Russian ballroom dancer with a deep accent from Minnetonka, Minnesota. He often wears tank tops, button down shirts that he never fastens, chain necklaces, and OMG ISN'T HE PRECIOUS???

Earlier in the season I wasn't really sure of who he was because I wasn't paying much attention, getting him confused with Paul Karmiryan, the other male ballroom dancer of the season. I was preparing for graduation and put off my SYTYCD viewing, so I had to get acquainted with the contestants a little later on. It was SOTTMP members Angela and Heather that brought him to our attention. My early male favorites were Tucker Knox and of course Aaron, but once I paid more attention to Alan, I was hooked. Other than Aaron and Jasmine, he was my favorite.

Ah, yes. That grin from the early days. It really brings me back.

He. is. adorable. Look him up on YouTube and Vine. He says the cutest things. Other reasons why I love this kid so much is that he's a religious God man, family-oriented (especially with his older brother Gene, whom he greatly admires and has also auditioned for the show), and often cries when emotional. There is something so attractive about sensitive men that cry. What can I say? He just makes me happy. :)

If you remember, I was upset when Jasmine Mason was eliminated too soon. Alan was her partner and his obvious sadness about it is a good part of the reason why I was so annoyed. The two of them delivered a brilliant blindfold contemporary routine for their first dance together, which is one of the most impressive dances I have seen on the show, and the following week was, like, the sexiest Argentine tango ever. The concept of this is that Alan's character was supposed to take Jasmine's innocence. There's this one part where he rips her handkerchief off of her, sniffs it, and puts it his his inside coat pocket.

HOT. I was literally fanning myself afterward.

Then the week afterward she was eliminated. I didn't understand this at all. I tried petitioning with Twitter retweets a bit to get her and these routines on tour, but that didn't work out.

Here are the routines. Judge for yourself.

Anyway, we all moved on from this. Alan kept landing in the Bottom 6 but was saved every time and I continued to vote for him until he made the Top 12 with Malece Miller. Thankfully they, after some speculation and concern, along with week before eliminations tap dancers Curtis Holland and Alexis Juliano, were able to go on tour! This definitely motivated me more to go!

I practically attacked this guy with hugs that night. I heard so much about them. I loved meeting him. :D

Also, at some point during the season, for some reason he started posting stuff like this on his Instagram mostly after he went running...

The top left one was my Macbook Pro's desktop wallpaper for awhile lol

*Sigh* ^__^

Oh. Wait. What were we talking about?

6) The Tour

I always get so excited for SYTYCD tour season. It's my version of AnimeNext and Comic-Con as well as an additional holiday I celebrate up there with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, etc.

After much preparation and anticipation, the SYTYCD Tour 2013 finally came to Tom's River, New Jersey on Thursday, October 17. Now at first I didn't like that it would be taking place in a high school (believe it or not this is what happened) because I didn't think it would create a good enough tour atmosphere. Not only that, it was an hour and half away from my house instead of the usual twenty minutes away like the Prudential Center and New Jersey Performing Arts Center, both in Newark, and Izod Center (formally the Continental Airlines Arena) in East Rutherford, all former SYTYCD tour venues. I don't know what they were thinking when they organized this and actually often laugh about it. I never even heard of the Pine Belt Arena until now. People got lost trying to find it, including us.

But after experiencing it I think it was wonderful. The building is really nice looking inside and out. I am totally grateful that there even was a New Jersey tour location and that I was able to attend. It was a small auditorium, so not too many people were there and I was able to find Nicole easily. My mother and I sat on a center aisle floor seat in the back and were able to see things better up close. For the first time for a SYTYCD tour, I was able to see facial expressions and stuff without relying on the projector above. The routines and transitions were amazing and I absolutely love the group numbers. We even got to see Alexis and Curtis perform solos, which was unique for our show. The sound of their tapping was so crisp. What was cool too is that they tap danced to songs that were playing in the arena before the show started, so I then considered them the tour's theme music. Every time I hear these songs now I think of the tour (Katy Perry's "Roar" and Phillip Phillip's "Gone Gone Gone").

The way the stage was structured, I felt like I was watching the coolest high school talent show. It was a small and intimate setting. What was also nice about it was that it was a night out for my mom and myself, and we were both feeling well. (And by that I mean I had luckily gotten my period over with exactly the week before and my mother, who gets various arthritis pain often, miraculously didn't feel anything that night. :) We also, with my father, went to a nice diner down there with the friendliest staff, which added to the experience.)

Then after the show we excitedly waited on the bleachers in the performance space for the Meet and Greet After Show Bloch Party (Bloch was sponsoring the tour), the passes for which I picked up at the front counter when we first walked in. I had contacted Aaron beforehand via Twitter for meet and greet passes. For some reason, I was nervous about this. I trusted that Aaron would pull through for us to actually get us the passes, but I had never done a meet and greet like this before, so I wasn't sure what to expect and I just didn't want things to go wrong. I wanted to accomplish everything I set out to do that night, including pictures and videos, which were other things that concerned me. God forbid if I ran out of battery or memory!

The event staff, after waiting for a time in the performance arena and cleanup, took us down the hall to a gymnasium, which is where I guess the gym classes and sports events for the high school take place. As soon as I entered this gym, I actually felt relaxed. Well, still a little nervous I guess, but relaxed. I'm not a shy person, but I did want to make a good impression.

They were all standing in a line in the middle of the gym facing us and it was kind of awkward at first so I didn't know what to do. ALAN was the one closest to the entrance and I saw a woman go up to him for an autograph, so when she left I bolted for him. He smiled at me as I walked toward him. I showed him a picture of my Twitter avi that I had printed out because he once tweeted to me that he's a visual person and may not recognize me at the tour otherwise. I wasn't sure if he would know me from Twitter, and this concerned me a bit. I printed it out for Aaron and Jasmine as well. He recognized the avi right away as soon as I unfolded it and revealed it to him ("Stef, of course.") and out of sheer happiness I squealed and attacked him with quite possibly the biggest hug ever to the point where I feel like I may have startled him ("OOOH! It worked! I'm so happy!!!). He came across bashful and quiet to me, but he was still very sweet and appreciative. And we hugged again later that night when I went back to him, this time HIM shyly initiating it and we took a picture of it. Aaron even recognized my avi and remembered my last name! ("Stef SEARS, of course!") Jasmine unfortunately couldn't place my avi, but she tried very hard to and is very nice.

After awhile I socialized with the rest of the dancers, which brings me to the point this whole post is trying to make: They made me feel so comfortable! In the past when I met SYTYCD dancers on tour, some came across arrogant or disinterested. They also were a little distant considering I met them outside by the barricades.

Not these people. Initiating hugs first, they chatted with us as if we knew them for years and I actually felt closer to them because we had corresponded on Twitter. They treated us like friends, not just random fans. Paul even gave me a Bloch rubber bracelet before he left. I originally was just going to take pictures with my favorites because I wasn't sure how hectic meet and greet would be, but it was so casual that I ended up taking pictures with a lot of them. Even some dancers that I wasn't too crazy for on the show scored points with me that night. Some of the guys were even willing to make this shout out video with me, which was something I had planned as a surprise for some of my friends:

After they went to other tour locations, I felt a little tour withdrawal and sadness. I became depressed and cried. I hoped that I took enough pictures and videos, chatted enough, did what I set out to do, paid attention to every detail, etc. I felt bad that I didn't get a chance to talk to Makenzie and Malece who were in the room with me. Tucker was sick, so he didn't come out to the Meet and Greet, so that's something I couldn't control.

I had been anticipating and preparing for this event for so long (including the trials of getting a new camera) and enjoyed it so much that when it ended I wondered "now what?" I'm still in the beginning stages of post-graduation life, so when the tour was over, I kind of lacked something to look forward to. I knew this was going to happen. Them leaving New Jersey somewhat marked the ending of Season 10 for me, and I kind of envied the people who still did not go to the tour yet, remembering when I was in their position. But I also was kind of glad that my tour stop came and went, because the tour had taken over my mind and I needed to focus on other things that I was kind of putting off until after it. But even after my tour stop it and the tour itself were still very much on my mind.

After I met them, I realized even more what a special group this is. They are the type of people with whom you would want to hang, that's how friendly they are. They're also a hilarious bunch. They keep me laughing. Just watch their Vines and you might understand what I mean. I actually miss them and love them more now than I did when they were on the show. Now that the tour is over I dislike how their family has to be broken up after all this time and not involved with the show anymore, but I'm also glad that they are back home with their family and friends and aspiring to move onto new projects. I hope that they continue to have successful dance careers and that we continue to hear from them.

Best of luck to Fik-Shun, Amy, Aaron, Jasmine, Paul, Hayley, Tucker, Jenna, Nico, Makenzie, Alan, Malece, Curtis, and Alexis. It was amazing following your journey and being part of your lives for the past six months. You have brought me so much joy and entertainment. I am thrilled that I had the chance and pleasure of watching you dance live and meeting you. Keep dancing, stay awesome, and please continue to keep in touch! :)

This was pretty much the best time I ever had at a SYTYCD tour. I appreciate this season a lot. They did a fantastic job. I have such fond memories of the whole thing and sometimes it feels like it just started. It's so strange that it has officially ended now. :)

Here are some videos I took of the tour:

Part 1

Part 2

And here are my photos from it:

Another girl, Ivana, uploaded her own videos from my tour stop and I am so grateful for them! I watch them every so often to reminisce. You can check these out here.