Another repeat judge in Christina Applegate this week, and we’re off to the races for the pen-penultimate episode of Season 11. Based on this year’s ratings and the budget cuts that obviously took place between last season and the present one it could also be the third-to-last episode, period. As much of a shame as that would be, it might be the best time for the show to go out. It hasn’t stuck around so long as to get tiring but the talent level has clearly dipped down to a level where the feeling of missing out on a bright future for the show is absent. As promised, if Valerie made it to the last six, my reaction was just going to be an angry GIF, and of course I delivered but first I was nice enough to actually review the routines tonight. After a week off from being a traveler/starting a new job/cool things, Elena is back with us to discuss this travesty of an elimination.
Elena: Cat Deeley Outfit Watch: According to Cat’s Twitter, her dress for the night was found on her last trip to India, which is probably why I love it so much. I’m a sucker for sparkles and with Cat’s long legs and long hair, she’s channeling a more demure disco dancer for her choice this episode. Her jewelry, including an emerald pendant, is from her favorite, XIV Karats. Her jewelry choices so far have been very on point, complementing colors and shine with her outfits. I’m so sad we only have a couple more episodes, I’m still gunning for Cat Deeley to have her own talk show or at least guest on Fashion Police. The world needs more of her!
Top 6 Perform (Choreographed by Nick Demoura), “H.I.D.E by NASA feat Aynzili Jones”
Whitney: Started out thinking this was one of the best group dances of the season, only to immediately change my mind once I saw how lackluster an effort the dancers were putting out. The idea that they were all DJs was cute, but it would have been nice to see the faces of the final 6 as they were dancing in order to increase voter’s willingness to vote for each one. The concept blocked most enjoyment I could have had, but did prove how much these competitors have relied on their expressions to overcome difficulties with hip-hop routines.
Elena: TRON DJs is a strange concept to get behind. I liked the music, but the reliance on lighting and throwing those record discs around in the beginning wasn’t as dynamic as it should have been. Plus, positioning the dancers behind large DJ booths for the whole first half of the routine zapped the energy of the piece away. Props are good, but the important part is the dancing. Some contestants were dancing some truly paint-by-the-numbers Hip-Hop, which has been a season-wide disappointment for the contestant group as a whole (save Ricky). Also, masks again. Sigh.
Valerie and Ricky – Broadway (choreographed by Spencer Liff) – “I’ve Got the World on a String” by Frank Sinatra
Whitney: What Chicanery this is. Putting Valerie back together with Ricky basically for the sole purpose of pushing her through to the final. Choreographing to Frank Sinatra is a blatant attempt to make them as appealing as possible for the prize of a part in On The Town. Valerie had knees farther apart than the sides of the Mariana’s Trench on her spins, was not at all sharp on her kicks and seemed off balance half the time. There was absolutely nothing mind-blowing about her performance and the judges once again let her off the hook, which is never anything that should be said about a Top 6 dancer. Shockingly, I didn’t think Ricky was actually that good in this either. He wasn’t as energetic as usual and seemed too focused doing steps we all know he can pull off at this point. As a side note, I just realized Spencer Liff looks like the love child of Matthew Lillard and Lucas Grabeel.
Elena: The dynamic duo back again, although I have to say I’m surprised so many people voting like Valerie. Whitney, we’ve both said this time and time again, she’s probably one of the weakest dancers on the show, and her lack of technique comes through when she isn’t partnered with Ricky. What Valerie and Ricky do have in spades is chemistry, and the Spencer Lift Broadway routine is classic and classy, a perfect showcase for Ricky and Valerie’s personalities together. Ricky acts and emotes so well during his performances I could easily see him in the ensemble of a Broadway show. Make it happen, universe! Broadway also is a style suited to Valerie, she always seems to do well when dancing smaller and contained within herself and falters when she has to make large leaps and turns.
Jessica and Casey – Disco (choreographed by Doriana Sanchez) “Dim All the Lights” by Donna Summer
Whitney: OK, Ricky and Valerie got a style as close to their comfort zones as possible and these two got Disco? This is the point this episode officially turned into a full-on joke. I have never seen them fix the proceedings to this extent in all 11 seasons. Fortunately for Jessica and Casey, they stuck it to the producers by absolutely knocking this one out of the park. Every spin was flawless save for one near the very end. The split spin Jessica did while Casey was holding her at waist level was the most impressive thing she was given to even attempt all summer. This routine alone probably sealed Jessica’s win, which is so deserved. Casey was great as well, but I his performance here or in his second routine didn’t make me any more upset at his elimination tonight. It was time.
Elena: I wish So You Think You Could Dance could give out sports awards like in high school, because Jessica and Casey would win my “most improved” awards. I’m still not swooning over them like I am Ricky, but Jessica’s learned how to channel her skill as a dancer into really working on her facial expressions and emotions in a piece. Casey, as well, isn’t just a guy who can do thirty turns anymore, but a well-rounded Contemporary dancer. I’m happy Khaleesi of Dance and Turning man figured out their stuff before the show ended. And while I’m running out of things to say about Disco (fast! fun! lifts! spins!), Casey and Jessica were inviting and kept their energy up through the marathon of the routine.
Jacque and Zack – Foxtrot (choreographed by Jean-Marc Generaux) – “Anything Goes” – Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett
Whitney: Your corporate tie in of the night, ladies and gentlemen! On the heels of the recently announced duets album between Lady Gaga and Bennett, here is a track from that exact project. It works in the is case, as the original recording would put the show in too much of a classic music hole, but it allows a little fun to sneak in this routine. The Foxtrot is a classier dance (liked Mary’s use of “snazzy”) which makes it hard to put any fun into things if you aren’t already confident in your movements. As a whole, it was a very stodgy version of the foxtrot and as such was not very endearing to the audience or the cameras. Jacque’s dress allowed her to get lost in the backdrop just enough that even when she was showing off she didn’t stand out.
Elena: This Jean-Marc Généreux Foxtrot was uninspired, which is sad to say about a dance package that started with Jean-Marc as a movie director and some nods to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The best Foxtrots look like the contestants are floating on the stage, and this one seemed a little choppier. When Jacque and Zack entered into the more standard Foxtrot frame and were moving around the dance floor together, it seemed like I was watching an amateur youth Ballroom competition. I desperately wanted to like it, but the choreography and the performance just weren’t there.
I didn’t know who Rixton was before this performance, and it did not make me want to. Move along, sharply clad boys…
Valerie and tWitch – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Wildebeest) “Yeah” by Usher”
Whitney: This is the type of hip-hop routine I would expect from this show in week 3 or 4, not one close to the end of the season. That sentiment applies to both the dancers and the choreography. A pedestrian effort by all parties that was quite honestly beneath tWitch completely and so far above Valerie that she couldn’t help but look far out of her depth. Nothing was sharp or energetic enough for what was supposedly an “all-out” hip-hop routine. 90% of the transitions were jerky and unprofessional, yet once again the judges make excuses for Valerie in order for her to look better. I don’t know what kind of dirt she has on the judges but it isn’t good and it is ruining the credibility of the whole panel.
Elena: Currently petitioning all my loved ones who are getting married next summer to skip the played-out Bruno Mars aisle dance to “Marry You” and replacing it with Willdabeest’s Hip-Hop choreography to Usher’s “Yeah.” All-Star Twitch, as we’ve already established, is So You Think You Can Dance’s secret weapon, elevating every dancer he’s paired with, but I found Valerie slightly bland. If this season had a theme, the theme would be “Everyone needs to get lower (and stop forgetting to dance through the moments).” Once the detachable skirt in Valerie’s outfit came off, she seemed to liven up, but at this point in the competition it’s not enough to get comfortable in a dance halfway through. It has to be there from the first count.
Jacque and Will – Contemporary (Sean Cheeseman) – “99 Red Balloons” by Sleeping at Last
Whitney: If they weren’t going to use the Goldfinger cover of 99 Red Balloons, they should have used the original. This random cover no one has ever heard was pretty but inconsequential as a background to a piece this pretty. The piece itself, although beautiful, did not seem like something I will remember a few weeks from now. The imagery of the ball as a prop and the balloons was creative on Sean’s part, but for a dancer like Jacque who is capable of so much more there were not enough set pieces for her. A lot of unused potential here, even though it ended up as one of the most aesthetically pleasing routines of the night.
Elena: Sean Cheeseman bringing on more conceptual prop Contemporary dances with the inclusion of a red yoga ball. The colors are a great contrast, the stark white of Jacque and All-Star Will’s outfits against the strong red of the ball, and it gave the routine a flowing feel. Will is an incredibly strong partner, and together he and Jacque seemed effortless in the piece. It wasn’t anything new in terms of Contemporary dance, but it was executed well.
Jessica and Ade – Jazz (Ray Leeper) “Boneless” by Steve Aoki
Whitney: Jessica is the only one tonight who didn’t get a routine right in her wheelhouse, and instead of being hamstrung by it she rose to the occasion both times. There were moments here where she didn’t dig in to the movements as much as she should have but mostly it was a great showing. Appreciate that Ray noted how Jessica’s age affected her here (she is still only 18 so she has never been to a club before) as that aspect of the season hasn’t been delved into as much as necessary in regards to the lack of maturity that is represented in these dancers through no fault of their own. The big thing I noticed here was the return of Jessica’s beaming smile where it didn’t belong. Probably a result of her inexperience with this genre, and she tried to control it the best she could but it slipped out enough times to be a distraction.
Elena: When I think of the word “Jazz,” “Japanese dance club” are not the words that come to mind immediately. Ray Leeper’s choreography puts Jessica and All-Star Ade square in day-glo Tokyo, but the combination of whatever ridiculous lime green, furry boots Jessica is wearing and all the strobe lights just made me laugh. Less is more, everybody.
Ricky and Anya – Cha Cha (choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereax) “Dare” by Shakira
Whitney: This episode is (reasonably speaking) the worst showing Ricky has had, which is still better than anybody else’s efforts but speaks to where he truly falls talent-wise once forced out of his usual routines. While Anya was forcing the audience to keep their eyes on her with steaminess and sex appeal, Ricky grinned like a little boy. I thought he kept up but didn’t overcome the pace Jean-Marc set for them. The judges were covering for some of his faults here, even though he definitely brought it as best he could and his footwork was free of any major mistakes. If I hadn’t watched Ricky for two months at this point I would not have pegged him as the strongest dancer based on that one routine, luckily every dancer tonight had an off piece which can be explained by the insane rehearsal schedule they have by this point in the season.
Elena: This was selling sex, first and foremost, and I bought it. While Ricky was worried in the interview package that he couldn’t pull off the same energy as All-Star Anya, the one thing he’s consistently done better than the rest of the contestants this season is immerse himself in a role. Sultry Cha-Cha dancer? Check. Mature romantic? Check. 1950’s gentleman? Check. I could go on and on, but Ricky knows how to act, and dancing in a lot of ways is acting without words, telling a story and a feeling through hands and feet extending.
Casey and MacKenzie – Contemporary (choreographed by Stacey Tookey) “Over You” by Ingrid Michaelson and A Great Big World
Whitney: Boy did I think this routine could have allowed Casey to climb within inches of Ricky in the final tally in the event he made it through to the finale as it was a beautiful contemporary piece and one of the best Stacy Tookey pieces in a long time. I’m as over her stories about love as the next person, but sometimes it still works to hand out an emotional punch. The lifts that Tookey entrusts to these two are gorgeous and the way Casey handles them renders MacKenzie nearly weightless. As Casey stood on the stage unable to articulate how he felt during the routine, it dawned on me that that was the first time that had happened all season. Not even with Travis Wall has a dancer been so overcome right after completing a routine. I am so happy Casey got a moment like that before his elimination.
Elena: Stacey Tookey gives Casey and All-Star Makenzie a powerful storyline for their Contemporary dance: what if you found out you only have one day left with the person you love? Stark lighting that played with shadows and one of my favorite songs off of Ingrid Michaelson’s latest album gives the piece the setting and feelings it needs. It’s the best Casey’s danced all season, he and Makenzie created a safe, intimate space for the dance, and Casey’s big leaps are used for emphasis at exactly the right moment. The last moment of the routine was my favorite: Makenzie grabs Casey, and Casey painfully tries to remove her hands from his face, finally sinking in, heads touching, Casey’s ragged breathing the last thing seen before the lights go out. Can Casey and Makenzie be partners forever?
Zack and Fikshun – Hip-Hop (choreographed by Phillip Chbeeb) – “Sail” by Awolnation
Whitney: Everything I assumed was going to happen during this routine did not. Fikshun didn’t show Zack up in the slightest, other than falsely making it look as if he wasn’t getting low enough due to the height difference between them. This song is a cliche at this point no matter the setting but other than that there were very few problems I had with this routine. I was on the same page as Nigel thinking he wouldn’t get into the finale, but he gave it his all this season and certainly lessened by tapper prejudices, however slightly. I’ll be interested in seeing how he fares going into a performance finale where Ricky pretty much has the win tied up already. I hope he maintains his confidence no matter what. (Yay for Chbeeb getting the chance to choreograph!)
Elena: Phillip Chbeeb (most recently seen hanging out in Step Up: All-Stars In Vegas And Hey There’s Kind Of A Plot This Time!) choreographs a shape-filled Hip-Hop for Zack and last season’s reigning male champ Fik-Shun. Chbeeb is a marvel in his own style, but I was wondering how his unique Hip-Hop take would translate to two dancers, one of whom is a tapper. The synchronicity of the dance was so fascinating to watch: Fik-Shun and Zack had to move seamlessly in and out of each others’ space to create dynamic shapes, and it worked. I did feel the nature of the dance was slightly pose-y, more a series of disconnected moves than an actual dance, but something new from an old So You Think You Can Dance alumni is always fun.
Elena: Ricky’s solo stood out to me, grand and big using all the stage as his space. It wasn’t as polished as I’m used to seeing from him, but there’s something so captivating about him as a dancer, regardless of style or routine, that keeps me coming back. Jessica’s was full of well-executed turns, a celebration of her journey thus far. Of the tappers, Zack’s upbeat choice of Jason Mraz paired well with his style of Tap, and Jacque tried something new with a 50’s-inspired Ballet routine, but all the solos were just so-so tonight.
Final Four reactions:
Elena: Pretty torn up about Rudy leaving last week, and every week it gets harder and harder to say goodbye to everyone, but it definitely was not Casey’s time to go, nor was it Jacque’s. I really wanted a Jacque, Jessica, Ricky and Casey Final Four, and Zack is admirable, but I’ve never connected with him. And so help me, if Valerie somehow coasts to a So You Think You Can Dance win I’m going to flip all the tables. Every single table, Whitney.
Whitney: My reaction in four .gifs…
This right here.
Oh, Cat was joking. She must have been joking.
WAIT. She wasn’t joking?
See everyone next week for a night of heavy sighing.