If you somehow haven’t been sad that a dancer went home, or thought they were cut before their time, tonight is probably going to be that night for you. Early in the competition dancers who get cut are most likely the ones who barely snuck into the Top 20 in the first place meaning any connection is tangential at best and non-existent at worst, and later on when dancers are cut close to the end of season it is sad to watch them go but you expect your favorite performer to be sent home at some point, because that’s how numbers and competitions work. Normally this would be the sweet spot in the competition where someone is mistakenly sent packing, but the talent is so sparse as far as truly transcendent dancers this season it might be easier than usual for the judges to make their decision. Eventually, it came down to some magnificent solos and one great partnership that locked in the saved couple to the Top 10, but we will get there eventually. After many weeks with Misty Copeland behind the judge’s table Christina Applegate makes an appearance as the guest judge du jour, although her critiques and comments are not as specific or intelligent as expected. She ended up resorting to a lot of hyperbole and pantomiming faces, which while not completely out of the ordinary is usually balanced out by some smart criticisms of the performances. Once again, we are joined by Elena Rivera for tonight’s discussion. We both attempted brevity, although I’m not sure I succeeded this week. But I tried!
Elena: Cat Deeley Outfit Watch – This week, Cat is rocking a funky print dress from Mara Hoffman, who specializes in creative, almost Egyptian hieroglyphics-y pieces, with some big hoop earrings and a really simple slicked back hairstyle. This is my favorite of her show outfits so far, because I cannot resist a fun and colorful print.
Top 14 Group Dance (choreographed by Stacy Tookey), “Last Moment” by Christophe Filippi
Whitney: Fox may have cancelled Hieroglyph…but good news, the show runner got this job as a severance gift from the network! Costuming aside, this was the most cohesive opening dance of the year because everyone is used to working with each other at this point. While it wasn’t a shock Ricky was put at the center of things, it was nice to see the choreographers recognize he is the best dancer in this competition and are favoriting him ever so slightly as a result.
Elena: Stacey Tookey choreographed an otherwordly Grecian group routine, and it’s clear that Ricky is becoming a choreographer favorite because he seems to feature prominently in almost every group routine. Not complaining.
Bridget and Emilio – Jazz (choreographed by Ray Leeper) – “Long Road to Hell” by Avicii
Whitney: Kicking off the show, both Bridget and Emilio immediately justified their place in the Top 10 with an energetic and well-executed jazz routine. Jazz is notoriously one of the most difficult styles for competitors to adapt to behind only African Jazz and the Paso Doble, but this routine struck me as slightly too hip-hop for it to truly be called a jazz routine. Yes, the Avicii track used here had some jazz aspects between the baseline and the sax, but it was overall a routine that seemed much closer to hip-hop than anything else. Regardless of which style it actually belonged in, the two performed ably and transformed what was an overwrought concept from Leeper into a routine that didn’t need any backstory to be an exciting start to the night. One of the best parts were the fun details in the costuming that contributed to the concept of the routine without overwhelming the dancers. Specifically, Emilio’s devil tie and the sequined patterns on Bridget’s bodice. Early points to House Costuming. I’m excited to see what both of these dancers do with All Stars in the coming weeks, as I think they have grown as much with each other as I expected them to at the beginning of the season but would do well to gain experience with better and more practiced competitors.
Elena: Bridget and Emilio’s Ray Leeper jazz was quick, sharp and in sync. A lot of times choreographers will give dancers characters to help spice up their routines and help the dancers with their emoting, but Bridget and Emilio just exuded cool and sinister in spades in this dance. Not the best or flashiest jazz routine, but Bridget and Emilio are really showing a lot of growth the past couple of weeks, and stealthily becoming two of my favorites.
Tanisha and Rudy – Contemporary (choreographed by Mandy Moore), “Seduces Me” by Celine Dion
Whitney: First off, I’m absolutely stunned that Mandy Moore choreographed a routine to an 80’s power ballad. Can’t you see how surprised my face is through the screen? Just kidding, I’m not surprised at all because nothing Mandy Moore does these days is the least bit creative as far as any sort of experimentation with her routines goes. I’m not asking her to be more than she is as an artist, but how long can you skate on as a choreographer on a major network competition with the same thought process year in and year out? A different genre of music, a dance where the girl doesn’t execute one good lift/a few good extensions and then look seductive the rest of the time, anything that alters her point of view just slightly. That said, I shouldn’t be complaining about a seductive 80’s routine too loudly because Rudy looked the sexiest he has yet. He was probably happy to show off his abs , but I’m not objecting to an unbuttoned dress shirt on any of these dancers ever. He also brought that seduction straight to the routine, handling all of the lifts that Moore handed him with ease while Tanisha was practically sleep walking through the proceedings. She has reached the point where unless she does something on stage that impresses me beyond what the other dancers can, I won’t be mourning her eventual elimination. Everything she does is just going through the motions of the choreography without and emotion or spice to it.
Elena: I think So You Think You Can Dance and I need to have a small sidebar about the overuse of Mandy Moore, but that’s neither here nor there. She gave Tanisha and Rudy a contemporary piece about seduction, but the song choice is what always stops me from fully embracing Mandy Moore pieces. Here, it’s “Seduce Me” by Celine Dion, which from the title alone is already way too on the nose, but the song itself isn’t in the least bit seductive or sexy or even interesting. I do appreciate that Rudy and Tanisha look more comfortable on stage, and with each other.
Serge Solo – “Wicked Games” by Parra for Cuva
Whitney: Heading into the night, I thought Serge was going to be the boy saved by a wide margin. His solo performance had a different idea apparently, as he was out of control during many sequences and didn’t use his music choice effectively enough. He was able to reign the audience in with the energy he put out, but overall it just wasn’t enough to convince anyone that he should be the one to stay. I will give him credit for choosing a “Wicked Games” cover and not the original just to mix it up a little bit.
Elena: Ballroom solos are always a bit awkward without a partner, and I’ll leave it at that.
Jacque and Zack – Paso Doble (choreographed by Jean Marc Genereaux), “Dragula” by Rob Zombie
Whitney:…Speaking of the difficulty of the Paso Doble, both of these dancers are lucky they were safely in the Top 10 before this performance happened. This has less to do with the quality of the actual performance than the level of showing off that a Paso Doble allows. Unless performed by extensively experienced dancers it is very rare for a Paso Doble to look as polished and effortless as possible, which was definitely the case here. Jacque did not have much intensity in her body language, so much so you could practically see the ever-present smile creeping back onto her face as she focused on the movements. Zack, however, looked the most capable with a partner as he has up to this point and brought enough intensity and ferociousness for the both of them. He may not be around much longer but he’s going into the Top 10 with confidence and as one of the pleasant surprises of the season so far. Choosing a Rob Zombie song for a Spanish ballroom piece is one of those decisions that should have 100% crashed and burned, but it was only about a halfway fail as the mood of the song worked but the pacing didn’t quite match up. You could see specific points in the routine where Jacque had to stutter step or Zack had to hold a lift an extra second to make everything match up properly, which took away from the beauty of some of the more impressive aspects of the routine. Points to House Music for ambition.
Elena: The song was too cacophonous for me to appreciate this paso doble, and I’m not a big fan of Jacque or Zack. Pass.
Carly Solo – “Not About Angels” by Birdy
Whitney: This entire thing was bland beyond belief, and exactly something you would expect from a college cheerleader (oh, sorry, “dance team member”). It looked as if she didn’t know she only had a minute to show off her skills, and that this was not the time to walk across the stage slowly and pose a half dozen times. She gave absolutely no reason for the judges to keep her around beyond the fact that she can execute some basic movements and look pretty, and she confirmed that all over again in her quickstep. It makes sense she chose a song used in The Fault in Our Stars as both performances tonight were the dance versions of YA novels.
Elena: I love Carly when she dances with Serge, but her solo is pure pageant queen, all smiles and long legs without any feeling. I expect more from her.
Emily and Teddy – Broadway (choreographed by Warren Carlisle), “From This Moment On” by the Kiss Me Kate Soundtrack
Whitney: For much of this dance these two were not in sync at all. I’m not sure whether it was nerves getting to them in regards to being in the bottom six or the level of the material, but a lot of the routine was Emily trying to catch up to Teddy or vice versa. The end especially was very messy and unpolished and you could tell by their faces they knew it went poorly. On the plus side, Emily at least got to smile like she wants to every week anyway. I’m just about out of anything to discuss about these dancers as their talent had clearly run its course in this kind of competition. It was time for them to go home this week, I only wish they could have gone out on a stronger note. The Kiss Me Kate song was a nice choice, if it was a lyrical choice instead of an orchestral piece they might have had an easier job following along with the story they were supposed to be acting out, but I appreciate House Music working to break out of the norm when it comes to Broadway routines.
Elena: Warren Carlyle choreographed that stellar Broadway routine from a couple weeks back, and he’s bringing a high degree of pedigree to the Broadway genre on the show. Both Teddy and Emily look stunning, Emily especially is channeling her best “Audrey Hepburn in a 1920’s nightclub” look. I thought their faces were the right amount of playful and showy, but they weren’t in sync in the moments when they needed to be. Like so many routines this season, the choreography was brilliant and the dancers just simply did not execute it to the level needed.
Casey Solo – “Kiss Me” by Ed Sheeran
Whitney: I’ll make this short and sweet: Casey is still entirely too bland to make it to the final two, but those pirouettes were gorgeously executed and great to watch.
Elena: Casey is pretty dancer in the most boring way. I know he can do a bunch of incredible turns, but I’ve always wanted more out of the solos than just turns. Nothing about his solo showed me anything different about him as a dancer.
Emily Solo – “Infra 8” by Mark Richter
Whitney: Simple, but in a more exciting way than Carly’s routine. Not quite energetic enough to push through to the Top 10 but Emily redeemed herself here after her messy routine. There was creativity in the way she showed off her lines and it’s possible if she found a way to integrate some nice leaps or splits the decision between her and Jessica would have been a closer call for the judges. Probably not, but it would have at least brought some fire to a routine that was supposed to be her proving her talents and instead was a last gasp.
Elena: Emily’s solo showed off her technique by creating interesting shapes. She was pulling her face a bit too much, but her solo excited me the way her partner dances haven’t.
Jessica and Casey – Contemporary (choreographed by Travis Wall), “Like Real People Do” by Hozier
Whitney: I don’t normally criticize anything Travis Wall says or does (because why would you ever need to), but that wind machine was a little much even for an epic love story. Between the backdrop design and the music, this felt like it was taking place at an explicit meeting in a Louisiana grain silo and I loved it. Every little piece of world building was so great as we can usually expect from Travis, and the music contributed to the ethereal effect of young romance. Travis is single handedly keeping House Choreography in the running for House Cup tonight, as every other choreographer really dropped the ball. This routine directly led to Jessica and Casey staying in the competition, and should clear Jessica from the partner killer moniker once and for all. The way the routine built up to the emotion of the kiss was so specific, and even with the literal “your love makes me weak in the knees” moment it was a great payoff to the surprise connection between the two dancers. If I hadn’t known they were new partners this week I would have thought they had been together as long if not longer than every other couple in the competition. It’s a shame these two were only thrown together out of necessity this week and we didn’t get longer to enjoy their work together before heading into the All Star Partnership portion of the season.
Elena: Travis Wall’s choreography has a lightness to it that no one else on the show can capture. Casey and Jessica looked so at home in his choreography: it’s the best the two have danced in ages, and probably the best Casey has danced on the show. (Khaleesi of Dance, today your name is earned) It reminded me a lot of an earlier season’s Travis Wall dance, with Lauren Froderman and Kent Boyd, where they were enjoying a last dance before the end of prom. Although I’m starting to think that Travis Wall is one of those choreographers who just pulls the greatness out of people. Neither Jessica nor Casey has impressed me enough in previous weeks for me to completely course-correct on them, but they are almost frustratingly attractive together.
Teddy Solo – “If I Ever Fall in Love” by Shai
Whitney: Impressive, but barely enough to overtake Serge in the boys rankings and definitely not enough to outrank Casey after the latter blew everyone away in his performance. There should be a rule for solos that you can’t choose music that will put the audience to sleep, a music department veto if you will. The object of a solo is to win both the judges over to your side for that night specifically and the audience for the weeks ahead if you should be lucky enough to make it that far. Teddy barely cracked a smile while he was on stage which is no way to endear yourself to people, no matter how hard you are focusing on the importance of the routine.
Elena: So much Boyz II Men in his topcoat, so much skater prep in his sneakers. I miss solos that really wow, but Teddy’s had enough personality, more so than the slew of contemporary dancers that all seem to do the same sixteen turns and jumps.
Carly and Serge – Quickstep (choreographed by Jean Marc Gennereaux), “A Cool Cat in Town” by Tape Five ft. Brenda Boykin
Whitney: What is it with the music department and boring songs tonight? We were heading into the Top 10! Bring some excitement to the stage! At times Carly and Serge looked like the prom king and queen performing a routine they prepared in case they won, but once they got a chance to utilize the full area of the stage things were much improved. You could tell how hard they practiced keeping their upper bodies stiff and sturdy while flying from one side of the stage to the other, as that was the most impressive part of the whole performance. Even with some positives, this was another example where everything seemed flat and lackadaisical when they should have been dancing with all the energy they possessed.
Elena: Jean-Marc Genereaux choreographed the first quickstep of the season, and Carly and Serge performed it admirably. It’s not the most beautiful or the most technical of ballroom dances, but Carly and Serge had the right energy for the piece: classic and classy. I wish they had gotten the earlier Broadway routine, and while they’re probably the second most reliable couple (after Ricky and Valerie), I’m still waiting to be impressed with them like I was the first week.
Jessica Solo – “Fever” by Beyonce
Whitney: My main takeaway from this solo was how great the height on her jumps is compared to everyone else left in the competition. Her bland face is back after she was so expressive in the Travis Wall routine, which is a disappointment. Her pirouettes were pretty, extension and lines even better. A good combination of music and costuming succeeded in creating an alluring stage presence that no other girl can match up to right now. The girls elimination was always going to come down to the solos, and after seeing all three there’s no way Jessica goes home. She definitely earned some additional respect from me for choosing one of the best covers of “Fever” out there, you really can’t go wrong with a Bey song. Not only is she not a partner killer anymore she is well positioned to make a deep run in the competition even if I don’t quite see her winning it unless she fixes her face.
Elena: I loved her choice of Beyoncé (a bit of Beyoncé is always great), but Jessica’s solo went into too obviously sultry territory for me. Almost everyone on the show overperforms sexiness, with either their faces or their choreography, and I’m over it. I’m referencing Lauren Froderman a lot already, but if anyone wants a primer as to how to do just the right amount of sexy, it’s her “At Last” solo. Or just a primer on how to do a solo.
Valerie and Ricky Hip Hop (choreographed by Pharside and Phoenix), “Turn Down for What” by DJ Snake and Lil John
Whitney: Oh great, the quick cameo TD4W made in auditions wasn’t the only time we were destined to hear it this season. More importantly though, is why Valerie is still here. She looks worse than if Ricky had just brought a rag doll up on stage with him. She does a good job being limp and floppy when asked but it’s obvious the rest of her performance needed some sharpness to it that just wasn’t there. She really shouldn’t be in the Top 10, and I’m honestly not sure what the judges see in her still. She masked Ricky’s talent in this routine by constantly being the one in front and taking away from the partnership aspect of the dance. The judges are definitely giving her the “tapper curve” at this point and I would so much rather see Emily going through to the Top 10 and continuing to grow as opposed to a dancer who doesn’t have much more growth in her and seems to be skating by on qualities I just can’t see. Ignoring her for a moment though, we got to see Ricky do hip-hop finally! On my wish list since the beginning of the season, this performance all but proves that Ricky is the most talented dancer in the competition this season and has the win locked down as long as injury doesn’t undermine his skills sometime in the next month.
Elena: Hip-hop with the awesomely titled Pharside and Phoenix finally brought about a solid hip-hop routine, although I still didn’t think Valerie got low enough. (And Whitney, I know how much you hate the skeleton/distracting face make-up during hip-hop, I also wish we could abolish it) I would say I’m getting tired of praising Ricky, but I’m really not. He was so inside of his role in the dance and hit so hard that I already see him as an all-star next season. Rick’s going to kill it come next week; he’s already got the versatility and poise to match energy with Twitch and emote beautifully next to Kathryn.
Girls Group Dance (choreographed by Mandy Moore), “My Immortal” by Evanescence
Whitney: Similar to when Ricky was highlighted in the opening number, Moore made a smart choice in putting Jessica front and center in this routine. I almost screamed when the song choice was revealed because I’m pretty sure we got rid of Evanescence a decade ago and promised not to speak of them again. The routine itself was powerful and bland at the same time, with nothing of consequence that stuck out as far as creativity goes. I’m happy Moore branched out from 80’s pop music for once, but overall we will have to settle for this routine being a step down from the last few and serving mostly as a goodbye to the dead weight on this side of the competition.
Elena: Evanescence was the soundtrack to my one angsty year as a pseudo-goth teen, so already I hate the song choice, but it did have the burst of intensity and drama that Mandy Moore needed in her choreography. I loved all the women in their flowy gowns hitting strong, stunning poses, but for me the song choice was too jarring to really appreciate the choreography.
Boys Group Dance (choreographed by Travis Wall), “Wave” by Beck
Whitney: All I can think of when I hear this song now is those terribly bland Tyrant commercials, which was not a good taste in my mouth when watching what was otherwise a wonderful routine in every way. All of the boys showed off their strengths as dancers individually, sporadically resulting in a lack of synchronicity where there should have been during the floor work or in the height reached on the lifts. I don’t think the arm waves worked quite as well as expected, but one thing that definitely blew me away was the toss across the stage. A perfect example of how the boys working as a team results in more positive results than the girls do. Another achievement by Travis Wall that we can add to the pile, although I’m not sure how long I’ll remember this routine past this season like I do with others he has choreographed.
Elena: Travis Wall, just stay forever. Stay forever and never leave. Unlike Mandy Moore’s routine, the song choice of Beck’s “Wave” was so complimentary to the mood and the ethereal quality to the movement. It ebbed and flowed in such a gorgeous way. Lifting Ricky into a split, and the explosive Emilio catch showed the power of the men this season. For the past two weeks, though, the group routines have ended up overshadowing the partnering routines, and while I’m enjoying the incredible creativity and diversity of the choreography, it’s not helping me warm to any dancers personally.
Whitney: Moving forward, the proper quartet went home in Emily, Carly, Serge, and Teddy. Moving forward there are very few dancers left that don’t have at least a shot at the Top 2 in their gender. Some of the All Star match-ups are truly inspired. Ricky and Lauren, Jessica and Twitch, and Emilio and Jasmine are just a few of my favorites in what will surely be a very fun Top 10.
Elena: I know Carly and Serge didn’t do as well in their routine or their solos this week, but I’m pissed. I think Casey and Jessica are boring, uneven dancers, and while Carly and Serge haven’t been as consistent as they should, they were showing more growth than either Casey or Jessica. Boo to this choice, although I completely understand it. And, maybe I’m a bit psychic, but Lauren Froderman’s totally on the show next week as an all-star, dancing with Ricky, no less. It’s time to see what these dancers can really do.
Next week, we see the first All Star partner performances of the season, and the eliminations are officially out of the judges’ hands (although they didn’t do much in the way of differing from the audience vote up to this point anyway). Which All-Star matchup are you most excited to see? Did you agree with the eliminations tonight? Which dancer seems like they are geared for a Top 10 takeover?