BEST OF THE NIGHT | Aaron & All-Star Kathryn (Contemporary, Stacey Tookey) Oh yowza! I was hooked from the opening seconds here, with Aaron and Kathryn just standing there, staring into each other’s eyes, caressing each other’s arms. (And to be honest, I’m not usually enamored of routines that don’t immediately get to the actual dancing.) Aaron showed so much elegance and fluidity throughout the routine — even in the moments where he was lifting his partner — that it was easy to forget he’s not a contemporary dancer by training. And really, who needed the judges’ critiques when the expression on Kathryn’s face at the end of the number — a combo of joy, awe and admiration — really said it all. I’m gonna come out and say it: I think I want Aaron to win Season 10 most of all.
BEST OF THE NIGHT (CO-RUNNER-UP) | Tucker & All-Star Robert (Contemporary, Travis Wall) I was preparing to start a backlash against this routine based solely on how the entire pre-performance package and half the judges’ critiques ham-handedly recounted Tucker and Robert’s separate but equally scary brushes with death. After all, when it comes to the competition, who cares what life experiences they’ve had in the past? The whole point of the show — and of the art of dance itself — is to tell a story with one’s body, and to channel the corresponding moods and emotions whether or not you’ve ever experienced them personally. But in the end, Tucker and Robert brought such a winning combo of tenderness and angst to a routine about a man helping pull his brother out of a rock-bottom experience, that I had to succumb to the moment, dab my eyes with Kleenex and rank it among the night’s best. Who knows, maybe next week we’ll get another same-sex pairing where there’s romance (or at least romantic drama) at the heart of the piece? Hey, they could set it to this song!
BEST OF THE NIGHT (CO-RUNNER-UP) | Jasmine H & All-Star Marko (Jazz, Ray Leeper) I will always love Marko, but Debbie Allen was right — it was impossible to look away from Jasmine, who channeled Gumby with her wiry, bendable body, and yet somehow managed to pull off crisp, staccato and utterly sexy choreography in spite of (or perhaps because of) it. If I’m nitpicking — and of course I’m nitpicking, because it’s my job (and it ought to be the judges’ job, too) — the one area Marko outshone Jasmine was in their side-by-side leaps (his were twice as high off the ground). But even so, I have a hard time imagining any of Jasmine’s three remaining female competitors being quite so magnificent in this number.
WORST OF THE NIGHT | Nico & All-Star Comfort (Hip-Hop, NappyTabs) I’d say something along the lines of “Poor Nico!” — except for the fact that dude should never have outlasted Alan to make the Top 10 anyhow! That point that was driven home — with an exclamation point — this week with a performance that was hampered by cheesy acting, a lack of the physical tension necessary to fully catch the groove and some awful stage makeup that made it look like there was a tire track going across Nico’s forehead. [Yes, Nico fans, this would be the spot to insert your zinger about those tracks being made when the judges threw him under the bus. Bazinga!]
WORST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP)| Fik-Shun & All-Star Melanie (Jazz, Mandy Moore) Don’t get me wrong: Melanie was completely on fire in this number about a sexy singer who gets reunited with her former flame. Problem was, I felt as though Fik-Shun was the commoner to Melanie’s superstar — and not just because her dazzling red dress was a lot more eye-catching than his Newsies-extra garb. Rather, Fik-Shun once again succumbed to a problem that’s plagued him all season: He lacks the kind of maturity needed to make truly believable a dance where connections are supposed to run deeper than “Aww, that’s really adorbs!” And yet he’s never, ever called out for it. (Anyone else also find it odd to see him paired with Melanie, the dancer the judges have most frequently used as a comparison for his former partner Amy?)
MOST OVERHYPED | Jenna & All-Star Neil (Contemporary, Mandy Moore) I love Debbie Allen. And I especially love Debbie Allen at the So You Think You Can Dance judges’ table. I love her so much that I don’t doubt her when she says Jenna is a “choreographer’s dream.” And yet while Jenna brought a lot of physical abandon to this piece about a couple on the brink of a breakup, her performance felt as emotionally vacant as a Britney Spears vocal. To be honest, I spent most of the number recounting Mandy’s description and wondering, “Which one of these two is supposed to be reluctant about the separation?” And yet, when she’d finished, not a single mention was made by the judges about how Jenna needs to get better at conveying emotion through her face, to help her audience understand the intent behind her steps rather than just marveling at her execution. Of course, seeing how the judges are meddling with results all the way to Top 6, we’ll probably be stuck watching Jenna get saved again next week (because surely she’ll be at risk again).
MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED| Hayley & All-Star Twitch (Hip-Hop, Christopher Scott) Do you ever get the feeling that the judges automatically go gaga over anything remotely resembling an “issues” dance — Cancer! Bullying! Drug Addiction! — but feel much more open to critique “fun” numbers like “Hayley as Loan Officer, and Twitch as Dude Seeking Bank Assistance”? I liked the performance aspect of the routine — and bought Haley’s sexy-bespectacled power chica vibe — but also felt she nailed the technical stuff, too. My fave move was that moment where she clung to Twitch’s back with her legs, then nailed those precise hand gestures in total sync with her beloved partner. Like Nigel said, she could be the dark horse that gives us a Jasmine-Hayley finale instead of the long-anticipated Jasmine-Amy showdown. (Jasmine has to be in it, either way, right?)
MOST IN NEED OF SOME TOUGH FEEDBACK | Amy & All-Star Brandon (Disco, Doriana Sanchez) Has it never occurred to Mary or Nigel or any of our various guest judges to slip in a critique along the lines of, “A manic smile does not suit every single dance style, girl!” Granted, this energetic disco routine did have a certain effervescence about it, but still, there were moments where Amy’s perkiness felt overbaked. And despite the fact that she and Brandon pulled off one of the riskiest death drops I’ve ever seen on the show, I didn’t feel much connection between ’em. Perhaps it was the awful “I Will Always Love You” dance remix gettin’ in the way.
MOST IN NEED OF A HUG| Makenizie & All-Star Jakob (Broadway, Spencer Liff) No way Makenzie shoulda gone home before Jenna! NO FREAKIN WAY! Certainly not with the Old Hollywood elegance she brought to one of the better Broadway numbers we’ve seen this season — especially that side-by-side, almost perpendicular leg lift that she and Jakob held twice as long as I thought humanly possible. I know, I know, SYTYCD is searching for America’s favorite dancer, not its most talented. But why do those have to be mutually exclusive all the stinkin’ time? (Or, to put it a different way, wouldn’t a Makenzie-Jasmine ladies’ finale have been potentially better than an Amy-Jasmine one?) (Also: Three weeks ago, I’d never have believed I could write such blasphemy.) (What is happening?!)
ROUTINE THAT WAS PROBABLY, MAYBE BETTER THAN MY “MEH!” RESPONSE WOULD INDICATE| Paul & All-Star Witney (Cha Cha, Jean-Marc Genereux) It’s entirely possible I got distracted by Paul’s new haircut — those shaved sides are a subtle yet vast improvement! — but despite some fleet footwork, the duo’s cha cha seemed a wee bit…boring? Basic? Banal? I’m not even sure if it was the dancers or the choreography, but that standing O from the judges felt more like a 22nd birthday gift than a genuine appraisal of what Paul had accomplished on the floor.