If So You Think You Can Dance is lucky enough to be renewed for Season 13, I nominate Vanna White to replace Jason Derulo at the judges’ table.
It makes sense, yo! After all, what more does Pervy McBlankeyes do each week than follow fellow panelists Paula Abdul and Nigel Lythgoe in revealing coded messages — consonant by vowel by consonant by vowel — telling the audience which contestants will be sent to the guillotine (and which ones have been tabbed as the Chosen Ones) by episode’s end?
Indeed, when Jason describes a dancer’s work using a succession of positive adjectives — but with less passion than a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru worker who’s definitely going to give you heavy cream instead of milk in your iced hazelnut coffee — you can rest assured he or she is bound for the same scrap heap where the Hot Tamale Train’s feathers and sequins are currently turning to mold and rust.
All that is my roundabout way of wishing that maybe — just for a night? — the week’s lowest vote-getters might not get saddled with routines that are clearly designed to highlight their weaknesses (usually paired with costumes that look like they were fashioned from your aged auntie’s couch cushions or something untoward discovered behind the dryer at your local laundromat).
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OK, enough ranting and raving from the nation’s crankiest SYTYCD recapper! Let’s get to the dark business of breaking down the week’s results — then ranking the routines and remaining dancers, shall we? (Bear in mind I’ll be back in an hour or so to flesh out this URL with more detailed performance reviews, so do come back tonight or during your first moment of Tuesday work-induced ennui!)
Routines (Ranked Worst to Best)
9. Gaby and Jim (Josh Bergasse, Broadway) | SYTYCD likes to play up the idea that the waltz is the dance that’s least likely to get votes. I’d argue, however, that Broadway numbers — especially when they lack compelling story and/or difficult choreography — are even less likely to make viewers sort out theseemingly 274 voting methods available to fans of the show. As Gaby dove into a hokey concept of a feverish woman gliding about with her mystery man, the couple’s body language and eye contact remained as elusive as a real-life human working at a Macy’s cash register when all you want to do is pick up a couple of polo shirts and get back home.
8. Virgil and All-Star Melanie (Justin Giles, Contemporary) | Ummm… how exactly did this ho-hum routine rate a standing O from the judges. Look, Melanie may be one of the greatest winners in SYTYCD history — and it’s always a pleasure to watch her. But how come none of the judges pointed out that Justin’s choreography left Virgil without a significant or challenging move through the opening third of the number? And did anyone else notice the way Virgil cut certain movements short as Melanie extended through them? Granted, I was moved by the footage of Virgil and Street Team captain Twitch getting teary-eyed over the “soldier home from war” concept, but the emotion failed to spill over once the routine got underway.
7. Jim and All-Star Anya (Dmitry Chaplin, Samba) | I resented how the pre-performance package portrayed Jim as a guy who might not have enough confidence to shake his thing on national TV. (Yes, because what could be more crippling than unveiling a torso with zero percent body fat.) The subtext, of course, though, was that Jim’s general demeanor wasn’t nasty-masculine enough to contend with a sexual freight train like Anya. But I’d contend that while there were some technique issues at play, Jim brought a more raw, more erotic vibe to the stage than he has the last six weeks combined. Jason may have disagreed, but the way he mispronounced “bachata,” was anyone really listening?
6. Jaja and Virgil (Phoenix and Pharside, Hip-Hop) | Is there some unstated Season 12 rule that 19 out of 20 hip-hop routines can only be fun, rowdy or spirited — but not emotional, gripping or complicated? It’s a thought that crossed my mind as I wondered why I wasn’t 100 percent elated watching Jaja and Virgil tackle their own style. Thinking about it more deeply, though, I’m not sure either dancer pushed past the Halloween costume qualities of their Alice in Wonderland/Cheshire Cat costumes and brought to life the wonderment of another world. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it — I just won’t be going down the rabbit hole again with a DVR rewind.
5. Megz and All-Star Joshua (Christopher Scott, Hip-Hop) | The judges gave Megz really lukewarm feedback, but I thought she and Joshua did a fine job of expressing an almost religious fervor with every tic and twirl of their bodies. Paula was right that the pair fed off each other’s energy — their level of eye contact matched or surpassed every other routine this week — but I’m not going to pretend the A+ song choice didn’t increase my excitement by half, either.
4. Gaby and All-Star Marko (Ray Leeper, Jazz) | Ray declared in the intro package that he wanted to put on a piece with “no story” — which is kind of like hanging an abstract painting in a museum without the little paragraph of context helping tourists grasp its meaning. (In other words, I respect the choreographer’s stance, without being sure that he did Gaby any favors.) To my eyes, Gaby and Marko brought to life a “Ye Olde West Brothel Courtship” — one that was cheeky in spirit with a wider stance than Larry Craig in a men’s room stall. I dug the flirty sexuality of it all — and the dazzling speed, too. But with this week’s votes carrying into the final decision, I’m betting Gaby wished she had something more emotionally gripping to tackle.
3. Hailee and All-Star Robert (Nick and RJ, Jazz) | Robert ranks right alongside Alex (and Jasmine and Kayla and Melanie and hopefully Aaron) on my shortlist of favorite all-stars, and I liked how he brought out a more adult vibe from the ever-improving Hailee in the course of their “angel of death and her victim” number. That move where Hailee went from laying parallel atop Robert to somehow lifting her legs upward and into a floating and glorious position was a true DVR-rewind moment, and the end-of-number smooch was as hot as anything the Season 12 stage has seen thus far.
2. Jaja and All-Star Alex (Tessandra Chavez, Contemporary) | I’ll admit I inadvertently cringed at Tessandra’s explanation that her piece was about a couple in which the wife struggles with early-onset Alzheimer’s while he husband desperately tries to make her remember him — only because it felt she’d set up a scenario so emotional that the judges would’ve seemed ghoulish had they not praised it. The good news, though, is that both dancers brought as much acting ability to the piece as they did modern-dance technique. Alex — whose matinee-idol looks and evocative expressions make me wonder why he’s not already a summer blockbuster staple — managed to be romantic, frustrated and scared all at once, and while a few of Jaja’s extensions failed to match his stratospheric levels, she sold the piece with her face: Giddy, befuddled, terrified and joyous — sometimes all at once.
1. Hailee and Megz (Stacey Tookey, Contemporary) | It certainly didn’t hurt that Hailee and Megz got by far the best costuming and music of the entire episode, but the under-dog chicas also forged a fast and deeply intimate bond in a routine about sisters being forced to say their final goodbyes. Somehow, Ms. Tookey managed to meld Hailee’s grace and Megz’s strength into a seamless vision — upgrading both of their performances in the process. As Megz staggered away, Hailee’s end-of-performance collapse resonated more devastatingly than a dozen tricks combined. Could it make her a legit contender for the Season 12 crown? Perhaps — as long as she doesn’t draw Russian Folk Dance from Uncle Nigel’s hat next week.
Eliminated (based on last week’s votes)
Final Four (ranked at this moment by yours truly)
3. Gaby (I think she will — and maybe should — win, but girl got saddled with some uninspired routines this week, no?)