BEST OF THE NIGHT | Jasmine H & Aaron (Hip-Hop, NappyTabs) I complained a lot last year about NappyTabs’ uninspired choreography, but they’ve been truly sensational for the duration of Season 10 — capped by this insanely fun piece about an old tymey robber and the conniving temptress who steals his stash. The non-stop swiveling of hips and down-low grittiness cooked up by Aaron and Jasmine had a sriracha-esque heat that’s all too often lacking when non-street dancers are asked to get jiggy on this show. That move where Jasmine wound it back while Aaron held her head — and both of ’em were grindin’ like Starbucks baristas with a mountain of dark-roast beans — was an absolute jaw-dropper. I’d worry that they somehow made a baby in the midst of the sexiness, but clearly both of them have groins that are entirely bionic.
BEST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP) | Makenizie & Paul (Contemporary, Mandy Moore) I was a little iffy about the way Mandy Moore described the concept — forbidden lovers rendezvousing in their secret safe space…yawn — but after disappointing last week, Makenzie and Paul roared back into contention with a routine that was sexy without being smutty, athletic without losing its gracefulness, and emotional without being sappy. It doesn’t hurt that the twosome has the most believable romantic chemistry of any couple this season, but to steal an adjective from Mary Murphy, their movement is proving to be consistently “luxurious.” And who doesn’t love a weekly dose of luxury — especially when it’s free of charge?
WORST OF THE NIGHT | Amy & Fik-Shun (Viennese Waltz, Jean-Marc Généreux) I didn’t think any single routine was bad this week, but despite Amy’s best efforts to levitate, I found the front-running pair’s Viennese Waltz to be occasionally labored — particularly the moments where Amy clung to Fik-Shun’s back. (Anyone irked by Mary’s mention of “some technical issues going on” that she would’ve elaborated on had it been anyone else but the Chosen Ones in front of her.) Also problematic? The couple’s uncomfortably fixed smiles — which made them look like they were about to affix sashes to their chests and answer questions from Mario Lopez about ending world hunger. I mean, I get that the dance wasn’t a Sonya Tayeh “dark and stormy relationship” piece, but I felt like Amy and Fik-Shun could’ve (and should’ve) tapped into something more mature and romantic to give the audience a break from their patented brand of Oh Em Gee Adorbs-ness.
MOST OVERHYPED | Hayley & Nico (Broadway, Sean Cheesman) I liked the concept (fortune-teller tries to steal a hapless client’s soul with a kiss), and no, I can’t fault the degree of difficulty in those death-defying lifts. But unlike the judges, I wasn’t fully sold on Nico’s acting: There were moments throughout the dance where his face went blank — and not in the “Hayley’s hypnotizing me!” way one might’ve hoped. Hayley, on the other hand, was far more convincing as a temptress with a dark agenda, and if she can maintain her momentum, it’s not inconceivable she could cast a spell over voters that carries her to the finale.
LUCKIEST MISFORTUNE | Jenna & All-Star Alex Wong (subbing for Tucker) (Paso Doble, Jean-Marc Généreux) With Tucker sidelined because of a knee infection that prevented him from rehearsing, Jenna scored the SYTYCD equivalent of a winning Lotto ticket with the substitution of All-Star Alex. Dude may not be a ballroom expert, but he brought such fire and ferocity to the stage — and ignited said qualities within Jenna — that it wouldn’t have surprised me if the stage had spontaneously combusted at the end of the routine. Yes, Jenna’s fabric-heavy costume occasionally obscured her lines, and yes, she’s almost a certainty for elimination next week — Nigel needs to realize he’s not gonna make her happen at this point — but that doesn’t mean she didn’t do everything that was asked of her this week.
WIDEST GAP BETWEEN PARTNERS | Malece & Alan (Jazz, Mandy Moore) I’m pretty sure the judges had already decided to send Malece and Alan to the guillotine before the start of the show, which might’ve led to Nigel’s overly harsh comments about the routine lacking both style and chemistry. Now granted, I’m thisclose to ordering myself a #TeamAlan t-shirt, but I thought he nailed every picture Mandy had asked for in rehearsal, and brought an adult suaveness to the proceedings that Malece, alas, never managed to match. In her defense, though, Malece had to perform not just with the knowledge that she was at risk, but knowing full well she was headed home. I mean, that became clear the minute Nigel (once again) sent Jenna to safety. And it’s not like there was any possibility of Amy getting axed her first week in jeopardy, right?
GROUP ROUTINE THAT MADE ME SQUEAL WITH EXCITEMENT | Top 6 Guys (Hip-Hop, NappyTabs) To be honest, I probably would’ve accepted anything — jumping jacks, the Macarena, a Zoomba class — set to Joshua Ledet’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” But this piece about men engaged in a relationship tug-of-war-of-the-sexes was powerful both physically and emotionally — and further affirmed my suspicion that Aaron might just win the whole enchilada.
GROUP ROUTINE THAT MIGHT’VE MOVED ME MORE HAD IT NOT FOLLOWED THE GUYS | Top 6 Ladies (Contemporary, Stacey Tookey) Don’t get me wrong — this “Fountain of Youth” routine set to Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” allowed the women to strike some viciously lovely poses — and showcased Amy and Jasmine’s outsized talent. I just liked the guys’ piece about 10 percent better.
HOORAY FOR BOLLYWOOD! | Top 12 (Bollywood, Nakul Dev Mahajan) I have never not loved a Bollywood number on SYTYCD, and this was no exception. Bonus points for Amy’s full-to-bursting smile, and Alan’s enthusiastic abandon.