BEST OF THE NIGHT | Jasmine H & Aaron (Broadway, Spencer Liff) I was a little dubious about the concept of Spencer’s number — a chalk outline spirit comes to life to help a detective solve the case of her murder — but lo and behold this turned out to be the best Broadway routine in recent SYTYCD history. Sure, it didn’t hurt that it was set to Megan Hilty’s mind-blowing, ever-crescendoing “They Just Keep Moving the Line,” but Jasmine and Aaron physically and emotionally swelled along with the music. I loved how Jasmine flipped onto Aaron’s back and then slid down with the slinking sensuality of a real-life Jessica Rabbit, while Aaron’s brute strength during that final series of leaps, lifts and drags never once prevented him from striking the most elegant of poses. Paula’s comparison of Aaron to a contract dancer from the MGM musical days was apt — and I have to say it’s also not hard to envision him as the Season 10 champ on the guys’ side.
BEST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP) | Amy & Fik-Shun (Paso Doble, Jean Marc Genereux) First off, kudos to Uncle Nigel for putting his favorite duo in the lead-off death spot. (Yeah, yeah, this means they’ll go last — or second-to-last — for the next month, but any step toward fair and balanced treatment of contestants must be applauded.) Secondly, can you envision any scenario in which Amy isn’t one of the last three girls standing? Every bend of her arm, every flick of her leg played into the “Tactical Dominance” theme of this Paso — and that final pose, with her leg lifted at what looked like a 160-degree angle, was breathtaking. Fik-Shun was pretty solid, too, though his energy seemed to wane and his posture subsequently suffered in the final third of the number. As Nigel noted, though, Jean Marc’s choreography stripped both dancers of their typically sunshine-y personas, and they still managed to succeed. That’s no small task.
THIRD BEST | Makenizie & Paul (Contemporary, Lindsay Nelko) How peculiar is it that my three favorite routines happened to be the first three routines of the telecast? And how awesome is it that we not only got a Megan Hilty tune, but also Idina Menzel’s “No Day But Today”? Yowza! There were moments in newcomer Lindsay Nelko’s choreography where I craved a little more synchronization, but I guess it made sense in that Makenzie and Paul were playing a couple at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Makenzie really captured the weightlessness of a woman who’s shed her fear of dying and learned to live in the now, and I thought Paul was equally touching as the partner still coming to grips with her terminal illness. Mary’s critique — that she wasn’t sure she’d ever experience a genuine moment from Paul — was another example of “you’re not a pre-ordained favorite, and therefore you’re not getting any undiluted praise,” but who cares? If Paul keeps improving — last week’s sexy Frankenstein piece was pretty feroshe, too — he could turn himself into the Season 10 dark horse.
WORST OF THE NIGHT | Alexis & Nico (Jazz, Spencer Liff) Guest judge Erin Andrews praised these kids for being more in sync than during dress rehearsals, but so what? I still felt like the pair was a half-step off from one another for most of the number about a vixen hypnotizing a guy and having her way with him. (Eww.) An even bigger problem for me, though, was Alexis’ failure to truly control the routine: Her slightly lumbering quality and lack of extension made it look as though she was under a spell, too. On the flip side, while there’s still a hint of immaturity to Nico’s work, his pirouettes are fantastic, and I’m guessing he’s probably a favorite among the teen-girl texting bloc.
WORST OF THE NIGHT (RUNNER-UP) | Hayley & Curtis (Samba, Jean Marc Genereux) I wish at least one of the four judges had taken a beat and reminded Haley and Curtis that they need not approach every single routine with fixed, pageant grins on their faces. If this were a game of Family Feud, then certainly “lack of emotional variation” would be among the Top 5 reasons both of ’em are likely to be at risk of elimination come next Tuesday. Granted, Hayley’s hip action and musicality far exceeded her Tin Man partner, but even she had a few moments where she could’ve used a visit from Dorothy and a can of WD-40.
MOST OVERHYPED | Malece & All-Star Marko (Contemporary, Sonya Tayeh) You’ve got to give props to Malece for being able to carry on after Jade’s injury and nail Sonya’s routine with a second partner. Then again, when the partner is as freakin’ stellar as Marko, it all becomes something of a wash. To her credit, Malece painted some gorgeous pictures with her body tonight, and that haunting final interlude — walking slowly and deliberately backward, arm raised eerily — was riveting. But I feel like the judges blashphemed by dragging Season 8 champ Melanie Moore’s name into their critiques. For all her grace and beastliness, Melanie also possessed an inherent acting skill that imbued all of her performances with undeniable emotion: She always seemed to be dancing directly from her soul. Malece, on the other hand, hadn’t mastered the fine art of bringing her face to the same kind of vivid life as she does her arms, legs and torso. And until or unless she does, I can’t envision her as a legit Top 3 threat on the ladies’ side.
WIDEST GAP BETWEEN PARTNERS| Mariah & BluPrint (Hip-Hop, Luther Brown) It’s always nice to get a hard-charging piece of hip-hop on the show, and while I’m still not as firmly attached to the Mariah wagon as I was before Top 20 announcement night, I’ve got to admit she slayed this particular number with a mix of humor and aggression. (That sloowwww leg lift as Mariah laid flat on her back actually made me howl with glee.) All four judges were correct, however, in pointing out that BluPrint’s blank facial expression is turning into an obstacle even more insurmountable than his lack of dance training. It didn’t help that dude looked positively shellacked into indifference as said feedback was occurring. If justice prevails, we’ll have a Mariah-Nico partnership forming at the end of next week’s telecast.
MOST UNNECCESSARILY HARSH CRITIQUE | Jasmine M & Alan (Jazz, Sean Cheesman) The only irksome part of results coming at the end of the SYTYCD telecast is that the judges always telegraph verrrrry clearly who they’re sending home based on their current night critiques. Their overly dim view of Jasmine’s work — paired with overhype of Alexis — made the verdict as clear as a jury foreman wagging a finger and hissing at the accused. OK, sure, if I’m being completely honest, a part of me wonders what a dancer like Season 6’s Ellenore might’ve done with this piece about a royal couple busting loose for a brief dance break in the middle of their afternoon tea. But what Jasmine lacked in quirk, she almost made up for in wicked precision and elegance. (Maybe the queen doesn’t pull faces, y’know?) Even worse, the negativity seemed to splash off the saucer and all over Alan, despite the eye-popping strength it took to pull off a series of unusual and majorly challenging lifts. If dude gets sent home next Tuesday instead of BluPrint, Nico, Tucker or Curtis, I will be sending a strongly worded Tweet to Nigel Lythgoe!
ROUTINE I’M NOT CERTAIN HOW I FEEL ABOUT| Jenna & Tucker (Hip-Hop, Keone and Mari) I’m majorly in favor of SYTYCD bringing in new choreographers to give us different windows into the various featured dance styles, but there was something just a wee bit low-impact about what Keone and Mari put on the plate tonight. The way they had Tucker and Jenna tightly gripping to the bangs and clanks of Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” was nifty, but other parts felt rudimentary at best, and clumsy at worst. Whether Tucker and Jenna share some of that blame, I’m not sure, but I can tell you this much: The duo fell short of the choreographers’ goal of painting a portrait of a vixen seizing sexual control of an average Joe, and that — combined with very faint praise for Tucker (clearly being positioned as cannon fodder) — could spell trouble in seven days.
SHOULD BE BOTTOM 6
Nico, Curtis, BluPrint, Alexis, Hayley, Malece
WILL BE BOTTOM 6
Tucker, Curtis, BluPrint, Alexis, Hayley, Jenna
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