What an exciting, emotional night. SYTYCD’s Top 10 dancers continue to impress, growing and expanding to match the level of the all-stars they worked with. The choreographers were on fire, and the judges were all cheers and accolades—perhaps too much. Do they choose to be nice in the final weeks? Nigel isn't usually one to pull punches.
The evening started with an innovative rocking chair group number that would scare any cat—and probably worried a few dancers and audience members. Christopher Scott is quickly becoming one of our favorite choreographers, which is not an easy statement to make on a night like last night.
Cat Deeley, looking as gorgeous as ever, introduced our judges, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, and guest judge Debbie Allen, and then brought out the Top 10. After weeks of sharing their quick eight counts with a partner, they finally got the short time all to themselves, using it to show not just their ability but their personality. They were all adorable.
On to the bad news, which wasn't as bad as it has been in weeks past. There were no injuries this week and Tucker’s knee infection has healed. Also, there were only four dancers in jeopardy instead of six. But the results were disappointing: Tucker faced automatic jeopardy because of his injured status last week, along with Nico (our favorite), Jenna, and Makenzie. The judges still don’t understand why these two ladies keep ending up in the bottom, and Nigel chose not to have any of the dancers perform solos, feeling that we had seen them all dance before. While it’s lovely to see them dance, especially doing their own style, it’s also kind of Nigel to give them a rest. The judges ultimately chose to save Jenna again, eliminating Makenzie with a difficult six to nine vote, while they unanimously saved Tucker and sent Nico home. Wah.
It’s so exciting to watch the contestants pair up with the all-stars. It’s great to see the veterans dance again, and it forces the competitors to stretch and grow. We look forward to seeing the challenges they face next week when the all-stars will also be choreographing.
Amy and all-star Brandon blasted off in a puff of glitter with the first Disco routine of the season. Choreographer Doriana Sanchez again mixed hustle steps with crazy lifts and tricks that Brandon and Amy attacked mercilessly. The first few lifts looked labored but the duo got into a groove (see what we did there?) executing a gorgeous assisted attitude turn and a thrilling arabesque lift. Nigel called Amy vivacious and sparkling, which is absolutely true. She shone and twinkled as brightly as her sequined dress.
Aaron paired up with all-star Kathryn for a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine. We were interested to see Aaron outside of Jasmine’s brilliant shadow, and while he was a wonderfully supportive partner to the constantly falling and literally needy Kathryn, he didn’t really have much to do on his own in this routine.
Fik-Shun felt a special kind of pressure as the contestant to dance with former Season 8 winner Melanie. While all the all-stars are brilliant dancers (there’s a reason they’re called “all-stars”), Melanie is the only former winner in the lot—and she’s a difficult one to keep up with. She has such sharpness and flash, it’s near impossible not to watch her. Fik-Shun matched her pretty closely and even stole focus from her now and again. Mandy Moore’s fantastic choreography was sexy without being crass and illustrated the competition between the two dancers, particularly with Fik-Shun’s final jump forcing Melanie to succumb. Debbie said, “They call you Fik-Shun, but that was real.” Fik-Shun let his personality shine not only during the performance but also afterward, explaining to Cat that Melanie was on fire and he had to put her out.
Paul, an old man in the competition, celebrated his 22nd birthday in style—his own style, in fact. He finally showed off the Latin Ballroom skills that got him on the show in “introverted” (read: wacky) Jean-Marc Genereux’s cha-cha with all-star Witney. While they were off to a rollicking start, the energy waned a bit and they didn’t quite gel as a couple; he definitely out-danced her. The judges, however, loved it. Debbie was right: His double tour was beautiful and Nigel again mentioned that Paul could take home the whole prize. Yes, Paul definitely had a better birthday than if he had been a contestant on Top Chef.
The set designers worked overtime on tonight’s show with at least six of the ten numbers requiring heavy-duty set-up. Hayley’s hip-hop routine with all-star Twitch was no exception with a table, chairs, and too many props (we got nervous and distracted when the cup of pencils tipped over and spilled). Chris Scott’s subtle but entertaining choreography accentuated the rhythms in Bruno Mars’s great song, and Hayley held her own against Twitch, though it’s difficult to steal focus from him.
All-star Neil returned from New York after starring in the fantastic Bring It On: The Musical on Broadway to perform a Mandy Moore contemporary routine with Jenna. Among a sea of tea lights, the dancers took flight with several gorgeous lifts. Nigel called Jenna one of the best all-around dancers to start as a ballroom dancer (that qualifies things a bit), and Debbie said she dances “with the power of the ocean,” sometimes it crashes and sometimes it’s gentle. Mary made jokes about food.
Jasmine practically outshined all-star Marko in a wonderful Ray Leeper jazz routine. The dancers maintained a very Michael Jackson vibe to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and they preserved the perfect unison throughout most of the routine. They were tight and together but her sharpness made it difficult to watch Marko. As brilliant as she was, Marko had more levels, varying his approaches to the steps according to the character he was playing: starting out subdued, almost like Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug,” then letting loose for the bigger movements, and bringing it back in for the ending walk. What a great routine, not lost in heavy concept but featuring fun, energetic dancing.
Makenzie danced a Spencer Liff Broadway routine with all-star Jakob, and all we could say was, “Wow! Feet!” As Nigel mentioned, they both have the most incredible feet, and Spencer showcased them beautifully. As he mentioned to us afterward, Makenzie really does have feet strong enough to point through her character shoes, which is surprisingly difficult to do. Nigel called Makenzie “one of the best dancers we’ve ever had on the show” (not nearly as qualified a statement as what he told Jenna).
Nico and all-star Comfort literally channeled their inner reptile-brain in a NappyTabs hip-hop with a strong Jurassic Park vibe. What a bizarre, ridiculous (in a good way) concept for a dance, but certainly entertaining. Belly laughs abound. Wearing glitter camouflage and hanging from a green cargo net, Nico embraced his freaky side. Tabitha and Napoleon choreograph for the camera as well as the live audience, taking advantage of those close-up moments.
Closing the evening on a powerful note and driving Mary to a puddle of tears, Tucker danced a Travis Wall contemporary number with all-star Robert. How unexpected to see the two men dancing together. It’s almost sad there weren’t more similar pairings throughout the evening. Travis’s piece of brotherly love (apparently about his brother, season three runner-up Danny Tidwell, though we don’t know exactly why) celebrated second chances and being there for one another. Tucker and Robert, who had both recovered from near-fatal car crashes, poured their entire souls into it. They lost the unison a bit at one point, but the emotional impact made up for any technical setbacks. “Dance is the most amazing art in the world,” Debbie said. “We can convey every emotion.” Many of us are so grateful for SYTYCD bringing this power directly to our living rooms.