Well, City Kids, we thought last week was emotional. It was a laugh-riot compared to this week’s waterworks. The gut punches came almost all night, through beautiful, moving routines and touching stories from the contestants about who inspired them.
It’s hard not to be emotional when it’s so close to the SYTYCD finale. Only three weeks left, all the dancers are incredible, and each package felt like a goodbye. The judges—Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and guest Jenna Elfman—made their last decision tonight too, as next week the choice will be solely up to America.
What a tough decision it was. Cat Deeley revealed Jenna and Tucker were in the bottom again, this time joined by jeopardy newbies Fik-Shun and Hayley. While we could guess Tucker and Jenna would probably be leaving because they’ve been in the bottom more than once, their solos were strong and the judges have been on Fik-Shun lately for his lack of technique. It’s plausible that they’d give Team Tuna (how cute was that?) yet one more chance. They didn’t, so no Twitter War for Nigel tonight. It was fun to see Fik-Shun do his thing again with fantastic musicality, personality out the wazoo, and a charming, perma-smile.
Hold up. Let’s talk about that weird, disappointing group number. Some strange amalgamation of jazz and hip-hop, it was mostly sound and fury signifying nothing. The women strutted around, booty shaking and grinding. Tucker was front and center looking like the love child of Marilyn Manson and Alan Cumming’s emcee from Cabaret. Fik-Shun was there at some point, but we didn’t notice the other two men. Turns out Aaron had an injury in his shoulder and sat the number out, focusing instead on the competition performance. What a shock to learn the amazing Mia Michaels choreographed the piece. What happened?
Cat Deeley also had a strange new look tonight that unfortunately matched the group aesthetic. Usually gorgeous and high fashion, tonight she attempted Goth and failed with her hair too closely slicked back, and a strange eyeshadow that made her look like she had another set of eyeballs. She's much too beautiful to be looking so strange. You can’t win ‘em all.
The rest of the evening was much better, thank goodness. All-stars from our two favorite seasons, 2 and 4, paired with the contestants and performed their own choreography; all were impressive and moving. It was like a family reunion for season 4, with five all-stars coming back home. Chelsie Hightower, Courtney Galiano, and Mark Kanemura joined Comfort and Twitch, who were also on last week, and all made their choreography debuts on the show. Mark was our favorite during season 4 so it was so thrilling to see him and his awesome, quirky choreography.
Aaron started the emotional waterworks with an inspirational story about his best friend Cory, who was killed in a car crash. Leaving the sadness aside, he and Chelsie kicked off (ha ha) the performances with a lively 1950s-style jive, including some classic lindy hop aerials like the A-frame and throw out. We agree with Mary that there were some rough spots and missed connections, but disagree with Nigel about Aaron’s kicks, which looked strong. Jenna Elfman, who they tell us used to dance professionally with the Pacific Northwest Ballet among others (and showed some impressive pics), called Aaron a “money dancer: When it’s on, you bring it.” He charmingly fixed the popped-open button on his shirt, too, and was the perfect height for Cat to snooze on. So cute.
Fik-Shun, who had the same adorable smile even as a baby, named his parents as his inspiration, then performed a thought-provoking number choreographed by Season 2’s Allison. Taking on the subject of discrimination and drawing from her relationship with all-star Twitch, she set out to prove that “dance doesn’t discriminate.” It’s tough to pull focus from the dynamo that is Allison (especially when flipping around her gorgeous hair), but Fik-Shun held his own. She gave him terrific choreography, nicely incorporating his style and abilities. The most touching moment was one with little movement: when Fik-Shun pulled Allison’s gaze toward him. That one motion spoke volumes.
Tucker’s father inspired all of us as much as he did Tucker, with his unconditional acceptance of everything Tucker is. It’s sad in a way that we should be so moved by this declaration, since unconditional acceptance should be present for all parents yet often isn’t. Tucker channeled that emotion into his routine with Courtney, whose choreography exploded wonderfully, despite that odd groin-first catch at the beginning. Courtney affected us too, with the revelation that she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She, Adam Shankman, and other SYTYCD alumni will be doing a charity fundraiser for MS on September 22.
It’s difficult not to make puns with a name like Comfort. Cat said Paul got “out of his comfort zone and into all-star Comfort's zone” with a hip-hop routine. As with most all-stars, it’s difficult not to watch her, especially dancing her own comfy movement, but Paul did so well that Nigel called him “one of the most versatile dancers on this show.” And you’re right, Cat, we all know the audience loves him.
Hayley danced a gorgeous, sensual rumba with Dmitry, seemingly overcoming her “insecurity issues” (how’s that possible?) in a sexy men’s button-down and black underwear. The concept of Dmitry’s piece, her ending their relationship over his cheating, got lost and obscured by the movement, but who cares? The movement is much more important, especially when it’s that beautiful. Jenna, who seemed rushed and self-censoring in her critiques, gave Hayley great advice: “Challenge yourself of total abandon; let it rip, because you can do no wrong."
Yay, Mark Kanemura! We’ve missed his quirky personality and great flair. He and Jenna (the contestant) lightened the mood after her inspirational story about cousin Shanna who died young from Muscular Dystrophy. They danced his style-heavy, raw meat and blood-red choreography on a huge lips-shaped couch with a red carpet tongue. “Aliens, animals, and drag queens, oh I love that style," joked Jenna. Though her walk down the red carpet brought back memories of Wade Robson’s brilliant “Ramalama Bang Bang,” this was a unique showcase, and we’d expect nothing less. Nigel’s right: Mark should absolutely choreograph for Lady Gaga.
Before dancing with Twitch, Jasmine thanked her mom for giving up so much while pushing her to follow her dreams. Then the two dancers took flight as hip-hop superheroes. Twitch infiltrates his choreography with his great sense of humor, but the dance really got going once we got passed the conceptual stuff, though “bringing the comic book world to the dance world” is a very admirable goal. (Apropos of nothing, Happy Birthday to geek hero and godfather of horror, H.P. Lovecraft.)
Of course, leave it to Travis Wall to deliver the ultimate, emotional TKO (again). Amy drew the lucky card, as everyone wants to work with the brilliant Travis. And why not? His pieces are always unique and poignant, visceral and fearless; this one was no exception. That beautiful fondu (melt) into the pivot turn, the backward assisted swan dive to the floor, the pull up from the floor into a catch. Amy danced it all tremendously showing a new maturity; she even looked taller. It was a special routine to cap off a truly emotional night.