Whether anyone at The Emmys wants to acknowledge it or not, So You Think You Can Dance is the greatest competitive reality show on television, period. Last night it got started for real with the Top 20 performance show. On the whole it was a good night but we've already had one dancer fall to injury and there were a few others that stood out as weak spots among the phenomenal competition. Let's talk about the dances, shall we?
Dancers: Jordan and Tadd
Routine: Afro Jazz, Sean Cheesman
Song: "Riding The Waves" - Afro Celt Sound System
This was a very energetic, fast-paced routine filled with the sort of joyful spirit that I've come to expect from Afro Jazz numbers. Jordan and Tadd both danced it very well with only minor faltering during her handstand that passed from one of his thighs to the other. This was a terrific start for the show and for both of these dancers in the competition.
Overall Grade: A-
Dancers: Sasha and Alexander
Routine: Contemporary, Travis Wall
Song: "Stupid (Mark Bell Mix)" - Sarah McLachlan
Not the strongest or most memorable routine from Travis but they both danced their asses off and had amazing lines and extensions. Sasha has a ton of power in her tiny body and I'm excited to see what she can do this season. Alexander doesn't have quite as much charisma as Sasha does, but considering we hadn't even met him before he made the Top 20 while we had spent considerable screen time with Sasha, I definitely want to give him room to grow. He committed to this dance completely, as evidence by the final moment of the routine when his head bounced off the floor, and he deserves mad props for it. It was a good, solid start.
Overall Grade: A-
Dancers: Clarice and Jess
Dance: Broadway, Tyce DiOrio
Song: "Me And My Baby" - Liza Minnelli
This routine was weak even by Tyce standards. It didn't move around the stage much at all, it had no spark, no verve. It required minimal athleticism from the dancers and I'm fairly certain that an intermediate dance class could have done it with no problem at all. A crap routine is nothing new from Tyce but very often the dancers elevate the work with their skill and performance and on this one I got none of that. Jess mugged and Clarice seemed awkward and tentative. When she wasn't leaping, her movements were small and lacked extension.
Overall Grade: C
Dancers: Ryan and Ricky
Dance: Lyrical Hip Hop, Christopher Scott
Song: "Ain't No Sunshine" - Lighthouse Family
We're told during the rehearsal package that he is dancing with the memory of his lost love so when the performance starts and he looks sad and wistful while she grins like a nut from ear to ear, it became confusing. She danced it well, maybe a little better than Ricky, but her performance took me right out of it and kept me there. His performance was right on but he didn't hit the beats nearly as well as she did.
Overall Grade: A-
Dancers: Caitlynn and Mitchell
Dance: Jazz, Sonya Tayeh
Song: "In For The Kill (Skream's LetLet's Get Rave Remix)" - La Roux
Mitchell injured himself shortly after rehearsals began so he's sitting out this week (and automatically in the bottom three) which means that Caitlynn was down a partner. Fortunately for her, they recruited Season 7's Robert to fill in. This was not dissimilar to some of Sonya's past routines with a lot of pointed toes, frozen poses that go into lifts, hunched shoulders, a sort of marching tempo and all around great showcase for the skills of a good jazz dancer. Caitlynn nailed it and it didn't hurt at all that she was partnering with a terrific dancer like Robert.
Overall Grade: A
Dancers: Miranda and Robert
Dance: Jive, Jason Gilkison
Song: "Runaway Baby" - Bruno Mars
The Jive can be a fun style if done well but if it's not, it's a tragedy to watch. This was like watching a Dancing With The Stars routine in that one of them was dancing it well and the other looked like they only just learned how to dance last Tuesday. Robert was quick, nimble, slick and snappy. Miranda was awkward, wobbly, slow, and heavy. Her kicks weren't kicky enough, her flicks weren't flicky enough. The concentration was showing in her face. Robert was in a different league and she was not keeping up at all. Nigel dinged Robert for not pointing his toes but I think the picture above (from the Fox website - where I get all of my pictures) shows that criticism is not at all true.
Overall Grade: B
Dancers: Missy and Wadi
Dance: Jazz, Sean Cheesman
Song: "Judas (R3Hab Remix)" Lady Gaga
I can't help but wonder what this dance would have been if a different couple had gotten it. Would it all of those flips still have ended up in the finished piece? It felt very much like those were added to cover the fact that Wadi wasn't up to the challenge of the jazz movement and lines. It appeared that his muscular upper body was inhibiting his movement and extension. He was clunky. Missy was solid and her lines were nice but despite her insistence that "sexy" is her specialty, I don't get a lot of heat or steam from her when she dances.
Overall Grade: B+
Dancers: Melanie and Marko
Dance: Contemporary, Travis Wall
Song: "Turn to Stone" - Ingrid Michaelson
Set in a museum where two separate statues, desperate to become one, come to life and dance together, this routine was exquisite. A perfect marriage of choreographer, music and dancers - this piece came to life and breathed on that stage. They felt it, they made me feel it, and they moved in it perfectly. They both partner very strong and seem so completely effortless. Melanie has an ethereal quality that's balanced by her strong, confident dancing. It would have been so easy for a lesser dancer to blend into the woodwork next to her but Marko shines.
Overall Grade: A+
Dancers: Ashley and Chris
Dance: Hip Hop, Christopher Scott
Song: "Forget You" - Cee Lo Green
The routine was slight and not nearly worthy of either of the dancers but they did fine with what they were given. For a ballerina, Ashley was particularly impressive hitting the beats. They both played their characters believably and seemed to click as partners. I hope the fact that the dance was not memorable doesn't hurt either of them because I think they both deserve another opportunity to impress us.
Overall Grade: B-
Dancers: Iveta and Nick
Dance: Quickstep, Jason Gilkison
Song: "Ballroom Blitz" - Sweet
I'm not sure what the producers were thinking to pull out the infamous "dance of death" in the first week but if they were going to do it, this is definitely the pair to give it to. Iveta's a world champ in this style, but she's not just able to do it well herself, she also elevates her partner. Back in Season 3, Faina was a very capable ballroom dancer but when she got a ballroom routine with Cedric, she didn't appear to help HIM learn it and improve. Iveta is not a selfish dancer, she wants her partner to do well and her partner did not let her down. Nick skimmed across that floor like he was floating. He held his frame up top and had his feet moving a mile a minute and he appeared to be having fun all the while. They were terrific. And because there's never a wrong time to mention it, I'll note that Iveta's legs are fucking amazing.
Overall Grade: A-
Bottom 3 Couples: Clarice and Jess, Robert and Miranda, Ashley and Chris, and Mitchell
Should Go Home: Miranda and Mitchell
Will Go Home: Miranda and Mitchell. It's unfortunate that Mitchell never really got a chance to compete but it isn't fair to keep him around when we've not yet seen what he can do and the other 9 guys have done their best.